BURG HILL'S ON FIRE
A CELTIC FAIRY TALE
BY ELIZABETH W. GRIERSON (ADAPTED)
ONCE upon a time there was a rich farmer who had a thrifty
wife. She used to go out and gather all the little bits of
wool which she could find on the hillsides, and bring them
home. Then, after her family had gone to bed, she would sit
up and card the wool and spin it into yarn, then she would
weave the yarn into cloth to make garments for her children.
But all this work made her feel very tired, so that one
night, sitting at her loom, she laid down her shuttle and
"Oh, that some one would come from far or near, from land or
sea, to help me!"
 No sooner had the words left her lips than she heard some
one knocking at the door.
"Who is there?" cried she.
"Tell Quary, good housewife," answered a wee, wee voice.
"Open the door to me. As long as I have you'll get."
She opened the door and there on the threshold stood a
queer, little woman, dressed in a green gown and wearing a
white cap on her head.
The good housewife was so astonished that she stood and
stared at her strange visitor; but without a word the little
woman ran past her, and seated herself at the
The good housewife shut the door, but just then she heard
"Who is there?" said she.
"Tell Quary, good housewife. Open the door to me," said
another wee, wee voice. "As long as I have you'll get."
And when she opened the door there was another queer, little
woman, in a lilac frock and a green cap, standing on the
She, too, ran into the house without waiting to say, "By
your leave," and picking up the distaff, began to put some
wool on it.
Then before the housewife could get the door shut, a funny
little manikin, with green trousers and a red cap, came
running in, and followed the tiny women into the kitchen,
seized hold of a
hand-  ful of wool, and began to card it. Another wee, wee woman
followed him, and then another tiny manikin, and another,
and another, until it seemed to the good housewife that all
the fairies and pixies in Scotland were coming into her
The kitchen was alive with them. Some of them hung the great
pot over the fire to boil water to wash the wool that was
dirty. Some teased the clean wool, and some carded it. Some
spun it into yarn, and some wove the yarn into great webs of
And the noise they made was like to make her head run round.
"Splash! splash! Whirr! whirr! Clack! clack!" The water in
the pot bubbled over. The spinning-wheel whirred. The
shuttle in the loom flew backwards and forwards.
And the worst of it was that all the Fairies cried out for
something to eat, and although the good housewife put on her
griddle and baked bannocks as fast as she could, the
bannocks were eaten up the moment they were taken off the
fire, and yet the Fairies shouted for more.
At last the poor woman was so troubled that she went into
the next room to wake her husband. But although she shook
him with all her might, she could not wake him. It was very
plain to see that he was bewitched.
Frightened almost out of her senses, and leaving
 the Fairies eating her last batch of bannocks, she stole out
of the house and ran as fast as she could to the cottage of
the Wise Man who lived a mile away.
She knocked at his door till he got up and put his head out
of the window, to see who was there; then she told him the
"Thou foolish woman," said he, "let this be a lesson to thee
never to pray for things thou dost not need! Before thy
husband can be loosed from the spell the Fairies must be got
out of the house and the fulling-water, which they have
boiled, must be thrown over him. Hurry to the little hill
that lies behind thy cottage, climb to the top of it, and
set the bushes on fire; then thou must shout three times:
'Burg Hill's on fire!' Then will all the little Fairies run
out to see if this be true, for they live under the hill.
When they are all out of the cottage, do thou slip in as
quickly as thou canst, and turn the kitchen upside down.
Upset everything the Fairies have worked with, else the
things their fingers have touched will open the door to
them, and let them in, in spite of thee."
So the good housewife hurried away. She climbed to the top
of the little hill back of her cottage, set the bushes on
fire, and cried out three times as loud as she was able:
"Burg Hill's on fire!"
And sure enough, the door of the cottage was
 flung wide open, and all the little Fairies came running
out, knocking each other over in their eagerness to be first
at the hill.
In the confusion the good housewife slipped away, and ran as
fast as she could to her cottage; and when she was once
inside, it did not take her long to bar the door, and turn
everything upside down.
She took the band off the spinning-wheel, and twisted the
head of the distaff the wrong way. She lifted the pot of
fulling-water off the fire, and turned the room topsy-turvy,
and threw down the carding-combs.
Scarcely had she done so, when the Fairies returned, and
knocked at the door.
"Good housewife! let us in," they cried.
"The door is shut and bolted, and I will not open it,"
"Good spinning-wheel, get up and open the door," they cried.
"How can I," answered the spinning-wheel, "seeing that my
band is undone?"
"Kind distaff, open the door for us," said they.
"That would I gladly do," said the distaff, "but I cannot
walk, for my head is turned the wrong way."
"Weaving-loom, have pity, and open the door."
"I am all topsy-turvy, and cannot move," sighed the loom.
 "Fulling-water, open the door," they implored.
"I am off the fire," growled the fulling-water, "and all my
strength is gone."
"Oh! Is there nothing that will come to our aid, and open
the door?" they cried.
"I will," said a little barley-bannock, that had lain
hidden, toasting on the hearth; and it rose and trundled
like a wheel quickly across the floor.
But luckily the housewife saw it, and she nipped it between
her finger and thumb, and, because it was only half-baked,
it fell with a "splatch" on the cold floor.
Then the Fairies gave up trying to get into the kitchen, and
instead they climbed up by the windows into the room where
the good housewife's husband was sleeping, and they swarmed
upon his bed and tickled him until he tossed about and
muttered as if he had a fever.
Then all of a sudden the good housewife remembered what the
Wise Man had said about the fulling-water. She ran to the
kitchen and lifted a cupful out of the pot, and carried it
in, and threw it over the bed where her husband was.
In an instant he woke up in his right senses. Then he jumped
out of bed, ran across the room and opened the door, and the
Fairies vanished. And they have never been seen from that
day to this.
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