Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu - The Child That Went With The Fairies (99.0 Kb)
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The Child that went with the Fairies was first published anonymously in the weekly journal All the Year Round in 1869-1870. The motive of the woman in the coach appears again in Carmilla.In an isolated area of southern Ireland lives an impoverished widow and her young children. She guards her children well and with good reason, for nearby is a known haunt of the faerie folk. Plants and trees, known for their natural properties to repel evil, grow about her dilapidated cabin. One day, her three youngest children go missing. A... More >>>
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The Child that went with the Fairies was first published anonymously in the weekly journal All the Year Round in 1869-1870. The motive of the woman in the coach appears again in Carmilla.
In an isolated area of southern Ireland lives an impoverished widow and her young children. She guards her children well and with good reason, for nearby is a known haunt of the faerie folk. Plants and trees, known for their natural properties to repel evil, grow about her dilapidated cabin. One day, her three youngest children go missing.
As the light begins to fade, both mother and her eldest daughter are sure that the little ones have been taken by the faeries. At the coming of night, the two anxious women see the lost children coming down the road, but alas there are but two of them, not three. The children tell that whilst playing by the road that day, a stately carriage came by. Within the carriage sits a beautiful lady. Her voice is 'sweet like a silver bell' and her smile and demeanour 'enchanting'. She bids the youngest boy join her in the carriage and kisses him affectionately. His siblings are envious and wish that it were they who were receiving her attentions. The only thing that disturbs them are the servants, who glare at them maliciously, and the other woman in the carriage a black woman in exotic dress with angry eyes who appears maliciously amused. The carriage begins to move and the beautiful lady tosses a red apple to the ground before the two children and they pursue it.
The apple keeps evading them by disappearing into bushes and holes in the road, but each time one is lost the lady tosses them a new one to follow. Gradually, they are led all the way up to the haunted hill of the faeries. When they reach it, the carriage vanishes, along with their brother who remained in the carriage. In the months to follow, the two youngest children will see their lost brother now and again for an instant, as he peeps into the cabin and then is gone. Sometimes he will beckon them to follow. The mother or the eldest sister never see him again. His appearances become infrequent and at last end altogether. He is assumed lost.
One early morning, their mother having left for market at dawn, the youngest daughter wakes to see her long lost brother enter the cabin. He is ragged and pale and looks malnourished, but recognizable. He sits himself by the fire to warm his cold hands. She tries to wake her eldest sister who sleeps beside her. The boy turns to look at her, fearfully. He promptly leaves, never to be seen again. "Fairy doctors" and the local priest are called in, but to no avail the boy is gone.
No headstone or grave marks his passing where his family might grieve or honour him or extend a prayer for his soul. All that is left to remind them of him is the shadow cast by the haunted hill.
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (28 August 1814 - 7 February 1873) was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era. M. R. James described Le Fanu as "absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories". Three of his best-known works are Uncle Silas, Carmilla and The House by the Churchyard.
Le Fanu worked in many genres but remains best known for his mystery and horror fiction. He was a meticulous craftsman and frequently reworked plots and ideas from his earlier writing in subsequent pieces. Many of his novels, for example, are expansions and refinements of earlier short stories. He specialised in tone and effect rather than "shock horror", and liked to leave important details unexplained and mysterious. He avoided overt supernatural effects: in most of his major works, the supernatural is strongly implied but a "natural" explanation is also possible. The demonic monkey in "Green Tea" could be a delusion of the story's protagonist, who is the only person to see it; in "The Familiar", Captain Barton's death seems to be supernatural, but is not actually witnessed, and the ghostly owl may be a real bird. This technique influenced later horror artists, both in print and on film (see, for example, the film producer Val Lewton's principle of "indirect horror"). Though other writers have since chosen less subtle techniques, Le Fanu's best tales, such as the vampire novella Carmilla, remain some of the most powerful in the genre. He had enormous influence on one of the 20th century's most important ghost story writers, M. R. James, and although his work fell out of favour in the early part of the 20th century, towards the end of the century interest in his work increased and remains comparatively strong.
several other writers have expressed strong admiration for Le Fanu's fiction. E. F. Benson stated that Le Fanu's stories "Green Tea", "The Familiar", and "Mr. Justice Harbottle" "are instinct with an awfulness which custom cannot stale, and this quality is due, as in The Turn of the Screw, to Le Fanu's admirably artistic methods in setting and narration". Benson added, "[Le Fanu's] best work is of the first rank, while as a 'flesh-creeper' he is unrivalled. No one else has so sure a touch in mixing the mysterious atmosphere in which horror darkly breeds". Jack Sullivan has asserted that Le Fanu is "one of the most important and innovative figures in the development of the ghost story" and that Le Fanu's work has had "an incredible influence on the genre; he is regarded by M. R. James, E. F. Bleiler, and others as the most skillful writer of supernatural fiction in English."
Le Fanu's work influenced several later writers. Most famously, Carmilla was to greatly influence Bram Stoker in the writing of Dracula. M. R. James' ghost fiction was influenced by Le Fanu's work in the genre. Oliver Onions's supernatural novel The Hand of Kornelius Voyt (1939) was inspired by Le Fanu's Uncle Silas.