Arragouset

Variations: Arragousset, Sarregouset, Sarragouset

Arragouset 2

Jean Letocq, a shepherd on the west coast of Guernsey, woke up one morning to see hundreds of little people streaming out of the Creux des Fées (Fairies’ Hollow). They were armed to the teeth, carrying weapons made of sharpened shells. They told the man to bear their message: they wished to take human wives, and would be strongly displeased if women were not turned over to them. This ultimatum was refused, and so the fairies slaughtered every last man they encountered, dying the sea red with blood. The only survivors, a man and a boy of St. Andrew’s parish, hid in an abandoned oven for years.

They were the Arragousets, or Sarregousets as Hugo called them. We know that they were bellicose fairies of the sea, dwelling underwater and in seaside caves, ruling their own marine kingdom. One of their number once took a human woman for his wife, and her beauty and wit so enamored the other fairies that they had to follow suit.

With the men safely massacred, the Arragousets put down the sword and went native. They married the maidens and the newly-widowed, and lived peacefully on land. They made caring husbands and doting fathers, to the extent that the widows warmed to them, and the maidens were delighted with their fairy lovers.

Then, after years of peace, they disappeared as quickly as they had appeared. The circumstances remain mysterious. Sébillot suggests that they were recalled by their king, while MacCulloch states that their time on land was limited. Whatever the reason, all the Arragousets left the island and were never seen again.

Or rather, they went invisible, as their presence remained on Guernsey. They sired a new generation of boys and girls – intelligent, able sailors of small stature – and they returned regularly to watch over them. They did a hundred little favors in the hopes of finishing the work they had started. Arragousets are always ready to help their descendants, but they are pitiless in dealing with offenders.

Hugo said they can still be seen on stormy days, dancing in the clouds and longing to return to the land.

References

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (1992) La Grande Encyclopédie des Lutins. Hoëbeke, Paris.

Hugo, V. (1866) Les Travailleurs de la Mer. Librairie Internationale, Paris.

MacCulloch, E. (1903) Guernsey Folk Lore. Elliot Stock, London.

Sébillot, P. (1905) Le Folk-lore de France, Tome Deuxième: La Mer et les Eaux Douces. Librairie Orientale et Américaine, Paris.

Alp-luachra

Variations: Art-luachra, Arc-luachra, Airc-luachra, Dochi-luachair, Just-halver, Joint-eater, Mankeeper, Darklooker, Art-pluachra (mispronunciation)

Alp-luachra

Fairies are far removed from the sanitized Victorian ideal we are accustomed to. There are beautiful fairies; there are also ugly fairies, cruel fairies, and vile, parasitic fairies. The alp-luachra belongs to the last group.

Native to Ireland, where it can be found across the island, the alp-luachra is a small, newt-like creature not unlike Ireland’s native smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris). It was born of ignorance and fear of the unknown – in this case, the habits of the newt. Any similarities end there, however. The smooth newt is a harmless denizen of ponds, while the alp-luachra lives off “the Pith or Quintessence of what the Man eats”, as Robert Kirk put it.

Infestation is simple enough. Anyone asleep outdoors is at risk. Alp-luachras slip into the open mouths of sleepers, and from there work their way into the stomach. The entire process is painless, and hosts are never aware of their slimy new occupants. That is, until the symptoms manifest themselves: pain in their sides as the alp-luachras make themselves comfortable, and increasing, insatiable hunger. The alp-luachras eat the food ingested by their hosts, growing larger, reproducing inside them until their wriggling becomes unbearable; meanwhile, their hosts waste away, becoming gaunt and emaciated. In the span of a few years, the unfortunate victim eventually dies of starvation, and the alp-luachras move out to find new victims.

As the alp-luachra’s glamour prevents it from being seen by physicians, it must be tricked into leaving the body by other means. Inhaling the strong fragrance of savory food can coax them to come out, as can eating very salty food. Once outside the body, the alp-luachra can be licked to cure burns.

Douglas Hyde recounts the story of one farmer from Connacht who suffered from alp-luachra infestation for half a year, until an itinerant beggar and the Prince of Coolavin told him how to get rid of them. He started by eating a large quantity of salted beef. While this made him thirsty (and no less hungry), it made the alp-luachras thirstier. He then lay down with his mouth open above a stream; the alp-luachras, sensing water, crawled out of his mouth and into the stream, one by one. All in all, he had been host to a dozen alp-luachras and their mother, seven times their size.

He never slept on the grass again.

References

Dubois, P.; Sabatier, C.; and Sabatier, R. (2005) The Complete Encyclopedia of Elves, Goblins, and Other Little Creatures. Abbeville Press.

Hyde, D. (1890) Beside the Fire. David Nutt, London.

Kirk, R. (1893) The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, & Fairies. David Nutt, London.