[From Shadowland in Ellan Vannin, 1880]
As folk-lore has for so long been thought worthy to hold a prominent position in our literature, it is surprising no patriotic Manxman has come forward to preserve the many weird and fanciful histories, fairy legends, and tales, with which his native isle abounds.
Certainly this island, with its lovely scenery, its hills and secluded glens, its rocky coast, intersected here and there with deep and picturesque caverns, gives suitable locale for fairies, elves, and water-sprites, both malignant and benign. Whilst the sonorous roar of the waves, as they beat against the shore in the drear winter time; the soft sighing of the summer breeze, that might be the faint echo of the mermaid's song, well combine to tempt the imagination to stray into the regions of fancy, and to bring to mind some of the strange and often poetic ideas of former years, when it was held there was so intimate a connection between nature and the human race that portents of good or ill might be drawn from every passing change in earth and air and sky, and even the simple wayside flowers had their tale to tell.
A few of the folk-tales of this interesting isle I have put together in this volume, but have not, except in the concluding chapter, followed the example of some writers on, or compilers of, folk-lore, who give in bare detail what they have to relate. I have endeavoured to introduce the superstitious beliefs and observances that have existed, or do still exist, in the island, clothed in the embellishment of a story, and introducing, therefore, persons and scenes both imaginary and drawn from the life, hoping by this means to bring before the reader not only their traditions, but also the Manx people themselves-their home-life, character, habits, and surroundings. Neither have I undertaken the labour of comparing any of these folk-tales with those of other countries. This subject has been exhaustively gone into by so many well-known and clever writers, who not only point out the similarities to be found in the legendary lore, of various peoples, but in many cases trace, or profess to trace, these legends to their fountain-head. The tales in connection with Peel Castle and Castle Rushen, as they are already in print, and to be found in every Isle of Man guide-book, I have not reproduced in the present volume, which I now venture to launch forth on the wide sea of literature, knowing that it will drift to a friendly shore, where the adverse winds of criticism will touch it but gently ; for years of experience have shown me not only how beautiful and full of interest is the little Isle of Ellan Vannin, but also how kind and true are the Manx people, amongst whom I am proud to number many of my best and dearest friends.
I. H. LENEY.