The Manx Fairy Pig
There was once a little fairy pig that lived in the hills beyond Colby with his mother and his six brothers. His name was Shiaght, which means Seven, and his brothers were called Nane, Jees, Tree, Kiare, Quieg and Shey, which is Manx for One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six – but Shiaght was the liveliest little pig of them all.
As soon as he was old enough his mother taught him Magic, as well as the way to curl his tail and waggle his ears, and how to keep his feet out of clover.
“Take care of your feet, that you don’t sliddher,” she said, “curl your tail from left to right, and remember you are one of the Seven Magic Pigs of the South.”
“Honk! Honk!” said the little pig, which means in pig language, ‘Yes! Yes!’
Wonderful clever the pigs were in those days, for they’d speak Manx as soon as look at you, and they’d make themselves big, and make themselves small, just as the Buggane of Barrule could do, and he was a powerful creature. All the seven brother were white with red eyes and scarlett ears at them, the neat and tasty you wouldn’t believe!
Little Shiaght wanted to know about everything, and if he couldn’t find out in one way he’d try another. “You will do jeel on yourself one of these days,” said his mother, meaning he’d get into mischief, “you will get your nose nipped off, pokin’ it into other one’s business.”
“Honk! Honk!” said the little white pig, and he sniffed and snuffed to make sure his nose was still there.
“The oul’ ones don’t know everything,” he said to himself, “a pig mus’ see the worl’ before he can make up his mind what’s in it.”
So one day, off he went by himself, to see if the world was as big as he thought it was.
He hadn’t gone far when he met an old woman gathering sticks.
“Honk! Honk!” said the little white pig.
“Yee bannee mee!” said the old woman (which means ‘God bless me’). “What in the worl’ was that?” And she turned round and saw the little white pig eating clover.
“What are you doin’ there l’il one?” she said. “A clever l’il pig like you should be livin’ in a sty.”
“What’s a sty?” said the little pig.
“Aw, a wonderful grand place a sty is,” said the old woman, “theer’s nothin’ but atein’ an’ drinkin’, an’ you will be waited on hand an’ foot.”
“Where’s your home?” said the little pig.
“Down the lane,” said the old woman, “come with me l’il qwhite one, an’ I’ll show you.”
“Honk! Honk!” said the pig, and he followed the old woman, thinking what a grand place he was going to.
When she got him home, she shut him in the sty and fastened the gate.
“Stay there l’il masther,” she said, “you will lose yourself wanderin’ the roads.”
“I’m not thinkin’ much of this place at all,” said the little pig to himself. “Open the gate old woman, an’ let me out.”
“Let you out, indeed,” said the old woman, “you will not find a batthar sty in all the islan’ I’m tellin’ you. Wait till I bring you a basin of pig’s meat.” And away she went.
Shiaght sat down and scratched his right ear with his left hind foot, and then his left ear with his right hind foot. But things didn’t look any better.
“You have brought yourself to a pretty market, Shiaght boy,” he said, “the oul’ one is middlin’ sharp for all.”
After some time the old woman returned with a basin of meal and potato peelings. “Here’s a dish for a king, l’il masthar,” she said, “you won’t get batthar priddha peelin’s any place you are livin’.”
“Honk! Honk!” said the little pig, sniffing at the basin. “I’m not thinking much to that. A tuft of clover an’ a dish of crame would be suiting me batthar.”
“Thim that doesn’t work for their meat should take what’s given thim,” said the old woman, and she went into the house and slammed the door, thinking to herself that she’d sell the little pig in Doolish market on Saturday.
Shiaght thought and thought and the more the thought the less he liked it.
“You had batthar get out of this middlin’ quick, Shiaght boy,” he said to himself. Then he remembered that he was one of the Seven Magic Pigs and he shook himself and said the magic words his mother had taught him, and in seconds he was out on the road trotting along to Doolish.
“You will never see the worl’ from a sty, boy,” he said, “you will make nawthin’ but bacon if you stay there.”
At last he came to Doolish and strolled along the busy streets, wondering at the shops and people and the carts and carriages going up and down. He curled his tail from left to right and cocked his scarlet ears and his eyes glowed red as rubies. Soon people began to follow him, and one of them tried to lay hold of him but the little pig turned, with his eyes like fire, and the man let go in a hurry.
“I’m thinkin’ these ones haven’t see a Magic Pig in Doolish,” said Shiaght, and he walked along, picking his steps, and sniffing and snuffing all the way.
“Wonderful clivar you are boy,” said a big man in uniform, who was standing in the middle of the road, “will you come with me, an’ I’ll show you the sights of Doolish?”
“Is theer a sty at thee?” said the little pig.
“Deed no,” said the man, “’tis a grand room I’ll be showin’ you, that’s fit for the like of you.”
“Honk! Honk!” said the little white pig. Off they went with the little pig following him and – what do you think? – he shut the pig in the police station!
Now Shiaght was in a worse fix than ever. If a sty had been hard to get out of, a prison cell was harder.
“Is this what you are callin’ a grand room?” said Shiaght, sitting down in the middle of the cell and scratching himself. “Well, well Shiaght boy, you are in a hole right enough, but you will get to the top with scratchin’ as the mole said, before now.”
And with that, he began to blow himself up bigger and bigger, till he filled the whole of the cell. Then the door gave way and he burst out, scattering policemen right and left, and into the street, where he was nearly as big as a balloon. What a running and shouting there was!
“Fetch the fire-engine!” cried one, and “Stop the road at the end,” cried another, but though they talked so much nobody was brave enough to do anything.
As soon as he got out of Doolish, Shiaght shook himself, and he grew smaller and smaller till he was only a little pig, trotting along the road to Snaefell.
“Terrible bad ones theer are in the worl’,” he thought, “you are needin’ a bit of magic to deal with thim.”
He came at last to the foot of Snaefell. “I wonder would it be cold up theer?” he said, ‘an’ would there be clover at me?”
Soon he was climbing the mountain, but never a tuft of clover could he find, only stones and rough grass, and he began to be very hungry. Soon he met the Wizard of the mountain, who had a wonderful palace up there.
“Moghrey-mie, l’il pig,” said the Wizard. “Good morning to you. Where are you goin’ this fine day?”
“I’m goin’ through the worl’ with me nose before me,” said the little pig.
“Your nose will get you into trouble one of these days,” said the Wizard, “you had batthar come to my castle an’ eat an’ drink before you go further.”
“Is there a sty at thee?” said Shiaght. “Or a room where you will shut me up? For I’m not likin’ thim places at all.”
“You can walk the palace through an’ come out when you want,” said the Wizard. “Theer’s nothin’ to keep you, if you don’t poke your nose where it isn’t wanted.”
“Gur-eh-mie-eu,” said Shiaght, which is Manx for ‘thank you,’ and they walked on, to the top of the hill.
A fine castle indeed it was and filled with ladies and gentlemen in fine clothes, eating and drinking and laughing; with music playing, and fountains splashing into marble basins. Shiaght ate and drank with the best of them, till at last he was tired and lay down and slept. When he woke there wasn’t a soul in the palace but himself. The lights blazed and the tables were spread, but everything was silent.
“There’s quare doin’s in here,” said the little pig, and he sniffed and snuffed all round, from top to bottom of the palace. “I’m thinkin’ there’s magic in somewhere.” He sat down to scratch his left ear with his right foot, when all at once he noticed a little paper packet tucked away in a corner of the kitchen shelf – for it was the kitchen he’d reached on his travels.
“What’s this at all?” said Shiaght, nosing the packet. There was some writing outside but although he’d learned magic, he’d never learned to read.
‘DON’T OPEN,’ it said, but Shiaght didn’t know that. So he sniffed and he snuffed and tore the paper open.
“Whoof!” he said. “Nothin’ but salt.” And he blew the salt away with a great sneeze.
The same instant there was a terrible roar and a blaze, and up went the whole place in flame and a flash of lightning. And the little pig found himself standing on the top of Snaefell with his four legs square to the wind and his eyes blinking from the flame. And not a sight nor sound of the fine castle, the lords and ladies or the Wizard himself, but only the mists coming down on the hill.
“You have done jeel sure enough, boy,” said Shiaght, “you batthar get out of this.”
And away he went, as fast as his legs could carry him and he never stopped till he came to his mother and his six little brothers at Colby.
“Have you seen the worl’ Shiaght?” they said. “An’ is theer fine atein’ an’ drinkin’ in it?”
“Middlin’, middlin’,” said Shiaght, “an’ theer’s some middlin’ sharp ones too.”
“Didn’t I tell you to keep your nose out of mischief?” said his mother, “an’ never put salt on magic?”
“Honk! Honk!” said the little pig, and he looked at his brothers. “If you can’t keep your nose out of mischief,” he said, “you are batthar to stay at home.”
“You are sayin’,” said his mother. And when Shiaght wasn’t looking she put a laugh out of her, into the clover.
(source: Fairy Tales from the Isle of Man by Dora Broome (1951); photograph (with embellishment)
I'm a web designer, amateur historian and keen gardener and I enjoy bringing Manx history, folklore and poetry to a modern audience.
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