Home Fairy Tales The Buggane of The Smelt

The Buggane of The Smelt

by Bernadette Weyde

There was once a Buggane living at The Smelt that was a terrible annoyance. He’d make himself as big as a house or small as a black beetle. One time he’d be like a tall man with his head under his arm, and another time like a calf, and still another he’d be something neither beast nor man. There wasn’t a person would go the length of the path to The Smelt after dark, for ’twas always near the Big Mill they’d be meeting the Buggane.

“Aw, well, well,” said Tom Christian, “theer’s not a Buggane on the Island will frighten me, for I’m not believin’ in thim things at all.”

“The brave you are, Tom Christian,” said Kinveg-the-Guard, “maybe you will be takin’ a walk be The Smelt yourself one night.”

“‘Dade an’ I will so,” said Tom Christian, “an’ not a drop of jough to give me courage.”

And the very next night away he went, with a pitchfork in his hand, singing to keep his courage up.

Across the fields he went, and when he came to the stile and the lane behind the Big Mill, there was the Buggane waiting for him, as big and black as a house.

“Hold, boy, hold,” said Tom Christian, “you are takin’ up more than your fair share of room. You had batthar get out of this, middlin’ quick.”

But the Buggane wouldn’t move either to the one side or the other. There he was, big and black, with the moon shining on the empty windows of the mill.

“If you won’t move for axin’, you must move for shovin’,” said Tom Christian, and he ran at the Buggane with his pitchfork. But the pitchfork went right through the craythur, and stuck in the wall, and the Buggane was big and black as ever.

“If you won’t move for shovin’ maybe you will move for charmin’,” said Tom Christian, and he tried the Charm for Stopping the flow of Blood, which was the only charm he could remember, and very useful when anyone was hurt; but that didn’t seem to move the Buggane. And while Tom was considering, the Buggane changed himself into a tall thin man, with his head under his arm, walking down the path to meet Tom.

“Tha’s a terrible queer place to keep thy head, boy,” said Tom, “you are axin’ for trouble, I’m sayin’.” And he pulled the pitchfork from the wall and ran at the Buggane with it, but this time he didn’t hit even a wall, and the pitchfork went flying out of his hand.

Then the Buggane became a big black calf, and came charging down the lane at Tom, with eyes like flames. Tom thought that his last hour had come, and he flattened himself against the wall, and the Buggane went rushing by him. In a minute though, the Buggane had turned and was charging down on him again.

“You nearly had me that time, boy,” said Tom, and he let out at the Buggane with his boot but his toe hit the wall opposite, middling hard, and the Buggane wasn’t there at all.

Tom began to get angry. “It’s you or me for it, boy,” said he, “if you get out of this place with a whole bone in your body you can put me down for a Dutchman. It’s not you or the like of you that’ll move Tom Christian!” And he struck the pitchfork in the middle of the path and hung onto it like a drowning man to a mast.

Then, quite suddenly, he couldn’t see the Buggane any more, but only a thick wall of mist, which pushed against him as if it would squeeze the breath out of his body. He couldn’t step back, because of the wall behind him: he just stood there, clinging to his pitchfork for dear life. All at once there came to him, when he was a child, “Saue Jee mee voish Cloan ny Moyrn,” – “God save me from the Children of Pride,” – and he said it aloud, as well as he could speak for the mist that was choking him. At that, the mist cleared, the stars were shining over the sea, and the moonlight on the windows of the mill, just as before. Tom was making up his mind that the Buggane had gone when he saw a mouse, creep, creeping along by the wall, the eyes in its head glowing like two tiny fireballs.

“Now I’ve got you!” said Tom, and he dropped his hat over the mouse and grabbed it.

“Let me go, let me go, ” said the Buggane, squeaking mighty pitiful.

“Dade an’ I’ll not let you go,” said Tom. “Takin’ you home, an’ puttin’ you in a cage, I am, where you will be goin’ roun’ an’ roun’ on a treadmill, all day long.”

“Let me go,” said the Buggane, “an’ I’ll not put a sight on The Smelt no more.”

“Dade, you’ll not do that anyway,” said Tom, “for I’ll kape you safe enough once I have you.”

“I’ll bite through your hat,” said the Buggane.

“You’ll not do that either,” said Tom, “’tis a hat belongin’ me granddaa an’ tough terrible.”

“Put me in thy poggad then,” said the Buggane.

“I’ll do that, boy, right enough,” said Tom. And he lifted the hat the least little bit to put the mouse in his pocket; but the minute the hat left the ground, bang! It went off in his hand like a bundle of fireworks and there was Tom lying in the middle of the path, seeing ten thousand stars all at once, and a lump on the back of his head, where the pitchfork had hit him.

“Aw, the dear, dear me,” said Tom, picking himself up and feeling if there were any bones broken. “Me bes’ hat gone an’ me bones all sore, an’ a lump on the back of me head like a pigeon’s egg. I’m thinkin’ you are not too clever all, Tom Christian.” But after a time, he thought, “‘Where theer’s none to see, theer’s none to tell,’ as the sayin’ is, an’ who’s to know the Buggane got the better of me?”

So off he went to Purt-le-Moirrey, with the moon shining bright and the pitchfork in his hand.

“Did you see anythin’ at all, Tom Christian?” said Kinveg-the-Guard, next day.

“Wondharful quare doin’s theer was in las’ night,” said Tom, “me bes’ hat gone off in smook, an’ me bones sore terrible. But I’m thinkin’ That One come off worse, the lambastin’ I gave him, an’ he’ll be troublin’ The Smelt no more, I’m sayin’.”

And true it is. From that day to this, the Buggane hasn’t put a sight on The Smelt or the path behind the Big Mill, where the moon shines bright on the empty windows, and the sound of the sea comes hush-hushing, soft and clear.

jough = strong ale
Children of Pride = fairies

(source: Fairy Tales from the Isle of Man by Doris Broome (1951); artwork is by Valin Matthels. This is one drawing from an album of 8 all which portray Tom and the Buggane. Well worth a look! http://bit.ly/1Poa1Bj)

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