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As the hawker tells her, in the course of her treasure hunt:.

You have spoken face to face with bird and beast and with the beings who knew and loved the land before your race was. To-day you have the freedom of the island, and of all living things in it; they are your friends for ever.

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And to the dead in its graveyards you are kin. All that is there has passed into your blood, the old lost loves, the old impossible loyalties, the old forgotten heroisms and tendernesses; all these are yours; and yours are the songs that were sung long ago, and the tales which were told by the fireside; and the deeds of the men and women of old have become part of you.

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This is where the unexpected seriousness of the novel comes in. He has also earned her respect, to the extent that she absorbs his influence.

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And she in turn influences others: both the Urchin and Uncle Jeconiah, who is much chastened by his trial, show signs of her transformative power in their behaviour by the end of the novel. One is the mysterious gift of the hawker, which turns out to be what he calls the freedom of the isle. Another is a hoard of doubloons, brought to Skye in a ship from the Spanish Armada wrecked on its coast.

The first of these treasures is desired by Fiona; the second by the Urchin, inspired by the tales of pirates and British naval victories he has been raised on as a young imperial male. Here the bird is clearly associated both with fairyland circling three times — the magic number; giving its spring call in October as a sign for Fiona and with the island, in particular its hills.

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But once the Urchin has made his wish, which is in fact hers implanted into his mind by an act of telepathy, he is granted a wish of his own; and he wishes, as he did at the beginning of the novel, for the gun he would have bought with the treasure if he had found it. At the end of the book he is clutching the gun bought for him, tellingly, by his Uncle as he listens to the awkward fairy tale which is being related by Jeconiah in fulfilment of the terms of his release. Tarn would have been well aware of this by the time the book was published the year after the Great War ended.

At the same time, they may have an effect. And the night itself passed away as a dream that men dream, and its hours seemed to them but as a few minutes — and then across the music and the dance cut the shrill scream of a peacock as he greeted the day […] and the beryl throne dissolved in mist, and the figure of the King above them, pointing, grew dim and huge, and spread and grew, a purple shadow that hung over them… and they were standing alone in the fairy ring on Brandersaig, under the purple sky, with the white mist wreathing itself about their feet, and the pale November dawn coming slowly up out of the sea.

Fairyland here resembles a dream, evanescent and temporally disorienting; but so too does the island, which can change its appearance as readily as Fairyland can, and is equally full of wonders.

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  • So too do philosophy, history, literature — all the branches of human knowledge with which Fairyland has been identified. Thanks for the suggestion, Heidi!

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    Thanks so much for this. Am amazed at how much I recall of this book after 50 years, it influenced my thinking more than i realised. Did you read it in Scotland or somewhere else? Did you know anything about Skye when you read it? You could contact Susan Cooper and ask about Hawkin… you did mention him in the post.

    And she is alive.

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    Now I grab any copies I come across, but only give them to the privileged few. In a few short days I learnt more about Indigenous culture than I have in any other context. Our Tiwi Cultural Awareness Training provides high quality cultural education to increase understanding about cultural identity. It helps to connect participants with the nourishment and resources of the land.

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    Tiwi Culture Tiwi Way. Tiwi Culture Tiwi Way Cultural training for non-Tiwi people to better connect to our culture and to Indigenous culture more broadly. Everyone who works with Aboriginal people should have the opportunity to experience this camp because it gave me a real appreciation of the richness and abundance of Aboriginal culture.