Legends of the Dead in the Western Islands

When young people die, either men or women, who were remarkable for beauty, it is supposed that they are carried off by the fairies to the fairy mansions under the earth, where they live in splendid palaces and are wedded to fairy queens or princes. But sometimes, if their kindred greatly desire to see them, they are allowed to visit the earth, though no enchantment has yet been discovered powerful enough to compel them to remain or resume again the mortal life.

Sometimes when the fishermen are out they meet a strange boat filled with people; and when they look on them they know that they are the dead who have been carried off by the fairies with their wiles and enchantments to dwell in the fairy palaces.

One day a man was out fishing, but caught nothing; and was just turning home in despair at his ill-luck when he suddenly saw a boat with three persons in it; and it seemed to him that they were his comrades, the very men who just a year before had been drowned in that spot, but whose bodies were never recovered, and he knew that he looked upon the dead. But the men were friendly, and called out to him—-

"Cast your line as we direct, and you will have luck."

So he cast his line as they bade him, and presently drew up a fine fish.

"Now, cast again," they said, "and keep beside us, and row to shore, but do not look on us."

So he did as directed and hauled up fish after fish till his boat was full, and then he drew it up to the landing-place.

"Now," they said, "wait and see that no one is about before you land."

So the man looked up and down the shore, but saw no one; then he turned to land his fish, when, behold, the men and the second boat had vanished, and he saw them no more. However, he landed his fish with much joy and brought them all safely home, though the wise people said that if he had not turned away his head that time, but kept his eyes steadily on the men till he landed, the enchantment would have been broken that held them in fairy-land, and the dead would have been restored to the earthly life, and to their kindred in the island who mourned for them.