I shall never forget an experience I had as a child. The house in which I then lived was surrounded by beautiful garden and orchard, and was near wood and fields in a lonely part of Nottingham. On this particular morning I was lying in bed enjoying the early morning sunshine which streamed in through the low, open window, when suddenly I felt compelled to sit up in bed and turn my eyes to the empty firegrate. There, on a filmy cobweb on the bars, sat a strange little creature. It seemed quite unafraid and, from the broad grin on its face, appeared to enjoy my observation. At first I just kept still and stared, and it blinked back at me with a blank expression which showed very little intelligence. Soon I had to satisfy my childish curiosity by climbing out of bed. The elf immediately disappeared. I climbed back, and when I turned round it was perched in the same place. This disappearance and reappearance continued until I was brushed away the cobweb. I never saw the nature sprite again.
I should say it was from 4in. to 6in. in height; its ears were very large, and its body was of a glimmering green colour. Mr Geoffrey Hodson bears out this statement in his book of observations on The Fairies at Work and at Play. He says: ‘Elves differ from other nature-spirits chiefly in that they do not appear to be clothed in any reproduction of human attire, and that they bodily constitution appears to consist of one solid mass of gelatinous substance, entirely without interior organisation.’
Edward Seago, the artist, in a true account of his adventures in Ireland, Sons of Sawdust, tells us how he came to believe in the Little People when he saw how they had plaited the horses’ manes. ‘The braids consisted of only a few strands of hair, and were far too small for any mortal hand to have made.’
Shortly, afterwards, by a strange coincidence, I read a Norwegian tale, Beyond Sing the Woods, by Trygve Golbranssen, in which a similar happening is described.
Your correspondent writes, with truth, that we who sees [sic] fairies are chary of relating our experiences. Is there any wonder, when the majority of people think us mad?
I am quite willing to answer any sincere questions put to me by interested readers.
Nottingham Marjorie Johnson
Johnson, Marjorie ‘An Elf Described’, John O’London’s Weekly (28 March 1936), p. 1023: for other John O’London fairy letters follow the link.