The Little People: pixies, fairies, elves, gnomes and brownies, which used to abound so much in Enid Blyton. When thinking of stories of the Little People we are more accustomed to pots of gold, wishes, pixie dust, fairy mushrooms, shamrocks, and Irish expressions like “Top o’ the morning!” than horror and Goth. All the same, Misty had her share of Little People short stories, but how did they go? Did the subject matter inject more lightweight supernatural stories into Misty? Or did Misty prefer to use the other side of the Little People – snatching people away, playing mischievous tricks, and inflicting impish punishments – to portray darker tales of the Little People?
1: Sprig of Heather
Artist: Blas Gallego
Polly Masters sells lucky heather (from a secret fairy place, she says). Everyone believes it works and Polly’s always sold out. However, Polly’s abusive stepfather takes all the money to spend at the tavern. The stepfather goes for his usual booze-up and makes Polly go collect more heather. While doing so she moans how the heather is lucky for everyone but her. Fairies appear to Polly for the first time and demand to know what she’s moping about. After Polly explains, they agree to help. Polly wakes up and thinks it must have been a dream. But then her delighted family come up and say the stepfather got press-ganged at the tavern: “Come on, me hearty, a few years in a king’s ship will do you a power of good!” The family are surprised too, as they have not had a press gang in the village before. But Polly has a pretty good idea as to how it happened.
What makes this story one of my favourites is the brisk, no-nonsense yet witty dialogue of the fairy leader, Manikin. “Come along girl, we haven’t got all day – state your business or we’ll be off!” and afterwards: “Well, we don’t usually take a hand in such matters, but in this case we’ll see what can be done!” It also makes a nice change for Misty to inflict a comeuppance that might actually be the making of the antagonist instead of the usual condemnatory dark fate.
2: At the End of the Rainbow
Artist: Maria Barrera
Sisters Karen and Lisa are always squabbling. Mum has had enough and sends them out of the house. They are astonished to see a rainbow being reflected in a stream, but there is no rainbow to make the reflection. They see a strange girl (let’s call her a fairy) by the stream, who tells them rainbows can be found anywhere if you care to look. Soon Karen and Lisa see rainbows and beauty in everything. Then they find themselves at the end of the rainbow. But instead of the crock of gold they find everything is golden, and then they find each other. This makes them forget about their quarrels and they go home peacefully. The fairy is told she has passed the test and is worthy to paint a rainbow.
This is a very nice, gentle, even romantic change from the usual Goth and comeuppances in Misty. Instead of getting a comeuppance for quarrelling the two sisters learn to live together and discover the meaning of beauty. But it’s the fairy we feel happiest for, when she passes the test and earns the right to paint a rainbow.
3: Girl Who Knew the Fairies
Artist: Jose Ariza
Lana McMahon believes in fairies; everyone thinks she is nuts. Lana takes Carol Marks to the fairy ball, and Carol is astonished to see it unfold under her very eyes. Forgetting Lana’s warning not to let the fairies see her, Carol bursts in on them. The fairies say those who see them must never return to tell the tale, so they take Carol away forever. Carol realises all those fairy tales over the centuries were based on sightings of an actual race of little people who live like cavemen underground. Carol hopes rescue comes when Lana tells people what happened. She does, but everyone just laughs at the girl who believes in fairies.
4: Fairy Gold
Artist: Isidres Mones
In medieval England, unpleasant Agnes wants to steal fairy gold, ignoring warnings that nobody outwits the fairies like that – they’re too cunning. At first she manages to avoid their tricks, but ignores their warning that for every hour she spends in Fairyland a year passes outside. They finally catch Agnes by making her fall asleep. When she wakes she finds the gold and steals it. The fairy chief urges Agnes to remain because she slept for a month in Fairyland, so the world she knew is no more (doing the math, roughly 720–744 years have passed, so that would make it about the…20thcentury?). Agnes ignores this and goes outside, but finds herself aging rapidly. She is forced to go back into Fairyland before she dies, and crumbles into a skeleton. The fairy chief says he did warn her that nobody can steal fairy gold.
Both these stories show that you are better to stay away from the fairies’ home turf and don’t trespass. Even if you only intend to go sightseeing, be very cautious. And if you’re greedy, they will win out in the end, no matter how wise you are to their games.
5: Stone Cold Revenge
Artist: John Richardson
Lesley is angry and upset her father spent his bonus on garden gnomes, just because all their neighbours have them. She was hoping for a record player, and she does not even like garden gnomes: “They’re ugly…”. She snaps and kicks one of the gnomes. But she kicks it too hard and it breaks, which gets her into trouble with Dad.
Then weird things start happening with all the other gnomes in the street: disappearing and reappearing under a window on Dad’s property, appearing on the stairs for Dad to trip over, and the family’s goldfish lying dead beside the remaining gnome (which has a fishing rod). Dad blames Lesley for the incidents and won’t listen to her pleas of innocence.
One evening the parents ground Lesley while they go out. While alone in the house, Lesley hears a loud tapping at the window, and then sees a whole army of garden gnomes outside. They smash their way in and attack her, and she faints. When the parents come home they find Lesley in a state of catatonic shock. The doctor says Lesley must have been scared right out of her mind, but can only wonder what caused it. Outside, the fisherman garden gnome seems to be listening and casting a menacing look.
The panels of Lesley hearing something tapping at the window and then seeing the gnomes outside still stick with me; they really made me shudder when I first read the story. The panels of the gnomes attacking Lesley must have been as frightening for readers as it was for Lesley.
Admittedly, Lesley does start the trouble by breaking the gnome, and is too angry to feel sorry about it. But we can sympathise with her feelings. It must have been very disappointing not getting the record player, and she was not even consulted on what she thought the bonus could go on. And we definitely share her anger against Dad for spending the bonus on something that was totally petty. Dad really was selfish for squandering his bonus on garden gnomes, just to keep up with the neighbours. Surely there must have been better things for the money than garden gnomes; from the sound of it, they can’t afford much. We are left with the feeling that Dad deserved a comeuppance more than Lesley, for not being more thoughtful about the bonus.
6: Spend, Spend, Spend!
Artist: Jaume Raumeu
Reprint: Best of Misty #2
Goldie is upset at not having loads of money to spend. She makes a deal with two goblins (who call themselves collectors). They say they will give her money in exchange for her becoming part of their collection once she spends it all. Goldie tries to cheat the goblins by not spending the last 10p, but her parents use it for parking money. Now the money is spent, the goblins come after Goldie, who tries to lock them out of the house. Furious at how Goldie is not keeping her end of the bargain, they transport her, house and all, to their realm.
You should definitely think twice before you make bargains with little people. You can’t cheat them, no matter how hard you try.
Misty only had six stories that used the subject of The Little People. It could be that this is because (apart from the gnomes), they were too whimsical and cute for the horror and Goth that Misty was known for. All the same, when you got on the wrong side of them, they could be as dangerous as any vampire, and Misty did not hesitate to express this.