Tell Me a Story

The Buggane and the Waterfall (A Folktale From the Isle of Man)

Once upon a time on the Isle of Man, there lived a poor farmer and his wife near a place called Glen Mooar. They lived in a nice little cottage and owned a bit of land on which they grew potatoes and grazed their cow.

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Everyone knows fairies often play tricks, and on the Isle of Man, when the fairies were offended, sometimes they called upon the Bugganes, terrible ogres who lived in ruins and forests and waterfalls.

The Bugganes hated to be disturbed. They could shift their shapes to look like anything and anyone they wished, and so few people had ever seen them. But those who had seen them said they were enormous creatures, with coarse black hair and wrinkled skin, with red mouths and cloven feet and eyes like fire.

People often told the story of the Buggane that tore the roof off St. Trinian's church again and again because the church was built on its mountain. And people said there was a Buggane that lived in the waterfall very near the farmer's house.

The farmer was hard working and kind, but his wife was terribly lazy and liked to lie in bed. Her neighbors were forever whispering about her. "She wears out more blankets than shoes," her next-door neighbor said.

"'Tis sad," added another, "an excuse is nearer that woman than her apron is."

Every morning the farmer woke at dawn and called out to his wife, "Lose an hour in the morning and you'll be looking for it all day!" but she only turned over again. "You'll never plough a field by turning it over in your mind," he said. But she slumbered on.

So he set off to work in that field. Many were the days that he came home for breakfast only to find her still asleep. There was no fire. There was no food. On those days he would build a fire and cook his own gruel. Alas, he would sigh, "A cabin with plenty of food is better than a castle with none."

Often when he came home for his midday meal, his wife was still asleep. At long last, the farmer decided it was time to play a trick on her. So when he awoke, he fetched some straw from the barn. With that straw he blocked up all the windows in that little cottage.

Late in the afternoon he came home and found his wife still in bed, waiting for the day to come.

"Hurry," the farmer said, "come see the sun rise in the West!"

She quickly climbed out of bed, and the farmer opened the door to show her. The whole sky looked to be on fire, for the sun was actually setting. But the woman was frightened at the sight and asked, "What makes the sun rise in the West?"

"Must be the Buggane," the farmer said. "The hairy one that lives under the waterfall. It's a bad hen that doesn't scratch for itself. You best be careful or it might come to punish you for your lazy ways."

"What do you know of the Buggane?" the wife asked. But the farmer only said, "Ask me no questions; I'll tell you no lies."

Soon after that he went out to go fishing under the bright full moon.

As soon as he was gone, the woman realized she was hungry. But there was no bread in the cupboard, and she knew she would have to bake it. She slipped the bolt on the door so the fairies wouldn't catch her baking after sunset -- the fairies did not like that kind of thing. Then she began to knead the meal. She clapped her cakes as thin as could be and picked up a knife to cut them into circles. When the first one was cut, she brushed the griddle and tossed the cake on the fire. As she picked up her knife and began to cut the second cake, she heard a knock at the door.

"Who's there?" she called, but no one answered. Then she heard another sound, someone knocking harder and way up high on the door.

"Who's there?" she asked again. This time a thick, gravelly voice answered, "Open for me, for I am he."

That made no sense, so she ignored the voice. But the voice cried again, "Open for me for I am he." Before she could say a word, the door burst open, and there stood the hideous Buggane.

Before she could run, that Buggane clutched her by her apron and swung her over its wide shoulder and ran down the hill all the way to the top of Spooyt Vooar, the huge waterfall.

The woman was terrified. She could hear those roaring waters, and from above she saw the stream turning to spray as it hit the rocks. She knew she would drown as the Buggane swung her high into the air, preparing to toss her down the falls.

Just then she remembered the knife in her hands. Quick as she could, she cut her apron strings and tumbled onto the ground. She rolled away, but the Buggane stumbled and fell forward, right into that waterfall.

The Buggane rolled and bounced, head over heels. People from miles away could hear the creature roaring, "Rumble, rumble, rumble, it is I who tumble." Then they heard a splash.

And no one saw that Buggane ever again. People say that farmer's wife learned her lesson. She gave up her lazy ways and became as good a wife as a farmer could wish for. She always baked bread well before the sunset, so as to not offend the fairy folk!

"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.

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