Back in 2010, I shared a bunch of stories about tomtens and trolls and nisse--that was kind of the theme of the holiday story booklet that year.
This story wasn't in that collection because I hadn't written it yet. I combined a few English traditional stories and came up with this brand-new one, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it.
The Boggart’s Bargain (England)
There was once a farmer who bought a plot of land patch of land that was inhabited by a boggart, a wicked fairy creature with bad thoughts, bad breath, and bad habits.
His wife soon discovered the mistake, but there was no going back on the deal. They would have to trick the boggart, or live with the mischief forever.
The wife took herself to tea with the neighbor ladies, and over cookies and cups the women made a plan.
The following day, the farmer went to the boggart’s hole and knocked politely at the door there.
“I’ve come to suggest a deal,” he said to the creature. “I propose that we work together to cultivate this land, and that we share the bounty. Do you agree?”
The boggart agreed. So the farmer asked, “Do you want the part of the harvest above the ground, or the part below the ground?”
The boggart thought a bit before saying that the part of the harvest below the ground would be best for him.
That year, the farmer sowed barley in the field, and when the harvest time came, the farmer took the stalks and seeds, and the boggart was left with dirt and roots.
The following year, the farmer asked the boggart which part of the harvest he wanted, and the boggart answered that he wanted the part above the ground.
And so it was that the farmer planted potatoes that year. And when harvest time came, the farmer carried away bushels and bushels of potatoes, but the boggart had only weeds and stems to show.
The boggart became very angry, and said that the next time he would take all of the harvest for himself, above and below ground both, and as soon as the crop was grown and cut and sold he would come and throw the farmer and all his family into the river to drown.
This perplexed and frightened the farmer greatly, and his wife as well, so she betook herself back to the neighbor ladies to ask for advice. The women discussed the problem for many hours, and by the end of tea-time, they had concocted a plan.
The next morning, the farmer returned to the boggart’s hole, and knocked politely at the door there.
“I agree to your terms,” he told the little creature. “When the next crop is grown and cut and sold, you may have all of it for yourself, and you may throw me and all my family into the river to drown.”
And that year, he planted trees.
In the autumn of the year, the boggart came to the farmer’s house to ask if the crop was ready to be cut and sold, and the farmer told him that it was not. So the boggart went away.
The next year, the boggart came again, and asked if the crop was ready to be cut and sold. But, of course, it was not ready yet. So the boggart went away.
Generations of farmers grew up in that place, each one caring for the forest of trees that had been planted. And each year, the boggart came to inquire about the status of the harvest, and was sent away.
Finally, old and grey, the boggart came to the house and told the great-grandson of the original farmer and his wife that he was moving away to a warmer clime, and the family would just have to tend their slow-growing crop without his help.
So the young farmer shook the boggart’s hand warmly, wished him well, and watched him walk away.