The Last Fairy

My brother sometimes includes humorous versions of fairy tales in his blog, for example.
So I thought I would write something similar, what if fairies had once existed? And came up with this…..

 

The Biologist drove over the Mendip Hills on a lovely late summer day, he wondered what the Librarian at Wells Cathedral had to show him. He had known her when they had been at university years ago, and had met a few times since, but she had seemed so excited, so secretive, at what she had found in the library.

What could it be, the Biologist thought it must be some ancient scientific book, but if it was that he wouldn’t be the person to call in, he was an entomologist, not a scientific historian. But the Librarian had been so insistent, he had to come, to see what had been found.

In the village of Podmore he stopped to fill up with petrol, as he paid he picked up the leaflet advertising the local festival.

Podmore Fairy Festival
Podmore, the last home of the Fairies
Make a fairy scarecrow
Best fairy picture
Write a story – What happened to the last fairy

As he drove through the village he smiled to see the fairy scarecrows, big and little, mostly with slightly mad smiles, dressed in a variety of clothing but all with wire mounted wings.

In the cathedral they climbed to the long, elegant library. At the end there was a gap in the bookcases that lined one side of the room. The Librarian explained.

“Last month cracks were noticed in the plaster above the shelves. To see if the cracks ran further down the wall we removed the shelf here. That’s when we found them.” She pointed at a table, on it lay several leather bound books.

“I think they were placed there because the librarian in about 1820, when these shelves were made, had no interest in them but felt they shouldn’t be disposed of. There are several sets of seventeenth and eighteenth century sermons, which are about as exciting as they sound. Then we found this.”

From a shelf, where it had been carefully placed, she lifted a large volume. On the cover was the name ‘E. Glanville’, the Biologist was suddenly very interested.

“We only looked at one or two pages as we could see the contents were very fragile.”

She opened the book, the Biologist gasped in amazement. There was a large pressed plant, he thought a scabious, but stuck around it were several butterflies, their wings were loose and several moved as the page opened. One slid off the page, the Biologist, hands shaking, eased it onto a slip of paper and transferred it back to the book.

“Have you ever seen anything like this?” She asked, “We haven’t and cannot find out anything about books like this or E. Glanville. I wonder who he was?”

“I have only ever seen photographs of books like this, it was the way in which insects were preserved in the seventeenth century. But the books are very fragile, even opening the pages can damage them. As for E. Glanville she’s not a he but a she, Eleanor Glanville, one of the first great entomologists. Only a few of her notes and specimens survive, but it looks as if you have discovered more of them.”

He opened a second page,

“Wonderful,” he said, “She noted where she caught the insect. This one was caught at Priddy.”

The librarian bent forward and saw, in thin brown handwriting ‘Pr’dy’.

As he shut the book he looked up at his friend and said.

“You can guess what I am going to ask you?”

“Yes, I have asked the Chapter and they agree that the books can be lent to the University for study. There will be various conditions but no real difficulties.” She paused, then added, “But there is something else, I don’t quite know what to make of it. It’s in the second volume.”

“Second volume?” Replied the Biologist in dazed delight.

She took down another large book and laid it on the table, then she carefully opened it at a marked page. The Biologist looked down in amazement. The specimen was larger than the others, about ten centimetres long. It was probably an arthropod, with a dark exoskeleton that looked almost like human armour. The hind legs were large, and he wondered if it could have just stood on them alone. The forelimbs were shorter with grasping claws. The head had been distorted by the pressing but it looked very like an armoured human head. And then there were the wings, four wings, wide and translucent, they almost covered the page.

“Do you know what it is?” She asked.

“No, and I don’t think anybody has ever seen anything like this for centuries. The only name I could give it would be mad.”

“I don’t think so.” Replied the librarian, she pointed to the name written at the bottom of the page, ‘P’dmor’.

“I think we know what happened to the last fairy.”

 

Eleanor Glanville was real, and gave her name to a beautiful little butterfly, the Glanville Fritillary. The way of preserving insects in books was also real, a few, very fragile, very precious examples survive.

But as for the rest ……

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