Many moons ago, Thom and Tessa Goodwood lived in a village in the middle of Alba. The village was named Inverselkie, for its famous stone-built bridge across the River Selkie. They were a lovely young couple, similar in many ways. Both were short and bonny. Their eyes were blue, hair dark with the rosiest red cheeks. They resembled generations of their farmer ancestors. When married they moved from their remote forested hamlet to Inverselkie – a place of opportunity.
Thom was gifted in the masonic trade and helped to build the current stone bridge which replaced the old rickety wooden one. This made him one of the most admired young men in the village and Tessa was so proud of him. Tessa had wonderful skill with a needle and made many bridal gowns for her neighbors. They were simple affairs made of ivory flax but Tessa embroidered them, almost magically, in vivid hues of scarlet and indigo. Recently the blacksmith’s daughter, a gentle soul, had asked for a more delicate embroidery and Tessa had fashioned the gown with exquisite pale pink and peach freesias. Now all her customers wanted pastel colors.
Despite their success in their new home, Thom and Tessa longed for something else entirely. A baby was all they wished for. Despite prayers and potions from the village wise woman, nothing worked. Every month, Tessa was so disappointed when nature revealed her infertility once more. She sobbed and Thom held her in his loving arms, wishing for circumstances to be different. They both tried to shake off their sadness but it wasn’t helped when village busybodies patted Tessa’s tummy and asked when they were having a baby. Tessa usually laughed and said, “When the Gods provide…” but a little part of her soul died at each response.
Tessa longed for the comfort of her straight forward mother at times like this but they were many leagues away in the far north eastern corner of Alba. The landscape and the poor roads made travel difficult and they hadn’t seen each other for many moons until Tessa’s Granny died. It was an awful, grief filled journey, made worse by freezing snow and an uncomfortable carriage. Tessa and Thom launched themselves into the loving arms of their families, neighbors and friends. There were awkward questions from family members too, as they had been married for seven years, but Tessa’s Mam helped deflect them. Her advice was, “Just keep praying for a miracle”.
The night they returned to Inverselkie, Tessa and Thom settled themselves into their comfortable down filled bed at around 9 pm. They both prayed silently but were beginning to doubt their worthiness. They gently settled into slumber until they were woken at midnight by a quiet mewling at their door. Tessa woke up first and shook Thom awake. “It sounds like a cat, Tessa! I need my sleep…” Eventually, they both tentatively opened the front door of their thatched cottage and saw a basket. They both leapt back when the thistledown blanket moved but then they saw a little hand emerge. It was a baby!
Tessa immediately picked the basket up and Thom looked around to see who had left it, to no avail. They brought the basket into the warmth of their living room and put it on the kitchen table. Tessa pulled back the delicate blanket and stared into the eyes of the most beautiful baby boy. His hair was a silvery flaxen and his big round eyes were the darkest brown. “It’s a changeling!” gasped Thom. Tessa shushed him and gathered the beautiful child to her chest. “The Gods have provided our miracle baby, Thom. Please may we keep him?” Tessa’s eyes were brimming with tears and yet as happy as they had ever been. Thom’s heart unfroze and he reached out to cuddle the baby. As soon as he held him, he knew this was their answer from to their prayers.
They spent all night feeding and cuddling their strange new child until exhaustion took over. Thom woke with a start thinking, “I am late for work!” Tessa snapped awake too, looking with disbelief at the tiny babe with the big brown eyes. They were full of unanswerable questions for each other. ‘How do we explain the appearance of this beautiful Oddling’. ‘What will we name him and who left him for us?’ They sensibly decided to wait until Thom returned from work and they would make a plan. During the day, Tessa learned how to change a napkin, soothe an unsettled baby and most of all, how to love with all her heart.
When Thom came back from work at the stonemason’s yard, Tessa was full of excitement and ideas to explain the appearance of the baby left in a basket on their doorstep. “Perhaps we should check if someone has lost a baby or at least consider that the child might be a changeling?” queried Thom who, after a hard day at work, was now apprehensive. “Hush, Thom!” said Tessa – “Keep your voice down. Finn is our miracle gift from the Gods”. A faint cry from the basket near the fire alerted both new parents to the object of their concern. Thom gently lifted the newly named Finn into his arms and melted as the big brown eyes met his. Tessa smiled indulgently at the two beloved boys in her life. “Has he eaten well?”, asked Thom. Tessa told him with a satisfied smile, “He has had warm Goats Milk, a softly boiled egg and sucked on a rag dipped in honey”.
“Why did you call him Finn?” asked Thom. Tessa explained that Finn was a Celtic name that means white or fair. His halo of silky flaxen hair was certainly fairer than most Alba folks who usually had blue eyes with dark hair. Since they had only just returned from Granny’s funeral, they decided that they would tell their neighbors that Finn was the result of a liaison between an unmarried cousin of Tessa’s and a visiting Norse trader. That would explain the curious light hair and Finn’s sudden appearance. Tessa and Thom would be seen as caring relatives who took in an unwanted baby.
Tessa eagerly showed Thom a small layette of baby clothes that she had stitched when Finn was napping. She had used the finest linen from her store and knitted some items in delicate lambs wool. Even so, nothing was quite as soft and magical as the thistledown blanket in his basket. Silently, Thom and Tessa gave thanks for Finn and wondered how his mother, fairy or otherwise, could give him up.
This latest fairy story series is based on the true story of my husband’s loving adoptive parents.
THANK YOU to Pixabay and Wikipedia