I recently read the second volume (Kith) of Holly Black's new graphic novel series The Good Neighbors. As a student of folklore, I recommend it; she knows the old stories and doesn't hide the blood and pain of them. Personally, I find the main characters less than appealing - they're all teenagers of a sort I rather dislike - self-absorbed, self-important, judgemental and full of angst.
The first book, Kin, opened with a re-telling of the murder of Bridget Cleary. Bridget was an Irish woman who died in 1895, killed by her husband under the assumption that she was a changeling and only by destroying that could he get her back. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridget_C
This second book, Kith, tells the story from the other side, of a man who was stolen away by the faeries and not returned. Or rather, there was a chance that he could be rescued, but he wasn't because the one he trusted above all others to help him ... betrayed him. Because she had married again in his absence.
It is of this part of the tale I wish to speak.
It was in Ireland also that it happened. A young bride fell ill and died and was buried. Her husband mourned her but time passed and he married again and his second wife bore his children. And he was happy.
But then a letter arrived, from a town on the far side of the county, sent by a man the husband did not know, had no knowledge of. And it was strange story that the letter told.
For several years running, the farmer had been aware of thefts of food - they occurred at night, not every night, but often enough, even though the doors were locked and barred and nothing could get in. Finally, he stayed up to watch and wait. And in his watching, a young woman entered his kitchen and made her way to his food stores and ate and drank.
She didn't speak that first night, but she did later and she told the farmer her story.
She was the first wife to the young man, the one who had fallen ill and supposedly died. But it had not been her that was buried in the grave, it had been a stock of wood, enchanted to look like her. For all that time, she had been in the faerie bruagh, servant to the Good Folk. But in all the time of her servitude, she had neither eaten nor drunk anything offered to her under the knoll. Instead, she had snuck away nights to the farmer's home and eaten his food.
She told the farmer what her husband must do in order to win her back, go out to the ruined faerie fort and watch as the Court rade by, rush forward when he saw her and pull her free, wrapping her up in his coat. By doing that, he would claim her back and their hold on her would be broken.
The letter to the husband mentioned that this was not the first letter the farmer had written. He had written TWICE to the woman's parents. They had no responded.
The husband took counsel with the parish priest, told the priest that he planned to do what he could to save his first wife.
And the priest ordered him not to do.
Not because of any purported sin on her soul or any reason that made sense but ... Because if the husband rescued his first wife, he would be guilty of bigamy and his children would be accounted as eclesiastical bastards.
The young husband argued that he could give his first wife passage money to travel to America.
The priest said that wouldn't be enough because she would still be alive and in this world and as long as she existed in this world, in the eyes of the church, the man would be bigamist and the second marriage void. The priest begged him to think of his children, to think of his second wife.
In the end, the husband agreed to the priest's counsel. He related his intentions to the farmer who told the first wife. Her face grew white and solemn and she nodded, and told the farmer that she would no longer haunt his kitchen. She returned to the bruagh ... and ate the food of Faerie.