Inspired by William Allingham's Poem
"Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren't go a-hunting
For fear of little men."
Grampa told Terry and Rachel the old stories as he tucked them in bed for the night.
"Papa, why are the Wee Folk so bad?" asked Rachel.
Her grandfather had to think a moment before he answered. "You see, lass, they aren't truly evil; they feel humans have broken the promise we made long ago."
"Promise?" asked Terry.
"Aye," replied grandfather; he told the children about when the Wee Folk and men were friends during a great battle between light and darkness.
"Long ago and far away in the deepest, darkest corners of the world, King Rusalka ruled over his people, the Troth," said Papa.
While the King was not evil, he didn't mind if the Troth caused trouble for those of the light since he had no responsibility to them, "Leave that to their guardians," said the King.
In those days, the people honored light and dark spirits by offering bread, salt, and butter in exchange for peace and prosperity.
Then, a terrible thing surprised everyone: King Rusalka died mysteriously. Some said it was Night Shifts, others claimed it to be Moon Wraths, but all agreed the future looked bleak.
Out of the shadows came a hungry-eyed figure, Mörken, whose sly smile hid his true intentions.
Mörken secured the King's power and revealed his plans to attack those of the light.
Wrapping his lies in heroic stories, Mörken convinced the Troth to march against the woodland folk, including humans whom he hated the most.
The Troth attacked forest folk, elves, and dwarves. Next, the pixies, fairies, and netherworld beings came under their swords.
Humans stayed away, not offering to help their neighbors, preferring to protect their interests.
Their selfishness was repaid tenfold when Mörken decided to strike the human settlements.
Billowing smoke filled the day sky while glowing red embers lit the night as Troth burned village after village, leaving many dead or fleeing the destruction.
From the forest, field, and cavern, the hidden people, or Huldrefolk as they were then known, watched until one stood to fight against Mörken the Dark One.
A small dwarf named Oleg Gopchik attacked the Troth from behind and broke their defensive lines, sending fear through the soldiers.
The Troth fled to their underworld homes, denying Mörken his victory over the humans.
Seeing the Wee Folk come to their rescue shamed the humans, and soon after, their leader, Aleksei, met with Oleg and formed a pact of protection.
Hence, the two peoples would neither attack nor fail to defend the other. A monument was built to remind future generations of their pledge at the forest's edge.
Grandfather stopped talking and hung his head low, wiping tears from his eyes. "Why do you cry, Papa?" asked Rachel.
"You see, lass, we humans broke the pact by cutting down their forests and turning their meadows into fields," explained Papa.
Initially, the Wee Folk didn't mind humans taking dead trees or turning dead earth into fertile wheat fields since they were always given a share each Fall.
The humans did not stop, and soon, they began to cut down vast swaths of forest and plowed large tracts of land, leaving no place for the Wee Folk to live.
Oleg tried to reason with the humans, but Aleksei was long dead, and his descendants cared little for the old ways.
One of the elves decided to push back; he swore not to break the pact but would seek to even the score by making humans pay dearly for every bit of field they took.
Soon, humans found plows broken or missing, and their fields quickly filled with stones, making plowing nearly impossible.
The older humans called out, saying they must respect the pact and stop the destruction of forest and field, but none listened.
As more Wee Folk joined the havoc, cows gave soured milk or, worse, no milk while crops withered in the fields.
The last straw came when it failed to rain for two seasons, and humans began to starve; the young rushed to their elders, seeking help.
Grandma Babuska came forward and offered to talk to the Wee Folk. One moonlit night, she gathered a basket of bread, salt, and the freshest cream and walked deep into the forest.
Grandma Babuska laid a neatly pressed cloth near the ancient whispering stones, placing bread, salt, and cream at its center. She waited.
When the moon reached its peak, a small voice came from behind a tree, "I am glad to see not all humans have lost their minds." Out step Oleg into the moonlight.
The two bowed the traditional greeting, and then Babuska spoke. "I am of the line of Aleksei, and it falls on me to mend the pact.
Oleg listened as she explained the youth now understood their error and wished to make amends; she warned the Wee Folk shouldn't expect the land returned, only that the humans would take no more.
Oleg stood quiet while he turned her words over in his mind. "Very well, I understand," came his reply.
The humans were to leave bread, salt, and butter near the forest's edge every fortnight. Families would take a spoonful from each evening meal dish and place it on a plate near the front door.
Grandma Babuska bowed and returned to the great hall where the village elders awaited. All agreed with Oleg's conditions, and a short time later, rains returned, and the people prospered.
"But Papa, why do Wee Folk still do naughty things," asked Rachel.
"Aye, lass, tis true," smiled her grandfather.
He told how Babuska had asked the Wee Folk to cause a bit of mischief now and then to remind the youth they should always remember their duties in giving the hidden ones their due.
"Grandfather, whatever became of Mörken the Dark One?" asked Terry.
He bent over and whispered, "He is still out there waiting for his chance, so you best behave, or he'll send a Troth to fetch you away to work in his mines digging gold."
He winked and blew out the candle, leaving both children to wonder if Mörken was waiting in the shadows.