Young Readers’ Book Review of The Woman Who Went to Fairyland, A Welsh Folk Tale

by DerdriuMarriner

"The Woman Who Went to Fairyland: A Welsh Folk Tale" retells for young readers how a pretty Welsh serving-maid becomes a beautiful fairy queen.


Fairies are as consistently happy with their lives as humans sometimes are with theirs.

Fairies in fact like to stay in Fairyland even though not all humans feel likewise about Humanland.

In this retelling of “The Woman Who Went to Fairyland,” Rosalind Kerven shares what happens to a pretty Welsh lass who goes to Fairyland and the Welsh woman who visits her there.


In "The Woman Who Went to Fairyland: A Welsh Folk Tale," Elin, a serving-maid kindly leaves gifts for fairies and also comes across a gathering of dancing fairies ~

Älvalek ("Dancing Fairies"): 1866 oil on canvas by Johan August Malmström (October 14, 1829 – October 18, 1901)
Nationalmuseum, central Stockholm, southeastern Sweden
Nationalmuseum, central Stockholm, southeastern Sweden


The Woman Who Went to Fairyland recounts the Welsh tale of two happily married couples: one fairy, the other human.

Some people believe in fairies while others do not. Some consider fairies good while others consider them mischief-makers. True fairy nature may be the same as human, in The Woman Who Went to Fairyland: A Welsh Folk Tale, retold by Rosalind Kerven, illustrated by Honey de Lacey, and published by Blackie Children’s Books in 1992. The book numbers among the publisher’s Folk Tales of the World series. 


The book begins with an elderly couple finding their serving-maid Elin with a gold coin. Elin explains that the coin is fairy-thanks for leaving bread and milk to drink and soap and water to bathe the previous night. The explanation infuriates Huw and Bet, who forbid Elin to associate with fairies.

That night, Elin ambles alongside the river. She observes fairies dancing, playing fiddles and pipes, and singing.  The fairies spin Elin around until she falls asleep in place.

The next morning, Bet admits to spying on Elin. She cautions Elin against fairies abducting her. Bet insists that Elin carry something metallic (such as a knife) by day and have a rowan tree branch across the bed by night.

Elin does not make breakfast. Bet looks into Elin’s bedroom. She screams that the fairies have stolen Elin.

One year and one day later, rain falls in buckets. The fairy king knocks at the door and requests Bet’s presence. He and she speed on a silver horse to a cobwebby, mossy, shadowy cave.

Inside are Elin and her son with the king. Elin has ointment to apply to her son’s eyes. She indicates that the ointment is not for humans. But Bet puts some into one eye. With the non-anointed eye, she sees Fairyland human-style. With the anointed eye, she sees Fairyland fairy-style: as bright and unusual as the silver horse that takes her back home.

Bet carries two bags from Elin’s husband. Huw thinks that their cares are over, because the bags are filled with gold. But Bet worries about her fairy-sighted eye.

The book ends with Bet seeing the fairies at the Midwinter Fair. Queen Elin’s husband guesses about the ointment. He has his breath go into Bet’s fairy-sighted eye. Bet never sees fairies again.


The Woman Who Went to Fairyland is a charmingly written and winsomely illustrated story for readers of all ages. It offers adventure, fun, and happy endings to adults and children.



In "The Woman Who Went to Fairyland: A Welsh Folk Tale," Bet urges her serving-maid Elin to sleep with a rowan tree branch across her bed at night to ward off abduction-minded fairies:

European rowan tree (Sorbus aucuparia) is esteemed for magical and protective qualities in Celtic mythology.
Y Garn, Gwynedd, Wales
Y Garn, Gwynedd, Wales



My special thanks for:

  • Fine images that are made available on the Internet by talented photographers/concerned organizations;
  • Superior on-campus and on-line resources through Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

The Welsh Fairy Book (Dover Children's Classics) by W. Jenkyn Thomas

Definitive treasury of more than 80 traditional Welsh tales.
Welsh fairy tales

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Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 11/13/2014, DerdriuMarriner
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