From Lady Wilde,
Ancient Legends of Ireland, pages 29-30:
The evil influence of the fairy glance does not kill, but it throws the object into a death-like trance, in which the real body is carried off to some fairy mansion, while a log of wood, or some ugly, deformed creature is left in its place, clothed with the shadow of the stolen form.
Young women, remarkable for beauty, young men, and handsome children, are the chief victims of the fairy stroke. The girls are wedded to fairy chiefs, and the young men to fairy queens; and if the mortal children do not turn out well, they are sent back, and others carried off in their place. It is sometimes possible, by the spells of a powerful fairy-man, to bring back a living being from Fairy-land. But they are never quite the same after.
They have always a spirit-look, especially if they have listened to the fairy music. For the fairy music is soft and low and plaintive, with a fatal charm for mortal ears.
One day a gentleman entered a cabin in the County Clare, and saw a young girl of about twenty seated by the fire, chanting a melancholy song, without settled words or music. On inquiry he was told she had once heard the fairy harp, and those who hear it lose all memory of love or hate, and forget all things, and never more have any other sound in their ears save the soft music of the fairy harp, and when the spell is broken, they die.
It is remarkable that the Irish national airs--plaintive, beautiful, and unutterably pathetic--should so perfectly express the spirit of the Ceol-Sidhe (the fairy music), as it haunts the fancy of the people and mingles with all their traditions of the spirit world. Wild and capricious as the fairy nature, these delicate harmonies, with their mystic, mournful rhythm, seem to touch the deepest chords of feeling, or to fill the sunshine with laughter, according to the mood of the players; but, above all things, Irish music is the utterance of a Divine sorrow; not stormy or passionate, but like that of an exiled spirit, yearning and wistful, vague and unresting; ever seeking the unattainable, ever shadowed, as it were, with memories of some lost good, or some dim foreboding of a coming fate--emotions that seem to find their truest expression in the sweet, sad, lingering wail of the pathetic minor of a genuine Irish air.
There is a beautiful phrase in one of the ancient manuscripts descriptive of the wonderful power of Irish music over the sensitive human organization: "wounded men were soothed when they heard it, and slept; and women in travail forgot their pains." There are legends concerning the subtle charm of the fairy music and dance, when the mortal under their influence seems to move through the air with "the naked, fleshless feet of the spirit", and is lulled by the ecstasy of the cadence into forgetfulness of all things, and sometimes into the sleep of death.
Two Legends from Iceland by Jón Arnason
Once upon a time, God Almighty came to visit Adam and Eve. They received him with joy, and showed him everything they had in the house. They also brought their children to him, to show him, and these He found promising and full of hope.
Then He asked Eve whether she had no other children than these whom she now showed him.
She said "None."
But it so happened that she had not finished washing them all, and, being ashamed to let God see them dirty, had hidden the unwashed ones. This God knew well, and said therefore to her, "What man hides from God, God will hide from man."
These unwashed children became forthwith invisible, and took up their abode in mounds, and hills, and rocks. From these are the elves descended, but we men from those of Eve's children whom she had openly and frankly shown to God. And it is only by the will and desire of the elves themselves that men can ever see them.
A traveler once lost his way, and knew not whither to turn or what to do. At last, after wandering about for some time, he came to a hut, which he had never seen before; and on his knocking at the door, an old woman opened it, and invited him to come in, which he gladly did.
Inside, the house seemed to be a clean and good one. The old woman led him to the warmest room, where were sitting two young and beautiful girls. Besides these, no one else was in the house. He was well received and kindly treated, and having eaten a good supper was shown to bed.
He asked whether one of the girls might stay with him, as his companion for the night, and his request was granted.
And now wishing to kiss her, the traveler turned towards her, and placed his hand upon her; but his hand sank through her, as if she had been of mist, and though he could well see her lying beside him, he could grasp nothing but the air.
So he asked what this all meant, and she said, "Be not astonished, for I am a spirit. When the devil, in times gone by, made war in heaven, he, with all his armies, was driven into outer darkness. Those who turned their eyes to look after him as he fell, were also driven out of heaven; but those who were neither for nor against him, were sent to the earth and commanded to dwell there in the rocks and mountains.
These are called elves and hidden people. They can live in company with none but their own race. They do either good or evil, which they will, but what they do they do thoroughly. They have no bodies as you other mortals, but can take a human form and be seen of men when they wish. I am one of these fallen spirits, and so you can never hope to embrace me."
To this fate the traveler yielded himself, and has handed down to us this story.
Source: Jón Arnason, Icelandic Legends,
translated by George E. J. Powell
and Eiríkur Magnússon
(London: R. Bentley, 1864).
Translation slightly revised.