Fairy Land by Howard David Johnson

Mr. Skelmersdale in Fairyland by H. G. Wells

I tend to associate H. G. Wells with science fiction, so I was surprised to come across this short story, which was first published in 1903. It’s a fairy tale for adults, more or less.

The narrator of the story hears about a shopkeeper, Mr. Skelmersdale, who everyone seems to believe has actually been to fairyland. Eventually, the narrator gains Skelmersdale’s trust and hears the story.

After an argument with his girl, Skelmersdale wandered out to Aldington Knoll and fell asleep. When he awoke he was somewhere entirely different and elves escorted him to fairyland. There he met the beautiful, enchanting Fairy Lady, who becomes his companion.

A time came, indeed, when she sat on a bank beside him, in a quiet, secluded place “all smelling of vi’lets,” and talked to him of love.

Eventually he has to leave fairyland and has nothing to show for his time spent there. He wants to return desperately, but can’t.

Often, in fairy stories once the character has tasted the fairies’ food or visited their land or just met them, normal food, regular people and every-day places just can’t compare. It’s impossible for him to return to normal life. And, in Skelmersdale’s case and others, he can never have the woman he wants, she is beyond his reach, but he also can’t settle for any other relationship.

It’s not an overly sentimental story and the ending is sad for Skelmersdale. He has no gold, he misses the Fairy Lady, he’s a laughing stock in the neighborhood.

I enjoy fairy tales, those written for adults and for children, and I’m glad I found this one. You can read it at Project Gutenberg.

John hosts Short Story Monday at The Book Mine Set. Head over there to see what he and others have been reading.