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Our tale begins on the north coast of Cornwall, in a little village called of Zennor. In the village of Zennor, there lived a poor farming family, a husband and wife who had thirteen children. But with thirteen children to provide for, all of them had learned not to expect very much. All of them, that is, except one. Their daughter Cherry was a wilfil girl, and would not accept the life of poverty and drudgery that awaited her siblings in Zennor. When she turned sixteen, she abruptly announced that she was leaving home...


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Cherry of Zennor combines several common folklore motifs concerning fairies, visiting a fairy dwelling place, use of an ointment that grants sight of the fairies’ true nature, and the taking of a human nurse for a fairy child. It is Aarne-Thompson folk tale type 476 ‘The Fairy Ointment/The Fairy Nurse’, and examples can be found in English, French and Scandinavian folklore.  In this story, using the ointment allows Cherry to see the magical nature of her master: in other versions of the tale, magic glamours disguise the nature of the fairy’s abode, so that a humble human dwelling is revealed to be a grand palace or castle, or more often, a grand castle or house is revealed to be a squalid cave or underground dwelling that is horrifying to human sight.

Zennor is the name of a village and a parish that lies on the north coast of Cornwall  about 6 miles north of Penzance. Cherry is said by some sources to live in Treen, a hamlet within the parish. The area appears to be rich with folklore, and is said to be named after one St. Senara. One version of her legend tells how she was a Breton princess called Azenor, whose husband threw her into the sea in a barrel. Senara floated all the way to Ireland, but she founded Zennor along the way. In another version, Senara and her sister floated to Cornwall with her sister on a lettuce leaf (possibly a coracle).  In prehistoric times, Zennor’s inhabitants were said to be defended by the giant Holiburn from his unscrupulous brethern. In almost a mirror image of Cherry’s tale, The Mermaid of Zennor tells how a mermaid in human form lures a young Cornishman away from the local church to raise children with her beneath the sea.

Rick: In the original version of the tale, it is explicitly the awakening of Cherry’s ‘vanity’ and sexual desires that leads her to run away from home and into the clutches of the fairy Robin.  As she grows into a teenager she becomes rebellious, inspired by her female friends who are going into service in the city and gaining a measure of social and financial independence.




Though there are no direct correlations between Cherry of Zennor and any folk ballads, one ballad, The Queen of Elfan's Nourice or Elf Call, revolves around a human woman who is promised her human child will be returned if she nurses a fairy child. The appearance of the Elf Queen/King and a road that leads to Elfland appear to be echoes from the Thomas the Rhymer ballad.





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