A knight buried his wife and was disconsolate. He mourned her deeply, long past the time that his friends considered fitting. They tried to persuade him to take a new wife but he refused to do so. In the end one of his friends, caring more for him than for propriety, suggested that he consult one of the local wise women, the way that peasants do, since such people seemed to have ways of assuaging grief that doctors did not seem to possess. Reluctantly he agreed, since he had lost all hope of any happiness in this world and himself cared nothing anymore for what people thought of him.
Making his way to the old woman’s hovel, he called out and the door opened to allow him to enter. In the darkness the old woman signalled for him to sit by the fire. Not knowing what else to say and not wanting to prolong his stay here anymore than was necessary, he blurted out his distress. She laughed and he was almost going to hit her when she said, “Of course you still search for her for she is not really dead.”
“But I saw her buried.”
“That that you buried was merely a simulacrum, a copy made by the fair folk to fool you. It is they who have taken your wife.”
The man did not know whether to laugh or cry but the woman told him that there was one way he could get her back, and he must follow her directions to the letter.
The next May Eve he waited near a spring that was close to his castle. It was pitch black, since thick cloud covered the moon and stars and in the darkness the spot was eerie, so he continuously had to brace himself to prevent fear taking hold. Eventually he heard music that got louder and he saw a procession of the fair folk approaching the spring. His heart leapt when he saw that his wife was amongst their number but appearing to be in some form of trance. He steeled himself to remain still as the old woman had told him, although he would for all the world have run out and clasp her to him.
At last they had all assembled and began to dance. This was his chance. He rushed forward and grabbed hold of her, running as fast as he could away from the spring. She remained still in his arms, as if half-asleep but behind him it sounded as if all the demons in hell were screaming and shouting and hard at his back. He ran as fast as he could and, just when he thought his arms and legs would give out, the moon appeared from behind the cloud and shone her silvery light onto them. Immediately all fell still and his wife opened her eyes and was bewildered by where she found herself.
They lived together for many years after and had sons and grandchildren who were called the sons of the dead woman.