There was once a turf-cutter called Granfer Nankivell, he lived on the moors with Granny Nankivell and their grandchild Jennifer. Granfer Nankivell spent his days out on the moor cutting turf and Granny spent hers baking. She baked a lot, sweet and savoury but Granfer had a very sweet tooth and was especially pleased when Granny Nankivell made junket (a kind of yoghurt) and sugar biscuits.
One day, old Granfer Nankivell was out on the moor cutting turf as every day but this day he cleared a bog. Pleased with his work he set out home. Now, the piskeys were angry because they slept on the soft, green grasses of the peat bog and they wanted revenge on Granfer Nankivell for cutting it all into turfs. The piskies set out their Piskey-lights ready to confuse Granfer and he would get lost in the bogs on his way home. Granfer saw the Piskey-lights but he wasn’t led astray as the piskies had hoped. Granfer was wise to the piskey ways and he had made sure to turn his pockets inside out to protect himself from being Piskey-led.
The piskeys were still angry to have lost their beds and they still wanted revenge. They decided to find a way to upset Granfer and took to watching him wherever he went. Often the piskies liked to dance or to set out their Piskey-lights, they found they couldn’t watch Granfer all the time so they asked the fairy moor-men to help them. While watching Granfer, the piskies and the fairy moor-men noticed something particular, he had a sweet tooth. They waited for Granny Nankivell to make a bowl of junket and a tray of sugar biscuits and the piskies crept into Granny’s spence (pantry) and ate everything.
The next time Granny made junket she shut the window. The biscuits and junket were still eaten, to punish Granfer for cutting turf from the piskies’ soft beds.
‘Jennifer have you eaten all my junket?’ Granny asked.
‘I think it was a cat,’ said Granfer. ‘Not our Jenny.’
‘A cat might eat the junket but it would not easily have eaten a whole tray of biscuits. Really, Jennifer,’ scolded her Granny.
The spence had a window looking out over the moors and by the window was a stone table where Granny put her junket to set. It was Granfer’s birthday and Granny wanted to make him some especially yummy sugar biscuits to eat. She and Jennifer spent a long time getting them just right. They put them, along with some fresh junket, on the stone table by the window. Granny looked out of the window across the moors but she couldn’t see any piskies. She bolted the window all the same. When she looked back every crumb had been eaten.
‘Who is eating all the biscuits and junket, I am so disappointed to miss out on my birthday treat,’ cried Granfer. ‘I think it is the piskies.’
‘I think Jennifer is eating it all,’ said Granny crossly.
‘It is not me,’ said Jennifer, ‘I am upset as Granfer. Next time you make junket, look through the keyhole to the spence and it won’t be me you see.’
The next day, Granny made her sweet foods again and she stood by the door and looked through the keyhole as Jennifer had suggested. Little men were everywhere, spooning out junket and eating biscuits. Tiny moor-men were passing biscuits out of the window to a line of piskies streaming across the moor. Granny opened the door, shook her fist and shouted, ‘I’ll have you all in here, doing my housework and helping to make biscuits, you should be ashamed for taking Granfer’s birthday food.’
Every little piskey and moor-man disappeared and Jennifer was never doubted again.
Retold by Anna Chorlton
Illustrated by Stephen Lambert
from Enys Tregarthen ‘Legends and Tales of North Cornwall.’