Black cats and lake serpents guard the fairy treasure well. Cats, as legends have it, were once serpents and that is why they are so hard to kill and so dangerous to meddle with.
The most predominant characteristic of fairy animals is their ability to defy natural laws. Cows breathe under water; pigs appear and disappear at will. Trout and salmon converse with mortals in fluent Irish. Fairy hares have been caught, washed, skinned and boiled, but never add a flavor to the soup; nor can a mortal sink his teeth in their flesh. A fairy trout when thrown in a pan will not brown, and has been known to leap from the fire and out the door in the form of a glimmering girl.
This leads to the question whether fairy animals are actually animals at all. The answer is complex. Some are known to be glamored objects, such as the wisps of straw which become for a night great black steeds which cross a mountain at a single leap. A log looks and moans like a dying cow or woman. The fairies have even made an old nag so to resemble a cow that its mortal owners, once they slew and prepare it, were convinced they were eating fresh beef.
Some are suspected to be fairies themselves who take on elusive animal forms to tease mortals; such as the appearing and disappearing hares which men may chase until doomsday but will never catch. Some animals, like the seal, are of ambiguous nature, being part animal and part fairy man or woman. All seals are intimate with the fairies, but one is never sure if all, or only a few, are actually selkies.
Of course, mortal cows and sheep graze in fairyland, having been stolen from mortal realms to nourish the good people. Guarding cats and serpents are animals in their own fairy right. So, are fairy animals fairies? Or are they animals?
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