In Wales, foxglove was called Goblin's Gloves and was said to attract the hobgoblins who wore the long bells on their fingers as gloves that imparted magical properties. This story from my Welsh heritage is a favorite...
Garth didn't like it - no not one bit and told Gwen so every chance he got. "Anybody coming through our patch of the woods will be thinking that you're a witch, growing all those goblin gloves," he'd tell her.
But Gwen just laughed at him. "No one ever comes out here to our wood and they are such lovely flowers. How could I not grow them?"
"Well they don't call them goblin gloves for nothing! They draw them here Gwen - to dance and sing and who knows what kind of other mischief. Just not wise, I tell you, we should pull them all up."
"You just keep your nose out of my flower beds!" Gwen warned him and called over her shoulder, "Do not let me find any of my flowers missing."
Garth was already heading toward the forest path so he just waved over his free arm and slung his axe over his shoulder with his other as he headed up Llanhiddel mountain to cut firewood to sell in town. He always left early to be sure to be back before dusk, when the mountain spirits were said to walk about.
Gwen knew that Garth would indulge her and leave the flowers alone. He just liked to grumble about some things now and then, just so she would know that he was keeping an eye out.
What she didn't tell him was that she had been, over the years, transplanting all the goblin gloves that she would come across growing into the forest pathways on the way to back from town. She knew the flowers were only seeking more light and that they would get trampled underfoot as Garth carried wood to town to sell at market. In her gardens and the surrounding meadows, the long beautiful spikes of purple, pink and white bells sometimes grew up to eight feet tall - no other flower in her garden stood so tall for so long.
As Gwen weeded in her garden that morning she kept stopping and listening and looking around for she felt that she was not alone. As she was weeding around the base of one of her favorite stands of goblin gloves, she straightened her back to look to see if perhaps someone was behind her and then turned back around and - oh! - she made such a jump for there was a hobgoblin standing there where a tall stand of goblins gloves had been just a moment before.
The hob looked up at her with bright eyes. He had a long thick dark beard and copper-colored skin. Gwen figured he was about an ell high (2 feet) and though of the smallest stature, she thought he was very well proportioned. He was dressed in woven cloth of earthen colors and wore boots and a belt of leathers.
Well, excuse me - I did na' see you standing there.
The little man bowed and spoke in a low voice, "Well it is me who is asking your forgiveness for I have startled you who cares for our flowers and protects them from the one who cuts the trees,"
"Protect your flowers? Oh you mean the goblin gloves. Well now, it is my pleasure to have them grow here" Gwen said, secretly delighted that the hob appeared to her, and then realized what he had said. "And oh, do not pay any mind to my man's talk about pulling up the flowers, he really does love flowers too, he is just like an old bear and must grumble and growl a bit now and then. Truth to tell, he just worries when he leaves me home alone while he cuts wood up in the mountains. He's heard that you hobs are attracted to the goblin gloves and, well, he fears that you hobs will play tricks on me while he was gone."
"Tell your man that we hobs watch over you while he works and would never let any harm come to you. And we want to do more to thank you for growing our flowers here."
Gwen closed her eyes against the glare of the sun for a moment, smiling. "Oh there's no need. I am happy to grow these flowers here and… " She shaded her eyes to discover the little hob was gone and the goblin gloves reappeared in that same spot, shivering a bit as though a gentle breeze had blown across the little meadow. "Well, imagine that - a hob, talking to me… and wanting to help me, none-the-less! Hmmm."
But that night when Garth was home, Gwen never did tell him about her visitor. Nor did she mention that before she went to bed, she had left some fresh cream in a bowl on the back step for the hob. In the morning the bowl of cream was empty but someone had worked the churn she had left filled with cream beside the hearth that night. All she had to do was but give it a thump or two to bring out the butter in a great lump.
One night Gwen and Garth had fallen asleep, forgetting to blow out the candle and when they arose in the morning Gwen found that someone had swept the hearth. The following nights, she left a mug of ale on the back step and didn't she find someone had done her other chores those nights too. Sometimes it would be her baking and brewing, other times her washing and mending. Garth never seemed to notice the extra help, he just complimented Gwen on her good bread and good beer. And Gwen noticed that after eating and drinking the food and ale that the hobs had left them, Garth seemed livelier and happier than he had in years. One morning he even jumped out of bed and hugged her, first thing in the morning - before tea even, and told her that he felt like a new man. "Well," Gwen thought, "Ya certainly act like one!" Gwen made sure to leave an extra bowl of cream on the back step that night. Their little farm prospered as never before.
But then one late afternoon, stretched into one long evening, Gwen was sure that any minute Garth would come home calling "I'm back, Gwen" and would be lowering the bundle of wood from his back, for he never stayed out so late. By long past bedtime, Gwen was worried sick. She went outside in her shawl, standing in the moonlight in her garden, looking toward the woods and calling, "Gaaaarth! Garth, are you out there love?" but she heard only the night crickets sing back. Gwen clutched at her shawl and turned to go back inside when she heard, "He won't be coming home tonight."
She spun around to find the same small hob, with the long dark beard and bright eyes staring up at her where she was just about to step. And rather than be surprised at this sudden appearance, Gwen thought only of Garth. "And where might he be?" she asked the little man.
"The old woman of the mountain has a glamour on him and will not let him go." The hob said, looking steadily into her eyes.
Gwen cried "No!" for all who grew up in the shadow of the mountains knew of the old woman of the mountain, an evil spirit that sat amongst the rocks along the mountain trails, waiting to lure travelers off the path to their death.
Gwen dropped to her knees, and looking at the little man eye to eye, pleaded, "Please sir, if there is any power that you have to help him, I ask you to bring my Garth back home to me!"
"You wish us to protect the killer of trees who would have you pull up our flowers?" the hob asked.
"Yes, please! You know that he has never pulled up any goblin gloves and he cares for me who cares for your flowers. If anything ever happens to him then - it would be the end of me."
The hob looked at her solemnly.
"Will you help him?" Gwen asked again.
He nodded slowly.
"But can you really help him? Can one hob stop the magic of the old woman of the mountains?"
At this, the hob's face broke into merry smile. "We are more in number than one hob! Look around you my lady."
Gwen heard soft laughter echoing around the meadow and looked up to see, in every place where the tall spires of pink and purple bells of the goblins gloves had been growing, there now was standing the hobs themselves, dozens and dozens of them.
"And," he continued, "We hobs have powerful magic of our own."
With that said, the hobgoblins all disappeared.
"Thanks to you all," whispered Gwen as she sat back down on the cool earth to wait, "Bring my Garth back home to me."
As he was walking up the mountain trail, the last thing Garth remembered was that he was thinking "If I could just get a little more wood, I will not need to come up the mountain at all tomorrow. I could spend the day with Gwen, maybe even take her to town to see some friends - she would like that." And wouldn't you know, just then he had come around a curve in the trail and that's when he saw her - a brooding, silent figure that seemed to step from the shadows themselves, and slowly pull back her dark hood to reveal a hag's face, wild eyes shining, and chanting...
By my tongue do as I bid
A curse on you thru power of stone
A veil upon your mind I weave
Dance o'er the cliff and break your bones!
Laughing, she pointed up the trail with long fingers and commanded him to "Climb!"
The spirit woman had complete control of Garth. He dropped the bundle of wood that he had been gathering all day as well as his axe and began to trudge further up the trail, where the hag had pointed. The old woman of the mountain floated after him, her black shredded cloak and gown flying about her in the winds that followed her. She cackled to herself as she guided the poor man higher up the trail to the cliffs that overlooked the valley and his little farm below. There, the trail widened out to a long rocky ledge. The old woman of the mountains was playing with him just as a child would dance a puppet on a string... taunting him before she walked the woodcutter over the edge.
Suddenly, the empty mountain ledge was filled with little men. They appeared in a circle around the hag who began to shriek at them, "Get out of my way!"
Garth came back to his senses but could not understand what his eyes then beheld. For there was the hag of the mountain - he remembered seeing her before all the world went dark. Only now she was surrounded by hobgoblins who stood in multiple rings around her, holding her imprisoned simply by pointing their fingers at her. Garth stared, trying to make sense of the scene before him. He took a step closer and saw that the fingers of every hob were covered with the flowers of goblin gloves and that the Old Woman of the mountain seemed to fear that they might touch her with these flowery gloves. He took a step closer still but a hob suddenly appeared before him, scaring him out of his wits. The hob simply looked into his eyes and said "RUN!"
And Garth did exactly that! He darted past the hag and hobs, dashed down the mountain, and ran as long as his lungs would allow and then hurried on as fast as his legs would carry him until he reached the meadow surrounding his little farm. There, he was greeted by cries of relief as Gwen rose from her garden where she had been waiting ever since the hobs had disappeared.
That night Garth told Gwen all that he could remember that happened on the mountain and Gwen told Garth about the appearance and disappearance of the hobs in the garden. Garth stayed close to home for several weeks. During these days, he scouted the forest paths for more goblins gloves. He would dig these up and take them to Gwen who would exchange them with any other varieties of flowers she had growing and give these to Garth to transplant out in the woods until the only flowers that grew in their flowers beds and around the edges of the meadow were goblin's gloves.
From that day on both Garth and Gwen made sure that there was a mug of ale or basin of cream left on the back step each night. Though they never saw the little men again, sometimes as Gwen and Garth lay in each other's arms in bed together, they would hear the light laughter and voices of the hobs as they danced and sang under the soft moonlight in the meadow outside.