Saturday, May 26, 2007

4. A man who spent twelve months and a day with the Fairies.

A young man, a farm labourer, and his sweetheart were sauntering along one evening in an unfrequented part of the mountain, when there appeared suddenly before them two Fairies, who proceeded to make a circle. This being done, a large company of Fairies accompanied by musicians appeared, and commenced dancing over the ring; their motions and music were entrancing, and the man, an expert dancer, by some irresistible power was obliged to throw himself into the midst of the dancers and join them in their gambols. The woman looked on enjoying the sight for several hours, expecting every minute that her lover would give up the dance and join her, but no, on and on went the dance, round and round went her lover, until at last daylight appeared, and then suddenly the music ceased and the Fairy band vanished; and with them her lover. In great dismay, the young woman shouted the name of her sweetheart, but all in vain, he came not to her. The sun had now risen, and, almost broken-hearted, she returned home and related the events of the previous night. She was advised to consult a man who was an adept in the black art. She did so, and the conjuror told her to go to the same place at the same time of the night one year and one day from the time that her lover had disappeared and that she should then and there see him. She was farther instructed how to act. The conjuror warned her from going into the ring, but told her to seize her lover by the arm as he danced round, and to jerk him out of the enchanted circle. Twelve months and a day passed away, and the faithful girl was on the spot where she lost her lover. At the very moment that they had in the first instance appeared the Fairies again came to view, and everything that she had witnessed previously was repeated. With the Fairy band was her lover dancing merrily in their midst. The young woman ran round and round the circle close to the young man, carefully avoiding the circle, and at last she succeeded in taking hold of him and desired him to come away with her. “Oh,” said he, “do let me alone a little longer, and then I will come with you.” “You have already been long enough,” said she. His answer was, “It is so delightful, let me dance on only a few minutes longer.” She saw that he was under a spell, and grasping the young man’s arm with all her might she followed him round and round the circle, and an opportunity offering she jerked him out of the circle. He was greatly annoyed at her conduct, and when told that he had been with the Fairies a year and a day he would not believe her, and affirmed that he had been dancing only a few minutes; however, he went away with the faithful girl, and when he had reached the farm, his friends had the greatest difficulty in persuading him that he had been so long from home.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

3. Story of a man who spent twelve months in Fairyland.

“In Mathavarn, in the parish of Llanwrin, and the Cantrev of Cyveilioc, there is a wood which is called Ffridd yr Ywen (the Forest of the Yew); it is supposed to be so called because there is a yew tree growing in the very middle of it. In many parts of the wood are to be seen green circles, which are called ‘the dancing places of the goblins,’ about which, a considerable time ago, the following tale was very common in the neighbourhood:—
Two servants of John Pugh, Esq., went out one day to work in the ‘Forest of the Yew.’ Pretty early in the afternoon the whole country was so covered with dark vapour, that the youths thought night was coming on; but when they came to the middle of the ‘Forest’ it brightened up around them and the darkness seemed all left behind; so, thinking it too early to return home for the night, they lay down and slept. One of them, on waking, was much surprised to find no one there but himself; he wondered a good deal at the behaviour of his companion, but made up his mind at last that he had gone on some business of his own, as he had been talking of it some time before; so the sleeper went home, and when they inquired after his companion, he told them he was gone to the cobbler’s shop. The next day they inquired of him again about his fellow-servant, but he could not give them any account of him; but at last confessed how and where they had both gone to sleep. Alter searching and searching many days, he went to a ‘gwr cyvarwydd’ (a conjuror), which was a very common trade in those days, according to the legend; and the conjuror said to him, ‘Go to the same place where you and the lad slept; go there exactly a year after the boy was lost; let it be on the same day of the year, and at the same time of the day, but take care that you do not step inside the Fairy ring, stand on the border of the green circles you saw there, and the boy will come out with many of the goblins to dance, and when you see him so near to you that you may take hold of him, snatch him out of the ring as quickly as you can.’ He did according to this advice, and plucked the boy out, and then asked him, ‘if he did not feel hungry,’ to which he answered ‘No,’ for he had still the remains of his dinner that he had left in his wallet before going to sleep, and he asked ‘if it was not nearly night, and time to go home,’ not knowing that a year had passed by. His look was like a skeleton, and as soon as he had tasted food he was a dead man.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

2. A Bryneglwys Man inveigled by the Fairies.

Two waggoners were sent from Bryneglwys for coals to the works over the hill beyond Minera. On their way they came upon a company of Fairies dancing with all their might. The men stopped to witness their movements, and the Fairies invited them to join in the dance. One of the men stoutly refused to do so, but the other was induced to dance awhile with them. His companion looked on for a short time at the antics of his friend, and then shouted out that he would wait no longer, and desired the man to give up and come away. He, however, turned a deaf ear to the request, and no words could induce him to forego his dance. At last his companion said that he was going, and requested his friend to follow him. Taking the two waggons under his care he proceeded towards the coal pits, expecting every moment to be overtaken by his friend; but he was disappointed, for he never appeared. The waggons and their loads were taken to Bryneglwys, and the man thought that perhaps his companion, having stopped too long in the dance, had turned homewards instead of following him to the coal pit. But on enquiry no one had heard or seen the missing waggoner. One day his companion met a Fairy on the mountain and inquired after his missing friend. The Fairy told him to go to a certain place, which he named, at a certain time, and that he should there see his friend. The man went, and there saw his companion just as he had left him, and the first words that he uttered were “Have the waggons gone far.” The poor man never dreamt that months and months had passed away since they had started together for coal.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

1. Elidorus and the Fairies.

“A short time before our days, a circumstance worthy of note occurred in these parts, which Elidorus, a priest, most strenuously affirmed had befallen to himself.
When a youth of twelve years, and learning his letters, since, as Solomon says, ‘The root of learning is bitter, although the fruit is sweet,’ in order to avoid the discipline and frequent stripes inflicted on him by his preceptor, he ran away and concealed himself under the hollow bank of the river. After fasting in that situation for two days, two little men of pigmy stature appeared to him, saying, ‘If you will come with us, we will lead you into a country full of delights and sports.’ Assenting and rising up, he followed his guides through a path, at first subterraneous and dark, into a most beautiful country, adorned with rivers and meadows, woods and plains, but obscure, and not illuminated with the full light of the sun. All the days were cloudy, and the nights extremely dark, on account of the absence of the moon and stars. The boy was brought before the King, and introduced to him in the presence of the court; who, having examined him for a long time, delivered him to his son, who was then a boy. These men were of the smallest stature, but very well proportioned in their make; they were all of a fair complexion, with luxuriant hair falling over their shoulders like that of women. They had horses and greyhounds adapted to their size. They neither ate flesh nor fish, but lived on milk diet, made up into messes with saffron. They never took an oath, for they detested nothing so much as lies. As often as they returned from our upper hemisphere, they reprobated our ambition, infidelities, and inconstancies; they had no form of public worship, being strict lovers and reverers, as it seemed, of truth.
The boy frequently returned to our hemisphere, sometimes by the way he had first gone, sometimes by another; at first in company with other persons, and afterwards alone, and made himself known only to his mother, declaring to her the manners, nature, and state of that people. Being desired by her to bring a present of gold, with which that region abounded, he stole, while at play with the king’s son, the golden ball with which he used to divert himself, and brought it to his mother in great haste; and when he reached the door of his father’s house, but not unpursued, and was entering it in a great hurry, his foot stumbled on the threshold, and falling down into the room where his mother was sitting, the two pigmies seized the ball which had dropped from his hand and departed, showing the boy every mark of contempt and derision. On recovering from his fall, confounded with shame, and execrating the evil counsel of his mother, he returned by the usual track to the subterraneous road, but found no appearance of any passage, though he searched for it on the banks of the river for nearly the space of a year. But since those calamities are often alleviated by time, which reason cannot mitigate, and length of time alone blunts the edge of our afflictions and puts an end to many evils, the youth, having been brought back by his friends and mother, and restored to his right way of thinking, and to his learning, in process of time attained the rank of priesthood.
Whenever David II., Bishop of St. David’s, talked to him in his advanced state of life concerning this event, he could never relate the particulars without shedding tears. He had made himself acquainted with the language of that nation, the words of which, in his younger days, he used to recite, which, as the bishop often had informed me, were very conformable to the Greek idiom. When they asked for water, they said ‘Ydor ydorum,’ which meant ‘Bring water,’ for Ydor in their language, as well as in the Greek, signifies water, whence vessels for water are called Ãdriai; and Dwr, also in the British language signifies water. When they wanted salt they said ‘Halgein ydorum,’ ‘Bring salt.’ Salt is called al in Greek, and Halen in British, for that language, from the length of time which the Britons (then called Trojans and afterwards Britons, from Brito, their leader) remained in Greece after the destruction of Troy, became, in many instances, similar to the Greek.”
This legend agrees in a remarkable degree with the popular opinion respecting Fairies. It would almost appear to be the foundation of many subsequent tales that are current in Wales.
The priest’s testimony to Fairy temperance and love of truth, and their reprobation of ambition, infidelities, and inconstancies, notwithstanding that they had no form of public worship, and their abhorrence of theft intimate that they possessed virtues worthy of all praise.
Their abode is altogether mysterious, but this ancient description of Fairyland bears out the remarks—perhaps suggested the remarks, of the Rev. Peter Roberts in his book called The Cambrian Popular Antiquities. In this work, the author promulgates the theory that the Fairies were a people existing distinct from the known inhabitants of the country and confederated together, and met mysteriously to avoid coming in contact with the stronger race that had taken possession of their land, and he supposes that in these traditionary tales of the Fairies we recognize something of the real history of an ancient people whose customs were those of a regular and consistent policy. Roberts supposes that the smaller race for the purpose of replenishing their ranks stole the children of their conquerors, or slyly exchanged their weak children for their enemies’ strong children.
It will be observed that the people among whom Elidorus sojourned had a language cognate with the Irish, Welsh, Greek, and other tongues; in fact, it was similar to that language which at one time extended, with dialectical differences, from Ireland to India; and the Tylwyth Têg, are described as speaking a language understood by those with whom they conversed. This language they either acquired from their conquerors, or both races must have had a common origin; the latter, probably, being the more reasonable supposition, and by inference, therefore, the Fairies and other nations by whom they were subdued were descended from a common stock, and ages afterwards, by marriage, the Fairies again commingled with other branches of the family from which they had originally sprung.
Omitting many embellishments which the imagination has no difficulty in bestowing, tradition has transmitted one fact, that the Tylwyth Têg succeeded in inducing men through the allurements of music and the attractions of their fair daughters to join their ranks.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

5. The Cambro-Briton version of the Myddvai Legend.

“A man, who lived in the farm-house called Esgair-llaethdy, in the parish of Myddvai, in Carmarthenshire, having bought some lambs in a neighbouring fair, led them to graze near Llyn y Van Vach, on the Black Mountains. Whenever he visited the lambs, three most beautiful female figures presented themselves to him from the lake, and often made excursions on the boundaries of it. For some time he pursued and endeavoured to catch them, but always failed; for the enchanting nymphs ran before him, and, when they had reached the lake, they tauntingly exclaimed,
Cras dy fara,Anhawdd ein dala,
which, with a little circumlocution, means, ‘For thee, who eatest baked bread, it is difficult to catch us.’
One day some moist bread from the lake came to shore. The farmer devoured it with great avidity, and on the following day he was successful in his pursuit and caught the fair damsels. After a little conversation with them, he commanded courage sufficient to make proposals of marriage to one of them. She consented to accept them on the condition that he would distinguish her from her two sisters on the following day. This was a new, and a very great difficulty to the young farmer, for the fair nymphs were so similar in form and features, that he could scarcely perceive any difference between them. He observed, however, a trifling singularity in the strapping of her sandal, by which he recognized her the following day. Some, indeed, who relate this legend, say that this Lady of the Lake hinted in a private conversation with her swain that upon the day of trial she would place herself between her two sisters, and that she would turn her right foot a little to the right, and that by this means he distinguished her from her sisters. Whatever were the means, the end was secured; he selected her, and she immediately left the lake and accompanied him to his farm. Before she quitted, she summoned to attend her from the lake seven cows, two oxen, and one bull.
This lady engaged to live with him until such time as he would strike her three times without cause. For some years they lived together in comfort, and she bore him three sons, who were the celebrated Meddygon Myddvai.
One day, when preparing for a fair in the neighbourhood, he desired her to go to the field for his horse. She said she would; but being rather dilatory, he said to her humorously, ‘dôs, dôs, dôs,’ i.e., ‘go, go, go,’ and he slightly touched her arm three times with his glove.
As she now deemed the terms of her marriage broken, she immediately departed, and summoned with her her seven cows, her two oxen, and the bull. The oxen were at that very time ploughing in the field, but they immediately obeyed her call, and took the plough with them. The furrow from the field in which they were ploughing, to the margin of the lake, is to be seen in several parts of that country to the present day.
After her departure, she once met her two sons in a Cwm, now called Cwm Meddygon (Physicians’ Combe), and delivered to each of them a bag containing some articles which are unknown, but which are supposed to have been some discoveries in medicine.
The Meddygon Myddvai were Rhiwallon and his sons, Cadwgan, Gruffydd, and Einion. They were the chief physicians of their age, and they wrote about A.D. 1230. A copy of their works is in the Welsh School Library, in Gray’s Inn Lane.”

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

4. The Myddvai Legend.

A widow, who had an only son, was obliged, in consequence of the large flocks she possessed, to send, under the care of her son, a portion of her cattle to graze on the Black Mountain near a small lake called Llyn-y-Van-Bach.
One day the son perceived, to his great astonishment, a most beautiful creature with flowing hair sitting on the unruffled surface of the lake combing her tresses, the water serving as a mirror. Suddenly she beheld the young man standing on the brink of the lake with his eyes rivetted on her, and unconsciously offering to herself the provision of barley bread and cheese with which he had been provided when he left his home.
Bewildered by a feeling of love and admiration for the object before him, he continued to hold out his hand towards the lady, who imperceptibly glided near to him, but gently refused the offer of his provisions. He attempted to touch her, but she eluded his grasp, saying:

Cras dy fara;Nid hawdd fy nala.
Hard baked is thy bread;It is not easy to catch me.

She immediately dived under the water and disappeared, leaving the love-stricken youth to return home a prey to disappointment and regret that he had been unable to make further acquaintance with the lovely maiden with whom he had desperately fallen in love.
On his return home he communicated to his mother the extraordinary vision. She advised him to take some unbaked dough the next time in his pocket, as there must have been some spell connected with the hard baked bread, or “Bara Cras,” which prevented his catching the lady.
Next morning, before the sun was up, the young man was at the lake, not for the purpose of looking after the cattle, but that he might again witness the enchanting vision of the previous day. In vain did he glance over the surface of the lake; nothing met his view, save the ripples occasioned by a stiff breeze, and a dark cloud hung heavily on the summit of the Van.
Hours passed on, the wind was hushed, the overhanging clouds had vanished, when the youth was startled by seeing some of his mother’s cattle on the precipitous side of the acclivity, nearly on the opposite side of the lake. As he was hastening away to rescue them from their perilous position, the object of his search again appeared to him, and seemed much more beautiful than when he first beheld her. His hand was again held out to her, full of unbaked bread, which he offered to her with an urgent proffer of his heart also, and vows of eternal attachment, all of which were refused by her, saying:

Llaith dy fara!Ti ni fynna.
Unbaked is thy bread!I will not have thee.

But the smiles that played upon her features as the lady vanished beneath the waters forbade him to despair, and cheered him on his way home. His aged parent was acquainted with his ill success, and she suggested that his bread should the next time be but slightly baked, as most likely to please the mysterious being.
Impelled by love, the youth left his mother’s home early next morning. He was soon near the margin of the lake impatiently awaiting the reappearance of the lady. The sheep and goats browsed on the precipitous sides of the Van, the cattle strayed amongst the rocks, rain and sunshine came and passed away, unheeded by the youth who was wrapped up in looking for the appearance of her who had stolen his heart. The sun was verging towards the west, and the young man casting a sad look over the waters ere departing homewards was astonished to see several cows walking along its surface, and, what was more pleasing to his sight, the maiden reappeared, even lovelier than ever. She approached the land and he rushed to meet her in the water. A smile encouraged him to seize her hand, and she accepted the moderately baked bread he offered her, and after some persuasion she consented to become his wife, on condition that they should live together until she received from him three blows without a cause-

Tri ergyd diachos,
Three causeless blows,

when, should he ever happen to strike her three such blows, she would leave him for ever. These conditions were readily and joyfully accepted.
Thus the Lady of the Lake became engaged to the young man, and having loosed her hand for a moment she darted away and dived into the lake. The grief of the lover at this disappearance of his affianced was such that he determined to cast himself headlong into its unfathomed depths, and thus end his life. As he was on the point of committing this rash act, there emerged out of the lake two most beautiful ladies, accompanied by a hoary-headed man of noble mien and extraordinary stature, but having otherwise all the force and strength of youth. This man addressed the youth, saying that, as he proposed to marry one of his daughters, he consented to the union, provided the young man could distinguish which of the two ladies before him was the object of his affections. This was no easy task, as the maidens were perfect counterparts of each other.
Whilst the young man narrowly scanned the two ladies and failed to perceive the least difference betwixt the two, one of them thrust her foot a slight degree forward. The motion, simple as it was, did not escape the observation of the youth, and he discovered a trifling variation in the mode in which their sandals were tied. This at once put an end to the dilemma, for he had on previous occasions noticed the peculiarity of her shoe-tie, and he boldly took hold of her hand.
“Thou hast chosen rightly,” said the Father, “be to her a kind and faithful husband, and I will give her, as a dowry, as many sheep, cattle, goats, and horses, as she can count of each without heaving or drawing in her breath. But remember, that if you prove unkind to her at any time and strike her three times without a cause, she shall return to me, and shall bring all her stock with her.”
Such was the marriage settlement, to which the young man gladly assented, and the bride was desired to count the number of sheep she was to have. She immediately adopted the mode of counting by fives, thus:—One, two, three, four, five,—one, two, three, four, five; as many times as possible in rapid succession, till her breath was exhausted. The same process of reckoning had to determine the number of goats, cattle, and horses, respectively; and in an instant the full number of each came out of the lake, when called upon by the Father.
The young couple were then married, and went to reside at a farm called Esgair Llaethdy, near Myddvai, where they lived in prosperity and happiness for several years, and became the parents of three beautiful sons.
Once upon a time there was a christening in the neighbourhood to which the parents were invited. When the day arrived the wife appeared reluctant to attend the christening, alleging that the distance was too great for her to walk. Her husband told her to fetch one of the horses from the field. “I will,” said she, “if you will bring me my gloves which I left in our house.” He went for the gloves, and finding she had not gone for the horse, he playfully slapped her shoulder with one of them, saying “dôs, dôs, go, go,” when she reminded him of the terms on which she consented to marry him, and warned him to be more cautious in the future, as he had now given her one causeless blow.
On another occasion when they were together at a wedding and the assembled guests were greatly enjoying themselves the wife burst into tears and sobbed most piteously. Her husband touched her on the shoulder and inquired the cause of her weeping; she said, “Now people are entering into trouble, and your troubles are likely to commence, as you have the second time stricken me without a cause.”
Years passed on, and their children had grown up, and were particularly clever young men. Amidst so many worldly blessings the husband almost forgot that only one causeless blow would destroy his prosperity. Still he was watchful lest any trivial occurrence should take place which his wife must regard as a breach of their marriage contract. She told him that her affection for him was unabated, and warned him to be careful lest through inadvertence he might give the last and only blow which, by an unalterable destiny, over which she had no control, would separate them for ever.
One day it happened that they went to a funeral together, where, in the midst of mourning and grief at the house of the deceased, she appeared in the gayest of spirits, and indulged in inconsiderate fits of laughter, which so shocked her husband that he touched her, saying—“Hush! hush! don’t laugh.” She said that she laughed because people when they die go out of trouble, and rising up, she went out of the house, saying, “The last blow has been struck, our marriage contract is broken, and at an end. Farewell!” Then she started off towards Esgair Llaethdy, where she called her cattle and other stock together, each by name, not forgetting, the “little black calf” which had been slaughtered and was suspended on the hook, and away went the calf and all the stock, with the Lady across Myddvai Mountain, and disappeared beneath the waters of the lake whence the Lady had come. The four oxen that were ploughing departed, drawing after them the plough, which made a furrow in the ground, and which remains as a testimony of the truth of this story.
She is said to have appeared to her sons, and accosting Rhiwallon, her firstborn, to have informed him that he was to be a benefactor to mankind, through healing all manner of their diseases, and she furnished him with prescriptions and instructions for the preservation of health. Then, promising to meet him when her counsel was most needed, she vanished. On several other occasions she met her sons, and pointed out to them plants and herbs, and revealed to them their medicinal qualities or virtues.
So ends the Myddvai Legend.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

3. The Llanfrothen Legend.

A certain man fell in love with a beautiful Fairy lady, and he wished to marry her. She consented to do so, but warned him that if he ever touched her with iron she would leave him immediately. This stipulation weighed but lightly on the lover. They were married, and for many years they lived most happily together, and several children were born to them. A sad mishap, however, one day overtook them. They were together, crossing Traethmawr, Penrhyndeudraeth, on horseback, when the man’s horse became restive, and jerked his head towards the woman, and the bit of the bridle touched the left arm of the Fairy wife. She at once told her husband that they must part for ever. He was greatly distressed, and implored her not to leave him. She said she could not stay. Then the man, appealing to a mother’s love for her children, begged that she would for the sake of their offspring continue to dwell with him and them, and, said he, what will become of our children without their mother? Her answer was:—

Gadewch iddynt fod yn bennau cochion a thrwynau hirion.
Let them be redheaded and longnosed.

Having uttered these words, she disappeared and was never seen afterwards.