THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE
“The Ystrad Legend”.
The next legend is taken from Williams’s “Observations on the Snowdon Mountains”. His work was published in 1802. He, himself, was born in Anglesey, in 1738, and migrated to Carnarvonshire about the year 1760. It was in this latter county that he became a learned antiquary, and a careful recorder of events that came under his notice. His “Observations” throw considerable light upon the life, the customs, and the traditions of the inhabitants of the hill parts and secluded glens of Carnarvonshire. I have thought fit to make these few remarks about the author I quote from, so as to enable the reader to give to him that credence which he is entitled to. Williams entitles the following story, “A Fairy Tale,” but I will for the sake of reference call it “The Ystrad Legend.”
“In a meadow belonging to Ystrad, bounded by the river which falls from Cwellyn Lake, they say the Fairies used to assemble, and dance on fair moon-light-nights. One evening a young man, who was the heir and occupier of this farm, hid himself in a thicket close to the spot where they used to gambol; presently they appeared, and when in their merry mood, out he bounced from his covert and seized one of their females; the rest of the company dispersed themselves, and disappeared in an instant. Disregarding her struggles and screams, he hauled her to his home, where he treated her so very kindly that she became content to live with him as his maid servant; but he could not prevail upon her to tell him her name. Sometime after, happening again to see the Fairies upon the same spot, he heard one of them saying, ‘The last time we met here, our sister “Penelope” was snatched away from us by one of the mortals!’ Rejoiced at knowing the name of his “Incognita”, he returned home; and as she was very beautiful, and extremely active, he proposed to marry her, which she would not for a long time consent to; at last, however, she complied, but on this condition, ‘That if ever he should strike her with iron, she would leave him, and never return to him again.’ They lived happily for many years together, and he had by her a son, and a daughter; and by her industry and prudent management as a house-wife he became one of the richest men in the country. He farmed, besides his own freehold, all the lands on the north side of Nant-y-Bettws to the top of Snowdon, and all Cwmbrwynog in Llanberis; an extent of about five thousand acres or upwards.
Unfortunately, one day Penelope followed her husband into the field to catch a horse; and he, being in a rage at the animal as he ran away from him, threw at him the bridle that was in his hand, which unluckily fell on poor Penelope. She disappeared in an instant, and he never saw her afterwards, but heard her voice in the window of his room one night after, requesting him to take care of the children, in these words:–
Rhag bod anwyd ar fy mab,
Yn rhodd rhowch arno gob ei dad,
Rhag bod anwyd ar liw’r cann,
Rhoddwch arni bais ei mam.
Oh! lest my son should suffer cold,
Him in his father’s coat infold,
Lest cold should seize my darling fair,
For her, her mother’s robe prepare.
These children and their descendants, they say, were called “Pellings”; a word corrupted from their mother’s name, Penelope.”
Williams proceeds thus with reference to the descendants of this union:-
“The late Thomas Rowlands, Esq., of Caerau, in Anglesey, the father of the late Lady Bulkeley, was a descendant of this lady, if it be true that the name “Pellings” came from her; and there are still living several opulent and respectable people who are known to have sprung from the “Pellings”. The best blood in my own veins is this Fairy’s.”
This tale was chronicled in the last century, but it is not known whether every particular incident connected therewith was recorded by Williams. “Glasynys”, the Rev. Owen Wynne Jones, a clergyman, relates a tale in the “Brython”, which he regards as the same tale as that given by Williams, and he says that he heard it scores of times when he was a lad.
“Glasynys” was born in the parish of Rhostryfan, Carnarvonshire, in 1827, and as his birth place is not far distant from the scene of this legend, he might have heard a different version of Williams’s tale, and that too of equal value with Williams’s. Possibly, there were not more than from forty to fifty years between the time when the older writer heard the tale and the time when it was heard by the younger man. An octogenarian, or even a younger person, could have conversed with both Williams and “Glasynys”. “Glasynys’s” tale appears in Professor Rhys’s “Welsh Fairy Tales”, “Cymmrodor”, vol. iv., p. 188. It originally appeared in the “Brython” for 1863, p. 193. It is as follows:–
“One fine sunny morning, as the young heir of Ystrad was busied with his sheep on the side of Moel Eilio, he met a very pretty girl, and when he got home he told the folks there of it. A few days afterwards he met her again, and this happened several times, when he mentioned it to his father, who advised him to seize her when he next met her. The next time he met her he proceeded to do so, but before he could take her away, a little fat old man came to them and begged him to give her back to him, to which the youth would not listen. The little man uttered terrible threats, but he would not yield, so an agreement was made between them that he was to have her to wife until he touched her skin with iron, and great was the joy both of the son and his parents in consequence. They lived together for many years, but once on a time, on the evening of Bettws Fair, the wife’s horse got restive, and somehow, as the husband was attending to the horse, the stirrups touched the skin of her bare leg, and that very night she was taken away from him. She had three or four children, and more than one of their descendants, as “Glasynys” maintains, were known to him at the time he wrote in 1863.”
Title: Welsh Folk-Lore
Author: Elias Owen