The Elf Dancers of Cae Caled

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

 

I am indebted to the courtesy of the Rev. R. O. Williams, M.A., Vicar of Holywell, for the following singular testimony to Fairy dancing.  The writer was the Rev. Dr. Edward Williams, at one time of Oswestry, and afterwards Principal of the Independent Academy at Rotherham in Yorkshire, who was born at Glan Clwyd, Bodfari, Nov. 14th, 1750, and died March 9, 1813.  The extract is to be seen in the autobiography of Dr. Williams, which has been published, but the quotation now given is copied from the doctor’s own handwriting, which now lies before me.

It may be stated that Mr. Wirt Sikes, in his “British Goblins”, refers to the Dwarfs of Cae Caled, Bodfari, as Knockers, but he was not justified, as will be seen from the extract, in thus describing them. For the sake of reference the incident shall be called-The Elf Dancers of Cae Caled

Dr. Edward Williams, under the year 1757, writes as follows:-“I am now going to relate a circumstance in this young period of my life which probably will excite an alternate smile and thoughtful reflection, as it has often done in myself, however singular the fact and strong the evidence of its authenticity, and, though I have often in mature age called to my mind the principles of religion and philosophy to account for it, I am forced to class it among my “unknowables”.  And yet I may say that not only the fact itself, but also the consideration of its being to my own mind inexplicable, has afforded some useful reflections, with which this relation need not be accompanied.

“On a fine summer day (about midsummer) between the hours of 12 at noon and one, my eldest sister and myself, our next neighbour’s children Barbara and Ann Evans, both older than myself, were in a field called Cae Caled near their house, all innocently engaged at play by a hedge under a tree, and not far from the stile next to that house, when one of us observed on the middle of the field a company of-what shall I call them?- “Beings”, neither men, women, nor children, dancing with great briskness. They were full in view less than a hundred yards from us, consisting of about seven or eight couples: we could not well reckon them, owing to the briskness of their motions and the consternation with which we were struck at a sight so unusual.

They were all clothed in red, a dress not unlike a military uniform, without hats, but their heads tied with handkerchiefs of a reddish colour, sprigged or spotted with yellow, all uniform in this as in habit, all tied behind with the corners hanging down their backs, and white handkerchiefs in their hands held loose by the corners. They appeared of a size somewhat less than our own, but more like dwarfs than children.  On the first discovery we began, with no small dread, to question one another as to what they could be, as there were no soldiers in the country, nor was it the time for May dancers, and as they differed much from all the human beings we had ever seen.  Thus alarmed we dropped our play, left our station, and made for the stile.  Still keeping our eyes upon them we observed one of their company starting from the rest and making towards us with a running pace.

I being the youngest was the last at the stile, and, though struck with an inexpressible panic, saw the “grim elf” just at my heels, having a full and clear, though terrific view of him, with his ancient, swarthy, and grim complexion.  I screamed out exceedingly; my sister also and our companions set up a roar, and the former dragged me with violence over the stile on which, at the instant I was disengaged from it, this warlike Lilliputian leaned and stretched himself after me, but came not over. With palpitating hearts and loud cries we ran towards the house, alarmed the family, and told them our trouble. The men instantly left their dinner, with whom still trembling we went to the place, and made the most solicitous and diligent enquiry in all the neighbor-hood, both at that time and after, but never found the least vestige of any circumstance that could contribute to a solution of this remarkable phenomenon.

Were any disposed to question the sufficiency of this quadruple evidence, the fact having been uniformly and often attested by each of the parties and various and separate examinations, and call it a childish deception, it would do them no harm to admit that, comparing themselves with the scale of universal existence, beings with which they certainly and others with whom it is possible they may be surrounded every moment, they are but children of a larger size.  I know but few less credulous than the relator, but he is no Sadducee. ‘He who hath delivered will yet deliver.'”

REFERENCE

TITLE: Welsh Folk-Lore

CONTRIBUTOR: Cade Pomeraan

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