THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE
The riches of the Fairies are often mentioned by the old people, and the source of their wealth is variously given. An old man, who has already been mentioned, John Williams, born about 1770, was of opinion that the Fairies stole the money from bad rich people to give it to good poor folk. This they were enabled to do, he stated, as they could make themselves invisible. In a conversation which we once had on this subject, my old friend posed me with this question, “Who do you think robbed . . . of his money without his knowledge?” “Who do you think took. . . money only twenty years ago?” “Why, the Fairies,” added he, “for no one ever found out the thief.”
Shakespeare, in “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, A. iii., S. 1, gives a very different source to the Fairy riches: I will give thee Fairies to attend on thee, And they “shall fetch thee jewels from the deep”.
Without inquiring too curiously into the source of these riches, it shall now be shown how, and for what services, they were bestowed on mortals. Gratitude is a noble trait in the Fairy character, and favours received they ever repaid. But the following stories illustrate alike their commiseration, their caprice, and their grateful bounty.
“The Fairies Placing Money on the Ground for a Poor Man”.
The following tale was told me by Thomas Jones, a small mountain farmer, who occupies land near Pont Petrual, a place between Ruthin and Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr. Jones informed me that he was acquainted with all the parties mentioned in the tale. His story was as follows:
A shoemaker, whose health would not permit him to pursue his own trade, obtained work in a tanyard at Penybont, near Corwen. The shoemaker lived in a house called Ty’n-y-graig, belonging to Clegir isa farm. He walked daily to his employment, a distance of several miles, because he could not afford to pay for lodgings. One day, he noticed a round bit of green ground, close to one of the gates on Tan-y-Coed farm, and going up to it discovered a piece of silver lying on the sward. Day after day, from the same spot, he picked up a silver coin. By this means, as well as by the wage he received, he became a well-to-do man. His wife noticed the many new coins he brought home, and questioned him about them, but he kept the secret of their origin to himself. At last, however, in consequence of repeated inquiries, he told her all about the silver pieces, which daily he had picked up from the green plot. The next day he passed the place, but there was no silver, as in days gone by, and he never discovered another shilling, although he looked for it every day. The poor man did not live long after he had informed his wife whence he had obtained the bright silver coins.
The Fairies and their Chest of Gold
The following tale I obtained from the Rev. Owen Jones, Vicar of Pentrevoelas. The scene lies amongst the wildest mountains of Merionethshire. David, the weaver, lived in a house called Llurig, near Cerniogau Mawr, between Pentrevoelas and Cerrig-y-Drudion. One day David was going over the hill to Bala. On the top of the Garn two Fairies met him, and desired him to follow them, promising, if he would do so, that they would show him a chest filled with gold, and furthermore, they told him that the gold should be his. David was in want of money, and he was therefore quite willing to follow these good natured Fairies. He walked many miles with them across the bleak, bare mountain, and at last, descending from the summit, they reached a deep secluded glen, lying at the foot of the mountain, and there the Fairies exposed to his view a chest, which had never before been seen by mortal eye, and they informed him that it was his. David was delighted when he heard the good news, and mentally bade farewell to weaving. He knew, though, from tradition, that he must in some way or other, there and then, take possession of his treasure, or it would disappear. He could not carry the chest away, as it was too heavy, but to show his ownership thereto he thrust his walking stick into the middle of the gold, and there it stood erect. Then he started homewards, and often and again, as he left the glen, he turned round to see whether the Fairies had taken his stick away, and with it the chest; but no, there it remained. At last the ridge hid all from view, and, instead of going on to Bala, he hastened home to tell his good wife of his riches.
Quickly did he travel to his cottage, and when there it was not long before his wife knew all about the chest of gold, and where it was, and how that David had taken possession of his riches by thrusting his walking stick into the middle of the gold. It was too late for them to set out to carry the chest home, but they arranged to start before the sun was up the next day. David, well acquainted with Fairy doings, cautioned his wife not to tell anyone of their good fortune, “For, if you do,” said he, “we shall vex the Fairies, and the chest, after all, willnot be ours.” She promised to obey, but alas, what woman possesses a silent tongue! No sooner had the husband revealed the secret to his wife than she was impatient to step to her next door neighbour’s house, just to let them know what a great woman she had all at once become. Now, this neighbour was a shrewd miller, called Samuel. David went out, to attend to some little business, leaving his wife alone, and she, spying her opportunity, rushed to the miller’s house, and told him and his wife every whit, and how that she and David had arranged to go for the chest next morning before the sun was up. Then she hurried home, but never told David where she had been, nor what she had done. The good couple sat up late that night, talking over their good fortune and planning their future. It was consequently far after sunrise when they got up next day, and when they reached the secluded valley, where the chest had been, it had disappeared, and with it David’s stick. They returned home sad and weary, but this time there was no visit made to the miller’s house. Ere long it was quite clearly seen that Samuel the miller had come into a fortune, and David’s wife knew that she had done all the mischief by foolishly boasting of the Fairy gift, designed for her husband, to her early rising and crafty neighbour, who had forestalled David and his wife, and had himself taken possession of the precious chest.
The Fairy Shilling
The Rev. Owen Jones, Pentrevoelas, whom I have already mentioned as having supplied me with the Folk-lore of his parish, kindly gave me the following tale:
There was a clean, tidy, hardworking woman, who was most particular about keeping her house in order. She had a place for everything, and kept everything in its place.
Every night, before retiring to rest, she was in the habit of brushing up the ashes around the fire place, and putting a few fresh peat on the fire to keep it in all night, and she was careful to sweep the floor before going to bed. It was a sight worth seeing to see her clean cottage. One night the Fairies, in their rambles, came that way and entered her house. It was just such a place as they liked. They were delighted with the warm fire, the clean floor and hearth, and they stayed there all night and enjoyed themselves greatly. In the morning, on leaving, they left a bright new shilling on the hearthstone for the woman. Night after night, they spent in this woman’s cottage, and every morning she picked up a new shilling. This went on for so long a time that the woman’s worldly condition was much improved. This her neighbours with envy and surprise perceived, and great was their talk about her. At last it was noticed that she always paid for the things she bought with new shilling pieces, and the neighbours could not make out where she got all these bright shillings from. They were determined, if possible, to ascertain, and one of their number was deputed to take upon her the work of obtaining from the woman the history of these new shillings. She found no difficulty whatever in doing so, for the woman, in her simplicity, informed her gossip that every morning the coin was found on the hearthstone. Next morning the woman, as usual, expected to find a shilling, but never afterwards did she discover one, and the Fairies came no more to her house, for they were offended with her for divulging the secret.
This tale is exactly like many others that may be heard related by old people, in many a secluded abode, to their grandchildren.
A lesson constantly inculcated by Fairy tales is this–Embrace opportunities as they occur, or they will be lost forever. The following stories have reference to this belief.
TITLE: Welsh Folk-lore (1887)
BY: Elias Owen