THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE
THE OLD MAN AND THE FAIRIES.
Many years ago the Welsh mountains were full of fairies. People used to go by moonlight to see them dancing, for they knew where they would dance by seeing green rings in the grass. There was an old man living in those days who used to frequent the fairs that were held across the mountains. One day he was crossing the mountains to a fair, and when he got to a lonely valley he sat down, for he was tired, and he dropped off to sleep, and his bag fell down by his side. When he was sound asleep the fairies came and carried him off, bag and all, and took him under the earth, and when he awoke he found himself in a great palace of gold, full of fairies dancing and singing. And they took him and showed him everything, the splendid gold room and gardens, and they kept dancing round him until he fell asleep.
When he was asleep they carried him back to the same spot where they had found him, and when he awoke he thought he had been dreaming, so he looked for his bag, and got hold of it, but he could hardly lift it. When he opened it he found it was nearly filled with gold. He managed to pick it up, and turning round, he went home.
When he got home, his wife Kaddy said: “What’s to do, why haven’t you been to the fair?” “I’ve got something here,” he said, and showed his wife the gold. “Why, where did you get that?” But he wouldn’t tell her. Since she was curious, like all women, she kept worrying him all night–for he’d put the money in a box under the bed–so he told her about the fairies.
Next morning, when he awoke, he thought he’d go to the fair and buy a lot of things, and he went to the box to get some of the gold, but found it full of cockle-shells.
Tommy Pritchard was going to school one day, and on his way he thought he heard somebody singing on the other side of a stone wall by the road, so he climbed up and looked over, and there underneath a stone he saw a sixpence, so he took it. Every morning after that, when he went to school, he used to look in the same place, and he always found a sixpence.
His father noticed he was always spending money in the sweet-shop, so he began to think Tommy was stealing from somebody, and one day he asked him where he got the money. Tommy wouldn’t tell at first, but his father threatened to beat him, so he told him where he got his sixpences.
Next morning he went to look in the same place for his sixpence, and he found nothing but a cockle-shell. And he never saw anything but a cockle-shell there afterwards.
There was a tall young woman whom the fairies used to visit, coming through the keyhole at night. She could hear them dancing and singing in her room, but in the morning they used to go the way they had come, only they always left her some money. When she got married she chose a tall husband like herself, and they had a fine big child.
One night they went to a fair, and they got to one side to hear the fairies; for some people could tell when the fairies were coming, for they made a noise like the wind. Whilst they were waiting she told her husband how the fairies used to leave her money at night.
When they got home they found their baby all right, and went to bed. But next morning the young mother found her child had been changed in the night, and there was a very little baby in the cradle. And the child never grew big, for the fairies had changed her child for spite.
THE STORY OF GELERT. (AS CURRENT IN ANGLESEA)
It was somewhere about 1200, Prince Llewellyn had a castle at Aber, just abreast of us here; indeed, parts of the towers remain to this day. His consort was the Princess Joan; she was King John’s daughter. Her coffin remains with us to this day. Llewellyn was a great hunter of wolves and foxes, for the hills of Carnarvonshire were infested with wolves in those days, after the young lambs.
Now the prince had several hunting-houses–sorts of farm houses, one of them was at the place now called Beth-Gelert, for the wolves were very thick there at this time. Now the prince used to travel from farm-house to farm-house with his family and friends, when going on these hunting parties.
One season they went hunting from Aber, and stopped at the house where Beth-Gelert is now-it’s about fourteen miles away. The prince had all his hounds with him, but his favourite was Gelert, a hound who had never let off a wolf for six years.
The prince loved the dog like a child, and at the sound of his horn Gelert was always the first to come bounding up. There was company at the house, and one day they went hunting, leaving his wife and the child, in a big wooden cradle, behind him at the farm-house.
The hunting party killed three or four wolves, and about two hours before the word passed for returning home, Llewellyn missed Gelert, and he asked his huntsmen: “Where’s Gelert? I don’t see him.” “Well, indeed, master, I’ve missed him this half-hour.” And Llewellyn blew his horn, but no Gelert came at the sound.
Indeed, Gelert had got on to a wolves’ track which led to the house. The prince sounded the return, and they went home, the prince lamenting Gelert. “He’s sure to have been slain–he’s sure to have been slain! since he did not answer the horn. Oh, my Gelert!” And they approached the house, and the prince went into the house, and saw Gelert lying by the overturned cradle, and blood all about the room. “What! hast thou slain my child?” said the prince, and ran his sword through the dog.
After that he lifted up the cradle to look for his child, and found the body of a big wolf underneath that Gelert had slain, and his child was safe. Gelert had capsized the cradle in the scuffle.
“Oh, Gelert! Oh, Gelert!” said the prince, “my favourite hound, my favourite hound! Thou hast been slain by thy master’s hand, and in death thou hast licked thy master’s hand!” He patted the dog, but it was too late, and poor Gelert died licking his master’s hand.
Next day they made a coffin, and had a regular funeral, the same as if it were a human being; all the servants in deep mourning, and everybody. They made him a grave, and the village was called after the dog, Beth-Gelert–Gelert’s Grave; and the prince planted a tree, and put a gravestone of slate, though it was before the days of quarries. And they are to be seen to this day.
THE CRAIG-Y-DON BLACKSMITH.
Once upon a time an old blacksmith lived in an old forge at Craig-y-don, and he used to drink a great deal too much beer. One night he was coming home from an alehouse very tipsy, and as he got near a small stream a lot of little men suddenly sprang up from the rocks, and one of them, who seemed to be older than the rest, came up to him, and said, “If you don’t alter your ways of living you’ll die soon; but if you behave better and become a better man you’ll find it will be to your benefit,” and they all disappeared as quickly as they had come. The old blacksmith thought a good deal about what the fairies had told him, and he left off drinking, and became a sober, steady man.
One day, a few months after meeting the little people, a strange man brought a horse to be shod. Nobody knew either the horse or the man. The old blacksmith tied the horse to a hole in the lip of a cauldron (used for the purpose of cooling his hot iron) that he had built in some masonry.
When he had tied the horse up he went to shoe the off hind-leg, but directly he touched the horse the spirited animal started back with a bound, and dragged the cauldron from the masonry, and then it broke the halter and ran away out of the forge, and was never seen again: neither the horse nor its master. When the old blacksmith came to pull down the masonry to rebuild it, he found three brass kettles full of money.
Title: Welsh Fairy-Tales and Other Stories (1894)
Author: Edited by P. H. Emerson
CONTRIBUTOR: Jenny Dunnaway