Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit; The Magic Pitcher

CHAPTER I: Long, long ago there lived far away in India a woodcutter called Subha Datta and his family, who were all very happy together. The father went every day to the forest near his home to get supplies of wood, which he sold to his neighbours, earning by that means quite enough to give his wife and children all that they needed. Sometimes he took his three boys with him, and now and then, as a special treat, his two little girls were allowed to trot along beside him. The boys longed to be allowed to chop wood for themselves, and their father told them that as soon as they were old enough he would give each of them a little axe of his own. The girls, he said, must be content with breaking off small twigs from the branches he cut down, for he did not wish them to chop their own fingers off. This will show you what a kind father he was, and you will be very sorry for him when you hear about his troubles.

All went well with Subha Datta for a long time. Each of the boys had his own little axe at last, and each of the girls had a little pair of scissors to cut off twigs; and very proud they all were when they brought some wood home to their mother to use in the house. One day, however, their father told them they could none of them come with him, for he meant to go a very long way into the forest, to see if he could find better wood there than nearer home. Vainly the boys entreated him to take them with him. “Not to-day,” he said, “you would be too tired to go all the way, and would lose yourselves coming back alone. You must help your mother to-day and play with your sisters.” They had to be content, for although Hindu children are as fond of asking questions as English boys and girls, they are very obedient to their parents and do all they are told without making any fuss about it.

Of course, they expected their father would come back the day he started for the depths of the forest, although they knew he would be late. What then was their surprise when darkness came and there was no sign of him! Again and again their mother went to the door to look for him, expecting every moment to see him coming along the beaten path which led to their door. Again and again she mistook the cry of some night-bird for his voice calling to her. She was obliged at last to go to bed with a heavy heart, fearing some wild beast had killed him and that she would never see him again.

CHAPTER II
When Subha Datta started for the forest, he fully intended to come back the same evening; but as he was busy cutting down a tree, he suddenly had a feeling that he was no longer alone. He looked up, and there, quite close to him, in a little clearing where the trees had been cut down by some other woodcutter, he saw four beautiful young girls looking like fairies in their thin summer dresses and with their long hair flowing down their backs, dancing round and round, holding each other’s hands. Subha Datta was so astonished at the sight that he let his axe fall, and the noise startled the dancers, who all four stood still and stared at him.

The woodcutter could not say a word, but just gazed and gazed at them, till one of them said to him: “Who are you, and what are you doing in the very depths of the forest where we have never before seen a man?”

“I am only a poor woodcutter,” he replied, “come to get some wood to sell, so as to give my wife and children something to eat and some clothes to wear.”
“That is a very stupid thing to do,” said one of the girls. “You can’t get much money that way. If you will only stop with us we will have your wife and children looked after for you much better than you can do it yourself.”

CHAPTER III
Subha Datta, though he certainly did love his wife and children, was so tempted at the idea of stopping in the forest with the beautiful girls that, after hesitating a little while, he said, “Yes, I will stop with you, if you are quite sure all will be well with my dear ones.”

“You need not be afraid about that,” said another of the girls. “We are fairies, you see, and we can do all sorts of wonderful things. It isn’t even necessary for us to go where your dear ones are. We shall just wish them everything they want, and they will get it. And the first thing to be done is to give you some food. You must work for us in return, of course.”

Subha Datta at once replied, “I will do anything you wish.” “Well, begin by sweeping away all the dead leaves from the clearing, and then we will all sit down and eat together.” Subha Datta was very glad that what he was asked to do was so easy. He began by cutting a branch from a tree, and with it he swept the floor of what was to be the dining-room. Then he looked about for the food, but he could see nothing but a great big pitcher standing in the shade of a tree, the branches of which hung over the clearing. So he said to one of the fairies, “Will you show me where the food is, and exactly where you would like me to set it out?” At these questions all the fairies began to laugh, and the sound of their laughter was like the tinkling of a number of bells.

CHAPTER IV
When the fairies saw how astonished Subha Datta was at the way they laughed, it made them laugh still more, and they seized each other’s hands again and whirled round and round, laughing all the time.

Poor Subha Datta, who was very tired and hungry, began to get unhappy and to wish he had gone straight home after all. He stooped down to pick up his axe, and was just about to turn away with it, when the fairies stopped their mad whirl and cried to him to stop. So he waited, and one of them said: “We don’t have to bother about fetching this and fetching that. You see that big pitcher. Well, we get all our food and everything else we want out of it. We just have to wish as we put our hands in, and there it is. It’s a magic pitcher–the only one there is in the whole wide world. You get the food you would like to have first, and then we’ll tell you what we want.”

Subha Datta could hardly believe his ears when he heard that. Down he threw his axe, and hastened to put his hand in the pitcher, wishing for the food he was used to. He loved curried rice and milk, lentils, fruit and vegetables, and very soon he had a beautiful meal spread out for himself on the ground. Then the fairies called out, one after the other, what they wanted for food, things the woodcutter had never heard of or seen, which made him quite discontented with what he had chosen for himself.

CHAPTER V
The next few days passed away like a dream, and at first Subha Datta thought he had never been so happy in his life. The fairies often went off together leaving him alone, only coming back to the clearing when they wanted something out of the pitcher. The woodcutter got all kinds of things he fancied for himself, but presently he began to wish he had his wife and children with him to share his wonderful meals. He began to miss them terribly, and he missed his work too. It was no good cutting trees down and chopping up wood when all the food was ready cooked. Sometimes he thought he would slip off home when the fairies were away, but when he looked at the pitcher he could not bear the thought of leaving it.

CHAPTER VI
Soon Subha Datta could not sleep well for thinking of the wife and children he had deserted. Suppose they were hungry when he had plenty to eat! It even came into his head that he might steal the pitcher and take it home with him when the fairies were away. But he had not after all the courage to do this; for even when the beautiful girls were not in sight, he had a feeling that they would know if he tried to go off with the pitcher, and that they would be able to punish him in some terrible way. One night he had a dream that troubled him very much. He saw his wife sitting crying bitterly in the little home he used to love, holding the youngest child on her knee whilst the other three stood beside her looking at her very, very sadly. He started up from the ground on which he lay, determined to go home at once; but at a little distance off he saw the fairies dancing in the moonlight, and somehow he felt again he could not leave them and the pitcher. The next day, however, he was so miserable that the fairies noticed it, and one of them said to him: “Whatever is the matter? We don’t care to keep unhappy people here. If you can’t enjoy life as we do, you had better go home.”

Then Subha Datta was very much frightened lest they should really send him away; so he told them about his dream and that he was afraid his dear ones were starving for want of the money lie used to earn for them.
“Don’t worry about them,” was the reply: “we will let your wife know what keeps you away. We will whisper in her ear when she is asleep, and she will be so glad to think of your happiness that she will forget her own troubles.”

CHAPTER VII
Subha Datta was very much cheered by the sympathy of the fairies, so much so that he decided to stop with them for a little longer at least. Now and then he felt restless, but on the whole the time passed pleasantly, and the pitcher was a daily delight to him.
Meanwhile his poor wife was at her wits’ end how to feed her dear children. If it had not been that the two boys were brave, plucky little chaps, she really would have been in despair. When their father did not come back and all their efforts to find him were in vain, these boys set to work to help their mother. They could not cut down trees, but they could climb them and chop off small branches with their axes; and this they did, making up bundles of faggots and selling them to their neighbours. These neighbours were touched by the courage they showed, and not only paid them well for the wood but often gave them milk and rice and other little things to help them. In time they actually got used to being without Subha Datta, and the little girls nearly forgot all about him. Little did they dream of the change that was soon to come into their lives.

CHAPTER VIII
A month passed peacefully away in the depths of the forest, Subha Datta waiting on the fairies and becoming every day more selfish and bent on enjoying himself. Then he had another dream, in which he saw his wife and children in the old home with plenty of food, and evidently so happy without him that he felt quite determined to go and show them he was still alive. When he woke he said to the fairies, “I will not stop with you any longer. I have had a good time here, but I am tired of this life away from my own people.”

The fairies saw he was really in earnest this time, so they consented to let him go; but they were kind-hearted people and felt they ought to pay him in some way for all he had done for them. They consulted together, and then one of them told him they wished to make him a present before he went away, and they would give him whatever he asked for.

CHAPTER IX
Directly the woodcutter heard he could have anything he asked for, he cried, “I will have the magic pitcher.”

You can just imagine what a shock this was to the fairies! You know, of course, that fairies always keep their word. If they could not persuade Subha Datta to choose something else, they would have to give him their beloved, their precious pitcher and would have to seek their food for themselves. They all tried all they could to persuade the woodcutter to choose something else. They took him to their own secret treasure-house, in an old, old tree with a hollow trunk, even the entrance to which no mortal had ever been allowed to see. They blindfolded him before they started, so that he could never reveal the way, and one of them led him by the hand, telling him where the steps going down from the tree began.

When at last the bandage was taken from his eyes, he found himself in a lofty hall with an opening in the roof through which the light came. Piled up on the floor were sparkling stones worth a great deal of gold and silver money, and on the walls hung beautiful robes. Subha Datta was quite dazed with all lie saw, but he was only an ignorant woodcutter and did not realize the value of the jewels and clothes. So when the fairies, said to him, “Choose anything you like here and let us keep our pitcher,” he shook his head and said: “No! no! no! The pitcher!

I will have the pitcher!” One fairy after another picked up the rubies and diamonds and other precious stones and held them in the light, that the woodcutter might see how lovely they were; and when he still only shook his head, they got down the robes and tried to make him put one of them on. “No! the pitcher! the pitcher!” he said, and at last they had to give it up. They bound his eyes again and led him back to the clearing and the pitcher.

CHAPTER X
Even when they were all back again in the clearing the fairies did not quite give up hope of keeping their pitcher. This time they gave other reasons why Subha Datta should not have it. “It will break very easily,” they told him, “and then it will be no good to you or anyone else. But if you take some of the money, you can buy anything you like with it. If you take some of the jewels you can sell them for lots of money.”
“No! no! no!” cried the woodcutter. “The pitcher! the pitcher! I will have the pitcher!”
“Very well then, take, the pitcher,” they sadly answered, “and never let us see your face again!”

So Subha Datta took the pitcher, carrying it very, very carefully, lest he should drop it and break it before he got home. He did not think at all of what a cruel thing it was to take it away from the fairies, and leave them either to starve or to seek for food for themselves. The poor fairies watched him till he was out of sight, and then they began to weep and wring their hands. “He might at least have waited whilst we got some food out for a few days,” one of them said. “He was too selfish to think of that,” said another. “Come, let us forget all about him and go and look for some fruit.”
So they all left off crying and went away hand in hand. Fairies do not want very much to eat. They can live on fruit and dew, and they never let anything make them sad for long at a time. They go out of this story now, but you need not be unhappy about them, because you may be very sure that they got no real harm from their generosity to Subha Datta in letting him take the pitcher.

CHAPTER XI
You can just imagine what a surprise it was to Subha Datta’s wife and children when they saw him coming along the path leading to his home. He did not bring the pitcher with him, but had hidden it in a hollow tree in the wood near his cottage, for he did not mean any one to know that he had it. He told his wife that he had lost his way in the forest, and had been afraid he would never see her or his children again, but he said nothing about the fairies. When his wife asked him how he had got food, he told her a long story about the fruits he had found, and she believed all he said, and determined to make up to him now for all she thought he had suffered. When she called the little girls to come and help her get a nice meal for their father, Subha Datta said: “Oh, don’t bother about that! I’ve brought something back with me. I’ll go and fetch it, but no one is to come with me.”

Subha Datta’s wife was sorely disappointed at this, because she loved her husband so much that it was a joy to her to work for him. The children too wanted, of course, to go with their father, but he ordered them to stop where they were. He seized a big basket which was fall of fuel for the fire, tumbled all the wood in it on the floor, and went off alone to the pitcher. Very soon he was back again with his basket full of all sorts of good things, the very names of which his wife and children had no idea of. “There!” he cried; “what do you think of that? Am I not a clever father to have found all that in the forest? Those are the ‘fruits’ I meant when I told Mother about them.”

CHAPTER XII
Life was now, of course, completely changed for the family in the forest. Subha Datta no longer went to cut wood to be sold, and the boys also left off doing so. Every day their father fetched food for them all, and the greatest desire of each one of the family was to find out where it came from. They never could do so, for Subha Datta managed to make them afraid to follow him when he went forth with his basket. The secret he kept from the wife to whom he used to tell everything soon began to spoil the happiness of the home. The children who had no longer anything to do quarrelled with each other. Their mother got sadder and sadder, and at last decided to tell Subha Datta that, unless he would let her know where the food came from, she would go away from him and take her little girls with her. She really did mean to do this, but something soon happened to change everything again.

Of course, the neighbours in the wood, who had bought the fuel from the boys and helped them by giving them fruit and rice, heard of the return of their father and of the wonderful change in their lot. Now the whole family had plenty to eat every day, though none of them knew where it all came from. Subha Datta was very fond of showing off what he could do, and sometimes asked his old friends amongst the woodcutters to come and have a meal with him. When they arrived they would find all sorts of good things spread out on the ground and different kinds of wines in beautiful bottles.

This went on for some months, Subha Datta getting prouder and prouder of all that he could do, and it seemed likely that his secret would never be discovered. Everybody tried to find it out, and many followed him secretly when he set forth into the woods; but he was very clever at dodging them, hiding his treasure constantly in a new place in the dead of the night. If he had only been content with getting food out of his pitcher and drinking pure water, all would most likely have been well with him. But that was just what he could not do. Till he had his pitcher he had never drunk anything but water, but now he often took too much wine. It was this which led to the misfortune of losing his beloved pitcher. He began to boast of his cleverness, telling his friends there was nothing they wanted that he could not get for them; and one day when he had given them a very grand feast, in which were several rare kinds of food they had asked for, he drank too much wine–so much that he no longer knew what he was saying.

This was the chance his guests wanted. They began teasing him, telling him they believed he was really a wicked robber, who had stolen the food or the money to buy it. He got angry, and at last was actually silly enough to tell them all to come with him, and he would show them he was no robber. When his wife heard this, she was half pleased to think that now at last the secret would come out of where the food came from, and half afraid that something terrible would happen. The children too were greatly excited, and went with the rest of the party, who followed their father to the last hiding-place of the precious pitcher.

When, they all got very near the place, however, some idea began to come into Subha Datta’s head that he was doing a very foolish thing. He stopped suddenly, turned round facing the crowd that followed him, and said he would not go a step further till they all went back to the cottage. His wife begged him to let her at least go with him, and the children all clamoured not to be sent back, but it was no good. Back they all had to go, the woodcutter watching till they were out of sight.

CHAPTER XIII
When the woodcutter was quite sure that everyone was gone and nobody could see where he had hidden the pitcher, he took it from the hole in which it lay and carried it carefully to his home. You can imagine how everybody rushed out to meet him when he came in sight, and crowded round him, so that there was danger of the pitcher being thrown to the ground and broken. Subha Datta however managed to get into the cottage without any accident, and then he began to take things out of the pitcher and fling them on the ground, shouting, “Am I a robber? Am I a robber? Who dared to call me a robber?”

Then, getting more and more excited, he picked up the pitcher, and holding it on his shoulder began to dance wildly about. His wife called out to him, “Oh, take care, take care! You will drop it!” But he paid no attention to her. Suddenly, however, he began to feel giddy and fell to the ground, dropping the pitcher as he did so. It was broken to pieces, and a great cry of sorrow went up from all who saw the accident. The woodcutter himself was broken-hearted, for he knew that he had done the mischief himself, and that if only he had resisted the temptation to drink the wine he would still have his treasure.
He was going to pick up the pieces to see if they could be stuck together, but to his very great surprise lie could not touch them. He heard a silvery laugh, and what sounded like children clapping their hands, and he thought he also heard the words, “Our pitcher is ours again!” Could it all have been a dream? No: for there on the ground were the fruits and cakes that had been in the pitcher, and there were his wife, his children and his friends, all looking sadly and angrily at him. One by one the friends went away, leaving Subha Datta alone with his family.

CHAPTER XIV
This is the end of the story of the Magic Pitcher, but it was the beginning of a new chapter in the lives of Subha Datta and his family. They never forgot the wonder-working pitcher, and the children were never tired of hearing the story of how their father came to get it. They often wandered about in the forest, hoping that they too would meet with some wonderful adventure, but they never saw the fairies or found a magic pitcher. By slow degrees the woodcutter returned to his old ways, but he had learnt one lesson. He never again kept a secret from his wife; because he felt sure that, if he had told her the truth about the pitcher when he first came home, she would have helped him to save the precious treasure.
Title: Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit (1919); Author: S. M. Mitra and Nancy Bell; Adapted by: Mrs. Arthur Bell

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A Few Fairy Tales of Wales

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.

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.

KADDY’S LUCK.

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.

REFERENCE:

Title: Welsh Fairy-Tales and Other Stories (1894) 

Author: Edited by P. H. Emerson

CONTRIBUTOR: Jenny Dunnaway

Fairies of Caragonan (Welsh)

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

Once upon a time a lot of fairies lived in Mona. One day the queen fairy’s daughter, who was now fifteen years of age, told her mother she wished to go out and see the world. The queen consented, allowing her to go for a day, and to change from a fairy to a bird, or from a bird to a fairy, as she wished.

When she returned one night she said: “I’ve been to a gentleman’s house, and as I stood listening, I heard the gentleman was witched: he was very ill, and crying out with pain.” “Oh, I must look into that,” said the queen.

So the next day she went through her process and found that he was bewitched by an old witch. So the following day she set out with six other fairies, and when they came to the gentleman’s house she found he was very ill. Going into the room, bearing a small blue pot they had brought with them, the queen asked him: “Would you like to be cured?” “Oh, bless you; yes, indeed.”

Whereupon the queen put the little blue pot of perfume on the center of the table, and lit it, when the room was instantly filled with the most delicious odour. Whilst the perfume was burning, the six fairies formed in line behind her, and she leading, they walked round the table three times, chanting in chorus:  “Round and round three times three, We have come to cure thee.”

At the end of the third round she touched the burning perfume with her wand, and then touched the gentleman on the head, saying: “Be thou made whole.” No sooner had she said the words than he jumped up hale and hearty, and said: “Oh, dear queen, what shall I do for you? I’ll do anything you wish.”

“Money I do not wish for,” said the queen, “but there’s a little plot of ground on the sea-cliff I want you to lend me, for I wish to make a ring there, and the grass will die when I make the ring. Then I want you to build three walls round the ring, but leave the sea-side open, so that we may be able to come and go easily.” “With the greatest of pleasure,” said the gentleman; and he built the three stone walls at once, at the spot indicated.

Near the gentleman lived the old witch, and she had the power of turning at will into a hare. The gentleman was a great hare hunter, but the hounds could never catch this hare; it always disappeared in a mill, running between the wings and jumping in at an open window, though they stationed two men and a dog at the spot, when it immediately turned into the old witch. And the old miller never suspected, for the old woman used to take him a peck of corn to grind a few days before any hunt, telling him she would call for it on the afternoon of the day of the hunt. So that when she arrived she was expected.

One day she had been taunting the gentleman as he returned from a hunt, that he could never catch the hare, and he struck her with his whip, saying “Get away, you witchcraft!” Whereupon she witched him, and he fell ill, and was cured as we have seen.

When he got well he watched the old witch, and saw she often visited the house of an old miser who lived nearby with his beautiful niece. Now all the people in the village touched their hats most respectfully to this old miser, for they knew he had dealings with the witch, and they were as much afraid of him as of her; but everyone loved the miser’s kind and beautiful niece.

When the fairies got home the queen told her daughter: “I have no power over the old witch for twelve months from to-day, and then I have no power over her life. She must lose that by the arm of a man.”

So the next day the daughter was sent out again to see whether she could find a person suited to that purpose. In the village lived a small crofter, who was afraid of nothing; he was the boldest man thereabouts; and one day he passed the miser without saluting him. The old fellow went off at once and told the witch.

“Oh, I’ll settle his cows to-night!” said she, and they were taken sick, and gave no milk that night. The fairy’s daughter arrived at his croft-yard after the cows were taken ill, and she heard him say to his son, a bright lad: “It must be the old witch!” When she heard this, she sent him to the queen.

So next day the fairy queen took six fairies and went to the croft, taking her blue pot of perfume. When she got there she asked the crofter if he would like his cows cured? “God bless you, yes!” he said. The queen made him bring a round table into the yard, whereon she placed the blue pot of perfume, and having lit it, as before, they formed in line and walked round thrice, chanting the words: “Round and round three times three, we have come to cure thee.” Then she dipped the end of her wand into the perfume, and touched the cows on the forehead, saying to each one: “Be thou whole.” Whereupon they jumped up cured.

The little farmer was overjoyed, and cried: “Oh, what can I do for you? What can I do for you?” “Money I care not for,” said the queen, “all I want is your son to avenge you and me.” The lad jumped up and said: “What I can do I’ll do it for you, my lady fairy.” She told him to be at the walled plot the following day at noon, and left.

The next day at noon, the queen and her daughter and three hundred other fairies came up the cliff to the green grass plot, and they carried a pole, and a tape, and a mirror. When they reached the plot they planted the pole in the ground, and hung the mirror on the pole. The queen took the tape, which measured ten yards and was fastened to the top of the pole, and walked round in a circle, and wherever she set her feet the grass withered and died. Then the fairies followed up behind the queen, and each fairy carried a harebell in her left-hand, and a little blue cup of burning perfume in her right. When they had formed up the queen called the lad to her side, and told him to walk by her throughout. They then started off, all singing in chorus: “Round and round three times three, tell me what you see.”

When they finished the first round, the queen and lad stopped before the mirror, and she asked the lad what he saw?  “I see, I see, the mirror tells me, It is the witch that I see,” said the lad. So they marched round again, singing the same words as before, and when they stopped a second time before the mirror the queen again asked him what he saw?  “I see, I see, the mirror tells me, It is a hare that I see,” said the lad.

A third time the ceremony and question were repeated. “I see, I see, the mirror tells me, The hares run up the hill to the mill.” “Now”, said the queen, “there is to be a hare-hunting this day week; be at the mill at noon, and I will meet you there.” And then the fairies, pole, mirror, and all, vanished and only the empty ring on the green was left.

Upon the appointed day the lad went to his tryst, and at noon the Fairy Queen appeared, and gave him a sling, and a smooth pebble from the beach, saying: “I have blessed your arms, and I have blessed the sling and the stone.

  “Now as the clock strikes three, go up the hill near the mill, and in the ring stand still till you hear the click of the mill. Then with thy arm, with power and might, You shall strike and smite the devil of a witch called Jezabel light, and you shall see an awful sight.”

The lad did as he was bidden, and presently he heard the huntsman’s horn and the hue and cry, and saw the hare running down the opposite hill-side, where the hounds seemed to gain on her, but as she breasted the hill on which he stood she gained on them. As she came towards the mill he threw his stone, and it lodged in her skull, and when he ran up he found he had killed the old witch. As the huntsmen came up they crowded round him, and praised him; and then they fastened the witch’s body to a horse by ropes, and dragged her to the bottom of the valley, where they buried her in a ditch. That night, when the miser heard of her death, he dropped down dead on the spot. As the lad was going home the queen appeared to him, and told him to be at the ring the following day at noon.

 Next day all the fairies came with the pole and mirror, each carrying a harebell in her left-hand, and a blue cup of burning perfume in her right, and they formed up as before, the lad walking beside the queen. They marched round and repeated the old words, when the queen stopped before the mirror, and said: “What do you see?” “I see, I see, the mirror tells me, It is an old plate-cupboard that I see.”

A second time they went round, and the question, was repeated.  “I see, I see, the mirror tells me, the back is turned to me.”

A third time was the ceremony fulfilled, and the lad answered “I see, I see, the mirror tells me, a spring-door is open to me.” “Buy that plate-cupboard at the miser’s sale,” said the queen, and she and her companions disappeared as before.

Upon the day of the sale all the things were brought out in the road and the plate-cupboard was put up, the lad recognizing it and bidding up for it till it was sold to him. When he had paid for it he took it home in a cart, and when he got in and examined it, he found the secret drawer behind was full of gold. The following week the house and land, thirty acres, was put up for sale, and the lad bought both, and married the miser’s niece, and they lived happily till they died.

REFERENCE:

Title: Welsh Fairy-Tales And Other Stories (1894) (A Collection)

Author: Edited by P. H. Emerson

CONTRIBUTOR: Jenny Dunnaway

THE BALLAD OF AILIE FAA

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

(A poem of the Borderlands)

 Sir Robert has left his castle ha’, The castle of fair Holmylee,

And gone to meet his Ailie Faa, Where no one might be there to see.

He has sounded shrill his bugle horn, But not for either horse or hound;

And when the echoes away were borne, He listened for a well-known sound.

 

He hears a rustling among the leaves, Some pattering feet are drawing near;

Like autumn’s breathings among the sheaves, So sweet at eventide to hear:

His Ailie Faa, who is sweeter far Than the white rose hanging upon the tree,

Who is fairer than the fairies are That dance in moonlight on the lea.

 

Oh! there are some flowers, as if in love, Unto the oak their arms incline;

And tho’ the tree may rotten prove, They still the closer around it twine:

So has it been until this hour, And so in coming time ’twill be,

Wherever young love may hang a flower, ‘Twill think it aye ane trusty tree.

 

He has led her into a summer bower, For he was fond and she was fain,

And there with all of a lover’s power He whispered that old and fatal strain,

Which those who sing it and those who hear Have never sung and never heard,

But they have shed the bitter tear For every soft delusive word.

 

He pointed to yon castle ha’, And all its holts so green and fair;

And would not she, poor Ailie Faa, Move some day as a mistress there?

As the parched lea receives the rains, Her ears drank up the sweet melodie;

A gipsy’s blood flowed in her veins, A gipsy’s soul flashed in her eye.

 

Oh! it’s time will come and time will go, That which has been will be again;

This strange world’s ways go to and fro, This moment joy, the next is pain.

A sough has thro’ the hamlet spread, To Ailie’s ear the tidings came,

That Holmylee will shortly wed A lady fair of noble name.

 

In yon lone cot adown the Lynne A widowed mother may think it long

Since there were lightsome words within, Since she has heard blithe Ailie’s song.

A gloomy shade sits on Ailie’s brow, At times her eyes flash sudden fires,

The same she had noticed long ago, Deep flashing in her gipsy sire’s.

 

When the wind at even was low and loun, And the moon paced on in her majesty

Thro’ lazy clouds, and threw adown Her silvery light o’er turret and tree,

Then Ailie sought the green alcove, That place of fond lovers’ lone retreat,

Where she for the boon of gentle love, Had changed the meed of a deadly hate.

 

She sat upon “the red Lynne stone,” Where she between the trees might see,

By yon pale moon that shone thereon, The goodly turrets of Holmylee.

And as she felt the throbbing pains, And as she heaved the bursting sigh,

A gipsy’s blood burned in her veins, A gipsy’s soul flashed in her eye.

 

If small the body that thus was moved, So like the form that fairies wear,

It was that slenderness he loved, So tiny a thing he might not fear.

But there is an insect skims the air, Bedecked with azure and green and gold,

Whose sting is a deadlier thing by far Than dagger of yon baron bold.

 

She sat upon the red Lynne stone, The midnight sky was overcast,

The winds are out with a sullen moan, The angry Lynne is rolling past.

What then? there was no lack of light, Full fifteen windows blazing shone

Up on the castle on the height, While Ailie Faa sat there alone.

 

For there is dancing and deray In the ancient castle of Holmylee,

And barons bold and ladies gay Are holding high-jinks revelry.

Sir Robert has that day been wed, ‘Midst sounding trumpets of eclat,

And one that night will grace his bed Of nobler birth than Ailie Faa.

 

Revenge will claim its high command, And Ailie is on her feet erect,

She passes nervously her hand Between her jupe and jerkinet.

“There” lies a charm for woman’s wrong, Concealed where beats the bursting heart,

Which, ere an hour hath come and gone, Will play somewhere a fatal part.

 

Up in the hall of Holmylee Still sound the revel, the dance, and song,

And through the open doors and free There pours the gay and stately throng;

But of all the knights and barons there, The bridegroom still the foremost stood,

And she the fairest of the fair, The bride who was of noble blood.

It was when feet were tripping The mazes of the dance,

 It was when lips were sipping, The choicest wines of France,

A wild scream rose within the hall, Which pierced the roofen tree,

And in the midst was seen to fall. The Baron of Holmylee.

“To whom belongs this small stilette. By whom our host is slain?”

Between a jupe and jerkinet. That weapon long had lain.

Each on his sword his hand did lay, This way and that they ran;

But she who did the deed is away, Ho! catch her if you can.

 REFERENCE:

TITLE: Wilson’s Tales of the Borders and of Scotland, Volume XXIV. (1884)

Author: Revised by Alexander Leighton

CONTIBUTOR: Callum McCormick

 

Fairy Rewards (Welsh)

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

Fairy treasures seen by a Man near Ogwen Lake

Another tale, similar to the preceding one, is told by my friend, Mr. Hugh Derfel Hughes, in his Hynafiaethau Llandegai a Llanllechid, pp. 35, 36.  The following is a translation of Mr. Hughes’s story:-

It is said that a servant man penetrated into the recesses of the mountains in the neighbourhood of Ogwen Lake, and that he there discovered a cave within which there was a large quantity of brazen vessels of every shape and description.  In the joy of his heart at his good fortune, he seized one of the vessels, with the intention of carrying it away with him, as an earnest that the rest likewise were his.

But, alas, it was too heavy for any man to move. Therefore, with the intention of returning the following morning to the cave with a friend to assist him in carrying the vessels away, he closed its month with stones, and thus he securely hid from view the entrance to the cave.  When he had done this it flashed upon his mind that he had heard of people who had accidentally come across caves, just as he had, but that they, poor things, had afterwards lost all traces of them. And lest a similar misfortune should befall him, he determined to place a mark on the mouth of the cave, which would enable him to come upon it again, and also he bethought himself that it would be necessary, for further security, to indicate by some marks the way from his house to the cave.  He had however nothing at hand to enable him to carry out this latter design, but his walking stick.  This he began to chip with his knife, and he placed the chips at certain distances all along the way homewards.  In this way he cut up his staff, and he was satisfied with what he had done, for he hoped to find the cave by means of the chips. Early the next morning he and a friend started for the mountain in the fond hope of securing the treasures, but when they arrived at the spot where the chip-marked pathway ought to begin, they failed to discover a single chip, because, as it was reported-“They had been gathered up by the Fairies.” And thus this vision was in vain.

The author adds to the tale these words:–“But, reader, things are not always to be so.  There is a tradition in the Nant, that a Gwyddel is to have these treasures and this is how it will come to pass.  A Gwyddel Shepherd will come to live in the neighbourhood, and on one of his journeys to the mountain to shepherd his sheep, when fate shall see fit to bring it about, there will run before him into the cave a black sheep with a speckled head, and the Gwyddel shepherd will follow it into the cave to catch it, and on entering, to his great astonishment, he will discover the treasures and take possession of them.  And in this way it will come to pass, in some future age, that the property of the Gwyddelod will return to them.”

The Fairies giving Money to a Man for joining them in their Dance

The following story came to me through the Rev. Owen Jones, Vicar of Pentrevoelas.  The occurrence is said to have taken place near Pentrevoelas. The following are the particulars:

Tomas Moris, Ty’n-y-Pant, returning home one delightful summer night from Llanrwst fair, came suddenly upon a company of Fairies dancing in a ring. In the center of the circle were a number of speckled dogs, small in size, and they too were dancing with all their might.  After the dance came to an end, the Fairies persuaded Tomas to accompany them to Hafod Bryn Mullt, and there the dance was resumed, and did not terminate until the break of day.  Ere the Fairies departed they requested their visitor to join them the following night at the same place, and they promised, if he would do so, to enrich him with gifts of money, but they made him promise that he would not reveal to any one the place where they held their revels.  This Tomas did, and night after night was spent pleasantly by him in the company of his merry newly-made friends.  True to their word, he nightly parted company with them, laden with money, and thus he had no need to spend his days as heretofore, in manual labour.  This went on as long as Tomas Moris kept his word, but alas, one day, he divulged to a neighbour the secret of his riches.  That night, as usual, he went to Hafod Bryn Mullt, but his generous friends were not there, and he noticed that in the place where they were wont to dance there was nothing but cockle shells.

In certain parts of Wales it was believed that Fairy money, on close inspection, would be found to be cockle shells.  Mrs. Hugh Jones, Corlanau, who has already been mentioned, told the writer that a man found a crock filled, as he thought when he first saw it, with gold, but on taking it home he discovered that he had carried home from the mountain nothing but cockle shells.  This Mrs. Jones told me was Fairy money.

The Fairies rewarding a Woman for taking care of their Dog

Mention has already been made of Fairy Dogs.  It would appear that now and again these dogs, just like any other dogs, strayed from home; but the Fairies were fond of their pets, and when lost, sought for them, and rewarded those mortals who had shown kindness to the animals.  For the following tale I am indebted to the Rev. Owen Jones.

One day when going home from Pentrevoelas Church, the wife of Hafod y Gareg found on the ground in an exhausted state a Fairy dog.  She took it up tenderly, and carried it home in her apron.  She showed this kindness to the poor little thing from fear, for she remembered what had happened to the wife of Bryn Heilyn, who had found one of the Fairy dogs, but had behaved cruelly towards it, and consequently had fallen down dead.  The wife of Hafod y Gareg therefore made a nice soft bed for the Fairy dog in the pantry, and placed over it a brass pot.  In the night succeeding the day that she had found the dog, a company of Fairies came to Hafod y Gareg to make inquiries after it.  The woman told them that it was safe and sound, and that they were welcome to take it away with them.  She willingly gave it up to its masters.  Her conduct pleased the Fairies greatly, and so, before departing with the dog, they asked her which she would prefer, a clean or a dirty cow?  Her answer was, “A dirty one.” And so it came to pass that from that time forward to the end of her life, her cows gave more milk than the very best cows in the very best farms in her neighbor-hood.  In this way was she rewarded for her kindness to the dog, by the Fairies.

REFERENCE:

TITLE: Welsh Folk-Lore (1887)

BY: Elias Owen

CONTRIBUTOR: Staff

The Hidden Golden Chair

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

 

It is a good many years since Mrs. Mary Jones, Corlanau, Llandinorwig, Carnarvonshire, told me the following tale.  The scene of the story is the unenclosed mountain between Corlanau, a small farm, and the hamlet, Rhiwlas.  There is still current in those parts a tale of a hidden golden chair, and Mrs. Jones said that it had once been seen by a young girl, who might have taken possession of it, but unfortunately she did not do so, and from that day to this it has not been discovered. The tale is this:

There was once a beautiful girl, the daughter of poor hardworking parents, who held a farm on the side of the hill, and their handsome industrious daughter took care of the sheep.  At certain times of the year she visited the sheep-walk daily, but she never went to the mountain without her knitting needles, and when looking after the sheep she was always knitting stockings, and she was so clever with her needles that she could knit as she walked along.  The Fairies who lived in those mountains noticed this young woman’s good qualities.  One day, when she was far from home, watching her father’s sheep, she saw before her a most beautiful golden chair. She went up to it and found that it was so massive that she could not move it.  She knew the Fairy-lore of her neighbor-hood, and she understood that the Fairies had, by revealing the chair, intended it for her, but there she was on the wild mountain, far away from home, without anyone near to assist her in carrying it away.

And often had she heard that such treasures were to be taken possession of at once, or they would disappear forever.  She did not know what to do, but all at once she thought, if she could by attaching the yarn in her hand to the chair connect it thus with her home, the chair would be hers’ forever.  Acting upon this suggestion she forthwith tied the yarn to the foot of the chair, and commenced unrolling the ball, walking the while homewards. But long before she could reach her home the yarn in the ball was exhausted; she, however, tied it to the yarn in the stocking which she had been knitting, and again started towards her home, hoping to reach it before the yarn in the stocking would be finished, but she was doomed to disappointment, for that gave out before she could arrive at her father’s house.  She had nothing else with her to attach to the yarn. She, however, could now see her home, and she began to shout, hoping to gain the ear of her parents, but no one appeared. In her distress she fastened the end of the yarn to a large stone, and ran home as fast as she could.  She told her parents what she had done, and all three proceeded immediately towards the stone to which the yarn had been tied, but they failed to discover it. The yarn, too, had disappeared.

They continued a futile search for the golden chair until driven away by the approaching night.  The next day they renewed their search, but all in vain, for the girl was unable to find the spot where she had first seen the golden chair. It was believed by everybody that the Fairies had not only removed the golden chair, but also the yarn and stone to which the yarn had been attached, but people thought that if the yarn had been long enough to reach from the chair to the girl’s home then the golden chair would have been hers’ forever.

Such is the tale. People believe the golden chair is still hidden away in the mountain, and that someday or other it will be given to those for whom it is intended.  But it is, they say, no use anyone looking for it, as it is not to be got by searching, but it will be revealed, as if by accident, to those fated to possess it.

REFERENCE:

TITLE: Welsh Folk-Lore (1887)

BY: Elias Owen

CONTRIBUTOR: Staff

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

Faery Reveler

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

 

FAIRY DANCES

The one occupation of the Fairy folk celebrated in song and prose was dancing. Their green rings, circular or ovoidal in form, abounded in all parts of the country, and it was in these circles they were said to dance through the livelong night.  In “Can y Tylwyth Teg,” or the Fairies’ Song, thus they chant:- O’r glaswellt glen a’r rhedyn man, Gyfeillion dyddan, dewch, E ddarfu’r nawn–mae’r lloer yu llawn, Y nos yn gyflawn gewch;  O’r chwarau sydd ar dwyn y dydd,  I’r Dolydd awn ar daith. Nyni sydd lon, ni chaiff gerbron Farwolion ran o’n gwaith.

Yr Hynafion Cymraeg”, p. 153.

From grasses bright, and bracken light,  Come, sweet companions, come, The full moon shines, the sun declines,  We’ll spend the night in fun; With playful mirth, we’ll trip the earth, To meadows green let’s go, We’re full of joy, without alloy, Which mortals may not know.

The spots where the Fairies held their nightly revels were preserved from intrusion by traditional superstitions.  The farmer dared not plough the land where Fairy circles were, lest misfortune should overtake him. Thus were these mythical beings left in undisturbed possession of many fertile plots of ground, and here they were believed to dance merrily through many a summer night.

Canu, canu, drwy y nos, Dawnsio, dawnsio, ar waen y rhos, Yn ngoleuni’r lleuad dlos;  Hapus ydym ni! Pawb o honom sydd yn llon, Heb un gofid dan ei fron: Canu, dawnsio, ar y ton  Dedwydd ydym ni!

Singing, singing, through the night, Dancing, dancing, with our might, Where the moon the moor doth light: Happy ever we! One and all of merry mien, Without sorrow are we seen, Singing, dancing on the green: Gladsome ever we!

Professor Rhys’s Fairy Tales”

These words correctly describe the popular opinion of Fairy dance and song, an opinion which reached the early part of the present century.

Since so much has reached our days of Fairy song and dance, it is not surprising that we are told that the beautiful Welsh melody, “Toriad y Dydd”, or the Dawn of Day, is the work of a Fairy minstrel, and that this song was chanted by the Fairy company just as the pale light in the east announced the approach of returning day.

Chaucer (1340 c. to 1400 c.), alluding to the Fairies and their dances, in his ‘Wife of Bath’s Tale,’ writes:– In olde dayes of King Artour, Of which the Bretons speken gret honour,  All was this lond ful-filled of Faerie; The elf-quene with hire joly compagnie  Danced ful oft in many a grene mede. This was the old opinion as I rede; I speke of many hundred yeres ago; But now can no man see non elves mo.

Tyrwhitt’s Chaucer i., p. 256.

In the days of the Father of English poets, the elves had disappeared, and he speaks of “many hundred yeres ago,” when he says that the Fairy Queen and her jolly company danced full often in many a green meadow.

Number 419 of the Spectator, published July 1st, 1712, states that formerly “every large common had a circle of Fairies belonging to it.” Here again the past is spoken of, but in Wales it would seem that up to quite modern days some one, or other, was said to have seen the Fairies at their dance, or had heard of some one who had witnessed their gambols. Robert Roberts, Tycerrig, Clocaenog, enumerated several places, such as Nantddu, Clocaenog, Craig-fron-Bannog, on Mynydd Hiraethog, and Fron-y-Go, Llanfwrog, where the Fairies used to hold their revels, and other places, such as Moel Fammau, have been mentioned as being Fairy dancing ground.  Many an aged person in Wales will give the name of spots dedicated to Fairy sports.  Information of this kind is interesting, for it shows how long lived traditions are, and in a manner, places associated with the Fair Tribe bring these mysterious beings right to our doors.

I will now relate a few tales of mortals witnessing or joining in Fairy dances.

The first was related to me by David Roberts.  The scene of the dance was the hill side by Pont Petrual between Ruthin and Cerrig-y-Drudion.

  1. “A Man who found himself on a Heap of Ferns after joining in a Fairy Dance”.

A man who went to witness a Fairy dance was invited to join them.  He did so, and all night long he greatly enjoyed himself.  At the break of day the company broke up, and the Fairies took their companion with them. The man found himself in a beautiful hall with everything he could desire at his command, and here he pleasantly passed the time ere he retired to rest.  In the morning when he awoke, instead of finding himself on a couch in Fairy Hall, be found himself lying on a heap of fern on the wild mountain side.Although somewhat unfortunate, this man fared better than most men who joined the Fairy dances.

  1. “The Fairies threw dust into a Man’s Eyes who Saw them Dance”

This tale is taken from “Cymru Fu”, p. 176, and is from the pen of “Glasynys”.  I give it in English.

William Ellis, of Cilwern, was once fishing in Llyn Cwm Silin on a dark cloudy day, when he observed close by, in the rushes, a great number of men, or beings in the form of men, about a foot high, jumping and singing.

He watched them for hours, and he never heard in all his life such singing.  But William went too near them, and they threw some kind of dust into his eyes, and whilst he was rubbing his eyes, the little family disappeared and fled somewhere out of sight and never afterwards was Ellis able to get a sight of them.

The next tale “Glasynys” shall relate in his own words.  It appears in “Cymru Fu” immediately after the one just related.

  1. “A Man Dancing with the Fairies for Three Days”.

“Y mae chwedl go debyg am le o’r enw Llyn-y-Ffynonau.  Yr oedd yno rasio a dawnsio, a thelynio a ffidlo enbydus, a gwas o Gelli Ffrydau a’i ddau gi yn eu canol yn neidio ac yn prancio mor sionc a neb.  Buont wrthi hi felly am dridiau a theirnos, yn ddi-dor-derfyn; ac oni bai bod ryw wr cyfarwydd yn byw heb fod yn neppell, ac i hwnw gael gwybod pa sut yr oedd pethau yn myned yn mlaen, y mae’n ddiddadl y buasai i’r creadur gwirion ddawnsio ‘i hun i farwolaeth.  Ond gwaredwyd of y tro hwn.”

This in English is as follows:–“There is a tale somewhat like the preceding one told in connection with a place called Llyn-y-Ffynonau.  There was there racing and dancing, and harping and furious fiddling, and the servant man of Gelli Ffrydau with his two dogs in their midst jumping and dancing like mad.  There they were for three days and three nights without a break dancing as if for very life, and were it not that there lived near by a conjuror, who knew how things were going on, without a doubt the poor creature would have danced himself to death.  But he was spared this time.”

The next tale I received from Mr. David Lloyd, schoolmaster, Llanfihangel-Glyn-Myfyr, and he heard it in that parish.

  1. “A Harper and the Fairies”.

There once lived in a remote part of Denbighshire, called Hafod Elwy, an old harper, named Shon Robert, who used to be invited to parties to play for the dancers, or to accompany the singers.  One evening he went to Llechwedd Llyfn, in the neighbourhood of Cefn Brith, to hold a merry meeting, and it was late before the lads and lasses separated.  At last the harper wended his way homeward.  His path was over the bare mountain.

As he came near a lake called Llyndau-ychain, he saw on its verge a grand palace, vividly illuminated.  He was greatly surprised at the sight, for he had never seen such a building there before.  He, however, proceeded on his way, and when he came in front of this beautiful palace he was hailed by a footman, and invited to enter.  He accepted the invitation, and was ushered into a magnificent room, where a grand ball was being held.  The guests surrounded the harper and became very friendly, and, to his wonder, addressed him by name.  This hall was magnificently furnished.  The furniture was of the most costly materials, many things were made of solid gold.  A waiter handed him a golden cup filled with sparkling wine, which the harper gladly quaffed.  He was then asked to play for the company, and this he did to the manifest satisfaction of the guests.  By and by one of the company took Shon Robert’s hat round and collected money for the harper’s benefit, and brought it back to him filled with silver and gold.  The feast was carried on with great pomp and merriment until near the dawn of day, when, one by one, the guests disappeared, and at last Shon was left alone.  Perceiving a magnificent couch near, he laid himself thereon, and was soon fast asleep.  He did not awake until mid-day, and then, to his surprise, he found himself lying on a heap of heather, the grand palace had vanished away, and the gold and silver, which he had transferred from his hat the night before into his bag, was changed to withered leaves.

The following tale told me by the Rev. R. Jones shows that those who witness a Fairy dance know not how time passes.

  1. “A Three Hours Fairy Dance seeming as a Few Minutes”

The Rev. R. Jones’s mother, when a young unmarried woman, started one evening from a house called Tyddyn Heilyn, Penrhyndeudraeth, to her home, Penrhyn isaf, accompanied by their servant man, David Williams, called on account of his great strength and stature, Dafydd Fawr, Big David.  David was carrying home on his back a flitch of bacon.  The night was dark, but calm.  Williams walked somewhat in the rear of his young mistress, and she, thinking he was following, went straight home.  But three hours passed before David appeared with the pork on his back.

He was interrogated as to the cause of his delay, and in answer said he had only been about three minutes after his young mistress.  He was told that she had arrived three hours before him, but this David would not believe.  At length, however, he was convinced that he was wrong in his time, and then he proceeded to account for his lagging behind as follows:–He observed, he said, a brilliant meteor passing through the air, which was followed by a ring or hoop of fire, and within this hoop stood a man and woman of small size, handsomely dressed.  With one arm they embraced each other, and with the other they took hold of the hoop, and their feet rested on the concave surface of the ring.  When the hoop reached the earth these two beings jumped out of it, and immediately proceeded to make a circle on the ground.  As soon as this was done, a large number of men and women instantly appeared, and to the sweetest music that ear ever heard commenced dancing round and round the circle.  The sight was so entrancing that the man stayed, as he thought, a few minutes to witness the scene.  The ground all around was lit up by a kind of subdued light, and he observed every movement of these beings.  By and by the meteor which had at first attracted his attention appeared again, and then the fiery hoop came to view, and when it reached the spot where the dancing was, the lady and gentleman who had arrived in it jumped into the hoop, and disappeared in the same manner in which they had reached the place.

Immediately after their departure the Fairies vanished from sight, and the man found himself alone and in darkness, and then he proceeded homewards.  In this way he accounted for his delay on the way.

In Mr. Sikes’s “British Goblins”, pp. 79-81, is a graphic account of a mad dance which Tudur ap Einion Gloff had with the Fairies, or Goblins, at a place called Nant-yr-Ellyllon, a hollow half way up the hill to Castell Dinas Bran, in the neighbourhood of Llangollen.  All night, and into the next day, Tudur danced frantically in the Nant, but he was rescued by his master, who understood how to break the spell, and release his servant from the hold the Goblins had over him!  This he did by pronouncing certain pious words, and Tudur returned home with his master.

Mr. Evan Davies, carpenter, Brynllan, Efenechtyd, who is between seventy and eighty years old, informed the writer that his friend John Morris told him that he had seen a company of Fairies dancing, and that they were the handsomest men and women that he had ever seen.  It was night and dark, but the place on which the dance took place was strangely illuminated, so that every movement of the singular beings could be observed, but when the Fairies disappeared it became suddenly quite dark.

Although from the tales already given it would appear that the Fairies held revelry irrespective of set times of meeting, still it was thought that they had special days for their great banquets, and the eve of the first of May, old style, was one of these days, and another was “Nos Wyl Ifan”, St. John’s Eve, or the evening of June 23rd.

Thus sings Glasynys, in Y Brython, vol. iii. p. 270:–  Nos Wyl Ifan. Tylwyth Teg yn lluoedd llawen, O dan nodded tawel Dwynwen, Welir yn y cel encilion, Yn perori mwyn alawon,  Ac yn taenu hyd y twyni,  Ac ar leiniau’r deiliog lwyni, Hud a Lledrith_ ar y glesni, Ac yn sibrwd dwyfol desni!

I am indebted to my friend Mr Richard Williams, F.R.H.S., Newtown, Montgomeryshire, for the following translation of the preceding Welsh lines:– The Fairy Tribe in merry crowds, Under Dwynwen’s calm protection,  Are seen in shady retreats Chanting sweet melodies, And spreading over the bushes  And the leafy groves Illusion and phantasy on all that is green, And whispering their mystic lore.

May-day dances and revelling have reached our days, and probably they have, like the Midsummer Eve’s festivities, their origin in the far off times when the Fairy Tribe inhabited Britain and other countries, and to us have they bequeathed these Festivals, as well as that which ushers in winter, and is called in Wales, “Nos glan gaua”, or All Hallow Eve.  If so, they have left us a legacy for which we thank them, and they have also given us a proof of their intelligence and love of nature.

JOIN THE WEE FOLK AND ENJOY, SAINT PADDY’S DAY

CONTRIBUTOR: Cade Pomeraan

FAIRY CHANGELINGS

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

It was firmly believed, at one time, in Wales, that the Fairies exchanged their own weakly or deformed offspring for the strong children of mortals.  The child supposed to have been left by the Fairies in the cradle, or elsewhere, was commonly called a changeling.  This faith was not confined to Wales; it was as common in Ireland, Scotland, and England, as it was in Wales.  Thus, in Spenser’s “Faery Queen”, reference is made in the following words to this popular error:–

And her base Elfin brood there for thee left; such, men do changelings call, so chang’d by Faeries theft.

“Faery Queen”, Bk. I, c. 10.

The same superstition is thus alluded to by Shakespeare: A lovely boy, stol’n from an Indian king, She never had so sweet a changeling.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, Act II., Sc. 1.

And again, in another of his plays, the Fairy practice of exchanging children is mentioned:       O, that it could be prov’d, That some night-tripping Fairy had exchanged In cradle-clothes our children, where they lay,  And call’d mine, Percy, his Plantagenet: Then would I have his Harry, and he mine.

“Henry IV”., Pt. 1., Act I, Sc. 1.

In Scotland and other countries the Fairies were credited with stealing unbaptized infants, and leaving in their stead poor, sickly, noisy, thin, babies.  But to return to Wales, a poet in “Y Brython”, vol. iii, p. 103, thus sings: Llawer plentyn teg aeth ganddynt, Pan y cym’rynt helynt hir; Oddi ar anwyl dda rieni, I drigfanau difri dir.

Many a lovely child they’ve taken, when long and bitter was the pain; from their parents, loving, dear, To the Fairies’ dread domain.

John Williams, an old man, who lived in the Penrhyn quarry district, informed the writer that he could reveal strange doings of the Fairies in his neighbor-hood, for often had they changed children with even well-to-do families, he said, but more he would not say, lest he should injure those prosperous families.

It was believed that the Fairies were particularly busy in exchanging children on “Nos Wyl Ifan”, or St. John’s Eve.

There were, however, effectual means for protecting children from their machinations.  The mother’s presence, the tongs placed cross-ways on the cradle, the early baptism of the child, were all preventives.  In the Western Isles of Scotland fire carried round a woman before she was churched, and round the child until he was christened, daily, night and morning, preserved both from the evil designs of the Fairies. (Brand, vol. ii, p. 486.)  And it will be shortly shewn that even after an exchange had been accomplished there were means of forcing the Fairies to restore the stolen child.

It can well be believed that mothers who had sickly or idiotic babies would, in uncivilized places, gladly embrace the idea that the child she nursed was a changeling, and then, naturally enough, she would endeavor to recover her own again.  The plan adopted for this purpose was extremely dangerous.  I will in the following tales show what steps were taken to reclaim the lost child.

Pennant records how a woman who had a peevish child acted to regain from the Fairies her own offspring.  His words are: “Above this is a spreading oak of great antiquity, size, and extent of branches; it has got the name of “Fairy Oak”.  In this very century (the eighteenth) a poor cottager, who lived near the spot, had a child who grew uncommonly peevish; the parents attributed this to the “Fairies”, and imagined that it was a changeling. They took the child, put it into a cradle, and left it all night beneath the tree, in hopes that the “Tylwyth Teg”, or “Fairy Family”, or the Fairy folk, would restore their own before the morning. When morning came, they found the child perfectly quiet, so went away with it, quite confirmed in their belief. ”History of Whiteford”, pp. 5, 6.

These people by exposing their infant for a night to the elements ran a risk of losing it altogether; but they acted in agreement with the popular opinion, which was that the Fairies had such affection for their own children that they would not allow them to be in any danger of losing their life, and that if the elfin child were thus exposed the Fairies would rescue it, and restore the exchanged child to its parents.

The Egg Shell Pottage

The following tale exhibits another phase of this belief (Changeling). The story is to be found in the “Cambrian Magazine”, vol. ii., pp. 86, 87.

“In the parish of Treveglwys, near Llanidloes, in the county of Montgomery, there is a little shepherd’s cot, that is commonly called Twt y Cwmrws (the place of strife) on account of the extraordinary strife that has been there.  The inhabitants of the cottage were a man and his wife, and they had born to them twins, whom the woman nursed with great care and tenderness. Some months afterwards indispensable business called the wife to the house of one of her nearest neighbours; yet, notwithstanding she had not far to go, she did not like to leave her children by themselves in their cradle, even for a minute, as her house was solitary, and there were many tales of goblins or the ‘“Tylwyth Teg”’ (the Fair Family or the Fairies) haunting the neighbor-hood.  However, she went, and returned as soon as she could; but on coming back she felt herself not a little terrified on seeing, though it was mid-day, some of ‘the old elves of the blue petticoat,’ as they are usually called; however, when she got back to her house she was rejoiced to find everything in the state she had left it.

But after some time had passed by, the good people began to wonder that the twins did not grow at all, but still continued little dwarfs.  The man would have it that they were not his children; the woman said that they must be their children, and about this arose the great strife between them that gave name to the place.  One evening when the woman was very heavy of heart she determined to go and consult a “Gwr Cyfarwydd” (i.e., a wise man, or a conjuror), feeling assured that everything was known to him, and he gave her his counsel.  Now there was to be a harvest soon of the rye and oats; so the wise man said to her:–‘When you are preparing dinner for the reapers empty the shell of a hen’s egg, and boil the shell full of pottage and take it out through the door as if you meant it for a dinner to the reapers, and then listen what the twins will say; if you hear the children speaking things above the understanding of children, return into the house, take them, and throw them into the waves of Llyn Ebyr, which is very near to you; but if you don’t hear anything remarkable, do them no injury.’  And when the day of the reaping came, the woman did as her adviser had recommended to her; and as she went outside the door to listen, she heard one of the children say to the other:

Gwelais vesen cyn gweled derwen, Gwelais wy cyn gweled iar, Erioed ni welais verwi bwyd i vedel Mewn plisgyn wy iar!

Acorns before oak I knew, an egg before a hen, Never one hen’s egg-shell stew enough for harvest men!

On this the mother returned to her house and took the two children, and threw them into the Llyn, and suddenly the goblins in their trousers came to save their dwarfs, and the woman had her own children back again, and thus the strife between her and her husband ended.”

The writer of the preceding story says that it was translated almost literally from Welsh, as told by the peasantry, and he remarks that the legend bears a striking resemblance to one of the Irish tales published by Mr. Croker.

Many variants of the legend are still extant in many parts of Wales. There is one of these recorded in Professor Rhys’s “Welsh Fairy Tales”, “Y Cymmrodor”, vol. iv., pp. 208-209.  It is much like that given in the “Cambrian Magazine”.

REFERENCE

TITLE: WELSH FOLKLORE

BY: REV. ELIAS OWEN, M.A, F.S.A.

CONTRIBUTOR: Staff

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

THE COMMENTARY GAZETTE

A story in its main features similar to that recorded in the “Cambrian Magazine” was related to me by my friend, the Rev. R. Jones, Rector of Llanycil.  I do not think Mr. Jones gave me the locality where the occurrence is said to have taken place; at least, if he did so, I took no note of it.  The story is as follows:–

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.

REFERENCE

TITLE: WELSH FOLKLORE

BY: REV. ELIAS OWEN, M.A, F.S.A.

CONTIBUTOR: Staff