The Son of Llech y Derwydd and the Fairies


The next Fairy tale that I shall give akin to the preceding stories is to be found in “Y Brython”, vol. iii., pp. 459-60.  The writer of the tale was the Rev. Benjamin Williams, whose bardic name was Gwynionydd.  I do not know the source whence Mr. Williams derived the story, but most likely he obtained it from some aged person who firmly believed that the tale was a true record of what actually occurred.  In the “Brython” the tale is called: “Y Tylwyth Teg a Mab Llech y Derwydd,” and this title I will retain, merely translating it.  The introduction, however, I will not give, as it does not directly bear on the subject now under consideration.

The son of Llech y Derwydd was the only son of his parents and heir to the farm.  He was very dear to his father and mother, yea, he was as the very light of their eyes.  The son and the head servant man were bosom friends, they were like two brothers, or rather twins.  As they were such close friends the farmer’s wife was in the habit of clothing them exactly alike.  The two friends fell in love with two young handsome women who were highly respected in the neighbor-hood.  This event gave the old people great satisfaction, and ere long the two couples were joined in holy wedlock, and great was the merry-making on the occasion.  The servant man obtained a convenient place to live in on the grounds of Llech y Derwydd.  About six months after the marriage of the son, he and the servant man went out to hunt.  The servant penetrated to a ravine filled with brushwood to look for game, and presently returned to his friend, but by the time he came back the son was nowhere to be seen.  He continued awhile looking about for his absent friend, shouting and whistling to attract his attention, but there was no answer to his calls.

By and by he went home to Llech y Derwydd, expecting to find him there, but no one knew anything about him.  Great was the grief of the family throughout the night, but it was even greater the next day.  They went to inspect the place where the son had last been seen.  His mother and his wife wept bitterly, but the father had greater control over himself, still he appeared as half mad.  They inspected the place where the servant man had last seen his friend, and, to their great surprise and sorrow, observed a Fairy ring close by the spot, and the servant recollected that he had heard seductive music somewhere about the time that he parted with his friend.  They came to the conclusion at once that the man had been so unfortunate as to enter the Fairy ring, and they conjectured that he had been transported no one knew where.  Weary weeks and months passed away, and a son was born to the absent man.  The little one grew up the very image of his father, and very precious was he to his grandfather and grandmother.  In fact, he was everything to them.  He grew up to man’s estate and married a pretty girl in the neighbor-hood, but her people had not the reputation of being kind-hearted.  The old folks died, and also their daughter-in-law.

One windy afternoon in the month of October, the family of Llech y Derwydd saw a tall thin old man with beard and hair as white as snow, who they thought was a stranger, approaching slowly, very slowly, towards the house. The servant girls stared mockingly through the window at him, and their mistress laughed unfeelingly at the “old man,” and lifted the children up, one after the other, to get a sight of him as he neared the house. He came to the door, and entered the house boldly enough, and inquired after his parents.  The mistress answered him in a surly and unusually contemptuous manner, and wished to know “What the drunken old man wanted there,” for they thought he must have been drinking or he would never have spoken in the way he did.  The old man looked at everything in the house with surprise and bewilderment, but the little children about the floor took his attention more than anything else. His looks betrayed sorrow and deep disappointment. He related his whole history, that, yesterday he had gone out to hunt, and that he had now returned. The mistress told him that she had heard a story about her husband’s father, which occurred before she was born, that he had been lost whilst hunting, but that her father had told her that the story was not true, but that he had been killed.  The woman became uneasy and angry that the old “man” did not depart. The old man was roused and said that the house was his, and that he would have his rights.  He went to inspect his possessions, and shortly afterwards directed his steps to the servant’s house. To his surprise he saw that things there were greatly changed. After conversing awhile with an aged man who sat by the fire, they carefully looked each other in the face, and the old man by the fire related the sad history of his lost friend, the son of Llech y Derwydd.

They conversed together deliberately on the events of their youth, but all seemed like a dream. However, the old man in the corner came to the conclusion that his visitor was his dear friend, the son of Llech y Derwydd, returned from the land of the Fairies after having spent there half a hundred years.  The old man with the white beard believed the story related by his friend, and long was the talk and many were the questions which the one gave to the other. The visitor was informed that the master of Llech y Derwydd was from home that day, and he was persuaded to eat some food; but, to the horror of all, when he had done so, he instantly fell down dead.

Such is the story.  The writer adds that the tale relates that the cause of this man’s sudden death was that he ate food after having been so long in the land of the Fairies, and he further states that the faithful old servant insisted on his dead friend’s being buried with his ancestors, and the rudeness of the mistress of Llech y Derwydd to her father-in-law brought a curse upon the place and family, and her offence was not expiated until the farm had been sold nine times.






A Bryneglwys Man inveigled by the Fairies



The following tale I received from the mouth of Mr. Richard Jones, Ty’n-y-wern, Bryneglwys, near Corwen.  Mr. Jones has stored up in his memory many tales of olden times, and he even thinks that he has himself seen a Fairy.  Standing by his farm, he pointed out to me on the opposite side of the valley a Fairy ring still green, where once, he said, the Fairies held their nightly revels.  The scene of the tale which Mr. Jones related is wild, and a few years ago it was much more so than at present. At the time that the event is said to have taken place the mountain was unenclosed, and there was not much travelling in those days, and consequently the Fairies could, undisturbed, enjoy their dances.  But to proceed with the tale.

Two waggoners were sent from Bryneglwys for coals to the works over the hill beyond Minera.  On their way they came upon a company of Fairies dancing with all their might.  The men stopped to witness their movements, and the Fairies invited them to join in the dance.  One of the men stoutly refused to do so, but the other was induced to dance awhile with them.  His companion looked on for a short time at the antics of his friend, and then shouted out that he would wait no longer, and desired the man to give up and come away.  He, however, turned a deaf ear to the request, and no words could induce him to forego his dance.  At last his companion said that he was going, and requested his friend to follow him. Taking the two waggons under his care he proceeded towards the coal pits, expecting every moment to be overtaken by his friend; but he was disappointed, for he never appeared.  The waggons and their loads were taken to Bryneglwys, and the man thought that perhaps his companion, having stopped too long in the dance, had turned homewards instead of following him to the coal pit.  But on enquiry no one had heard or seen the missing waggoner.  One day his companion met a Fairy on the mountain and inquired after his missing friend.  The Fairy told him to go to a certain place, which he named, at a certain time, and that he should there see his friend.  The man went, and there saw his companion just as he had left him, and the first words that he uttered were “Have the waggons gone far.”  The poor man never dreamt that months and months had passed away since they had started together for coal.

A variant of the preceding story appears in the “Cambrian Magazine”, vol. ii., pp. 58-59, where it is styled the Year’s Sleep, or “The Forest of the Yewtree,” but for the sake of association with like tales I will call it by the following title:-“Story of a man who spent twelve months in Fairyland”.

“In Mathavarn, in the parish of Llanwrin, and the Cantrev of Cyveilioc, there is a wood which is called “Ffridd yr Ywen” (the Forest of the Yew); it is supposed to be so called because there is a yew tree growing in the very middle of it.  In many parts of the wood are to be seen green  circles, which are called ‘the dancing places of the goblins,’ about which, a considerable time ago, the following tale was very common in the neighbor-hood:-Two servants of John Pugh, Esq., went out one day to work in the ‘Forest of the Yew.’  Pretty early in the afternoon the whole country was so covered with dark vapour, that the youths thought night was coming on; but when they came to the middle of the ‘Forest’ it brightened up around them and the darkness seemed all left behind; so, thinking it too early to return home for the night, they lay down and slept.  One of them, on waking, was much surprised to find no one there but himself; he wondered a good deal at the behaviour of his companion, but made up his mind at last that he had gone on some business of his own, as he had been talking of it sometime before; so the sleeper went home, and when they inquired after his companion, he told them he was gone to the cobbler’s shop.  The next day they inquired of him again about his fellow-servant, but he could not give them any account of him; but at last confessed how and where they had both gone to sleep.  Alter searching and searching many days, he went to a ‘gwr cyvarwydd’ (a conjuror), which was a very common trade in those days, according to the legend; and the conjuror said to him, ‘Go to the same place where you and the lad slept; go there exactly a year after the boy was lost; let it be on the same day of the year, and at the same time of the day, but take care that you do not step inside the Fairy ring, stand on the border of the green circles you saw there, and the boy will come out with many of the goblins to dance, and when you see him so near to you that you may take hold of him, snatch him out of the ring as quickly as you can.’  He did according to this advice, and plucked the boy out, and then asked him, ‘if he did not feel hungry,’ to which he answered ‘No,’ for he had still the remains of his dinner that he had left in his wallet before going to sleep, and he asked ‘if it was not nearly night, and time to go home,’ not knowing that a year had passed by.  His look was like a skeleton, and as soon as he had tasted food he was a dead man.”


TITLE: Welsh Folklore



Elidorus and the Fairies


“Elidorus and the Fairies”.

“A short time before our days, a circumstance worthy of note occurred in these parts, which Elidorus, a priest, most strenuously affirmed had befallen to himself.

When a youth of twelve years, and learning his letters, since, as Solomon says, ‘The root of learning is bitter, although the fruit is sweet,’ in order to avoid the discipline and frequent stripes inflicted on him by his preceptor, he ran away and concealed himself under the hollow bank of the river.  After fasting in that situation for two days, two little men of pigmy stature appeared to him, saying, ‘If you will come with us, we will lead you into a country full of delights and sports.’  Assenting and rising up, he followed his guides through a path, at first subterraneous and dark, into a most beautiful country, adorned with rivers and meadows, woods and plains, but obscure, and not illuminated with the full light of the sun.  All the days were cloudy, and the nights extremely dark, on account of the absence of the moon and stars.  The boy was brought before the King, and introduced to him in the presence of the court; who, having examined him for a long time, delivered him to his son, who was then a boy.  These men were of the smallest stature, but very well proportioned in their make; they were all of a fair complexion, with luxuriant hair falling over their shoulders like that of women.  They had horses and greyhounds adapted to their size.  They neither ate flesh nor fish, but lived on milk diet, made up into messes with saffron.  They never took an oath, for they detested nothing so much as lies.  As often as they returned from our upper hemisphere, they reprobated our ambition, infidelities, and inconstancies; they had no form of public worship, being strict lovers and reverers, as it seemed, of truth.

The boy frequently returned to our hemisphere, sometimes by the way he had first gone, sometimes by another; at first in company with other persons, and afterwards alone, and made himself known only to his mother, declaring to her the manners, nature, and state of that people.  Being desired by her to bring a present of gold, with which that region abounded, he stole, while at play with the king’s son, the golden ball with which he used to divert himself, and brought it to his mother in great haste; and when he reached the door of his father’s house, but not unpursued, and was entering it in a great hurry, his foot stumbled on the threshold, and falling down into the room where his mother was sitting, the two pigmies seized the ball which had dropped from his hand and departed, showing the boy every mark of contempt and derision.  On recovering from his fall, confounded with shame, and execrating the evil counsel of his mother, he returned by the usual track to the subterraneous road, but found no appearance of any passage, though he searched for it on the banks of the river for nearly the space of a year.

But since those calamities are often alleviated by time, which reason cannot mitigate, and length of time alone blunts the edge of our afflictions and puts an end to many evils, the youth, having been brought back by his friends and mother, and restored to his right way of thinking, and to his learning, in process of time attained the rank of priesthood.

Whenever David, Bishop of St. David’s, talked to him in his advanced state of life concerning this event, he could never relate the particulars without shedding tears.  He had made himself acquainted with the language of that nation, the words of which, in his younger days, he used to recite, which, as the bishop often had informed me, were very conformable to the Greek idiom.  When they asked for water, they said ‘Ydor ydorum,’ which meant ‘Bring water,’ for Ydor in their language, as well as in the Greek, signifies water, whence vessels for water are called Adriai; and Dwr, also in the British language signifies water. When they wanted salt they said ‘Halgein ydorum,’ ‘Bring salt.’  Salt is called al in Greek, and Halen in British, for that language, from the length of time which the Britons (then called Trojans and afterwards Britons, from Brito, their leader) remained in Greece after the destruction of Troy, became, in many instances, similar to the Greek.”

This legend agrees in a remarkable degree with the popular opinion respecting Fairies.  It would almost appear to be the foundation of many subsequent tales that are current in Wales.

The priest’s testimony to Fairy temperance and love of truth, and their reprobation of ambition, infidelities, and inconstancies, notwithstanding that they had no form of public worship, and their abhorrence of theft intimate that they possessed virtues worthy of all praise.

Their abode is altogether mysterious, but this ancient description of Fairyland bears out the remarks–perhaps suggested the remarks, of the Rev. Peter Roberts in his book called “The Cambrian Popular Antiquities”. In this work, the author promulgates the theory that the Fairies were a people existing distinct from the known inhabitants of the country and confederated together, and met mysteriously to avoid coming in contact with the stronger race that had taken possession of their land, and he supposes that in these traditionary tales of the Fairies we recognize something of the real history of an ancient people whose customs were those of a regular and consistent policy.  Roberts supposes that the smaller race for the purpose of replenishing their ranks stole the children of their conquerors, or slyly exchanged their weak children for their enemies’ strong children.

It will be observed that the people among whom Elidorus sojourned had a language cognate with the Irish, Welsh, Greek, and other tongues; in fact, it was similar to that language which at one time extended, with dialectical differences, from Ireland to India; and the “Tylwyth Teg”, in our legends, are described as speaking a language understood by those with whom they conversed.  This language they either acquired from their conquerors, or both races must have had a common origin; the latter, probably, being the more reasonable supposition, and by inference, therefore, the Fairies and other nations by whom they were subdued were descended from a common stock, and ages afterwards, by marriage, the Fairies again commingled with other branches of the family from which they had originally sprung.





Myddfai Legend


The Myddfai Legend

No Welsh Taboo story can be complete without the pretty tale of the Van Lake Legend, or, as it is called, “The Myddfai Legend.”  Because of its intrinsic beauty and worth, and for the sake of comparison with the preceding stories, I will relate this legend.  There are several versions extant.  Mr. Wirt Sikes, in his “British Goblins”, has one, the “Cambro-Briton” has one, but the best is that recorded by Professor Rhys, in the “Cymmrodor”, vol. iv., p. 163, in his “Welsh Fairy Tales”.  There are other readings of the legend to be met with.  I will first of all give an epitome of the Professor’s version.

A widow, who had an only son, was obliged, in consequence of the large flocks she possessed, to send, under the care of her son, a portion of her cattle to graze on the Black Mountain near a small lake called Llyn-y-Van-Bach.

One day the son perceived, to his great astonishment, a most beautiful creature with flowing hair sitting on the unruffled surface of the lake combing her tresses, the water serving as a mirror.  Suddenly she beheld the young man standing on the brink of the lake with his eyes rivetted on her, and unconsciously offering to herself the provision of barley bread and cheese with which he had been provided when he left his home.

Bewildered by a feeling of love and admiration for the object before him, he continued to hold out his hand towards the lady, who imperceptibly glided near to him, but gently refused the offer of his provisions.  He attempted to touch her, but she eluded his grasp, saying

    Cras dy fara; Nid hawdd fy nala.

    Hard baked is thy bread; It is not easy to catch me.

She immediately dived under the water and disappeared, leaving the love-stricken youth to return home a prey to disappointment and regret that he had been unable to make further acquaintance with the lovely maiden with whom he had desperately fallen in love.

On his return home he communicated to his mother the extraordinary vision.  She advised him to take some unbaked dough the next time in his pocket, as there must have been some spell connected with the hard baked bread, or “Bara Cras,” which prevented his catching the lady.

Next morning, before the sun was up, the young man was at the lake, not for the purpose of looking after the cattle, but that he might again witness the enchanting vision of the previous day.  In vain did he glance over the surface of the lake; nothing met his view, save the ripples occasioned by a stiff breeze, and a dark cloud hung heavily on the summit of the Van.

Hours passed on, the wind was hushed, the overhanging clouds had vanished, when the youth was startled by seeing some of his mother’s cattle on the precipitous side of the acclivity, nearly on the opposite side of the lake.  As he was hastening away to rescue them from their perilous position, the object of his search again appeared to him, and seemed much more beautiful than when he first beheld her.  His hand was again held out to her, full of unbaked bread, which he offered to her with an urgent proffer of his heart also, and vows of eternal attachment, all of which were refused by her, saying ‘ Llaith dy fara! Ti ni fynna. Unbaked is thy bread! I will not have thee.’

But the smiles that played upon her features as the lady vanished beneath the waters forbade him to despair, and cheered him on his way home.  His aged parent was acquainted with his ill success, and she suggested that his bread should the next time be but slightly baked, as most likely to please the mysterious being.

Impelled by love, the youth left his mother’s home early next morning. He was soon near the margin of the lake impatiently awaiting the reappearance of the lady.  The sheep and goats browsed on the precipitous sides of the Van, the cattle strayed amongst the rocks, rain and sunshine came and passed away, unheeded by the youth who was wrapped up in looking for the appearance of her who had stolen his heart.  The sun was verging towards the west, and the young man casting a sad look over the waters ere departing homewards was astonished to see several cows walking along its surface, and, what was more pleasing to his sight, the maiden reappeared, even lovelier than ever.  She approached the land and he rushed to meet her in the water.  A smile encouraged him to seize her hand, and she accepted the moderately baked bread he offered her, and after some persuasion she consented to become his wife, on condition that they should live together until she received from him three blows without a cause, when, should he ever happen to strike her three such blows, she would leave him forever.  These conditions were readily and joyfully accepted.

    Tri ergyd diachos, Three causeless blows,

Thus the Lady of the Lake became engaged to the young man, and having loosed her hand for a moment she darted away and dived into the lake. The grief of the lover at this disappearance of his affianced was such that he determined to cast himself headlong into its unfathomed depths, and thus end his life.  As he was on the point of committing this rash act, there emerged out of the lake two most beautiful ladies, accompanied by a hoary-headed man of noble mien and extraordinary stature, but having otherwise all the force and strength of youth.  This man addressed the youth, saying that, as he proposed to marry one of his daughters, he consented to the union, provided the young man could distinguish which of the two ladies before him was the object of his affections.  This was no easy task, as the maidens were perfect counterparts of each other.

Whilst the young man narrowly scanned the two ladies and failed to perceive the least difference betwixt the two, one of them thrust her foot a slight degree forward.  The motion, simple as it was, did not escape the observation of the youth, and he discovered a trifling variation in the mode in which their sandals were tied.  This at once put an end to the dilemma, for he had on previous occasions noticed the peculiarity of her shoe-tie, and he boldly took hold of her hand.

“Thou hast chosen rightly,” said the Father, “be to her a kind and faithful husband, and I will give her, as a dowry, as many sheep, cattle, goats, and horses, as she can count of each without heaving or drawing in her breath.  But remember, that if you prove unkind to her at any time and strike her three times without a cause, she shall return to me, and shall bring all her stock with her.”

Such was the marriage settlement, to which the young man gladly assented, and the bride was desired to count the number of sheep she was to have. She immediately adopted the mode of counting by fives, thus:–One, two, three, four, five,–one, two, three, four, five; as many times as possible in rapid succession, till her breath was exhausted.  The same process of reckoning had to determine the number of goats, cattle, and horses, respectively; and in an instant the full number of each came out of the lake, when called upon by the Father.

The young couple were then married, and went to reside at a farm called Esgair Llaethdy, near Myddfai, where they lived in prosperity and happiness for several years, and became the parents of three beautiful sons.

Once upon a time there was a christening in the neighbor-hood to which the parents were invited.  When the day arrived the wife appeared reluctant to attend the christening, alleging that the distance was too great for her to walk.  Her husband told her to fetch one of the horses from the field.  “I will,” said she, “if you will bring me my gloves which I left in our house.”  He went for the gloves, and finding she had not gone for the horse, he playfully slapped her shoulder with one of them, saying ““dos”, “dos”, go, go,” when she reminded him of the terms on which she consented to marry him, and warned him to be more cautious in the future, as he had now given her one causeless blow.

On another occasion when they were together at a wedding and the assembled guests were greatly enjoying themselves the wife burst into tears and sobbed most piteously.  Her husband touched her on the shoulder and inquired the cause of her weeping; she said, “Now people are entering into trouble, and your troubles are likely to commence, as you have the “second” time stricken me without a cause.”

Years passed on, and their children had grown up, and were particularly clever young men.  Amidst so many worldly blessings the husband almost forgot that only “one” causeless blow would destroy his prosperity. Still he was watchful lest any trivial occurrence should take place which his wife must regard as a breach of their marriage contract.  She told him that her affection for him was unabated, and warned him to be careful lest through inadvertence he might give the last and only blow which, by an unalterable destiny, over which she had no control, would separate them for ever.

One day it happened that they went to a funeral together, where, in the midst of mourning and grief at the house of the deceased, she appeared in the gayest of spirits, and indulged in inconsiderate fits of laughter, which so shocked her husband that he touched her, saying-“Hush! hush! don’t laugh.”  She said that she laughed because people when they die go out of trouble, and rising up, she went out of the house, saying, “The last blow has been struck, our marriage contract is broken, and at an end.  Farewell!”  Then she started off towards Esgair Llaethdy, where she called her cattle and other stock together, each by name, not forgetting, the “little black calf” which had been slaughtered and was suspended on the hook, and away went the calf and all the stock, with the Lady across Myddfai Mountain, and disappeared beneath the waters of the lake whence the Lady had come.  The four oxen that were ploughing departed, drawing after them the plough, which made a furrow in the ground, and which remains as a testimony of the truth of this story.

She is said to have appeared to her sons, and accosting Rhiwallon, her firstborn, to have informed him that he was to be a benefactor to mankind, through healing all manner of their diseases, and she furnished him with prescriptions and instructions for the preservation of health.

Then, promising to meet him when her counsel was most needed, she vanished.  On several other occasions she met her sons, and pointed out to them plants and herbs, and revealed to them their medicinal qualities or virtues.

So ends the Myddfai Legend.


Title: Welsh Folk-Lore

Author: Elias Owen



Llanfrothen Legend


“The Llanfrothen Legend”.

I am indebted to the Rev. R. Jones, Rector of Llanycil, Bala, for the following legend.  I may state that Mr. Jones is a native of Llanfrothen, Merionethshire, a parish in close proximity to the scene of the story. Mr. Jones’s informant was his mother, a lady whose mind was well stored with tales of by-gone times, and my friend and informant inherits his mother’s retentive memory, as well as her love of ancient lore.

A certain man fell in love with a beautiful Fairy lady, and he wished to marry her.  She consented to do so, but warned him that if he ever touched her with iron she would leave him immediately.  This stipulation weighed but lightly on the lover.  They were married, and for many years they lived most happily together, and several children were born to them. A sad mishap, however, one day overtook them.  They were together, crossing Traethmawr, Penrhyndeudraeth, on horseback, when the man’s horse became restive, and jerked his head towards the woman, and the bit of the bridle touched the left arm of the Fairy wife.  She at once told her husband that they must part for ever.  He was greatly distressed, and implored her not to leave him.  She said she could not stay.  Then the man, appealing to a mother’s love for her children, begged that she would for the sake of their offspring continue to dwell with him and them, and, said he, what will become of our children without their mother?  Her answer was:-

Gadewch iddynt fod yn bennau cochion a thrwynau hirion.

Let them be redheaded and long-nosed.

Having uttered these words, she disappeared and was never seen afterwards.


Title: Welsh Folk-Lore

Author: Elias Owen


Ystrad Legend


 “The Ystrad Legend”.

The next legend is taken from Williams’s “Observations on the Snowdon Mountains”.  His work was published in 1802.  He, himself, was born in Anglesey, in 1738, and migrated to Carnarvonshire about the year 1760. It was in this latter county that he became a learned antiquary, and a careful recorder of events that came under his notice.  His “Observations” throw considerable light upon the life, the customs, and the traditions of the inhabitants of the hill parts and secluded glens of Carnarvonshire.  I have thought fit to make these few remarks about the author I quote from, so as to enable the reader to give to him that credence which he is entitled to.  Williams entitles the following story, “A Fairy Tale,” but I will for the sake of reference call it “The Ystrad Legend.”

“In a meadow belonging to Ystrad, bounded by the river which falls from Cwellyn Lake, they say the Fairies used to assemble, and dance on fair moon-light-nights.  One evening a young man, who was the heir and occupier of this farm, hid himself in a thicket close to the spot where they used to gambol; presently they appeared, and when in their merry mood, out he bounced from his covert and seized one of their females; the rest of the company dispersed themselves, and disappeared in an instant. Disregarding her struggles and screams, he hauled her to his home, where he treated her so very kindly that she became content to live with him as his maid servant; but he could not prevail upon her to tell him her name. Sometime after, happening again to see the Fairies upon the same spot, he heard one of them saying, ‘The last time we met here, our sister “Penelope” was snatched away from us by one of the mortals!’  Rejoiced at knowing the name of his “Incognita”, he returned home; and as she was very beautiful, and extremely active, he proposed to marry her, which she would not for a long time consent to; at last, however, she complied, but on this condition, ‘That if ever he should strike her with iron, she would leave him, and never return to him again.’  They lived happily for many years together, and he had by her a son, and a daughter; and by her industry and prudent management as a house-wife he became one of the richest men in the country.  He farmed, besides his own freehold, all the lands on the north side of Nant-y-Bettws to the top of Snowdon, and all Cwmbrwynog in Llanberis; an extent of about five thousand acres or upwards.

Unfortunately, one day Penelope followed her husband into the field to catch a horse; and he, being in a rage at the animal as he ran away from him, threw at him the bridle that was in his hand, which unluckily fell on poor Penelope.  She disappeared in an instant, and he never saw her afterwards, but heard her voice in the window of his room one night after, requesting him to take care of the children, in these words:–

Rhag bod anwyd ar fy mab,

Yn rhodd rhowch arno gob ei dad,

Rhag bod anwyd ar liw’r cann,

Rhoddwch arni bais ei mam.

That is–

Oh! lest my son should suffer cold,

Him in his father’s coat infold,

Lest cold should seize my darling fair,

For her, her mother’s robe prepare.

These children and their descendants, they say, were called “Pellings”; a word corrupted from their mother’s name, Penelope.”

Williams proceeds thus with reference to the descendants of this union:-

“The late Thomas Rowlands, Esq., of Caerau, in Anglesey, the father of the late Lady Bulkeley, was a descendant of this lady, if it be true that the name “Pellings” came from her; and there are still living several opulent and respectable people who are known to have sprung from the “Pellings”.  The best blood in my own veins is this Fairy’s.”

This tale was chronicled in the last century, but it is not known whether every particular incident connected therewith was recorded by Williams. “Glasynys”, the Rev. Owen Wynne Jones, a clergyman, relates a tale in the “Brython”, which he regards as the same tale as that given by Williams, and he says that he heard it scores of times when he was a lad.

“Glasynys” was born in the parish of Rhostryfan, Carnarvonshire, in 1827, and as his birth place is not far distant from the scene of this legend, he might have heard a different version of Williams’s tale, and that too of equal value with Williams’s.  Possibly, there were not more than from forty to fifty years between the time when the older writer heard the tale and the time when it was heard by the younger man.  An octogenarian, or even a younger person, could have conversed with both Williams and “Glasynys”.  “Glasynys’s” tale appears in Professor Rhys’s “Welsh Fairy Tales”, “Cymmrodor”, vol. iv., p. 188.  It originally appeared in the “Brython” for 1863, p. 193.  It is as follows:–

“One fine sunny morning, as the young heir of Ystrad was busied with his sheep on the side of Moel Eilio, he met a very pretty girl, and when he got home he told the folks there of it.  A few days afterwards he met her again, and this happened several times, when he mentioned it to his father, who advised him to seize her when he next met her.  The next time he met her he proceeded to do so, but before he could take her away, a little fat old man came to them and begged him to give her back to him, to which the youth would not listen. The little man uttered terrible threats, but he would not yield, so an agreement was made between them that he was to have her to wife until he touched her skin with iron, and great was the joy both of the son and his parents in consequence.  They lived together for many years, but once on a time, on the evening of Bettws Fair, the wife’s horse got restive, and somehow, as the husband was attending to the horse, the stirrups touched the skin of her bare leg, and that very night she was taken away from him.  She had three or four children, and more than one of their descendants, as “Glasynys” maintains, were known to him at the time he wrote in 1863.”


Title: Welsh Folk-Lore

Author: Elias Owen

Contributor: Staff

The Pentrevoelas Legend



The Pentrevoelas Legend

I am indebted to the Rev. Owen Jones, Vicar of Pentrevoelas, a mountain parish in West Denbighshire, for the following tale, which was written in Welsh by a native of those parts, and appeared in competition for a prize on the Folk-Lore of that parish.

The son of Hafodgarreg was shepherding his father’s flock on the hills, and whilst thus engaged, he, one misty morning, came suddenly upon a lovely girl, seated on the sheltered side of a peat-stack.  The maiden appeared to be in great distress, and she was crying bitterly.  The young man went up to her, and spoke kindly to her, and his attention and sympathy were not without effect on the comely stranger.  So beautiful was the young woman, that from expressions of sympathy the smitten youth proceeded to words of love, and his advances were not repelled.  But whilst the lovers were holding sweet conversation, there appeared on the scene a venerable and aged man, who, addressing the female as her father, bade her follow him.  She immediately obeyed, and both departed leaving the young man alone.  He lingered about the place until the evening, wishing and hoping that she might return, but she came not.  Early the next day, he was at the spot where he first felt what love was.  All day long he loitered about the place, vainly hoping that the beautiful girl would pay another visit to the mountain, but he was doomed to disappointment, and night again drove him homewards.  Thus daily went he to the place where he had met his beloved, but she was not there, and, love-sick and lonely, he returned to Hafodgarreg.  Such devotion deserved its reward.  It would seem that the young lady loved the young man quite as much as he loved her.  And in the land of allurement and illusion (ynnhir hud a lledrith) she planned a visit to the earth, and met her lover, but she was soon missed by her father, and he, suspecting her love for this young man, again came upon them, and found them conversing lovingly together.  Much talk took place between the sire and his daughter, and the shepherd, waxing bold, begged and begged her father to give him his daughter in marriage.  The sire, perceiving that the man was in earnest, turned to his daughter, and asked her whether it were her wish to marry a man of the earth?  She said it was.  Then the father told the shepherd he should have his daughter to wife, and that she should stay with him, until he should strike her with “iron”, and that, as a marriage portion, he would give her a bag filled with bright money.  The young couple were duly married, and the promised dowry was received.  For many years they lived lovingly and happily together, and children were born to them.  One day this man and his wife went together to the hill to catch a couple of ponies, to carry them to the Festival of the Saint of Capel Garmon.  The ponies were very wild, and could not be caught.  The man, irritated, pursued the nimble creatures.  His wife was by his side, and now he thought he had them in his power, but just at the moment he was about to grasp their manes, off they wildly galloped, and the man, in anger, finding that they had again eluded him, threw the bridle after them, and, sad to say, the bit struck the wife, and as this was of “iron” they both knew that their marriage contract was broken.  Hardly had they had time to realise the dire accident, ere the aged father of the bride appeared, accompanied by a host of Fairies, and there and then departed with his daughter to the land whence she came, and that, too, without even allowing her to bid farewell to her children.  The money, though, and the children were left behind, and these were the only memorials of the lovely wife and the kindest of mothers, that remained to remind the shepherd of the treasure he had lost in the person of his Fairy spouse.


Such is the Pentrevoelas Legend.  The writer had evidently not seen the version of this story in the “Cambro-Briton”, nor had he read Williams’s tale of a like occurrence, recorded in “Observations on the Snowdon Mountains”.  The account, therefore, is all the more valuable, as being an independent production.

A fragmentary variant of the preceding legend was given me by Mr. Lloyd, late schoolmaster of Llanfihangel-Glyn-Myfyr, a native of South Wales, who heard the tale in the parish of Llanfihangel.  Although but a fragment, it may not be altogether useless, and I will give it as I received it:-Shon Rolant, Hafod y Dre, Pentrevoelas, when going home from Llanrwst market, fortunately caught a Fairy-maid, whom he took home with him.  She was a most handsome woman, but rather short and slight in person.  She was admired by everybody on account of her great beauty.  Shon Rolant fell desperately in love with her, and would have married her, but this she would not allow.  He, however, continued pressing her to become his wife, and, by and by, she consented to do so, provided he could find out her name.  As Shon was again going home from the market about a month later, he heard someone saying, near the place where he had seized the Fairy-maid, “Where is little Penloi gone?  Where is little Penloi gone?”

Shon at once thought that some one was searching for the Fairy he had captured, and when he reached home, he addressed the Fairy by the name he had heard, and Penloi consented to become his wife.  She, however, expressed displeasure at marrying a dead man, as the Fairies call us.

She informed her lover that she was not to be touched with “iron”, or she would disappear at once.  Shon took great care not to touch her with “iron”.  However, one day, when he was on horseback talking to his beloved Penloi, who stood at the horse’s head, the horse suddenly threw up its head, and the curb, which was of “iron”, came in contact with Penloi, who immediately vanished out of sight.


Title: Welsh Folk-Lore

Author: Elias Owen

Contributor: Staff





In the mythology of the Greeks, and other nations, gods and goddesses are spoken of as falling in love with human beings, and many an ancient genealogy began with a celestial ancestor.  Much the same thing is said of the Fairies.  Tradition speaks of them as being enamoured of the inhabitants of this earth, and content, for a while, to be wedded to mortals.  And there are families in Wales who are said to have Fairy blood coursing through their veins, but they are, or were, not so highly esteemed as were the offspring of the gods among the Greeks.  The famous physicians of Myddfai, who owed their talent and supposed supernatural knowledge to their Fairy origin, are, however, an exception; for their renown, notwithstanding their parentage, was always great, and increased in greatness, as the rolling years removed them from their traditionary parent, the Fairy lady of the Van Pool.

The “Pellings” are said to have sprung from a Fairy Mother, and the author of “Observations on the Snowdon Mountains” states that the best blood in his veins is fairy blood.  There are in some parts of Wales reputed descendants on the female side of the “Gwylliaid Cochion” race; and there are other families among us whom the aged of fifty years ago, with an ominous shake of the head, would say were of Fairy extraction. We are not, therefore, in Wales void of families of doubtful parentage or origin.

All the current tales of men marrying Fairy ladies belong to a class of stories called, technically, Taboo stories.  In these tales the lady marries her lover conditionally, and when this condition is broken she deserts husband and children, and hies back to Fairy land.

This kind of tale is current among many people.  Max Muller in “Chips from a German Workshop”, vol. ii, pp. 104-6, records one of these ancient stories, which is found in the Brahma”n”a of the Yag-ur-veda.  Omitting a few particulars, the story is as follows:-

“Urvasi, a kind of Fairy, fell in love with Pururavas, the son of Ida, and when she met him she said, ‘Embrace me three times a day, but never against my will, and let me never see you without your royal garments, for this is the manner of women.’  In this manner she lived with him a long time, and she was with child.  Then her former friends, the Gandharvas, said: ‘This Urvasi has now dwelt a long time among mortals; let us see that she come back.’  Now, there was a ewe, with two lambs, tied to the couch of Urvasi and Pururavas, and the Gandharvas stole one of them. Urvasi said: ‘They take away my darling, as if I had lived in a land where there is no hero and no man.’  They stole the second, and she upbraided her husband again.  Then Pururavas looked and said: ‘How can that be a land without heroes and men where I am?’  And naked, he sprang up; he thought it too long to put on his dress.  Then the Gandharvas sent a flash of lightning, and Urvasi saw her husband naked as by daylight.

Then she vanished; ‘I come back,’ she said, and went.

Pururavas bewailed his love in bitter grief.  But whilst walking along the border of a lake full of lotus flowers the Fairies were playing there in the water, in the shape of birds, and Urvasi discovered him and said:-‘That is the man with whom I dwelt so long.’  Then her friends said: ‘Let us appear to him.’  She agreed, and they appeared before him.  Then the king recognized her, and said:-‘Lo! my wife, stay, thou cruel in mind!  Let us now exchange some words! Our secrets, if they are not told now, will not bring us back on any later day.’

She replied: ‘What shall I do with thy speech?  I am gone like the first of the dawns.  Pururavas, go home again, I am hard to be caught, like the wind.'”

The Fairy wife by and by relents, and her mortal lover became, by a certain sacrifice, one of the Gandharvas.

This ancient Hindu Fairy tale resembles in many particulars similar tales found in Celtic Folk-Lore, and possibly, the original story, in its main features, existed before the Aryan family had separated.  The very words, “I am hard to be caught,” appear in one of the Welsh legends, which shall be hereafter given:–

Nid hawdd fy nala,

I am hard to be caught.

And the scene is similar; in both cases the Fairy ladies are discovered in a lake.  The immortal weds the mortal, conditionally, and for awhile the union seems to be a happy one.  But, unwittingly, when engaged in an undertaking suggested by, or in agreement with the wife’s wishes, the prohibited thing is done, and the lady vanishes away.

Such are the chief features of these mythical marriages.  I will now record like tales that have found a home in several parts of Wales.


BY: Rev. Elias Owen, M.A., F.S.A.

Contributor: Staff

Origin Welsh Fairies




The Fairy tales that abound in the Principality have much in common with like legends in other countries.  These points to a common origin of all such tales.  There is a real and unreal, a mythical and a material aspect to Fairy Folk-Lore.  The prevalence, the obscurity, and the different versions of the same Fairy tale show that their origin dates from remote antiquity.  The supernatural and the natural are strangely blended together in these legends, and this also points to their great age, and intimates that these wild and imaginative Fairy narratives had some historical foundation.  If carefully sifted, these legends will yield a fruitful harvest of ancient thoughts and facts connected with the history of a people, which, as a race, is, perhaps, now extinct, but which has, to a certain extent, been merged into a stronger and more robust race, by whom they were conquered, and dispossessed of much of their land.  The conquerors of the Fair Tribe have transmitted to us tales of their timid, unwarlike, but truthful predecessors of the soil, and these tales shew that for a time both races were co-inhabitants of the land, and to a certain extent, by stealth, intermarried.

Fairy tales, much alike in character, are to be heard in many countries, peopled by branches of the Aryan race, and consequently these stories in outline, were most probably in existence before the separation of the families belonging to that race.  It is not improbable that the emigrants would carry with them, into all countries whithersoever they went, their ancestral legends, and they would find no difficulty in supplying these interesting stories with a home in their new country.  If this supposition be correct, we must look for the origin of Fairy Mythology in the cradle of the Aryan people, and not in any part of the world inhabited by descendants of that great race.

But it is not improbable that incidents in the process of colonization would repeat themselves, or under special circumstances vary, and thus we should have similar and different versions of the same historical event in all countries once inhabited by a diminutive race, which was overcome by a more powerful people.

In Wales Fairy legends have such peculiarities that they seem to be historical fragments of by-gone days.  And apparently they refer to a race which immediately preceded the Celt in the occupation of the country, and with which the Celt to a limited degree amalgamated.


The Fairies have, in Wales, at least three common and distinctive names, as well as others that are not nowadays used.

The first and most general name given to the Fairies is ““Y Tylwyth Teg”,” or, the Fair Tribe, an expressive and descriptive term.  They are spoken of as a people, and not as myths or goblins, and they are said to be a fair or handsome race.

Another common name for the Fairies, is, ““Bendith y Mamau”,” or, “The Mothers’ Blessing.”  In Doctor Owen Pughe’s Dictionary they are called “Bendith “eu” Mamau,” or, ““Their” Mothers’ Blessing.”  The first is the most common expression, at least in North Wales.  It is a singularly strange expression, and difficult to explain.  Perhaps it hints at a Fairy origin on the mother’s side of certain fortunate people.

The third name given to Fairies is “Ellyll,” an elf, a demon, a goblin. This name conveys these beings to the land of spirits, and makes them resemble the oriental Genii, and Shakespeare’s sportive elves.  It agrees, likewise, with the modern popular creed respecting goblins and their doings.

Davydd ab Gwilym, in a description of a mountain mist in which he was once enveloped, says:-    Yr ydoedd ym mhob gobant Ellyllon mingeimion gant. There were in every hollow A hundred wrymouthed elves.The Cambro-Briton”, v. I., p. 348.

In Pembrokeshire the Fairies are called “Dynon Buch Teg”, or the “Fair Small People”.

Another name applied to the Fairies is “Plant Annwfn”, or “Plant Annwn”. This, however, is not an appellation in common use.  The term is applied to the Fairies in the third paragraph of a Welsh prose poem called “Bardd Cwsg”, thus:-“Y bwriodd y Tylwyth Teg” fioni bai fy nyfod i mewn pryd i’th achub o gigweiniau “Plant Annwfn”.

Where the “Tylwyth Teg” threw me . . . if I had not come in time to rescue thee from the clutches of “Plant Annwfn”.

“Annwn”, or “Annwfn” is defined in Canon Silvan Evans’s Dictionary as an abyss, Hades, etc.  “Plant Annwn”, therefore, means children of the lower regions.  It is a name derived from the supposed place of abode–the bowels of the earth–of the Fairies.  “Gwragedd Annwn”, dames of Elfin land, is a term applied to Fairy ladies.

Ellis Wynne, the author of “Bardd Cwsg”, was born in 1671, and the probability is that the words “Plant Annwfn” formed in his days part of the vocabulary of the people.  He was born in Merionethshire.

“Gwyll”, according to Richards, and Dr. Owen Pughe, is a Fairy, a goblin, etc.  The plural of “Gwyll” would be “Gwylliaid”, or “Gwyllion”, but this latter word Dr. Pughe defines as ghosts, hobgoblins, etc.  Formerly, there was in Merionethshire a red haired family of robbers called “Y Gwylliaid Cochion”, or Red Fairies, of whom I shall speak hereafter.

“Coblynau”, or Knockers, have been described as a species of Fairies, whose abode was within the rocks, and whose province it was to indicate to the miners by the process of knocking, etc., the presence of rich lodes of lead or other metals in this or that direction of the mine.

That the words “Tylwyth Teg” and “Ellyll” are convertible terms appears from the following stanza, which is taken from the “Cambrian Magazine”, vol. ii, p. 58.

Pan dramwych ffridd yr Ywen, Lle mae “Tylwyth Teg” yn rhodien, Dos ymlaen, a phaid a sefyll,    Gwilia’th droed–rhag dawnsva’r “Ellyll”.

When the forest of the Yew, Where “Fairies” haunt, thou passest through,     Tarry not, thy footsteps guard From the “Goblins’“ dancing sward.

Although the poet mentions the “Tylwyth Teg” and “Ellyll” as identical, he might have done so for rhythmical reasons.  Undoubtedly, in the first instance a distinction would be drawn between these two words, which originally were intended perhaps to describe two different kinds of beings, but in the course of time the words became interchangeable, and thus their distinctive character was lost.  In English the words Fairies and elves are used without any distinction.  It would appear from Brand’s “Popular Antiquities”, vol. II., p. 478., that, according to Gervase of Tilbury, there were two kinds of Goblins in England, called “Portuni” and “Grant”.  This division suggests a difference between the “Tylwyth Teg” and the “Ellyll”.  The “Portuni”, we are told, were very small of stature and old in appearance, ““statura pusilli”, “dimidium pollicis non habentes”,” but then they were ““senili vultu”, “facie corrugata”.”  The wrinkled face and aged countenance of the “Portuni” remind us of nursery Fairy tales in which the wee ancient female Fairy figures.  The pranks of the “Portuni” were similar to those of Shakespeare’s Puck.  The species “Grant” is not described, and consequently it cannot be ascertained how far they resembled any of the many kinds of Welsh Fairies.  Gervase, speaking of one of these species, says:–“If anything should be to be carried on in the house, or any kind of laborious work to be done, they join themselves to the work, and expedite it with more than human facility.”

In Scotland there were at least two species of elves, the “Brownies” and the “Fairies”.  The Brownies were so called from their tawny colour, and the Fairies from their fairness.  The “Portuni” of Gervase appear to have corresponded in character to the Brownies, who were said to have employed themselves in the night in the discharge of laborious undertakings acceptable to the family to whose service they had devoted themselves.

The Fairies proper of Scotland strongly resembled the Fairies of Wales. The term “Brownie”, or swarthy elve, suggests a connection between them and the “Gwylliaid Cochion”, or Red Fairies of Wales.


Title: Welsh Folk-Lore a Collection of the Folk-Tales and Legends of North Wales

Author: Elias Owen

Contributor: Staff