If there be love of fame in celestial minds, those gods might count themselves fortunate who shared in the transformation of Arthur. Their divinity had fallen from them, but in their new rôles, as heroes of romance, they entered upon vivid reincarnations. The names of Arthur's Knights might almost be described as "household words", while the gods who had no portion in the Table Round are known only to those who busy themselves with antiquarian lore. It is true that a few folk-tales still survive in the remoter parts of Wales, in which the names of such ancient British deities as Gwydion, Gwyn, Arianrod, and Dylan appear, but it is in such a chaos of jumbled and distorted legend that one finds it hard to pick out even the slenderest thread of story. They have none of the definite coherence of the contemporary Gaelic folk-tales quoted in a previous chapter as still preserving the myths about Goibniu, Lugh, Cian, Manannán, Ethniu, and Balor. Indeed, they have reached such a stage of disintegration that they can hardly now survive another generation. 1
There have been, however, other paths by which the fame of a god might descend to a posterity
which would no longer credit his divinity. The rolls of early British history were open to welcome any number of mythical personages, provided that their legends were attractive. Geoffrey of Monmouth's famous Historia Britonum is, under its grave pretence of exact history, as mythological as the Morte Darthur, or even the Mabinogion. The annals of early British saintship were not less accommodating. A god whose tradition was, too potent to be ignored or extinguished was canonized, as a matter of course, by clerics who held as an axiom that "the toleration of the cromlech facilitated the reception of the Gospel. 1" Only the most irreconcilable escaped them--such a one as Gwyn son of Nudd, who, found almost useless by Geoffrey and intractable by the monkish writers, remains the last survivor of the old gods--dwindled to the proportions of a fairy, but unsubdued.
This part of resistance is perhaps the most dignified; for deities can be sadly changed by the caprices of their euhemerizers. Dôn, whom we knew as the mother of the heaven gods, seems strangely described as a king of Lochlin and Dublin, who led the Irish into north Wales in A.D. 267. 2 More recognizable is his son Gwydion, who introduced the knowledge of letters into the country of his adoption. The dynasty of "King" Dôn, according to a manuscript in the collection of Mr. Edward Williams--better known under his bardic name of Iolo Morganwg--held north Wales for a hundred and twenty-nine
years, when the North British king, Cunedda, invaded the country, defeated the Irish in a great battle, and drove them across sea to the Isle of Man. This battle is historical, and, putting Dôn and Gwydion out of the question, probably represented the last stand of the Gael, in the extreme west of Britain, against the second and stronger wave of Celtic invasion. In the same collection of Iolo Manuscripts is found a curious, and even comic, euhemeristic version of the strange myth of the Bone Prison of Oeth and Anoeth which Manawyddan son of Llyr, built in Gower. The new reading makes that ghastly abode a real building, constructed out of the bones of the "Caesarians" (Romans) killed in battle with the Cymri. It consisted of numerous chambers, some of large bones and some of small, some above ground and some under. Prisoners of war were placed in the more comfortable cells, the underground dungeons being kept for traitors to their country. Several times the "Caesarians" demolished the prison, but, each time, the Cymri rebuilt it stronger than before. At last, however, the bones decayed, and, being spread upon the ground, made an excellent manure! "From that time forth" the people of the neighbourhood "had astonishing crops of wheat and barley and of every other grain for many years". 1
It is not, however, in these, so to speak, unauthorized narratives that we can best refind our British deities, but in the compact, coherent, and at times almost convincing Historia Britonum of Geoffrey of Monmouth, published in the first half of
the twelfth century, and for hundreds of years gravely quoted as the leading authority on the early history of our islands. The modern critical spirit has, of course, relegated it to the region of fable. We can no longer accept the pleasant tradition of the descent of the Britons from the survivors of Troy, led westward in search of a new home by Brutus, the great-grandson of the pious Æneas. Nor indeed does any portion of the "History", from Æneas to Athelstan, quite persuade the latter-day reader. Its kings succeed one another in plausible sequence, but they themselves are too obviously the heroes of popular legend.
A large part of Geoffrey's chronicle--two books 1 out of twelve--is, of course, devoted to Arthur. In it he tells the story of that paladin's conquests, not only in his own country, against the Saxons, the Irish, the Scots, and the Picts, but over all western Europe. We see the British champion, after annexing Ireland, Iceland, Gothland, and the Orkneys, following up these minor victories by subduing Norway, Dacia (by which Denmark seems to have been meant), Aquitaine, and Gaul. After such triumphs there was clearly nothing left for him but the overthrow of the Roman empire; and this he had practically achieved when the rebellion of Mordred brought him home to his death, or rather (for even Geoffrey does not quite lose hold of the belief in the undying Arthur) to be carried to the island of Avallon to be healed of his wounds, the crown of Britain falling to "his kinsman Constantine, the son
of Cador, Duke of Cornwall, in the five hundred and forty-second year of our Lord's incarnation". 1 Upon the more personal incidents connected with Arthur, Geoffrey openly professes to keep silence, possibly regarding them as not falling within the province of his history, but we are told shortly how Mordred took advantage of Arthur's absence on the Continent to seize the throne, marry Guanhamara (Guinevere), and ally himself with the Saxons, only to be defeated at that fatal battle called by Geoffrey "Cambula", in which Mordred, Arthur, and Walgan--the "Sir Gawain" of Malory and the Gwalchmei of the earlier legends--all met their dooms.
We find the gods of the older generation standing in the same position with regard to Arthur in Geoffrey's "History" as they do in the later Welsh triads and tales. Though rulers, they are yet his vassals. In "three brothers of royal blood", called Lot, Urian, and Augusel, who are represented as having been chiefs in the north, we may discern Lludd, Urien, and Arawn. To these three Arthur restored "the rights of their ancestors", handing over the semi-sovereignty of Scotland to Augusel, giving Urian the government of Murief (Moray), and re-establishing Lot "in the consulship of Loudonesia (Lothian), and the other provinces belonging to him". 2 Two other rulers subject to him are Gunvasius, King of the Orkneys, and Malvasius, King of Iceland, 3 in whom we recognize Gwyn,
under Latinized forms of his Welsh name Gwynwas and his Cornish name Melwas. But it is characteristic of Geoffrey of Monmouth's loose hold upon his materials that, not content with having connected several of these gods with Arthur's period, he further endows them with reigns of their own. "Urien" was Arthur's vassal, but "Urianus" was himself King of Britain centuries before Arthur was born. 1 Lud (that is, Lludd) succeeded his father Beli. 2 We hear nothing of his silver hand, but we learn that he was "famous for the building of cities, and for rebuilding the walls of Trinovantum 3, which he also surrounded with innumerable towers . . . and though he had many other cities, yet he loved this above them all, and resided in it the greater part of the year; for which reason it was afterwards called Kaerlud, and by the corruption of the word, Caerlondon; and again by change of languages, in process of time, London; as also by foreigners who arrived here, and reduced this country under their subjection, it was called Londres. At last, when he was dead, his body was buried by the gate which to this time is called in the British tongue after his name Parthlud, and in the Saxon, Ludesgata." He was succeeded by his brother, Cassibellawn (Cassivelaunus), during whose reign Julius Caesar first invaded Britain.
Lludd, however, is not entirely dependent upon Geoffrey of Monmouth for his reputation as a king
of Britain. One of the old Welsh romances, 1 translated by Lady Charlotte Guest in her Mabinogion, relates the rebuilding of London by Lludd in almost the same words as Geoffrey. The story which these pseudo-historical details introduce is, however, an obviously mythological one. It tells us how, in the days of Lludd, Britain was oppressed by three plagues. The first was the arrival of a strange race of sorcerers called the "Coranians", 2 who had three qualities which made them unpopular; they paid their way in "fairy money", which, though apparently real, returned afterwards--like the shields, horses, and hounds made by Gwydion son of Dôn, to deceive Pryderi--into the fungus out of which it had been charmed by magic; they could hear everything that was said over the whole of Britain, in however low a tone, provided only that the wind met it; and they could not be injured by any weapon. The second was "a shriek that came on every May eve, over every hearth in the Island of Britain, and went through people's hearts and so scared them that the men lost their hue and their strength, and the women their children, and the young men and the maidens their senses, and all the animals and trees and the earth and the waters were left barren". The third was a disappearance of the food hoarded in the king's palace, which was so complete that a year's provisions vanished in a single night, and so mysterious that no one could ever find out its cause.
By the advice of his nobles, Lludd went to France to obtain the help of its king, his brother Llevelys, who was "a man great of counsel and wisdom". In order to be able to consult with his brother without being overheard by the Coranians, Llevelys caused a long tube of brass to be made, through which they talked to one another. The sorcerer tribe, however, got to know of it, and, though they could not hear what was being said inside the speaking-tube, they sent a demon into it, who whispered insulting messages up and down it, as though from one brother to the other. But Lludd and Llevelys knew one another too well to be deceived by this, and they drove the demon out of the tube by flooding it with wine. Then Llevelys told Lludd to take certain insects, which he would give him, and pound them in water. When the water was sufficiently permeated with their essence, he was to call both his own people and the Coranians together, as though for a conference, and, in the midst of the meeting, to cast it over all of them alike. The water, though harmless to his own people, would nevertheless prove a deadly poison to the Coranians.
As for the shriek, Llevelys explained it to be raised by a dragon. This monster was the Red Dragon of Britain, and it raised the shriek because it was being attacked by the White Dragon of the Saxons, which was trying to overcome and destroy it. The French king told his brother to measure the length and breadth of Britain, and, when he had found the exact centre of the island, to cause a pit to be dug there. In this pit was to be placed
a vessel containing the best mead that could be made, with a covering of satin over it to hide it. Lludd was then to watch from some safe place. The dragons would appear and fight in the air until they were exhausted, then they would fall together on to the top of the satin cloth, and so draw it down with them into the vessel full of mead. Naturally they would drink the mead, and, equally naturally, they would then sleep. As soon as Lludd was sure that they were helpless, he was to go to the pit, wrap the satin cloth round both of them, and bury them together in a stone coffin in the strongest place in Britain. If this were safely done, there would be no more heard of the shriek.
And the disappearance of the food was caused by "a mighty man of magic", who put everyone to sleep by charms before he removed the king's provisions. Lludd was to watch for him, sitting by the side of a cauldron full of cold water. As often as he felt the approach of drowsiness, he was to plunge into the cauldron. Thus he would be able to keep awake and frustrate the thief.
So Lludd came back to Britain. He pounded the insects in the water, and then summoned both the men of Britain and the Coranians to a meeting. In the midst of it, he sprinkled the water over everyone alike. The natives took no harm from this mythological "beetle powder", but the Coranians died.
Lludd was then ready to deal with the dragons. His careful measurements proved that the centre of the island of Britain was at Oxford, and there he
caused the pit to be dug, with the vessel of mead in it, hidden by the satin covering. Having made everything ready, he watched, and soon saw the dragons appear. For a long time they fought desperately in the air; then they fell down together on to the satin cloth, and, drawing it after them, subsided into the mead. Lludd waited till they were quite silent, and then pulled them out, folded them carefully in the wrapping, and took them to the district of Snowdon, where he buried them in the strong fortress whose remains, near Beddgelert, are still called "Dinas Emrys". After this the terrible shriek was not heard again until Merlin had them dug up, five hundred years later, when they recommenced fighting, and the red dragon drove the white one out of Britain.
Last of all, Lludd prepared a great banquet in his hall, and watched over it, armed, with the cauldron of water near him. In the middle of the night, he heard soft, drowsy music, such as nearly put him to sleep; but he kept awake by repeatedly dipping himself in the cold water. Just before dawn a huge man, clad in armour, came into the hall, carrying a basket, which he began to load with the viands on the table. Like the bag in which Pwyll captured Gwawl, its holding capacity seemed endless. However, the man filled it at last, and was carrying it out, when Lludd stopped him. They fought, and Lludd conquered the man of magic, and made him his vassal. Thus the "Three Plagues of Britain" came to an end.
Lludd, in changing from god to king, seems to
have lost most of his old mythological attributes. Even his daughter Creudylad is taken from him and given to another of the ancient British deities. Why Lludd, the sky-god, should have been confounded with Llyr, the sea-god, is not very apparent, but it is certain that "Creudylad" of the early Welsh legends and poems is the same as Geoffrey's "Cordeilla" and Shakespeare's "Cordelia". The great dramatist was ultimately indebted to the Celtic mythology for the groundwork of the legend which he wove into the tragic story of King Lear. "Leir", as Geoffrey calls him, 1 was the son of Bladud, who built Caer Badus (Bath), and perished, like Icarus, as the result of an accident with a flying-machine of his own invention. Having no sons, but three daughters, Gonorilla, Regan, and Cordeilla, he thought in his old age of dividing his kingdom among them. But, first of all, he decided to make trial of their affection for him, with the idea of giving the best portions of his realm to the most worthy. Gonorilla, the eldest, replied to his question of how much she loved him, "that she called heaven to witness, she loved him more than her own soul". Regan answered "with an oath, 'that she could not otherwise express her thoughts, but that she loved him above all creatures'". But when it came to Cordeilla's turn, the youngest daughter, disgusted with her sisters’ hypocrisy, spoke after a quite different fashion. "'My father,' said she, 'is there any daughter that can love her father more than duty requires? In my opinion, whoever pretends to it, must disguise her real sentiments
under the veil of flattery. I have always loved you as a father, nor do I yet depart from my purposed duty; and if you insist to have something more extorted from me, hear now the greatness of my affection, which I always bear you, and take this for a short answer to all your questions; look how much you have, so much is your value, and so much do I love you.'" Her enraged father immediately bestowed his kingdom upon his two other daughters, marrying them to the two highest of his nobility, Gonorilla to Maglaunus, Duke of Albania 1, and Regan to Henuinus, Duke of Cornwall. To Cordeilla he not only refused a share in his realm, but even a dowry. Aganippus, King of the Franks, married her, however, for her beauty alone.
Once in possession, Leir's two sons-in-law rebelled against him, and deprived him of all regal authority. The sole recompense for his lost power was an agreement by Maglaunus to allow him maintenance, with a body-guard of sixty soldiers. But, after two years, the Duke of Albania, at his wife Gonorilla's instigation, reduced them to thirty. Resenting this, Leir left Maglaunus, and went to Henuinus, the husband of Regan. The Duke of Cornwall at first received him honourably, but, before a year was out, compelled him to discharge all his attendants except five. This sent him back in a rage to his eldest daughter, who, this time, swore that he should not stay with her, unless he would be satisfied with one serving-man only. In despair, Leir resolved to throw himself upon the mercy of Cordeilla, and, full
Click to enlarge
LEAR AND CORDELIA
From the Picture by Ford Madox Brown
of contrition for the way he had treated her, and of misgivings as to how he might be received, took ship for Gaul.
Arriving at Karitia 1, he sent a messenger to his daughter, telling her of his plight and asking for her help. Cordeilla sent him money, robes, and a retinue of forty men, and, as soon as he was fully equipped with the state suitable to a king, he was received in pomp by Aganippus and his ministers, who gave the government of Gaul into his hands until his own kingdom could be restored to him. This the king of the Franks did by raising an army and invading Britain. Maglaunus and Henuinus were routed, and Leir replaced on the throne, after which he lived three years. Cordeilla, succeeding to the government of Britain, "buried her father in a certain vault, which she ordered to be made for him under the River Sore, in Leicester ("Llyr-cestre"), and which had been built originally under the ground to the honour of the god Janus. And here all the workmen of the city, upon the anniversary solemnity of that festival, used to begin their yearly labours."
Exactly what myth is retold in this history of Leir and his three daughters we are hardly likely ever to discover. But its mythological nature is clear enough in the light of the description of the underground temple dedicated to Llyr, at once the god of the subaqueous, and therefore subterranean, world and a British Dis Pater, connected with the origin of things, like the Roman god Janus, with whom he was apparently identified. 2
Ten kings or so after this (for any more exact way of measuring the flight of time is absent from Geoffrey's History) we recognize two other British gods upon the scene. Brennius (that is, Brân) disputes the kingdom with his brother Belinus. Clearly this is a version of the ancient myth of the twin brothers, Darkness and Light, which we have seen expressed in so many ways in Celtic mythology. Brân, the god of death and the underworld, is opposed to Belinus, god of the sun and health. In the original, lost myth, probably they alternately conquered and were conquered--a symbol of the alternation of night and day and of winter and summer. In Geoffrey's History 1, they divided Britain, Belinus taking "the crown of the island with the dominions of Loegria, Kambria, and Cornwall, because, according to the Trojan constitution, the right of inheritance would come to him as the elder", while Brennius, as the younger, had "Northumberland, which extended from the River Humber to Caithness". But flatterers persuaded Brennius to ally himself with the King of the Norwegians, and attack Belinus. A battle was fought, in which Belinus was conqueror, and Brennius escaped to Gaul, where he married the daughter of the Duke of the Allobroges, and on that ruler's death was declared successor to the throne. Thus firmly established with an army, he invaded Britain again. Belinus marched with the whole strength of the kingdom to meet him, and the armies were already drawn
out opposite to one another in battle array when Conwenna, the mother of the two kings, succeeded in reconciling them. Not having one another to fight with, the brothers now agreed upon a joint expedition with their armies into Gaul. The Britons and the Allobroges conquered all the other kings of the Franks, and then entered Italy, destroying villages and cities as they marched to Rome. Gabius and Porsena, the Roman consuls, bought them off with large presents of gold and silver and the promise of a yearly tribute, whereupon Brennius and Belinus withdrew their army into Germany and began to devastate it. But the Romans, now no longer taken by surprise and unprepared, came to the help of the Germans. This brought Brennius and Belinus back to Rome, which, after a long siege, they succeeded in taking. Brennius remained in Italy, "where he exercised unheard-of tyranny over the people"; and one may take the whole of this veracious history to be due to a patriotic desire to make out the Brennus of "Vae Victis" fame--who actually did sack Rome, in B.C. 390--a Briton. Belinus, the other brother, returned to England. "He made a gate of wonderful structure in Trinovantum, upon the bank of the Thames, which the citizens call after his name Billingsgate to this day. Over it he built a prodigiously large tower, and under it a haven or quay for ships. . . . At last, when he had finished his days, his body was burned, and the ashes put up in a golden urn, which they placed at Trinovantum, with wonderful art, on the top of the tower above mentioned." He was succeeded by Gurgiunt
[paragraph continues] Brabtruc, 1 who, as he was returning by way of the Orkneys from a raid on the Danes, met the ships of Partholon and his people as they came from Spain to settle in Ireland. 2
Llyr and his children, large as they bulk in mythical history, were hardly less illustrious as saints. The family of Llyr Llediath is always described by the early Welsh hagiologists as the first of the "Three chief Holy Families of the Isle of Britain". The glory of Llyr himself, however, is but a reflected one; for it was his son Brân "the Blesséd" who actually introduced Christianity into Britain. Legend tells us that he was taken captive to Rome with his son Caradawc (who was identified for the purpose with the historical Caratacus), and the rest of his family, and remained there seven years, during which time he became converted to the Gospel, and spread it enthusiastically on his return. Neither his son Caradawc nor his half-brother Manawyddan exactly followed in his footsteps, but their descend-ants did. Caradawc's sons were all saintly, while his daughter Eigen, who married a chief called Sarrlog, lord of Caer Sarrlog (Old Sarum), was the first female saint in Britain. Manawyddan's side of the family was less adaptable. His son and his grand-son were both pagans, but his great-grandson obtained Christian fame as St. Dyfan, who was sent as a bishop to Wales by Pope Eleutherius, and was martyred at Merthyr Dyvan. After this, the saintly line of Llyr increases and flourishes.
[paragraph continues] Singularly inappropriate persons are found in it--Mabon, the Gallo-British Apollo, as well as Geraint and others of King Arthur's court. 1
It is so quaint a conceit that Christianity should have been, like all other things, the gift of the Celtic Hades, that it seems almost a pity to cast doubt on it. The witness of the classical historians sums up, however, dead in its disfavour. Tacitus carefully enumerates the family of Caratacus, and describes how he and his wife, daughter, and brother were separately interviewed by the Emperor Claudius, but makes no mention at all of the chieftain's supposed father Brân. Moreover, Dio Cassius gives the name of Caratacus's father as Cunobelinus--Shakespeare's "Cymbeline"--who, he adds, had died before the Romans first invaded Britain. The evidence is wholly against Brân as a Christian pioneer. He remains the grim old god of war and death, "blesséd" only to his pagan votaries, and especially to the bards, who probably first called him Bendigeid Vran, and whose stubborn adherence must have been the cause of the not less stubborn efforts of their enemies, the Christian clerics, to bring him over to their own side by canonization. 2
They had an easier task with Brân's sister, Branwen of the "Fair Bosom". Goddesses, indeed, seem to have stood the process better than gods--witness "Saint" Brigit, the "Mary of the Gael". The
British Aphrodité became, under the name of Brynwyn, or Dwynwen, a patron saint of lovers. As late as the fourteenth century, her shrine at Llandwynwyn, in Anglesey, was the favourite resort of the disappointed of both sexes, who came to pray to her image for either success or forgetfulness. To make the result the more certain, the monks of the church sold Lethean draughts from her sacred well. The legend told of her is that, having vowed herself to perpetual celibacy, she fell in love with a young chief called Maelon. One night, as she was praying for guidance in her difficulty, she had a vision in which she was offered a goblet of delicious liquor as a draught of oblivion, and she also saw the same sweet medicine given to Maelon, whom it at once froze into a block of ice. She was then, for her faith, offered the granting of three boons. The first she chose was that Maelon might be allowed to resume his natural form and temperature; the second, that she should no longer desire to be married; and the third, that her intercessions might be granted for all true-hearted lovers, so that they should either wed the objects of their affection or be cured of their passion. 1 From this cause came the virtues of her shrine and fountain. But the modern generation no longer flocks there, and the efficacious well is choked with sand. None the less, she whom the Welsh bards called the "Saint of Love" 2 still has her occasional votaries. Country girls of the
neighbourhood seek her help when all else fails. The water nearest to the church is thought to be the best substitute for the now dry and ruined original well. 1
A striking contrast to this easy victory over paganism is the stubborn resistance to Christian adoption of Gwyn son of Nudd. It is true that he was once enrolled by some monk in the train of the "Blesséd Brân", 2 but it was done in so half-hearted a way that, even now, one can discern that the writer felt almost ashamed of himself. His fame as at least a powerful fairy was too vital to be thus tampered with. Even Spenser, though, in his Faerie Queene, he calls him "the good Sir Guyon . . . in whom great rule of Temp’raunce goodly doth appeare", 3 does not attempt to conceal his real nature. It is no man, but
who sets forth the beauties of that virtue for which the original Celtic paradise, with its unfailing ale and rivers of mead and wine, would hardly seem to have been the best possible school. Save for Spenser, all authorities agree in making Gwyn the determined opponent of things Christian. A curious and picturesque legend 5 is told of him in connection with St. Collen, who was himself the great-grandson of Brân's son, Caradawc. The saint, desirous of
still further retirement from the world, had made himself a cell beneath a rock near Glastonbury Tor, in Gwyn's own "island of Avilion". It was close to a road, and one day he heard two men pass by talking about Gwyn son of Nudd, and declaring him to be King of Annwn and the fairies. St. Collen put his head out of the cell, and told them to hold their tongues, and that Gwyn and his fairies were only demons. The two men retorted by warning the saint that he would soon have to meet the dark ruler face to face. They passed on, and not long afterwards St. Collen heard someone knocking at his door. On asking who was there, he got the answer: "I am here, the messenger of Gwyn ap Nudd, King of Hades, to bid thee come by the middle of the day to speak with him on the top of the hill." The saint did not go; and the messenger came a second time with the same message. On the third visit, he added a threat that, if St. Collen did not come now, it would be the worse for him. So, a little disquieted, he went, but not unarmed. He consecrated some water, and took it with him.
On other days the top of Glastonbury Tor had always been bare, but on this occasion the saint found it crowned by a splendid castle. Men and maidens, beautifully dressed, were going in and out. A page received him and told him that the king was waiting for him to be his guest at dinner. St. Collen found Gwyn sitting on a golden chair in front of a table covered with the rarest dainties and wines. He invited him to share them, adding that
if there was anything he especially liked, it should be brought to him with all honour. "I do not eat the leaves of trees," replied the saint, who knew what fairy meats and drinks were made of. Not taken aback by this discourteous answer, the King of Annwn genially asked the saint if he did not admire his servants' livery, which was a motley costume, red on one side and blue on the other. "Their dress is good enough for its kind," said St. Collen. "What kind is that?" asked Gwyn. "The red shows which side is being scorched, and the blue shows which side is being frozen," replied the saint, and, splashing his holy water all round him, he saw castle, serving-men, and king vanish, leaving him alone on the bare, windy hill-top.
Gwyn, last of the gods of Annwn, has evidently by this time taken over the functions of all the others. He has the hounds which Arawn once had--the Cwn Annwn, "dogs of hell", with the white bodies and the red ears. We hear more of them in folk-lore than we do of their master, though even their tradition is dying out with the spread of newspapers and railways. We are not likely to find another Reverend Edmund Jones 1 to insist upon belief in them, lest, by closing our minds to such manifest witnesses of the supernatural world, we should become infidels. Still, we may even now find peasants ready to swear that they have heard them sweeping along the hill-sides upon stormy nights, as they pursued the flying souls of unshriven men or
unbaptized babes. The tales told of them agree curiously. Their cry is like that of a pack of fox-hounds, but softer in tone. The nearer they are to a man, the less loud their voices seem, and the farther off they are, the louder. But they are less often seen than heard, and it has been suggested that the sounds were the cries of migrating bean-geese, which are not unlike those of hounds in chase. The superstition is widely spread. The Cwn Annwn of Wales are called in North Devon the "Yeth" (Heath or Heathen), or "Yell" Hounds, and on Dartmoor, the "Wish" Hounds. In Durham and Yorkshire they are called "Gabriel" Hounds, and they are known by various names in Norfolk, Gloucestershire, and Cornwall. In Scotland it is Arthur who leads the Wild Hunt, and the tradition is found over almost the whole of western Europe.
Not many folk-tales have been preserved in which Gwyn is mentioned by name. His memory has lingered longest and latest in the fairy-haunted Vale of Neath, so close to his "ridge, the Tawë abode . . . not the nearest Tawë . . . but that Tawë which is the farthest". But it may be understood whenever the king of the fairies is mentioned. As the last of the greater gods of the old mythology, he has been endowed by popular fancy with the rule of all the varied fairy population of Britain, so far, at least, as it is of Celtic or pre-Celtic origin. For some of the fairies most famous in English literature are Teutonic. King Oberon derives his name, through the French fabliaux, from Elberich, the
dwarf king of the Niebelungenlied, 1 though his queen, Titania, was probably named out of Ovid's Metamorphoses. 2 Puck, another of Shakespeare's fays, is merely the personification of his race, the "pwccas" of Wales, "pookas" of Ireland, "poakes" of Worcestershire, and "pixies" of the West of England. 3 It is Wales that at the present time preserves the most numerous and diverse collection of fairies. Some of them are beautiful, some hideous; some kindly, some malevolent. There are the gentle damsels of the lakes and streams called Gwragedd Annwn, and the fierce and cruel mountain fairies known as the Gwyllion. There are the household sprites called Bwbachod, like the Scotch and English "brownies"; the Coblynau, or gnomes of the mines (called "knockers" in Cornwall); and the Ellyllon, or elves, of whom the pwccas are a branch. 4 In the North of England the spirits belong more wholly to the lower type. The bogies, brownies, killmoulis, redcaps, and their like seem little akin to the higher, Aryan-seeming fairies. The Welsh bwbach, too, is described as brown and hairy, and the coblynau as black or copper-faced. We shall hardly do wrong in regarding such spectres as the degraded gods of a pre-Aryan race, like the Irish leprechauns and pookas, who have nothing in common with the still beautiful, still noble figures of the Tuatha Dé Danann.
Of these numberless and nameless subjects of Gwyn, some dwell beneath the earth or under the
surface of lakes--which seem to take, in Wales, the place of the Gaelic "fairy hills"--and others in Avilion, a mysterious western isle of all delights lying on or just beneath the sea. Pembrokeshire--the ancient Dyfed--has kept the tradition most completely. The story goes that there is a certain square yard in the hundred of Cemmes in that county which holds the secret of the fairy realm. If a man happens to set his feet on it by chance, his eyes are opened, and he can see that which is hidden from other men--the fairy country and commonwealth,--but, the moment he moves from the enchanted spot, he loses the vision, and he can never find the same place again. 1 That country is upon the sea, and not far from shore; like the Irish paradise of which it is the counterpart, it may sometimes be sighted by sailors. The "Green Meadows of Enchantment" are still an article of faith among Pembrokeshire and Caermarthenshire sailors, and evidently not without some reason. In 1896 a correspondent of the Pembroke County Guardian sent in a report made to him by a certain Captain John Evans to the effect that, one summer morning, while trending up the Channel, and passing Gresholm Island (the scene of the entertaining of Brân's head), in what he had always known as deep water, he was surprised to see to windward of him a large tract of land covered with a beautiful green meadow. It was not, however, above water, but two or three feet below it, so that the grass waved or swam about as the ripple floated over it, in a way that made one
who watched it feel drowsy. Captain Evans had often heard of the tradition of the fairy island from old people, but admitted that he had never hoped to see it with his own eyes. 1 As with the "Hounds of Annwn" one may suspect a quite natural explanation. Mirage is at once common enough and rare enough on our coasts to give rise to such a legend, and it must have been some such phenomenon as the "Fata Morgana" of Sicily which has made sober men swear so confidently to ocular evidence of the Celtic Paradise, whether seen from the farthest western coasts of Gaelic Ireland or Scotland, or of British Wales.
371:1 See, for example, a folk-tale, pp. 117-123 in Rhys's Celtic Folklore.
372:1 Stephens's Preliminary Dissertation to his translation of Aneurin's Gododin.
372:2 Iolo MSS., p. 471.
373:1 Iolo MSS., pp. 597-600.
374:1 Historia Britonum, Books IX, X, and chaps. I and II of XI.
375:1 Historia Britonum, Book XI, chap. II.
375:2 Ibid., Book IX, chap. IX.
375:3 Ibid., Book IX, chap. XII. They appear also as Guanius, King of the Huns, and Melga, King of the Picts, in Book V, chap. XVI.
376:1 Historia Britonum, Book III, chap. XIX.
376:2 Ibid., Book III, chap. XX.
376:3 I.e. London, under its traditionary earlier name, Troja Nova, given it by Brutus.
377:1 The Story of Lludd and Llevelys.
377:2 The name means "dwarfs". Rhys: Hibbert Lectures, p. 606.
381:1 Historia Britonum, Book II, chap. X-XIV.
382:1 Alba, or North Britain.
383:1 Now Calais.
383:2 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, pp. 131-132.
384:1 Historia Britonum, Book III, chaps. I-X.
386:1 The same fabulous personage, perhaps, as the original of Rabelais' Gargantua, a popular Celtic god.
386:2 Historia Britonum, Book III, Chaps. XI-XII.
387:1 See the Iolo MSS. The genealogies and families of the saints of the island of Britain. Copied by Iolo Morganwg in 1783 from the Long Book of Thomas Truman of Pantlliwydd in the parish of Llansanor in Glamorgan, p. 515, &c. Also see An Essay on the Welsh Saints by the Rev, Rice Rees, Sections IV and V.
387:2 Rhys: Arthurian Legend, pp. 261-262.
388:1 Iolo MSS, p. 474.
388:2 "The Welsh bards call Dwynwen the goddess, or saint of love and affection, as the poets designate Venus." Iolo MSS.
389:1 Wirt Sikes: British Goblins, p. 350.
389:2 Iolo MSS, p. 523.
389:3 The Faerie Queene, Prologue to Book II.
389:4 Ibid., Book II, canto I, verse 6.
389:5 Published in Y Greal (London, 1805), and is to be found quoted in Rhys: Arthurian Legend, pp. 338, 339; also in Sikes: British Goblins, pp. 7-8.
391:1 A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits in the County of Monmouth and the Principality of Wales. Published at Newport, 1813.
393:1 Thistleton Dyer: Folklore of Shakespeare, p. 3.
393:2 Ibid., p. 4.
393:3 Ibid., p. 5.
393:4 Wirt Sikes: British Goblins, p. 12.
394:1 The Brython, Vol. I, p. 130.
395:1 Rhys: Celtic Folklore, pp. 171-172.