Undine, liebes Bildeben du,
Seit ich zuerst aus alten Kunden
Dein seltsam Leuchten aufgefunden,
Wie sangst du oft mein Herz in Ruh!
DE LA MOTTE FOUQUÉ.
THE chief object of this and several of the following chapters is to place on record all the matter I can find on the subject of Welsh lake legends: what I may have to say of them is merely by the way and sporadic, and I should feel well paid for my trouble if these contributions should stimulate others to communicate to the public bits of similar legends, which, possibly, still linger unrecorded among the mountains of Wales. For it should be clearly understood that all such things bear on the history of the Welsh, as the history of no people can be said to have been written so long as its superstitions and beliefs in past times have not been studied; and those who may think that the legends here recorded are childish and frivolous, may rest assured that they bear on questions which could not themselves be called either childish or frivolous. So, however silly a legend may be thought, let him who knows such a legend communicate it to somebody who will place it on record; he will then probably find that it has more meaning and interest than he had anticipated.
I find it best to begin by reproducing a story which has already been placed on record: this appears desirable on account of its being the most complete of its kind, and the one with which shorter ones can most readily be compared. I allude to the legend of the Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach in Carmarthenshire, which I take the liberty of copying from Mr. Rees of Tonn's version in the introduction to The Physicians of Myddvai 1, published by the Welsh Manuscript Society, at Llandovery, in 1861. There he says that he wrote it down from the oral recitations, which I suppose were in Welsh, of John Evans, tiler, of Myddfai, David Williams, Morfa, near Myddfai, who was about ninety years old at the time, and Elizabeth Morgan, of Henllys Lodge, near Llandovery, who was a native of the same village of Myddfai; to this it may be added that he acknowledges obligations also to Joseph Joseph, Esq., F.S.A., Brecon, for collecting particulars from the old inhabitants of the parish of Llanddeusant. The legend, as given by Mr. Rees in English, runs as follows, and strongly reminds one in certain parts of the Story of Undine as given in the German of De la Motte Fouqué, with which it should be compared:--
'When the eventful struggle made by the Princes of South Wales to preserve the independence of their country was drawing to its close in the twelfth century,
there lived at Blaensawdde 1 near Llanddeusant, Carmarthenshire, a widowed woman, the relict of a farmer who had fallen in those disastrous troubles.
'The widow had an only son to bring up, but Providence smiled upon her, and despite her forlorn condition, her live stock had so increased in course of time, that she could not well depasture them upon her farm, so she sent a portion of her cattle to graze on the adjoining Black Mountain, and their most favourite place was near the small lake called Llyn y Fan Fach, on the north-western side of the Carmarthenshire Fans.
'The son grew up to manhood, and was generally sent by his mother to look after the cattle on the mountain. One day, in his peregrinations along the margin of the lake, to his great astonishment, he beheld, sitting on the unruffled surface of the water, a lady; one of the most beautiful creatures that mortal eyes ever beheld, her hair flowed gracefully in ringlets over her shoulders, the tresses of which she arranged with a comb, whilst the glassy surface of her watery couch served for the purpose of a mirror, reflecting back her own image. Suddenly she beheld the young man standing on the brink of the lake, with his eyes riveted 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!
'Tis not easy to catch me 1;
and 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 one, in comparison with whom the whole of the fair maidens of Llanddeusant and Myddfai 2 whom he had ever seen were as nothing.
'On his return home the young man communicated to his mother the extraordinary vision he had beheld. She advised him to take some unbaked dough or "toes" 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 had gilded with its rays the peaks of the Fans, the young man was at the lake, not for the purpose of looking after his mother's cattle, but seeking for the same enchanting vision he
had witnessed the day before; but all in vain did he anxiously strain his eyeballs and glance over the surface of the lake, as only the ripples occasioned by a stiff breeze met his view, and a cloud hung heavily on the summit of the Fan, which imparted an additional gloom to his already distracted mind.
'Hours passed on, the wind was hushed, and the clouds which had enveloped the mountain had vanished into thin air before the powerful beams of the sun, 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. His duty impelled him to attempt to rescue them from their perilous position, for which purpose he was hastening away, when, to his inexpressible delight, the object of his search again appeared to him as before, 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 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 1.
But the smiles that played upon her features as the lady vanished beneath the waters raised within the young man a hope that forbade him to despair by her refusal of him, and the recollection of which cheered him on his way home. His aged parent was made acquainted with his ill-success, and she suggested that his bread should next time be but slightly baked, as most likely to please the mysterious being of whom he had become enamoured.
'Impelled by an irresistible feeling, the youth left
his mother's house early next morning, and with rapid steps he passed over the mountain. He was soon near the margin of the lake, and with all the impatience of an ardent lover did he wait with a feverish anxiety for the reappearance of the mysterious lady.
'The sheep and goats browsed on the precipitous sides of the Fan; the cattle strayed amongst the rocks and large stones, some of which were occasionally loosened from their beds and suddenly rolled down into the lake; rain and sunshine alike came and passed away; but all were unheeded by the youth, so wrapped up was he in looking for the appearance of the lady.
'The freshness of the early morning had disappeared before the sultry rays of the noon-day sun, which in its turn was fast verging towards the west as the evening was dying away and making room for the shades of night, and hope had well-nigh abated of beholding once more the Lady of the Lake. The young man cast a sad and last farewell look over the waters, and, to his astonishment, beheld several cows walking along its surface. The sight of these animals caused hope to revive that they would be followed by another object far more pleasing; nor was he disappointed, for the maiden reappeared, and to his enraptured sight, 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; neither did she refuse the moderately baked bread he offered her; and after some persuasion she consented to become his bride, on condition that they should only live together until she received from him three blows without a cause,
Tri ergyá diachos.
Three causeless blows.
And if he ever should happen to strike her three such
blows she would leave him for ever. To such conditions he readily consented, and would have consented to any other stipulation, had it been proposed, as he was only intent on then securing such a lovely creature for his wife.
'Thus the Lady of the Lake engaged to become the young man's wife, and having loosed her hand for a moment she darted away and dived into the lake. His chagrin and grief were such that he determined to cast himself headlong into the deepest water, so as to end his life in the element that had contained in its unfathomed, depths the only one for whom he cared to live on earth. 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 almost bewildered youth in accents calculated to soothe his troubled mind, 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 such perfect counterparts of each other that it seemed quite impossible for him to choose his bride, and if perchance he fixed upon the wrong one all would be for ever lost.
'Whilst the young man narrowly scanned the two ladies, he could not perceive the least difference betwixt the two, and was almost giving up the task in despair, when 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 with which their sandals were tied. This at once put an end to the dilemma, for he,
who had on previous occasions been so taken up with the general appearance of the Lady of the Lake, had also noticed the beauty of her feet and ankles, and on now recognizing the peculiarity of her shoe-tie he boldly took hold of her hand.
'"Thou hast chosen rightly," said her 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 back with her."
'Such was the verbal marriage settlement, to which the young man gladly assented, and his 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, by what ceremony was not stated, and afterwards went to reside at a farm called Esgair Llaethdy, somewhat more than a mile from the village of Myddfai, where they lived in prosperity and happiness for several years, and became the parents of three sons, who were beautiful children.
'Once upon a time there was a christening to take place in the neighbourhood, to which the parents were specially invited. When the day arrived the wife appeared very 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 which were grazing in an adjoining field. "I will," said she, "if you will bring me my gloves which I left in our house." He went to the house and returned with the gloves, and finding that she had not gone for the horse jocularly slapped her shoulder with one of them, saying, "go! go!" (dos, dos), when she reminded him of the understanding upon which she consented to marry him:--That he was not to strike her without a cause; and warned him to be more cautious for the future.
'On another occasion, when they were together at a wedding, in the midst of the mirth and hilarity of the assembled guests, who had gathered together from all the surrounding country, she burst into tears and sobbed most piteously. Her husband touched her on her 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. In the midst of so many worldly blessings at home the husband almost forgot that there remained only one causeless blow to be given to destroy the whole of 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, as her affection for him was unabated, to be careful that he would not, through some inadvertence, give the last and only blow, which, by an unalterable destiny, over which she had no control, would separate them for ever.
'It, however, so happened that one day they were together at a funeral, where, in the midst of the mourning and grief at the house of the deceased, she appeared
in the highest and gayest spirits, and indulged in immoderate 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. The cattle she called thus:--
Mu wlfrech, Moelfrech,
Mu olfrech, Gwynfrech,
Pedair cae tonn-frech,
Yr hen wynebwen.
A'r las Geigen,
Gyda'r Tarw Gwyn
O lys y Brenin;
A'r llo du bach,
Syll ar y bach,
Dere dithau, yn iach adre!
Brindled cow, white speckled,
Spotted cow, bold freckled,
The four field sward mottled,
The old white-faced,
And the grey Geingen,
With the white Bull,
From the court of the King;
And the little black calf
Tho' suspended on the hook,
Come thou also, quite well home!
They all immediately obeyed the summons of their mistress. The "little black calf," although it had been slaughtered, became alive again, and walked off with the rest of the stock at the command of the lady. This happened in the spring of the year, and there were four oxen ploughing in one of the fields; to these she cried:--
Pedwar eidion glas
Sydd ar y maes,
Yn iach adre!
The four grey oxen,
That are on the field,
Come you also
Quite well home!
Away the whole of the live stock went with the Lady across Myddfai Mountain, towards the lake from whence they came, a distance of above six miles, where they disappeared beneath its waters, leaving no trace behind except a well-marked furrow, which was made by the plough the oxen drew after them into the lake, and
which remains to this day as a testimony to the truth of this story.
'What became of the affrighted ploughman--whether he was left on the field when the oxen set off, or whether he followed them to the lake, has not been handed down to tradition; neither has the fate of the disconsolate and half-ruined husband been kept in remembrance. But of the sons it is stated that they often wandered about the lake and its vicinity, hoping that their mother might be permitted to visit the face of the earth once more, as they had been apprised of her mysterious origin, her first appearance to their father, and the untoward circumstances which so unhappily deprived them of her maternal care.
'In one of their rambles, at a place near Dôl Howel, at the Mountain Gate, still called "Llidiad y Meddygon," The Physicians' Gate, the mother appeared suddenly, and accosted her eldest son, whose name was Rhiwallon, and told him that his mission on earth was to be a benefactor to mankind by relieving them from pain and misery, through healing all manner of their diseases; for which purpose she furnished him with a bag full of medical prescriptions and instructions for the preservation of health. That by strict attention thereto he and his family would become for many generations the most skilful physicians in the country. Then, promising to meet him when her counsel was most needed, she vanished. But on several occasions she met her sons near the banks of the lake, and once she even accompanied them on their return home as far as a place still called "Pant-y-Meddygon," The dingle of the Physicians, where she pointed out to them the various plants and herbs which grew in the dingle, and revealed to them their medicinal qualities or virtues; and the knowledge she imparted to them,
together with their unrivalled skill, soon caused them to attain such celebrity that none ever possessed before them. And in order that their knowledge should not be lost, they wisely committed the same to writing, for the benefit of mankind throughout all ages.'
To the legend Mr. Rees added the following notes, which we reproduce also at full length:--
'And so ends the story of the Physicians of Myddfai, which has been handed down from one generation to another, thus:--
Yr hên wr llwyd o'r cornel,
Gan ei dad a glywodd chwedel 1,
A chan ei dad fe glywodd yntau
Ac ar ei ôl mi gofiais innau.
The grey old man in the corner
Of his father heard a story,
Which from his father he had heard,
And after them I have remembered.
As stated in the introduction of the present work [i.e. the Physicians of Myddvai], Rhiwallon and his sons became Physicians to Rhys Gryg, Lord of Llandovery and Dynefor Castles, "who gave them rank, lands, and privileges at Myddfai for their maintenance in the practice of their art and science, and the healing and benefit of those who should seek their help," thus affording to those who could not afford to pay, the best medical advice and treatment gratuitously. Such a truly royal foundation could not fail to produce corresponding effects. So the fame of the Physicians of Myddfai was soon established over the whole country, and continued for centuries among their descendants.
'The celebrated Welsh Bard, Dafydd ap Gwilym, who flourished in the following century, and was buried at the Abbey of Tal-y-llychau 2, in Carmarthenshire,
about the year 1368, says in one of his poems, as quoted in Dr. Davies' dictionary--
Meddyg ni wnai modd y gwnaeth
Myddfai, o chai ddyn meddfaeth.
A Physician he would not make
As Myddfai made, if he had a mead fostered man.
Of the above lands bestowed upon the Meddygon, there are two farms in Myddfai parish still called "Llwyn Han Feddyg," the Grove of Evan the Physician; and "Llwyn Meredydd Feddyg," the Grove of Meredith the Physician. Esgair Llaethdy, mentioned in the foregoing legend, was formerly in the possession of the above descendants, and so was Ty newydd, near Myddfai, which was purchased by Mr. Holford, of Cilgwyn, from the Rev. Charles Lloyd, vicar of Llandefalle, Breconshire, who married a daughter of one of the Meddygon, and had the living of Llandefalle from a Mr. Vaughan, who presented him to the same out of gratitude, because Mr. Lloyd's wife's father had cured him of a disease in the eye. As Mr. Lloyd succeeded to the above living in 1748, and died in 1800, it is probable that the skilful oculist was John Jones, who is mentioned in the following inscription on a tombstone at present fixed against the west end of Myddfai Church:--
Lieth the body of Mr. DAVID JONES, of Mothvey, Surgeon,
who was an honest, charitable, and skilful man.
He died September 14th, Anno Dom 1719, aged 61.
JOHN JONES, Surgeon,
Eldest son of the said David Jones, departed this life
the 25th of November, 1739, in the 44th year
of his Age, and also lyes interred hereunder.
These appear to have been the last of the Physicians who practised at Myddfai. The above John Jones resided for some time at Llandovery, and was a very eminent surgeon. One of his descendants, named
John Lewis, lived at Cwmbran, Myddfai, at which place his great-grandson, Mr. John Jones, now resides.
'Dr. Morgan Owen, Bishop of Llandaff, who died at Glasallt, parish of Myddfai, in 1645, was a descendant of the Meddygon, and an inheritor of much of their landed property in that parish, the bulk of which he bequeathed to his nephew, Morgan Owen, who died in 1667, and was succeeded by his son Henry Owen; and at the decease of the last of whose descendants, Robert Lewis, Esq., the estates became, through the will of one of the family, the property of the late D. A. S. Davies, Esq., M.P. for Carmarthenshire.
'Bishop Owen bequeathed to another nephew, Morgan ap Rees, son of Rees ap John, a descendant of the Meddygon, the farm of Rhyblid, and some other property. Morgan ap Rees' son, Samuel Rice, resided at Loughor, in Gower, Glamorganshire, and had a son, Morgan Rice, who was a merchant in London, and became Lord of the Manor of Tooting Graveney, and High Sheriff in the year 1772, and Deputy Lieutenant of the county of Surrey, 1776. He resided at Hill House, which he built. At his death the whole of his property passed to his only child, John Rice, Esq., whose eldest son, the Rev. John Morgan Rice, inherited the greater portion of his estates. The head of the family is now the Rev. Horatio Morgan Rice, rector of South Hill with Callington, Cornwall, and J.P. for the county, who inherited, with other property, a small estate at Loughor. The above Morgan Rice had landed property in Llanmadock and Llangenith, as well as Loughor, in Gower, but whether he had any connexion with Howel the Physician (ap Rhys ap Llywelyn ap Philip the Physician, and lineal descendant from Einion ap, Rhiwallon), who resided at Cilgwryd in Gower, is not known.
'Amongst other families who claim descent from the Physicians were the Bowens of Cwmydw, Myddfai; and Jones of Dollgarreg and Penrhock, in the same parish; the latter of whom are represented by Charles Bishop, of Dollgarreg, Esq., Clerk of the Peace for Carmarthenshire, and Thomas Bishop, of Brecon, Esq.
'Rees Williams of Myddfai is recorded as one of the Meddygon. His great-grandson was the late Rice Williams, M.D., of Aberystwyth, who died May 16, 1842, aged 85, and appears to have been the last, although not the least eminent, of the Physicians descended from the mysterious Lady of Llyn y Fan 1.'
This brings the legend of the Lady of the Fan Lake into connexion with a widely-spread family. There is another connexion between it and modern times, as will be seen from the following statement kindly made to me by the Rev. A. G. Edwards, Warden of the Welsh College at Llandovery, since then appointed Bishop of St. Asaph: 'An old woman from Myddfai, who is now, that is to say in January 1881, about eighty years of age, tells me that she remembers "thousands and thousands of people visiting the Lake of the Little Fan on the first Sunday or Monday in August, and when she was young she often heard old men declare that at that time a commotion took place in the lake, and that its waters boiled, which was taken to herald the approach of the Lake Lady and her Oxen."' The custom of going up to the lake on the first Sunday in August was a very well known one in years gone by, as I have learned from a good many people, and it is corroborated by Mr. Joseph Joseph of Brecon, who kindly writes as follows, in reply to some queries
of mine: 'On the first Sunday in the month of August, Llyn y Fan Fach is supposed to be boiling (berwi). I have seen scores of people going up to see it (not boiling though) on that day. I do not remember that any of them expected to see the Lady of the Lake.' As to the boiling of the lake I have nothing to say, and I am not sure that there is anything in the following statement made as an explanation of the yearly visit to the lake by an old fisherwoman from Llandovery: 'The best time for eels is in August, when the north-east wind blows on the lake, and makes huge waves in it. The eels can then be seen floating on the waves.'
Last summer I went myself to the village of Myddfai, to see if I could pick up any variants of the legend, but I was hardly successful; for though several of the farmers I questioned could repeat bits of the legend, including the Lake Lady's call to her cattle as she went away, I got nothing new, except that one of them said that the youth, when he first saw the Lake Lady at a distance, thought she was a goose-he did not even rise to the conception of a swan--but that by degrees he approached her, and discovered that she was a lady in white, and that in due time they were married, and so on. My friend, the Warden of Llandovery College, seems, however, to have found a bit of a version which may have been still more unlike the one recorded by Mr. Rees of Tonn: it was from an old man at Myddfai last year, from whom he was, nevertheless, only able to extract the statement 'that the Lake Lady got somehow entangled in a farmer's "gambo," and that ever after his farm was very fertile.' A 'gambo,' I ought to explain, is a kind of a cart without sides, used in South Wales: both the name and the thing seem to have come from England,
though I cannot find such a word as gambo or gambeau in the ordinary dictionaries.
Among other legends about lake fairies, there are, in the third chapter of Mr. Sikes' British Goblins, two versions of this story: the first of them differs but slightly from Mr. Rees', in that the farmer used to go near the lake to see some lambs he had bought at a fair, and that whenever he did so three beautiful damsels appeared to him from the lake. They always eluded his attempts to catch them: they ran away into the lake, saying, Cras dy fara, &c. But one day a piece of moist bread came floating ashore, which he ate, and the next day he had a chat with the Lake Maidens. He proposed marriage to one of them, to which she consented, provided he could distinguish her from her sisters the day after. The story then, so far as I can make out from the brief version which Mr. Sikes gives of it, went on like that of Mr. Rees. The former gives another version, with much more interesting variations, which omit all reference, how ever, to the Physicians of Myddfai, and relate how a young farmer had heard of the Lake Maiden rowing up and down the lake in a golden boat with a golden scull. He went to the lake on New Year's Eve, saw her, was fascinated by her, and left in despair at her vanishing out of sight, although he cried out to her to stay and be his wife. She faintly replied, and went her way, after he had gazed at her long yellow hair and pale melancholy face. He continued to visit the lake, and grew thin and negligent of his person, owing to his longing. But a wise man, who lived on the mountain, advised him to tempt her with gifts of bread and cheese, which he undertook to do on Midsummer Eve, when he dropped into the lake a large cheese and a loaf of bread. This he did repeatedly, until at last
his hopes were fulfilled on New Year's Eve. This time he had gone to the lake clad in his best suit, and at midnight dropped seven white loaves and his biggest and finest cheese into the lake. The Lake Lady by-and-by came in her skiff to where he was, and gracefully stepped ashore. The scene need not be further described: Mr. Sikes gives a picture of it, and the story then proceeds as in the other version.
It is a pity that Mr. Rees did not preserve the Welsh versions out of which he pieced together the English one; but as to Mr. Sikes, I cannot discover whence his has been derived, for he seems not to have been too anxious to leave anybody the means of testing his work, as one will find on verifying his references, when he gives any. See also the allusions to him in Hartland's Science of Fairy Tales, pp. 64, 123, 137, 165, 278.
Since writing the foregoing notes the following communication has reached me from a friend of my undergraduate days at Jesus College, Oxford, Mr. Llywarch Reynolds of Merthyr Tydfil. Only the first part of it concerns the legend of Llyn y Fan Fach; but as the rest is equally racy I make no apology for publishing it in full without any editing, except the insertion of the meaning of two or three of the Welsh words occurring in it:--
'Tell Rhys that I have just heard a sequel to the Meddygon Myddfai story, got from a rustic on Mynydd y Banwen, between Glynnêdd and Glyntawë, on a ramble recently with David Lewis the, barrister and Sidney Hartland the folklorist. It was to the effect that after the disappearance of the forwn, "the damsel," into the lake, the disconsolate husband and his friends set to work to drain the lake in order to get at her, if possible. They made a great cutting into the bank, when suddenly a huge hairy monster of hideous aspect
emerged from the water and stormed at them for disturbing him, and wound up with this threat:--
Os na cha'i lonydd yn ym lle,
Fi fodda dre' 'Byrhonddu!
If I get no quiet in my place,
I shall drown the town of Brecon!
It was evidently the last braich, "arm," of a Triban Morgannwg, but this was all my informant knew of it. From the allusion to Tre' Byrhonddu, it struck me that there was here probably a tale of Llyn Safaddon, which had migrated to Llyn y Fan; because of course there would have to be a considerable change in the "levels" before Llyn y Fan and the Sawdde could put Brecon in any great jeopardy 1.
'We also got another tale about a cwmshurwr, "conjurer," who once lived in Ystradgyrlais (as the rustic pronounced it). The wizard was a dyn llaw-harn, "a man with an iron hand"; and it being reported that there was a great treasure hidden in Mynydd y Drum, the wizard said he would secure it, if he could but get some plucky fellow to spend a night with him there. John Gethin was a plucky fellow (dyn "ysprydol"), and he agreed to join the dyn llaw-harn in his diablerie. The wizard traced two rings on the sward touching each other "like a number 8"; he went into one, and Gethin into the other, the wizard strictly charging him on no account to step out of the ring. The llaw-harn then proceeded to trafod 'i lyfrau, or "busy himself with his books"; and there soon appeared a monstrous bull, bellowing dreadfully; but the plucky Gethin held his ground, and the bull vanished. Next came a
terrible object, a "fly-wheel of fire," which made straight for poor Gethin and made him swerve out of the ring. Thereupon the wheel assumed the form of the diawl, " devil," who began to haul Gethin away. The llaw-harn seized hold of him and tried to get him back. The devil was getting the upper hand, when the llaw-harn begged the devil to let him keep Gethin while the piece of candle he had with him lasted. The devil consented, and let go his hold of Gethin, where. upon the cwmshurwr immediately blew out the candle, and the devil was discomfited. Gethin preserved the piece of candle very carefully, stowing it away in a cool place; but still it wasted away although it was never lighted. Gethin got such a fright that he took to his bed, and as the candle wasted away he did the same, and they both came to an end simultaneously. Gethin vanished--and it was not his body that was put into the coffin, but a lump of clay which was put in to save appearances! It is said that the wizard's books are in an oaken chest at Waungyrlais farm house to this day.
'We got these tales on a ramble to see "Maen y Gweddiau," on the mountain near Coelbren junction Station on the Neath and Brecon Railway (marked on the Ordnance Map), but we had to turn back owing to the fearful heat.'
Before dismissing Mr. Reynolds' letter I may mention a story in point which relates to a lake on the Brecon side of the mountains. It is given at length by the Rev. Edward Davies in his Mythology and Rites of the British Druids (London, 1809), pp. 155-7. According to this legend a door in the rock was to be found open once a year--on May-day, as it is supposed--and from that door one could make one's way to the garden of the fairies, which was an island in the middle of the lake. This paradise of
exquisite bliss was invisible, however, to those who stood outside the lake: they could only see an indistinct mass in the centre of the water. Once on a time a visitor tried to carry away some of the flowers given him by the fairies, but he was thereby acting against their law, and not only was he punished with the loss of his senses, but the door has never since been left open. It is also related that once an adventurous person attempted to drain the water away 'in order to discover its contents, when a terrific form arose from the midst of the lake, commanding him to desist, or otherwise he would drown the country.' This form is clearly of the same species as that which, according to Mr. Reynolds' story, threatened to drown the town of Brecon. Subsequent inquiries have elicited more information, and I am more especially indebted to my friend Mr. Ivor James, who, as registrar of the University of Wales, has of late years been living at Brecon. He writes to the following effect:--'The lake you want is Llyn Cwm Llwch, and the legend is very well known locally, but there are variants. Once on a time men and boys dug a gully through the dam in order to let the water out. A man in a red coat, sitting in an armchair, appeared on the surface of the water and threatened them in the terms which you quote from Mr. Reynolds. The red coat would seem to suggest that this form of the legend dates possibly from a time since our soldiers were first clothed in red. In another case, however, the spectre was that of an old woman; and I am told that a somewhat similar story is told in connexion with a well in the castle wall in the parish of Llanddew, to the north of this town-Giraldus Cambrensis' parish. A friend of mine is employing his spare time at present in an inquiry into the origin of the lakes of this district, and he tells me that Llyn
Cwm Llwch is of glacial origin, its dam being composed, as he thinks, of glacial débris through which the water always percolates into the valley below. But storm water flows over the dam, and in the course of ages has cut for itself a gully, now about ten feet deep at the deepest point, through the embankment. The story was possibly invented to explain that fact. There is no cave to be seen in the rock, and probably there never was one, as the formation is the Old Red Sandstone; and the island was perhaps equally imaginary.'
That is the substance of Mr. James' letter, in which he, moreover, refers to J. D. Rhys' account of the lake in his Welsh introduction to his Grammar, published in London in 1592, under the title Cambrobrytannicæ, Cymraeæve Lingua, Institutiones et Rudimenta. There the grammarian, in giving some account of himself, mentions his frequent sojourns at the hospitable residence of a nobleman, named M. Morgan Merêdydh, near y Bugeildy ynn Nyphryn Tabhîda o bhywn Swydh Bhaesybhed, that is, 'near the Beguildy in the Valley of the Teme within the county of Radnor.' Then he continues to the following effect:--'But the latter part of this book was thought out under the bushes and green foliage in a bit of a place of my own called y Clun Hîr, at the top of Cwm y Llwch, below the spurs of the mountain of Bannwchdeni, which some call Bann Arthur and others Moel Arthur. Below that moel and in its lap there is a lake of pretty large size, unknown depth, and wondrous nature. For as the stories go, no bird has ever been seen to repair to it or towards it, or to swim on it: it is wholly avoided, and some say that no animals or beasts of any kind are wont to drink of its waters. The peasantry of that country, and especially the shepherds who are wont to frequent these moels and bans, relate many other wonders concerning it and
the exceeding strange things beheld at times in connexion with this loch. This lake or loch is called Llyn Cwm y Llwch 1.'
Before dismissing the story of Llyn y Fan Fach I wish to append a similar one from the parish of Ystrad Dyfodwg in Glamorganshire. The following is a translation of a version given in Welsh in Cyfaill yr Aelwyd a'r Frythones, edited by Elfed and Cadrawd, and published by Messrs. Williams and Son, Llanelly. The version in question is by Cadrawd, and it is to the following effect--see the volume for 1892, p. 59:--
'Llyn y Forwyn, " the Damsel's Pool," is in the parish of Ystrad Tyfodwg: the inhabitants call it also Llyn Nelferch. It lies about halfway between the farm house of Rhondda Fechan, "Little Rhonda," and the Vale of Safrwch. The ancient tradition concerning it is somewhat as follows:--
'Once on a time a farmer lived at the Rhonda Fechan: he was unmarried, and as he was walking by the lake early one morning in spring he beheld a young woman of beautiful appearance walking on the other side of it. He approached her and spoke to her: she gave him to understand that her home was in the lake, and that she owned a number of milch cows, that lived with her at the bottom of the water. The farmer fancied her so much that he fell in love with her over head and ears: he asked her on the spot for her hand and heart; and he invited her to come and spend her life with him as his wife at the Rhondda Fechan. She declined at first, but as he was importunate she consented at last on the following conditions,
namely, that she would bring her cattle with her out of the lake, and live with him until he and she had three disputes with one another: then, she said, she and the cattle would return into the lake. He agreed to the conditions, and the marriage took place. They lived very happily and comfortably for long years; but the end was that they fell out with one another, and, when they happened to have quarrelled for the third time, she was heard early in the morning driving the cattle towards the lake with these words:--
Prw dre', Prw dre', prw'r gwartheg i dre';
Prw Milfach a Malfach, pedair Llualfach,
Alfach ac Ali, pedair Ladi,
Wynebwen drwynog, tro i'r waun lidiog,
Trech llyn y waun odyn, tair Pencethin,
Tair caseg ddu draw yn yr eithin 1.
And into the lake they went out of sight, and there they live to this day. And some believed that they had heard the voice and cry of Nelferch in the whisper of the breeze on the top of the mountain hard by--many a time after that--as an old story (weddal) will have it.'
From this it will be seen that the fairy wife's name was supposed to have been Nelferch, and that the piece of water is called after her. But I find that great uncertainty prevails as to the old name of the lake, as I learn from a communication in 1894 from
Mr. Llewellyn Williams, living at Porth, only some five miles from the spot, that one of his informants assured him that the name in use among former generations was Llyn Alfach. Mr. Williams made inquiries at the Rhondda Fechan about the lake legend. He was told that the water had long since been known as Llyn y Forwyn, from a morwyn, or damsel, with a number of cattle having been drowned in it. The story of the man who mentioned the name as Llyn Alfach was similar: the maid belonged to the farm of Penrhys, he said, and the young man to the Rhonda Fechan, and it was in consequence of their third dispute, he added, that she left him and went back to her previous service, and afterwards, while taking the cattle to the water, she sank accidentally or purposely into the lake, so that she was never found any more. Here it will be seen how modern rationalism has been modifying the story into something quite uninteresting but without wholly getting rid of the original features, such as the three disputes between the husband and wife. Lastly, it is worth mentioning that this water appears to form part of a bit of very remarkable scenery, and that its waves strike on one side against a steep rock believed to contain caves, supposed to have been formerly inhabited by men and women. At present the place, I learn, is in the possession of Messrs. Davis and Sons, owners of the Ferndale collieries, who keep a pleasure boat on the lake. I have appealed to them on the question of the name Nelferch or Alfach, in the hope that their books would help to decide as to the old form of it. Replying on their behalf, Mr. J. Probert Evans informs me that the company only got possession of the lake and the adjacent land in 1862, and that 'Llyn y Vorwyn' is the name of the former in the oldest plan which they have. Inquiries have also been made
in the neighbourhood by my friend, Mr. Reynolds, who found the old tenants of the Rhondda Fechan Farm gone, and the neighbouring farm house of Dyffryn Safrwch supplanted by colliers' cottages. But he calls my attention to the fact, that perhaps the old name was neither Nelferch nor Alfach, as Elfarch, which would fit equally well, was once the name of a petty chieftain of the adjoining Hundred of Senghenydd, for which he refers me to Clark's Glamorgan Genealogies, p. 511. But I have to thank him more especially for a longer version of the fairy wife's call to her cattle, as given in Glanffrwd's Plwyf Llanwyno, 'the Parish of Llanwynno (Pontypridd, 1888), p. 117, as follows:--
Prw me, prw me,
Prw 'ngwartheg i dre';
Prw Melen a Ioco,
Tegwen a Rhuddo,
Rhudd-frech a Moel-frech,
Lliain-frech ag Eli,
A phedair Wen-ladi,
Ladi a Chornwen,
A phedair Wynebwen;
Nepwen a Rhwynog,
Brech yn y Glyn
Dal yn dyn;
Tair Caseg ddu, draw yn yr eithin,
Deuwch i gyd i lys y Brenin;
Saif yn flaena',
Saf yn ol y wraig o'r Ty-fry,
Fyth nis godri ngwartheg i!
The last lines--slightly mended--may be rendered:
Stand thou foremost.
Back! thou wife of the House up Hill:
Never shalt thou milk my cows.
This seems to suggest that the quarrel was about
another woman, and that by the time when the fairy came to call her live stock into the lake she had been replaced by another woman who came from the Ty-fry, or the House up Hill 1. In that case this version comes closer than any other to the story of Undine supplanted by Bertalda as her knight's favourite.
Mr. Probert Evans having kindly given me the address of an aged farmer who formerly lived in the valley, my friend, Mr. Llywarch Reynolds, was good enough to visit him. Mr. Reynolds shall report the result in his own words, dated January 9, 1899, as follows:--
'I was at Pentyrch this morning, and went to see Mr. David Evans, formerly of Cefn Colston.
'The old man is a very fine specimen of the better class of Welsh farmer; is in his eighty-third year; hale and hearty, intelligent, and in full possession of his faculties. He was born and bred in the Rhondda Fechan Valley, and lived there until some forty years ago. He had often heard the lake story from an old aunt of his who lived at the Maerdy Farm (a short distance north of the lake), and who died a good many years ago, at a very advanced age. He calls the lake "Llyn Elferch," and the story, as known to him, has several points in common with the Llyn y Fan legend, which, however, he did not appear to know. He could not give me many details, but the following is the substance of the story as he knows it:--The young farmer, who lived with his mother at the neighbouring farm, one day saw the lady on the bank of the lake, combing her hair, which reached down to her feet. He fell in love at
first sight, and tried to approach her; but she evaded him, and crying out, Ddali di ddim o fi, crâs dy fara! (Thou wilt not catch me, thou of the crimped bread), she sank into the water. He saw her on several subsequent occasions, and gave chase, but always with the same result, until at length he got his mother to make him some bread which was not baked (or not baked so hard); and this he offered to the lady. She then agreed to become his wife, subject to the condition that if he offended her, or disagreed with her three times (ar yr ammod, os byssa: fa yn 'i chroesi hi dair gwaith) she would leave him and return into the lake with all her belongings.
'1. The first disagreement (croes) was at the funeral of a neighbour, a man in years, at which the lady gave way to excessive weeping and lamentation. The husband expressed surprise and annoyance at this excessive grief for the death of a person not related to them, and asked the reason for it; and she replied that she grieved for the defunct on account of the eternal misery that was in store for him in the other world.
'2. The second "croes" was at the death of an infant child of the lady herself, at which she laughed immoderately; and in reply to the husband's remonstrance, she said she did so for joy at her child's escape from this wicked world and its passage into a world of bliss.
'3. The third "croes" Mr. Evans was unable to call to mind, but equally with the other two it showed that the lady was possessed of preternatural knowledge; and it resulted in her leaving her husband and returning into the lake, taking the cattle, &c., with her. The accepted explanation of the name of the lake was Llyn El-ferch 1 (= Hela 'r ferch), "because of the young man chasing the damsel" (hela 'r ferch).
'The following is the cattle-call, as given to me by Mr. Evans' aged housekeeper, who migrated with the family from Rhonda Fechan to Pentyrch:
Prw i, Prw e 1,
Prw 'ngwartheg sha [= tua] thre';
Mil a môl a melyn gwtta;
Milfach a malfach;
Petar [= pedair] llearfach;
Llearfach ag aeli;
Petar a lafi;
Lafi a chornwan [= wèn];
[ . . . ] 'Nepwan drwynog;
Drotwan [= droedwen] liliog;
Tair casag ddu
Draw yn yr ithin [= eithin],
Dewch i gyd i lys y brenin.
Mr. Evans told me that Dyffryn Safrwch was considered to be a corruption of Dyffryn Safn yr Hwch, "Valley of the Sow's Mouth"; so that the explanation was not due to a minister with whom I foregathered on my tramp near the lake the other day, and from whom I heard it first.'
The similarity between Mr. Evans' version of this legend and that of Llyn y Fan Fach, tends to add emphasis to certain points which I had been inclined to treat as merely accidental. In the Fan Fach legend the young man's mother is a widow, and here he is represented living with his mother. Here also something
depends on the young man's bread, but it is abruptly introduced, suggesting that a part of the story has been forgotten. Both stories, however, give one the impression that the bread of the fairies was regarded as always imperfectly baked. In both stories the young man's mother comes to his help with her advice. Mr. Evans' version ascribes supernatural knowledge to the fairy, though his version fails to support it; and her moralizings read considerably later than those which the Fan legend ascribes to the fairy wife. Some of these points may be brought under the reader's notice later, when he has been familiarized with more facts illustrative of the belief in fairies.
On returning from South Wales to Carnarvonshire in the summer of 1881, I tried to discover similar legends connected with the lakes of North Wales, beginning with Geirionydd, the waters of which form a stream emptying itself into the Conwy, near Trefriw, a little below Llanrwst. I only succeeded, however, in finding an old man of the name of Pierce Williams, about seventy years of age, who was very anxious to talk about 'Bony's' wars, but not about lake ladies. I was obliged, in trying to make him understand what I wanted, to use the word morforwyn, that is to say in English, 'mermaid'; he then told me, that in his younger days he had heard people say that somebody had seen such beings in the Trefriw river. But as my questions were leading ones, his evidence is not worth much; however, I feel pretty sure that one who knew the neighbourhood of Geirionydd better would be able to find some fragments of interesting legends still existing in that wild district.
I was more successful at Llanberis, though what found, at first, was not much; but it was genuine, and to the point. This is the substance of it:--An old woman, called Siân 1 Dafydd, lived at Helfa Fawr, in the dingle called Cwm. Brwynog, along the left side of which you ascend as you go to the top of Snowdon, from the village of lower Llanberis, or Coed y Ddol, as it is there called. She was a curious old person, who made nice distinctions between the virtues of the respective waters of the district: thus, no other would do for her to cure her of the defaid gwylltion 2, or cancerous warts, which she fancied that she had in her mouth, than that of the spring of Tai Bach, near the lake called Llyn Ffynnon y Gwas, though she seldom found it out, when she was deceived by a servant who cherished a convenient opinion of his own, that a drop from a nearer spring would do just as well. Old Siân has been dead over thirty-five years, but I have it, on the testimony of two highly trustworthy brothers, who are of her family, and now between sixty and seventy years of age, that she used to relate to them how a shepherd, once on a time, saw a fairy maiden (un o'r Tylwyth Teg) on the surface of the tarn called Llyn Du'r Arddu, and how, from bantering and
joking, their acquaintance ripened into courtship, when the father and mother of the lake maiden appeared to give the union their sanction, and to arrange the marriage settlement. This was to the effect that the husband was never to strike his wife with iron, and that she was to bring her great wealth with her, consisting of stock of all kinds for his mountain farm. All duly took place, and they lived happily together until one day, when trying to catch a pony, the husband threw a bridle to his wife, and the iron in that struck her. It was then all over with him, as the wife hurried away with her property into the lake, so that nothing more was seen or heard of her. Here I may as well explain that the Llanberis side of the steep, near the top of Snowdon, is called Clogwyn du'r Arddu, or the Black Cliff of the Arddu, at the bottom of which lies the tarn alluded to as the Black Lake of the Arddu, and near it stands a huge boulder, called Maen du'r Arddu, all of which names are curious, as involving the word du, black. Arddu itself has much the same meaning, and refers to the whole precipitous side of the summit with its dark shadows, and there is a similar Arddu near Nanmor on the Merionethshire side of Beddgelert.
One of the brothers, I ought to have said, doubts that the lake here mentioned was the one in old Siân's tale; but he has forgotten which it was of the many in the neighbourhood. Both, however, remembered another short story about fairies, which they had heard another old woman relate, namely, Mari Domos Siôn, who died some thirty years ago: it was merely to the effect that a shepherd had once lost his way in the mist on the mountain on the land of Caeau Gwynion, towards Cwellyn 1 Lake, and got into a ring
where the Tylwyth Teg were dancing: it was only after a very hard struggle that he was able, at length, to get away from them.
To this I may add the testimony of a lady, for whose veracity I can vouch, to the effect that, when she was a child in Cwm Brwynog, from thirty to forty years ago, she and her brothers and sisters used to be frequently warned by their mother not to go far away from the house when there happened to be thick mist on the ground, lest they should come across the Tylwyth Teg dancing, and be carried away to their abode-beneath the lake. They were always, she says, supposed to live in the lakes; and the one here alluded to was Llyn Dwythwch, which is one of those famous for its torgochiaid or chars. The mother is still living; but she seems to have long since, like others, lost her belief in the fairies.
After writing the above, I heard that a brother to the foregoing brothers, namely, Mr. Thomas Davies, of Mur Mawr, Llanberis, remembered a similar tale. Mr. Davies is now sixty-four, and the persons from whom he heard the tale were the same Siân Dafydd of Helfa Fawr, and Mari Domos Siôn of Tyn 1 Gadlas, Llanberis: the two women were about seventy years of age when he as a child heard it from them. At my request, a friend of mine, Mr. Hugh D. Jones, of Tyn Gadlas, also a member of this family, which is one of the oldest perhaps in the place, has taken down from Mr. Davies' mouth all he could remember, word for word, as follows:--
Yn perthyn i ffarm Bron y Fedw yr oedd dyn ifanc
wedi cael ei fagu, nis gwyddent faint cyn eu hamser hwy. Arferai pan yn hogyn fynd i'r mynydd yn Cwm Drywenydd a Mynydd y Fedw ar ochr orllewinol y Wyddfa i fugeilio, a byddai yn taro ar hogan yn y mynydd; ac wrth fynychu gweld eu gilydd aethant yn ffrindiau mawr. Arferent gyfarfod eu gilydd mewn lle neillduol yn Cwm Drywenyd, lle'r oedd yr hogan a'r teulu yn byw, lle y byddai pob danteithion, chwareuyddiaethau a chanu dihafal; ond ni fydda'ir hogyn yn gwneyd i fyny a neb ohonynt ond yr hogan.
Diwedd y ffrindiaeth fu carwriaeth, a phan soniodd yr hogyn am iddi briodi, ni wnai ond ar un amod, sef y bywiai hi hefo fo hyd nes y tarawai ef hi a haiarn.
Priodwyd hwy, a buont byw gyda'u gilydd am nifer o flynyddoedd, a bu iddynt blant; ac ar ddydd marchnad yn Gaernarfon yr oedd yr gwr a'r wraig yn meddwl mynd i'r farchnad ar gefn merlod, fel pob ffarmwr yr amser hwnnw. Awd i'r mynydd i ddal merlyn bob un.
Ar waelod Mynydd y Fedw mae llyn o ryw dri-ugain neu gan llath o hyd ac ugain neu ddeg llath ar hugain o led, ac y mae ar un ochr iddo le têg, ffordd y byddai'r ceffylau yn rhedeg.
Daliodd y gwr ferlyn a rhoes ef i'r wraig i'w ddal heb ffrwyn, tra byddai ef yn dal merlyn arall Ar ol rhoi ffrwyn yn mhen ei ferlyn ei hun, taflodd un arall i'r wraig i roi yn mhen ei merlyn hithau, ac wrth ei thaflu tarawodd bit y ffrwyn hi yn ei llaw. Gollyngodd y wraig y merlyn, ac aeth ar ei phen i'r llyn, a dyna ddiwedd y briodas.
'To the farm of Bron y Fedw there belonged a son, who grew up to be a young man, the women knew not how long before their time. He was in the habit of going up the mountain to Cwm Drywenydd 1 and Mynydd
y Fedw, on the west side of Snowdon, to do the shepherding, and there he was wont to come across a lass on the mountain, so that as the result of frequently meeting one another, he and she became great friends. They usually met at a particular spot in Cwm Drywenydd, where the girl and her family lived, and where there were all kinds of nice things to eat, of amusements, and of incomparable music; but he did not make up to anybody there except the girl. The friendship ended in courtship; but when the boy mentioned that she should be married to him, she would only do so on one condition, namely, that she would live with him until he should strike her with iron. They were wedded, and they lived together for a number of years, and had children. Once on a time it happened to be market day at Carnarvon, whither the husband and wife thought of riding on ponies, like all the farmers of that time. So they went to the mountain to catch a pony each. At the bottom of Mynydd y Fedw there is a pool some sixty or one hundred yards long by twenty or thirty broad, and on one side of it there is a level space along which the horses used to run. The husband caught a pony, and gave it to the wife to hold fast without a bridle, while he should catch another. When he had bridled his own pony, he threw another bridle to his wife for her to secure hers; but as he threw it, the bit of the bridle struck her on one of her hands. The wife let go the pony, and went headlong into the pool, and that was the end of their wedded life.'
The following is a later tale, which Mr. Thomas Davies heard from his mother, who died in 1832: she would be ninety years of age had she been still living:--
Pan oedd hi'n hogan yn yr Hafod, Llanberis, yr oedd hogan at ei hoed hi'n cael ei magu yn Cwmglas, Llanberis,
ac arferai ddweyd, pan yn hogan a thra y bu byw, y byddai yn cael arian gan y Tylwyth Teg yn Cwm Cwmglas.
Yr oedd yn dweyd y byddai ar foreuau niwliog, tywyll, ym mynd i le penodol yn Cwm Cwmglas gyda dsygiad o lefrith o'r fuches a thywel glan, ac yn ei roddi ar garreg; ac yn mynd yno drachefn, ac yn cael y llestr yn wag, gyda darn deuswllt neu hanner coron ac weithiau fwy wrth ei ochr.
'When she was a girl, living at Yr Hafod, Llanberis, there was a girl of her age being brought up at Cwmglas in the same parish. The latter was in the habit of saying, when she was a girl and so long as she lived, that she used to have money from the Tylwyth Teg, in the Cwmglas Hollow. Her account was, that on dark, misty mornings she used to go to a particular spot in that Hollow with a jugful of sweet milk from the milking place, and a clean towel, and then place them on a stone. She would return, and find the jug empty, with a piece of money placed by its side: that is, two shillings or half a crown, or at times even more.'
A daughter of that woman lives now at a farm, Mr. Davies observes, called Plas Pennant, in the parish of Llanfihangel yn Mhennant, in Carnarvonshire; and he adds, that it was a tale of a kind that was common enough when he was a boy; but many laughed at it, though the old people believed it to be a fact. To this I may as well append another tale, which was brought to the memory of an old man who happened to be present when Mr. Jones and Mr. Davies were busy with the foregoing. His name is John Roberts, and his age is seventy-five: his present home is at Capel Sïon, in the neighbouring parish of Llanddeiniolen:--
Yr oedd ef pan yn hogyn yn gweini yn Towyn Trewern, yn agos i Gaergybi, gyda hen wr o'r enw Owen Owens, oedd yr adeg honno at ei oed ef yn bresennol.
Yr oeddynt unwaith mewn hen adeilad ar y ffarm; a dywedodd yr hen wr ei fod ef wedi cael llawer o arian yn y lle hwnnw pan yn hogyn, a buasai wedi cael ychwaneg oni bai ei dad.
Yr oedd wedi cuddio yr arian yn y ty, ond daeth ei fam o hyd iddynt, a dywedodd yr hanes wrth ei dad. Ofnai ei fod yn fachgen drwg, mai eu lladrata yr oedd. Dywedai ei dad y gwnai iddo ddweyd yn mha le yr oedd yn eu cael, neu y tynnai ei groen tros ei ben; ac aeth allan a thorodd wialen bwrpasol at orchwyl o'r fath.
Yr oedd y bachgen yn gwrando ar yr ymddiddan rhwng ei dad a'i fam, ac yr oedd yn benderfynol o gudw'r peth yn ddirgelwch fel yr oedd wedi ei rybuddio gan y Tylwyth Teg.
Aeth i'r ty, a dechreuodd y lad ei holi, ac yntau yn gwrthod ateb; ymbiliai a'i dad, a dywedai eu bod yn berffaith onest iddo ef, ac y cai ef ychwaneg os cadwai'r peth yn ddirgelwch; ond os dywedai, nad oedd dim ychwaneg i'w gael. Modd bynnag ni wrandawai y tad ar ei esgusion na'i resymau, a'r wialen a orfu; dywedodd y bachgen mai gan y Tylwyth Teg yr oedd yn eu cael, a hynny ar yr amod nad oedd i ddweyd wrth neb. Mawr oedd edifeirwch yr hen bobl am ladd yr wydd oedd yn dodwy.
Aeth y bachgen i'r hen adeilad lawer gwaith ar ol hyn, ond ni chafodd byth ychwaneg o arian yno.
'When a lad, he was a servant at Towyn Trewern, near Holyhead, to an old man about his own age at present. They were one day in an old building on the farm, and the old man told him that he had had much money in that place when he was a lad, and that he would have had more had it not been for his father. He had hidden the money at home, where his mother found it and told his father of the affair: she feared he was a bad boy, and that it was by theft he got it. His father said that he would make him say where he got it,
or else that he would strip him of the skin of his back, at the same time that he went out and cut a rod fit for effecting a purpose of the kind. The boy heard all this talk between his father and his mother, and felt determined to keep the matter a secret, as he had been warned by the Tylwyth Teg. He went into the house, and his father began to question him, while he refused to answer. He supplicatingly protested that the money was honestly got, and that he should get more if he kept it a secret, but that, if he did not, there would be no more to be got. However, the father would give no ear to his excuses or his reasons, and the rod prevailed; so that the boy said that it was from the Tylwyth Teg he used to get it, and that on condition of his not telling anybody. Greatly did the old folks regret having killed the goose that laid the eggs. The boy went many a time afterwards to the old building, but he never found any more money there.'
Through the Rev. Daniel Lewis, incumbent of Bettws Garmon, I was directed to Mr. Samuel Rhys Williams, of the Post Office of that place, who has kindly given me the result of his inquiries when writing on the subject of the antiquities of the neighbourhood for a competition at a literary meeting held there a few years ago. He tells me that he got the following short tale from a native of Drws y Coed, whose name is Margaret Williams. She has been living at Bettws Garmon for many years, and is now over eighty. He does not know whether the story is in print or not, but he is certain that Margaret Williams never saw it, even if it be. He further thinks he has heard it from another person, to wit a man over seventy-seven years
of age, who has always lived at Drws y Coed, in the parish of Beddgelert:--
Y mae hanes am fab i amaethwr a breswyliai yn yr Ystrad 1, Betws Garmon 2, pan yn dychwelyd adref o daith yn hwyr un noswaith, ddarfod iddo weled cwmni or Tylwyth Teg ynghanol eu hafiaeth a'u gloddest. Syfrdanwyd y llanc yn y fan gan degwch anghymarol un o'r rhianod hyn, fel y beiddiodd neidio i ganol y cylch, a chymeryd ei eilun gydag ef. Wedi iddi fod yn trigo gydag ef yn ei gartref am ysbaid, cafodd ganddi addaw bod yn wraig iddo ar amodau neillduol. Un o'r amodau hyn ydoedd, na byddai iddo gyffwrdd ynddi ag un math o haiarn. Bu yn wraig iddo, a ganwyd iddynt ddau o blant. Un diwrnod yr oedd y gwr yn y maes yn ceisio dal y ceffyl; wrth ei weled yn ffaelu, aeth y wraig ato i'w gynorthwyo, a phan oedd y march yn carlamu heibio gollyngodd yntau y ffrwyn o'i law, er mwyn ceisio ei atal heibio; a phwy a darawodd ond ei wraig, yr hon a ddiflannodd yn y fan allan o'i olwg?
'The story goes, that the son of a farmer, who lived at the Ystrad in Bettws Garmon, when returning home from a journey, late in the evening, beheld a company of fairies in the middle of their mirth and jollity. The youth was at once bewildered by the incomparable beauty of one of these ladies, so that he ventured to leap into the circle and take his idol away with him. After she had tarried awhile with him at his home, he prevailed on her, on special conditions, to become his wife. One of these conditions was that he should not touch her with iron of any description. She became
his wife, and two children were born to them. One day the husband was in the field trying to catch the horse; seeing him unsuccessful, the wife went to him to help him, and, when the horse was galloping past him, he let go the bridle at him in order to prevent him from passing; but whom should he strike but his wife, who vanished out of his sight on the spot.'
Just as I was engaged in collecting these stories in 1881, a correspondent sent me a copy of the Ystrad tale as published by the late bard and antiquary, the Rev. Owen Wyn Jones, better known in Wales by his bardic name of Glasynys 1, in the Brython 2 for 1863, p. 1931 will not attempt to translate Glasynys' poetic prose with all its compound adjectives, but it comes to this in a few words. 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 the heir of Ystrad would not yield, so an agreement was made between them, that the latter was to have the girl 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 the Bettws Fair, the wife's horse became restive, and somehow, as the husband was attending to the horse, the stirrup 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. Glasynys regards this as the same tale which is given by Williams of Llandegai, to whom we shall refer later; and he says that he heard it scores of times when he was a lad.
Lastly, I happened to mention these legends last summer among others to the Rev. Owen Davies, curate of Llanberis, a man who is well versed in Welsh literature, and thoroughly in sympathy with everything Welsh. Mr. Davies told me that he knew a tale of the sort from his youth, as current in the parishes of Llanllechid and Llandegai, near Bangor. Not long afterwards he visited his mother at his native place, in Llanllechid, in order to have his memory of it refreshed; and he also went to the Waen Fawr, on the other side of Carnarvon, where he had the same legend told him with the different localities specified. The following is the Waen Fawr version, of which I give the Welsh as I have had it from Mr. Davies, and as it was
related, according to him, some forty years ago in the valley of Nant y Bettws, near Carnarvon:--
Ar brydnawngwaith hyfryd yn Hefin, aeth llanc ieuanc gwrol-ddewr ac anturiaethus, sef etifedd a pherchennog yr Ystrad, i lan afon Gwyrfai, heb fod yn nepell o'i chychwyniad o lyn Cawellyn, ac a ymguddiodd yno mewn dyryslwyn, sef ger y fan y byddai poblach y cotiau cochion--y Tylwyth Teg--yn arfer dawnsio. Yr ydoedd yn noswaith hyfryd loergannog, heb un cwmwl i gau llygaid y Lloer, ac anian yn ddistaw dawedog, oddigerth murmuriad lleddf y Wyrfai, a swn yr awel ysgafndroed yn rhodio brigau dediog y coed. Ni bu yn ei ymguddfa ond dros ychydig amser, cyn cael difyrru o hono ei olygon a dawns y teulu dedwydd. Wrth syllu ar gywreinrwyddy ddawns, y chwim droadau cyflym, yr ymgyniweiriad ysgafn-droediog, tarawodd ei lygaid ar las lodes ieuanc, dlysaf, harddaf, lunieiddiaf a welodd er ei febyd. Yr oedd ei chwim droadau a lledneisrwydd ei hagweddion wedi tanio ei serch tu ag ati i'r fath raddau, fel ag yr oedd yn barod i unrhyw anturiaeth er mwyn ei hennill yn gydymaith iddo ei hun. O'i ymguddfa dywyll, yr oedd yn gwylio pob ysgogiad er mwyn ei gyfleustra ei hun. Mewn mynud, yn ddisymwth ddigon, rhwng pryder ac ofn, llamneidiodd fel llew gwrol i ganol cylch y Tylwyth Teg, ac ymafaelodd a dwylaw cariad yn y fun luniaidd a daniodd ei serch, a hynny, pan oedd y Tylwyth dedwydd yn nghanol nwyfiant eu dawns. Cofleidiodd hi yn dyner garedig yn ei fynwes wresog, ac aeth a hi i'w gartref--i'r Ystrad. Ond diflannodd ei chyd-ddawnsyddion fel anadl Gorphennaf, er ei chroch ddolefau am gad ei rhyddhau, a'i hymegnion difliho i ddianc o afael yr hwn a'i hoffodd. Mewn anwylder mawr, ymddygodd y llanc yn dyner odiaethol tu ag at y fun deg, ac yr oedd yn orawyddus i'w chadw yn ei olwg ac yn ei feddiant. Llwyddodd drwy ei dynerwch tu ag ati i gael ganddi addaw dyfod yn forwyn iddo yn yr Ystrad. A morwyn ragorol oedd hi. Godrai deirgwaith y swm arferol o laeth oddiar
bob buwch, ac yr oedd yr ymenyn heb bwys arno. Ond er ei holl daerni, nis gallai mewn un modd gael ganddi ddyweud ei henw wrtho. Gwnaeth lawer cais, ond yn gwbl ofer. Yn ddamweiniol ryw dro, wrth yrru
Brithen a'r Benwen i'r borfa,
a hi yn noswaith loergan, efe a aeth i'r man lle yr arferai y Tylwylh Teg fyned drwy eu campau yng ngoleuni'r Lloer wen. Y tro hwn eto, efe a ymguddiodd mewn dyryslwyn, a chlywodd y Tylwyth Teg yn dywedyd y naill wrth y llall--'Pan oeddym ni yn y lle hwn y tro diweddaf, dygwyd ein chwaer Penelope oddiarnom gan un o'r marwolion.' Ar hynny, dychwelodd y llencyn adref, a'i fynwes yn llawn o falchder cariad, o herwydd iddo gad gwybod enw ei hoff forwyn, yr hon a synnodd yn aruthr, pan glywodd ei meistr ieuanc yn ei galw wrth ei henw. Ac am ei bod yn odiaethol dlos, a lluniaidd, yn fywiog-weithgar, a medrus ar bob gwaith, a bod popeth yn llwyddo dan ei llaw, cynygiodd ei hun iddi yn wr--y celai fod yn feistres yr Ystrad, yn lle bod yn forwyn. Ond ni chydsyniai hi a'i gais ar un cyfrif; ond bod braidd yn bendrist oherwydd iddo wybod ei henw. Fodd bynnag, gwedi maith amser, a thrwy ei daerineb diflino, cydsyniodd, ond yn amodol. Addawodd ddyfod yn wraig iddo, ar yr amod canlynol, sef, 'Pa bryd bynnag y tarawai ef hi â haiarn, yr elai ymaith oddi wrtho, ac na ddychwelai byth ato mwy.' Sicrhawyd yr amod o'i du yntau gyda pharodrwydd cariad. Buont yn cyd-fyw a'u gilydd yn hapus a chysurus lawer o flynyddoedd, a ganwyd iddynt fab a merch, y rhai oeddynt dlysaf a llunieiddiaf yn yr holl froydd. Ac yn rhinwedd ei medrusrwydd a'i deheurwydd fel gwraig gaff, rinwedd'ol, aethant yn gyfoethog iawn--yn gyfoethocach na neb yn yr holl wlad. Heblaw ei etifeddiaeth ei hun--Yr Ystrad, yr oedd yn ffarmio holl ogledd-barth Nant y Betws, ac oddi yno i ben yr Wyddfa, ynghyd a holl Gwm Brwynog, yn mhlwyf Llanberis. Ond, ryw ddiwrnod,
yn anffortunus ddigon aeth y ddau i'r ddol i ddal y ceffyl, a chan fod y ceffylyn braidd yn wyllt ac an-nof, yn rhedeg oddi arnynt, taflodd y gwr y ffrwyn mewn gwylltineb yn ei erbyn, er ei atal, ac ar bwy y disgynnodd y ffrwyn, ond ar Penelope, y wraig! Diflannodd Penelope yn y fan, ac ni welodd byth mo honi. Ond ryw noswaith, a'r gwynt yn chwythu yn oer o'r gogledd, daeth Penelope at ffenestr ei ystafell wely, a dywedodd wrtho am gymmeryd gofal o'r plant yn y geiriau hyn:
Rhag bod anwyd ar fy mab,
Yn rhodd rhowch arno gôb ei dad;
Rhag bod anuyd ar liw'r can,
Rhoddwch arni bais ei mham.
Ac yna ciliodd, ac ni chlywyd na siw na miw byth yn et chylch.
For the sake of an occasional reader who does not know Welsh, I add a summary of it in English.
One fine evening in the month of June a brave, adventurous youth, the heir of Ystrad, went to the banks of the Gwyrfai, not far from where it leaves Cwellyn Lake, and hid himself in the bushes near the spot where the folks of the Red Coats--the fairies--were wont to dance. The moon shone forth brightly without a cloud to intercept her light; all was quiet save where the Gwyrfai gently murmured on her bed, and it was not long before the young man had the satisfaction of seeing the fair family dancing in full swing. As he gazed on the subtle course of the dance, his eyes rested on a damsel, the most shapely and beautiful he had seen from his boyhood. Her agile movements and the charm of her looks inflamed him with love for her, to such a degree that he felt ready for any encounter in order to secure her to be his own. From his hiding place he watched every move for his opportunity; at last, with feelings of anxiety and dread,
he leaped suddenly into the middle of the circle of the fairies. There, while their enjoyment of the dance was at its height, he seized her in his arms and carried her away to his home at Ystrad. But, as she screamed for help to free her from the grasp of him who had fallen in love with her, the dancing party disappeared like one's breath in July. He treated her with the utmost kindness, and was ever anxious to keep her within his sight and in his possession. By dint of tenderness he succeeded so far as to get her to consent to be his servant at Ystrad. And such a servant she turned out to be! Why, she was wont to milk the cows thrice a day, and to have the usual quantity of milk each time, so that the butter was so plentiful that nobody thought of weighing it. As to her name, in spite of all his endeavours to ascertain it, she would never tell it him. Accidentally, however, one moonlight night, when driving two of his cows to the spot where they should graze, he came to the place where the fairies were wont to enjoy their games in the light of the moon. This time also he hid himself in a thicket, when he overheard one fairy saying to another, 'When we were last here our sister Penelope was stolen from us by a man.' As soon as he heard this off he went home, full of joy because he had discovered the name of the maid that was so dear to him. She, on the other hand, was greatly astonished to hear him call her by her own name. As she was so charmingly pretty, so industrious, so skilled in every work, and so attended by luck in everything she put her hand to, he offered to make her his wife instead of being his servant. At first she would in no wise consent, but she rather gave way to grief at his having found her name out. However, his importunity at length brought her to consent, but on the condition that he should not
strike her with iron; if that should happen, she would quit him never to return. The agreement was made on his side with the readiness of love, and after this they lived in happiness and comfort together for many years, and there were born to them a son and a daughter, who were the handsomest children in the whole country. Owing, also, to the skill and good qualities of the woman, as a shrewd and virtuous wife, they became very rich--richer, indeed, than anybody else in the country around; for, besides the husband's own inheritance of Ystrad, he held all the northern part of Nant y Bettws, and all from there to the top of Snowdon, together with Cwm Brwynog in the parish of Llanberis. But one day, as bad luck would have it, they went out together to catch a horse in the field, and, as the animal was somewhat wild and untamed, they had no easy work before them. In his rashness the man threw a bridle at him as he was rushing past him, but alas! on whom should the bridle fall but on the wife! No sooner had this happened than she disappeared, and nothing more was ever seen of her. But one cold night, when there was a chilling wind blowing from the north, she came near the window of his bedroom, and told him in these words to take care of the children
Lest my son should find it cold,
Place on him his father's coat
Lest the fair one find it cold,
Place on her my petticoat.
Then she withdrew, and nothing more was heard of her.
In reply to some queries of mine, Mr. O. Davies tells me that Penelope was pronounced in three syllables, Pénelôp --so he heard it from his grandfather: he goes on to say that the offspring of the Lake Lady is supposed to be represented by a family called Pellings,
which was once a highly respected name in those parts, and that there was a Lady Bulkeley who was of this descent, not to mention that several people of a lower rank, both in Anglesey and Arfon, claimed to be of the same origin. I am not very clear as to how the name got into this tale, nor have I been able to learn anything about the Pellings; but, as the word appears to have been regarded as a corrupt derivative from Penelope, that is, perhaps, all the connexion, so that it may be that it has really nothing whatever to do with the legend. This is a point, however, which the antiquaries of North Wales ought to be able to clear up satisfactorily.
In reply to queries of mine, Mr. O. Davies gave me the following particulars:--'I am now (June, 1881) over fifty-two years of age, and I can assure you that I have heard the legend forty years ago. I do not remember my father, as he died when I was young, but my grandfather was remarkable for his delight in tales and legends, and it was his favourite pastime during the winter nights, after getting his short black pipe ready, to relate stories about struggles with robbers, about bogies, and above all about the Tylwyth Teg; for they were his chief delight. He has been dead twenty-six years, and he had almost reached eighty years of age. His father before him, who was born about the year 1740, was also famous for his stories, and my grandfather often mentioned him as his authority in the course of his narration of the tales. Both he and the rest of the family used to look at Corwrion, to be mentioned presently, as a sacred spot. When I was a lad and happened to be reluctant to leave off playing at dusk, my mother or grandfather had only to say that 'the Pellings were coming,' in order to induce me to come into the house at once: indeed, this announcement had
the same effect on persons of a much riper age than mine then was.'
Further, Mr. Davies kindly called my attention to a volume, entitled Observations on the Snowdon Mountains, by Mr. William Williams, of Llandegai, published in London in 1802. In that work this tale is given somewhat less fully than by Mr. Davies' informant, but the author makes the following remarks with regard to it, pp. 37, 40:--'A race of people inhabiting the districts about the foot of Snowdon, were formerly distinguished and known by the nickname of Pellings, which is not yet extinct. There are several persons and even families who are reputed to be descended from these people. . . . These children [Penelope's] and their descendants, they say, were called Pellings, a word corrupted from their mother's name, Penelope. 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.'
Lastly, it will be noticed that these last versions do not distinctly suggest that the Lake Lady ran into the lake, that is into Cwellyn, but rather that she disappeared in the same way as the dancing party by simply becoming invisible like one's breath in July. The fairies are called in Welsh, Y Tylwyth Teg, or the Fair Family; but the people of Arfon have been so familiarized with the particular one I have called the Lake Lady, that, according to one of my informants, they have invented the term Y Dylwythes Deg, or even Y Dylwythen Deg, to denote her; but it is unknown to the others, so that the extent of its use is not very considerable.
This is, perhaps, the place to give another tale, according to which the man goes to the Lake Maiden's country, instead of her settling with him at his home. I owe it to the kindness of Mr. William Jones, of Regent Place, Llangollen, a native of Beddgelert. He heard it from an old man before he left Beddgelert, but when he sent a friend to inquire some time afterwards, the old man was gone. According to Mr. Jones, the details of the tale are, for that reason, imperfect, as some of the incidents have faded from his memory; but such as he can still remember the tale, it is here given in his own words:--
Ryw noson lawn lloer ac un o feibion Llwyn On yn Nant y Betws yn myned i garu i Glogwyn y Gwin, efe a welodd y Tylwyth yn ymloddestu a dawnsio ei hochr hi ar weirglodd wrth llan Llyn Cawellin. Efe a nesaodd tuag atynt; ac o dipyn i beth fe'i llithiwyd gan bereidddra swynol eu canu a hoender a bywiogrwydd eu chwareu, nes myned o hono tu fewn i'r cylch; ac yn fuan fe ddaeth rhyw hud drosto, fel y collodd adnabyddiaeth o bobman; a chafodd ei hun mewn gwlad harddaf a welodd erioed, lle'r oedd pawb yn treulio eu hamser mewn afiaeth a gorfoledd Yr oedd wedi bod yno am saith mlynedd, ac eto nid oedd ddim ond megis breuddwyd nos; and daeth adgof i'w feddwl am ei neges, a hiraeth ynddo am weled ei anwylyd. Felly efe a ofynodd ganiatad i ddychwelyd adref, yr hyn a roddwyd ynghyd a llu o gymdeithion i'w arwain tua'i wlad; ac yn ddisymwth cafodd ei hun fel yn deffro o freuddwyd ar y ddol, lle gwelodd y Tylwyth Teg yn chwareu. Trodd ei wyneb tuag adref; ond wedi myned yno yr oedd popeth wedi newid, ei rieni wedi meirw, ei frodyr yn ffaelu ei adnabod, a'i gariad wedi priodi un arall.- Ar ol y fath gyfnewidiadau efe a dorodd ei galon, ac a fu farw mewn llai nag wythnos ar ol ei ddychweliad.
'One bright moonlight night, as one of the sons of the
farmer who lived at Llwyn On in Nant y Bettws was going to pay his addresses to a girl at Clogwyn y Gwin, he beheld the Tylwyth Teg enjoying themselves in full swing on a meadow close to Cwellyn Lake. He approached them, and little by little he was led on by the enchanting sweetness of their music and the liveliness of their playing until he had got within their circle. Soon some kind of spell passed over him, so that he lost his knowledge of the place, and found himself in a country, the most beautiful he had ever seen, where everybody spent his time in mirth and rejoicing. He had been there seven years, and yet it seemed to him but a night's dream; but a faint recollection came to his mind of the business on which he had left home, and he felt a longing to see his beloved one. So he went and asked for permission to return home, which was granted him, together with a host of attendants to lead him to his country; and, suddenly, he found himself, as if waking from a dream, on the bank where he had seen the fair family amusing themselves. He turned towards home, but there he found everything changed: his parents were dead, his brothers could not recognize him, and his sweetheart was married to another man. In consequence of such changes he died broken-hearted in less than a week after coming back.'
The Rev. O. Davies regarded the Llanllechid legend as so very like the one he got about Cwellyn Lake and the Waen Fawr, that he has not written the former out at length, but merely pointed out the following differences: (1) Instead of Cwellyn, the lake in the former is the pool of Corwrion, in the parish of Llandegai, near Bangor. (2) What the Lake Lady was struck with was
not a bridle, but an iron fetter: the word used is llyfether, which probably means a long fetter connecting a forefoot and a hind-foot of a horse together. In Arfon, the word is applied also to a cord tying the two fore-feet together, but in Cardiganshire this would be called a hual, the other word, there pronounced llowethir, being confined to the long fetter. In books, the word is written llywethair, llefethair and llyffethair or llyffethar, which is possibly the pronunciation in parts of North Wales, especially Arfon. This is an interesting word, as it is no other than the English term 'long fetter,' borrowed into Welsh; as, in fact, it was also into Irish early enough to call for an article on it in Cormac's Irish Glossary, where langfiter is described as an English word for a fetter between the fore and the hind legs: in Anglo-Manx it is become lanketer. (3) The field in which they were trying to catch the horse is, in the Llanllechid version, specified as that called Maes Madog, at the foot of the Llefn. (4) When the fairy wife ran away, it was headlong into the pool of Corwrion, calling after her all her milch cows, and they followed her with the utmost readiness.
Before going on to mention bits of information I have received from others about the Llanllechid legend, I think it best here to finish with the items given me by Mr. O. Davies, whom I cannot too cordially thank for his readiness to answer my questions. Among other things, he expresses himself to the following effect: 'It is to this day a tradition--and I have heard it a hundred times--that the dairy of Corwrion excelled all other dairies in those parts, that the milk was better and more plentiful, and that the cheese and butter were better there than in all the country round, the reason assigned being that the cattle on the farm of Corwrion had mixed with the breed belonging to the fairy, who
had run away after being struck with the iron fetter. However that may be, I remember perfectly well the high terms of praise in which the cows of Corwrion used to be spoken of as being remarkable for their milk and the profit they yielded; and, when I was a boy, I used to hear people talk of Tarw Penwyn Corwrion, or "the White-headed Bull of Corwrion," as derived from the breed of cattle which had formed the fairy maiden's dowry.'
My next informant is Mr. Hugh Derfel Hughes, of Pendinas, Llandegai 1, who has been kind enough to give me the version, of which I here give the substance in English, premising that Mr. Hughes says that he has lived about thirty-four years within a mile of the pool and farm house called Corwrion, and that he has refreshed his memory of the legend by questioning separately no less than three old people, who had been bred and born at or near that spot. He is a native of Merioneth, but has lived at Llandegai for the last thirty-seven years, his age now being sixty-six. I may add that Mr. Hughes is a local antiquary of great industry and zeal; and that he published a book on the antiquities of the district, under the title of Hynafiaethau Llandegai a Llanllechid, that is 'the Antiquities of Llandegai and Llanllechid' (Bethesda, 1866); but it is out of print, and I have had some trouble to procure a copy:--
'In old times, when the fairies showed themselves much oftener to men than they do now, they made their home in the bottomless pool of Corwrion, in Upper Arllechwedd, in that wild portion of Gwynedd called
[paragraph continues] Arfon. On fine mornings in the month of June these diminutive and nimble folk might be seen in a regular line vigorously engaged in mowing hay, with their cattle in herds busily grazing in the fields near Corwrion. This was a sight which often met the eyes of the people on the sides of the hills around, even on Sundays; but when they hurried down to them they found the fields empty, with the sham workmen and their cows gone, all gone. At other times they might be heard hammering away like miners, shovelling rubbish aside, or emptying their carts of stones. At times they took to singing all the night long, greatly to the delight of the people about, who dearly loved to hear them; and, besides singing so charmingly, they sometimes formed into companies for dancing, and their movements were marvellously graceful and attractive. But it was not safe to go too near the lake late at night, for once a brave girl, who was troubled with toothache, got up at midnight and went to the brink of the water in search of the root of a plant that grows there full of the power to kill all pain in the teeth. But, as she was plucking up a bit of it, there burst on her ear, from the depths of the lake, such a shriek as drove her back into the house breathless with fear and trembling; but whether this was not the doing of a stray fairy, who had been frightened out of her wits at being suddenly overtaken by a damsel in her nightdress, or the ordinary fairy way of curing the toothache, tradition does not tell. For sometimes, at any rate, the fairies busied themselves in doing good to the men and women who were their neighbours, as when they tried to teach them to keep all promises and covenants to which they pledged themselves. A certain man and his wife, to whom they wished to teach this good habit, have never been forgotten. The husband had been behaving as
he ought, until one day, as he held the plough, with the wife guiding his team, he broke his covenant towards her by treating her harshly and unkindly. No sooner had he done so, than he was snatched through the air and plunged in the lake. When the wife went to the brink of the water to ask for him back, the reply she had was, that he was there, and that there he should be.
'The fairies when engaged in dancing allowed themselves to be gazed at, a sight which was wont greatly to attract the young men of the neighbourhood, and once on a time the son and heir of the owner of Corwrion fell deeply in love with one of the graceful maidens who danced in the fairy ring, for she was wondrously beautiful and pretty beyond compare. His passion for her ere long resulted in courtship, and soon in their being married, which took place on the express understanding, that firstly the husband was not to know her name, though he might give her any name he chose; and, secondly, that he might now and then beat her with a rod, if she chanced to misbehave towards him; but he was not to strike her with iron on pain of her leaving him at once. This covenant was kept for some years, so that they lived happily together and had four children, of whom the two youngest were a boy and a girl. But one day as they went to one of the fields of Bryn Twrw in the direction of Pennardd Gron, to catch a pony, the fairy wife, being so much nimbler than her husband, ran before him and had her hand in the pony's mane in no time. She called out to her husband to throw her a halter, but instead of that he threw towards her a bridle with an iron bit, which, as bad luck would have it, struck her. The wife at once flew through the air, and plunged headlong into Corwrion Pool. The husband returned
sighing and weeping towards Bryn Twrw, "Noise Hill," and when he had reached it, the twrw, "noise," there was greater than had ever been heard before, namely that of weeping after "Belenë"; and it was then, after he had struck her with iron, that he first learnt what his wife's name was. Belenë never came back to her husband, but the feelings of a mother once brought her to the window of his bedroom, where she gave him the following order:--
Os bydd anwyd ar fy mab,
Rho'wch am dano gob ei dad;
Os anwydog a fydd can 1,
Rho'wch am dani bais ei mam.
If my son should feel it cold,
Let him wear his father's coat;
If the fair one feel the cold,
Let her wear my petticoat.
'As years and years rolled on a grandson of Belend's fell in love with a beautiful damsel who lived at a neighbouring farm house called Tai Teulwriaid, and against the will of his father and mother they married, but they had nothing to stock their land with. So one morning what was their astonishment, when they got up, to see grazing quietly in the field six black cows and a white-headed bull, which had come up out of the lake as stock for them from old grannie Belenë? They served them well with milk and butter for many a long year, but on the day the last of the family died, the six black cows and the white-headed bull disappeared into the lake, never more to be seen.'
Mr. Hughes referred to no less than three other versions, as follows:--(1) According to one account, the husband was ploughing, with the wife leading the team, when by chance he came across her and the accident happened. The wife then flew away like a wood-hen (iar goed) into the lake. (2) Another says that they were in a stable trying to bridle one of the
horses, when the misfortune took place through inadvertence. (3) A third specifies the field in front of the house at Corwrion as the place where the final accident took place, when they were busied with the cows and horses.
To these I would add the following traditions, which Mr. Hughes further gives. Sometimes the inhabitants, who seem to have been on the whole on good terms with the fairies, used to heat water and leave it in a vessel on the hearth overnight for the fairies to wash their children in it. This they considered such a kindness that they always left behind them on the hearth a handful of their money. Some pieces are said to have been sometimes found in the fields near Corwrion, and that they consisted of coins which were smaller than our halfpennies, but bigger than farthings, and had a harp on one side. But the tradition is not very definite on these points.
Here also I may as well refer to a similar tale which I got last year at Llanberis from a man who is a native of the Llanllechid side of the mountain, though he now lives at Llanberis. He is about fifty-five years of age, and remembers hearing in his youth a tale connected with a house called Hafoty'r Famaeth, in a very lonely situation on Llanllechid Mountain, and now represented only by some old ruined walls. It was to the effect that one night, when the man who lived there was away from home, his wife, who had a youngish baby, washed him on the hearth, left the water there, and went to bed with her little one: she woke up in the night to find that the Tylwyth Teg were in possession of the hearth, and busily engaged in washing their children. That is all I got of this tale of a well-known type.
To return to Mr. Hughes' communications, I would select from them some remarks on the topography of
the teeming home of the fairies. He estimated the lake or pool of Corwrion to be about 120 yards long, and adds that it is nearly round; but he thinks it was formerly considerably larger, as a cutting was made some eighty or a hundred years ago to lead water from it to Penrhyn Castle; but even then its size would not approach that ascribed to it by popular belief, according to which it was no less than three miles long. In fact it was believed that there was once a town of Corwrion which was swallowed up by the lake, a sort of idea which one meets with in many parts of Wales, and some of the natives are said to be able to discern the houses under the water. This must have been near the end which is not bottomless, the latter being indicated by a spot which is said never to freeze even in hard winters. Old men remember it the resort of herons, cormorants, and the water-hen (hobi wen). Near the banks there grew, besides the water-lily, various kinds of rushes and sedges, which were formerly much used for making mats and other useful articles. It was also once famous for eels of a large size, but it is not supposed to have contained fish until Lord Penrhyn placed some there in recent years. It teemed, however, with leeches of three different kinds so recently that an old man still living describes to Mr. Hughes his simple way of catching them when he was a boy, namely, by walking bare-legged in the water: in a few minutes he landed with nine or ten leeches sticking to his legs, some of which fetched a shilling each from the medical men of those days. Corwrion is now a farm house occupied by Mr. William Griffiths, a grandson of the late bard Gutyn Peris. When Mr. Hughes called to make inquiries about the legend, he found there the foundations of several old buildings, and several pieces of old querns about the place. He
thinks that there belonged to Corwrion in former times, a mill and a fuller's house, which he seems to infer from the names of two neighbouring houses called 'Y Felin Hen,' the Old Mill, and 'Pandy Tre Garth,' the Fulling Mill of Tregarth, respectively. He also alludes to a gefail or smithy there, in which one Rhys ab Robert used to work, not to mention that a great quantity of ashes, such as come from a smithy, are found at the end of the lake furthest from the farm house. The spot on which Corwrion stands is part of the ground between the Ogwen and another stream which bears the name of 'Afon Cegin Arthur,' or the River of Arthur's Kitchen, and most of the houses and fields about have names which have suggested various notions to the people there: such are the farms called 'Coed Howel,' whence the belief in the neighbourhood that Howel Dda, King of Wales, lived here. About him Mr. Hughes has a great deal to say:. among other things, that he had boats on Corwrion lake, and that he was wont to present the citizens of Bangor yearly with 300 fat geese reared on the waters of the same. I am referred by another man to a lecture delivered in the neighbourhood on these and similar things by the late bard and antiquary the Rev. Robert Ellis (Cynddelw), but I have never come across a copy. A field near Corwrion is called 'Cae Stabal,' or the Field of the Stable, which contains the remains of a row of stables, as it is supposed, and of a number of mangers where Howel's horses were once fed. In a neighbouring wood, called 'Parc y Gelli' or 'Hopiar y Gelli,' my informant goes on to say, there are to be seen the foundations of seventeen or eighteen old hut-circles, and near them some think they see the site of an old church. About a mile to the south-east of Corwrion is Pendinas, which Mr. Hughes describes as
an old triangular Welsh fortress, on the bank of the Ogwen; and within two stone's-throws or so of Corwrion on the south side of it, and a little to the west of Bryn Twrw mentioned in the legend, is situated Penardd Gron, a caer or fort, which he describes as being, before it was razed in his time, forty-two yards long by thirty-two wide, and defended by a sort of rampart of earth and stone several yards wide at the base. It used to be the resort of the country people for dancing, cock-fighting 1, and other amusements on Sundays. Near it was a cairn, which, when it was dug into, was found to cover a kistvaen, a pot, and a quern: a variety of tales attaching to it are told concerning ghosts, caves, and hidden treasures. Altogether Mr. Hughes is strongly of opinion that Corwrion and its immediate surroundings represent a spot which at one time had great importance; and I see no reason wholly to doubt the correctness of that conclusion, but it would be interesting to know whether Penrhyn used, as Mr. Hughes suggests, to be called Penrhyn Corwrion; there ought, perhaps, to be no great difficulty in ascertaining this, as some of the Penrhyn estate appears to have been the subject of litigation in times gone by.
Before leaving Mr. Hughes' notes, I must here give his too brief account of another thing connected with Corwrion, though, perhaps, not with the legends here in question. I allude to what he calls the Lantern Ghost (Ysbryd y Lantar):--'There used to be formerly,' he says, 'and there is still at Corwrion, a good-sized sour apple-tree, which during the winter half of the year used to be lit up by fire. It began slowly and
grew greater until the whole seemed to be in a blaze. He was told by an old woman that she formerly knew old people who declared they had seen it. In the same way the trees in Hopiar y Gelli appeared, according to them, to be also lit up with fire.' This reminds me of Mr. Fitzgerald's account of the Irish Bile-Tineadh in the Revue Celtique, iv. 194.
After communicating to me the notes of which the foregoing are abstracts, Mr. Hughes kindly got me a version of the legend from Mr. David Thomas, of Pont y Wern, in the same neighbourhood, but as it contains nothing which I have not already given from Mr. Hughes' own, I pass it by. Mr. Thomas, however, has heard that the number of the houses making up the town of Corwrion some six or seven centuries ago was about seventy-five; but they were exactly seventy-three according to my next informant, Mr. David Evan Davies, of Treflys, Bethesda, better known by his bardic name of Dewi Glan Ffrydlas. Both these gentlemen have also heard the tradition that there was a church at Corwrion, where there used to be every Sunday a single service, after which the people went to a spot not far off to amuse themselves, and at night to watch the fairies dancing, or to mix with them while they danced in a ring around a glow-worm. According to Dewi Glan Ffrydlas, the spot was the Pen y Boric, already mentioned, which means, among other things, that they chose a rising ground. This is referred to in a modern rhyme, which runs thus:--
A'r Tylwyth Teg yn dauwnsi'on sionc
O gylch magïen Pen y Bonc.
With the fairies nimbly dancing round
The glow-worm on the Rising Ground.
Dewi Glan Ffrydlas has kindly gone to the trouble of giving me a brief, but complete, version of the legend as he has heard it. It will be noticed that the discovering
of the fairy's name is an idle incident in this version: it is brought in too late, and no use is made of it when introduced. This is the substance of his story in English:--'At one of the dances at Pen y Bonc, the heir of Corwrion's eyes fell on one of the damsels of the fair family, and he was filled with love for her. Courtship and marriage in due time ensued, but he had to agree to two conditions, namely, that he was neither to know her name nor to strike her with iron. By-and-by they had children, and when the husband happened to go, during his wife's confinement, to a merry-making at Pen y Boric, the fairies talked together concerning his wife, and in expressing their feelings of sympathy for her, they inadvertently betrayed the mystery of her name by mentioning it within his hearing. Years rolled on, when the husband and wife went out together one day to catch a colt of theirs that had not been broken in, their object being to go to Conway Fair. Now, as she was swifter of foot than her husband, she got hold of the colt by the mane, and called out to him to throw her a halter, but instead of throwing her the one she asked for, he threw another with iron in it, which struck her. Off she went into the lake. A grandson of this fairy many years afterwards married one of the girls of Corwrion. They had a large piece of land, but no means of stocking it, so that they felt rather distressed in their minds. But lo and behold! one day a white-headed bull came out of the lake, bringing with him six black cows to their land. There never were the like of those cows for milk, and great was the prosperity of their owners, as well as the envy it kindled in their neighbours' breasts. But when they both grew old and died, the bull and the cows went back into the lake.'
Now I add the other sayings about the Tylwyth Teg,
which Dewi Glan Ffrydlas has kindly collected for me, beginning with a blurred story about changelings:--
'Once on a time, in the fourteenth century, the wife of a man at Corwrion had twins, and she complained one day to a witch, who lived close by, at Tyddyn y Barcud, that the children were not getting on, but that they were always crying day and night. "Are you sure that they are your children?" asked the witch, adding that it did not seem to her that they were like hers. "I have my doubts also," said the mother. "I wonder if somebody has exchanged children with you," said the witch. "I do not know," said the mother. "But why do you not seek to know?" asked the other. "But how am I to go about it?" said the mother. The witch replied, "Go and do something rather strange before their eyes and watch what they will say to one another." "Well, I do not know what I should do," said the mother. "Well," said the other, "take an eggshell, and proceed to brew beer in it in a chamber aside, and come here to tell me what the children will say about it." She went home and did as the witch had directed her, when the two children lifted their heads out of the cradle to find what she was doing--to watch and to listen. Then one observed to the other, "I remember seeing an oak having an acorn," to which the other replied, "And I remember seeing a hen having an egg"; and one of the two added, "But I do not remember before seeing anybody brew beer in the shell of a hen's egg." The mother then went to the witch and told her what the twins had said one to the other; and she directed her to go to a small wooden bridge, not far off, with one of the strange children under each arm, and there to drop them from the bridge into the river beneath. The mother went back home again and did as she had been directed. When she reached home
this time, she found to her astonishment that her own children had been brought back.'
Next comes a story about a midwife who lived at Corwrion. 'One of the fairies called to ask her to come and attend on his wife. Off she went with him, and she was astonished to be taken into a splendid palace. There she continued to go night and morning to dress the baby for some time, until one day the husband asked her to rub her eyes with a certain ointment he offered her. She did so, and found herself sitting on a tuft of rushes, and not in a palace. There was no baby: all had disappeared. Some time afterwards she happened to go to the town, and whom should she there see busily buying various wares, but the fairy on whose wife she had been attending. She addressed him with the question, "How are you to-day?" Instead of answering her, he asked, "How do you see me?" "With my eyes," was the prompt reply. "Which eye?" he asked. "This one," said the woman, pointing to it; and instantly he disappeared, never more to be seen by her.' This tale, as will be seen on comparison later, is incomplete, and probably incorrect.
Here is another from Mr. D. E. Davies:--'One day Guto, the farmer of Corwrion, complained to his wife that he lacked men to mow his hay, when she replied, " Why fret about it? look yonder! There you have a field full of them at it, and stripped to their shirt-sleeves (yn llewys eu crysau)." When he went to the spot the sham workmen of the fairy family had disappeared. This same Guto-- r somebody else-happened another time to be ploughing, when he heard some person he could not see, calling out to him, "I have got the bins (that is the vice) of my plough broken." "Bring it to me," said the driver of Guto's team, "that I may mend it." When they finished the furrow, they found the
broken vice, with a barrel of beer placed near it. One of the men sat down and mended the vice. Then they made another furrow, and when they returned to the spot they found there a two-eared dish filled to the brim with bara a chwrw, or "bread and beer." The word vice, I may observe, is an English term, which is applied in Carnarvonshire to a certain part of the plough: it is otherwise called bins, but neither does this seem to be a Welsh word, nor have I heard either used in South Wales.
At times one of the fairies was in the habit, as I was told by more than one of my informants, of coming out of Llyn Corwrion with her spinning-wheel (troell bach) on fine summer days and betaking herself to spinning. While at that work she might be heard constantly singing or humming, in a sort of round tune, the words sìli ffrit. So that sìli ffrit Leisa Bela may now be heard from the mouths of the children in that neighbourhood. But I have not been successful in finding out what Liza Bella's 'silly frit' exactly means, though I am, on the whole, convinced that the words are other than of Welsh origin. The last of them, ffrit, is usually applied in Cardiganshire to anything worthless or insignificant, and the derivative, ffrityn, means one who has no go or perseverance in him: the feminine is ffriten. In Carnarvonshire my wife has heard ffrityn and ffritan applied to a small man and a small woman respectively. Mr. Hughes says that in Merioneth and parts of Powys sìli ffrit is a term applied to a small woman or a female dwarf who happens to be proud, vain, and fond of the attentions of the other sex (benyw fach neu goraches falch a hunanol a fyddai hoff o garu); but he thinks he has heard it made use of with regard to the gipsies, and possibly also to the Tylwyth Teg. The Rev. O.
[paragraph continues] Davies thinks the words sìli ffrit Leisa Bèla to be very modern, and that they refer to a young woman who lived at a place in the neighbourhood, called Bryn Bèla or Brymbèla, 'Bella's Hill,' the point being that this Bella was ahead, in her time, of all the girls in those parts in matters of taste and fashion. This however does not seem to go far enough back, and it is possible still that in Bèla, that is, in English spelling, Bella, we have merely a shortening of some such a name as Isabella or Arabella, which were once much more popular in the Principality than they are now: in fact, I do not feel sure that Leisa Bèla is not bodily a corruption of Isabella. As to sìli ffrit, one might at first have been inclined to render it by small fry, especially in the sense of the French 'de la friture' as applied to young men and boys, and to connect it with the Welsh sil and silod, which mean small fish; but the pronunciation of silli or sìli being nearly that of the English word silly, it appears, on the whole, to belong to the host of English words to be found in colloquial Welsh, though they seldom find their way into books. Students of English ought to be able to tell us whether frit had the meaning here suggested in any part of England, and how lately; also, whether there was such a phrase as 'silly frit' in use. After penning this, I received the following interesting communication from Mr. William Jones, of Llangollen:--The term sìli ffrìt was formerly in use at Beddgelert, and what was thereby meant was a child of the Tylwyth Teg. It is still used for any creature that is smaller than ordinary. 'Pooh, a silly frit like that!' (Pw, rhyw sìli ffrit fel yna!). 'Mrs. So-and-So has a fine child.' 'Ha, do you call a silly frit like that a fine child?' (Mae gan hon a hon blentyn braf. Ho, a ydych chwi'n galw rhyw sìli ffrit fel hwnna'n
braf?) To return to Leisa Bèla and Belenë, it may be that the same person was meant by both these names, but I am in no hurry to identify them, as none of my correspondents knows the latter of them except Mr. Hughes, who gives it on the authority of the bard Gutyn Peris, and nothing further so far as I can understand, whereas Bèla will come before us in another story, as it is the same name, I presume, which Glasynys has spelled Bella in Cymru Fu.
So I wrote in 1881: since then I have ascertained from Professor Joseph Wright, who is busily engaged on his great English Dialect Dictionary, that frit 1 is the same word, in the dialects of Cheshire, Shropshire, and Pembrokeshire, as fright in literary English; and that the corresponding verb to frighten is in them fritten, while a frittenin (= the book English frightening) means a ghost or apparition. So sìli ffrit is simply the English silly frit, and means probably a silly sprite or silly ghost, and sìli ffrit Leisa Bèla would mean the silly ghost of a woman called Liza Bella. But the silly frit found spinning near Corwrion Pool will come under notice again, for that fairy belongs to the Rumpelstiltzchen group of tales, and the fragment of a story about her will be seen to have treated Silly Frit as her proper name, which she had not intended to reach the ears of the person of whom she was trying to get the better.
These tales are brought into connexion with the present day in more ways than one, for besides the various accounts of the bwganod or bogies of Corwrion frightening people when out late at night, Mr. D. E. Davies knows a man, who is still living, and who
well remembers the time when the sound of working used to be heard in the pool, and the voices of children crying somewhere in its depths, but that when people rushed there to see what the matter was, all was found profoundly quiet and still. Moreover, there is a family or two, now numerously represented in the parishes of Llandegai and Llanllechid, who used to be taunted with being the offspring of fairy ancestors. One of these families was nicknamed 'Simychiaid' or 'Smychiaid'; and my informant, who is not yet quite forty, says that he heard his mother repeat scores of times that the old people used to say, that the Smychiaid, who were very numerous in the neighbourhood, were descended from fairies, and that they came from Llyn Corwrion. At all this the Smychiaid were wont to grow mightily angry. Another tradition, he says, about them was that they were a wandering family that arrived in the district from the direction of Conway, and that the father's name was a Simwch, or rather that was his nickname, based on the proper name Simwnt, which appears to have once been the prevalent name in Llandegai. The historical order of these words would in that case have been Simwnt, Simwch, Simychiaid, Smychiaid. Now Simwnt seems to be merely the Welsh form given to some such English name as Simond, just as Edmund or Edmond becomes in North Wales Emwnt. The objection to the nickname seems to lie in the fact, which one of my correspondents points out to me, that Simwch is understood to mean a monkey, a point on which I should like to have further information. Pughe gives simach, it is true, as having the meaning of the Latin simia. A branch of the same family is said to be called 'y Cowperiaid' or the Coopers, from an ancestor who was either by name or by trade a cooper.
[paragraph continues] Mr. Hughes' account of the Smychiaid was, that they are the descendants of one Simonds, who came to be a bailiff at Bodysgallan, near Deganwy, and moved from there to Coetmor in the neighbourhood of Corwrion. Simonds was obnoxious to the bards, he goes on to say, and they described the Smychiaid as having arrived in the parish at the bottom of a cawell, 'a creel or basket carried on the back,' when chance would have it that the cawell cord snapped just in that neighbourhood, at a place called Pont y Llan. That accident is described, according to Mr. Hughes, in the following doggerel, the origin of which I do not know--
E dorai 'r anwest, ede wan,
Brwnt y lle, ar Bont y Llan.
The cord would snap, feeble yarn,
At that nasty spot, Pont y Llan.
Curiously enough, the same cawell story used to be said of a widely spread family in North Cardiganshire, whose surname was pronounced Massn and written Mason or Mazon: as my mother was of this family, I have often heard it. The cawell, if I remember rightly, was said, in this instance, to have come from Scotland, to which were traced three men who settled in North Cardiganshire. One had no descendants, but the other two, Mason and Peel--I think his name was Peel, but I am only sure that it was not Welsh- had so many, that the Masons, at any rate, are exceedingly numerous there; but a great many of them, owing to some extent, probably, to the cawell story, have been silly enough to change their name into that of Jones, some of them in my time. The three men came there probably for refuge in the course of troubles in Scotland, as a Frazer and a Francis did to Anglesey. At any rate, I have never heard it suggested that they were of aquatic origin, but, taking the cawell into consideration, and the popular account of
the Smychiaid, I should be inclined to think that the cawell originally referred to some such a supposed descent. I only hope that somebody will help us with another and a longer cawell tale, which will make up for the brevity of these allusions. We may, however, assume, I think, that there was a tendency at one time in Gwynedd, if not in other parts of the Principality, to believe, or pretend to believe, that the descendants of an Englishman or Scotsman, who settled among the old inhabitants, were of fairy origin, and that their history was somehow uncanny, which was all, of course, duly resented. This helps, to some extent, to explain how names of doubtful origin have got into these tales, such as Smychiaid, Cowperiaid, Pellings, Penelope, Leisa Bèla or Isabella, and the like. This association of the lake legends with intruders from without is what has, perhaps, in a great measure served to rescue such legends from utter oblivion.
As to a church at Corwrion, the tradition does not seem to be an old one, and it appears founded on one of the popular etymologies of the word Corwrion, which treats the first syllable as cor in the sense of a choir; but the word has other meanings, including among them that of an ox-stall or enclosure for cattle. Taking this as coming near the true explanation, it at once suggests itself, that Creuwyryon in the Mabinogi of Math ab Mathonwy is the same place, for creu or crau also meant an enclosure for animals, including swine. In Irish the word is cró, an enclosure, a hut or hovel. The passage in the Mabinogi 1 relates to Gwydion returning with the swine he had got by dint of magic and deceit from Pryderi, prince of Dyfed, and runs thus in Lady Charlotte Guest's translation: 'So they journeyed on to the highest town of Arllechwedd,
and there they made a sty (creu) for the swine, and therefore was the name of Creuwyryon given to that town.' As to wyryon or wyrion, which we find made into wrion in Corwrion according to the modern habit, it would seem to be no other word than the usual plural of wyr, a grandson, formerly also any descendant in the direct line. If so, the name of an ancestor must have originally followed, just as one of the places called Bettws was once Betws Wyrion Iddon, 'the Bettws of Iddon's Descendants'; but it is possible that wyrion in Creu- or Cor-wyrion was itself a man's name, though I have never met with it. It is right to add that the name appears in the Record of Carnarvon (pp. 12, 25, 26) as Creweryon, which carries us back to the first half of the fourteenth century. There it occurs as the name of a township containing eight gavels, and the particulars about it might, in the hand of one familiar with the tenures of that time, perhaps give us valuable information as to what may have been its status at a still earlier date.
Here, for the sake of comparison with the Northwalian stories in which the fairy wife runs away from her husband in consequence of his having unintentionally touched or hit her with the iron in the bridle, the fetter, or the stirrup, as on pp. 35, 40, 46, 50, 54, 61. I wish to cite the oldest recorded version, namely from Walter Mapes' curious miscellany of anecdotes and legends entitled De Nugis Curialium Distinctiones Quinque. Mapes flourished in the latter part of the twelfth century, and in Distinctio ii. II of Thomas Wright's edition, published in the year 1850, one reads the following story, which serves the purpose there of
giving the origin of a certain Trinio, of whom Mapes had more to say:--
Aliud non miraculum sed portentum nobis Walenses referunt. Wastinum Wastiniauc secus stagnum Brekeinauc [read Brecheinauc], quod in circuitu duo miliaria tenet, mansisse aiunt et vidisse per tres claras a luna noctes choreas fæminarum in campo avenæ, suæ, et secutum eum eas fuisse donec in aqua stagni submergerentur, unam tamen quarta vice retinuisse. Narrabat etiam ille raptor illius quod eas noctibus singulis post submersionem earum murmurantes audisset sub aqua et dicentes, 'Si hoc fecisset, unam de nobis cepisset,' et se ab ipsis edoctum quomodo hanc adepta [read -us] sit, qua, et consensit et nupsit ei, et prima verba sua hæc ad virum suum, 'Libens tibi serviam, et tota obedientiæ devotione usque in diem illum prosilire volens ad clamores ultra Lenem [read Leueni] me freno tuo percusseris.' Est autem Leueni aqua vicina stagno. Quod et factum est; post plurimæ, prolis susceptionem ab eo freno percussa est, et in reditu suo inventam eam fugientem cum prole, insecutus est, et vix unum ax filiis suis arripuit, nomine Triunem Uagelauc.
'The Welsh relate to us another thing, not so much a miracle as a portent, as follows. They say that Gwestin of Gwestiniog dwelt beside Brecknock Mere, which has a circumference of two miles, and that on three moonlight nights he saw in his field of oats women dancing, and that he followed them until they sank in the water of the mere; but the fourth time they say that he seized hold of one of them. Her captor further used to relate that on each of these nights he had heard the women, after plunging into the mere, murmuring beneath the water and saying, "If he had done so and so, he would have caught one of us," and that he had been instructed by their own words,
as to the manner in which he caught her. She both yielded and became his wife, and her first words to her husband were these: "Willingly will I serve thee, and with whole-hearted obedience, until that day when, desirous of sallying forth in the direction of the cries beyond the Llyfni, thou shalt strike me with thy bridle"--the Llyfni is a burn near the mere. And this came to pass: after presenting him with a numerous offspring she was struck by him with the bridle, and on his returning home, he found her running away with her offspring, and he pursued her, but it was with difficulty that he got hold even of one of his sons, and he was named Trinio (?) Faglog.'
The story, as it proceeds, mentions Trinio engaged in battle with the men of a prince who seems to have been no other than Brychan of Brycheiniog, supposed to have died about the middle of the fifth century. The battle was disastrous to Trinio and his friends, and Trinio was never seen afterwards; so Walter Mapes reports the fact that people believed him to have been rescued by his mother, and that he was with her living still in the lake. Giraldus calls it lacus ille de Brecheniauc magnus et famosus, quem et Clamosum dicunt, 'that great and famous lake of Brecknock which they also call Clamosus,' suggested by the Welsh Lyn Llefni, so called from the river Llefni, misinterpreted as if derived from llef 'a cry.' With this lake he connects the legend, that at the bidding of the rightful Prince of Wales, the birds frequenting it would at once warble and sing. This he asserts to have been proved in the case of Gruffudd, son of Rhys, though the Normans were at the time masters of his person and of his territory 1. After dwelling on the varying colours of the lake he adds the following statement:--Ad hæc
etiam totus ædificiis consertus, culturis egregiis, hortis ornatus et pomeriis, ab accolis quandoque conspicitur, 'Now and then also it is seen by the neighbouring inhabitants to be covered with buildings, and adorned with excellent farming, gardens, and orchards.' It is remarkable as one of the few lakes in Wales where the remains of a crannog have been discovered, and while Mapes gives it as only two miles round, it is now said to be about five; so it has sometimes 1 been regarded as a stockaded island rather than as an instance of pile dwellings.
In the Brython for 1863, pp. 114 -15, is to be found what purports to be a copy of a version of the Legend of Llyn Syfaddon, as contained in a manuscript of Hugh Thomas' in the British Museum. It is to the effect that the people of the neighbourhood have a story that all the land now covered by the lake belonged to a princess, who had an admirer to whom she would not be married unless he procured plenty of gold: she did not care how. So he one day murdered and robbed a man who had money, and the princess then accepted the murderer's suit, but she felt uneasy on account of the reports as to the murdered man's ghost haunting the place where his body had been buried. So she made her admirer go at night to interview the ghost and lay it. Whilst he waited near the grave he heard a voice inquiring whether the innocent man was not to be avenged, and another replying that it would not be avenged till the ninth generation. The princess and her lover felt safe enough and were married: they multiplied and became numerous, while their town grew to be as it were another Sodom; and the original pair lived on so
astonishingly long that they saw their descendants of the ninth generation. They exulted in their prosperity, and one day held a great feast to celebrate it; and when their descendants were banqueting with them, and the gaiety and mirth were at their zenith, ancestors and descendants were one and all drowned in a mighty cataclysm which produced the present lake.
Lastly may be briefly mentioned the belief still lingering in the neighbourhood, to the effect that there is a town beneath the waters of the lake, and that in rough weather the bells from the church tower of that town may be heard ringing, while in calm weather the spire of the church may be distinctly seen. My informant, writing in 1892, added the remark: 'This story seems hardly creditable to us, but many of the old people believe it.'
I ought to have mentioned that the fifteenth-century poet Lewis Glyn Cothi connects with Syfaddon 1 Lake an afanc legend; but this will be easier to understand in the light of the more complete one from the banks of the river Conwy. So the reader will find Glyn Cothi's words given in the next chapter.
2:1 As to the spelling of Welsh names, it may be pointed out for the benefit of English readers that Welsh f has the sound of English v, while the sound of English f is written ff (and ph) in Welsh, and however strange it may seem to them that the written f should be sounded v, it is borrowed from an old English alphabet which did so likewise more or less systematically. Th in such English words as thin and breath is written th, but the soft sound as in this and breathe is usually printed in Welsh dd and written in modern Welsh manuscript sometimes δ, like a small Greek delta: this will be found represented by ð in the Welsh extracts edited by me in this volume.--J. R.
3:1 'Blaensawdde, or the upper end of the river Sawdde, is situate about three-quarters of a mile south-east from the village of Llanddeusant. It gives its name to one of the hamlets of that parish. The Sawdde has its source in Llyn y Fan Fach, which is nearly two miles distant from Blaensawdde House.'
4:1 The rendering might be more correctly given thus: 'O thou of the crimped bread, it is not easy to catch me.'--J. R.
4:2 'Myddfai parish was, in former times, celebrated for its fair maidens, but whether they were descendants of the Lady of the Lake or otherwise cannot be determined. An old pennill records the fact of their beauty thus:--
Mae eira gwyn
Ar ben y bryn,
A'r glasgoed yn y Ferdre,
Mae bedw mân
A merched glân yn Myddfe.
Which may be translated,
There is white snow
On the mountain's brow,
And greenwood at the Verdre,
Young birch so good
In Cwm-brân wood,
And lovely girls in Myddfe.'
5:1 Similarly this should be rendered: 'O thou of the moist bread, I will not have thee.'--J. R.
12:1 In the best Demetian Welsh this word would be hweddel, and in the Gwentian of Glamorgan it is gweddel, mutated weddel, as may be heard in the neighbourbood of Bridgend.--J. R.
12:2 This is not generally accepted, as some Welsh antiquarians find reasons to believe that Dafydd ap Gwilym was buried at Strata Florida--J. R.
15:1 This is not quite correct, as I believe that Dr. C. Rice William, who lives at Aberystwyth, is one of the Meddygon. That means the year Mi, when this chapter was written, excepting the portions concerning which the reader is apprised of a later date.--J. R.
19:1 Later it will be seen that the triban in the above form was meant for neither of the two lakes, though it would seem to have adapted itself to several. In the case of the Fan Fach Lake the town meant must have been Carmarthen, and the couplet probably ran thus:
Os na cha'i lonydd yn ym lle,
Fi fodda dre' Garfyrddin.
23:1 Llwch is the Goidelic word loch borrowed, and Llyn Cwm y Llwch literally means the Lake of the Loch Dingle.
24:1 I make no attempt to translate these lines, but I find that Mr. Llewellyn Williams has found a still more obscure version of them, as follows:--
Prw medd, Prw medd, prw'r gwariheg i dre',
Prw milfach a malfach, pedair llualfach,
Llualfach ac Aeli, pedair lafi,
Lafi a chromwen, pedair nepwen,
Nepwen drwynog, brech yn llyn a gwaun dodyn,
Tair bryncethin, tair cyffredin,
Tair caseg ddu, draw yn yr eithin;
Dewch i gyd i lys y brenin.
27:1 The Ty-fry is a house said to be some 200 years old, and situated about two miles from Rhonda Fechan: more exactly it is about one-fourth of a mile from the station of Ystrad Rhonda, and stands at the foot of Mynydd yr Eglwys on the Treorky side. It is now surrounded by the cottages of colliers, one of whom occupies it. For this information I have to thank Mr. Probert Evans.
28:1 It is to be borne in mind that the sound of h is uncertain in Glamorgan. Pronunciation, whether the language used is Welsh or English. The pronunciation indicated, however, by Mr. Evans comes near enough to the authentic form written Elfarch.
29:1 In the Snowdon district of Gwynedd the call is drwi, drwi, drw^-i bach, while in North Cardiganshire it is trwi, trwi, trw-e fach, also pronounced sometimes with a surd r, produced by making the breath cause both lips to vibrate--tR'wi, tR'wi, which can hardly be distinguished from pR'wi, pR'wi. For the more forcibly the lips are vibrated the more difficult it becomes to start by closing them to pronounce p: so the tendency with R' is to make the preceding consonant into some kind of a t.
31:1 This is the Welsh form of the borrowed name Jane, and its pronunciation in North Cardiganshire is Siân, with si pronounced approximately like the ti of such French words a; nation and the like; but of late years I find the si made into English sh under the influence, probably, to some extent of the English taught at school. This happens in North Wales, even in districts where there are still plenty of people who cannot approach the English words fish and shilling nearer than fiss and silling. Siôn and Siân represent an old importation of English John and Jane, but they are now considered old-fashioned and superseded by John and Jane, which I learned to pronounce Dsiòn and Dsiên, except that Siôn survives as a family name, written Shone, in the neighbourhood of Wrexham.
31:2 This term dafad (or dafaden), 'a sheep,' also used for 'a wart,' and dafad (or dafaden) wyllt, literally 'a wild sheep,' for cancer or epithelioma, raises a question which I am quite unable to answer: why should a wart have been likened to a sheep?
32:1 The name is probably a shortening of Cawellyn, and that perhaps of Cawell-lyn, 'Creel or Basket Lake.' Its old name is said to have been Llyn Tarddenni.
33:1 Tyn is a shortening of tyddyn, which is not quite forgotten in the case of Tyn Gadlas or Tyn Siarlas (for Tyddyn Siarlys), 'Charles' Tenement,' in the immediate neighbourhood. Similarly the Anglesey Farm of Tyn yr Onnen used at one time to be Tyddyn yr Onnen in the books of Jesus College, Oxford, to which it belongs.
34:1 That is the pronunciation which I have learnt at Llanberis, but there is another, which I have also heard, namely Derwenydd.
39:1 Ystrad is the Welsh corresponding to Scotch strath, and it is nearly related to the English word strand. It means the flat land near a river.
39:2 Betws (or Bettws) Garmon seems to mean Germanus's Bede-hûs or House of Prayer, but Garmon can hardly have come down in Welsh from the time of the famous saint in the fifth century, as it would then have probably yielded Gerfon and not Garmon: it looks as if it had come through the Goidelic of this country.
40:1 One of the rare merits of our Welsh bards is their habit of assuming permanent noms de plume, by means of which they prevent a number of excellent native names from falling into utter oblivion in the general chaos of Anglo-Hebrew ones, such as Jones, Davies, and Williams, which cover the Principality. Welsh place-names have similarly been threatened by Hebrew names of chapels, such as Bethesda, Rehoboth, and Jerusalem, but in this direction the Jewish mania has only here and there effected permanent mischief.
40:2 The Brython was a valuable Welsh periodical published by Mr. Robert Isaac Jones, at Tremadoc, in the years 1858-1863, and edited by the Rev. Chancellor Silvan Evans, who was then the curate of Llangïan in Lleyn: in fact he was curate for fourteen years! His excellent work in editing the Brython earned for him his diocesan's displeasure, but it is easier to imagine than to describe how hard it was for him to resign the honorarium of £24 derived from the Brython when his stipend as a clergyman was only £92, at the same time that he had dependent on him a wife and six children. However much some people affect to laugh at the revival of the national spirit in Wales, we have, I think, got so far as to make it, for some time to come, impossible for a Welsh clergyman to be snubbed on account of his literary tastes or his delight in the archæology of his country.
52:1 This parish is called after a saint named Tegái or Tygái, like Tyfaelog and Tysilio, and though the accent rests on the final syllable nothing could prevent the grammarian Huw Tegai and his friends from making it into Tégai in Huw's name.
55:1 For can they now usually put Ann, and Mr. Hughes remembers hearing it so many years ago.
59:1 I remember seeing a similar mound at Llanfyrnach, in Pembrokeshire; and the last use made of the hollow on the top of this also is supposed to have been for cock-fights.
63:1 My attention has also been called to freit, frete, freet, fret, 'news, inquiry, augury,' corresponding to Anglo-Saxon freht, 'divination.' But the disparity of meaning seems to stand in the way of our ffrit being referred to this origin.
69:1 The Oxford Mabinogion, p. 63; Guest, iii. 223.
72:1 See the Itinerarium Kambriæ, i. 2 (pp. 33-5), and Celtic Britain, p. 64.
73:1 As for example in the Archæologia Cambrensis for 1870, pp. 192-8; see also 1872, pp. 146-8.
74:1 Howells has also an account of Llyn Savadhan, as he writes it: see his Cambrian Superstitions, pp. 100-2, where he quaintly says that the story of the wickedness of the ancient lord of Syfaddon is assigned as the reason why 'the superstitious little river Lewenny will not mix its water with that of the lake.' Lewenny is a reckless improvement of Mapes' Leueni (printed Lenem); and Giraldus' Clamosum implies an old spelling Llefni, pronounced the same as the later spelling Llyfni, which is now made into Llynfi or Llynvi: the river so called flows through the lake and into the Wye at Glasbury. As to Safaddan or Syfaddon, it is probably of Goidelic origin, and to be identified with such an Irish name as the feminine Samthann: see Dec. 19 in the Martyrologies. To keep within our data, we are at liberty to suppose that this was the name of the wicked princess in the story, and that she was the ancestress of a clan once powerful on and around the lake, which lies within a Goidelic area indicated by its Ogam inscriptions.