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CELTIC FOLKLORE



].



HENRY FROWDE, M.A.

PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD




LONDON, EDINBURGH, AND NEW YORK



CELTIC FOLKLORE



WELSH AND MANX



BY



JOHN RHtS, M.A., D.Lnr.

HON. LL.D. OF THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH

PROFESSOR OF CELTIC
PRINCIPAL OF JESUS COLLEGE, OXFORD



VOLUME I



OXFORD

AT THE CLARENDON PRESS




Ojrforfc

PRINTED AT THE CLARENDON PRESS

BY HORACE HART, M.A.
PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY



TO ALL THOSE

WHO HAVE IN ANY WAY CONTRIBUTED TO

THE PRODUCTION OF THIS WORK

IT IS RESPECTFULLY

DEDICATED

IN TOKEN OF HIS GRATITUDE
BY

THE AUTHOR



V O



CENTRAL RESERVT



OUR modern idioms, with all their straining after the abstract,
are but primitive man's mental tools adapted to the require-
ments of civilized life, and they often retain traces of the
form and shape which the neolithic worker's chipping and
polishing gave them.



PREFACE

TOWARDS the close of the seventies I began to collect
Welsh folklore. I did so partly because others had
set the example elsewhere, and partly in order to see
whether Wales could boast of any story-tellers of the
kind that delight the readers of Campbell's Popular
Tales of the West Highlands. I soon found what
I was not wholly unprepared for, that as a rule I
could not get a single story of any length from the
mouths of any of my fellow countrymen, but a consider-
able number of bits of stories. In some instances these
were so scrappy that it took me years to discover how
to fit them into their proper context; but, speaking
generally, I may say, that, as the materials, such as
they were, accumulated, my initial difficulties dis-
appeared. I was, however, always a little afraid of
refreshing my memory with the legends of other lands
lest I should read into those of my own, ideas possibly
foreign to them. While one is busy collecting, it is
safest probably not to be too much engaged in com-
parison : when the work of collecting is done that of
comparing may begin. But after all I have not attempted
to proceed very far in that direction, only just far
enough to find elucidation here and there for the
meaning of items of folklore brought under my notice.
To have gone further would have involved me in
excursions hopelessly beyond the limits of my under-
taking, for comparative folklore has lately assumed



Vlll



PREFACE



such dimensions, that it seems best to leave it to
those who make it their special study.

It is a cause of genuine regret to me that I did not
commence my inquiries earlier, when I had more
opportunities of pursuing them, especially when I was
a village schoolmaster in Anglesey and could have
done the folklore of that island thoroughly ; but my
education, such as it was, had been of a nature to
discourage all interest in anything that savoured of
heathen lore and superstition. Nor is that all, for the
schoolmasters of my early days took very little trouble
to teach their pupils to keep their eyes open or take
notice of what they heard around them ; so I grew
up without having acquired the habit of observing
anything, except the Sabbath. It is to be hoped that
the younger generation of schoolmasters trained under
more auspicious circumstances, when the baleful
influence of Robert Lowe has given way to a more
enlightened system of public instruction, will do better,
and succeed in fostering in their pupils habits of
observation. At all events there is plenty of work still
left to be done by careful observers and skilful inquirers,
as will be seen from the geographical list showing
approximately the provenance of the more important
contributions to the Kymric folklore in this collection :
the counties will be found to figure very unequally.
Thus the anglicizing districts have helped me very
little, while the more Welsh county of Carnarvon
easily takes the lead ; but I am inclined to regard the
anomalous features of that list as in a great measure
due to accident. In other words, some neighbourhoods
have been luckier than others in having produced or
attracted men who paid attention to local folklore;
and if other counties were to be worked equally with
Carnarvonshire, some of them would probably be found



PREFACE



IX



not much less rich in their yield. The anglicizing
counties in particular are apt to be disregarded both
from the Welsh and the English points of view, in
folklore just as in some other things; and in this
connexion I cannot help mentioning the premature
death of the Rev. Elias Owen as a loss which Welsh
folklorists will not soon cease to regret.

My information has been obtained partly viva voce,
partly by letter. In the case of the stories written
down for me in Welsh, I may mention that in some
instances the language is far from good ; but it has not
been thought expedient to alter it in any way, beyond
introducing some consistency into the spelling. In the
case of the longest specimen of the written stories,
Mr. J. C. Hughes' Curse of Pantannas, it is worthy of
notice in passing, that the rendering of it into English
was followed by a version in blank verse by Sir Lewis
Morris, who published it in his Songs of Britain. With
regard to the work generally, my original intention was
to publish the materials, obtained in the way described,
with such stories already in print as might be deemed
necessary by way of setting for them ; and to let any
theories or deductions in which I might be disposed to
indulge follow later. In this way the first six chapters
and portions of some of the others appeared from time
to time in the publications of the Honourable Society of
Cymmrodorion and in those of the Folk-Lore Society.
This would have allowed me to divide the present work
into the two well marked sections of materials and
deductions. But, when the earlier part came to be
edited, I found that I had a good deal of fresh material
at my disposal, so that the chapters in question had
in some instances to be considerably lengthened and in
some others modified in other ways. Then as to the
deductive half of the work, it may be mentioned that



x PREFACE

certain portions of the folklore, though ever apt to repeat
themselves, were found when closely scrutinized to show
serious lacunae, which had to be filled in the course
of the reasoning suggested by the materials in hand.
Thus the idea of the whole consisting of two distinctly
defined sections had to be given up or else allowed to
wait till I should find time to recast it. But I could
no more look forward to any such time than to the
eventual possibility of escaping minor inconsistencies by
quietly stepping through the looking-glass and beginning
my work with the index instead of resting content to
make it in the old-fashioned way at the end. There
was, however, a third course, which is only mentioned to
be rejected, and that was to abstain from all further
publication ; but what reader of books has ever known
any of his authors to adopt that !

To crown these indiscretions I have to confess that
even when most of what I may call the raw material
had been brought together, I had no clear idea what
I was going to do with it; but I had a hazy notion,
that, as in the case of an inveterate talker whose stream
of words is only made the more boisterous by obstruc-
tion, once I sat down to write I should find reasons and
arguments flowing in. It may seem as though I had
been secretly conjuring with Vergil's words viresque
adquirit eundo. Nothing so deliberate : the world in
which I live swarms with busybodies dying to organize
everybody and everything, and my instinctive opposition
to all that order of tyranny makes me inclined to
cherish a somewhat wild sort of free will. Still the
cursory reader would be wrong to take for granted
that there is no method in my madness : should he
take the trouble to look for it, he would find that it has
a certain unity of purpose, which has been worked out
in the later chapters; but to spare him that trouble



PREFACE



XI



I venture to become my own expositor and to append
the following summary :

The materials crowded into the earlier chapters mark
out the stories connected with the fairies, whether of
the lakes or of the dry land, as the richest lode to
be exploited in the mine of Celtic folklore. That work
is attempted in the later chapters ; and the analysis of
what may briefly be described as the fairy lore given in
the earlier ones carries with it the means of forcing the
conviction, that the complex group of ideas identified
with the little people is of more origins than one ; in
other words, that it is drawn partly from history and
fact, and partly from the world of imagination and myth.
The latter element proves on examination to be insepa-
rably connected with certain ancient beliefs in divinities
and demons associated, for instance, with lakes, rivers, and
floods. Accordingly, this aspect of fairy lore has been
dealt with in chapters vi and vii : the former is devoted
largely to the materials themselves, while the latter
brings the argument to a conclusion as to the intimate
connexion of the fairies with the water-world. Then
comes the turn of the other kind of origin to be discussed,
namely, that which postulates the historical existence of
the fairies as a real race on which have been lavishly
superinduced various impossible attributes. This opens
up a considerable vista into the early ethnology of these
islands, and it involves a variety of questions bearing
on the fortunes here of other races. In the series
which suggests itself the fairies come first as the oldest
and lowest people : then comes that which I venture
to call Pictish, possessed of a higher civilization and of
warlike instincts. Next come the earlier Celts of the
Goidelic branch, the traces, linguistic and other, of
whose presence in Wales have demanded repeated
notice ; and last of all come the other Celts, the linguistic



Xll



PREFACE



ancestors of the Welsh and all the other speakers of
Brythonic. The development of these' theses, as far
as folklore supplies materials, occupies practically the
remaining five chapters. Among the subsidiary ques-
tions raised may be instanced those of magic and
the origin of druidism ; not to mention a neglected
aspect of the Arthurian legend, the intimate association
of the Arthur of Welsh folklore and tradition with
Snowdon, and Arthur's attitude towards the Goidelic
population in his time.

Lastly, I have the pleasant duty of thanking all
those who have helped me, whether by word of
mouth or by letter, whether by reference to already
printed materials or by assistance in any other way :
the names of many of them will be found recorded
in their proper places. As a rule my inquiries met
with prompt replies, and I am not aware that any diffi-
culties were purposely thrown in my way. Neverthe-
less I have had difficulties in abundance to encounter,
such as the natural shyness of some of those whom
I wished to examine on the subject of their recollec-
tions, and above all the unavoidable difficulty of cross-
questioning those whose information reached me by
post. For the precise value of any evidence bearing
on Celtic folklore is almost impossible to ascertain,
unless it can be made the subject of cross-examination.
This arises from the fact that we Celts have a knack
of thinking ourselves in complete accord with what we
fancy to be in the inquirer's mind, so that we are quite
capable of misleading him in perfect good faith. A
most apposite instance, deserving of being placed on
record, came under my notice many years ago. In the
summer of 1868 I spent several months in Paris, where
I met the historian Henri Martin more than once. On
being introduced to him he reminded me that he had



PREFACE



Xlll



visited South Wales not long before, and that he
had been delighted to find the peasantry there still
believing in the transmigration of souls. I expressed
my surprise, and remarked that he must be joking.
Nothing of the kind, he assured me, as he had questioned
them himself: the fact admitted of no doubt. I expressed
further surprise, but as I perceived that he was proud
of the result of his friendly encounters with my country-
men I never ventured to return to the subject, though
I always wondered what in the world it could mean.
A few years ago, however, I happened to converse
with one of the most charming and accomplished of
Welsh ladies, when she chanced to mention Henri
Martin's advent : it turned out that he had visited
Dr. Charles Williams, then the Principal of Jesus
College, and that Dr. Williams introduced him to
his friends in South Wales. So M. Martin arrived
among the hospitable friends of the lady talking to me,
who had in fact to act as his interpreter: I never
understood that he could talk much English or any
Welsh. Now I have no doubt that M. Martin, with
his fixed ideas about the druids and their teaching,
propounded palpably leading questions for the Welsh
people whom he wished to examine. His fascinating
interpreter put them into terse Welsh, and the whole
thing was done. I could almost venture to write out
the dialogue, which gave back to the great French-
man his own exact notions from the lips of simple
peasants in that subtle non-Aryan syntax, which no
Welsh barrister has ever been able to explain to the
satisfaction of a bewildered English judge trying to
administer justice among a people whom he cannot
wholly comprehend.

This will serve to illustrate one of the difficulties
with which the collector of folklore in Wales has



XIV



PREFACE



to cope. I have done my best to reduce the possible
extent of the error to which it might give rise ; and
it is only fair to say that those whom I plagued with
my questionings bore the tedium of it with patience,
and that to them my thanks are due in a special degree.
Neither they, however, nor I, could reasonably complain,
if we found other folklorists examining other witnesses
on points which had already occupied us ; for in such
matters one may say with confidence, that in the multi-
tude of counsellors there is safety.

JOHN RHtS.

JESUS COLLEGE, OXFORD,
Christmas, 1900.



CONTENTS



PAGE

GOEGRAPHICAL LIST OF AUTHORITIES . . . xxv
LIST OF BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES . xxxi



CHAPTER I

UNDINE'S KYMRIC SISTERS i

i. The legend of ILyn y Fan Fach 2

H. The legend of ILyn y Forwyn 23

m. Some Snowdon lake legends 30

iv. The heir of Ystrad 38

v. ILandegai and ILarittechid 50

vi. Mapes' story of ILyn SyfaSon 70



CHAPTER II

THE FAIRIES' REVENGE 75

i. Betfgelert and its environs 75

ii. The Pennant Valley 107

in. Glasynys' yarns 109

iv. An apple story 125

v. The Conwy afanc 130

vi. The Berwyn and Aran Fawdwy 135

vn. The hinterland of Aberdovey 141

vin. Some more Merioneth stories 146

ix. The Children of Rhys Dwfn 151

x. Southey and the Green Isles of the Sea . . . 169

xi. The curse of Pantannas 173

xn. More fairy displeasure 192



xvi CONTENTS



CHAPTER III

PAGE

FAIRY WAYS AND WORDS. T 97

i. The folklore of Nant Conwy . *97

IL Scenes of the Mabinogi of Math . . 207

in. Celynnog Fawr and ILanaelhaearn . 214

iv. The blind man's folklore . . . 219

v. The old saddler's recollections . 222

vi. Traces of Tom Tit Tot .226

vn. March and his horse's ears . 231

vin. The story of the Marchlyn Mawr . . 234

ix. The fairy ring of Cae ILeidr Dyfrydog . . 238

x. A Cambrian kelpie ... 242

xi. Sundry traits of fairy character . 244

xii. Ynys Geinon and its fairy treasures . 251

xin. The aged infant ... 257

xiv. Fairy speech 269



CHAPTER IV

MANX FOLKLORE . 284

The fenodyree or Manx brownie . . . 286

The sleih beggey or little people ... . 289

The butches or witches and the hare .... 293

Charmers and their methods 296

Comparisons from the Channel Islands . . . 301

Magic and ancient modes of thought .... 302

The efficacy of fire to detect the witch .... 304

Burnt sacrifices 305

Laa Boaldyn or May-day 308

Laa Lhunys or the beginning of harvest . . . 312

Laa Houney or Hollantide beginning the year . . 315

Sundry prognostications and the time for them . . 317



CONTENTS xv ii



CHAPTER V

PAGE

THE FENODYREE AND HIS FRIENDS . .... 323

Lincolnshire parallels 323

The brownie of Blednoch and Bwca'r Trwyn . . 325
Prognostication parallels from Lincolnshire and

Herefordshire 327

The traffic in wind and the Gallizenae .... 330

Wells with rags and pins 332

St. Catherine's hen plucked at Colby .... 335
The qualtagh or the first-foot and the question of race 336
Sundry instances of things unlucky .... 342
Manx reserve and the belief in the Enemy of Souls . 346
The witch of Endor's influence and the respecta-
bility of the charmer's vocation .... 349
Public penance enforced pretty recently . . . 350



CHAPTER VI

THE FOLKLORE OF THE WELLS . . ... . . . 354

Rag wells in Wales 354

The question of distinguishing between offerings and

vehicles of disease 358

Mr. Hartland's decision 359

The author's view revised and illustrated . . . 360

T. E. Morris' account of the pin well of ILanfaglan . 362

Other wishing and divining wells 364

The sacred fish of ILanberis and ILangybi . . . 366

Ffynnon Grassi producing the Glasfryn lake . . 367

The Morgan of that lake and his name .... 372

Ffynnon Gywer producing Bala Lake .... 376

Bala and other towns doomed to submersion . . 377

RHYS b



xv iii CONTENTS



PAGE



The legend of ILyn ILech Owen . 379

The parallels of Lough Neagh and Lough Ree . . 381

Seithennin's realm overwhelmed by the sea . . 382

Seithennin's name and its congeners . . 3 8 5

Prof. Dawkins on the Lost Lands of Wales . . 388

Certain Irish wells not visited with impunity . 389

The Lough Sheelin legend compared with that of

Seithennin ... 393

The priesthood of the wells of St. Elian and St. Teilo . 395



CHAPTER VII

TRIUMPHS OF THE WATER-WORLD ... . 401

The sea encroaching on the coast of Glamorgan . . 402

The Ken-fig tale of crime and vengeance . . 403

The Crymlyn story and its touch of fascination . . 404

Nennius' description of Oper Linn Liguan compared . 406

The vengeance legend of Bala Lake .... 408

Legends about the ILynclys Pool .... . 410

The fate of Tyno Helig .... . 414

The belief in cities submerged intact .... 415

The phantom city and the bells of Aberdovey . . 418

The ethics of the foregoing legends discussed . . 419

The limits of the delay of punishment . . . 420

Why the fairies delay their vengeance . . . 423

Non-ethical legends of the eruption of water . . 425
Cutting the green sward a probable violation of

ancient tabu avenged by water divinities . . 427

The lake afanc's role in this connexion .... 428

The pigmies of the water-world 432

The Conwy afanc and the Highland water-horse . . 433

The equine features of March and Labraid Lore . . 435

/

Mider and the Mac Oc's well horses .... 436

The Gilla Decair's horse and Du March Moro . . 437

March ab Meirchion associated with Mona . . . 439



CONTENTS xix

PAGE

The Welsh deluge Triads . . 44

Names of the Dee and other rivers in North Wales . 441

The Lydney god Nudons, Nuada, and ILud . . . 445

The fairies associated in various ways with water . 449

The cyhiraeth and the Welsh banshee . 452

Ancestress rather than ancestor 454



CHAPTER VIII

WELSH CAVE LEGENDS . . 45 6

The question of classification . . . 456

The fairy cave of the Arennig Fawr . . 456

The cave of Mynya y Cnwc . . 457

Waring's version of lolo's legend of Craig y Dinas 458

Craigfryn Hughes' Monmouthshire tale . . . 462

The story of the cave occupied by Owen Lawgoch . 464

How London Bridge came to figure in that story . . 466

Owen Lawgoch in Ogo'r Dinas 467

Dinas Emrys with the treasure hidden by Merlin . 469

Snowdonian treasure reserved for the Goidel . . 470

Arthur's death on the side of Snowdon . . 473

The graves of Arthur and Rhita ... . 474

Elis o'r Nant's story of ILanciau Eryri's cave . . 476

The top of Snowdon named after Rhita .... 477

Drystan's cairn ..... ... 480

The hairy man's cave * 481

Returning heroes for comparison with Arthur and

Owen Lawgoch 481

The baledwyr's Owen to return as Henry the Ninth . 484

Owen a historical man=Froissart's Yvain de Gales . 487

Froissart's account of him and the questions it raises . 488

Owen ousting Arthur as a cave-dweller . . . 493
Arthur previously supplanting a divinity of the class

of the sleeping Cronus of Demetrius . . . 493

Arthur's original sojourn located in Faery . . . 495



XX



CONTENTS



CHAPTER IX

PAGE

PLACE-NAME STORIES ... 49^

The Triad of the Swineherds of the Isle of Prydain . 499

The former importance of swine's flesh as food . . 501

The Triad clause about Cott's straying sow . . 503

Cott's wanderings arranged to explain place-names . 508
The Kulhwch account of Arthur's hunt of Twrch

Trwyth in Ireland . 59
A parley with the boars . . 5 11
The hunt resumed in Pembrokeshire . . 512
The boars reaching the Loughor Valley . 514
Their separation ... . 515
One killed by the Men of ILydaw in Ystrad Yw . . 516
Ystrad Yw defined and its name explained . 516
Twrch Trwyth escaping to Cornwall after an en-
counter in the estuary of the Severn . 519
The comb, razor, and shears of Twrch Trwyth . . 519
The name Twrch Trwyth ... . 521
Some of the names evidence of Goidelic speech . . 523
The story about Gwydion and his swine compared . 525
Place-name explanations blurred or effaced . . . 526
Enumeration of Arthur's losses in the hunt . . 529
The Men of ILydaw's identity and their Syfadon home 531
Further traces of Goidelic names ... . 536
A Twrch Trwyth incident mentioned by Nennius . 537
The place-name Carn Cabal discussed .... 538
Duplicate names with the Goidelic form preferred in

Wales 541

The same phenomenon in the Mabinogion . . . 543
The relation between the families of ILyr, Don, and

Pwytt 548

The elemental associations of ILyr and Lir . . . 549

Matthew Arnold's idea of Medieval Welsh story . . 551

Bran, the Tricephal, and the Letto-Slavic Triglaus . 552

Summary remarks as to the Goidels in Wales . . 553



CONTENTS



CHAPTER X

PAGE

DIFFICULTIES OF THE FOLKLORIST ... . 556

The terrors of superstition and magic . . . . 557

The folklorist's activity no fostering of superstition . 558

Folklore a portion of history 558

The difficulty of separating story and history . . 559

Arthur and the Snowdon Goidels as an illustration . 559

Rhita Gawr and the mad kings Nynio and Peibio . 560

Malory's version and the name Rhita, Ritho, Ryons . 562

Snowdon stories about Owen Ymhacsen and Cai . 564

Goidelic topography in Gwyned 566

The Goidels becoming Compatriots or Kymry . . 569

The obscurity of certain superstitions a difficulty . 571
Difficulties arising from their apparent absurdity

illustrated by the March and Lab raid stories . -571
Difficulties from careless record illustrated by Howells'

Ychen Bannog 575

Possible survival of traditions about the urus . . 579

A brief review of the lake legends and the iron tabu . 581

The scrappiness of the Welsh Tom Tit Tot stories . 583

The story of the widow of Kittlerumpit compared . 585

Items to explain the names Sili Ffrit and Sili go Dwt 590

Bwca'r Trwyn both brownie and bogie in one . . 593

That bwca a fairy in service, like the Pennant nurse . 597

The question of fairies concealing their names . . 597

Magic identifying the name with the person . . 598
Modryb Mari regarding cheese-baking as disastrpus to

the flock 599

Her story about the reaper's little black soul . . 601

Gwenogvryn Evans' lizard version .... 603

Diseases regarded as also material entities . . . 604

The difficulty of realizing primitive modes of thought . 605



CONTENTS



CHAPTER XI

PAGE

FOLKLORE PHILOSOPHY ........ 607

The soul as a pigmy or a lizard, and the word enaid . 607

A different notion in the Mabinogi of Math . . . 608

Thebelief in the persistence of the body through changes 610

Shape-shifting and rebirth in Gwion's transformations 612

Tuan mac Cairill, Amairgen, and Taliessin . . . 615

D'Arbois de Jubainville's view of Erigena's teaching . 617

The druid master of his own transformations . . 620

Death not a matter of course so much as of magic . 620



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