John Rhys.

Celtic folklore, Welsh and Manx (Volume 1) online

. (page 18 of 35)
Online LibraryJohn RhysCeltic folklore, Welsh and Manx (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 35)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

dim yn eu hamser hwy.

Pasiai yr amser heibio, a chwydod yr wythnosau i
fisoed, a'r misoed i flynydoed, a chasglwyd tad a mam
Rhyderch at eu tadau. Yr oed y tte o hyd yn parhau
yr un, ond -y preswylwyr yn newid yn barhaus, ac yr
oed yr adgofion am ei gotfedigaeth yn darfod yn gyflyrn,
ond er hynny yr oed un yn disgwyl ei dychweliad yn ol
yn barhaus, ac yn gobcithio megis yn erbyn gobaith am
gael ei weled eilwaith. Bob boreu gyda bod dorau
y wawr yn ymagor dros gaerog fynydoed y dwyrain
gwelid hi bob tywyd yn rhedeg i ben bryn bychan,
a chyda ttygaid yn orlawn o dagrau hiraethlon syttai
i bob cyfeiriad i edrych a ganfydai ryw argoel fod ei
hanwylyd yn dychwelyd ; ond i dim pwrpas. Canol dyd
gwelid hi eilwaith yn yr un man, a phan ymgottai yr
haul fel pelen eiriasgoch o dan dros y terfyngylch, yr
oed hi yno.

Edrychai nes yn agos bod yn (faff, ac wylai ei henaid
aitan o dyd i dyd ar ol anwyldyn ei chalon. O'r diwed
aeth y rhai sycF yn edrych drwy y ffcnestri i omed eu
gwasanaeth idi, ac yr oed y pren almon yn coroni ei


phen a'i flagur givyryfol, ond parhai hi i edrych, ond nid
neb yn dod. Yn itawn o dydiau ac yn aedfed ir
rhodwyd terfyn ar ei hott obeithion a'i disgwyliadau
gan angeu, a chludzvyd ei gwedittion marwol i fynwent
hen Gapel y Fan,

Pasiai blynydoed heibio fel mwg, ac oesau fel cysgodion
y boreu, ac nid oed neb yn fyw ag oed 'yn cofio Rhyderch,
ond adrodid ei gottiad disymwyth yn ami. Dylasem
fynegu na welwyd yr tin o Fendith y Mamau odeutu y
gymydogaeth wedi ei goitiad, a pheidiod sain eu cerdbr-
iaeth o'r nos honno attan.

Yr oed Rhyderch wedi cael ei hnd-dcmt i fyned gyda
Bendith y Mamau ac aethant ag ef i ffwrd t'zv hogof.
Ar ol ido aros yno dros ychydig o diwrnodan fel y
tybiai, gofynnod am ganiatad i dychwelyd, yr hyn a
rwyd ganiatawyd ido gan y brenin. Daeth altan or
ogof, ac yr oed yn ganol dyd braf, a'r haul yn Uewyrchu
odiar fynwes ffurfafen digwmid. Cerdod yn mlaen
o Darren y Cigfrain hyd nes ido dyfod i olwg Capel
y Fan, ond gymaint oed ei syndod pan y gwelod nad
oecTyr un capel yno! Pa le yr oed wedi bod, a pha
faint o amser? Gyda theimladau cymysgedig cyfeiriod
ei gamrau tua Phen Craig Daf, cartref-le ei anwylyd,
ond nid oed hi yno, ac nid oed yn adwaen yr un dyn
ag oedyno chwaith. N i fedrai gael gair o hanes ei gariad
a chymerod y rhai a breswylient yno mai givaffgofdyn

Prysurod eilwaith tua Phantannas, ac yr oed ei syndod
yn fwy fyth yno ! Nid oed yn adwaen yr un o honynt,
ac ni wydent hwythau dim am dano yntau. O'r diwect
daeth gwr y ty i feivn, ac yr oed hwnnw yn cofio ciywed
ei dad cu yn adrod am lane ag oed wedi myned yn
disymvoyth i gott er ys peth cannoed o flynydoed yn ol,
ond na wydai neb i ba le. Ryivfod neu gilyd taraivod
gwr y ty ei ffon yn erbyn Rhyderch, pa un a diflannod'


mewn cawod o livch, ac ni chlywyd air o son beth cfaeth
o hono mwyach.

1 In one of the centuries gone by, there lived a hus-
bandman on the farm of Pantannas ; and at that time the
fairies used to pay frequent visits to several of the fields
which belonged to him. He cherished in his bosom
a considerable hatred for the " noisy, boisterous, and
pernicious tribe," as he called them, and often did he
long to be able to discover some way to rid the place of
them. At last he was told by an old witch that the way
to get rid of them was easy enough, and that she would
tell him how to attain what he so greatly wished, if he
gave her one evening's milking ] on his farm, and one
morning's. He agreed to her conditions, and from her
he received advice, which was to the effect that he was
to plough all the fields where they had their favourite
resorts, and that, if they found the green sward gone,
they would take offence, and never return to trouble
him with their visits to the spot.

'The husbandman followed the advice to the letter,
and his work was crowned with success. Not a single
one of them was now to be seen about the fields, and,
instead of the sound of their sweet music, which used
to be always heard rising from the Coarse Meadow
Land, the most complete silence now reigned over
their favourite resort.

' He sowed his land with wheat and other grain ; the
verdant spring had now thrust winter off its throne,
and the fields appeared splendid in their vernal and
green livery.

' But one evening, when the sun had retired to the
chambers of the west, and when the farmer of Pantannas

1 On this Mr. Hughes has a note to the effect that the whole of one
milking used to be given in Glamorgan to workmen for assistance at the
harvest or other work, and that it was- not unfrequently enough for the
making of two cheeses.


was returning home, he was met by a diminutive being
in the shape of a man, with a red coat on. When he
had come right up to him, he unsheathed his little
sword, and, directing the point towards the farmer, he
said :

Vengeance cometh,
Fast it approacheth.

' The farmer tried to laugh, but there was something
in the surly and stern looks of the little fellow which
made him feel exceedingly uncomfortable.

' A few nights afterwards, as the family were retiring
to rest, they were very greatly frightened by a noise, as
though the house was falling to pieces ; and, imme-
diately after the noise, they heard a voice uttering
loudly the threatening words and nothing more :

Vengeance cometh.

' When, however, the corn was reaped and ready to
be carried to the barn, it was, all of a sudden, burnt up
one night, so that neither an ear nor a straw of it could
be found anywhere in the fields ; and now nobody could
have set the corn on fire but the fairies.

' As one may naturally suppose, the farmer felt very
much on account of this event, and he regretted in his
heart having done according to the witch's direction,
and having thereby brought upon him the anger and
hatred of the fairies.

'The day after the night of the burning of the corn,
as he was surveying the destruction caused by the fire,
behold the little fellow, who had met him a few days
before, met him again, and, with a challenging glance,
he pointed his sword towards him, saying :

It but beginneth.

The farmer's face turned as white as marble, and
he stood calling the little fellow to come back ; but the


dwarf proved very unyielding and reluctant to turn to
him ; but, after long entreaty, he turned back, asking
the farmer, in a surly tone, what he wanted, when he
was told by the latter that he was quite willing to allow
the fields, in which their favourite resorts had been,
to grow again into a green sward, and to let them
frequent them as often as they wished, provided they
would no further wreak their anger on him.

' " No," was the determined reply, " the word of the
king has been given, that he will avenge himself on
thee to the utmost of his power; and there is no
power on the face of creation that will cause it to be

' The farmer began to weep at this, and, after a while,
the little fellow said that he would speak to his lord on
the matter, and that he would let him know the result, if
he would come there to meet him at the hour of sunset
on the third day after.

' The farmer promised to meet him ; and, when the
time appointed for meeting the little man came, he found
him awaiting him, and he was told by him that his lord
had seriously considered his request, but that, as the
king's word was ever immutable, the threatened
vengeance was to take effect on the family. On account,
however, of his repentance, it would not be allowed to
happen in his time or that of his children.

' That calmed the disturbed mind of the farmer a good
deal. The fairies began again to pay frequent visits to
the place, and their melodious singing was again heard
at night in the fields around.

' A century passed by without seeing the threatened
vengeance carried into effect ; and, though the Pantannas
family were reminded now and again that it was certain


sooner or later to come, nevertheless, by long hearing

the Voice that Said-
Vengeance cometh,

they became so accustomed to it, that they were ready
to believe that nothing would ever come of the threat.

' The heir of Pantannas was paying his addresses to the
daughter of a neighbouring landowner who lived at the
farm house called Pen Craig Daf, and the wedding of
the happy pair was to take place in a few weeks, and
the parents on both sides appeared exceedingly con-
tent with the union that was about to take place between
the two families.

' It was Christmas time, and the intended wife paid
a visit to the family of her would-be husband. There they
had a feast of roast goose prepared for the occasion.

' The company sat round the fire to relate amusing
tales to pass the time, when they were greatly frightened
by a piercing voice, rising, as it were, from the bed of
the river l , and shrieking :

The time for revenge is come.

' They all went out to listen if they could hear the
voice a second time, but nothing was to be heard save
the angry noise of the water as it cascaded over the
dread cliffs of the kerwyni ; they had not long, however,
to wait till they heard again the same voice rising above
the noise of the waters, as they boiled over the shoulders
of the rock, and crying :

The time is come.

' They could not guess what it meant, and so great
was their fright and astonishment, that no one could
utter a word to another. Shortly they returned to the

1 Since this was first printed I have learnt from Mr. Hughes that the first
cry issued from the Black Cauldron in the Taff (oV Gerwyn f)u ar Daf},
which I take to be a pool in that river.


house, when they believed that beyond doubt the
building was being shaken to its foundations by some
noise outside. When all were thus paralysed by fear,
behold a little woman made her appearance on the
table, which stood near the window.

'"What dost thou, ugly little thing, want here?'
asked one of those present.

' " I have nothing to do with thee, O man of the
meddling tongue," said the little woman, " but I have
been sent here to recount some things that are about to
happen to this family and another family in the neigh-
bourhood, things that might be of interest to them ;
but, as I have received such an insult from the black
fellow that sits in the corner, the veil that hides them
from their sight shall not be lifted by me."

' " Pray," said another of those present, " if thou hast
in thy possession any knowledge with regard to the
future of any one of us that would interest us to hear,
bring it forth."

' " No, I will but merely tell you that a certain maiden's
heart is like a ship on the coast, unable to reach the
harbour because the pilot has lost heart."

'As soon as she had cried out the last word, she
vanished, no one knew whither or how.

' During her visit, the cry rising from the river had
stopped, but soon afterwards it began again to pro-
claim :

The time of vengeance is come ;

nor did it cease for a long while. The company had
been possessed by too much terror for one to be able to
address another, and a sheet of gloom had, as it were,
been spread over the face of each. The time for
parting came, and Rhyderch the heir went to escort
Gwerfyl, his lady-love, home towards Pen Craig Daf,
a journey from which he never returned.


' Before bidding one another " Good-bye," they are
said to have sworn to each other eternal fidelity, even
though they should never see one another from that
moment forth, and that nothing should make the one
forget the other.

' It is thought probable that the young man Rhy-
derch, on his way back towards home, got into one of
the rings of the fairies, that they allured him into one
of their caves in the Ravens' Rift, and that there he


' It is high time for us now to turn back towards
Pantannas and Pen Craig Daf. The parents of the
unlucky youth were almost beside themselves : they
had no idea where to go to look for him, and, though
they searched every spot in the place, they failed
completely to find him or any clue to his history.

' A little higher up the country, there dwelt, in a cave
underground, an aged hermit called Gweiryd", who was
regarded also as a sorcerer. They went a few weeks
afterwards to ask him whether he could give them any
information about their lost son ; but it was of little
avail. What that man told them did but deepen the
wound and give the event a still more hopeless aspect.
When they had told him of the appearance of the
little woman, and the doleful cry heard rising from
the river on the night when their son was lost, he
informed them that it was the judgement threatened
to the family by the fairies that had overtaken the
youth, and that it was useless for them to think of
ever seeing him again : possibly he might make his
appearance after generations had gone by, but not in
their lifetime.

'Time rolled on, weeks grew into months, and
months into years, until Rhyderch's father and


mother were gathered to their ancestors. The place
continued the same, but the inhabitants constantly
changed, so that the memory of Rhyderch's disappear-
ance was fast dying away. Nevertheless there was
one who expected his return all the while, and hoped,
as it were against hope, to see him once more. Every
morn, as the gates of the dawn opened beyond the
castellated heights of the east, she might be seen, in
all weathers, hastening to the top of a small hill, and,
with eyes fulk of the tears of longing, gazing in every
direction to see if she could behold any sign of her
beloved's return ; but in vain. At noon, she might be
seen on the same spot again ; she was also there at the
hour when the sun was wont to hide himself, like a red-
hot ball of fire, below the horizon. She gazed until she
was nearly blind, and she wept forth her soul from day
to day for the darling of her heart. At last they that
looked out at the windows began to refuse their service,
and the almond tree commenced to crown her head with
its virgin bloom. She continued to gaze, but he came
not. Full of days, and ripe for the grave, death put an
end to all her hopes and all her expectations. Her
mortal remains were buried in the graveyard of the old
Chapel of the Fan l .

' Years passed away like smoke, and generations like
the shadows of the morning, and there was no longer
anybody alive who remembered Rhycferch, but the tale
of his sudden missing was frequently in people's
mouths. And we ought to have said that after the
event no one of the fairies was seen about the neigh-
bourhood, and the sound of their music ceased from
that night.

1 The Fan is the highest mountain in the parish of Merthyr Tydfil,
Mr. Hughes tells me : he adds that there was on its side once a chapel with
a burial ground. Its history seems to be lost, but human bones have, as he
states, been frequently found there.


' Rhyderch had been allured by them, and they took
him away into their cave. When he had stayed there
only a few days, as he thought, he asked for permission to
return, which was readily granted him by the king. He
issued from the cave when it was a fine noon, with the
sun beaming from the bosom of a cloudless firmament.
He walked on from the Ravens' Rift until he came near
the site of the Fan Chapel ; but what was his astonish-
ment to find no chapel there ! Where, he wondered,
had he been, and how long away ? So with mixed feel-
ings he directed his steps towards Pen Craig Daf, the
home of his beloved one, but she was not there nor any
one whom he knew either. He could get no word of the
history of his sweetheart, and those who dwelt in the
place took him for a madman.

' He hastened then to Pantannas, where his astonish-
ment was still greater. He knew nobody there, and
nobody knew anything about him. At last the man of
the house came in, and he remembered hearing his
grandfather relating how a youth had suddenly dis-
appeared, nobody knew whither, some hundreds of
years previously. Somehow or other the man of the
house chanced to knock his walking-stick against
Rhyderch, when the latter vanished in a shower of dust.
Nothing more was ever heard of him.'

Before leaving Glamorgan, I may add that Mr. Sikes
associates fairy ladies with Crymlyn Lake, between
Briton Ferry and Swansea ; but, as frequently happens
with him, he does not deign to tell us whence he got
the legend. ' It is also believed,' he says at p. 35, ' that
a large town lies swallowed up there, and that the
Gwragect Annwn have turned the submerged walls to
use as the superstructure of their fairy palaces. Some
claim to have seen the towers of beautiful castles lifting
their battlements beneath the surface of the dark



waters, and fairy bells are at times heard ringing from
se towers.' So much by the way : we shall return
Drymlyn in chapter vii.


The other day, as I was going to Gwent, I chanced
to be in the Golden Valley in Herefordshire, where
the names in the churchyards seem largely to imply
a Welsh population, though the Welsh language has
not been heard there for ages. Among others I
noticed Joneses and Williamses in abundance at
Abbey Dore, Evanses and Bevans, Morgans, Prossers
and Prices, not to mention Sayces that is to say,
Welshmen of English extraction or education a name
which may also be met with in Little England in
Pembrokeshire, and probably on other English-Welsh
borders. Happening to have to wait for a train
at the Abbey Dore station, I got into conversation
with the tenants of a cottage hard by, and intro-
duced the subject of the fairies. The old man knew
nothing about them, but his wife, Elizabeth Williams,
had been a servant girl at a place called Pen Poch,
which she pronounced with the Welsh guttural ch : she
said that it is near ILandeilo Cressenny in Monmouth-
shire. It was about forty years ago when she served at
Pen Poch, and her mistress' name was Evans, who
was then about fifty years of age. Now Mrs. Evans
was in the habit of impressing on her servant girls'
minds, that, unless they made the house tidy before
going to bed, and put everything in its place overnight,
the liitle people the fairies, she thinks she called them

-would leave them no rest in bed at night, but would
come and ' pinch them like.' If they put everything in
its place, and left the house ' tidy like,' it would be all



right, and ' nobody would do anything to them like.'
That is all I could get from her without prompting her,
which I did at length by suggesting to her that the
fairies might leave the tidy servants presents, a shilling
'on the hearth or the hob like.' Yes, she thought
there was something of that sort, and her way of
answering me suggested that this was not the first
time she had heard of the shilling. She had never been
lucky enough to have had one herself, nor did she
know of anybody else that ' had got it like.'

During a brief but very pleasant sojourn at ILanover
in May, 1883, I made some inquiries about the fairies,
and obtained the following account from William Wil-
liams, who now, in his seventieth year, works in Lady
ILanover's garden : ' I know of a family living a little

way from here at , or as they would now call it in

English , whose ancestors, four generations ago,

used to be kind to Bendith y Mamau, and always
welcomed their visits by leaving at night a basinful of
bread and milk for them near the fire. It always used
to be eaten up before the family got up in the morning.
But one night a naughty servant man gave them instead
of milk a bowlful of urine 1 . They, on finding it out,
threw it about the house and went away disgusted.
But the servant watched in the house the following
night. They found him out, and told him that he had
made fools of them, and that in punishment for his crime
there would always be a fool, i. e. an idiot, in his family.
As a matter of fact, there was one among his children
afterwards, and there is one in the family now. They
have always been in a bad way ever since, and they
never prosper. The name of the man who originally

1 The above, I am sorry to say, is not the only instance of this nasty trick
associating itself with Gwent, as will be seen from the story of Bwccir Trwyn
in chapter x.



offended the fairies was ; and the name of the

present fool among his descendants is .' For

evident reasons it is not desirable to publish the names.

Williams spoke also of a sister to his mother, who
acted as servant to his parents. There were, he said,
ten stepping stones between his father's house and the
well, and on every one of these stones his aunt used to
find a penny every morning, until she made it known
to others, when, of course, the pennies ceased coming.
He did not know why the fairies gave money to her,
unless it was because she was a most tidy servant.

Another ILanover gardener remembered that the
fairies used to change children, and that a certain
woman called Nani Fach in that neighbourhood was
one of their offspring ; and he had been told that there
were fairy rings in certain fields not far away in
ILanover parish.

A third gardener, who is sixty-eight years of age, and
is likewise in Lady ILanover's employ, had heard it
said that servant girls about his home were wont to
sweep the floor clean at night, and to throw crumbs of
bread about on it before going to bed.

Lastly, Mrs. Gardner of Ty Uchaf ILanover, who
is ninety years of age, remembers having a field close
to Capel NewycT near Blaen Afon, in ILanover Uchaf,
pointed out to her as containing fairy rings ; and she
recollects hearing, when she was a child, that a man had
got into one of them. He remained away from home,
as they always did, she said, a whole year and a day ;
but she has forgotten how he was recovered. Then
she went on to say that her father had often got up in
the night to see that his horses were not taken out and
ridden about the fields by Bendith y Mamau ; for they
were wont to ride people's horses late at night round
the four corners of the fields, and thereby they often


broke the horses' wind. This, she gave me to under-
stand, was believed in the parish of ILanover and that
part of the country generally. So here we have an
instance probably of confounding fairies with witches.

I have not the means at my command of going at length
into the folklore of Gwent, so I will merely mention where
the reader may find a good deal about it. I have already
introduced the name of the credulous old Christian,
Edmund Jones of the Tranch : he published at Trefecca
in the year 1779 a small volume entitled, A Geogra-
phical, Historical, and Religious Account of the Parish
of Aberystruth in the County of Monmouth, to which are
added Memoirs of several Persons of Note who lived in
the said Parish. In 1813, by which time he seems to
have left this world for another, where he expected to
understand all about the fairies and their mysterious
life, a small volume of his was published at Newport,
bearing the title, A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits in
the County of Monmouth and the Principality of Wales,
with other notable Relations from England, together with
Observations about them, and Instructions from them,
designed to confute and to prevent the Infidelity of denying
the Being and Apparition of Spirits, which tends to
Irrcligion and Atheism. By the late Rev. Edmund Jones,
of the Tranch. Naturally those volumes have been laid
under contribution by Mr. Sikes, though the tales about
apparitions in them are frequently of a ghastly nature,
and sometimes loathsome : on the whole, they remind
me more than anything else I have ever read of certain
Breton tales which breathe fire and brimstone : all such
begin to be now out of fashion in Protestant countries.
I shall at present only quote a passage of quite a
different nature from the earlier volume, p. 72 it is an
interesting one, and it runs thus : ' It was the general
opinion in times past, when these things were very

o 2


frequent, that the fairies knew whatever was spoken in
the air without the houses, not so much what was
spoken in the houses. I suppose they chiefly knew
what was spoken in the air at night. It was also said
that they rather appeared to an uneven number of per-

Online LibraryJohn RhysCeltic folklore, Welsh and Manx (Volume 1) → online text (page 18 of 35)