John Rhys.

Celtic folklore, Welsh and Manx (Volume 1) online

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ferth : aeth i fewn icti a gweloct ei bod yn ttawn o
drysorau ac arfau gwerthfawr ; ond gan ei bod yn
dechreu tywyffu* a dringo i fynu yn orchwyl anhawct
hyd yn nod yn ngoleu'r dyct~, aeth adref y noswaith
honno, a boreu drannoeth ar lasiad y dyd cychwynnod
eilwaith <i'r ogof, ac heb lawer o drafferth daeth o hyd
idi : aeth i fewn, a dechreuod edrych o'i amgylch ar y
trysorau oecf yno : Ar ganol yr ogof yr oed~ bwrd
enfawr o aur pur, ac ar y bwrd goron o aur a pherlau:
deatfocfyn y fan mai coron a thrysorau Arthur oedynt
nesaod at y bwrd, a phan oecf yn estyn ei law i
gymeryd gafael yn y goron dychrynwyd ef gan drwst
erchytt, trwst megys mil o daranau yn ymrwygo uwch ei
ben ac aeth yr hoit le can dywytted a'r afagdu, Ceisiod
ymbalfalu odiyno gynted ag y gaffai ; pan lwyd~od~ i
gyrraed i ganol y creigiau taflod ei olwg ar y ttyn, yr
hwn oed wedi ei gynhyrfu drzvycfo a'i donnau brigwynion
yn cael eu Uuchio trwy daned ysgythrog y creigiau hyd
y man yr oed efe yn sefytt arno ; ond tra yr oed yn
parhau i syttu ar ganol y ityn gwelai gwrwgl a thair
o'r benywod prydferthaf y disgynod ffygad unrhyw dyn
arnynt erioed yndo yn cael ei rwyfo yn brysur tuag at
enau yr ogof. Ond och ! yr oect golwg ofnadwy yr hwn
oed 'yn rhwyfo yn digon i beri iasau o frazv trwy y dyn
cr yf a f- Gaitod y Wane rywfoct dianc adref ond ni fu

1 This is pronounced R/iiwan, though probably made up of Rhiw-wen, for
it is the tendency of the Gwyndodeg to convert e and at of the unaccented
ultima into a, and so with e in Glamorgan ; see such instances as Cornwan
and casag, p. 29 above. It is possibly a tendency inherited from Goidelic,
as Irish is found to proceed in the same way.


iechyd yn ei gyfansoftiad ar ol hynny, a bycTai hyd yn
nod crybwyit enw y Marchlyn yn ei glywedigaeth yn
ctigon t'w yrru yn wattgof.

'The Marchlyn Mawr is surrounded by rocks terrible
to look at, and tradition relates how one of the sons of
the farmer of Rhiwen, once on a time, when helping
a sheep that had fallen among the rocks to get away,
discovered a tremendous cave there ; he entered, and
saw that it was full of treasures and arms of great value ;
but, as it was beginning to grow dark, and as clambering
back was a difficult matter even in the light of day, he
went home that evening, and next morning with the
grey dawn he set out again for the cave, when he found
it without much trouble. He entered, and began to look
about him at the treasures that were there. In the
centre of the cave stood a huge table of pure gold,
and on the table lay a crown of gold and pearls. He
understood at once that they were the crown and trea-
sures of Arthur. He approached the table, and as he
stretched forth his hand to take hold of the crown
he was frightened by an awful noise, the noise, as it
were, of a thousand thunders bursting over his head,
and the whole place became as dark as Tartarus. He
tried to grope and feel his way out as fast as he could.
When he had succeeded in reaching to the middle of
the rocks, he cast his eye on the lake, which had been
stirred all through, while its white-crested waves dashed
through the jagged teeth of the rocks up to the spot on
which he stood. But as he continued looking at the
middle of the lake he beheld a coracle containing three
women, the fairest that the eye of man ever fell on.
They were being quickly rowed to the mouth of the
cave ; but the dread aspect of him who rowed was
enough to send thrills of horror through the strongest
of men. The youth was able somehow to escape home,


but no health remained in his constitution after that,
and even the mere mention of the Marchlyn in his
hearing used to be enough to make him insane.'

Mr. Lloyd Jones appends to the tale a note to the
following effect : There is a small eminence on the
shore of the Marchlyn Mawr, in the parish of ILandegai,
called Bryn Cwrwgl, or the 'Hill of the Coracle'; and
Ogof ' y Marchlyn, or the ' Marchlyn Cave,' is a name
familiar enough to everybody in these neighbourhoods.
There were some unless he ought to say that there still
are some who believed that there was abundance of
treasure in the cave. Several young men from the
quarries, both of the Cae and of Dinorwig, have been
in the midst of the Marchlyn rocks, searching for the
cave, and they succeeded in making their way into
a cave. They came away, however, without the trea-
sures. One old man, Robert Edwards (lorwerth Sardis),
used to tell him that he and several others had brought
ropes from the quarry to go into the cave, but that they
found no treasure. So far, I have given the substance
of Mr. Jones' words, to which I would add the following
statement, which I have from a native of Dinorwig:
About seventy years ago, when the gentry were robbing
the poor of these districts of their houses and of the
lands which the latter had enclosed out of the commons,
an old woman called Sian William of the Garned" was
obliged to flee from her house with her baby the latter
was known later in life as the Rev. Robert Ellis, of
Ysgoldy in her arms. It was in one of the Marchlyn
caves that she found refuge for a day and night. Another
kind of tale connected with the Marchlyn Mawr is re-
corded in the Powys-land Club's Collections, Hist, and
Arch., vol. xv. p. 137, by the Rev. Elias Owen, to the
effect that 'a man who was fishing in the lake found
himself enveloped in the clouds that had descended


from the hills to the water. A sudden gust of wind
cleared a road through the mist that hung over the
lake, and revealed to his sight a man busily engaged in
thatching a stack. The man, or rather the fairy, stood
on a ladder. The stack and ladder rested on the surface
of the lake.'


Mr. E. S. Roberts, of ILandysilio School, near ILan-
golten (p. 138), has sent me more bits of legends about
the fairies. He heard the following from Mr. Thomas
Parry, of Tan y Coed Farm, who had heard it from his
father, the late Evan Parry, and the latter from Thomas
Morris, of Eglwyseg, who related it to him more than
once : Thomas Morris happened to be returning home
from ILangotten very late on one Saturday night in the
middle of the summer, and by the time he reached near
home the day had dawned, when he saw a number of
the Tylwyth Teg with a dog walking about hither and
thither on the declivity of the Eglwyseg Rocks, which
hung threateningly overhead. When he had looked at
them for some minutes, he directed his steps towards
them ; but as they saw him approaching they hid them-
selves, as he thought, behind a large stone. On reach-
ing the spot, he found under the stone a hole by which
they had made their way into their subterranean home.
So ends the tale as related to Mr. Roberts. It is re-
markable as representing the fairies looking rather like
poachers ; but there are not wanting others which speak
of their possessing horses and greyhounds, as all gentle-
men were supposed to.

One of Mr. Roberts' tales is in point: he had it
from Mr. Hugh Francis \ of Holyhead House, Ruthin,

1 I may mention that some of the Francises of Anglesey are supposed to
be descendants of Frazers, who changed their name on finding refuge in


and the latter heard it from Robert Roberts, of Amlwch,
who has now been dead about thirty years : About
105 years ago there lived in the parish of ILandyfrydog,
near ILannerch y Meet, in Anglesey, a man named Ifan
Gruffyd", whose cow happened to disappear one day.
Ifan Gruffyd was greatly distressed, and he and his
daughter walked up and down the whole neighbour-
hood in search of her. As they were coming back in
the evening from their unsuccessful quest, they crossed
the field called after the Dyfrydog thief, Cae ILeidr
Dyfrydog, where they saw a great number of little men
on ponies quickly galloping in a ring. They both drew
nigh to look on ; but Ifan Gruffyd' s daughter, in her
eagerness to behold the little knights more closely, got
unawares within the circle in which their ponies galloped,
and did not return to her father. The latter now forgot
all about the loss of the cow, and spent some hours in
searching for his daughter; but at last he had to go
home without her, in the deepest sadness. A few days
afterwards he went to Mynadwyn to consult John
Roberts, who was a magician of no mean reputation.
That 'wise man' told Ifan Gruffyd: to be no longer
sad, since he could get his daughter back at the very
hour of the night of the anniversary of the time when
he lost her. He would, in fact, then see her riding
round in the company of the Tylwyth Teg whom he had
seen on that memorable night. The father was to go
there accompanied by four stalwart men, who were to
aid him in the rescue of his daughter. He was to tie
a strong rope round his waist, and by means of this his
friends were to pull him out of the circle when he
entered to seize his daughter. He went to the spot,

the island in the time of the troubles which brought there the ancestor of
the Frazer who, from time to time, claims to be the rightful head of the Lovat


and in due time he beheld his daughter riding round in
great state. In he rushed and snatched her, and, thanks
to his friends, he got her out of the fairy ring before the
little men had time to think of it. The first thing Ifan's
daughter asked him was, if he had found the cow, for
she had not the slightest reckoning of the time she
had spent with the fairies.

Whilst I am about it, I may as well go through
Mr. Roberts' contributions. The next is also a tale
related to him by Mr. Hugh Francis, and, like the last,
it comes from Anglesey. Mr. Francis' great-grandfather
was called Robert Francis, and he had a mill at Aberffraw
about 100 years ago ; and the substance of the following
tale was often repeated in the hearing of Mr. Roberts'
informant by his father and his grandfather : In winter
Robert Francis used to remain very late at work drying
corn in his kiln. As it was needful to keep a steady
fire going, he used to go backwards and forwards from
the house, looking after it not unfrequently until it was
two o'clock in the morning. Once on a time he happened
to leave a cauldron full of water on the floor of the kiln,
and great was his astonishment on returning to find
two little people washing themselves in the water. He
abstained from entering to disturb them, and went back
to the house to tell his wife of it. ' Oh,' said she, ' they
are fairies.' He presently went back to the kiln and
found that they were gone. He fancied they were man
and wife. However, they had left the place very clean,
and to crown all, he found a sum of money left by them
to pay him, as he supposed, for the water and the use
of the kiln. The ensuing night many more fairies came
to the kiln, for the visitors of the previous night had
brought their children with them ; and the miller found
them busy bathing them and looking very comfortable
in the warm room where they were. The pay that night


was also more considerable than the night before, as
the visitors were more numerous. After this the miller
never failed to leave a vessel full of water in the kiln
every night, and the fairies availed themselves of it for
years, until, in fact, they took offence at the miller
telling the neighbours of the presents of money which
had been left him in the kiln. Thenceforth no fairies
were known to frequent the kiln belonging to the
Aberffraw mill.

The last tale communicated to me by Mr. Roberts is
the following, which he elicited from Margaret Davies,
his housekeeper, by reading to her some of the fairy
legends published in the Cymmrodor a short while
ago probably the Corwrion series, one of which bears
great resemblance to hers. Mrs. Davies, who is sixty-
one years of age, says that when her parents, Edward
and Ann Williams, lived at Rhoslydan, near Bryneglwys,
in Yale, some seventy-five years ago, the servant man
happened one day in the spring to be ploughing in
a field near the house. As he was turning his team
back at one end of the field, he heard some one
calling out from the other end, Y mae eisieu hoelenyny
pil, or ' The peel wants a nail ' ; for pll is the English
peel, a name given to a sort of shovel provided with
a long handle for placing loaves in an oven, and for
getting them out again. When at length the ploughman
had reached the end of the field whence he guessed the
call to have proceeded, he there saw a small peel,
together with a hammer and a nail, under the hedge.
He saw that the peel required a nail to keep it together,
and as everything necessary for mending it were there
ready to hand, he did as it had been suggested. Then
he followed at the plough-tail until he came round again
to the same place, and there he this time saw a cake
placed for him on the spot where he had previously



found the peel and the other things, which had now
disappeared. When the servant related this to his
master, he told him at once that it was one of the Tyl-
iseyth Teg of that locality that had called out to him.
With this should be compared the story of the man
who mended a fairy's plough vice : see p. 64 above.


Early this year I had occasion to visit the well-known
Hengwrt Library at Peniarth, and during my stay there
Mr. Wynne very kindly took me to see such of the
ILanegryn people as were most likely to have some-
what to say about the fairies. Many of the inhabitants
had heard of them, but they had no long tales about
them. One man, however, told me of a William
Pritchard, of Pentre Bach, near ILwyngwryl, who died
at sixty, over eighty years ago, and of a Rhys Williams,
the clerk of ILangelynin, how they were going home
late at night from a cock-fight at ILanegryn, and how
they came across the fairies singing and dancing on
a plot of ground known as Givastad Meirionyct, ' the
Plain of Merioneth,' on the way from ILwyngwryl to
ILanegryn. It consists, I am told by Mr. Robert
Roberts of ILanegryn, of no more than some twenty
square yards, outside which one has a good view of
Cardigan Bay and the heights of Merioneth and Car-
narvonshire, while from the Gwastad itself neither sea
nor mountain is visible. On this spot, then, the belated
cockfighters were surrounded by the fairies. They
swore at the fairies and took to their heels, but they
were pursued as far as Clawd" Du. Also I was told
that Elen Egryn, the authoress, some sixty years ago,
of some poetry called Telyn Egryn, had also seen fairies
in her youth, when she used to go up the hills to look


after her father's sheep. This happened near a little
brook, from which she could see the sea when the sun
was in the act of sinking in it ; then many fairies would
come out dancing and singing, and also crossing and re-
crossing the little brook. It was on the side of Rhiwfelen,
and she thought the little folks came out of the brook
somewhere. She had been scolded for talking about
the fairies, but she firmly believed in them to the end
of her life. This was told me by Mr. W. Williams, the
tailor, who is about sixty years of age ; and also by
Mr. Rowlands, the ex-bailiff of Peniarth, who is about
seventy-five. I was moreover much interested to dis-
cover at ILanegryn a scrap of kelpie story, which runs
as follows, concerning ILyn Gwernen, situated close to
the old road between Dolgeftey and ILanegryn :

As a man from the village of ILanegryn was returning
in the dusk of the evening across the mountain from
Dolgeltey, he heard, when hard by ILyn Gwernen,
a voice crying out from the water :

Daeth yr awr ond ni daeth y dyn ! The hour is come but the man is not !

As the villager went on his way a little distance, what
should meet him but a man of insane appearance,
and with nothing on but his shirt. As he saw the man
making full pelt for the waters of the lake, he rushed
at him to prevent him from proceeding any further.
But as to the sequel there is some doubt : one version
makes the villager conduct the man back about a mile
from the lake to a farm house called Dyffrydan, which
was on the former's way home. Others seem to think
that the man in his shirt rushed irresistibly into the
lake, and this I have no doubt comes nearer the end of
the story in its original form. Lately I have heard
a part of a similar story about ILyn Cynnwch, which has
already been mentioned, p. 135, above. My informant

R 2



is Miss Lucy Griffith, of Glynmalden, near Dolgeftey,
a lady deeply interested in Welsh folklore and Welsh
antiquities generally. She obtained her information
from a Dolgettey ostler, formerly engaged at the Ship
Hotel, to the effect that on Gwyl Galan, ' the eve of New
Year's Day,' a person is seen walking backwards and
forwards on the strand of Cynnwch Lake, crying out :

Mair awr wedi dyfod ar dyn heb clyfod!
The hour is come while the man is not !

The ostler stated also that lights are to be seen on Cader
Idris on the eve of New Year's Day, whatever that
statement may mean. The two lake stories seem to
suggest that the Lake Spirit was entitled to a victim
once a year, whether the sacrifice was regarded as the
result of accident or design. By way of comparison,
one may mention the notion, not yet extinct, that
certain rivers in various parts of the kingdom regularly
claim so many victims : for some instances at random
see an article by Mr. J. M. Mackinlay, on Traces of
River Worship in Scottish Folklore, a paper published
in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scot-
land, 1895-6, pp. 69-76. Take for example the fol-
lowing rhyme :

Blood-thirsty Dee But bonny Don

Each year needs three; She needs none.

Or this :-

Tweed said to Till An' I rin slaw,

' What gars ye rin sae still ? ' Yet whar ye droon ae man

Till said to Tweed I droon twa.'

' Though ye rin wi' speed


In the neighbourhood of Ystrad Meurig, between the
Teifi and the Ystwyth basins, almost everybody can


relate tales about the fairies, but not much that is out of
the ordinary run of such stories elsewhere. Among
others, Isaac Davies, the smith living at Ystrad Meurig,
had heard a great deal about fairies, and he said that
there were rings belonging to them in certain fields at
Tan y Graig and at ILanafan. Where the rings were,
there the fairies danced until the ground became red
and bare of grass. The fairies were, according to him,
all women, and they dressed like foreigners, in short
cotton dresses reaching only to the knee-joint. This
description is somewhat peculiar, as the idea prevalent
in the country around is, that the fairy ladies had very
long trains, and that they were very elegantly dressed ;
so that it is a common saying there, that girls who dress
in a better or more showy fashion than ordinary look
like Tylwyth Teg, and the smith confessed he had often
heard that said. Similarly Howells, pp. 113, 121-2, finds
the dresses of the fairies dancing on the Freni, in the
north-east of Pembrokeshire, represented as indescrib-
ably elegant and varying in colour ; and those who, in the
month of May, used to frequent the prehistoric encamp-
ment of Moedin 1 or Moydin from which a whole
cantred takes its name in Central Cardiganshire as fond
of appearing in green ; while blue petticoats are said, he
says, to have prevailed in the fairy dances in North
Wales 2 .

Another showed me a spot on the other side of the
Teifi, where the Tylwyth Teg had a favourite spot for

1 According to old Welsh orthography this would be written Moudin, and
in the book Welsh of the present day it would have to become Meuiiin.
Restored, however, to the level of Gallo-Roman names, it would be
Mogodunum or Magodunuw. The place is known as Casteti Moetfin, and
includes within it the end of a hill about halfway between ILannarth and

2 For other mentions of the colours of fairy dress see pp. 44, 139 above,
where red prevails, and contrast the Lake Lady of ILyn Barfog clad in green,



dancing; and at the neighbouring village of Swyd"
Ffynnon, another meadow was pointed out as their
resort on the farm of Dol Bydye. According to one
account I had there, the fairies dressed themselves in
very long clothes, and when they danced they took
hold of one another's enormous trains. Besides the
usual tales concerning men enticed into the ring and
retained in Faery for a year and a day, and concerning
the fairies' dread of pren cerdingen or mountain ash,
I had the midwife tale in two or three forms, differing
more or less from the versions current in North Wales.
For the most complete of them I am indebted to one of
the young men studying at the Grammar School, Mr. D.
ILedrodian Davies. It used to be related by an old
woman who died some thirty years ago at the advanced
age of about 100. She was Pali, mother of old Rachel
Evans, who died seven or eight years ago, when she
was about eighty. The latter was a curious character,
who sometimes sang maswect, or rhymes of doubtful
propriety, and used to take the children of the village to
see fairy rings. She also used to see the Tylwyth, and
had many tales to tell of them. But her mother, Pali, had
actually been called to attend at the confinement of one
of them. The beginning of the tale is not very explicit ;
but, anyhow, Pali one evening found herself face to face
with the fairy lady she was to attend upon. She
appeared to be the wife of one of the princes of the
country. She was held in great esteem, and lived in
a very grand palace. Everything there had been
arranged in the most beautiful and charming fashion.
The wife was in her bed with nothing about her but
white, and she fared sumptuously. In due time, when
the baby had been born, the midwife had all the care
connected with dressing it and serving its mother.
Pali could see or hear nobody in the whole place but


the mother and the baby. She had no idea who
attended on them, or who prepared all the things they
required, for it was all done noiselessly and secretly.
The mother was a charming person, of an excellent
temper and easy to manage. Morning and evening, as she
finished washing the baby, Pali had a certain ointment
given her to rub the baby with. She was charged not
to touch it but with her hand, and especially not to put
any near her eyes. This was carried out for some
time, but one day, as she was dressing the baby, her
eyes happened to itch, and she rubbed them with her
hand. Then at once she saw a great many wonders
she had not before perceived ; and the whole place
assumed a new aspect to her. She said nothing, and
in the course of the day she saw a great deal more.
Among other things, she observed small men and small
women going in and out, following a variety of occupa-
tions. But their movements were as light as the morn-
ing breeze. To move about was no trouble to them,
and they brought things into the room with the greatest
quickness. They prepared dainty food for the confined
lady with the utmost order and skill, and the air of
kindness and affection with which they served her
was truly remarkable. In the evening, as she was
dressing the baby, the midwife said to the lady, 'You
have had a great many visitors to-day.' To this she
replied, 'How do you know that? Have you been
putting the ointment to your eyes?' Thereupon she
jumped out of bed, and blew into her eyes, saying,
1 Now you will see no more.' She never afterwards
could see the fairies, however much she tried, nor was
the ointment entrusted to her after that day. According,
however, to another version which I heard, she was
told, on being found out, not to apply the ointment to
her eyes any more. She promised she would not ; but


the narrator thought she broke that promise, as she
continued to see the fairies as long as she lived.

Mr. D. IL. Davies has also a version like the North
Wales ones. He obtained it from a woman of seventy-
eight at Bronnant, near Aberystwyth, who had heard it
from one of her ancestors. According to her, the
midwife went to the fair called Ffair Rhos, which was
held between Ystrad Meurig and Pont Rhyd Fendigaid 1 .
There she saw a great many of the Tylwyth very busily
engaged, and among others the lady she had been
attending upon. That being so, she walked up to her
and saluted her. The fairy lady angrily asked how she
saw her, and spat in her face, which had the result of

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