British Goblins: Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions

Book One of The Realm of Faerie
by Wirt Sikes

[1881]Fairy Tales and the Ancient Mythology

1 - Fairy Tales and the Ancient Mythology
2 - Classification of Welsh Fairies
3 - Lake Fairies
4 - Mountain Fairies
5 - Changelings
6 - Living with the Tylwyth Teg
7 - Fairy Music
8 - Fairy Rings
9 - Piety as a Protection from the Tylwyth Teg
10 - Fairy Money and Fairy Gifts in General
11 - Origins of Welsh Fairies

WITH regard to other divisions of the field of folk-lore, the views of scholars differ, but in the realm of faerie these differences are reconciled; it is agreed that fairy tales are relics of the ancient mythology; and the philosophers stroll hand in hand harmoniously. This is as it should be, in a realm about which cluster such delightful memories of the most poetic period of life - childhood, before scepticism has crept in as ignorance slinks out. The knowledge which introduced scepticism is infinitely more valuable than the faith it displaced; but, in spite of that, there be few among us who have not felt evanescent regrets for the displacement by the foi scientifique of the old faith in fairies. There was something so peculiarly fascinating in that old belief, that 'once upon a time' the world was less practical in its facts than now, less commonplace and hum-drum, less subject to the inexorable laws of gravitation, optics, and the like. What dramas it has yielded! What poems, what dreams, what delights!

But since the knowledge of our maturer years destroys all that, it is with a degree of satisfaction we can turn to the consolations of the fairy mythology. The beloved tales of old are 'not true' - but at least they are not mere idle nonsense, and they have a good and sufficient reason for being in the world; we may continue to respect them. The wit who observed that the final cause of fairy legends is 'to afford sport for people who ruthlessly track them to their origin,' [Saturday Review,' October 20, 1877] expressed a grave truth in jocular form. Since one can no longer rest in peace with one's ignorance, it is a comfort to the lover of fairy legends to find that he need not sweep them into the grate as so much rubbish; on the contrary they become even more enchanting in the crucible of science than they were in their old character.


Among the vulgar in Wales, the belief in fairies is less nearly extinct than casual observers would be likely to suppose. Even educated people who dwell in Wales, and have dwelt there all their lives, cannot always be classed as other than casual observers in this field. There are some such residents who have paid special attention to the subject, and have formed an opinion as to the extent of prevalence of popular credulity herein; but most Welsh people of the educated class, I find, have no opinion, beyond a vague surprise that the question should be raised at all. So lately as the year 1858, a learned writer in the 'Archaeologia Cambrensis' declared that 'the traveller may now pass from one end of the Principality to the other, without his being shocked or amused, as the case may be, by any of the fairy legends or popular tales which used to pass current from father to son. But in the same periodical, eighteen years later, I find Mr. John Walter Lukis (President of the Cardiff Naturalists' Society), asserting with regard to the cromlechs, tumuli, and ancient camps in Glamorganshire: 'There are always fairy tales and ghost stories connected with them; some, though fully believed in by the inhabitants of those localities, are often of the most absurd character; in fact the more ridiculous they are, the more they are believed in.' ['Archaelogia Cambrensis,' 4th Sc., vi., 174] My own observation leads me to support the testimony of the last-named witness. Educated Europeans generally conceive that this sort of belief is extinct in their own land, or, at least their own immediate section of that land. They accredit such degree of belief as may remain, in this enlightened age, to some remote part-to the south, if they dwell in the north ; to the north, if they dwell in the south. But especially they accredit it to a previous age: in Wales, to last century, or the middle ages, or the days of King Arthur. The rector of Merthyr, being an elderly man, accredits it to his youth. 'I am old enough to remember,' he wrote me under date of January 30th, 1877, 'that these tales were thoroughly believed in among country folk forty or fifty years ago.' People of superior culture have held this kind of faith concerning fairy-lore, it seems to me, in every age, except the more remote. Chaucer held it, almost five centuries ago, and wrote ['Wyf of Bathes Tale,' 'Canterbury Tales.']:

In olde dayes of the Kyng Arthour, …
Al was this lond fulfilled of fayrie; …
I speke of many hundrid yer ago;
But now can no man see non elves mo.

Dryden held it, two hundred years later, and said of the fairies:

I speak of ancient times, for now the swain
Returning ]ate may pass the woods in vain,
And never hope to see the nightly train.

In all later days, other authors have written the same sort of thing; it is not thus now, say they, but it was recently thus. The truth, probably, is that if you will but sink down to the level of common life, of ignorant life, especially in rural neighbour hoods, there you will find the same old beliefs prevailing, in about the same degree to which they have ever prevailed, within the past five hundred years. To sink to this level successfully, one must become a living unit in that life, as I have done in Wales and elsewhere, from time to time. Then one will hear the truth from, or at least the true sentiments of; the class he seeks to know. The practice of every generation in thus relegating fairy belief to a date just previous to its own does not apply, however, to superstitious beliefs in general; for, concerning many such beliefs, their greater or less prevalence at certain dates (as in the history of witchcraft) is matter of well-ascertained fact. I confine the argument, for the present, strictly to the domain of faerie. In this domain, the prevalent belief in Wales may be said to rest with the ignorant, to be strongest in rural and mining districts, to be childlike and poetic, and to relate to anywhere except the spot where the speaker dwells-as to the next parish, to the next county, to the distant mountains, or to the shadow-land of Gwerddonau Llion, the green meadows of the sea.


In Arthur's clay and before that, the people of South Wales regarded North Wales as preeminently the land of faerie. In the popular imagination, that distant country was the chosen abode of giants, monsters, magicians, and all the creatures of enchantment. Out of it came the fairies, on their visits to the sunny land of the south. The chief philosopher of that enchanted region was a giant who sat on a mountain peak and watched the stars. It had a wizard monarch called Gwydion, who possessed the power of changing himself into the strangest possible forms. The peasant who dwelt on the shores of Dyfed (Demetia) saw in the distance, beyond the blue waves of the ocean, shadowy mountain summits piercing the clouds, and guarding this mystic region in solemn majesty. Thence rolled down upon him the storm-clouds from the home of the tempest; thence streamed up the winter sky the flaming banners of the Northern lights; thence rose through the illimitable darkness on high, the star-strewn pathway of the fairy king. These details are current in the Mabinogion, those brilliant stories of Welsh enchantment. so gracefully clone into English by Lady Charlotte Guest, ['The Mabinogion, from the Welsh of the Llyfr Coch o Hergest.' Translated, with notes by Lady Charlotte Guest. (New Edition, London, 1877.)] and it is believed that all the Mabinogion in which these details were found were written in Dyfed. This was the region on the west, now covered by Pembroke, Carmarthen, and Cardigan shires.

More recently than the time above indicated, special traditions have located fairy-land in the Vale of Neath, in Glamorganshire. Especially does a certain steep and rugged crag there, called Craig y Ddinas, bear a distinctly awful reputation as a stronghold of the fairy tribe [There are two hills in Glamorganshire called by this name, and others elsewhere in Wales]. Its caves and crevices have been their favourite haunt for many centuries, and upon this rock was held the court of the last fairies who have ever appeared in Wales. Needless to say there are men still living who remember the visits of the fairies to Craig y Ddinas, although they aver the little folk are no longer seen there. It is a common remark that the Methodists drove them away; indeed, there are numberless stories which show the fairies to have been animated, when they were still numerous in Wales, by a cordial antipathy for all dissenting preachers. In this antipathy, it may be here observed, teetotallers were included.


The sovereign of the fairies, and their especial guardian and protector, was one Gwyn ap Nudd. He was also ruler over the goblin tribe in general. His name often occurs in ancient Welsh poetry. An old bard of the fourteenth century, who, led away by the fairies, rode into a turf bog on a mountain one dark night, called it the 'fish-pond of Gwyn ap Nudd, a palace for goblins and their tribe.' The association of this legendary character with the goblin fame of the Vale of Neath will appear, when it is mentioned that Nudd in Welsh is pronounced simply Neath, and not otherwise. As for the fairy queen, she does not seem to have any existence among Cambrian goblins. It is nevertheless thought by Cambrian etymologists, that Morgana is derived from Mor Gwyn, the white maid; and the Welsh proper name Morgan can hardly fail to be mentioned in this connection, though it is not necessarily significant.

The legend of St. Collen, in which Gwyn ap Nudd figures, represents him as king of Annwn (hell, or the shadow land) as well as of the fairies. ['Greal' (8vo. London, 1805), p.337] Collen was passing a period of mortification as a hermit, in a cell tinder a rock on a mountain. There he one day overheard two men talking about Gwyn ap Nudd, and giving him this twofold kingly character. Collen cried out to the men to go away and hold their tongues, instead of talking about devils. For this Collen was rebuked, as the king of fairyland had an objection to such language. The saint was summoned to meet the king on the hill-top at noon, and after repeated refusals, he finally went there; but he carried a flask of holy water with him. 'And when he came there he saw the fairest castle he had ever beheld, and around it the best appointed troops, and numbers of minstrels and every kind of music of voice and string, and steeds with youths upon them, the comeliest in the world, and maidens of elegant aspect, sprightly, light of foot, of graceful apparel, and in the bloom of youth ; and every magnificence becoming the court of a puissant sovereign. And he beheld a courteous man on the top of the castle who bade him enter, saying that the king was waiting for him to come to meat. And Cohen went into the castle, and when lie came there the king was sitting in a golden chair. And he welcomed Collen honourably, and desired him to eat, assuring him that besides what he saw, he should have the most luxurious of every dainty and delicacy that the mind could desire, and should be supplied with every drink and liquor that the heart could wish; and that there should be in readiness for him every luxury of courtesy and service, of banquet and of honourable entertainment, of rank and of presents, and every respect and welcome due to a man of his wisdom. " I will not eat the leaves of the trees," said Collen. "Didst thou ever see men of better equipment than these of red and blue?" asked the king. "Their equipment is good enough," said Collen, "for such equipment as it is." "What kind of equipment is that ?" said the king. Then said Collen, "The red on the one part signifies burning, and the blue on the other signifies coldness." And with that Cohen drew out his flask and threw the holy water on their heads, whereupon they vanished from his sight, so that there was neither castle nor troops, nor men, nor maidens, nor music, nor song, nor steeds, nor youths, nor banquet, nor the appearance of anything whatever but the green hillocks.'


A third form of Welsh popular belief as to the whereabouts of fairy-land corresponds with the Avalon of the Arthurian legends. The green meadows of the sea, called in the triads Gwerddonau LIon, are the

Green fairy islands, reposing,
In sunlight and beauty on Ocean's calm breast.
Parry's 'Welsh Melodies'

Many extraordinary superstitions survive with regard to these islands. They were supposed to be the abode of the souls of certain Druids, who, not holy enough to enter the heaven of the Christians, were still not wicked enough to be condemned to the tortures of annwn, and so were accorded a place in this romantic sort of purgatorial paradise. In the fifth century a voyage was made, by the British king Gavran, in search of these enchanted islands; with his family he sailed away into the unknown waters, and was never heard of more. This voyage Is commemorated in the triads as one of the Three Losses by Disappearance, the two others being Merlin's and Madog's. Merlin sailed away in a ship of glass ; Madog sailed in search of America and neither returned, but both disappeared for ever. In Pembrokeshire and southern Carmarthenshire are to be found traces of this belief. There are sailors on that romantic coast who still talk of the green meadows of enchantment lying in the Irish channel to the west of Pembrokeshire. Sometimes they are visible to the eyes of mortals for a brief space, when suddenly they vanish. There are traditions of sailors who, in the early part of the present century, actually went ashore on the fairy islands - not knowing that they were such, until they returned to their boats, when they were filled with awe at seeing the islands disappear from their sight, neither sinking in the sea, nor floating away upon the waters, but simply vanishing suddenly. The fairies inhabiting these islands are said to have regularly attended the markets at Milford Haven and Laugharne. They made their purchases without speaking, laid down their money and departed, always leaving the exact sum required, which they seemed to know, without asking the price of anything. Sometimes they were invisible, but they were often seen, by sharp-eyed persons. There was always one special butcher at Milford Haven upon whom the fairies bestowed their patronage, instead of distributing their favours indiscriminately. The Milford Haven folk could see the green fairy islands distinctly, lying out a short distance from land: and the general belief was that they were densely peopled with fairies. It was also said that the latter went to and fro between the islands and the shore through a subterranean gallery under the bottom of the sea.

That isolated cape which forms the county of Pembroke was looked upon as a land of mystery by the rest of Wales long after it had been settled by the Flemings in 1113. A secret veil was supposed to cover this sea-girt promontory; the inhabitants talked in an unintelligible jargon that was neither English, nor French, nor Welsh; and out of its misty darkness came fables of wondrous sort, and accounts of miracles marvellous beyond belief. Mythology and Christianity spoke together from this strange country, and one could not tell at which to be most amazed, the pagan or the priest.

Classification of Welsh Fairies

Fairies being creatures of the imagination, it is not possible to classify them by fixed and immutable rules In the exact sciences, there are laws which never vary, or if they vary, their very eccentricity is governed by precise rules. Even in the largest sense, comparative mythology must demean itself modestly in order to be tolerated in the severe company of the sciences. In presenting his subjects, therefore, the writer in this held can only govern himself by the purpose of orderly arrangement. To secure the maximum of system, for the sake of the student who employs the work for reference and comparison, with the minimum of dullness, for the sake of the general reader, is perhaps the limit of a reasonable ambition. Keightley ['Fairy Mythology' (Bolm's Ed.), 78] divides into four classes the Scandinavian elements of popular belief as to fairies, viz. 1. The Elves ; 2. The Dwarfs, or Trolls; 3. The Nisses; and 4. The Necks, Mermen, and Mermaids. How entirely arbitrary this division is, the student of Scandinavian folklore at once perceives. Yet it is perhaps as satisfactory as another. The fairies of Wales may be divided into five classes, if analogy be not too sharply insisted on. Thus we have, I. The Ellyllon, or elves; 2. The Coblynau, or mine fairies; 3. The Bwbachod, or household fairies; 4. The Gwragedd Annwn, or fairies of the lakes and streams; and 5. The Gwyllion, or mountain fairies.
The modern Welsh name for fairies is y Tylwyth Teg, the fair folk or family. This is sometimes lengthened into y Tylwyth Teg yn y Coed, the fair family in the wood, or Tylwyth Teg y Mwn, the fair folk of the mine. They are seen dancing in moonlight nights on the velvety grass, clad in airy and flowing robes of blue, green, white, or scarlet -details as to colour not usually met, I think, in accounts of fairies. They are spoken of as bestowing blessings on those mortals whom they select to be thus favoured; and again are called Bendith y Mamau, or their mother's blessing, that is to say, good little children whom it is a pleasure to know. To name the fairies by a harsh epithet is to invoke their anger; to speak of them in flattering phrase is to propitiate their good offices. The student of fairy mythology perceives in this propitiatory mode of speech a fact of wide significance. It can be traced in numberless lands, and back to the beginning of human history, among the cloud-hung peaks of Central Asia. The Greeks spoke of the furies as the Eumenides, or gracious ones; Highlanders mentioned by Sir Walter Scott uncover to the gibbet and call it 'the kind gallows;' the Dayak will not name the small-pox, but calls it 'the chief;' the Laplander calls the bear 'the old man with the fur coat ;' in Ammam the tiger is called 'grandfather ;' and it is thought that the maxim, 'Speak only good of the dead,' came originally from the notion of propitiating the ghost of the departed, [John Fiske, 'Myths and Myth-makers,' 22] who, in laying off this mortal garb, had become endowed with new powers of harming his late acquaintance.

The Ellyllon are the pigmy elves who haunt the groves and valleys, and correspond pretty closely with the English elves. The English name was probably derived from the Welsh el, a spirit, elf, an element; there is a whole brood of words of this class in the Welsh language, expressing every variety of flowing, gliding, spirituality, devilry, angelhood, and goblinism. Ellyllon (the plural of ellyll), is also doubtless allied with the Hebrew Elilim, having with it an identity both of origin and meaning. [Pughe's 'Welsh Dictionary.' (Denbigh, 1866)] The poet Davydd ab Gwilym, in a humorous account of his troubles in a mist in the year 1340, says :
Yr ydoedd ym mhob gobant
Ellyllon mingeimion gant.
There was in every hollow
A hundred wrymouthed elves.
The hollows, or little dingles, are still the places where the peasant, belated on his homeward way from fair or market, looks for the ellyllon, but fails to find them. Their food is specified in Welsh folk-lore as fairy butter and fairy victuals, ymenyn tylwyth teg and bwyd ellyllon; the latter the toadstool, or poisonous mushroom, and the former a butter-resembling substance found at great depths in the crevices of limestone rocks, in sinking for lead ore. Their gloves, menyg ellyllon, are the bells of the digitalis, or fox-glove, the leaves of which are well known to be a strong sedative. Their queen - for though there is no fairy-queen in the large sense that Gwyn ap Nudd is the fairy-king, there is a queen of the elves - is none other than the Shakespearean fairy spoken of by Mercutio, who comes
In shape no bigger than an agate-stone
On the forefinger of an alderman
['Romeo and Juliet,' Act II,. Sc. 4]
Shakspeare's use of Welsh folk-lore, it should be noted, was extensive and peculiarly faithful. Keightley in his 'Fairy Mythology' rates the bard soundly for his inaccurate use of English fairy superstitions; but the reproach will not apply as regards Wales. From his Welsh informant Shakespeare got Mab, which is simply the Cymric for a little child, and the root of numberless words signifying babyish, childish, love for children (mabgar), kitten (mabgath), prattling (mabiaith), and the like, most notable of all which in this connection is mabinogi, the singular of Mabinogion, the romantic tales of enchantment told to the young in by-gone ages.

In the Huntsman's Rest Inn at Peterstone-super-Ely, near Cardiff, sat a group of humble folk one afternoon, when I chanced to stop there to rest myself by the chimney-side, after a long walk through green lanes. The men were drinking their tankards of ale and smoking their long clay pipes; and they were talking about their dogs and horses, the crops, the hard times, and the prospect of bettering themselves by emigration to America. On this latter theme I was able to make myself Interesting, and acquaintance was thereupon easily established on a friendly footing. I led the conversation into the domain of folk-lore and this book is richer in illustration on many a page, in consequence. Among others, this tale was told :
On a certain farm in Glamorganshire lived Rowli Pugh, who was known far and wide for his evil luck. Nothing prospered that he turned his hand to ; his crops proved poor, though his neighbours' might be good; his roof leaked in spite of all his mending; his walls remained damp when every one else's walls were dry and above all, his wife was so feeble she could do no work. His fortunes at last seemed so hard that he resolved to sell out and clear out, no matter at what loss, and try to better himself in another country - not by going to America, for there was no America in those days. Well, and if there was, the poor Welshman didn't know it. So as Rowli was sitting on his wall one day, hard by his cottage, musing over his sad lot, he was accosted by a little man who asked him what was the matter. Rowli looked around in surprise, but before he could answer the ellyll said to him with a grin, 'There, there, hold your tongue, I know more about you than. you ever dreamed of knowing. You're in trouble, and you're going away. But you may stay, now I've spoken to you. Only bid your good wife leave the candle burning when she goes to bed, and say no more about it.' With this the ellyll kicked up his heels and disappeared. Of course the farmer did as he was bid, and from that day he prospered. Every night Catti Jones, his wife, [Until recently, Welsh women retained their maiden names even after marriage] set the candle out, swept the hearth, and went to bed ; and every night the fairies would come and do her baking and brewing, her washing and mending. sometimes even furnishing their own tools and materials. The farmer was now always clean of

linen and whole of garb; he had good bread and good beer.; he felt like a new man, and worked like one. Everything prospered with him now as nothing had before. His crops were good, his barns were tidy, his cattle were sleek, his pigs the fattest in the parish. So things went on for three years. One night Catti Jones took it into her head that she must have a peep at the fair family who did her work for her; and curiosity conquering prudence, she arose while Rowli Pugh lay snoring, and peeped through a crack in the door. There they were, a jolly company of ellyllon, working away like mad, and laughing and dancing as madly as they worked. Catti was so amused that in spite of herself she fell to laughing too; and at sound of her voice the ellyllon scattered like mist before the wind, leaving the room empty. They never came back any more; but the farmer was now prosperous, and his bad luck never returned to plague him.
The resemblance of this tale to many he has encountered will at once be noted by the student of comparative folk-lore. He will also observe that it trenches on the domain of another class in my own enumeration, viz., that of the Bwbach, or household fairy. This is the stone over which one is constantly stumbling in this field of scientific research. Mr. Baring-Gould's idea that all household tales are reducible to a primeval root (in the same or a similar manner that we trace words to their roots), though most ingeniously illustrated by him, is constantly involved in trouble of the sort mentioned. He encounters the obstacle which lies in the path of all who walk this way. His roots sometimes get inextricably gnarled and inter-twisted with each other. But some effort of this sort is imperative, and we must do the best we can with our materials. Stories of the class of Grimm's Witchelmänner (Kinder und Hausmärchen) will be recalled by the legend of Rowli Pugh as here told. The German Hausmänner are elves of a domestic turn, sometimes mischievous and sometimes useful, but usually looking for some material reward for their labours. So with the English goblin named by Milton in 'L'Allegro,' which drudges.
To earn his cream-bowl duly set.

The EllylIdan is a species of elf exactly corresponding to the English Will-o'-wisp, the Scandinavian Lyktgubhe, and the Breton Sand Yan y Tad. The Welsh word dan means fire; dan also means a lure; the compound word suggests a luring elf-fire. The Breton Sand Yan y Tad (St. John and Father) [Keightley 'Fairy Mythology,' 441] is a double ignis fatuus fairy, carrying at its finger-ends five lights, which spin round like a wheel. The negroes of the southern seaboard states of America invest this goblin with an exaggeration of the horrible peculiarly their own. They call it Jack-muh-lantern, and describe it as a hideous creature five feet in height, with goggle-eyes and huge mouth, its body covered with long hair, and which goes leaping and bounding through the air like a gigantic grasshopper. This frightful apparition is stronger than any man, and swifter than any horse, and compels its victims to follow it into the swamp, where it leaves them to die.
Like all goblins of this class, the EllylIdan was, of course, seen dancing about in marshy grounds, into which it led the belated wanderer; but, as a distinguished resident in Wales has wittily said, the poor elf is. now starved to death, and his breath is taken from him; his light is quenched for ever by the improving farmer, who has drained the bog; and, instead of the rank decaying vegetation of the autumn, where bitterns and snipes delighted to secrete themselves, crops of corn and potatoes are grown.' [Hon, W. O, Stanley, M.P., in 'Notes and Queries.']
A poetic account by a modern character, called lola the Bard, is thus condensed : ' One night, when the moon had gone down, as I was sitting on a hill-top, the Ellylldan passed by. I followed it into the valley. We crossed plashes of water where the tops of bulrushes peeped above, and where the lizards lay silently on the surface, looking at us with an unmoved stare. The frogs sat croaking and swelling their sides, but ceased as they raised a melancholy eye at the Ellylldan. The wild fowl, sleeping with their heads under their wings, made a low cackle as we went by. A bittern awoke and rose with a scream into the air. I felt the trail of the eels and leeches peering about, as I waded through the pools. On a slimy stone a toad sat sucking poison from the night air. The EllylIdan glowed bravely in the slumbering vapours. It rose airily over the bushes that drooped in the ooze. When I lingered or stopped, it waited for me, but dwindled gradually away to a speck barely perceptible. But as soon as I moved on again, it would shoot up suddenly and glide before. A bat came flying round and round us, Happing its wings heavily. Screech-owls stared silently at us with their broad eyes. Snails and worms crawled about. The fine threads of a spider's web gleamed in the light of the EllylIdan. Suddenly it shot away from me, and in the distance joined a ring of its fellows, who went dancing slowly round and round in a goblin dance, which sent me off to sleep.' ['The Vale of GIamorgan.' (London, 1839.)]

Pwca, or Pooka, is but another name for the Ellylldan, as our Puck is another name for the Will-o'-wisp; but in both cases the shorter term has a more poetic flavour and a wider latitude. The name Puck was originally applied to the whole race of English fairies, and there still be few of the realm who enjoy a wider popularity than Puck, in spite of his mischievous attributes. Part of this popularity is due to the poets, especially to Shakespeare. I have alluded to the bard's accurate knowledge of Welsh folklore; the subject is really one of unique interest, in view of the inaccuracy charged upon him as to the English fairyland. There is a Welsh tradition to the effect that Shakespeare received his knowledge of the Cambrian fairies from his friend Richard Price, son of Sir John Price, of the priory of Brecon. It is even claimed that Cwm Pwca, or Puck Valley, a part of the romantic glen of the Clydach, in Breconshire, is the original scene of the Midsummer Night's Dream ' - a fancy as light ard airy as Puck himself. [According to a letter written by the poet Campbell to Mrs Fletcher, in 1833, and published in her Autobiography, it was thought Shakespeare went in person to see this magic valley. 'It is no later than yesterday', wrote Campbell, 'that I discovered a probability - almost near a certainty-that Shakespeare visited friends in the very town (Brecon in Wales) where Mrs. Siddons was born, and that he there found in a neighbouring glen, called "The Valley of Fairy Puck," the principal machinery of his "Midsummer Night's Dream." '] Anyhow, there Cwm Pwca is, and in the sylvan days, before Frere and Powell's ironworks were set up there, it is said to have been as full of goblins as a Methodist's head is of piety. And there are in Wales other places bearing like names, where Pwca's pranks are well remembered by old inhabitants. The range given to the popular fancy in Wales is expressed with fidelity by Shakespeare's words in the mouth of Puck:
I'll folIow you, I'll lead you about a round,
Through bog, through bush, through brake through brier,
Sometime a horse I'll be, sometime a hound,
A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire;
And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn,
Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn
['Midsummer Night's Dream.' Act III., Sc. 3]
The various stories I have encountered bear out these details almost without an omission.
In his own proper character, however, Pwca has a sufficiently grotesque elfish aspect. It is stated that a Welsh peasant who was asked to give an

idea of the appearance of Pwca, drew the above figure with a bit of coal.
A servant girl who attended to the cattle on the Trwyn farm, near Abergwyddon, used to take food to 'Master. Pwca,' as she called the elf. A bowl of fresh milk and a slice of white bread were the component parts of the goblin's repast, and were placed on a certain spot where he got them. One night the girl, moved by the spirit of mischief, drank the milk and ate most of the bread, leaving for Master Pwca only water and crusts. Next morning she found that the fastidious fairy had left the food untouched. Not long after, as the girl was passing the lonely spot' where she had hitherto left Pwca his food, she was seized under the arm pits by fleshly hands (which, however, she could not see), and subjected to a castigation of a most mortifying character. Simultaneously there fell upon her ear in good set Welsh a warning not to repeat her offence on peril of still worse treatment. This story 'is thoroughly believed in there to this day.' [ArchaeoIogia Cambrensis,' 4th Se., vi., 175. (1875)]
I visited the scene of the story, a farm near Abergwyddon (now called Abercarne), and heard a great deal more of the exploits of that particular Pwca, to which I will refer again. The most singular fact of the matter is that although at least a century has elapsed, and some say several centuries, since the exploits in question, you cannot find a Welsh peasant in the parish but knows all about Pwca'r Trwyn.

The most familiar form of the Pwca story is one which I have encountered in several localities, varying so little in its details that each account would be interchangeable with another by the alteration of local names.

This form presents a peasant who is returning home from his work, or from a fair, when he sees a light travelling before him. Looking closer he perceives that it is carried by a dusky little figure, holding a lantern or candle at arm's length over its head. He follows it for several miles, and suddenly finds himself on the brink of a frightful precipice. From far down below there rises to his ears the sound of a foaming torrent. At the same moment the little goblin with the lantern springs across the chasm, alighting on the opposite side; raises the light again high over its head, utters a loud and malicious laugh, blows out its candle and disappears up the opposite hill, leaving the awestruck peasant to get home as best he can.

Under the general title of Coblynau I class the fairies which haunt the mines, quarries and under-ground regions of Wales, corresponding to the cabalistic Gnomes. The word coblyn has the double meaning of knocker or thumper and sprite or fiend; and may it not be the original of goblin? It is applied by Welsh miners to pigmy fairies which dwell in the mines, and point out, by a peculiar knocking or rapping, rich veins of ore. The faith is extended in some parts, so as to cover the indication of subterranean treasures generally, in caves and secret places of the mountains. The coblynau are described as being about half a yard in height and very ugly to look upon, but extremely good-natured, and warm friends of the miner. Their dress is a grotesque imitation of the miner's garb, and they carry tiny hammers, picks and lamps. They work busily, loading ore in buckets, flitting about the shafts, turning tiny windlasses, and pounding away like madmen, but really accomplishing nothing whatever. They have been known to throw stones at the miners, when enraged at being lightly spoken of; but the stones are harmless. nevertheless, all miners of a proper spirit refrain from provoking them, because their presence brings good luck.

Miners are possibly no more superstitious than other men of equal intelligence; I have heard some of their number repel indignantly the idea that they are superstitious at all ; but this would simply be to raise them above the level of our common humanity. There is testimony enough, besides, to support my own conclusions, which accredit a liberal share of credulity to the mining class. The Oswestry Advertiser, a short time ago, recorded the fact that, at Cefn, 'a woman is employed as messenger at one of the collieries, and as she commences her duty early each morning she meets great numbers of colliers going to their work. Some of them, we are gravely assured, consider it a bad omen to meet a woman first thing in the morning; and not having succeeded in deterring her from her work by other means, they waited upon the manager and declared that they should remain at home unless the woman was dismissed.' This was in 1874. In June, 1878, the South Wales Daily News recorded a superstition of the quarrymen at Penrhyn, where some thousands of men refused to work on Ascension Day. 'This refusal did not arise out of any reverential feeling, but from an old and wide-spread superstition, which has lingered in that district for years, that if work is continued on Ascension Day an accident will certainly follow. A few years ago the agents persuaded the men to break through the superstition, and there were accidents each year - a not unlikely occurrence, seeing the extent of works carried on, and the dangerous nature of the occupation of the men. This year, however, the men, one and all, refused to work.' These are examples dealing with considerable numbers of the mining class, and are quoted in this instance as being more significant than individual cases would be. Of these last I have encountered many. Yet I should be sorry if any reader were to conclude from all this that Welsh miners are not in the main intelligent church-going, newspaper-reading men. They are so, I think, even beyond the common. Their superstitions, therefore, like those of the rest of us, must be judged as 'a thing apart,' not to be reconciled with intelligence and education, but co-existing with them. Absolute freedom from superstition can come only with a degree of scientific culture not yet reached by mortal man.
It can hardly be cause for wonder that the miner should be superstitious. His life is passed in a dark and gloomy region, fathoms below the earth's green surface, surrounded by walls on which - dim lamps shed a fitful light. It is not surprising that imagination (and the Welsh imagination is peculiarly vivid) should conjure up the faces and forms of gnomes and coblynau, of phantoms and fairy men. When they hear the mysterious thumping which they know is not produced by any human being, and when in examining the place where the noise was heard they find there are really valuable indications of ore, the sturdiest incredulity must sometimes be shaken. Science points out that the noise may be produced by the action of water upon the loose stones in fissures and pot-holes of the mountain limestone, and does actually suggest the presence of metals.
In the days before a Priestley had caught and bottled that demon which exists in the shape of carbonic acid gas, when the miner was smitten dead by an invisible foe in the deep bowels of the earth it was natural his awe-struck companions should ascribe the mysterious blow to a supernatural enemy. When the workman was assailed suddenly by what we now call fire-damp, which hurled him and his companions right and left upon the dark rocks, scorching, burning, and killing, those who survived were not likely to question the existence of the mine fiend hence arose the superstition - now probably quite extinct - of basilisks in the mines, which destroyed with their terrible gaze. When the explanation came, that the thing which killed the miner was what he breathed, not what he saw and when chemistry took the fire-damp from the domain of faerie, the basilisk and the fire fiend had not a leg to stand on. The explanation of the Knockers is more recent, and less palpable and convincing.

The Coblynau are always given the form of dwarfs, in the popular fancy; wherever seen or heard, they are believed to have escaped from the mines or the secret regions of the mountains. Their homes are hidden from mortal vision. When encountered, either in the mines or on the mountains, they have strayed from their special abodes, which are as spectral as themselves. There is at least one account extant of their secret territory having been revealed to mortal eyes. I find it in a quaint volume (of which I shall have more to say), printed at Newport, Monmouthshire, in 1813 ['A Relation of Apparitions of Spirits in the County of Monmouth and the Principality of Wales' By Rev. Edmund Jones of the Tranch. (Newport, 1813.)] It relates that one WiIliam Evans, of Hafodafel, while crossing the Beacon Mountain very early in the morning, passed a fairy coal mine; where fairies were busily at work. Some were cutting the coal, some carrying it to fill the sacks, some raising the loads upon the horses' backs, and so on; but all in the completest silence. He thought this 'a wonderful extra natural thing,' and was considerably impressed by it, for well he knew that there really was no coal mine at that place. He was a person of undoubted veracity,' and what is more, 'a great man in the world - above telling an untruth.'
That the Coblynau sometimes wandered far from home, the same chronicler testifies; but on these occasions they were taking a holiday. Egbert Williams, 'a pious young gentleman of Denbighshire, then at school,' was one day playing in a field called Cae Caled, in the parish of Bodfari, with three girls, one of whom was his sister. Near the stile beyond Lanelwyd House they saw a company of fifteen or sixteen coblynau engaged in dancing madly. They were in the middle of the field, about seventy yards from the spectators, and they danced something after the manner of Morris-dancers, but with a wildness and swiftness in their motions. They were clothed in red like British soldiers, and wore red handkerchiefs spotted with yellow wound round their heads. And a strange circumstance about them was that although they were almost as big as ordinary men, yet they had unmistakably the appearance of dwarfs, and one could call them nothing but dwarfs. Presently one of them left the company and ran towards the group near the stile, who were direfully scared thereby, and scrambled in great fright to go over the stile. Barbara Jones got over first, then her sister, and as Egbert Williams was helping his sister over they saw the coblyn close upon them, and barely got over when his hairy hand was laid on the stile. He stood leaning on it, gazing after them as they ran, with a grim copper-coloured countenance and a fierce look. The young people ran to Lanelwyd House and called the elders out, but though they hurried quickly to the field the dwarfs had already disappeared.

The counterparts of the Coblynau are found in most mining countries. In Germany, the Wichtlein (little Wights) are little old long-bearded men, about three-quarters of an ell high, which haunt the mines of the southern land. The Bohemians call the Wichtlein by the name of Haus-schmiedlein, little House-smiths, from their sometimes making a noise as if labouring hard at the anvil. They are not so popular as in Wales, however, as they predict misfortune or death. They announce the doom of a miner by knocking three times distinctly, and when any lesser evil is about to befall him they are heard digging, pounding, and imitating other kinds of work. In Germany also the kobolds are rather troublesome than otherwise, to the miners, taking pleasure in frustrating their objects, and rendering their toil unfruitful. Sometimes they are down-right malignant, especially if neglected or insulted, but sometimes also they are indulgent to individuals whom they take under their protection. When a miner therefore hit upon a rich vein of ore, the inference commonly was not that he possessed more skill, industry, or even luck than his fellow-workmen, but that the spirits of the mine had directed him to the treasure.' [Scott, 'Demonology and Witchcraft,' 121]
The intimate connection between mine fairies and the whole race of dwarfs is constantly met throughout the fairy mythology; and the connection of the dwarfs with the mountains is equally universal. 'God,' says the preface to the Heldenbuch, 'gave the dwarfs being, because the land and the mountains were altogether waste and uncultivated, and there was much store of silver and gold and precious stones and pearls still in the mountains.' From the most ancient times, and in the oldest countries, down to our own time and the new world of America, the traditions are the same. The old Norse belief which made the dwarfs the current machinery of the northern Sagas is echoed in the Catskill Mountains with the rolling of the thunder among the crags where Hendrik Hudson's dwarfs are playing ninepins.

The Bwbach, or Boobach, is the good-natured goblin which does good turns for the tidy Welsh maid who wins its favour by a certain course of behaviour recommended by long tradition. The maid having swept the kitchen, makes a good fire the last thing at night, and having put the churn, filled with cream, on the whitened hearth, with a basin of fresh cream for the Bwbach on the hob, goes to bed to await the event. In the morning she finds (if she is in luck) that the Bwbach has emptied the basin of cream, and plied the churn-dasher so well that the maid has but to give a thump or two to bring the butter in a great lump. Like the Ellyll which it so much resembles, the Bwbach does not approve of dissenters and their ways, and especially strong is its aversion to total abstainers.
There was a Bwbach belonging to a certain estate in Cardiganshire, which took great umbrage at a Baptist preacher who was a guest in the house, and who was much fonder of prayers than of good ale. Now the Bwbach had a weakness in favour of people who sat around the hearth with their mugs of cwrw da and their pipes, and it took to pestering the preacher. One night it jerked the stool from under the good man's elbows, as he knelt pouring forth prayer, so that he fell down Hat on his face. Another time it interrupted the devotions by jangling the fire-irons on the hearth and it was continually making the dogs fall a-howling during prayers, or frightening the farm boy by grinning at him through the window, or throwing the maid into fits. At last it had the audacity to attack the preacher as he was crossing a field. The minister told the story in this wise 'I was reading busily in my hymn-book as I walked on, when a sudden fear came over me and my legs began to tremble. A shadow crept upon me from behind, and when I turned round - it was myself ! - my person, my dress, and even my hymn-book. I looked in its face a moment, and then fell insensible to the ground.' And there, insensible still, they found him. This encounter proved too much for the good man, who considered it a warning to him to leave those parts. He accordingly mounted his horse next day and rode away. A boy of the neighbourhood, whose veracity was, like that of all boys, unimpeachable, afterwards said that lie saw the Bwbach jump up behind the preacher, on the horse's back. And the horse went like lightning, with eyes like balls of fire, and the preacher looking back over his shoulder at the Bwbach, that grinned from ear to ear.

The same confusion in outlines which exists regarding our own Bogie and Hobgoblin gives the Bwbach a double character, as a household fairy and as a terrifying phantom. In both aspects it is ludicrous, but in the latter it has dangerous practices. To get into its clutches under certain circumstances is no trifling matter, for it has the power of whisking people off through the air. Its services are brought into requisition for this purpose by troubled ghosts who cannot sleep on account of hidden treasure they want removed ; and if they can succeed in getting a mortal to help them in removing the treasure, they employ the Bwbach to transport the mortal through the air.
This ludicrous fairy is in France represented by the gobelin. Mothers threaten children with him. 'Le gobelin vous mangera, le gobelin vous emportera.' [Père l'Abbé, 'Etymologie,' 262] In the English 'hobgoblin' we have a word apparently derived from the Welsh hob, to hop, and coblyn, a goblin, which presents a hopping goblin to the mind, and suggests the Pwca (with which the Bwbach is also confused in the popular fancy at times), but should mean in English simply the goblin of the hob, or household fairy. In its bugbear aspect, the Bwbach, like the English bogie, is believed to be identical with the Slavonic 'bog,' and the 'baga' of the Cuneiform Inscriptions, both of which are names for the Supreme Being, according to Professor Fiske. 'The ancestral form of these epithets' is found in 'the old Aryan "Bhaga," which reappears unchanged in the Sanskrit of the Vedas, and has left a memento of itself in the surname of the Phrygian Zeus " Bagaios." It seems originally to have denoted either the unclouded sun, or the sky of noonday illuminated by the solar rays.
. . Thus the same name which to the Vedic poet, to the Persian of the time of Xerxes, and to the modern Russian, suggests the supreme majesty of deity, is in English associated with an ugly and ludicrous fiend, closely akin to that grotesque Northern Devil of whom Southey was unable to think without laughing.' [Fiske, Myths and Myth-makers' 105].

Lake Fairies


THE Gwragedd Annwn (literally, wives of the lower world, or hell) are the elfin dames who dwell under the water. I find no resemblance in the Welsh fairy to our familiar mermaid, beyond the watery abode, and the sometimes winning ways. The Gwragedd Annwn are not fishy of aspect, nor do they dwell in the sea. Their haunt is the lakes and rivers, but especially the wild and lonely lakes upon the mountain heights. These romantic sheets are surrounded with numberless superstitions, which will be further treated of. In the realm of faerie they serve as avenues of communication between this world and the lower one of annwn, the shadowy domain presided over by Gwyn ap Nudd, king of the fairies. This sub-aqueous realm is peopled by those children of mystery termed Plant Annwn, and the belief is current among the inhabitants of the Welsh mountains that the Gwragedd Annwn still occasionally visit this upper world of ours. ['Archaeologia Cambrensis,' 2nd Se., iv., 253] The only reference to Welsh mermaids I have either read or heard is contained in Drayton's account of the Battle of Agincourt. There it is mentioned, among the armorial ensigns of the counties of Wales:

As Cardigan, the next to them that went,
Came with a mermaid sitting on a rock

[There is in 'Cymru Fu' a mermaid story, but its mermaid feature is apparently a modern embellishment of a real incident, and without value here.]

Crumlyn Lake, near the quaint village of Briton Ferry, is one of the many in Wales which are a resort of the elfin dames. It is also believed that a large town lies swallowed up there, and that the Gwragedd 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 these towers. The way the elfin dames first came to dwell there was this : A long, ay, a very long time ago, St. Patrick came over from Ireland on a visit to St. David of Wales, just to say 'Sut yr y'ch chwi ?' (How d'ye do?) ; and as they were strolling by this lake conversing on religious topics in a friendly manner, some Welsh people who had ascertained that it was St. Patrick, and being angry at him for leaving Cambria for Erin, began to abuse him in the Welsh language, his native tongue. Of course such an insult could not go unpunished, and St. Patrick caused his villifiers to be transformed into fishes; but some of them being females, were converted into fairies instead. It is also related that the sun, on account of this insolence to so holy a man, never shed its life-giving rays upon the dark waters of this picturesque lake, except during one week of the year. This legend and these magical details are equally well accredited to various other lakes, among them Llyn Barfog, near Aberdovey, the town whose 'bells' are celebrated in immortal song.

Llyn Barfog is the scene of the famous elfin cow's descent upon earth, from among the droves of the Gwragedd Annwn. This is the legend of the origin of the Welsh black cattle, as related to me in Carmarthenshire: In times of old there was a band of elfin ladies who used to haunt the neighbourhood of Llyn Barfog, a lake among the hills just back of Aberdovey. It was their habit to make their appearance at dusk clad all in green, accompanied by their milk-white hounds. Besides their hounds, the green ladies of Llyn Barfog were peculiar in the possession of droves of beautiful milk-white kine, called Gwartheg y Llyn, or kine of the lake. One day an old farmer, who lived near Dyssyrnant, had the good luck to catch one of these mystic cows, which had fallen in love with the cattle of his herd. From that day the farmer's fortune was made. Such calves, such milk, such butter and cheese, as came from the milk-white cow never had been seen in Wales before, nor ever will be seen again. The fame of the Fuwch Gyfeiliorn (which was what they called the cow) spread through the country round. The farmer, who had been poor, became rich ; the owner of vast herds, like the patriarchs of old. But one day he took it into his silly noddle that the elfin cow was getting old, and that he had better fatten her for the market. His nefarious purpose thrived amazingly. Never, since beef steaks were invented, was seen such a fat cow as this cow grew to be. Killing day came, and the neighbours arrived from all about to witness the taking-off of this monstrously fat beast. The farmer had already counted up the gains from the sale of her, and the butcher had bared his red right arm. The cow was tethered, regardless of her mournful lowing and her pleading eyes ; the butcher raised his bludgeon and struck fair and hard between the eyes; when lo ! a shriek resounded through the air, awakening the echoes of the hills, as the butcher's bludgeon went through the goblin head of the elfin cow, and knocked over nine adjoining men, while the butcher himself went frantically whirling around trying to catch hold of something permanent. Then the astonished assemblage beheld a green lady standing on a crag high up over the lake, and crying with a loud voice:
Dere di felen Emion,
Cyrn Cyfeiliorn-braith y Llyn,
A'r foci Dodin,
Codwch, dewch adre.
Come yellow Anvil, stray horns,
Speckled one of the lake,
And of the hornless Dodlin,
Arise, come home.
Whereupon not only did the elfin cow arise and go home, but all her progeny to the third and fourth generations went home with her, disappearing in the air over the hill tops and returning nevermore. Only one cow remained of all the farmer's herds, and she had turned from milky white to raven black. Whereupon the farmer in despair drowned himself in the lake of the green ladies, and the black cow became the progenitor of the existing race of Welsh black cattle.
This legend appears, in a slightly different form, in the 'Iola MSS.,' as translated by Taliesin Williams, of Merthyr : [Llandovery, published for the Welsh MSS. Society, 1848.] 'The milk-white milch cow gave enough of milk to every one who desired it; and however frequently milked, or by whatever number of persons, she was never found deficient. All persons who drank of her milk were healed of every illness ; from fools they became wise ; and from being wicked, became happy. This cow went round the world; and wherever she appeared, she filled with milk all the vessels that could be found, leaving calves behind her for all the wise and happy. It was from her that all the milch cows in the world were obtained. After traversing through the island of Britain, for the benefit and blessing of country and kindred, she reached the Vale of Towy; where, tempted by her fine appearance and superior condition, the natives sought to kill and eat her; but just as they were proceeding to effect their purpose, she vanished from between their hands, and was never seen again. A house still remains in the locality, called Y Fuwch Laethwen Lefrith (The Milk-white Milch Cow.)'

The legend of the Meddygon Myddfai again introduces the elfin cattle to our notice, but combines with them another and a very interesting form of this superstition, namely, that of the wife of supernatural race. A further feature gives it its name, Meddygon meaning physicians, and the legend professing to give the origin of certain doctors who were renowned in the thirteenth century. The legend relates that a farmer in the parish of Myddfai, Carmarthenshire, having bought some lambs in a neighbouring fair, led them to graze near Llyn y Fan Fach, on the Black Mountains. Whenever he visited these lambs three beautiful damsels appeared to him from the lake, on whose shores they often made excursions. Sometimes he pursued and tried to catch them, but always failed; the enchanting nymphs ran before him and on reaching the lake taunted him in these words:
Cras dy fara,
Anhawdd ein dala;
which, if one must render it literally, means :
Bake your bread,
'Twill be hard to catch us;
but which, more poetically treated, might signify
Mortall, who eatest baken bread,
Not for thee is the fairy's bed !
One day some moist bread from the lake came floating ashore. The farmer seized it, and devoured it with avidity. The following day, to his great delight, be was successful in his chase, and caught the nymphs on the shore. After talking a long time with them, he mustered up the courage to propose marriage to one of them. She consented to accept him on condition that he would distinguish her from her sisters the next day. This was a new and great difficulty to the young farmer, for the damsels were so similar in form and features, that he could scarcely see any difference between them. He noted, however, a trifling singularity in the strapping of the chosen one's sandal, by which he recognized her on the following day. As good as her word, the gwraig immediately left the lake and went with him to his farm. Before she quitted the lake she summoned therefrom to attend her, seven cows, two oxen, and one bull. She stipulated that she should remain with the farmer only until such time as he should strike her thrice without cause. For some years they dwelt peaceably together, and she bore him three sons, who were the celebrated Meddygon Myddfai. One day, when preparing for a fair in the neighbourhood) the farmer desired her to go to the held for his horse. She said she would, but being rather dilatory, he said to her humorously Dos, dos, dos,' i.e., 'Go, go, go,' and at the same time slightly tapped her arm three times with his glove.
… The blows were slight - but they were blows. The terms of the marriage contract were broken, and the dame departed, summoning with her her seven cows, her two oxen, and the bull. The oxen were at that moment ploughing in the field, but they immediately obeyed her call and dragged the plough after them to the lake. The furrow, from the field in which they were ploughing to the margin of the lake, is still to be seen - in several parts of that country - at the present day. After her departure, the gwraig annwn once met her three sons in the valley now called Cwm Meddygon, and gave them a magic box containing remedies of wonderful power, through whose use they became celebrated. Their names were Cadogan, Gruffydd and Emion, and the farmer's name was Rhiwallon. Rhiwallon and his sons, named as above, were physicians to Rhys Gryg, Lord of Dynevor, and son of the last native prince of Wales. They lived about 1230, and dying, left behind them a compendium of their medical practice. 'A copy of their works is in the Welsh School Library in Gray's Inn Lane.' ['Cambro Briton,' ii., 315]

In a more polished and elaborate form this legend omits the medical features altogether, but substitutes a number of details so peculiarly Welsh that I cannot refrain from presenting them. This version relates that the enamoured farmer had heard of the lake maiden, who rowed up and down the lake in a golden boat, with a golden oar. Her hair was long and yellow, and her face was pale and melancholy. In his desire to see this wondrous beauty, the farmer went on New Year's Eve to the edge of the lake, and in silence awaited the coming of the first hour of the new year. It came, and there in truth was the maiden in her golden boat, rowing softly to and fro. Fascinated, he stood for hours beholding her, until the stars faded out of the sky, the moon sank behind the rocks, and the cold gray dawn drew nigh; and then the lovely gwraig began to vanish from his sight. Wild with passion, and with the thought of losing her for ever, he cried aloud to the retreating vision, 'Stay ! stay Be my wife.' But the gwraig only uttered a faint cry, and was gone. Night after night the young farmer haunted the shores of the lake, but the gwraig returned no more. He became negligent of his person ; his once robust form grew thin and wan; his face was a map of melancholy and despair. He went one day to consult a soothsayer who dwelt on the mountain, and this grave personage advised him to besiege the damsel's heart with gifts of bread and cheese. This counsel commending itself strongly to his Welsh way of thinking, the farmer set out upon an assiduous course of casting his bread upon the waters, accompanied by cheese. He began on Midsummer eve by going to the lake and dropping therein a large cheese and a loaf of bread. Night after night he continued to throw in loaves and cheeses, but nothing appeared in answer to his sacrifices. His hopes were set, however, on the approaching New Year's eve. The momentous night arrived at last. Clad in his best array, and armed with seven white loaves and his biggest and handsomest cheese, he set out once more for the lake.

There he waited till midnight, and then slowly and solemnly dropped the seven loaves into the water, and with a sigh sent the cheese to keep them company. His persistence was at length rewarded. The magic skiff appeared; the fair gwraig guided it to where he stood; stepped ashore, and accepted him as her husband. The before-mentioned stipulation was made as to the blows; and she brought her dower of cattle. One day, after they had been four years married, they were invited to a christening. In the midst of the ceremony the gwraig burst into tears. Her husband gave her an angry look, and asked her why she thus made a fool of herself. She replied, 'The poor babe is entering a world of sin and sorrow ; misery lies before it. Why should I rejoice ?' He pushed her pettishly away. ' I warn you, husband,' said the gwraig; ' you have struck me once.' After a time they were bidden to the funeral of the child they had seen christened. Now the gwraig laughed, sang, and danced about. The husband's wrath again arose, and again he asked her why she thus made a fool of herself. She answered, 'The dear babe has escaped the misery that was before it' and gone to be good and happy for ever. Why should I grieve?' Again he pushed her from him, and again she warned him; he had struck her twice. Soon they were invited to a wedding; the bride was young and fair, the groom a tottering, toothless, decrepit old miser. In the midst of the wedding feast the gwraig annwn burst into tears, and to her husband's question why she thus made a fool of herself she replied, 'Truth is wedded to age for greed, and not for love-summer and winter cannot agree - it is the diawl's compact.' The angry husband thrust her from him for the third and last time. She looked at him with tender love and reproach, and said, 'The three blows are struck-husband, farewell !' He never saw her more, nor any of the flocks and herds she had brought him for her dowry.
In its employment of the myth to preach a sermon, and in its introduction of cheese, this version of the legend is very Welsh indeed. The extent to which cheese figures in Cambrian folk-lore is surprising; cheese is encountered in every sort of fairy company; you actually meet cheese in the Mabinogion, along with the most romantic forms of beauty known in story. And herein again is illustrated Shakespeare's accurate knowledge of the Cambrian goblins. Heaven defend me from that Welsh fairy!' says Falstaff, 'lest he transform me to a piece of cheese '['Merry Wives of Windsor', Act. V., Sc. 5] Bread is found figuring actively in the folk-lore of every country, especially as a sacrifice to water-gods; but cheese is, so far as I know, thus honoured only in Cambria.

Once more this legend appears, this time with a feature I have nowhere else encountered in fairy land, to wit, the father of a fairy damsel. The son of a farmer on Drws Coed farm was one foggy day looking after his father's sheep, when crossing a marshy meadow he beheld a little lady behind some rising ground. She had yellow hair, blue eyes and rosy cheeks. He approached her, and asked permission to converse; whereupon she smiled sweetly and said to him, 'Idol of my hopes, you have come at last!' They there and then began to 'keep company,' and met each other daily here and there along the farm meadows. His intentions were honourable; he desired her to marry him. He was sometimes absent for days together, no one knew where, and his friends whispered about that he had been witched. Around the Turf Lake (Llyn y Dywarchen) was a grove of trees, and under one of these one day the fairy promised to be his. The consent of her father was now necessary. One moonlight night an appointment was made to meet in this wood. The father and daughter did not appear till the moon had disappeared behind the hill. Then they both came. The fairy father immediately gave his consent to the marriage, on one condition, namely, that her future husband should never hit her with iron. ' If ever thou dost touch her flesh with iron she shall be no more thine, but she shall return to her own.' They were married - a good-looking pair. Large sums of money were brought by her, the night before the wedding, to Dnvs Coed. The shepherd lad became wealthy, had several handsome children, and they were very happy. After some years, they were one day out riding, when her horse sank in a deep mire, and by the assistance of her husband, in her hurry to remount, she was struck on her knee by the stirrup of the saddle. Immediately voices were heard singing on the brow of the hill, and she disappeared, leaving all her children behind. She and her mother devised a plan by which she could see her beloved, but as she was not allowed to walk the earth with man, they floated a large turf on the lake, and on this turf she stood for hours at a time holding converse with her husband. This continued until his death ['Cymru Fu,' 476].

The didactic purpose again appears in the following legend, which, varying but little in phraseology, is current in the neighbourhood of a dozen different mountain lakes: In other days, before the Cymry had become reconciled to their Saxon foe, on every New Year's morning a door was found open in a rock hard by the lake. Those mortals who had the curiosity and the resolution to enter this door were conducted by a secret passage to a small island in the middle of the lake. Here they found a most enchanting garden, stored with the choicest fruits and flowers, and inhabited by the Gwragedd Annwn, whose beauty could be equalled only by the courtesy and affability which they exhibited to those who pleased them. They gathered fruit and flowers for each of their guests, entertained them with the most exquisite music, disclosed to them many secrets of futurity, and invited them to stay as long as they liked. 'But,' said they, ' the island is secret, and nothing of its produce must be carried away.' The warning being heeded, all went well. But one day there appeared among the visitors a wicked Welsh-man, who, thinking to derive some magical aid therefrom, pocketed a flower with which he had been presented, and was about to leave the garden with his prize. But the theft boded him no good. As soon as he had touched unhallowed ground the flower vanished, and he lost his senses. However, of this abuse of their hospitality the Gwragedd Annwn took no notice at the time. They dismissed their guests with their accustomed courtesy, and the door was closed as usual. But their resentment was bitter; for though the fairies of the lake and their enchanted garden undoubtedly occupy the spot to this day, the door which led to the island has never been reopened.

In all these legends the student of comparative folk-lore traces the ancient mythology, however overlain with later details. The water-maidens of every land doubtless originally were the floating clouds of the sky, or the mists of the mountain. From this have come certain fair and fanciful creations with which Indo-European folk-lore teems, the most familiar of which are Undine, Melusina, Nausicaa, and the classic Muse. In Wales, as in other lands, the myth has many forms. The dispersion of dark clouds from the mountains, by the beams of the rising sun, or the morning breezes, is localized in tile legend of the Men of Ardudwy. These men make a raid on the maidens of the Vale of Clwyd, and are pursued and slaughtered by the latter's fathers and brothers. The maidens thereupon cast themselves headlong into the lake, which is thenceforth called the Maidens Lake, or Llyn y Morwynion. In another legend, the river mist over the Cynwal is the spirit of a traitress who perished long ago in the lake. She had conspired with the sea-born pirates of the North (the ocean storms) to rob her Cambrian lord of his domains. She was defeated by the aid of a powerful enchanter (the sun), and fled up the river to the lake, accompanied by her maidens, who were drowned with her there. ['Arch. Camb.,' 4th Se., vii., 251]

As the mermaid superstition is seemingly absent in Wales, so there are no fairy tales of maidens who lure mortals to their doom beneath the water, as the Dracae did women and children, and as the Nymph of the Lurley did marriageable young men. But it is believed that there are several old Welsh families who are the descendants of the Gwragedd Annwn, as in the case of the Meddygon Myddfai. The familiar Welsh name of Morgan is sometimes thought to signify, 'Born of the Sea.' Certainly môr in Welsh means sea, and gân a birth. It is curious, too, that a mermaid is called in Basse Bretagne 'Mary Morgan.' But the class of stories in which a mortal marries a water-maiden is large, and while the local details smack of the soil, the general idea is so like in lands far remote from each other as to indicate a common origin in pre-historic times. In Wales, where the mountain lakes are numerous, gloomy, lonely, and yet lovely; where many of them, too, show traces of having been inhabited in ancient times by a race of lake-dwellers, whose pile-supported villages vanished ages ago; and where bread and cheese are as classic as beer and candles, these particulars are localized in the legend. In the Faro Islands, where the seal is a familiar yet ever-mysterious object, with its human-like eyes, and glossy skin, the wife of supernatural race is a transformed seal. She comes ashore every ninth night, sheds her skin, leaves it on the shore, and dances with her fairy companions. A mortal steals her sealskin dress, and when day breaks, and her companions return to their abode in the sea, compels her to remain and be his wife. Some day he offends her; she recovers her skin and plunges into the sea. In China, the superstition appears in a Lew-chewan legend mentioned by Dr. Dennys, ['Folk-Lore of China,' 99] which relates how a fairy in the guise of a beautiful woman is found bathing in a man's well. He persuades her to marry him, and she remains with him for nine years, at the end of which time, despite the affection she has for their two children, she 'glides upwards into a cloud' and disappears.

Mountain Fairies


THE Gwyllion are female fairies of frightful characteristics, who haunt lonely roads in the Welsh mountains, and lead night-wanderers astray. They partake somewhat of the aspect of the Hecate of Greek mythology, who rode on the storm, and was a hag of horrid guise. The Welsh word gwyll is variously used to signify gloom, shade, duskiness, a hag, a witch, a fairy, and a goblin but its special application is to these mountain fames of gloomy and harmful habits, as distinct from the Ellyllon of the forest glades and dingles, which are more often beneficent. The Gwyllion take on a more distinct individuality under another name-as the Ellyllon do in mischievous Puck - and the Old Woman of the Mountain typifies all her kind. She is very carefully described by the Prophet Jones in the guise in which she haunted Lanhyddel Mountain in Monmouthshire. This was the semblance of a poor old woman, with an oblong four-cornered hat, ash-coloured clothes, her apron thrown across her shoulder, with a pot or wooden can in her hand, such as poor people carry to fetch milk with, always going before the spectator, and sometimes crying 'Wow up!' This is an English form of a Welsh cry of distress) ' Wwb !' or 'Ww-bwb ! [Pronounced Wooboob]. Those who saw this apparition, whether by night or on a misty day, would be sure to lose their way, though they might be perfectly familiar with the road. Sometimes they heard her cry, 'Wow up !' when they did not see her. Sometimes when they went out by night, to fetch coal, water, etc., the dwellers near that mountain would hear the cry very close to them, and immediately after they would hear it afar off, as if it were on the opposite mountain, in the parish of Aberystruth. The popular tradition in that district was that the Old Woman of the Mountain was the spirit of one Juan White, who lived time out of mind in those parts, and was thought to be a witch ; because the mountains were not haunted in this manner until after Juan White's death. ['Juan (Shui) White is an old acquaintance of my boyhood,' writes to me a friend who was born some thirty years ago in Monmouthshire. ' A ruined cottage on the Lasgarn hill near Pontypool was understood by us boys to have been her house, and there she appeared at 12 p.m., carrying her head under her arm.'] When people first lost their way, and saw her before them, they used to hurry forward and try to catch her, supposing her to be a flesh-and-blood woman, who could set them right; but they never could overtake her, and she on her part never looked back; so that no man ever saw her face. She has also been seen in the Black Mountain in Breconshire. Robert Williams, of Langattock, Crickhowel, 'a substantial man and of undoubted veracity,' tells this tale As he was travelling one night over part of the Black Mountain, he saw the Old Woman, and at the same time found he had lost his way. Not knowing her to be a spectre he hallooed to her to stay for him, but receiving no answer thought she was deaf. He then hastened his steps, thinking to over take her, but the faster he ran the further he found himself behind her, at which he wondered very much, not knowing the reason of it. He presently found himself stumbling in a marsh, at which discovery his vexation increased and then he heard the Old Woman laughing at him with a weird, uncanny crackling old laugh. This set him to thinking she might he a gwyll; and when he happened to draw out his knife for some purpose, and the Old Woman vanished, then he was sure of it ; for Welsh ghosts and fairies are afraid of a knife.

Another account relates that John ap John, of Cwm Celyn, set out one morning before daybreak to walk to Caerleon Fair. As he ascended Milfre Mountain he heard a shouting behind him as if it were on Bryn Mawr, which is a part of the Black Mountain in Breconshire. Soon after he heard the shouting on his left hand, at Bwlch y Llwyn, nearer to him, whereupon he was seized with a great fright, and began to suspect it was no human voice. He had already been wondering, indeed, what any one could be doing at that hour in the morning, shouting on the mountain side. Still going on, he came up higher on the mountain, when he heard the shouting Just before him, at Gilfach fields, to the right-and now he was sure it was the Old Woman of the Mountain, who purposed leading him astray. Presently he heard behind him the noise of a coach, and with it the special cry of the Old Woman of the Mountain, viz., 'Wow up !' Knowing very well that no coach could go that way, and still hearing its noise approaching nearer and nearer, he became thoroughly terrified, and running out of the road threw himself down upon the ground and buried his face in the heath, waiting for the phantom to pass. When it was gone out of hearing, he arose; and hearing the birds singing as the day began to break, also seeing some sheep before him, his fear went quite off. And this, says the Prophet Jones, was 'no profane, immoral man,' but 'an honest, ,peaceable, knowing man, and a very comely person more-over.

The exorcism by knife appears to be a Welsh notion; though there is an old superstition of wide prevalence in Europe that to give to or receive from a friend a knife or a pair of scissors cuts friendship. I have even encountered this superstition in America; once an editorial friend at Indianapolis gave me a very handsome pocket-knife, which he refused to part with except at the price of one cent, lawful coin of the realm, asserting that we should become enemies without this precaution. In China, too, special charms are associated with knives, and a knife which has slain a fellow-being is an invaluable possession. In Wales, according to Jones, the Gwyllion often came into the houses of the people at Aberystruth, especially in stormy weather, and the inmates made them welcome - not through any love they bore them, but through fear of the hurts the Gwyllion. might inflict if offended - by providing clean water for them, and taking especial care that no knife, or other cutting tool, should be in the corner near the fire, where the fairies would go to sit. 'For want of which care many were hurt by them.' While it was desirable to exorcise them when in the open air, it was not deemed prudent to display an inhospitable spirit towards any member of the fairy world. The cases of successful exorcism by knife are many, and nothing in the realm of faerie is better authenticated. There was Evan Thomas, who, travelling by night over Bedwellty Mountain, towards the valley of Ebwy Fawr, where his house and estate were, saw the Gwyllion on each side of him, some of them dancing around him in fantastic fashion. He also heard the sound of a bugle-horn winding in the air, and there seemed to be invisible hunters riding by. He then began to be afraid, but recollected his having heard that any person seeing Gwyllion may drive them away by drawing out a knife. So he drew out his knife, and the fairies vanished directly. Now Evan Thomas was 'an old gentleman of such strict veracity that he' on one occasion 'did confess a truth against himself,' when he was 'like to suffer loss' thereby, and notwithstanding he 'was persuaded by some not to do it, yet he would persist in telling the truth, to his own hurt.' Should we find, in tracing these notions back to their source that they are connected with Arthur's sword Excalibur? If so, there again we touch the primeval world. Jones says that the Old Woman of the Mountain has, since about 1800, (at least in South Wales,) been driven into close quarters by the light of the Gospel-in fact, that she now haunts mines-or in the preacher's formal words, 'the coal-pits and holes of the earth.'

Among the traditions of the origin of the Gwyllion one which associates them with goats. Goats are in Wales held in peculiar esteem for their supposed occult intellectual powers. They are believed to be on very good terms with the Tylwyth Teg, and possessed of more knowledge than their appearance indicates. It is one of the peculiarities of the Tylwyth Teg that every Friday night they comb the goats' beards to make them decent for Sunday. Their association with the Gwyllion is related in the legend of Cadwaladr's goat: Cadwaladr owned a very handsome goat, named Jenny, of which he was extremely fond; and which seemed equally fond of him; but one day, as if the very diawi possessed her, she ran away into the hills, with Cadwaladr tearing after her, half mad with anger and affright. At last his Welsh blood got so hot, as the goat eluded him again and again, that he flung a stone at her, which knocked her over a precipice, and she fell bleating to her doom. Cadwaladr made his way to the foot of the crag ; the goat was dying, but not dead, and licked his hand - which so affected the poor man that he burst into tears, and sitting on the ground took the goat's head on his arm. The moon rose, and still he sat there. Presently he found that the goat had become transformed to a beautiful young woman, whose brown eyes, as her head lay on his arm, looked into his in a very disturbing way. 'Ah, Cadwaladr,' said she, 'have I at last found you?' Now Cadwaladr had a wife at home, and was much discomfited by this singular circumstance; but when the goat - yn awr maiden - arose, and putting her black slipper on the end of a moonbeam, held out her hand to him, he put his hand in hers and went with her. As for the hand, though it looked so fair, it felt just like a hoof. They were soon on the top of the highest mountain in Wales, and surrounded by a vapoury company of goats with shadowy horns. These raised a most unearthly bleating about his ears. One, which seemed to be the king, had a voice that sounded above the din as the castle bells of Carmarthen used to do long ago above all the other bells in the town. This one rushed at Cadwaladr and butting him in the stomach sent him toppling over a crag as he had sent his poor nannygoat. When he came to himself, after his fall, the morning sun was shining on him and the birds were singing over his head. But he saw no more of either his goat or the fairy she had turned into, from that time to his death.


THE Tylwyth Teg have a fatal admiration for lovely children. Hence the abundant folklore concerning infants who have been stolen from their cradles, and a plentyn-newid (change-child-the equivalent of our changeling) left in its place by the Tylwyth Teg. The plentyn-newid has the exact appearance of the stolen infant, at first; but its aspect speedily alters. It grows ugly of face, shrivelled of form, ill-tempered, wailing, and generally frightful. it bites and strikes, and becomes a terror to the poor mother. Sometimes it is idiotic; but again it has a supernatural cunning, not only impossible in a mortal babe, but not even appertaining to the oldest heads, on other than fairy shoulders. The veracious Prophet Jones testifies to a case where he himself saw the plentyn-newid - an idiot left in the stead of a son of Edmund John William, of the Church Valley, Monmouthshire. Says Jones: 'I saw him myself. There was something diabolical in his aspect,' but especially in his motions. He 'made very disagreeable screaming sounds,' which used to frighten strangers greatly, but otherwise he was harmless. He was of a 'dark, tawny complexion.' He lived longer than such children usually lived in Wales in that day, (a not altogether pleasant intimation regarding the hard lot to which such children were subjected by their unwilling parents,) reaching the age of ten or twelve years. But the creed of ignorance everywhere as regards changelings is a very cruel one, and reminds us of the tests of the witchcraft trials. Under the pretence of proving whether the objectionable baby is a changeling or not, it is held on a shovel over the fire, or it ts bathed in a solution of the fox-glove, which kills it ; a case where this test was applied is said to have actually occurred in Carnarvonshire in 1857. That there is nothing specially Welsh in this, needs not to be pointed out. Apart from the fact that infanticide, like murder, is of no country, similar practices as to changelings have prevailed in most European lands, either to test the children's uncanny quality, or, that being admitted, to drive it away and thus compel the fairies to restore the missing infant. In Denmark the mother heats the oven, and places the changeling on the peel, pretending to put it in; or whips it severely with a rod; or throws it into the water. In Sweden they employ similar methods. In Ireland the hot shovel is used. With regard to a changeling which Martin Luther tells of in his 'Colloquia Mensalia,' the great reformer declared to the Prince of Anhalt, that if he were prince of that country he would 'venture homicidium thereon, and would throw it into the River Moldaw.' He admonished the people to pray devoutly to God to take away the devil, which 'was done accordingly; and the second year after the changeling died.' It is hardly probable that the child was very well fed during the two years that this pious process was going on. Its starved ravenous appetite indeed is indicated in Luther's description: It 'would eat as much as two threshers, would laugh and be joyful when any evil happened in the house, but would cry and be very sad when all went well.'

A story, told in various forms in Wales, preserves a tradition of an exceedingly frugal meal which was employed as a means of banishing a plentyn-newid. M. Villemarqué, when in Glamorganshire, heard this story, which he found to be precisely the same as a Breton legend, in which the changeling utters a rh)-med triad as follows :
In the Glamorgan story the changeling was heard muttering to himself in a cracked voice: 'I have seen the acorn before I saw the oak : I have seen the egg before I saw the white hen: I have never seen the like of this.' M. Villemarqué found it remarkable that these words form in Welsh a rhymed triad nearly the same as in the Breton ballad, thus:
Whence he concluded that the story and the rhyme are older than the seventh century, the epoch of the separation of the Britons of Wales and Armorica. And this is the story: A mother whose child had been stolen, and a changeling left in its place, was advised by the Virgin Mary to prepare a meal for ten farm-servants in an egg-shell, which would make the changeling speak. This she did, and the changeling asked what she was about. She told him. Whereupon he exclaimed, 'A meal for ten, dear mother, in one egg-shell ?' Then he uttered the exclamation given above, ('I have seen the acorn, etc.,) and the mother replied, 'You have seen too many things, my son, you shall have a beating.' With this she fell to beating him, the child fell to bawling, and the fairy came and took him away, leaving the stolen child sleeping sweetly in the cradle. It awoke and said, 'Ah, mother, I have been a long time asleep !'

I have encountered this tale frequently among the Welsh, and it always keeps in the main the likeness of M. Villemarqués story. The following is a nearly literal version as related in Radnorshire (an adjoining county to Montgomeryshire), and which, like most of these tales, is characterised by the non-primitive tendency to give names of localities: 'In the parish of Trefeglwys, near Llanidloes, in the county of Montgomery, there is a little shepherd's cot that is commonly called the Place of Strife, on account of the extraordinary strife that has been there. The inhabitants of the cottage were a man and his wife, and they had born to them twins, whom the woman nursed with great care and tenderness. Some months after, indispensable business called the wife to the house of one of her nearest neighbours, yet not withstanding that she had not far to go, she did not like to leave her children by themselves in their cradle, even for a minute, as her house was solitary, and there were many tales of goblins, or the Tylwyth Teg, haunting the neighbourhood. However, she went and returned as soon as she could;' but on her way back she was 'not a little terrifed at seeing, though it was midday, some of the old elves of the blue petticoat.' She hastened home in great apprehension; but all was as she had left it, so that her mind was greatly relieved. 'But after some time had passed by, the good people began to wonder that the twins did not grow at all, but still continued little dwarfs. The man would have it that they were not his children; the woman said they must be their children, and about this arose the great strife between them that gave name to the place. One evening when the woman was very heavy of heart, she determined to go and consult a conjuror, feeling assured that everything was known to him . . . . Now there was to be a harvest soon of the rye and oats, so the wise man said to her, "When you are preparing dinner for the reapers, empty the shell of a hen's egg, and boil the shell full of pottage, and take it out through the door as if you meant it for a dinner to the reapers, and then listen what the twins will say; if you hear the children speaking things above the understanding of children, return into the house, take them and throw them into the waves of Llyn Ebyr, which is very near to you; but if you don't hear anything remarkable do them no injury." And when the day of the reaping came, the woman did as her adviser had recommended to her; and as she went outside the door to listen she heard one of the children say to the other:

Gwelais fesen cyn gweled derwen;
Gweiais wy cyn gweled iâr
Erioed ni welais ferwi bwyd i fedel
Mewn plisgyn wy iár !
Acorns before oak I knew;
An egg before a hen;
Never one hen's egg-shell stew
Enough for harvest men !
'On this the mother returned to her house and took the two children and threw them into the Llyn; and suddenly the goblins in their blue trousers came to save their dwarfs, and the mother had her own children back again ; and thus the strife between her and her husband ended.' ['Cambrian Quarterly,' ii., 86.]

This class of story is not always confined to the case of the plentyn-newid, as I have said. It is applied to the household fairy, when the latter, as in the following in stance, appears to have brought a number of extremely noisy friends and acquaintances to share his shelter. Dewi Dal was a farmer, whose house was over-run with fairies, so that he could not sleep of nights for the noise they made. Dewi consulted a wise man of Taiar, who entrusted Dewi's wife to do certain things, which she did carefully, as follows: 'It was the commencement of oat harvest, when Cae Mawr, or the big field, which it took fifteen men to mow in a day, was ripe for the harvesters. "I will prepare food for the fifteen men who are going to mow Cae Mawr tomorrow," said Eurwallt, the wife, aloud. "Yes, do," replied Dewi, also aloud, so that the fairies might hear, "and see that the food is substantial and sufficient for the hard work before them." Said Eurwallt, "The fifteen men shall have no reason to complain upon that score. They shall be fed according to our means." Then when evening was come Eurwallt prepared food for the harvesters' sustenance upon the following day. Having procured a sparrow, she trussed it like a fowl, and roasted it by the kitchen lire. She then placed some salt in a nutshell, and set the sparrow and the salt, with a small piece of bread, upon the table, ready for the fifteen men's support while mowing Cae Mawr. So when the fairies beheld the scanty provision made for so many men, they said "Let us quickly depart from this place, for alas the means of our hosts are exhausted. Who before this was ever so reduced in circumstances as to serve up a sparrow for the day's food of fifteen men ?" So they departed upon that very night. And Dewi Dal and his family lived, ever afterwards, in comfort and peace. [Rev. T. R. Lloyd (Estyn), in 'The Principality.']

The Welsh fairies have several times been detected in the act of carrying off a child; and in these cases, if the mother has been sufficiently energetic in her objections, they have been forced to abandon their purpose Dazzy Walter, the wife of Abel Walter, of Ebwy Fawr, one night in her husband's absence awoke in her bed and found her baby was not at her side. In great fright she sought for it, and caught it with her hand upon the boards above the bed, which was as far as the fairies had succeeded in carrying it. And Jennet Francis, of that same valley of Ebwy Fawr, one night in bed felt her infant son being taken from her arms; whereupon she screamed and hung on, and, as she phrased it, 'God and me were too hard for them.' This son subsequently grew up and became a famous preacher of the gospel.
There are special exorcisms and preventive measures to interfere with the fairies in their quest of infants. The most significant of these, throughout Cambria, is a general habit of piety. Any pious exclamation has value as an exorcism; but it will not serve as a preventive. To this end you must put a knife in the child's cradle when you leave it alone, or you must lay a pair of tongs across the cradle.

Jennet Francis struggles with the fairies for her baby
But the best preventive is baptism ; it is usually the unbaptised infant that is stolen. So in Friesland, Germany, it is considered a protection against the fairies who deal in changelings, to lay a Bible under the child's pillow. In Thuringia it is deemed an infallible preventive to hang the fathers breeches against the wall. Anything more trivial than this, as a matter for the consideration of grave and scholarly men, one could hardly imagine; but it is in precisely these trivial or seemingly trivial details that the student of comparative folk-lore finds his most extraordinary indices. Such a superstition in isolation would suggest nothing; but it is found again in Scotland, [Henderson, 'Notes on the Folk-Lore of the Northern Counties ] and other countries including China, where a pair of the trousers of the child's father are put on the frame of the bedstead in such a way that the waist shall hang downward or be lower than the legs. On the trousers is stuck a piece of red paper, having four words written upon it intimating that all unfavourable influences are to go into the trousers instead of afflicting the babe.' [See Doolittle's 'Social Life of the Chinese.']