Saturday, May 14, 2011

Chapter VI Living with the Tylwyth Teg

Chapter VI
Living with the Tylwyth Teg
The Tale of Elidurus--Shui Rhys and the Fairies--St. Dogmell's Parish, Pembrokeshire--Dancing with the Ellyllon--The Legend of Rhys and llewellyn--Death from joining in the Fairy Reel--Legend of the Bush of Heaven--The Forest of the Magic Yew--The Tale of Twm and Iago--Taffy ap Sion, a Legend of Pencader--The Traditions of Pant Shon Shenkin--Tudur of Llangollen; the Legend of Nany yr Ellyllon--Polly Williams and the Trefethin Elves--The Fairies of Frennifawr--Curiousity Tales--The Fiend Master--Iago ap Dewi--The Original of Rip van Winkle
CLOSELY akin to the subject of changelings is that of adults or well-grown children being led away to live with the Tylwyth Teg. In this field the Welsh traditions are innumerable, and deal not only with the last century or two, but distinctly with the middle ages. Famed among British goblins are those fairies which are immortalised in the Tale of Elidurus. This tale was written in Latin by Giraldus Cambrensis (as he called himself, after the pedantic fashion of his day), a Welshman, born at Pembroke Castle, and a hearty admirer of everything Welsh, himself included. He was beyond doubt a man of genius, and of profound learning. In 1188 he made a tour through Wales, in the interest of the crusade then in contemplation, and afterwards wrote his book--a fascinating picture of manners and customs in Wales in the twelfth century.
The scene of the tale is that Vale of Neath, already named as a famous centre of fairyland. Elidurus, when a youth of twelve years, 'in order to avoid the severity of his preceptor,' ran away from school, 'and concealed himself under the hollow bank of a river. After he had fasted in that situation for two days, 'two little men of pigmy stature appeared to him,' and said, 'If you will go with us, we will lead you into a country full of delights and sports.' Assenting, Elidurus rose up and 'followed his guides through a path at first subterraneous and dark, into a most beautiful country, but obscure and not illuminated with the full light of the sun.' All the days in that country 'were cloudy, and the nights extremely dark.' The boy was brought before the king of the strange little people, and introduced to him in the presence of his Court. Having examined Elidurus for a long time, the king delivered him to his son, that prince being then a boy. The men of this country, though of the smallest stature, were very well proportioned, fair-complexioned, and wore long hair. 'They had horses and greyhounds adapted to their size. They neither ate flesh nor fish, but lived on milk-diet, made up into messes with saffron. As often as they returned from our hemisphere, they reprobated our ambition, infidelities, and inconstancies; and though they had no form of public worship, were, it seems, strict lovers and reverers of truth. The boy frequently returned to our hemisphere, sometimes by the way he had gone, sometimes by others; at first in company, and afterwards alone; and made himself known only to his mother, to whom be described what he had seen. Being desired by her to bring her a present of gold, with which that country abounded, he stole, whilst at play with the king's son, a golden ball with which he used to divert himself, and brought it in haste to his mother, but not un-pursued; for, as he entered the house of his father, he stumbled at the threshold;' the ball fell, 'and two pigmies seizing it, departed, showing the boy every mark of contempt and derision. Notwithstanding every attempt for the space of a year, he never again could find the track to the subterraneous passage. He had made himself acquainted with the language of his late hosts, ' which was very conformable to the Greek idiom. When they asked for water, they said Udor udorum; when they want salt, they say Halgein udorum. [See Sir R. C. Hoare's Translation of Giraldus]
Exactly similar to this medieval legend in spirit, although differing widely in detail, is the modern story of Shuï Rhys, told to me by a peasant in Cardiganshire. Shuï was a beautiful girl of seventeen, tall and fair, with a skin like ivory, hair black and curling, and eyes of dark velvet. She was but a poor farmer's daughter, notwithstanding her beauty, and among her duties was that of driving up the cows for the milking. Over this work she used to loiter sadly, to pick flowers by the way, or chase the butterflies, or amuse herself in any agreeable manner that fortune offered. For her loitering she was often chided; indeed, people said Shuï's mother was far too sharp with the girl, and that it was for no good the mother had so bitter a tongue. After all the girl meant no harm, they said. But when one night Shuï never came home till bed-time, leaving the cows to care for themselves, dame Rhys took the girl to task as she never had done before.
' Ysgwaetheroedd, mami,' said Shuï, ' I couldn't help it it was the Tylwyth Teg.' The dame was aghast at this, but she could not answer it--for well she knew the Tylwyth Teg were often seen in the woods of Cardigan. Shuï was at first shy about talking of the fairies, but finally confessed they were little men in green coats, who danced around her and made music on their tiny harps; and they talked to her in language too beautiful to be repeated;
indeed she couldn't understand the words, though she knew well enough what the fairies meant. Many a time after that Shuï was late; but now nobody chided her, for fear of offending the fairies. At last one night Shuï did not come home at all. In alarm the woods were searched; there was no sign of her; and never was she seen in Cardigan again. Her mother watched in the fields on the Teir-nos Ysprydion or three nights of the year when goblins are sure to be abroad; but Shuï never returned. Once indeed there came back to the neighbourhood a wild rumour that Shuï Rhys had been seen in a great city in a foreign land-Paris, perhaps, or London, who knows? but this tale was in no way injurious to the sad belief that the fairies had carried her offthey might take her to those well-known centres of idle and sinful pleasure, as well as to any other place.
An old man who died in St. Dogmell's parish, Pembrokeshire, a short time since (viz., in 1860), nearly a hundred years old, used to say that that whole neighbourhood was considered 'fou.' It was a common experience for men to be led astray there all night, and after marvellous adventures and untellable trampings, which seemed as if they would be endless, to find when day broke that they were close to their own homes. In one case, a man who was led astray chanced to have with him a number of hoop-rods, and as he wandered about under the influence of the deluding phantom, he was clever enough to drop the rods one by one, so that next day he might trace his journeyings. When daylight came, and the search for the hoop-rods was entered on, it was found they were scattered over miles upon miles of country. Another time, a St. Dogmell's fisherman was returning home from a wedding at Moelgrove, and it being very dark, the fairies led him astray, but after a few hours he had the good luck (which Sir John Franklin might have envied him) to 'discover the North Pole,' and by this beacon he was able to steer his staggering barque to the safe port of his own threshold. It is even gravely stated that a severe and dignified clerical person, no longer in the frisky time of life, but advanced in years, was one night forced to join in the magic dance of St. Dogmell's, and keep it up till nearly daybreak. Specific details in this instance are wanting; but it was no doubt the Ellyllon who led all these folk astray, and put a cap of oblivion on their heads, which prevented them from ever telling their adventures clearly.
Dancing and music play a highly important part in stories of this class. The Welsh fairies are most often dancing together when seen. They seek to entice mortals to dance with them, and when anyone is drawn to do so, it is more than probable he will not return to his friends for a long time. Edmund William Rees, of Aberystruth, was thus drawn away by the fairies, and came back at the year's end, looking very bad. But he could not give a very clear account of what he had been about, only said he had been dancing. This was a common thing in these cases. Either they were not able to, or they dared not, talk about their experiences.
Two farm servants named Rhys and Llewellyn were one evening at twilight returning home from their work, when Rhys cried Out that he heard the fairy music. Llewellyn could hear nothing, but Rhys said it was a tune to which he had danced a hundred times, and would again, and at once. 'Go on,, says he, ' and I'll soon catch you up again.' Llewellyn objected, but Rhys stopped to hear no more; he bounded away and left Llewellyn to go home alone, which he did, believing Rhys had merely gone off on a spree, and would come home drunk before morning. But the morning came, and no Rhys. In vain search was made, still no Rhys. Time passed on; days grew into months; and at last suspicion fell on Llewellyn, that he had murdered RIys. He was put in prison. A farmer learned in fairy-lore, suspecting how it was, proposed that he and a company of neighbours should go with poor Llewellyn to the spot where lie had last seen Rhys. Agreed. Arrived at the spot, ' Hush,' cried Llewellyn, 'I hear music! I hear the sweet music of the harps! ' They all listened, but could hear nothing. ' Put your foot on mine, David,' says Llewellyn to one of the company; his own foot was on the outward edge of a fairy ring as lie spoke. David put his foot on Llewellyn's, and so did they all, one after another; and then they beard the sound of many harps, and saw within a circle about twenty feet across, great numbers of little people dancing round and round. And there was Rhys, dancing away like a madman! As he came whirling by, Llewellyn caught him by his smockfrock and pulled him out of the circle. 'Where are the horses? where are the horses?' cried Rhys in an excited manner. ' Horses, indeed!' sneered Llewellyn, in great disgust; 'wfft! go home. Horses! But Rhys was for dancing longer, declaring he had not been there five minutes. You've been there,' says Llewellyn, 'long enough to come near getting me hanged, anyhow.' They got him home finally, but he was never the same man again, and soon after he died.
In the great majority of these stories the hero dies immediately after his release from the thraldom of the fairies--in some cases with a suddenness and a completeness of obliteration as appalling as dramatic. The following story, well known in Carmarthenshire, presents this detail with much force: There was a certain farmer who, while going early one morning to fetch his horses from the pasture, heard harps playing. Looking carefully about for the source of this music, he presently saw a company of Tylwyth Teg footing it merrily in a corelw. Resolving to join their dance and cultivate their acquaintance, the farmer stepped into the fairy ring. Never had man his resolution more thoroughly carried out, for having once begun the reel he was not allowed to finish it till years had elapsed. Even then he might not have been released, had it not chanced that a man one day passed by the lonely spot, so close to the ring that he saw the farmer dancing. ' Duw catto ni!' cried the man, 'God save us! but this is a merry one. Hai, holo! man, what, in Heaven's name, makes you so lively?' This question, in which the name of Heaven was uttered, broke the spell which rested on the farmer, who spoke like one in a dream: 'O dyn!' cried he, 'what's become of the horses?' Then he stepped from the fairy circle and instantly crumbled away and mingled his dust with the earth.
A similar tale is told in Carnarvon, but with the fairy dance omitted and a pious character substituted, which helps to indicate the antiquity of this class of legend, by showing that it was one of the monkish adoptions of an earlier story. Near Clynog, in Carnarvonshire, there is a place called Llwyn y Nef, (the Bush of Heaven,) which thus received its name: In Clynog lived a monk of most devout life, who longed to be taken to heaven. One evening, whilst walking without the monastery by the riverside, he sat down under a green tree and fell into a deep reverie, which ended in sleep and he slept for thousands of years. At last he heard a voice calling unto him, 'Sleeper, awake and be up.' He awoke. All was strange to him except the old monastery, which still looked down upon the river. He went to the monastery, and was made much of. He asked for a bed to rest himself on and got it. Next morning when the brethren sought him, they found nothing in the bed but a handful of ashes. ['Cymru Fu,' 188]
So in the monkish tale of the five saints, who sleep in the cave of Caio, reappears the legend of Arthur's sleeping warriors under Craig-y-Ddinas.
A tradition is current in Mathavarn, in the parish of Llanwrin, and the Cantref of Cyfeillioc, concerning a certain wood called Ffridd yr Ywen, (the Forest of the Yew,) that it is so called on account of a magical yew-tree which grows exactly in the middle of the forest. Under that tree there is a fairy circle called The Dancing Place of the Goblin. There are several fairy circles in the Forest of the Yew, but the one under the yew-tree in the middle has this legend connected with it: Many years ago, two farm-servants, whose names were Twm and lago, went out one day to work in the Forest of the Yew. Early in the afternoon the country became covered with so dense a mist that the youths thought the sun was setting, and they prepared to go home but when they came to the yew-tree in the middle of the forest, suddenly they found all light around them. They now thought it too early to go home, and concluded to lie down under the yew-tree and have a nap. By--and--by Twm awoke, to find his companion gone. He was much surprised at this, but concluded Iago had gone to the village on an errand of which they had been speaking before they fell asleep. So Twm went home, and to all inquiries concerning lago. he answered, 'Gone to the cobbler's in the village.'
But lago was still absent next morning, and now Twm was cross-questioned severely as to what had become of his fellow-servant. Then he confessed that they had fallen asleep under the yew where the fairy circle was, and from that moment he had seen nothing more of lago. They searched the whole forest over, and the whole country round, for many days, and finally Twm went to a gwr cyfarwydd (or conjuror), a common trade in those days, says the legend. The conjuror gave him this advice 'Go to the same place where you and the lad slept. Go there exactly a year after the boy was lost. Let it be on the same day of the year and at the same time of the clay but take care that you do not step inside the fairy ring. Stand on the border of the green circle you saw there, and the boy will come out with many of the goblins to dance. When you see him so near to you that you may take hold of him, snatch him out of the ring as quickly as you can. These instructions were obeyed. Iago appeared, dancing in the ring with the Tylwyth Teg, and was promptly plucked forth. ' Duw! Duw!' cned Tom, 'how wan and pale you look! And don't you feel hungry too?' 'No,' said the boy, 'and if I did, have I not here in my wallet the remains of my dinner that I had before I fell asleep?' But when he looked in his wallet, the food was not there. Well, it must be time to go home,' he said, with a sigh for he did not know that a year had passed by. His look was like a skeleton, and as soon as he had tasted food, he mouldered away.
Taffy ap Sion, the shoemaker's son, living near Pencader, Carmarthenshire, was a lad who many years ago entered the fairy circle on the mountain hard by there, and having danced a few minutes, as he supposed, chanced to step out. He was then astonished to find that the scene which had been so familiar was now quite strange to him. Here were roads and houses he had never seen, and in place of his father's humble cottage there now stood a fine stone farmhouse. About him were lovely cultivated fields instead of the barren mountain he was accustomed to. ' Ah,' thought he, 'this is some fairy trick to deceive my eyes. It is not ten minutes since I stepped into that circle, and now when I step out they have built my father a new house! Well, I only hope it is real; anyhow, I'll go and see.' So he started off by a path he knew instinctively, and suddenly struck against a very solid hedge. He rubbed his eyes, felt the hedge with his fingers, scratched his head, felt the hedge again, ran a thorn into his fingers and cried out, 'Wbwb! this is no fairy hedge anyhow, nor, from the age of the thorns, was it grown in a few minutes' time.' So he climbed over it and walked on. Here was I born,' said he, as he entered the farmyard, staring wildly about him, 'and not a thing here do I know!' His mystification was complete when there came bounding towards him a huge dog, barking furiously. 'What dog is this? Get out, you ugly brute! Don't you know I'm master here?--at least, when mother's from home, for father don't count.' But the dog only barked the harder. 'Surely,' muttered Taffy to himself, 'I have lost my road and am wandering through some unknown neighbourhood; but no, yonder is the Careg Hir!' and he stood staring at the well-known erect stone thus called, which still stands on the mountain south of Pencader, and is supposed to have been placed there in ancient times to commemorate a victory. As Taffy stood thus looking at the Long Stone, he heard footsteps behind him, and turning, beheld the occupant of the farmhouse, who had come out to see why his dog was barking. Poor Taffy was so ragged and wan that the farmer's Welsh heart was at once stirred to sympathy. 'Who are you, poor man?' he asked. To which Taffy answered, 'I know who I was, but I do not know who I am now. 'I was the son of a shoemaker who lived in this place, this morning for that rock, though it is changed a little, I know too well.' ' Poor fellow,' said the farmer, you have lost your senses. This house was built by my great-grandfather, repaired by my grandfather; and that part there, which seems newly built, was done about three years ago at my expense. You must be deranged, or have missed the road; but come in and refresh yourself with some victuals, and rest.' Taffy was half persuaded that he had overslept himself and lost his road, but looking back he saw the rock before mentioned, and exclaimed, It is but an hour since I was on yonder rock robbing a hawk's nest.' 'Where have you been since?' Taffy related his adventure. 'Ah,' quoth the farmer, 'I see how it is--you have been with the fairies. Pray, who was your father?' 'Sion Evan y Crydd o Glanrhyd,' was the answer. 'I never heard of such a man,' said the farmer, shaking his head, 'nor of such a place as Glanrhyd, either: but no matter, after you have taken a little food we will step down to Catti Shon, at Pencader, who will probably be able to tell us something.' With this he beckoned Taffy to follow him, and walked on; but hearing behind him the sound of footsteps growing weaker and weaker, he turned round, when to his horror he beheld the poor fellow crumble in an instant to about a thimbleful of black ashes. The farmer, though much terrified at this sight, preserved his calmness sufficiently to go at once and see old Catti, the aged crone he had referred to, who lived at Pencader, near by. He found her crouching over a fire of faggots, trying to warm her old bones. 'And how do you do the day, Catti Shon? 'asked the farmer. ' Ah,' said old Catti, 'I'm wonderful well, farmer, considering how old I am.' Yes, yes, you're very old. Now, since you are so old, let me ask you--do you remember anything about Sion y Crydd o Glanrhyd? Was there ever such a man, do you know?' 'Sion Glanrhyd? O! I have some faint recollection of hearing my grandfather, old Evan Shenkin, Penferdir, relate that Sion's son was lost one morning, and they never heard of him afterwards, so that it was said he was taken by the fairies. His father's cot stood some where near your house.' 'Were there many fairies about at that time?' asked the farmer. 'O yes; they were often seen on yonder hill, and I was told they were lately seen in Pant Shon Shenkin, eating flummery out of egg-shells, which they had stolen from a farm hard by.' 'Dir anwyl fi!' cried the farmer; 'dear me! I recollect now--I saw them myself!'
Pant Shon [Sion and Shon are the same word, just as are our Smith and Smyth. Where there are so few personal names as in Wales, while I would not myself change a single letter in order to render the actors in a tale more distinct, it is perhaps as well to encourage any eccentricities of spelling which we are so lucky as to and on the spot] another place. The young men followed, whereupon the little folks suddenly appeared dancing at the first place. Seeing this, the men divided and surrounded them, when they immediately became invisible, and were never more seen there. Shenkin, it must be here remarked, was a famous place for the Carmarthenshire fairies. The traditions thereabout respecting them are numerous. Among the strangest is, that a woman once actually caught a fairy on the mountain near Pant Shon Shenkin, and that it remained long in her custody, retaining still the same height and size, but at last made its escape.
Another curious tradition relates that early one Easter Monday, when the parishioners of Pencarreg and Caio were met to play at football, they saw a numerous company of Tylwyth Teg dancing. Being so many in number, the young men were not intimidated at ail, but proceeded in a body towards the puny tribe, who, perceiving them, removed to another place. The young men followed, whereupon the little folks suddenly appeared dancing at the first place. Seeing this, the men divided and surrounded them when they immediately became invisible, and were never more seen there.
Ignorance of what transpired in the fairy circle is not an invariable feature of legends like those we have been observing. In the story of Tudur of Llangollen, preserved by several old Welsh writers, the hero's experiences are given with much liveliness of detail. The scene of this tale is a hollow near Llangollen, on the mountain side half-way up to the ruins of Dinas Bran Castle, which hollow is to this clay called Nant yr Ellyllon. It obtained its name, according to tradition, in this wise: A young man, called Tudur ap Einion Gloff, used in old times to pasture his master's sheep in that hollow. One summer's night, when Tudur was preparing to return to the lowlands with his woolly charge, there suddenly appeared, perched upon a stone near him, 'a little man in moss breeches with a fiddle under his arm. He was the tiniest wee specimen of humanity imaginable. His coat was made of birch leaves, and he wore upon his head a helmet which consisted of a gorse flower, while his feet were encased in pumps made of beetle's wings. He ran his fingers over his instrument, and the music made Tudur's hair stand on end. " Nos da'ch', nos da'ch'," said the little man, which means "Good-night, good-night to you," in English. " Ac i chwithau," replied Tudur; which again, in English, means " The same to you." Then continued the little man, " You are fond of dancing, Tudur; and if you but tarry awhile you shall behold some of the best dancers in Wales, and I am the musician." Quoth Tudur, "Then where is your harp? A Welshman even cannot dance without a harp." " Oh," said the little man, "I can discourse better dance music upon my fiddle." "Is it a fiddle you call that stringed wooden spoon in your hand?" asked Tudur, for he had never seen such an instrument before. And now Tudur beheld through the dusk hundreds of pretty little sprites converging towards the spot where they stood, from all parts of the mountain. Some were dressed in white, and some in blue, and some in pink, and some carried glow-worms in their hands for torches. And so lightly did they tread that not a blade nor a flower was crushed beneath their weight, and every one made a curtsey or a bow to Tudur as they passed, and Tudur doffed his cap and moved to them in return. Presently the little minstrel drew his bow across the strings of his instrument, and the music produced was so enchanting that Tudur stood transfixed to the spot.' At the sound of the sweet melody, the Tylwyth Teg ranged themselves in groups, and began to dance. Now of all the dancing Tudur had ever seen, none was to be compared to that he saw at this moment going on. He could not help keeping time with his hands and feet to the merry music, but he dared not join in the dance, 'for he thought within himself that to dance on a mountain at night in strange company, to perhaps the devil's fiddle, might not be the most direct route to heaven.' But at last he found there was no resisting this bewitching strain, joined to the sight of the capering Eflyllon. '" Now for it, then," screamed Tudur, as he pitched his cap into the air under the excitement of delight. "Play away, old devil; brimstone and water, if you like!" No sooner were the words uttered than everything underwent a change. The gorse-blossom cap vanished from the minstrel's head, and a pair of goat's horns branched out instead. His face turned as black as soot; a long tail grew Out of his leafy coat, while cloven feet replaced the beetle-wing pumps. Tudur's heart was heavy, but his heels were light. Horror was in his bosom, but the impetus of motion was in his feet. The fairies changed into a variety of forms. Some became goats, and some became dogs, some assumed the shape of foxes, and others that of cats. It was the strangest crew that ever surrounded a human being. The dance became at last so furious that Tudur could not distinctly make out the forms of the (lancers. They reeled around him with such rapidity that they almost resembled a wheel of fire. Still Tudur danced on. He could not stop, the devil's fiddle was too much for him, as the figure with the goat's horns kept pouring it out with unceasing vigour, and Tudur kept reeling around in spite of himself. Next day Tudur's master ascended the mountain in search of the lost shepherd and his sheep. He found the sheep all right at the foot of the Fron, but fancy his astonishment when, ascending higher. he saw Tudur spinning like mad in the middle of the basin now known as Nant yr Ellyllon.' Some pious words of the master broke the charm, and restored Tudur to his home in Llangollen, where he told his adventures with great gusto for many years afterwards. [Rev. T. R. Lloyd (Estyn), in 'The Principality.']
Polly Williams, a good dame who was born in Trefethin parish, and lived at the Ship Inn, at Pontypool, Monmouthshire, was wont to relate that, when a child, she danced with the Tylwyth Teg. The first time was one day while coming home from school. She saw the fairies dancing in a pleasant, dry place, under a crab-tree, and, thinking they were children like herself, went to them, when they induced her to dance with them. She brought them into an empty barn and they danced there together. After that, during three or four years, she often met and danced with them, when going to or coming from school. She never could hear the sound of their feet, and having come to know that they were fairies, took off her ffollachau (clogs), so that she, too, might make no noise, fearful that the clattering of her clog-shodden feet was displeasing to them. They were all dressed in blue and green aprons, and, though they were so small, she could see by their mature faces that they were no children. Once when she came home barefoot, after dancing with the fairies, she was chided for going to school in that condition; but she held her tongue about the fairies, for fear of trouble, and never told of them till after she grew up. She gave over going with them to dance, however, after three or four years, and this displeased them. They tried to coax her back to them, and, as she would not come, hurt her by dislocating 'one of her walking members,' [Jones, 'Apparitions.'] which, as a euphemism for legs, surpasses anything charged against American prudery.
Contrasting strongly with this matter-of-fact account of a modern witness is the glowing description of fairy life contained in the legend of the Fairies of Frennifawr. About ten miles south of Cardigan is the Pembrokeshire mountain called Frennifawr, which is the scene of this tale A shepherd's lad was tending his sheep on the small mountains called Frennifach one fine morning in June. Looking to the top of Frennifawr to note what way the fog hung--for if the fog on that mountain hangs on the Pembrokeshire side, there will be fair weather, if on the Cardigan side, storm--he saw the Tylwyth Teg, in appearance like tiny soldiers, dancing in a ring. He set out for the scene of revelry', and soon drew near the ring where, in a gay company of males and females, they were footing it to the music of the harp. Never had he seen such handsome people, nor any so enchantingly cheerful. They beckoned him with laughing faces to join them as they leaned backward almost falling, whirling round and round with joined hands. Those who were dancing never swerved from the perfect circle; but some were clambering over the old cromlech, and others chasing each other with surprising swiftness and the greatest glee. Still others rode about on small white horses of the most beautiful form these riders were little ladies, and their dresses were indescribably elegant, surpassing the sun in radiance, and varied in colour, some being of bright whiteness, others the most vivid scarlet. The males wore red tripled caps, and the ladies a light fantastic headdress which waved in the wind. All this was in silence, for the shepherd could not hear the harps, though he saw them. But now he drew nearer to the circle, and finally ventured to put his foot in the magic ring. The instant he did this, his ears were charmed with strains of the most melodious music he had ever heard. Moved with the transports this seductive harmony produced in him, he stepped fully into the ring. He was no sooner in than he found himself in a palace glittering with gold and pearls. Every form of beauty surrounded him, and every variety. of pleasure was offered him. He was made free to range whither he would, and his every movement was waited on by young women of the most matchless loveliness. And no tongue can tell the joys of feasting that were his Instead of the tatws-a-llaeth (potatoes and butter-milk) to which he had hitherto been accustomed, here were birds and meats of every' choice description, served on plates of silver. Instead of home-brewed cwrw, the only bacchic beverage he had ever tasted in real life, here were red and yellow wines of wondrous enjoyableness, brought in golden goblets richly inlaid with gems. The waiters were the most beautiful virgins, and everything was in abundance. There was but one restriction on his freedom: he must not drink, on any consideration, from a certain well in the garden, in which swam fishes of every colour, including the colour of gold. Each day new joys were provided for his amusement, new scenes of beauty were unfolded to him, new faces presented themselves, more lovely if possible than those he had before encountered. Everything was done to charm him; but one day all his happiness fled in an instant. Possessing every joy that mortal could desire, he wanted the one thing forbidden--like Eve in the garden, like Fatima in the castle; curiosity undid him. He plunged his hand into the well the fishes all disappeared instantly. He put the water to his mouth: a confused shriek ran through the garden. He drank: the palace and all vanished from his sight, and he stood shivering in the night air, alone on the mountain, in the very place where he had first entered the ring. [Cambrian Superstitions,' 148. (This is a small collection of Welsh stories printed at Tipton in 1831, and now rare; its author was W. Howells, a lad of nineteen, and his work was drawn out by a small prize offered by Archdeacon Beynon through a Carmarthen newspaper in 1830. Its English requires rehandling, but its material is of value.)]
Comment on the resemblances borne by these tales to the more famous legends of other lands, is perhaps unnecessary; they will occur to every reader who is at all familiar with the subject of folk-lore.
To those who are not, it is sufficient to say that these resemblances exist, and afford still further testimony to the common origin of such tales in a remote past. The legend last given embodies the curiosity feature which is familiar through the story of Bluebeard, but has its root in the story of Psyche. She was forbidden to look upon her husband Eros, the god of love she disobeyed the injunction, and the beautiful palace in which she had dwelt with him vanished in an instant, leaving her alone in a desolate spot. Ages older than the Psyche story, however, is the legend embodying the original Aryan myth. The drop of oil which falls upon the shoulder of the sleeping prince and wakes him, revealing Psyche's curiosity and destroying her happiness, is paralleled among the Welsh by the magic ointment in the legend of the Fiend Master. This legend, it may be premised, is also familiar to both France and Germany, where its details differ but little from those here given: A respectable young Welshwoman of the working class, who lived with her parents, went one day to a hiring fair. Here she 'was addressed by a very noble looking gentleman all in black, who asked her if she would be a nursemaid, and undertake the management of his children. She replied that she had no objection when he promised her immense wages, and said he would take her home behind him, but that she must, before they started, consent to be blindfolded. This done, she mounted behind him on a coal-black steed, and away they rode at a great rate. At length they dismounted, when her new master took her by the hand and led her on, still blindfolded, for a considerable distance. The handkerchief was then removed, when she beheld more grandeur than she had ever seen before; a beautiful palace lighted up by more lights than she could count, and a number of little children as beautiful as angels; also many noble looking ladies and gentlemen. The children her master put under her charge, and gave her a box containing ointment, which she was to put on their eyes. At the same time he gave her strict orders always to wash her hands immediately after using the ointment, and be particularly careful never to let a bit of it touch her own eyes. These injunctions she strictly followed, and was for some time very happy; yet she sometimes thought it odd that they should always live by candle-light; and she wondered, too, that grand and beautiful as the palace was, such fine ladies and gentlemen as were there should never wish to leave it. But so it was; no one ever went out but her master. One morning, while putting the ointment on the eyes of the children, her own eye itched, and forgetting the orders of her master she touched one corner of it with her finger which was covered with ointment. Immediately, with the vision of that corner of her eye, she saw herself surrounded by fearful flames the ladies and gentlemen looked like devils, and the children appeared like the most hideous imps of hell. Though with the other parts of her eyes she beheld all grand and beautiful as before, she could not help feeling much frightened at all this; but having great presence of mind she let no one see her alarm. However, she took the first opportunity of asking her master's leave to go and see her friends. He said he would take her, but she must again consent to be blindfolded. Accordingly a handkerchief was put over her eyes; she was again mounted behind her master, and was soon put down in the neighbourhood of her own house. It will be believed that she remained quietly there, and took good care not to return to her place; but very many years afterwards, being at a fair, she saw a man stealing something from a stall, and with one corner of her eye beheld her old master pushing his elbow. Unthinkingly she said, How are you master? how are the children?" He said, " How did you see me?" She answered, "With the corner of my left eye." From that moment she was blind of her left eye, and lived many years with only her right.' ['Camb. Sup.,' 349] An older legend preserving this mythical detail is the story of Taliesin. Gwion Bach's eyes are opened by a drop from Caridwen's caldron falling upon his finger, which he puts in his mouth.
A Carmarthenshire tradition names among those who lived for a period among the Tylwyth Teg no less a person than the translator into Welsh of Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress' He was called lago ap Dewi, and lived in the parish of Llanllawddog, Carmarthenshire, in a cottage situated in the wood of Llangwyly. He was absent from the neighbourhood for a long period, and the universal belief among the peasantry was that lago 'got out of bed one night to gaze on the starry sky, as he was accustomed (astrology being one of his favourite studies), and whilst thus occupied the fairies (who were accustomed to resort in a neighbouring wood), passing by, carried him away, and he dwelt with them seven years. Upon his return he was questioned by many as to where he had been, but always avoided giving them a reply.'
The wide field of interest opened up in tales of this class is a fascinating one to the students of fairy mythology. The whole world seems to be the scene of such tales, and collectors of folklore in many lands have laid claim to the discovery of 'the original' on which the story of Rip van Winkle is based. It is an honour to American genius, to which I cannot forbear a passing allusion, that of all these legends, none has achieved so wide a fame as that which Washington Irving has given to our literature, and Joseph Jefferson to our stage. It is more than probable that Irving drew his inspiration from Grimm, and that the Catskills are indebted to the Hartz Mountains of Germany for their romantic fame. But the legends are endless in which occur this unsuspected lapse of time among supernatural beings, and the wandering back to the old home to find all changed. In Greece, it is Epimenides, the poet, who, while searching for a lost sheep, wanders into a cave where he slumbers forty-seven years. The Gaelic and Teutonic legends are well known. But our wonder at the vitality of this myth is greatest when we find it in both China and Japan. In the Japanese account a young man fishing in his boat on the ocean invited by the goddess of the sea to her home beneath the waves. After three days he desires to see his old mother and father. On parting she gives him a golden casket and a key, but begs him never to open it. At the village where he lived he finds that all is changed, and he can get no trace of his parents until an aged woman recollects having heard of their names. He finds their graves a hundred years old. Thinking that three days could not have made such a change, and that he was under a spell, he opens the casket. A white vapour rises, and under its influence the young man falls to the ground. His hair turns grey, his form loses its youth, and in a few moments he dies of old age. The Chinese legend relates how two friends wande~ ring amongst the ravines of their native mountains in search of herbs for medicin~ purposes, come to a fairy bridge where two maidens of more than earthly beauty are on guard. They invite them to the fairy land which lies on the other side of the bridge, and the invitation being accepted, they become enamoured of the maidens, and pass what to them seems a short though blissful period of existence with the fairy folk. At length they desire to revisit their earthly homes and are allowed to return, when they find that seven generations have lived and died during their apparently short absence, they themselves having become centenarians. [Dennys, ' Folk-Lore of China,' 98] In China, as elsewhere, the legend takes divers forms.