Billeder på siden

and it was the custom then for young men and women who stood out for places to station themselves at the top of the present Maes, by a little green eminence which was where the present Post-office stands. The old man and his wife went to that spot, and saw there a lass with yellow hair, standing a little apart from all the others; the old woman went to her and asked her if she wanted a place. She replied that she did, and so she hired herself at once and came to her place at the time fixed. In those times it was customary during the long winter nights that spinning should be done after supper. Now the maid servant would go to the meadow to spin by the light of the moon, and the Tyl.wytk Teg used to come to her to sing and dance. But some time in the spring, when the days had grown longer, Eilian escaped with the Tylwyth Teg, so that she was seen no more. The field where she was last seen is to this day called Eilian s Field, and the meadow is known as the Maid's Meadow. The old woman of Garth Dorwen was in the habit of putting women to bed, and she was in great request far and wide. Some time after Eilian's escape there came a gentleman on horseback to the door one night when the moon was full, while there was a slight rain and just a little mist, to fetch the old woman to his wife. So she rode off behind the stranger on his horse, and came to Rhos y Cowrt. Now there was at that time, in the centre of the rhos, somewhat of a rising ground that looked like an old fortification, with many big stones on the top, and a large cairn of stones on the northern side: it is to be seen there to this day, and it goes by the name of Bryn y Pibion, but I have never visited the spot. When they

May respectively. In North Cardiganshire the great hiring fair was held at the former date when I was a boy, and so, as I learn from my wife, it was in Carnarvonshire.

reached the spot, they entered a large cave, and they went into a room where the wife lay in her bed; it was the finest place the old woman had seen in her life. When she had successfully brought the wife to bed, she went near the fire to dress the baby; and when she had done, the husband came to the old woman with a bottle of ointment1 that she might anoint the baby's eyes; but he entreated her not to touch her own eyes with it. Somehow after putting the bottle by, one of the old woman's eyes happened to itch, and she rubbed it with the same finger that she had used to rub the baby's eyes. Then she saw with that eye how the wife lay on a bundle of rushes and withered ferns in a large cave, with big stones all round her, and with a little fire in one corner; and she saw also that the lady was only Eilian, her former servant girl, whilst, with the other eye, she beheld the finest place she had ever seen. Not long afterwards the old midwife went to Carnarvon to market, when she saw the husband, and said to him, "How is Eilian?" "She is pretty well," said he to the old woman, "but with what eye do you see me?" "With this one," was the reply; and he took a bulrush and put her eye out at once.'

That is exactly the tale, my informant tells me, as he heard it from his mother, who heard it from an old woman who lived at Garth Dorwen when his mother was a girl, about eighty-four years ago, as he guessed it to have been; but in his written version he has omitted one thing which he told me at Glynttifon, namely, that, when the servant girl went out to the fairies to spin, an enormous amount of spinning used to be done. I mention this as it reminds me of the tales of other nations, where the girl who cannot spin straw into gold is assisted by a fairy, on certain conditions which are afterwards found very inconvenient. It may be guessed that in the case of Eilian the conditions involved her becoming a fairy's wife, and that she kept to them. Lastly, I should like the archaeologists of Carnarvonshire to direct their attention to Bryn y Pibion; for they might be expected to come across the remains there of a barrow or of a fort.

1 In a Cornish story mentioned in Choice Notes, p. 77, we have, instead of ointment, simply soap. See also Mrs. Bray's Banks of the Tamar, pp. 174-7, where she alludes to H. Cornelius Agrippa's statement how such ointment used to be made—the reference must, I think, be to his book De Occulta Pkilotophia Libri 111 (Paris, 1567), i. 45 (pp. 81-a).


The same summer I happened to meet the Rev. Robert Hughes, of Uwchlaw'r Ffynnon, near ILanaelhaearn, a village on which Tre'r Ceiri, or the Town of the Keiri, looks down in its primitive grimness from the top of one of the three heights of the Eifl, or Rivals as English people call them. The district is remarkable for the longevity of its inhabitants, and Mr. Hughes counted fifteen farmers in his immediate neighbourhood whose average age was eighty-three; and four years previously the average age of eighteen of them was no less than eighty-five. He himself was, when I met him, seventy-one years of age, and he considered that he represented the traditions of more than a century and a half, as he was a boy of twelve when one of his grandfathers died at the age of ninety-two: the age reached by one of his grandmothers was all but equal, while his father died only a few years ago, after nearly reaching his ninety-fifth birthday.

Story-telling was kept alive in the parish of ILanaelhaearn by the institution known there as the pilnos, or peeling night, when the neighbours met in one another's houses to spend the long winter evenings dressing hemp and carding wool, though I guess that a pihios was originally the night when people met to peel rushes for rushlights. When they left these merry meetings they were ready, as Mr. Hughes says, to see anything. In fact, he gives an instance of some people coming from a pilnos across the mountain from Nant Gwrtheyrn to ILithfaen, and finding the fairies singing and dancing with all their might: they were drawn in among them and found themselves left alone in the morning on the heather. Indeed, Mr. Hughes has seen the fairies himself: it was on the Pwttheli road, as he was returning in the grey of the morning from the house of his fiancee when he was twenty-seven. The fairies he saw came along riding on wee horses: his recollection is that he now and then mastered his eyes and found the road quite clear, but the next moment the vision would return, and he thought he saw the diminutive cavalcade as plainly as possible. Similarly, a man of the name of Solomon Evans, when, thirty years ago, making his way home late at night through Glynttifon Park, found himself followed by quite a crowd of little creatures, which he described as being of the size of guinea pigs and covered with red and white spots. He was an ignorant man, who knew no better than to believe to the day of his death, some eight or nine years ago, that they were demons. This is probably a blurred version of a story concerning Cwn Annwn, 'Hell hounds,' such as the following, published by Mr. O. M. Edwards in his Cymru for 1897, p. 190, from Mr. J. H. Roberts' essay mentioned above at p. 148:—'Ages ago as a man who had been engaged on business, not the most creditable in the world, was returning in the depth of night across Cefn Creini, and thinking in a downcast frame of mind over what he had been doing, he heard in the distance a low and fear-inspiring bark; then another bark, and another, and then half a dozen and more. Ere long he became aware that he was being pursued by dogs, and that they were Cwn Annwn. He beheld them coming: he tried to flee, but he felt quite powerless and could not escape. Nearer and nearer they came, and he saw the shepherd with them: his face was black and he had horns orfliis head. They had come round him and stood in a semicircle ready to rush upon him, when he had a remarkable deliverance: he remembered that he had in his pocket a small cross, which he showed them. They fled in the greatest terror in all directions, and this accounts for the proverb, Mwy na'r cythraul at y groes (Any more than the devil to the cross).' That is Mr. Roberts' story; but several allusions have already been made to Cwn Annwn. It would be right probably to identify them in the first instance with the pack with which Arawn, king of Annwn, is found hunting by Pwytt, king of Dyfed, when the latter happens to meet him in Glyn Cuch in his own realm. Then in a poem in the Black Book of Carmarthen we find Gwyn ab Nud with a pack led by Dormarth, a hound with a red snout which he kept close to the ground when engaged in the chase; similarly in the story of Iolo ab Huw the dogs are treated as belonging to Gwyn. But on the whole the later idea has more usually been, that the devil is the huntsman, that his dogs give chase in the air, that their quarry consists of the souls of the departed, and that their bark forebodes a death, since they watch for the souls of men about to die. This, however, might be objected to as pagan; so I have heard the finishing touch given to it in the neighbourhood of Ystrad Meurig, by one who, like Mr. Pughe, explained that it is the souls only of notoriously wicked men and well-known evil livers.

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »