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Llyn Barfog (The Bearded Lake)


Llyn Barfog is situated in high countryside above the northern banks of the River Dyfi. The lake is isolated, small, and covered with yellow water lilies in the summer. Sir John Rhys in Celtic Folklore suggests that it was originally called Llyn-y-Barfog (The Bearded One’s Lake) referring to some ancient mythical being who would have lived there. There are several legends concerning Llyn Barfog.

One story states that ‘On the banks of Llyn Barfog, fairies would take to the air at eventide with their dogs and kine. On one occasion a farmer captured a fairy’s cow, whose progeny became famous throughout the land for their flesh, milk and butter. At length the cow was taken to the butcher, and the farmer and his neighbours gathered around to see the slaughter of such a fine beast. But, the fatal blow was never given. When the butcher raised his hand to strike the cow, a piercing cry rang out and drew everybody’s eye to one of the crags above Llyn Barfog where a green clad dame stood with arms raised, and with a voice like thunder said: “Come, yellow Anvil, stray horns, speckled one of the lake, and the hornless Dodin, arise, come home.” At once, the mystical cow and her remaining progeny fled at topmost speed to the lake, where, the mortified farmer chasing in hot pursuit watched them descend.’

Llyn Barfog also has a legend combining an Afangc (see Llyn Glaslyn) and King Arthur: Many years ago, the population of Aberdyfi and its surrounding area were troubled by a Welsh water demon or Afangc. The Afangc would kill anybody who went close to Llyn Barfog where it had made its home. Sometimes it went on the rampage, killing people in the town, and it also caused lots of flood damage as it thrashed around in the lake. King Arthur was asked to rid the Afangc from the lake, so he arrived on his horse named Llamrai and used some strong magical chains to lasoo the Afangc whist it was in the lake. Using his horse to pull the Afangc from the lake, the struggle was so arduous that Llamrai left a hoof print in a nearby stone known locally as Carn March Arthur.

From here, there are two different endings to the story. The first one tells of Arthur killing the Afangc once and for all, and the second one suggests that Arthur dragged the Afangc all the way to Cader Idris and put the Afangc into the isolated mountain lake Llyn Cau.

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Simon Topham

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Ian Topham
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Re: Llyn Barfog (The Bearded Lake)

The fairy cow story is recounted in British Goblins (Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions) (1880) by Wirt Sikes.

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.



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