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The Shepherd of Myddvai


This tale tells how a young shepherd won and lost a fairy bride from Lynn y Fan Fach (Van Vach), the fairy lake at the foot of Bannau Sir Gaer in the Brecon Beacons. This version was collected and told by Joseph Jacobs and appeared in his book Celtic Fairy Tales published in 1892 (David Nutt). The tale also appears in the chapter on Lake Fairies in British Goblins by Wirt Sikes 1881, as well as a synopsis of similar tales.

Up in the Black Mountains in Carmerthenshire lies the lake known as Lynn y Fan Fach . To the margin of this lake the shepherd of Myddvai once led his lambs, and lay there whilst they sought pasture. Suddenly, from the dark waters of the lake, he saw three maidens rise. Shaking the bright drops from their hair and gliding to the shore, they wandered about amongst his flock. They had more than mortal beauty, and he was filled with love for her that came nearest to him. He offered her the bread he had with him, and she took it and tried it, but then sang to him:

Hard-baked is thy bread,'Tis not easy to catch me,
and then ran off laughing to the lake.

Next day he took with him bread not so well done, and watched for the maidens. When they came ashore he offered his bread as before, and the maiden tasted it and sang:

Unbaked is thy bread,I will not have thee,
and again disappeared in the waves.

A third time did the shepherd of Myddvai try to attract the maiden, and this time he offered her bread that he had found floating about near the shore. This pleased her, and she promised to become his wife if he were able to pick her out from among her sisters on the following day. When the time came the shepherd knew his love by the strap of her sandal. Then she told him she would be as good a wife to him as any earthly maiden could be unless he should strike her three times without cause. Of course he deemed that this could never be; and she, summoning from the lake three cows, two oxen, and a bull, as her marriage portion, was led homeward by him as his bride.

The years passed happily, and three children were born to the shepherd and the lake-maiden. But one day here were going to a christening, and she said to her husband it was far to walk, so he told her to go for the horses.

"I will," said she, "if you bring me my gloves which I've left in the house."

But when he came back with the gloves, he found she had not gone for the horses; so he tapped her lightly on the shoulder with the gloves, and said, "Go, go."

"That's one," said she.

Another time they were at a wedding, when suddenly the lake-maiden fell a-sobbing and a-weeping, amid the joy and mirth of all around her.

Her husband tapped her on the shoulder, and asked her, "Why do you weep?"

"Because they are entering into trouble; and trouble is upon you; for that is the second causeless blow you have given me. Be careful; the third is the last."

The husband was careful never to strike her again. But one day at a funeral she suddenly burst out into fits of laughter. Her husband forgot, and touched her rather roughly on the shoulder, saying, "Is this a time for laughter?"

"I laugh," she said, "because those that die go out of trouble, but your trouble has come. The last blow has been struck; our marriage is at an end, and so farewell."
And with that she rose up and left the house and went to their home. Then she, looking round upon her home, called to the cattle she had brought with her:

Brindle cow, white speckled,
Spotted cow, bold freckled,
Old white face, and gray Geringer,
And the white bull from the king's coast,
Grey ox, and black calf,
All, all, follow me home.

Now the black calf had just been slaughtered, and was hanging on the hook; but it got off the hook alive and well and followed her; and the oxen, though they were ploughing, trailed the plough with them and did her bidding. So she fled to the lake again, they following her, and with them plunged into the dark waters. And to this day is the furrow seen which the plough left as it was dragged across the mountains to the tarn.

Only once did she come again, when her sons were grown to manhood, and then she gave them gifts of healing by which they won the name of Meddygon Myddvai, the Physicians of Myddvai.

The physicians of Myddvai were famous throughout the middle Ages, their power and knowledge thought to have its roots in the power of the fairy race. Their last surviving descendant was said to have died in the 19th century. Folklore Myths and Legends of Britain, Readers Digest.

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S Evans
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Re: The Shepherd of Myddvai

 I understand through my family history that we have family connections with the Physicians of Myddfai. A beautiful part of the world indeed.
My connection is with a Lucy Rees/Rhys born around 1819 in Myddfai and reputed to have been a witch. The last known Physician of Myddfai was in fact a Rhys/Rees.

Rhys-Welsh Name
Rees-English Name.

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Re: The Shepherd of Myddvai

In Celtic Folklore Welsh And Manx (1901), John Rhys gives an account of the story and he says that he took ‘the liberty of copying from Mr. Rees of Tonn's version in the introduction to The Physicians of Myddvai, published by the Welsh Manuscript Society, at Llandovery, in 1861. There he says that he wrote it down from the oral recitations, which I suppose were in Welsh, of John Evans, tiler, of Myddfai, David Williams, Morfa, near Myddfai, who was about ninety years old at the time, and Elizabeth Morgan, of Henllys Lodge, near Llandovery, who was a native of the same village of Myddfai; to this it may be added that he acknowledges obligations also to Joseph Joseph, Esq., F.S.A., Brecon, for collecting particulars from the old inhabitants of the parish of Llanddeusant. The legend, as given by Mr. Rees in English, runs as follows, and strongly reminds one in certain parts of the Story of Undine as given in the German of De la Motte Fouqué, with which it should be compared:--

'When the eventful struggle made by the Princes of South Wales to preserve the independence of their country was drawing to its close in the twelfth century, there lived at Blaensawdde near Llanddeusant, Carmarthenshire, a widowed woman, the relict of a farmer who had fallen in those disastrous troubles.

'The widow had an only son to bring up, but Providence smiled upon her, and despite her forlorn condition, her live stock had so increased in course of time, that she could not well depasture them upon her farm, so she sent a portion of her cattle to graze on the adjoining Black Mountain, and their most favourite place was near the small lake called Llyn y Fan Fach, on the north-western side of the Carmarthenshire Fans.

'The son grew up to manhood, and was generally sent by his mother to look after the cattle on the mountain. One day, in his peregrinations along the margin of the lake, to his great astonishment, he beheld, sitting on the unruffled surface of the water, a lady; one of the most beautiful creatures that mortal eyes ever beheld, her hair flowed gracefully in ringlets over her shoulders, the tresses of which she arranged with a comb, whilst the glassy surface of her watery couch served for the purpose of a mirror, reflecting back her own image. Suddenly she beheld the young man standing on the brink of the lake, with his eyes riveted on her, and unconsciously offering to herself the provision of barley bread and cheese with which he had been provided when he left his home.

'Bewildered by a feeling of love and admiration for the object before him, he continued to hold out his hand towards the lady, who imperceptibly glided near to him, but gently refused the offer of his provisions.

He attempted to touch her, but she eluded his grasp, saying--

Cras dy fara;
Nid hawdd fy nala.

Hard baked is thy bread!
'Tis not easy to catch me;

and immediately dived under the water and disappeared, leaving the love-stricken youth to return home, a prey to disappointment and regret that he had been unable to make further acquaintance with one, in comparison with whom the whole of the fair maidens of Llanddeusant and Myddfai whom he had ever seen were as nothing.

'On his return home the young man communicated to his mother the extraordinary vision he had beheld. She advised him to take some unbaked dough or "toes" the next time in his pocket, as there must have been some spell connected with the hard-baked bread, or "Bara cras," which prevented his catching the lady.

'Next morning, before the sun had gilded with its rays the peaks of the Fans, the young man was at the lake, not for the purpose of looking after his mother's cattle, but seeking for the same enchanting vision he had witnessed the day before; but all in vain did he anxiously strain his eyeballs and glance over the surface of the lake, as only the ripples occasioned by a stiff breeze met his view, and a cloud hung heavily on the summit of the Fan, which imparted an additional gloom to his already distracted mind.

'Hours passed on, the wind was hushed, and the clouds which had enveloped the mountain had vanished into thin air before the powerful beams of the sun, when the youth was startled by seeing some of his mother's cattle on the precipitous side of the acclivity, nearly on the opposite side of the lake. His duty impelled him to attempt to rescue them from their perilous position, for which purpose he was hastening away, when, to his inexpressible delight, the object of his search again appeared to him as before, and seemed much more beautiful than when he first beheld her. His hand was again held out to her, full of unbaked bread, which he offered with an urgent proffer of his heart also, and vows of eternal attachment. All of which were refused by her, saying--

Llaith dy fara!
Ti ni fynna'.

Unbaked is thy bread!
I will not have thee.

But the smiles that played upon her features as the lady vanished beneath the waters raised within the young man a hope that forbade him to despair by her refusal of him, and the recollection of which cheered him on his way home. His aged parent was made acquainted with his ill-success, and she suggested that his bread should next time be but slightly baked, as most likely to please the mysterious being of whom he had become enamoured.

'Impelled by an irresistible feeling, the youth left his mother's house early next morning, and with rapid steps he passed over the mountain. He was soon near the margin of the lake, and with all the impatience of an ardent lover did he wait with a feverish anxiety for the reappearance of the mysterious lady.

'The sheep and goats browsed on the precipitous sides of the Fan; the cattle strayed amongst the rocks and large stones, some of which were occasionally loosened from their beds and suddenly rolled down into the lake; rain and sunshine alike came and passed away; but all were unheeded by the youth, so wrapped up was he in looking for the appearance of the lady.

'The freshness of the early morning had disappeared before the sultry rays of the noon-day sun, which in its turn was fast verging towards the west as the evening was dying away and making room for the shades of night, and hope had well-nigh abated of beholding once more the Lady of the Lake. The young man cast a sad and last farewell look over the waters, and, to his astonishment, beheld several cows walking along its surface. The sight of these animals caused hope to revive that they would be followed by another object far more pleasing; nor was he disappointed, for the maiden reappeared, and to his enraptured sight, even lovelier than ever. She approached the land, and he rushed to meet her in the water. A smile encouraged him to seize her hand; neither did she refuse the moderately baked bread he offered her; and after some persuasion she consented to become his bride, on condition that they should only live together until she received from him three blows without a cause,

Tri ergyá diachos.
Three causeless blows.

And if he ever should happen to strike her three such blows she would leave him for ever. To such conditions he readily consented, and would have consented to any other stipulation, had it been proposed, as he was only intent on then securing such a lovely creature for his wife.

'Thus the Lady of the Lake engaged to become the young man's wife, and having loosed her hand for a moment she darted away and dived into the lake. His chagrin and grief were such that he determined to cast himself headlong into the deepest water, so as to end his life in the element that had contained in its unfathomed, depths the only one for whom he cared to live on earth. As he was on the point of committing this rash act, there emerged out of the lake two most beautiful ladies, accompanied by a hoary-headed man of noble mien and extraordinary stature, but having otherwise all the force and strength of youth. This man addressed the almost bewildered youth in accents calculated to soothe his troubled mind, saying that as he proposed to marry one of his daughters, he consented to the union, provided the young man could distinguish which of the two ladies before him was the object of his affections. This was no easy task, as the maidens were such perfect counterparts of each other that it seemed quite impossible for him to choose his bride, and if perchance he fixed upon the wrong one all would be for ever lost.

'Whilst the young man narrowly scanned the two ladies, he could not perceive the least difference betwixt the two, and was almost giving up the task in despair, when one of them thrust her foot a slight degree forward. The motion, simple as it was, did not escape the observation of the youth, and he discovered a trifling variation in the mode with which their sandals were tied. This at once put an end to the dilemma, for he, who had on previous occasions been so taken up with the general appearance of the Lady of the Lake, had also noticed the beauty of her feet and ankles, and on now recognizing the peculiarity of her shoe-tie he boldly took hold of her hand.

'"Thou hast chosen rightly," said her father; "be to her a kind and faithful husband, and I will give her, as a dowry, as many sheep, cattle, goats, and horses as she can count of each without heaving or drawing in her breath. But remember, that if you prove unkind to her at any time, and strike her three times without a cause, she shall return to me, and shall bring all her stock back with her."

'Such was the verbal marriage settlement, to which the young man gladly assented, and his bride was desired to count the number of sheep she was to have. She immediately adopted the mode of counting by fives, thus:--One, two, three, four, five -- One, two, three, four, five; as many times as possible in rapid succession, till her breath was exhausted. The same process of reckoning had to determine the number of goats, cattle, and horses respectively; and in an instant the full number of each came out of the lake when called upon by the father.

'The young couple were then married, by what ceremony was not stated, and afterwards went to reside at a farm called Esgair Llaethdy, somewhat more than a mile from the village of Myddfai, where they lived in prosperity and happiness for several years, and became the parents of three sons, who were beautiful children.

'Once upon a time there was a christening to take place in the neighbourhood, to which the parents were specially invited. When the day arrived the wife appeared very reluctant to attend the christening, alleging that the distance was too great for her to walk. Her husband told her to fetch one of the horses which were grazing in an adjoining field. "I will," said she, "if you will bring me my gloves which I left in our house." He went to the house and returned with the gloves, and finding that she had not gone for the horse jocularly slapped her shoulder with one of them, saying, "go! go!" (dos, dos), when she reminded him of the understanding upon which she consented to marry him:--That he was not to strike her without a cause; and warned him to be more cautious for the future.

'On another occasion, when they were together at a wedding, in the midst of the mirth and hilarity of the assembled guests, who had gathered together from all the surrounding country, she burst into tears and sobbed most piteously. Her husband touched her on her shoulder and inquired the cause of her weeping: she said, "Now people are entering into trouble, and your troubles are likely to commence, as you have the second time stricken me without a cause."

'Years passed on, and their children had grown up, and were particularly clever young men. In the midst of so many worldly blessings at home the husband almost forgot that there remained only one causeless blow to be given to destroy the whole of his prosperity. Still he was watchful lest any trivial occurrence should take place which his wife must regard as a breach of their marriage contract. She told him, as her affection for him was unabated, to be careful that he would not, through some inadvertence, give the last and only blow, which, by an unalterable destiny, over which she had no control, would separate them for ever.

'It, however, so happened that one day they were together at a funeral, where, in the midst of the mourning and grief at the house of the deceased, she appear in the highest and gayest spirits, and indulged in immoderate fits of laughter, which so shocked her husband that he touched her, saying, "Hush! hush! don't laugh." She said that she laughed "because people when they die go out of trouble," and, rising up, she went out of the house, saying, "The last blow has been struck, our marriage contract is broken, and at an end! Farewell!" Then she started off towards Esgair Llaethdy, where she called her cattle and other stock together, each by name. The cattle she called thus:--

Mu wlfrech, Moelfrech,
Mu olfrech, Gwynfrech,
Pedair cae tonn-frech,
Yr hen wynebwen.
A'r las Geigen,
Gyda'r Tarw Gwyn
O lys y Brenin;
A'r llo du bach,
Syll ar y bach,
Dere dithau, yn iach adre!

Brindled cow, white speckled,
Spotted cow, bold freckled,
The four field sward mottled,
The old white-faced,
And the grey Geingen,
With the white Bull,
From the court of the King;
And the little black calf
Tho' suspended on the hook,
Come thou also, quite well home!

They all immediately obeyed the summons of their mistress. The "little black calf," although it had been slaughtered, became alive again, and walked off with the rest of the stock at the command of the lady. This happened in the spring of the year, and there were four oxen ploughing in one of the fields; to these she cried:--

Pedwar eidion glas
Sydd ar y maes,
Deuwch chwithau
Yn iach adre!

The four grey oxen,
That are on the field,
Come you also
Quite well home!

Away the whole of the live stock went with the Lady across Myddfai Mountain, towards the lake from whence they came, a distance of above six miles, where they disappeared beneath its waters, leaving no trace behind except a well-marked furrow, which was made by the plough the oxen drew after them into the lake, and which remains to this day as a testimony to the truth of this story.

'What became of the affrighted ploughman--whether he was left on the field when the oxen set off, or whether he followed them to the lake, has not been handed down to tradition; neither has the fate of the disconsolate and half-ruined husband been kept in remembrance. But of the sons it is stated that they often wandered about the lake and its vicinity, hoping that their mother might be permitted to visit the face of the earth once more, as they had been apprised of her mysterious origin, her first appearance to their father, and the untoward circumstances which so unhappily deprived them of her maternal care.

'In one of their rambles, at a place near Dôl Howel, at the Mountain Gate, still called "Llidiad y Meddygon," The Physicians' Gate, the mother appeared suddenly, and accosted her eldest son, whose name was Rhiwallon, and told him that his mission on earth was to be a benefactor to mankind by relieving them from pain and misery, through healing all manner of their diseases; for which purpose she furnished him with a bag full of medical prescriptions and instructions for the preservation of health. That by strict attention thereto he and his family would become for many generations the most skilful physicians in the country. Then, promising to meet him when her counsel was most needed, she vanished. But on several occasions she met her sons near the banks of the lake, and once she even accompanied them on their return home as far as a place still called "Pant-y-Meddygon," The dingle of the Physicians, where she pointed out to them the various plants and herbs which grew in the dingle, and revealed to them their medicinal qualities or virtues; and the knowledge she imparted to them, together with their unrivalled skill, soon caused them to attain such celebrity that none ever possessed before them. And in order that their knowledge should not be lost, they wisely committed the same to writing, for the benefit of mankind throughout all ages.'

To the legend Mr. Rees added the following notes, which we reproduce also at full length:--

'And so ends the story of the Physicians of Myddfai, which has been handed down from one generation to another, thus:--

Yr hên wr llwyd o'r cornel,
Gan ei dad a glywodd chwedel 1,
A chan ei dad fe glywodd yntau
Ac ar ei ôl mi gofiais innau.

The grey old man in the corner
Of his father heard a story,
Which from his father he had heard,
And after them I have remembered.

As stated in the introduction of the present work [i.e. the Physicians of Myddvai], Rhiwallon and his sons became Physicians to Rhys Gryg, Lord of Llandovery and Dynefor Castles, "who gave them rank, lands, and privileges at Myddfai for their maintenance in the practice of their art and science, and the healing and benefit of those who should seek their help," thus affording to those who could not afford to pay, the best medical advice and treatment gratuitously. Such a truly royal foundation could not fail to produce corresponding effects. So the fame of the Physicians of Myddfai was soon established over the whole country, and continued for centuries among their descendants.

'The celebrated Welsh Bard, Dafydd ap Gwilym, who flourished in the following century, and was buried at the Abbey of Tal-y-llychau 2, in Carmarthenshire, about the year 1368, says in one of his poems, as quoted in Dr. Davies' dictionary--

Meddyg ni wnai modd y gwnaeth
Myddfai, o chai ddyn meddfaeth.

A Physician he would not make
As Myddfai made, if he had a mead fostered man.

Of the above lands bestowed upon the Meddygon, there are two farms in Myddfai parish still called "Llwyn Han Feddyg," the Grove of Evan the Physician; and "Llwyn Meredydd Feddyg," the Grove of Meredith the Physician. Esgair Llaethdy, mentioned in the foregoing legend, was formerly in the possession of the above descendants, and so was Ty newydd, near Myddfai, which was purchased by Mr. Holford, of Cilgwyn, from the Rev. Charles Lloyd, vicar of Llandefalle, Breconshire, who married a daughter of one of the Meddygon, and had the living of Llandefalle from a Mr. Vaughan, who presented him to the same out of gratitude, because Mr. Lloyd's wife's father had cured him of a disease in the eye. As Mr. Lloyd succeeded to the above living in 1748, and died in 1800, it is probable that the skilful oculist was John Jones, who is mentioned in the following inscription on a tombstone at present fixed against the west end of Myddfai Church:--

HERE

Lieth the body of Mr. DAVID JONES, of Mothvey, Surgeon,
who was an honest, charitable, and skilful man.
He died September 14th, Anno Dom 1719, aged 61.

JOHN JONES, Surgeon,

Eldest son of the said David Jones, departed this life
the 25th of November, 1739, in the 44th year
of his Age, and also lyes interred hereunder.

These appear to have been the last of the Physicians who practised at Myddfai. The above John Jones resided for some time at Llandovery, and was a very eminent surgeon. One of his descendants, named John Lewis, lived at Cwmbran, Myddfai, at which place his great-grandson, Mr. John Jones, now resides.

'Dr. Morgan Owen, Bishop of Llandaff, who died at Glasallt, parish of Myddfai, in 1645, was a descendant of the Meddygon, and an inheritor of much of their landed property in that parish, the bulk of which he bequeathed to his nephew, Morgan Owen, who died in 1667, and was succeeded by his son Henry Owen; and at the decease of the last of whose descendants, Robert Lewis, Esq., the estates became, through the will of one of the family, the property of the late D. A. S. Davies, Esq., M.P. for Carmarthenshire.

'Bishop Owen bequeathed to another nephew, Morgan ap Rees, son of Rees ap John, a descendant of the Meddygon, the farm of Rhyblid, and some other property. Morgan ap Rees' son, Samuel Rice, resided at Loughor, in Gower, Glamorganshire, and had a son, Morgan Rice, who was a merchant in London, and became Lord of the Manor of Tooting Graveney, and High Sheriff in the year 1772, and Deputy Lieutenant of the county of Surrey, 1776. He resided at Hill House, which he built. At his death the whole of his property passed to his only child, John Rice, Esq., whose eldest son, the Rev. John Morgan Rice, inherited the greater portion of his estates. The head of the family is now the Rev. Horatio Morgan Rice, rector of South Hill with Callington, Cornwall, and J.P. for the county, who inherited, with other property, a small estate at Loughor. The above Morgan Rice had landed property in Llanmadock and Llangenith, as well as Loughor, in Gower, but whether he had any connexion with Howel the Physician (ap Rhys ap Llywelyn ap Philip the Physician, and lineal descendant from Einion ap, Rhiwallon), who resided at Cilgwryd in Gower, is not known.

'Amongst other families who claim descent from the Physicians were the Bowens of Cwmydw, Myddfai; and Jones of Dollgarreg and Penrhock, in the same parish; the latter of whom are represented by Charles Bishop, of Dollgarreg, Esq., Clerk of the Peace for Carmarthenshire, and Thomas Bishop, of Brecon, Esq.

'Rees Williams of Myddfai is recorded as one of the Meddygon. His great-grandson was the late Rice Williams, M.D., of Aberystwyth, who died May 16, 1842, aged 85, and appears to have been the last, although not the least eminent, of the Physicians descended from the mysterious Lady of Llyn y Fan.'

This brings the legend of the Lady of the Fan Lake into connexion with a widely-spread family. There is another connexion between it and modern times, as will be seen from the following statement kindly made to me by the Rev. A. G. Edwards, Warden of the Welsh College at Llandovery, since then appointed Bishop of St. Asaph: 'An old woman from Myddfai, who is now, that is to say in January 1881, about eighty years of age, tells me that she remembers "thousands and thousands of people visiting the Lake of the Little Fan on the first Sunday or Monday in August, and when she was young she often heard old men declare that at that time a commotion took place in the lake, and that its waters boiled, which was taken to herald the approach of the Lake Lady and her Oxen."' The custom of going up to the lake on the first Sunday in August was a very well known one in years gone by, as I have learned from a good many people, and it is corroborated by Mr. Joseph Joseph of Brecon, who kindly writes as follows, in reply to some queries of mine: 'On the first Sunday in the month of August, Llyn y Fan Fach is supposed to be boiling (berwi). I have seen scores of people going up to see it (not boiling though) on that day. I do not remember that any of them expected to see the Lady of the Lake.' As to the boiling of the lake I have nothing to say, and I am not sure that there is anything in the following statement made as an explanation of the yearly visit to the lake by an old fisherwoman from Llandovery: 'The best time for eels is in August, when the north-east wind blows on the lake, and makes huge waves in it. The eels can then be seen floating on the waves.'

Last summer I went myself to the village of Myddfai, to see if I could pick up any variants of the legend, but I was hardly successful; for though several of the farmers I questioned could repeat bits of the legend, including the Lake Lady's call to her cattle as she went away, I got nothing new, except that one of them said that the youth, when he first saw the Lake Lady at a distance, thought she was a goose-he did not even rise to the conception of a swan--but that by degrees he approached her, and discovered that she was a lady in white, and that in due time they were married, and so on. My friend, the Warden of Llandovery College, seems, however, to have found a bit of a version which may have been still more unlike the one recorded by Mr. Rees of Tonn: it was from an old man at Myddfai last year, from whom he was, nevertheless, only able to extract the statement 'that the Lake Lady got somehow entangled in a farmer's "gambo," and that ever after his farm was very fertile.' A 'gambo,' I ought to explain, is a kind of a cart without sides, used in South Wales: both the name and the thing seem to have come from England, though I cannot find such a word as gambo or gambeau in the ordinary dictionaries.

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Re: The Shepherd of Myddvai

British Goblins (1881) by Wirt Sykes:
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 Each, on the Black Mountains. Whenever he visited these lambs three beautiful damsels appeared to him from Llandovery, published for the Welsh MSB. Society, 1848. 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:

Mortal, 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, he 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 there from 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 field for his horse. She said she would, but being rather dilatory, he said to her humorously 'Dos, d6s, d6s,' 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 C'm Meddygon, and gave them a magic box containing remedies of wonderful power, through whose use they became celebrated. Their names were Cadogan, Gruffydd and Einion, 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.'

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 husbands 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 diawls 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.



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