The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 6/Dafydd William Dafydd and the Fairies


THE following story was related by Mr. Howel Walters, of Ystradgynlais, to Mr. G. L. Gomme and myself on Whitsun Monday last. Mr. Walters had heard it from John Williams, late of Penrheol, Ystradgynlais, who died the year before last, aged 94:—

"There was a person of the name of Dafydd William Dafydd living at Bryngrainen farm, Palleg, Ystradgynlais. He was a very religious man, fond of music, and a good player on the flute. One day he went out as usual to see after his cattle and sheep on the adjoining mountain, to a place called Llorfa, near the Van Pool. He often went up there to play the flute. This day, as usual, he took his flute with him; and he did not return home that evening. His wife called together her friends, and said Dafydd had not come home. They went looking for him that night and the day after, and for many days. They dragged all the pools in the rivers, and made a great search for him, but could not find him, nor any account of his whereabouts. His wife and friends at last made up their minds he had come to some sad end. However, in about three weeks after Dafydd came home, about five o'clock one evening, to the great surprise of his wife, who had given up all hope of ever seeing him again. She asked him where he had been instead of coming home as usual; and he was quite as much surprised to hear the question, for, as he thought, there was nothing unusual for him to be out of the house for only a few hours. He inquired why she asked. His wife said: 'Where have you been for the past three weeks?' 'Three weeks! Is it three weeks you call three hours?' said Dafydd. His wife told him they had been looking everywhere for him, but could get no clue to him, and pressed him to say where he had been. At last he told her that while playing on his flute at the Llorfa he was surrounded at a good distance off by little beings like men, who closed nearer and nearer to him until they became a very small circle. They sang and danced, and so affected him that he quite lost himself. They offered him something to eat,—small, beautiful cakes, of which he partook; and he had never enjoyed himself so well in his life."

Mr. Walters states that John Williams declared that in his youth he knew Dafydd well; and it was useless to try to persuade Williams that the adventure above related was not a fact, for he would always reply that Dafydd was a very religious man, and he did not believe he would say what was not true.

There is little calling for remark in this version of a well-known story. The incident of the cakes, however, may be noticed. In general, when the hero of a folk-tale gets into the power of supernatural beings in the under-world he must be careful not to partake of any food which is offered him if he desire to return. But Dafydd, though he had fallen into the hands of the Tylwyth Teg, and become for the time invisible to human eyes, had not reached the underworld, their dwelling-place. This may account for his escape; and careful search should be made among Welsh and other Celtic legends for parallels. There is a Chinese story, given by Dr. Dennys in his Folk-Lore of China, page 98, which is told of Wang Chih, one of the patriarchs of the Taoist sect:—"Wandering one day in the mountains of Kii Chow to gather firewood he entered a grotto in which some aged men were seated intent upon a game of chess. He laid down his axe and looked on at their game, in the course of which one of the old men handed him a thing in shape and size like a date-stone, telling him to put it into his mouth. No sooner had he tasted it than he became oblivious of hunger and thirst. After some time had elapsed, one of the players said: 'It is long since you came here you should go home now!' whereupon Wang Chih, proceeding to pick up his axe, found that its handle had mouldered into dust. On repairing to his home he found that centuries had passed since the time when he left it for the mountains, and that no vestige of his kinsfolk remained." It is obvious here that the effect of time on Wang Chih had been counteracted by the sweetmeat, since the axe which he had laid down, and which was no longer in contact with his body, still remained subject to it. The same action seems attributable to Dafydd's fairy cakes. In another Chinese story mentioned by Dr. Dennys two friends who have lost their way in the T'ien T'ai mountains are entertained, during seven generations of men, in a fairy retreat by two beautiful girls and fed on hemp. Can it be that the notorious effects of this and similar drugs in producing dreams, wherein the relations of time are altogether confounded, may have had something to do with the origin of tales like these? Or, given the independent existence of the legend, has the dream-producing quality of hemp caused the introduction of the drug in this one instance? This hypothesis appears to me the more reasonable; but Gruppe, perhaps, might make something of the other.

E. Sidney Hartland.