Sunday, 24 February 2008

A Welsh fairy tale

According to legend, there was a time when the Cymry did not dwell in Wales. Hidden in the mists of time, they once lived in the Summer Country of Deffrobani, and it was then that they had a great leader - Hu Gadarn: Hu the Mighty. He invented the plough and taught his people to cultivate the land. Under his guidance, he created communities, gave them laws and lessened the fights between tribes. He persuaded them to leave the Summer Country, and they crossed the Mor Tawch in their coracles, coming to Britain and possessing it under God's protection. It was an empty land then, the home of the wild animals - bears, wolves and beavers, huge wild oxen, and eagles soared in the skies. They called it Honey Island, for they found quantities of wild honey there. Hu was a just and wise ruler, setting up a legal structure and religious sites. Those amongst them blessed with poetic genius were made teachers, and others learned from their history and songs, and so this truth was passed on through the generations before there writing had been created.

But sadly, their new home was much troubled by a monster called an afanc, wich dwelt in Llyn Llion, periodically breaking the banks of its home and flooding their new farmland. No weapon they possessed had any effect on it - its tough hide made it impregnable. Hu Gadarn thought long and hard. A young girl was persuaded to entice it from the deep waters of Llyn Llion, and she lulled it to sleep with its head on her knees. As it slept, long iron chains were attached to it, so it could not move. Alas for the girl, when the afanc awoke and realised it was bound fast, it ripped off its sweetheart's breast in anger. As the afanc fought the chains, it tried to return to the waters of the lake, but Hu Gadarn had fastened the chains to his team of bannog oxen, and they pulled it out of the lake and dragged it through the mountains until they came to Llyn y Ffynnnon Las - the Lake of the Green Well, in Snowdonia. The pass they created has ever been known as Bwlch Rhiw'r Ychen - the Pass of the Slope of the Oxen. One of the oxen lost an eye through labouring so hard, and where this happened is still called Pwll Llygad Ych - the Moor of the Ox's Eye - and a pool formed where the eye fell - Pwll Llygad Ych - the Pool of the Ox's Eye. This pool never dries up, though no springs fill it, and no water flows from it, just the Welsh rain fills it and it is always the same depth - just above the knee-joint.

According to legend, the afanc was contained within the banks of Llyn y Ffynnon Las and is there still. Any sheep who falls into the lake is seized and dragged to the bottom and even birds fear to fly across it . . .

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