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A Three Hours Fairy Dance Seeming As A Few Minutes


Source: Welsh Folk-lore

The Rev. R. Jones's mother, when a young unmarried woman, started one
evening from a house called Tyddyn Heilyn, Penrhyndeudraeth, to her home,
Penrhyn isaf, accompanied by their servant man, David Williams, called on
account of his great strength and stature, Dafydd Fawr, Big David. David
was carrying home on his back a flitch of bacon. The night was dark, but
calm. Williams walked somewhat in the rear of his young mistress, and
she, thinking he was following, went straight home. But three hours
passed before David appeared with the pork on his back.

He was interrogated as to the cause of his delay, and in answer said he
had only been about three minutes after his young mistress. He was told
that she had arrived three hours before him, but this David would not
believe. At length, however, he was convinced that he was wrong in his
time, and then he proceeded to account for his lagging behind as

He observed, he said, a brilliant meteor passing through the air, which
was followed by a ring or hoop of fire, and within this hoop stood a man
and woman of small size, handsomely dressed. With one arm they embraced
each other, and with the other they took hold of the hoop, and their feet
rested on the concave surface of the ring. When the hoop reached the
earth these two beings jumped out of it, and immediately proceeded to
make a circle on the ground. As soon as this was done, a large number of
men and women instantly appeared, and to the sweetest music that ear ever
heard commenced dancing round and round the circle. The sight was so
entrancing that the man stayed, as he thought, a few minutes to witness
the scene. The ground all around was lit up by a kind of subdued light,
and he observed every movement of these beings. By and by the meteor
which had at first attracted his attention appeared again, and then the
fiery hoop came to view, and when it reached the spot where the dancing
was, the lady and gentleman who had arrived in it jumped into the hoop,
and disappeared in the same manner in which they had reached the place.
Immediately after their departure the Fairies vanished from sight, and
the man found himself alone and in darkness, and then he proceeded
homewards. In this way he accounted for his delay on the way.

In Mr. Sikes's British Goblins, pp. 79-81, is a graphic account of a
mad dance which Tudur ap Einion Gloff had with the Fairies, or Goblins,
at a place called Nant-yr-Ellyllon, a hollow half way up the hill to
Castell Dinas Bran, in the neighbourhood of Llangollen. All night, and
into the next day, Tudur danced frantically in the Nant, but he was
rescued by his master, who understood how to break the spell, and release
his servant from the hold the Goblins had over him! This he did by
pronouncing certain pious words, and Tudur returned home with his master.

Mr. Evan Davies, carpenter, Brynllan, Efenechtyd, who is between seventy
and eighty years old, informed the writer that his friend John Morris
told him that he had seen a company of Fairies dancing, and that they
were the handsomest men and women that he had ever seen. It was night
and dark, but the place on which the dance took place was strangely
illuminated, so that every movement of the singular beings could be
observed, but when the Fairies disappeared it became suddenly quite dark.

Although from the tales already given it would appear that the Fairies
held revelry irrespective of set times of meeting, still it was thought
that they had special days for their great banquets, and the eve of the
first of May, old style, was one of these days, and another was Nos Wyl
Ifan, St. John's Eve, or the evening of June 23rd.

Thus sings Glasynys, in Y Brython, vol. iii. p. 270:--

Nos Wyl Ifan.

Tylwyth Teg yn lluoedd llawen,
O dan nodded tawel Dwynwen,
Welir yn y cel encilion,
Yn perori mwyn alawon,
Ac yn taenu hyd y twyni,
Ac ar leiniau'r deiliog lwyni,
Hud a Lledrith ar y glesni,
Ac yn sibrwd dwyfol desni!

I am indebted to my friend Mr Richard Williams, F.R.H.S., Newtown,
Montgomeryshire, for the following translation of the preceding Welsh

The Fairy Tribe in merry crowds,
Under Dwynwen's calm protection,
Are seen in shady retreats
Chanting sweet melodies,
And spreading over the bushes
And the leafy groves
Illusion and phantasy on all that is green,
And whispering their mystic lore.

May-day dances and revelling have reached our days, and probably they
have, like the Midsummer Eve's festivities, their origin in the far off
times when the Fairy Tribe inhabited Britain and other countries, and to
us have they bequeathed these Festivals, as well as that which ushers in
winter, and is called in Wales, Nos glan gaua, or All Hallow Eve. If
so, they have left us a legacy for which we thank them, and they have
also given us a proof of their intelligence and love of nature.

But I will now briefly refer to Fairy doings on Nos Wyl Ifan as
recorded by England's greatest poet, and, further on, I shall have more
to say of this night.

Shakespeare introduces into his Midsummer Night's Dream the prevailing
opinions respecting Fairies in England, but they are almost identical
with those entertained by the people of Wales; so much so are they
British in character, that it is no great stretch of the imagination to
suppose that he must have derived much of his information from an
inhabitant of Wales. However, in one particular, the poet's description
of the Fairies differs from the more early opinion of them in Wales.
Shakespeare's Fairies are, to a degree, diminutive; they are not so small
in Wales. But as to their habits in both countries they had much in
common. I will briefly allude to similarities between English and Welsh
Fairies, confining my remarks to Fairy music and dancing.

To begin, both danced in rings. A Fairy says to Puck:--

And I serve the Fairy Queen
To dew her orbs upon the green.

Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II., S I.

And allusion is made in the same play to these circles in these words:--

If you will patiently dance in our round
And see our moonlight revels, go with us.

Act II., S. I.

Then again Welsh and English Fairies frequented like spots to hold their
revels on. I quote from the same play:--

And now they never meet in grove or green,
By fountain clear, or spangled starlight sheen.

Act II., S. I.

And again:--

And never since the middle summer's spring
Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead
By paved fountain or by rushy brook
Or by the beached margent of the sea,
To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind.

Act II., S. I

And further the Fairies in both countries meet at night, and hold their
Balls throughout the hours of darkness, and separate in early morn. Thus
Puck addressing Oberon:--

Fairy King, attend and hark;
I do hear the morning lark.

Act IV., S. I.

Now until the break of day
Through this house each Fairy stray
. . . . . .
. . . . . .
Trip away, make no stay,
Meet we all at break of day.

Act V., S. I.

In the Welsh tales given of Fairy dances the music is always spoken of as
most entrancing, and Shakespeare in felicitous terms gives utterance to
the same thought--

Music, lo! music, such as charmeth sleep.

I am indebted to the courtesy of the Rev. R. O. Williams, M.A., Vicar of
Holywell, for the following singular testimony to Fairy dancing. The
writer was the Rev. Dr. Edward Williams, at one time of Oswestry, and
afterwards Principal of the Independent Academy at Rotherham in
Yorkshire, who was born at Glan Clwyd, Bodfari, Nov. 14th, 1750, and died
March 9, 1813. The extract is to be seen in the autobiography of Dr.
Williams, which has been published, but the quotation now given is copied
from the doctor's own handwriting, which now lies before me.

It may be stated that Mr. Wirt Sikes, in his British Goblins, refers to
the Dwarfs of Cae Caled, Bodfari, as Knockers, but he was not justified,
as will be seen from the extract, in thus describing them. For the sake
of reference the incident shall be called--The Elf Dancers of Cae Caled.

Next: The Elf Dancers Of Cae Caled

Previous: A Harper And The Fairies

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