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Coblynau Or Knockers


Source: Welsh Folk-lore

have been described as a species of Fairies,
whose abode was within the rocks, and whose province it was to indicate
to the miners by the process of knocking, etc., the presence of rich
lodes of lead or other metals in this or that direction of the mine.

That the words Tylwyth Teg and Ellyll are convertible terms appears
from the following stanza, which is taken from the Cambrian Magazine,
vol. ii, p. 58.

Pan dramwych ffridd yr Ywen,
Lle mae Tylwyth Teg yn rhodien,
Dos ymlaen, a phaid a sefyll,
Gwilia'th droed--rhag dawnsva'r Ellyll.

When the forest of the Yew,
Where Fairies haunt, thou passest through,
Tarry not, thy footsteps guard
From the Goblins' dancing sward.

Although the poet mentions the Tylwyth Teg and Ellyll as identical,
he might have done so for rhythmical reasons. Undoubtedly, in the first
instance a distinction would be drawn between these two words, which
originally were intended perhaps to describe two different kinds of
beings, but in the course of time the words became interchangeable, and
thus their distinctive character was lost. In English the words Fairies
and elves are used without any distinction. It would appear from Brand's
Popular Antiquities, vol. II., p. 478., that, according to Gervase of
Tilbury, there were two kinds of Goblins in England, called Portuni and
Grant. This division suggests a difference between the Tylwyth Teg
and the Ellyll. The Portuni, we are told, were very small of stature
and old in appearance, statura pusilli, dimidium pollicis non
habentes, but then they were senili vultu, facie corrugata. The
wrinkled face and aged countenance of the Portuni remind us of nursery
Fairy tales in which the wee ancient female Fairy figures. The pranks of
the Portuni were similar to those of Shakespeare's Puck. The species
Grant is not described, and consequently it cannot be ascertained how
far they resembled any of the many kinds of Welsh Fairies. Gervase,
speaking of one of these species, says:--If anything should be to be
carried on in the house, or any kind of laborious work to be done, they
join themselves to the work, and expedite it with more than human

In Scotland there were at least two species of elves, the Brownies and
the Fairies. The Brownies were so called from their tawny colour, and
the Fairies from their fairness. The Portuni of Gervase appear to have
corresponded in character to the Brownies, who were said to have employed
themselves in the night in the discharge of laborious undertakings
acceptable to the family to whose service they had devoted themselves.
The Fairies proper of Scotland strongly resembled the Fairies of Wales.

The term Brownie, or swarthy elve, suggests a connection between them
and the Gwylliaid Cochion, or Red Fairies of Wales.

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