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The Egg Shell Pottage


Source: Welsh Folk-lore

In the parish of Treveglwys, near Llanidloes, in the county of
Montgomery, there is a little shepherd's cot, that is commonly called Twt
y Cwmrws (the place of strife) on account of the extraordinary strife
that has been there. The inhabitants of the cottage were a man and his
wife, and they had born to them twins, whom the woman nursed with great
care and tenderness. Some months afterwards indispensable business
called the wife to the house of one of her nearest neighbours; yet,
notwithstanding she had not far to go, she did not like to leave her
children by themselves in their cradle, even for a minute, as her house
was solitary, and there were many tales of goblins or the 'Tylwyth Teg'
(the Fair Family or the Fairies) haunting the neighbourhood. However,
she went, and returned as soon as she could; but on coming back she felt
herself not a little terrified on seeing, though it was mid-day, some of
'the old elves of the blue petticoat,' as they are usually called;
however, when she got back to her house she was rejoiced to find
everything in the state she had left it.

But after some time had passed by, the good people began to wonder that
the twins did not grow at all, but still continued little dwarfs. The
man would have it that they were not his children; the woman said that
they must be their children, and about this arose the great strife
between them that gave name to the place. One evening when the woman was
very heavy of heart she determined to go and consult a Gwr Cyfarwydd
(i.e., a wise man, or a conjuror), feeling assured that everything was
known to him, and he gave her his counsel. Now there was to be a harvest
soon of the rye and oats; so the wise man said to her:--'When you are
preparing dinner for the reapers empty the shell of a hen's egg, and boil
the shell full of pottage and take it out through the door as if you
meant it for a dinner to the reapers, and then listen what the twins will
say; if you hear the children speaking things above the understanding of
children, return into the house, take them, and throw them into the waves
of Llyn Ebyr, which is very near to you; but if you don't hear anything
remarkable, do them no injury.' And when the day of the reaping came,
the woman did as her adviser had recommended to her; and as she went
outside the door to listen, she heard one of the children say to the

Gwelais vesen cyn gweled derwen,
Gwelais wy cyn gweled iar,
Erioed ni welais verwi bwyd i vedel
Mewn plisgyn wy iar!

Acorns before oak I knew,
An egg before a hen,
Never one hen's egg-shell stew
Enough for harvest men!

On this the mother returned to her house and took the two children, and
threw them into the Llyn, and suddenly the goblins in their trousers came
to save their dwarfs, and the woman had her own children back again, and
thus the strife between her and her husband ended.

The writer of the preceding story says that it was translated almost
literally from Welsh, as told by the peasantry, and he remarks that the
legend bears a striking resemblance to one of the Irish tales published
by Mr. Croker.

Many variants of the legend are still extant in many parts of Wales.
There is one of these recorded in Professor Rhys's Welsh Fairy Tales,
Y Cymmrodor, vol. iv., pp. 208-209. It is much like that given in the
Cambrian Magazine.

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