Category: BIRDS AND BEASTS.
Source: Welsh Folk-lore
The Wren's life is sacred, excepting at one time of the year, for should
anyone take this wee birdie's life away, upon him some mishap will fall.
The wren is classed with the Robin:--
The robin and the wren
Are God's cock and hen.
The cruel sport of hunting the wren on St. Stephen's Day, which the
writer has a dim recollection of having in his boyhood joined in, was the
one time in the year when the wren's life was in jeopardy.
The Rev. Silvan Evans, in a letter to the Academy, which has been
reproduced in Bye-Gones, vol. vii., p. 206, alludes to this sport in
Something similar to the 'hunting of the wren' was not unknown to the
Principality as late as about a century ago, or later. In the Christmas
holidays it was the custom of a certain number of young men, not
necessarily boys, to visit the abodes of such couples as had been married
within the year. The order of the night--for it was strictly a nightly
performance--was to this effect. Having caught a wren, they placed it on
a miniature bier made for the occasion, and carried it in procession
towards the house which they intended to visit. Having arrived they
serenaded the master and mistress of the house under their bedroom window
with the following doggerel:--
Os yw e'n fyw,
Neu dderyn to
I gael ei rostio.
Here is the wren,
If he is alive,
Or a sparrow
To be roasted.
If they could not catch a wren for the occasion, it was lawful to
substitute a sparrow (ad eryn to). The husband, if agreeable, would then
open the door, admit the party, and regale them with plenty of Christmas
ale, the obtaining of which being the principal object of the whole
The second line in the verse, Os yw e'n fyw, intimates that possibly
the wren is dead--If he is alive. This would generally be the case, as
it was next to impossible to secure the little thing until it had been
thoroughly exhausted, and then the act of pouncing upon it would itself
put an end to its existence.
Perhaps the English doggerel was intended to put an end to this cruel
sport, by intimating that the wee bird belonged to God, was one of His
creatures, and that therefore it should not be abused.
There is a Welsh couplet still in use:--
Pwy bynnag doro nyth y dryw,
Ni chaiff ef weled wyneb Duw.
Whoever breaks a wren's nest,
Shall never see God's face.
This saying protects the snug little home of the wren. Much the same
thing is said of the Robin's nest, but I think this was put, Whoever
robs a robin's nest shall go to hell.
Another Welsh couplet was:--
Y neb a doro nyth y dryw,
Ni chaiff iechyd yn ei fyw.
Whoever breaks the wren's nest,
Shall never enjoy good health.
Although the robin and the wren were favourites of heaven, still it was
supposed that they were under some kind of curse, for it was believed
that the robin could not fly through a hedge, it must always fly over,
whilst on the other hand, the wren could not fly over a hedge, but it was
obliged to make its way through it. (See Robin, p. 329).
Next: The Wood Pigeon
Previous: Tit Major Or Sawyer