Fairy Ladies Marrying Mortals
Category: WELSH LEGENDS OF FAIRY LADIES MARRYING MEN.
In the mythology of the Greeks, and other nations, gods and goddesses are
spoken of as falling in love with human beings, and many an ancient
genealogy began with a celestial ancestor. Much the same thing is said
of the Fairies. Tradition speaks of them as being enamoured of the
inhabitants of this earth, and content, for awhile, to be wedded to
mortals. And there are families in Wales who are said to have Fairy
blood coursing through their veins, but they are, or were, not so highly
esteemed as were the offspring of the gods among the Greeks. The famous
physicians of Myddfai, who owed their talent and supposed supernatural
knowledge to their Fairy origin, are, however, an exception; for their
renown, notwithstanding their parentage, was always great, and increased
in greatness, as the rolling years removed them from their traditionary
parent, the Fairy lady of the Van Pool.
The Pellings are said to have sprung from a Fairy Mother, and the
author of Observations on the Snowdon Mountains states that the best
blood in his veins is fairy blood. There are in some parts of Wales
reputed descendants on the female side of the Gwylliaid Cochion race;
and there are other families among us whom the aged of fifty years ago,
with an ominous shake of the head, would say were of Fairy extraction.
We are not, therefore, in Wales void of families of doubtful parentage or
All the current tales of men marrying Fairy ladies belong to a class of
stories called, technically, Taboo stories. In these tales the lady
marries her lover conditionally, and when this condition is broken she
deserts husband and children, and hies back to Fairy land.
This kind of tale is current among many people. Max Muller in Chips
from a German Workshop, vol. ii, pp. 104-6, records one of these ancient
stories, which is found in the Brahmana of the Yagur-veda. Omitting
a few particulars, the story is as follows:--
Urvasi, a kind of Fairy, fell in love with Pururavas, the son of Ida,
and when she met him she said, 'Embrace me three times a day, but never
against my will, and let me never see you without your royal garments,
for this is the manner of women.' In this manner she lived with him a
long time, and she was with child. Then her former friends, the
Gandharvas, said: 'This Urvasi has now dwelt a long time among mortals;
let us see that she come back.' Now, there was a ewe, with two lambs,
tied to the couch of Urvasi and Pururavas, and the Gandharvas stole one
of them. Urvasi said: 'They take away my darling, as if I had lived in a
land where there is no hero and no man.' They stole the second, and she
upbraided her husband again. Then Pururavas looked and said: 'How can
that be a land without heroes and men where I am?' And naked, he sprang
up; he thought it too long to put on his dress. Then the Gandharvas sent
a flash of lightning, and Urvasi saw her husband naked as by daylight.
Then she vanished; 'I come back,' she said, and went.
Pururavas bewailed his love in bitter grief. But whilst walking along
the border of a lake full of lotus flowers the Fairies were playing there
in the water, in the shape of birds, and Urvasi discovered him and
'That is the man with whom I dwelt so long.' Then her friends said: 'Let
us appear to him.' She agreed, and they appeared before him. Then the
king recognised her, and said:--
'Lo! my wife, stay, thou cruel in mind! Let us now exchange some words!
Our secrets, if they are not told now, will not bring us back on any
She replied: 'What shall I do with thy speech? I am gone like the first
of the dawns. Pururavas, go home again, I am hard to be caught, like the
The Fairy wife by and by relents, and her mortal lover became, by a
certain sacrifice, one of the Gandharvas.
This ancient Hindu Fairy tale resembles in many particulars similar tales
found in Celtic Folk-Lore, and possibly, the original story, in its main
features, existed before the Aryan family had separated. The very words,
I am hard to be caught, appear in one of the Welsh legends, which shall
be hereafter given:--
Nid hawdd fy nala,
I am hard to be caught.
And the scene is similar; in both cases the Fairy ladies are discovered
in a lake. The immortal weds the mortal, conditionally, and for awhile
the union seems to be a happy one. But, unwittingly, when engaged in an
undertaking suggested by, or in agreement with the wife's wishes, the
prohibited thing is done, and the lady vanishes away.
Such are the chief features of these mythical marriages. I will now
record like tales that have found a home in several parts of Wales.
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