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Welsh Folk Lore - Fairy, Or Mythic Animals.

The Pwka Or Pwca
Another imaginary being, closely allied to the Fairy family...

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The Pwka Or Pwca


Another imaginary being, closely allied to the Fairy family, was the
Pwka. He seems to have possessed many of the mischievous qualities of
Shakespeare's Puck, whom, also, he resembled in name, and it is said that
the Pwka, in common with the Brownie, was a willing worker.

The Rev. Edmund Jones in his Book of Apparitions gives an account of
one of these goblins, which visited the house of Job John Harry, who
lived at a place called the Trwyn, and hence the visitor is called Pwka'r
Trwyn, and many strange tales are related of this spirit. The writer of
the Apparitions states that the spirit stayed in Job's house from some
time before Christmas until Easter Wednesday. He writes:--At first it
came knocking at the door, chiefly by night, which it continued to do for
a length of time, by which they were often deceived, by opening it. At
last it spoke to one who opened the door, upon which they were much
terrified, which being known, brought many of the neighbours to watch
with the family. T. E. foolishly brought a gun with him to shoot the
spirit, as he said, and sat in the corner. As Job was coming home that
night the spirit met him, and told him that there was a man come to the
house to shoot him, 'but,' said he, 'thou shalt see how I will beat him.'
As soon as Job was come to the house stones were thrown at the man that
brought the gun, from which he received severe blows. The company tried
to defend him from the blows of the stones, which did strike him and no
other person; but it was in vain, so that he was obliged to go home that
night, though it was very late; he had a great way to go. When the
spirit spoke, which was not very often, it was mostly out of the oven by
the hearth's side. He would sometimes in the night make music with Harry
Job's fiddle. One time he struck the cupboard with stones, the marks of
which were to be seen, if they are not there still. Another time he gave
Job a gentle stroke upon his toe, when he was going to bed, upon which
Job said, 'Thou art curious in smiting,' to which the spirit answered, 'I
can smite thee where I please.' They were at length grown fearless and
bold to speak to it, and its speeches and actions were a recreation to
them, seeing it was a familiar kind of spirit which did not hurt them,
and informed them of some things which they did not know. One old man,
more bold than wise, on hearing the spirit just by him, threatened to
stick him with his knife, to which he answered, 'Thou fool, how can thou
stick what thou cannot see with thine eyes.' The spirit told them that
he came from Pwll-y-Gaseg, i.e., Mare's Pit, a place so called in the
adjacent mountain, and that he knew them all before he came there. . . .
On Easter Wednesday he left the house and took his farewell in these
words:--'Dos yn iack, Job,' i.e., 'Farewell, Job,' to which Job said,
'Where goest thou?' He was answered, 'Where God pleases.'

The Pwka was credited with maliciously leading benighted men astray. He
would appear with a lantern or candle in hand, some little distance in
front of the traveller, and without any exertion keep ahead of him, and
leading him through rocky and dangerous places, would suddenly, with an
ironical laugh blow out the candle, and disappear, and leave the man to
his fate.

The following tale, taken from Croker's Fairy Legends of Ireland, vol.
ii., pp. 231-3, well illustrates this mischievous trait in the character
of the Pwka. The writer has seen the tale elsewhere, but as it differs
only slightly from that recorded by Croker, he gives it in the words of
this author. His words are as follows:--

Cwm Pwcca, or the Pwcca's Valley, forms part of the deep and romantic
glen of the Clydach, which, before the establishment of the iron works of
Messrs. Frere and Powell, was one of the most secluded spots in Wales,
and therefore well calculated for the haunt of goblins and fairies; but
the bustle of a manufactory has now in a great measure scared these
beings away, and of late it is very rarely that any of its former
inhabitants, the Pwccas, are seen. Such, however, is their attachment to
their ancient haunt, that they have not entirely deserted it, as there
was lately living near this valley a man who used to assert that he had
seen one, and had a narrow escape of losing his life, through the
maliciousness of the goblin. As he was one night returning home over the
mountain from his work, he perceived at some distance before him a light,
which seemed to proceed from a candle in a lantern, and upon looking more
attentively, he saw what he took to be a human figure carrying it, which
he concluded to be one of his neighbours likewise returning from his
work. As he perceived that the figure was going the same way with
himself, he quickened his pace in order that he might overtake him, and
have the benefit of his light to descend the steep and rocky path which
led into the valley; but he rather wondered that such a short person as
appeared to carry the lantern should be able to walk so fast. However,
he re-doubled his exertions, determined to come up with him, and although
he had some misgivings that he was not going along the usual track, yet
he thought that the man with the lantern must know better than himself,
and he followed the direction taken by him without further hesitation.
Having, by dint of hard walking, overtaken him, he suddenly found himself
on the brink of one of the tremendous precipices of Cwm Pwcca, down which
another step would have carried him headlong into the roaring torrent
beneath. And, to complete his consternation, at the very instant he
stopped, the little fellow with the lantern made a spring right across
the glen to the opposite side, and there, holding up the light above his
head, turned round and uttered with all his might a loud and most
malicious laugh, upon which he blew out his candle, and disappeared up
the opposite hill.

This spirit is also said to have assisted men in their labours, and
servant girls and servant men often had their arduous burdens lightened
by his willing hands. But he punished those who offended him in a
vindictive manner. The Pwka could hide himself in a jug of barm or in a
ball of yarn, and when he left a place, it was for ever.

In the next chapter I will treat of another phase of legendary lore,
which, although highly imaginative, seems to intimate that the people who
transmitted these tales had some knowledge, though an exaggerated one, of
a people and system which they supplanted.

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