Y Fuwch Gyfeiliorn The Stray Cow

The history of the Fairy Stray Cow appears in Y Brython, vol. iii., pp.

183-4. The writer of the story states that he obtained his materials

from a Paper by the late Dr. Pugh, Penhelyg, Aberdovey. The article

alluded to by Gwilym Droed-ddu, the writer of the account in the

Brython, appeared in the Archaeologia Cambrensis for 1853, pp. 201-5.

The tale, as given by Dr. Pugh, is reproduced by Professor Rhys in his

Welsh Fairy Tales, and it is much less embellished in English than in

Welsh. I will quote as much of the Doctor's account as refers to the

Stray Cow.

A shrewd old hill farmer (Thomas Abergroes by name), well skilled in the

folk-lore of the district, informed me that, in years gone by, though

when, exactly, he was too young to remember, those dames (Gwragedd

Annwn) were wont to make their appearance, arrayed in green, in the

neighbourhood of Llyn Barfog, chiefly at eventide, accompanied by their

kine and hounds, and that, on quiet summer nights in particular, these

ban-hounds were often to be heard in full cry, pursuing their prey--the

souls of doomed men dying without baptism and penance--along the upland

township of Cefnrhosucha. Many a farmer had a sight of their comely,

milk-white kine; many a swain had his soul turned to romance and poesy by

a sudden vision of themselves in the guise of damsels arrayed in green,

and radiant in beauty and grace; and many a sportsman had his path

crossed by their white hounds of supernatural fleetness and comeliness,

the Cwn Annwn; but never had any one been favoured with more than a

passing view of either, till an old farmer residing at Dyssyrnant, in the

adjoining valley of Dyffryn Gwyn, became at last the lucky captor of one

of their milk-white kine. The acquaintance which the Gwartheg y Llyn,

the kine of the lake, had formed with the farmer's cattle, like the loves

of the angels for the daughters of men, became the means of capture; and

the farmer was thereby enabled to add the mystic cow to his own herd, an

event in all cases believed to be most conducive to the worldly

prosperity of him who should make so fortunate an acquisition. Never was

there such a cow, never were there such calves, never such milk and

butter, or cheese; and the fame of the Fuwch Gyfeiliorn, the stray cow,

was soon spread abroad through that central part of Wales known as the

district of Rhwng y ddwy Afon, from the banks of the Mawddach to those of

the Dofwy (Dovey)--from Aberdiswnwy to Abercorris. The farmer, from a

small beginning, rapidly became, like Job, a man of substance, possessed

of thriving herds of cattle--a very patriarch among the mountains. But,

alas! wanting Job's restraining grace, his wealth made him proud, his

pride made him forget his obligation to the elfin cow, and fearing she

might soon become too old to be profitable, he fattened her for the

butcher, and then even she did not fail to distinguish herself, for a

more monstrously fat beast was never seen. At last the day of slaughter

came--an eventful day in the annals of a mountain farm--the killing of a

fat cow, and such a monster of obesity. No wonder all the neighbours

were gathered together to see the sight. The old farmer looked upon the

preparations in self-pleased importance; the butcher felt he was about no

common feat of his craft, and, baring his arm, he struck the blow--not

now fatal, for before even a hair had been injured, his arm was

paralysed, the knife dropped from his hand, and the whole company was

electrified by a piercing cry that awakened an echo in a dozen hills, and

made the welkin ring again; and lo and behold! the whole assemblage saw a

female figure, clad in green, with uplifted arms, standing on one of the

rocks overhanging Llyn Barfog, and heard her calling with a voice loud as


'Dere di velen Einion,

Cyrn cyveiliorn--braith y Llyn,

A'r voel Dodin,

Codwch, dewch adre.'

'Come thou Einion's yellow one,

Stray horns--speckled one of the Lake,

And the hornless Dodin,

Arise, come home.'

And no sooner were these words of power uttered, than the original lake

cow, and all her progeny to the third and fourth generations, were in

full flight towards the heights of Llyn Barfog, as if pursued by the evil

one. Self-interest quickly roused the farmer, who followed in pursuit,

till, breathless and panting, he gained an eminence overlooking the lake,

but with no better success than to behold the green-attired dame

leisurely descending mid-lake, accompanied by the fugitive cows, and her

calves formed in a circle around her; they tossed their tails, she waved

her hands in scorn, as much as to say, 'You may catch us, my friend, if

you can,' as they disappeared beneath the dark waters of the lake,

leaving only the yellow water-lily to mark the spot where they vanished,

and to perpetuate the memory of this strange event. Meanwhile, the

farmer looked with rueful countenance upon the spot where the elfin herd

disappeared, and had ample leisure to deplore the effects of his

greediness, as with them also departed the prosperity which had hitherto

attended him, and he became impoverished to a degree below his original

circumstances, and in his altered circumstances few felt pity for one

who, in the noontide flow of prosperity, had shown himself so far

forgetful of favours received, as to purpose slaying his benefactor.

Thus ends Dr. Pugh's account of the Stray Cow.

A tale very much like the preceding is recorded of a Scotch farmer. It

is to be found in vol. ii., pp. 45-6, of Croker's Fairy Legends of

Ireland, and is as follows:--

A farmer who lived near a river had a cow which regularly every year, on

a certain day in May, left the meadow and went slowly along the banks of

the river till she came opposite to a small island overgrown with bushes;

she went into the water and waded or swam towards the island, where she

passed some time, and then returned to her pasture. This continued for

several years; and every year, at the usual season, she produced a calf

which perfectly resembled the elf bull. One afternoon, about Martinmas,

the farmer, when all the corn was got in and measured, was sitting at his

fireside, and the subject of the conversation was, which of the cattle

should be killed for Christmas. He said: 'We'll have the cow; she is

well fed, and has rendered good services in ploughing, and filled the

stalls with fine oxen, now we will pick her old bones.' Scarcely had he

uttered these words when the cow with her young ones rushed through the

walls as if they had been made of paper, went round the dunghill,

bellowed at each of her calves, and then drove them all before her,

according to their age, towards the river, where they got into the water,

reached the island, and vanished among the bushes. They were never more

heard of.

Y Fuwch Frech The Freckled Cow Yet They Call It Lover's Leap facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail