The Wren

: 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

ne 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

these words:--

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:--

Dyma'r dryw,

Os yw e'n fyw,

Neu dderyn to

I gael ei rostio.

That is:--

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).