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Welsh Fairytales

One of the oldest of the Welsh fairy tales tells us about Pwyle, King
of Fairyland and father of the numerous clan of the Powells. He was a
mighty hunter. He could ride a horse, draw a bow, and speak the truth.
He was always honored by men, and he kept his faith and his promises
to women. The children loved him, for he loved them. In the castle
hall, he could tell the best stories. No man, bard, or warrior, foot
holder or commoner, could excel him in gaining and keeping the
attention of his hearers, even when they were sleepy and wanted to go
to bed.

One day, when out a hunting in the woods, he noticed a pack of hounds
running down a stag. He saw at once that they were not his own, for
they were snow white in color and had red ears.

Being a young man, Powell did not know at this time of his life, that
red is the fairy color, and that these were all dogs from Fairyland.
So he drove off the red-eared hounds, and was about to let loose his
own pack on the stag, when a horseman appeared on the scene.

The stranger at once began to upbraid Powell for being impolite. He
asked why his hounds should not be allowed to hunt the deer.

Powell spoke pleasantly in reply, making his proper excuses to the
horseman. The two began to like each other, and soon got acquainted
and mutually enjoyed being companions.

It turned out that the stranger was Arawn, a king in Fairyland. He had
a rival named Hargan, who was beating him and his army in war.

So Arawn asked Powell to help him against his enemy. He even made
request that one year from that time, Powell should meet Hargan in
battle. He told him that one stroke of his sword would finish the
enemy. He must then sheathe his weapon, and not, on any account,
strike a second time.

To make victory sure, the Fairy King would exchange shapes with the
mortal ruler and each take not only the place, but each the shape and
form of the other. Powell must go into Fairy Land and govern the
kingdom there, while Arawn should take charge of affairs at Dyfed.

But Powell was warned, again, to smite down his enemy with a single
stroke of his sword. If, in the heat of the conflict, and the joy of
victory, Powell should forget, and give a second blow to Hargan, he
would immediately come to life and be as strong as ever.

Powell heeded well these words. Then, putting on the shape of Arawn,
he went into Fairy Land, and no one noticed, or thought of anything
different from the days and years gone by.

But now, at night, a new and unexpected difficulty arose. Arawn's
beautiful wife was evidently not in the secret, for she greeted Powell
as her own husband.

After dinner, when the telling of stories in the banqueting hall was
over, the time had come for them to retire.

But the new bed fellow did not even kiss her, or say "good night," but
turned his back to her and his face to the wall, and never moved until
daylight. Then the new King in Fairy Land rose up, ate his breakfast,
and went out to hunt.

Every day, he ruled the castle and kingdom, as if he had always been
the monarch. To everybody, he seemed as if he had been long used to
public business, and no questions were asked, nor was there any talk
made on the subject. Everyone took things as matter of course.

Yet, however polite or gracious he might be to the queen during the
day, in the evening, he spoke not a word, and passed every night as at
the first.

The twelve months soon sped along, and now the time for the battle in
single combat between Powell and Hargan had fully come. The two
warriors met in the middle of a river ford, and backed their horses
for a charge. Then they rushed furiously at the other. Powell's spear
struck Hargan so hard, that he was knocked out of the saddle and
hurled, the length of a lance, over and beyond the crupper, or tail
strap of his horse. He fell mortally wounded upon the ground.

Now came the moment of danger and temptation to Powell, for Hargan
cried out:

"For the love of Heaven, finish your work on me. Slay me with your

But Powell was wise and his head was cool. He had kept in mind the
warning to strike only one blow. He called out loudly, so that all
could hear him:

"I will not repeat that. Slay thee who may, I shall not."

So Hargan, knowing his end had come, bade his nobles bear him away
from the river shore.

Then Powell, with his armies, overran the two kingdoms of Fairy Land
and made himself master of all. He took oath of all the princes and
nobles, who swore to be loyal to their new master.

This done, Powell rode away to the trysting place in a glen, and there
he met Arawn, as had been appointed. They changed shapes, and each
became himself, as he had been before.

Arawn thanked Powell heartily, and bade him see what he had done for

Then each one rode back, in his former likeness, to his kingdom.

Now at Anwyn, no one but Arawn himself knew that anything unusual had
taken place. After dinner, and the evening story telling were over,
and it was time to go to bed, Arawn's wife was surprised in double

Two things puzzled her. Her husband was now very tender to her and
also very talkative; whereas, for a whole year, every night, he had
been as silent and immovable as a log. How could it be, in either

But this time, the wife was silent as a statue. Even though Arawn
spoke to her three times, he received no reply.

Then he asked directly of her, why she was so silent. She made an
answer that, for a whole year, no word had been spoken in their

"What?" said he, "did we not talk together, as always before?"

"No," said she, "not for a year has there been talk or caress between

At this answer, Arawn was overcome with surprise, and as struck with
admiration at having so good a friend. He burst out first in praise of
Powell, and then told his wife all that had happened during the past
twelve months. She, too, was full of admiration, and told her husband
that in Powell he had certainly found a true friend.

In Dyfed, when Powell had returned to his own land and castle, he
called his lords together. Then he asked them to be perfectly frank
and free to speak. They must tell him whether they thought him a good
king during the year past.

All shouted in chorus of approval. Then their spokesman addressed
Powell thus:

"My lord, never was thy wisdom so great, thy generosity more free, nor
thy justice more manifest, than during the past year."

When he ceased, all the vassals showed their approval of this speech.

Then Powell, smiling, told the story of his adventures in exchanging
his form and tasks; at the end of which, the spokesman taking his cue
from the happy faces of all his fellow vassals, made reply:

"Of a truth, lord, we pray thee, do thou give thanks to Heaven that
thou hast formed such a fellowship. Please continue to us the form of
the kingdom and rule, that we have enjoyed for a year past."

Thereupon King Powell took oath, kissing the hilt of his sword, and
called on Heaven to witness his promise that he would do as they had

So the two kings confirmed the friendship they had made. Each sent the
other rich gifts of jewels, horses and hounds.

In memory of so wonderful and happy union, of a mortal and a fairy,
Powell was thereafter, in addition to all his titles, saluted as Lord
of Anwyn, which is only another name for the Land of the Fairies.