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Welsh Folklore and Fairytales
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Welsh Folk Tales

Though their land has been many times invaded, the Welsh have never
been conquered. Powerful tribes, like the Romans, Saxons and Normans,
have tried to overwhelm them. Even when English and German kings
attempted to crush their spirit and blot out their language and
literature, the Welsh resisted and won victory.

Among the bullies that tried force, instead of justice, and played the
slave-driver, rather than the Good Samaritan's way, were the Normans.
These brutal fellows, when they thought that they had overrun Wales
with their armies, began to build strong castles all over the country.
They kept armed men by the thousands ready, night and day, to rush out
and put to death anybody and everybody who had a weapon in his hand.
Often they burned whole villages. They killed so many Welsh people
that it seemed at times as if they expected to empty the land of its
inhabitants. Thus, they hoped to possess all the acres for themselves.
They talked as if there were no people so refined and so cultured as
they were, while the natives, good and bad, were lumped together as
"the Welshery."

Yet all this time, with these hundreds of strong castles, bristling
with turrets and towers, no Englishman's life was safe. If he dared to
go out alone, even twenty rods from the castle, he was instantly
killed by some angry Welshman lying in ambush. So the Normans had to
lock themselves up in armor, until they looked like lobsters in their
shells. When on their iron-clad horses they resembled turtles, so that
if a knight fell off, he had to be chopped open to be rid of his metal

Yet all this was in vain, for when the Norman marched out in bodies,
or rode in squadrons, the Welshery kept away and were hidden.

Even the birds and beasts noticed this, and saw what fools the Normans
were, to behave so brutally.

As for the fairies, they met together to see what could be done. Even
the reptiles shamed men by living together more peaceably. Only the
beasts of prey approved of the Norman way of treating the Welsh

At last, it came to pass that, after the long War of the Roses, when
the Reds and the Whites had fought together, a Welsh king sat upon the
throne of England. Henry VIII was of Cymric ancestry. His full name
was Henry Tudor; or, in English, Henry Theodore.

Among the Welsh, every son, to his own name as a child, such as Henry,
William, Thomas, etc., added that of his father. Thus it happens that
we can usually tell a man by his name; for example, Richards, Roberts,
Evans, Jones, etc., etc., that he is a Welshman.

When a Welshman went into England to live, if he were a sister's son,
he usually added a syllable showing this, as in the case of Jefferson,
which means sister's son. Our great Thomas Jefferson used to boast
that he could talk Welsh.

So the living creatures of all sorts in Wales, human beings, fairies,
and animals took heart and plucked up courage, when a Tudor king,
Henry VIII, sat on the throne.

Now it was Puck who led the fairies as the great peacemaker. He went
first to visit all the most ancient creatures, in order to find out
who should be offered the post of honor, as ambassador, who should be
sent to the great king in London, Henry Tudor, to see what could be
done for Wales.

First he called on the male eagle, oldest of all birds. Though not
bald-headed, like his American cousin, the Welsh eagle was very old,
and at that time a widower. Although he had been father to nine
generations of eaglets, he sent Puck to the stag.

This splendid creature, with magnificent antlers, lived at the edge of
the forest, near the trunk of an oak tree. It was still standing, but
was now a mere shell. Old men said that the children of the aborigines
played under it, and here was the home of the god of lightning, which
they worshiped.

So to the withered oak, Puck went, and offered him the honor of
leadership to an embassy to the King.

But the stag answered and said:

"Well do I remember when an acorn fell from the top of the parent oak.
Then, for three hundred years it was growing. Children played under
it. They gathered acorns in their aprons, and the archers made bows
from its boughs.

"Then the oak tree began to die, and, during nearly thirty tens of
years it has been fading, and I have seen it all.

"Yet there is one older than I. It is the salmon that swims in the
Llyn stream. Inquire there."

So of the old mother salmon, Puck went to ask, and this was the answer
which he received.

"Count all the spots on my body, and all the eggs in my roe--one for
each year. Yet the blackbird is older even than I. Go listen to her
story. She excels me, in both talk and fact."

And the blackbird opened its orange-colored bill, and answered

"Do you see this flinty rock, on which I am sitting? Once it was so
huge that three hundred yoke of oxen could hardly move it. Yet, today,
it hardly more than affords me room to roost on.

"What made it so small, do you ask?

"Well, all I have clone to wear it away, has been to wipe my beak on
it, every night, before I go to sleep, and in the morning to brush it
with the tips of my wing."

Even Puck, fairy though he was, was astonished at this. But the
blackbird added:

"Go to the toad, that blinks its eye under the big rock yonder. His
age is greater than mine."

The toad was half asleep when Puck came, but it opened with alertness,
its beautiful round bright eyes, set in a rim of gold. Then Puck asked
the question: "Oh, thou that carriest a jewel in thy head, are there
any things alive that are older than thou art?"

"That, I could not be sure of, especially if as many false things are
told about them, as are told about me; but when I was a tadpole in the
pond, that old hag of an owl was still hooting away, in the treetops,
scaring children, as in ages gone. She is older than I. Go and see
her. If age makes wise, she is the wisest of all."

Puck went into the forest, but at first saw no bird answering to the
description given him.

He said to himself, "She is, I wonder, who?"

He was surprised to hear his question repeated, not as an echo, but by
another. Still, he thought it might possibly be his own voice come

So, in making a catalogue, in his note book, of what he had seen and
heard that day, he put down, "To wit--one echo."

Again came the sound:

"To whit--to who, to whit--to who?" Sounded the voice.

Thinking that this was intended to be a polite question, Puck looked
up. Sure enough, there was the wise bird sitting on a bough, above
him, as sober as a judge.

"Who! did you ask?" answered Puck and then went on to explain:

"I am Lord of the Fairies in Welshery, and I seek to know which is the
most venerable, of all the creatures in the Land of the Red Dragon.

"I am ready to salute you, as the most ancient and honorable of all
living things in the Cymric realm. You are desired to bear a message
to the Great King, in London."

Tickled by such delicate flattery, and the honors proffered her, this
lady owl, after much blinking and winking, flirting, and fluttering,
at last agreed to go to King Henry VIII in London. The business, with
which she was charged, was to protest against Norman brutality and to
plead for justice.

Now this old lady-owl, gray with centuries, though she had such short
ears, kept them open by day and during the night, also, for all the
gossip that floated in the air. She knew all about everybody and
everything. From what she had heard, she expected to find the new
King, Henry VIII, a royal fellow in velvet, with a crown on his head,
and his body as big and round as a hogshead, sitting in a room full of
chopping blocks and battle axes. Further, she fancied she would find a
dozen pretty women locked up in his palace, some in the cellar, others
in the pantry, and more in the garret; but all waiting to have their
heads chopped off.

For the popular story ran that his chief amusement was to marry a wife
one day and slice off her head the next.

It was said also that the King kept a private graveyard, and took a
walk in it every afternoon to study the epitaphs, which he kept a
scholar busy in writing; and also a man, from the marble yard near by,
to chisel them on the tombs, after his various wives had been properly

But the owl never could find out whether these fables were wicked
fibs, or fairy tales, or only street talk.

Puck and the owl together arrived in London, at the palace, when the
King was at his dinner. The butlers and lackeys wanted to keep them
out, but the merry monarch gave orders to let them in at once. He made
the owl perch over the mantel piece, but told Puck to stand upon the
dinner table and walk over the tablecloth. The pepper box was put
away, so that he should not sneeze and the King carefully removed the
mustard pot, for fear the little fairy fellow might fall in it and be
drowned in the hot stuff.

His Majesty said that, for the time being, Puck should be the Prince
of Wales. Puck strutted about to the amusement of the King and all the
Court ladies, but he kept away from the pepper, which made his nose
tingle, and from the hot soup, for fear he might tumble into it and be
scalded. When the dessert came on, Puck hid himself under a walnut
shell, just for fun.

It would take too long to tell about all that was said, or the
questions, which the King asked about his Welsh subjects, and which
either the owl or the fairy man answered. According to Puck's story,
Wales was then a most distressful country, though the Welshery, to a
man, wanted to be good and loyal subjects of the Tudors.

Several times did Puck appeal to the owl, to have his story confirmed,
because this wise bird had lived among the Cymry, centuries before the
Normans came. The owl every time blinked, bowed, and answered

"To whit, to who. To whit, to who," which in this case showed that she
had learned to speak the Court language.

"Why, bless my soul, the owl speaks good Cockney Hinglish," whispered
one of the butlers, who had been born in Wales.

"Yes, but that is the proper way to address His Majesty, King Ennery
the Heighth," answered the other butler, who was a native-born

Puck and the owl returned to Wales. What happened after that, is the A
B C of history, that everybody knows, and for which all the Welsh
people to this day bless the Tudors, who made the Welsh equal before
the law with any and all Englishmen. Even Puck himself had never seen
anything like the change that quickly took place for the better, nor
did Queen Mab, with her wand, ever work such wonders.

It was better than a fairy tale, and the effects, very soon seen, were
even more wonderful. Down went the castles into ruins, for rats to run
around in, and wild dogs to yelp and foxes to hide in, or look out of
the casements. To-day, what were once banqueting halls are covered
with moss, and on the ground grass grows, over which sheep graze and
children play; while rooks and crows nest or roost in the tall towers.

Any Englishman's life was safe anywhere, and Wales became one of the
most easily governed countries in all the wonderful British Empire.

And in the great world-war, that even children, who read these
stories, can remember, Wales, the Land of the Free, the Home of
Deathless Democracy, led all the British Isles, colonies, islands, or
coaling stations around the wide world, in loyalty, valor and
sacrifice. And the handsome son of the King, George, the Prince of
Wales, led the descendants of Welsh archers, now called the Fusileers.
They went into battle, singing, "Old Land our Fathers before us held
so dear"; or they marched, following the band that played "The Men of

It is because Welsh cherish their traditions, harps, music, language
and noble inheritances, with which they feed their souls, that they
lead the four nations of the British Isles in the nobler virtues, that
keep a nation alive, as well as in the sweet humanities of the Red
Cross and in generous hospitality to the refugee Belgian. True to his
motto, "I serve," the Prince of Wales who came to see us in 1919--as
did his grandfather, whom the story-teller saw when he visited our
Independence Hall in 1860--loved to be the servant of his people.

What was it that wrought this peaceful wonder of the sixteenth
century? Was it a fairy spell magic ointment, star-tipped wand,
treasures of caves, or ocean depths? Was it anything that dragons,
giants, ogres, or even swords, spears, catapults, or whips and clubs,
or elves or gnomes could do?

Not a bit of it! Only justice and kindness, instead of brutality and