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The Welsh Fairy Book
1907

by W. Jenkyn Thomas


Llyn Cwm Llwch

AT the foot of Pen y Fan, the principal peak of the Beacons of Brecon, is a lake called Llyn Cwm Llwch, overhung by frowning precipices, the home of croaking ravens, the only birds which will venture near the dark waters of the mere.

In very ancient times there was a door in a rock hard by, which opened once in each year - on May Day - and disclosed a passage leading to a small island in the centre of the lake. This island was, however, invisible to those who stood upon the shore. Those who ventured down the secret passage on May Day were most graciously received by the fairies inhabiting the island, whose beauty was only equalled by their courtesy to their guests. They entertained them with delicious fruits and exquisite music. and disclosed to them many events of the future. They laid down one condition only, and that was that none of the produce of the island was to be carried away, because the island was sacred.

It happened upon one of these annual visits that an evil visitor, when he was about to leave the island, put a flower in his pocket. His theft did him no good: as soon as he reached unhallowed ground his senses left him, and he was a jibbering idiot all the days of his life. Of this injury the fairies took no notice at the time. They dismissed the rest of their guests with their accustomed courtesy, and the door was closed as usual. But their resentment ran high. Those who went to pay them a visit on May Day the year after failed to find the door, and it has never been found from that day to this.

Some hundreds of years after, the inhabitants of the neighbourhood formed a plan of draining the lake to see whether the fairies had left any treasure at the bottom of it. They assembled at the lake one day in considerable numbers with spades and pickaxes, and set to work with such vigour that in a few hours they had dug a trench thirty yards in depth (the remains of it may still be seen). At last they had got so near the mere that it seemed as if another blow of the pickaxe would break through the bank and let out the water. Just as this blow was going to be given, just as the pickaxe was lifted up to complete the undertaking, a flash of lightning was seen which averted the blow; the sky became black, a loud peal of thunder rolled among the mountains, waking their thousand echoes, and all the workmen ran from the trench and stood in awe upon the brink of the lake. As the sound of the thunder died away, a sort of ripple was perceived on the face of the water, and the centre of the lake became violently agitated. From this boiling eddy was seen to arise a figure of gigantic stature, whose hair and beard were at least three yards in length. Standing nearly half out of the water, he addressed the workmen :

"If you disturb my peace,
Be warned that I will drown
The valley of the Usk,
Beginning with Brecon town."

He concluded by saying, "Remember the token of the cat," and then disappeared amidst a terrific storm of thunder and lightning.

When the wonder and fear had a little subsided, the people began to discuss the matter together. They could perfectly understand the warning, but they were much perplexed about the "token of the cat," which conveyed no meaning at all to them. At this point an old man of the name of Thomas Sion Rhydderch came forward and said he could explain the words. "When I was a young lad," he said, "I was tending some sheep on yonder mountain, and a woman, who had a very troublesome cat, asked me to take it with me one morning to drown it in this lake. When I arrived here, I took off my garter and with it tied a large stone to the cat's neck, and threw it into the water. The cat of course immediately sank out of sight. The next day I went in a boat on Llyn Syfaddon to fish. What should I see floating in the middle of the lake but the very cat which I had drowned in Llyn Cwm Llwch, with my garter around its body! I was much frightened, because the two lakes are miles apart and there is no stream flowing from the one to the other, and I have never mentioned it to a living soul until to-day."

From this they concluded that there is some mysterious connection between Llyn Syfaddon and Llyn Cwm Llwch, and that, though the latter is but small, yet if they attempted to drain it, the large lake would assist its little relative and avenge any injury done to it by discharging its vast body of water over the whole of the adjacent country. Accordingly they left the trench which they had dug unfinished and departed to their homes.


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