Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Story of Gitto Bach

Craig-y-Ddinas in the Brecon Beacons is the location of some wonderful Faerie Tales - one of which I have come across with two alternate endings. I'll tell you them both and you can decide for yourself which one you like best.

Many years ago a young boy called Gitto Bach (little Griffith) would tend his fathers sheep on Craig-y-Ddinas. When he came home at the end of the day he'd often bring small pieces of bright white paper with letters on, about the size of a coin, which he said the faeries had given to him. 

One day he went out to play as usual but people started to worry when he didn't come home. All the people of the village tried to find him but with no success, though some children did find pieces of paper like those that Gitto Bach had shown them. Eventually they gave up looking.

Then two years later Gitto's mother heard a knock at her door. When she opened the door she saw her son looking just as he had the day he disappeared. Under his arm he held a parcel. When she asked where he'd been all that time, Gitto was surprised as he thought he had only been gone for a day (because faery time is different to our own). Then Gitto showed his mother the gift he had brought from the faeries. They opened the parcel to see the most beautiful clothes made out of the same white paper without a stitch in sight. His mother recognised these to be faerie clothes and threw them on the fire.

The other version tells us that Gitto Bach was given faerie money but sworn to secrecy. The money turned to paper after he told others where it was from.

But the story doesn't end there as the man who told this tale was interested in faeries himself and enlisted the help of a local gypsy in order to see them. She asked him to get a four leaved clover and nine grains of wheat which he should place on a book that she had given him, and one moonlit night they went up to the top of Craig-y-Ddinas. There the gypsy rubbed an ointment on the man's eyes and immediately he could see the faeries dressed all in white and dancing to the music of tiny harps. A moment later they curled up with their knees bent into their chests and rolled down the rock and vanished into the distance.

Craig-y-Ddinas (meaning Rock of the Fortress) is found where the County boundaries of Neath Port Talbot, Powys and Rhondda Cynon Taff meet and at the confluence of the Rivers Mellte and Sychryd.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Witch and the Changeling

There used to be a little old lady who lived in Ynys Geinon who many people believed to be a witch. Once a year she would go to the 'castle' and spend seven days, seven hours and seven minutes with the faeries deep inside the mountains. It was thought that she worked for them.

She was well known in the village as she would go from door to door wearing a long dark cloak and collecting alms. However her cloak wasn't just for warmth. When inside her neighbours houses she would offer to care for the child there by rocking the cradle, but as soon as the mother's back was turned she would swop the child in the cradle for the faerie child hiding under her cloak. It was said that the faeries paid her in gold as they favoured mortal children over their own.

The villagers always knew when a child was a changeling as faerie children were smaller than their own, and they became concerned about one little boy in particular when it was noticed that he wasn't growing as fast as he should. It was thought that this was the work of the old lady and that he was in fact a faerie child.

But then the old lady began to visit the house again, and for the next six days she helped bathe the little boy. Then on the seventh day she asked if she could take the little boy to a certain spring she knew, telling the mother that the waters had remarkable powers. Permission was granted, as they didn't believe the child to be one of their own, and the old lady led him away. She returned later that day having reversed her earlier swop, or so it was thought.

From that day on the boy grew so fast that he soon caught up with the other children. The mother swore a promise to the old lady to wash her son in cold water every day for 3 months, which she did. 

No-one really believed that it was the water which cured the boy of course - but if the old lady did infact visit a healing spring it is highly likely that it was the one pictured here. This is the spring at nearby Lower Cwmtwrch. This spring has been known for it's healing properties since before the 1870's when a local doctor had the water analyzed and it's therapeutic properties confirmed.