Thursday, June 6, 2013

Men Captured by Fairies


In the preceding legends, we have accounts of men capturing female Fairies, and marrying them.  It would be strange if the kidnapping were confined to one of the two races, but Folk-Lore tells us that the Fair Family were not innocent of actions similar to those of mortals, for many a man was snatched away by them, and carried off to their subterranean abodes, who, in course of time, married the fair daughters of the Tylwyth TêgMen captured Fairy ladies, but the Fairies captured handsome men.
The oldest written legend of this class is to be found in the pages of Giraldus Cambrensis, pp. 390-92, Bohn’s edition.  The Archdeacon made the tour of Wales in 1188; the legend therefore which he records can boast of a good old age, but the tale itself is older than The Itinerary through Wales, for the writer informs us that the priest Elidorus, who affirmed that he had been in the country of the Fairies, talked in his old age to David II., bishop of St. David, of the event.  Now David II. was promoted to the see of St. David in 1147, or, according to others, in 1149, and died A.D. 1176; therefore the legend had its origin before the last-mentioned date, and, if the priest were a very old man when he died, his tale would belong to the eleventh century.
With these prefatory remarks, I will give the legend as recorded by Giraldus.

1.  Elidorus and the Fairies.

“A short time before our days, a circumstance worthy of note occurred in these parts, which Elidorus, a priest, most strenuously affirmed had befallen to himself.
When a youth of twelve years, and learning his letters, since, as Solomon says, ‘The root of learning is bitter, although the fruit is sweet,’ in order to avoid the discipline p. 33and frequent stripes inflicted on him by his preceptor, he ran away and concealed himself under the hollow bank of the river.  After fasting in that situation for two days, two little men of pigmy stature appeared to him, saying, ‘If you will come with us, we will lead you into a country full of delights and sports.’  Assenting and rising up, he followed his guides through a path, at first subterraneous and dark, into a most beautiful country, adorned with rivers and meadows, woods and plains, but obscure, and not illuminated with the full light of the sun.  All the days were cloudy, and the nights extremely dark, on account of the absence of the moon and stars.  The boy was brought before the King, and introduced to him in the presence of the court; who, having examined him for a long time, delivered him to his son, who was then a boy.  These men were of the smallest stature, but very well proportioned in their make; they were all of a fair complexion, with luxuriant hair falling over their shoulders like that of women.  They had horses and greyhounds adapted to their size.  They neither ate flesh nor fish, but lived on milk diet, made up into messes with saffron.  They never took an oath, for they detested nothing so much as lies.  As often as they returned from our upper hemisphere, they reprobated our ambition, infidelities, and inconstancies; they had no form of public worship, being strict lovers and reverers, as it seemed, of truth.
The boy frequently returned to our hemisphere, sometimes by the way he had first gone, sometimes by another; at first in company with other persons, and afterwards alone, and made himself known only to his mother, declaring to her the manners, nature, and state of that people.  Being desired by her to bring a present of gold, with which that region abounded, he stole, while at play with the king’sp. 34son, the golden ball with which he used to divert himself, and brought it to his mother in great haste; and when he reached the door of his father’s house, but not unpursued, and was entering it in a great hurry, his foot stumbled on the threshold, and falling down into the room where his mother was sitting, the two pigmies seized the ball which had dropped from his hand and departed, showing the boy every mark of contempt and derision.  On recovering from his fall, confounded with shame, and execrating the evil counsel of his mother, he returned by the usual track to the subterraneous road, but found no appearance of any passage, though he searched for it on the banks of the river for nearly the space of a year.  But since those calamities are often alleviated by time, which reason cannot mitigate, and length of time alone blunts the edge of our afflictions and puts an end to many evils, the youth, having been brought back by his friends and mother, and restored to his right way of thinking, and to his learning, in process of time attained the rank of priesthood.
Whenever David II., Bishop of St. David’s, talked to him in his advanced state of life concerning this event, he could never relate the particulars without shedding tears.  He had made himself acquainted with the language of that nation, the words of which, in his younger days, he used to recite, which, as the bishop often had informed me, were very conformable to the Greek idiom.  When they asked for water, they said ‘Ydor ydorum,’ which meant ‘Bring water,’ for Ydor in their language, as well as in the Greek, signifies water, whence vessels for water are called Ãdriai; and Dwr, also in the British language signifies water.  When they wanted salt they said ‘Halgein ydorum,’ ‘Bring salt.’  Salt is called al in Greek, and Halen in British, for that language, from the length of time which the Britons (then called Trojans and p. 35afterwards Britons, from Brito, their leader) remained in Greece after the destruction of Troy, became, in many instances, similar to the Greek.”
This legend agrees in a remarkable degree with the popular opinion respecting Fairies.  It would almost appear to be the foundation of many subsequent tales that are current in Wales.
The priest’s testimony to Fairy temperance and love of truth, and their reprobation of ambition, infidelities, and inconstancies, notwithstanding that they had no form of public worship, and their abhorrence of theft intimate that they possessed virtues worthy of all praise.