Read Celtic Fairy Tales Online
Authors: Joseph Jacobs
Claddwyd Cylart celfydd (ymlyniad)
Parod giuio i'w gynydd
Parai'r dydd yr heliai Hydd;
which he Englishes thus:
The remains of famed Cylart, so faithful and good,
The bounds of the cantred conceal;
Whenever the doe or the stag he pursued
His master was sure of a meal.
No reference was made in the first edition to the Gellert legend,
but in the second edition of 1794, p. 75, a note was added telling
the legend, "There is a general tradition in North Wales that a wolf
had entered the house of Prince Llewellyn. Soon after the Prince
returned home, and, going into the nursery, he met his dog
, all bloody and wagging his tail at him; Prince Llewellyn,
on entering the room found the cradle where his child lay
overturned, and the floor flowing with blood; imagining that the
greyhound had killed the child, he immediately drew his sword and
stabbed it; then, turning up the cradle, found under it the child
alive, and the wolf dead. This so grieved the Prince, that he
erected a tomb over his faithful dog's grave; where afterwards the
parish church was built and goes by that name—
or the grave of Kill-hart, in
. From this
incident is elicited a very common Welsh proverb
(that given above
which occurs also in 'The Fables of Cattwg;' it will be observed
that it is quite indefinite.)
" "Prince Llewellyn ab Jorwerth married
daughter of King John, by
of Robert Ferrers, Earl of Derby; and the dog was a present to
the prince from his father-in-law about the year 1205." It was
clearly from this note that the Hon. Mr. Spencer got his account;
oral tradition does not indulge in dates
application of the general legend of "the man who slew his
greyhound" to the dog Cylart, was due to the learning of E. Jones,
author of the
. I am convinced of this, for by
a lucky chance I am enabled to give the real legend about Cylart,
which is thus given in Carlisle's
Topographical Dictionary of
, s.v., "Bedd Celert," published in 1811, the date of
publication of Mr. Spencer's
. "Its name, according to
The Grave of Celert
, a Greyhound which
belonged to Llywelyn, the last Prince of Wales: and a large Rock is
still pointed out as the monument of this celebrated Dog, being on
the spot where it was found dead, together with the stag which it
had pursued from Carnarvon," which is thirteen miles distant. The
cairn was thus a monument of a "record" run of a greyhound: the
quoted by Jones is suitable enough for this, while
quite inadequate to record the later legendary exploits of Gêlert.
Jones found an
exploit of a dog named
Cylart, and chose to interpret it in his second edition, 1794, as
exploit of a greyhound with which all the world (in Wales) were
acquainted. Mr. Spencer took the legend from Jones (the reference
to the date 1205 proves that), enshrined it in his somewhat
verses, which were lucky enough to be copied into several reading-books,
and thus became known to all English-speaking folk.
It remains only to explain why Jones connected the legend with
Llewelyn. Llewelyn had local connection with Bedd Gellert, which was
the seat of an Augustinian abbey, one of the oldest in Wales. An
inspeximus of Edward I. given in Dugdale,
pr. ii. 100a, quotes as the earliest charter of the abbey "Cartam
Lewelin, magni." The name of the abbey was "Beth Kellarth"; the
name is thus given by Leland,
, and as late as 1794 an
engraving at the British Museum is entitled "Beth Kelert," while
Carlisle gives it as "Beth Celert." The place was thus named after
the abbey, not after the cairn or rock. This is confirmed by the
fact of which Prof. Rhys had informed me, that the collocation of
is un-Welsh. Under these circumstances it is not
impossible, I think, that the earlier legend of the marvellous run
of "Cylart" from Carnarvon was due to the etymologising fancy of
some English-speaking Welshman who interpreted the name as Killhart,
so that the simpler legend would be only a folk-etymology.
But whether Kellarth, Kelert, Cylart, Gêlert or Gellert ever existed
and ran a hart from Carnarvon to Bedd Gellert or no, there can be
little doubt after the preceding that he was not the original hero
of the fable of "the man that slew his greyhound," which came to
Wales from Buddhistic India through channels which are perfectly
traceable. It was Edward Jones who first raised him to that proud
position, and William Spencer who securely installed him there,
probably for all time. The legend is now firmly established at Bedd
Gellert. There is said to be an ancient air, "Bedd Gelert," "as sung
by the Ancient Britons"; it is given in a pamphlet published at
Carnarvon in the "fifties," entitled
Gellert's Grave; or,
Llewellyn's Rashness: a Ballad, by the Hon. W. R. Spencer, to which
is added that ancient Welsh air, "Bedd Gelert," as sung by the
. The air is from R. Roberts' "Collection of
Welsh Airs," but what connection it has with the legend I have been
unable to ascertain. This is probably another case of adapting one
tradition to another. It is almost impossible to distinguish
palaeozoic and cainozoic strata in oral tradition. According to
Guide to N. Wales
, p. 125, the only authority for
the cairn now shown is that of the landlord of the Goat Inn, "who
felt compelled by the cravings of tourists to invent a grave." Some
old men at Bedd Gellert, Prof. Rhys informs me, are ready to testify
that they saw the cairn laid. They might almost have been present at
the birth of the legend, which, if my affiliation of it is correct,
is not yet quite 100 years old.
XXII. STORY OF IVAN.
, 1707, the
first comparative Celtic grammar and the finest piece of work in
comparative philology hitherto done in England, contains this tale
as a specimen of Cornish then still spoken in Cornwall. I have used
the English version contained in
ago as May 1818. I have taken the third counsel from the Irish
version, as the original is not suited
though harmless enough in itself.
.—Lover has a tale,
The Three Advices
occurs also in modern Cornwall
Drolls of West of
, 344, "The Tinner of Chyamor." Borrow,
has a reference which seems to imply that the story had crystallised
into a Welsh proverb. Curiously enough, it forms the chief episode
of the so-called "Irish Odyssey" ("
Merugud Uilix maiec Leirtis
—"Wandering of Ulysses M'Laertes"). It was derived, in all probability,
, c. 103, where two of the three pieces
of advice are "Avoid a byeway," "Beware of a house where the
housewife is younger than her husband." It is likely enough that this
chapter, like others of the
, came from the East, for it is
found in some versions of "The Forty Viziers," and in the
(see Oesterley's parallels and
, ed. Swan and
Hooper, note 9).
XXIII. ANDREW COFFEY.
.—From the late D. W. Logie, written down by Mr.
.—Dr. Hyde's "Teig O'Kane and the Corpse," and
Kennedy's "Cauth Morrisy,"
, 158, are practically
.—No collection of Celtic Folk-Tales would be
representative that did not contain some specimen of the gruesome.
The most effective ghoul story in existence is Lover's "Brown Man."
XXIV. BATTLE OF BIRDS.
Pop. Tales, W. Highlands
, No. ii.),
with touches from the seventh variant and others, including the
casket and key finish, from Curtin's "Son of the King of Erin"
Myths, &c., 32 seq.
). I have also added a specimen of the
humorous end pieces added by Gaelic story-tellers; on these tags see
an interesting note in MacDougall's
, note on p. 112. I
have found some difficulty in dealing with Campbell's excessive use
of the second person singular, "If thou thouest him some two or
three times, 'tis well," but beyond that it is wearisome.
Practically, I have reserved
for the speech of giants,
who may be supposed to be somewhat old-fashioned. I fear, however, I
have not been quite consistent, though the
the apple-pips are grammatically correct as applied to the pair of
.—Besides the eight versions given or abstracted by
Campbell and Mr. Curtin's, there is Carleton's "Three Tasks," Dr.
Hyde's "Son of Branduf" (MS.); there is the First Tale of MacInnes
(where see Mr. Nutt's elaborate notes, 431-43), two in the
, vol. xii., "Grey Norris from Warland" (
i. 316), and Mr. Lang's Morayshire Tale, "Nicht Nought
Eng. Fairy Tales
, No. vii.), no less than
sixteen variants found among the Celts. It must have occurred early
among them. Mr. Nutt found the feather-thatch incident in the
Agallamh na Senoraib
("Discourse of Elders"), which is at
least as old as the fifteenth century. Yet the story is to be found
throughout the Indo-European world, as is shown by Prof. Köhler's
elaborate list of parallels attached to Mr. Lang's variant in
, iii. 374; and Mr. Lang, in his
("A far travelled Tale"), has given a number of parallels
from savage sources. And strangest of all, the story is practically
the same as the classical myth of Jason and Medea.
.—Mr. Nutt, in his discussion of the tale (MacInnes,
441), makes the interesting suggestion that the obstacles
to pursuit, the forest, the mountain, and the river, exactly represent
the boundary of the old Teutonic Hades, so that the story was
originally one of the Descent to Hell. Altogether it seems likely that
it is one of the oldest folk-tales in existence, and belonged to the
story-store of the original Aryans, whoever they were, was passed
by them with their language on to the Hellenes and perhaps to the
Indians, was developed in its modern form in Scandinavia (where
its best representative "The Master Maid" of Asbjörnsen is still found),
was passed by them to the Celts and possibly was transmitted by
these latter to other parts of Europe, perhaps by early Irish monks
(see notes on "Sea-Maiden"). The spread in the Buddhistic world,
and thence to the South Seas and Madagascar, would be secondary
from India. I hope to have another occasion for dealing with this
most interesting of all folk-tales in the detail it deserves.
XXV. BREWERY OF EGGSHELLS.
Cambrian Quarterly Magazine
vol. ii. p. 86; it is stated to be literally translated from the
.—Another variant from Glamorganshire is given in Y
Cymmrodor, vi. 209. Croker has the story under the title I have
given the Welsh one in his
, 41. Mr. Hartland,
Science of Fairy Tales
, 113-6, gives the European
XXVI. LAD WITH THE GOAT SKIN.
, pp. 23-31. The
Adventures of "Gilla na Chreck an Gour'."
.—"The Lad with the Skin Coverings" is a popular
MacDougall's Third Tale, MacInnes' Second,
and a reference in Campbell, iii. 147. According to Mr. Nutt
, 134), he is the original of Parzival. But the
adventures in these tales are not the "cure by laughing" incident
which forms the centre of our tale, and is Indo-European in extent
English Fairy Tales
, notes to No. xxvii.).
"The smith who made hell too hot for him is Sisyphus," says Mr.
Lang (Introd. to Grimm, p. xiii.); in Ireland he is Billy Dawson
). In the Finn-Saga, Conan harries
hell, as readers of
may remember "'Claw for claw,
and devil take the shortest nails,' as Conan said to the Devil"
, 73, and notes, 283). Red-haired
men in Ireland and elsewhere are always rogues (see Mr. Nutt's
, 477; to which add the case
in "Lough Neagh," Yeats,
, p. 210).