of the Lake
From "The Welsh Fairy Book"
Jenkyn Thomas 
up in a hollow of the Black Mountains of South
Wales is a lonely sheet of water called Llyn y
In a farm not far from this lake there lived in
the olden time a widow, with an only son whose
name was Gwyn. When this son grew up, he was often
sent by his mother to look after the cattle grazing.
The place where the sweetest food was to be found
was near the lake, and it was thither that the
mild-eyed beasts wandered whenever they had their
will. One day when Gwyn was walking along the
banks of the mere, watching the kine cropping
the short grass, he was astonished to see a lady
standing in the clear smooth water, some distance
from the land.
She was the most beautiful creature that he had
ever set eyes upon, and she was combing her long
hair with a golden comb, the unruffled surface
of the lake serving her as a mirror.
He stood on the brink, gazing fixedly at the maiden,
and straightway knew that he loved her. As he
gazed, he unconsciously held out to her the barley-bread
and cheese which his mother had given him before
he left home. The lady gradually glided towards
him, but shook her head as he continued to hold
out his hand, and saying:
Nid hawdd fy nala,
thou of the crimped bread,
It is not easy to catch me,
she dived under the water, and disappeared from
He went home, full of sorrow, and told his mother
of the beautiful vision which he had seen. As
they pondered over the strange words used by the
mysterious lady before she plunged out of sight,
they came to the conclusion that there must have
been some spell connected with the hard-baked
bread, and the mother advised her son to take
with him some "toes," or unbaked dough, when next
he went to the lake.
Next morning, long before the sun appeared above
the crest of the mountain, Gwyn was by the lake
with the dough in his hand, anxiously waiting
for the Lady of the Lake to appear above the surface.
The sun rose, scattering with his powerful beams
the mists which veiled the high ridges around,
and mounted high in the heavens. Hour after hour
the youth watched the waters, but hour after hour
there was nothing to be seen except the ripples
raised by the breeze and the sunbeams dancing
upon them. By the late afternoon despair had crept
over the watcher, and he was on the point of turning
his footsteps homeward when to his intense delight
the lady again appeared above the sunlit ripples.
She seemed even more beautiful than before, and
Gwyn, forgetting in admiration of her fairness
all that he had carefully prepared to say, could
only hold out his hand, offering to her the dough.
She refused the gift with a shake of the head
as before, adding the words:
Ti ni fynna.
|| O thou of the moist bread,
I will not have thee.
Then she vanished under the water, but before
she sank out of sight, she smiled upon the youth
so sweetly and so graciously that his heart became
fuller than ever of love. As he walked home slowly
and sadly, the remembrance of her smile consoled
him and awakened the hope that when next she appeared
she would not refuse his gift. He told his mother
what had happened, and she advised him, inasmuch
as the lady had refused both hard-baked and unbaked
bread, to take with him next time bread that was
That night he did not sleep a wink, and long before
the first twilight he was walking the margin of
the lake with half-baked bread in his hand, watching
its smooth surface even more impatiently than
the day before.
The sun rose and the rain came, but the youth.
heeded nothing as he eagerly strained his gaze
over the water. Morning wore to afternoon, and
afternoon to evening, but nothing met the eyes
of the anxious watcher but the waves and the myriad
dimples made in them by the rain.
The shades of night began to fall, and Gwyn was
about to depart in sore disappointment, when,
casting a last farewell look over the lake, he
beheld some cows walking on its surface. The sight
of these beasts made him hope that they would
be followed by the Lady of the Lake, and, sure
enough, before long the maiden emerged from the
water. She seemed lovelier than ever, and Gwyn
was almost beside himself with joy at her appearance.
His rapture increased when he saw that she was
gradually approaching the land, and he rushed
into the water to meet her, holding out the half-baked
bread in his hand. She, smiling, took his gift,
and allowed him to lead her to dry land. Her beauty
dazzled him, and for some time he could do nothing
but gaze upon her. And as he gazed upon her he
saw that the sandal on her right foot was tied
in a peculiar manner. She smiled so graciously
upon him that he at last recovered his speech
and said, "Lady, I love you more than all the
world besides and want you to be my wife."
She would not consent at first. He pleaded, however,
so earnestly that she at last promised to be his
bride, but only on the following condition. "I
will wed you," she said, "and I will live with
you until I receive from you three blows without
a cause--tri ergyd diachos. When you strike me
the third causeless blow I will leave you for
He was protesting that he would rather cut off
his hand than employ it in such a way, when she
suddenly darted from him and dived into the lake.
His grief and disappointment was so sore that
he determined to put an end to his life by casting
himself headlong into the deepest water of the
lake. He rushed to the top of a great rock overhanging
the water, and was on the point of jumping in
when he heard a loud voice saying, "Forbear, rash
youth, and come hither."
He turned and beheld on the shore of the lake
some distance from the rock a hoary-headed old
man of majestic mien, accompanied by two maidens.
He descended from the rock in fear and trembling,
and the old man addressed him in comforting accents.
thou wishest to wed one of these my daughters.
I will consent to the union if thou wilt point
out to me the one thou lovest."
Gwyn gazed upon the two maidens, but they were
so exactly similar in stature, apparel and beauty
that he could not see the slightest difference
between them. They were such perfect counterparts
of each other that it seemed quite impossible
to say which of them had promised to be his bride,
and the thought that if perchance he fixed upon
the wrong one all would be for ever lost nearly
drove him to distraction. He was almost giving
up the task in despair when one of the two maidens
very quietly thrust her foot slightly forward.
The motion, simple as it was, did not escape the
attention of the youth, and looking down he saw
the peculiar shoe-tie which he had observed on
the sandal of the maiden who had accepted his
half-baked bread. He went forward and boldly took
hold of her hand.
hast chosen rightly," said the old man, "be to
her a kind and loving husband, and I will give
her as a dowry as many sheep, cattle; goats, swine
and horses as she can count of each without drawing
in her breath. But remember, if thou strikest
her three causeless blows, she shall return to
Gwyn was overjoyed, and again protested that he
would rather lop off all his limbs than do such
a thing. The old man smiled, and turning to his
daughter desired her to count the number of sheep
she wished to have. She began to count by fives--one,
two, three, four, five--one, two, three, four,
five--one, two, three, four, five--as many times
as she could until her breath was exhausted. In
an instant as many sheep as she had counted emerged
from the water. Then the father asked her to count
the cattle she desired. One, two, three, four,
five--one, two, three, four, five--one, two, three,
four, five--she went on counting until she had
to draw in her breath again. Without delay, black
cattle to the number she had been able to reach
came, lowing out of the mere. In the same way
she counted the goats, swine and horses she wanted,
and the full tale of each kind ranged themselves
alongside the sheep and cattle. Then the old man
and his other daughter vanished.
The Lady of the Lake and Gwyn were married amid
great rejoicing, and took up their home at a farm
named Esgair Llaethdy, where they lived for many
years. They were as happy as happy can be, everything
prospered with them, and three sons were born
When the eldest boy was seven years old, there
was a wedding some distance away, to which Nelferch--for
that was the name the Lady of the Lake gave herself--and
her husband were specially invited. When the day
came, the two started and were walking through
a field in which some of their horses were grazing,
when Nelferch said that the distance was too great
for her to walk and she would rather not go. "We
must go," said her husband, "and if you do not
like to walk, you can ride one of these horses.
Do you catch one of them while I go back to the
house for the saddle and bridle."
will," she said. "At the same time bring me my
gloves. I have forgotten them--they are on the
He went back to the house, and when he returned
with the saddle and bridle and gloves, he found
to his surprise that she had not stirred from
the spot where he had left her. Pointing to the
horses, he playfully flicked her with the gloves
and said, "Go, go (dos, dos)."
is the first causeless blow," she said with a
sigh, and reminded him of the condition upon which
she had married him, a condition which he had
Many years after, they were both at a christening.
When all the guests were full of mirth and hilarity,
Nelferch suddenly burst into tears and sobbed
piteously. Gwyn tapped her on the shoulder and
asked her why she wept. "I weep," she said, "because
this poor innocent babe is so weak and frail that
it will have no joy in this world. Pain and suffering
will fill all the days of its brief stay on earth,
and in the agony of torture will it depart this
life. And, husband, thou hast struck me the second
After this, Gwyn was on his guard day and night
not to do anything which could be regarded as
a breach of their marriage covenant. He was so
happy in the love of Nellerch and his children
that he knew his heart would break if through
some accident he gave the last and only blow which
would take his dear wife from him. Some time after,
the babe whose christening they had attended,
after a short life of pain and suffering, died
in agony, as Nelferch had foretold. Gwyn and the
Lady of the Lake went to the funeral, and in the
midst of the mourning and grief, Nelferch laughed
merrily, causing all to stare at her in astonishment.
Her husband was so shocked at her high spirits
on so sad an occasion, that he touched her, saying,
"Hush, wife, why dost thou laugh?"
laugh," she replied, "because the poor babe is
at last happy and free from pain and suffering."
Then rising she said, "The last blow has been
She started off immediately towards Esgair Llaethdy,
and when she arrived home, she called her cattle
and other stock together, each by name. The cattle
she called thus:
Mu olfrech, gwynfrech,
Pedair cae tonn-frech,
Yr hen wynebwen,
A'r las Geigen,
Gyda'r tarw gwyn
O lys y Brenin,
A'r llo du bach,
Sydd ar y bach,
Dere dithe, yn iach adre!
cow, bold freckled,
Spotted cow, white speckled;
Ye four field sward mottled.
The old white-faced,
And the grey Geigen
With the white bull
From the court of the King,
And thou little black calf,
Suspended on the hook,
Come thou also, whole again, home.
They all immediately obeyed the summons of their
mistress. The little black calf, although it had
been killed, came to life again, and descending
from the hook, walked off with the rest of the
cattle, sheep, goats, swine and horses at the
command of the Lady of the Lake.
It was the spring of the year, and there were
four oxen ploughing in one of the fields. To these
pedwar eidion glas,
Sydd ar y ma's,
Yn iach adre!
four grey oxen,
That are on the field,
Come you also
Whole and well home!
Away went the whole of the live stock with the
Lady across the mountain to the lake from whence
they had come, and disappeared beneath its waters.
The only trace they left was the furrow made by
the plough which the oxen drew after them into
the lake; this remains to this day.
Gwyn's heart was broken. He followed his wife
to the lake, crushed with woe, and put an end
to his misery by plunging into the depths of the
cold water. The three sons distracted with grief,
almost followed their father's example, and spent
most of their days wandering about the lake in
the hope of seeing their lost mother once more.
Their love was at last rewarded, for one day Nelferch
appeared suddenly to them.
She told them that their mission on earth was
to relieve the pain and misery of mankind. She
took them to a place which is still called the
Physician's Dingle (Pant y Meddygon), where she
showed them the virtues of the plants and herbs
which grew there, and taught them the art of healing.
Profiting by their mother's instruction, they
became the most skilful physicians in the land.
Rhys Grug, Lord of Llandovery and Dynevor Castles,
gave them rank, lands and privileges at Myddfai
for their maintenance in the practice of their
art and for the healing and benefit of those who
should seek their help. The fame of the Physicians
of Myddfai was established' over the whole of
Wales, and continued for centuries among their
Lady of the Lake - From "The Welsh Fairy
Book" © W. Jenkyn Thomas