Pentrefoelas Myths, Legends and Folklore
Myths, folktales and legends abound in the village of Pentrefoelas, Conwy, in North Wales and one such tale known as the Pentrefoelas Legend tells how a shepherd came across a girl in distress upon a hillside while he was tending his flocks. The girl was like no other he had ever seen in his life and in his earnest attempt to comfort her he fell in love with her and she with him. Although the girl was not from earth they married and had children and lived a happy life. Sadly their happiness was shattered by a freak accident that broke a promise the shepherd had made to his wife’s father. This meant she had to return to the Otherworld where she came from and they were parted forever. The story describes one of the few examples of the interbreeding of mortals with the inhabitants of the Otherworld and the descendants of the couple are still said to live among humans today. The following is a rewrite of that tale.
The Pentrefoelas Legend
One misty morning, shepherd from Hafod-y-garreg was out in the pastures looking after the flock of sheep owned by his father . It was not a particularly demanding task and his mind wandered as he looked around for something to engage his interest for a while. His eye fell upon a peat-stack and as he looked he saw a girl sat besides it who appeared to be crying her eyes out. Disturbed by the apparent distress of the girl he approached quietly and gently trying not to alarm her to see if there was something he could do to help.
Words of Love
As he drew nearer he was smitten by the beauty of the girl. Never in his life had he seen a damsel so beautiful as she and to see her sobbing tugged at the strings of his heart. Gently and quietly he began speaking words of love to her and she seemed to respond favorably stopping her tears. Suddenly, an old man who was her father appeared out of nowhere beckoning authoritatively to her to follow him. The girl unquestionably obliged and went off with him leaving the shepherd alone on the hillside with the sheep. The shepherd could not get the girl out of his mind and remained on the hillside until evening hoping she would return but she did not and eventually he went home as darkness fell.
The Girl from the Otherworld
The shepherd returned to the hillside every evening in the hope of seeing the girl again but she did not appear and he grew despondent, fearing he would never see her again. He did not realize that in the Otherworld the girl was thinking about him. She had been quite taken by his kindness and the words of love he had spoken had found a place in her heart and she now planned to return to earth to see the young man. When the time was right she slipped away from her home her father and returned to the hillside on earth hoping to meet with the young man. When she arrived on Earth she found the shepherd waiting on the hillside and made herself known to him. He was overjoyed and poured out his feelings to her and she to him and the two began a loving relationship.
Meanwhile in the Otherworld her father had missed his daughter and was seeking her out but could not find her anywhere. Remembering the incident when he had found her with the shepherd on the hillside he made his way to earth and appeared on the hillside next to the two lovers. Although he was pleased to find his wayward daughter he was not happy that the two had fell in love and began demanding she return home to the Otherworld with him
The Marriage Contract
The shepherd told the girl’s father that he loved his daughter and wanted to marry her. He begged and pleaded so much that eventually the old man turned to his daughter and asked, “Is it really your wish to marry this mortal man from earth?”
His daughter told him that she did with all her heart. The old man then replied, “Very well, I give my consent. You shall be married but should he ever strike with iron then the marriage shall immediately cease and you must return to live in the Otherworld forever!”
Now, the shepherd was not a violent or argumentative man and could not believe he would ever find reason to strike the girl he loved. The girl was so taken by the young man and his words of love she also could not believe such a thing could happen and readily agreed. The two were married and her father gave them a large bag of gold as a wedding gift.
A Happy Marriage
They had a very happy marriage for several years and were blessed with children one after the other. One day the couple decide they wanted to catch several ponies which at the time were living wild on the nearby hills. Although both ran after them and tried several ways to trap them all attempts failed and the man grew frustrated. In his frustration he threw the bridle way but as it flew passed his wife the iron bit struck her striking her shoulder.
The Broken Contract
They both froze and stood dumbstruck looking at each other with tears in their eyes. They knew instantly that their marriage contract had been broken and her father appeared with a troop of the Fair Folk and led his daughter away. As they faded from sight the devastated shepherd sadly turned away and went home to his children. He never saw his beloved wife again, but much of the gold her father had given him still remained and he had his children whom he adored. They all bore a striking resemblance to their mother and became his only comfort through the long lonely years without her. To this day the descendants of this couple can sometimes be seen here and there, recognizable by the faraway look in their eyes.
© 11/04/2017 zteve t evans
References, Attributions and Further Reading
Copyright April 11th, 2017 zteve t evans
- The Pentrefoelas Legend, Welsh Folklore Myths and Legends
- Legends of the Lakes of Wales: Thematic Classification and Analysis – By Carles-Enric Fernandez
- Welsh Folk-Lore a Collection of the Folk-Tales and Legends
- Welsh folk-lore: a collection of the folk-tales and legends of North Wales; being the prize essay of the national Eisteddfod, 1887“
- File:Adrian Ludwig Richter 002.jpg From Wikimedia Commons – Auf Bergeshöhe – By Adrian Ludwig Richter (1803 – 1884) – Public Domain