Dogs of Hell, Cwn Annwn, Fairies in Welsh folklore and mythology, a tale from Kerry Wales
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Category: Fairies
Sub Category: Fairy or Mythic Animals
Title: Dogs of Hell, Cwn Annwn


It was once firmly and generally believed, that these awful creatures could be heard of a wild stormy night in full cry pursuing the souls of the unbaptized and unshriven. |Mr. Chapman, Dolfor, near Newtown, Montgomeryshire, writes to me thus:—|"These mysterious animals are never seen, only heard. A whole pack were recently heard on the borders of Radnorshire and Montgomeryshire. They went from the Kerry hills towards the Llanbadarn road, and a funeral quickly followed the same route. The sound was similar to that made by a pack of hounds in full cry, but softer in tone."|The words Cwn Annwn are variously translated as Dogs of Hell, Dogs of Elfinland. In some parts of Wales they are called Cwn Wybir, Dogs of the Sky, and in other places Cwn Bendith Y Mamau. We have seen that “Bendith y Mamau” is a name given to the Fairies, and in this way these dogs become Fairy Dogs.|A description of these Fairy dogs is given in Y Brython, vol. iii p. 22. Briefly stated it is as follows:—Cwn Bendith y Mamau were a pack of small hounds, headed by a large dog. Their howl was something terrible to listen to, and it foretold death. At their approach all other dogs ceased barking, and fled before them in terror, taking refuge in their kennels. The birds of the air stopped singing in the groves when they heard their cry, and even the owl was silent when they were near. The laugh of the young, and the talk at the fireside were hushed when the dreadful howl of these Hell hounds was heard, and pale and trembling with fear the inmates crowded together for mutual protection. And what was worse than all, these dogs often foretold a death in some particular family in the neighbourhood where they appeared, and should a member of this family be in a public-house, or other place of amusement, his fright would be so great that he could not move, believing that already had death seized upon some one in his house.|The Fairy dogs howled more at Cross-roads, and such like public places, than elsewhere. And woe betide any one who stood in their way, for they bit them, and were likely even to drag a man away with them, and their bite was often fatal. They collected together in huge numbers in the churchyard where the person whose death they announced was to be buried, and, howling around the place that was to be his grave, disappeared on that very spot, sinking there into the earth, and afterwards they were not to be seen.|A somewhat different description of Cwn Annwn is given in the Cambro-Briton, vol. i., p. 350. Here we are told that “these terrific animals are supposed to be devils under the semblance of hunting dogs . . . and they are usually accompanied by fire in some form or other. Their appearance is supposed to indicate the death of some friend or relative of the person to whom they shew themselves. They have never been known to commit any mischief on the persons of either man or woman, goat, sheep, or cow, etc.”|In Motley’s Tales of the Cymry, p. 58, that author says:—“I have met with but a few old people who still cherished a belief in these infernal hounds which were supposed after death to hunt the souls of the wretched to their allotted place of torment.”


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