The Stray Cow, Fairies in Welsh folklore and mythology, a tale from Pennal Wales
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Category: Fairies
Sub Category: Fairy or Mythic Animals
Title: The Stray Cow


A shrewd old hill farmer (Thomas Abergroes by name), well skilled in the folk-lore of the district, informed me that, in years gone by, though when, exactly, he was too young to remember, those dames (Gwragedd Annwn) were wont to make their appearance, arrayed in green, in the neighbourhood of Llyn Barfog, chiefly at eventide, accompanied by their kine and hounds, and that, on quiet summer nights in particular, these ban-hounds were often to be heard in full cry, pursuing their prey—the souls of doomed men dying without baptism and penance—along the upland township of Cefnrhosucha. Many a farmer had a sight of their comely, milk-white kine; many a swain had his soul turned to romance and poesy by a sudden vision of themselves in the guise of damsels arrayed in green, and radiant in beauty and grace; and many a sportsman had his path crossed by their white hounds of supernatural fleetness and comeliness, the Cwn Annwn; but never had any one been favoured with more than a passing view of either, till an old farmer residing at Dyssyrnant, in the adjoining valley of Dyffryn Gwyn, became at last the lucky captor of one of their milk-white kine. The acquaintance which the Gwartheg y Llyn, the kine of the lake, had formed with the farmer’s cattle, like the loves of the angels for the daughters of men, became the means of capture; and the farmer was thereby enabled to add the mystic cow to his own herd, an event in all cases believed to be most conducive to the worldly prosperity of him who should make so fortunate an acquisition. Never was there such a cow, never were there such calves, never such milk and butter, or cheese; and the fame of the Fuwch Gyfeiliorn, the stray cow, was soon spread abroad through that central part of Wales known as the district of Rhwng y ddwy Afon, from the banks of the Mawddach to those of the Dofwy (Dovey)—from Aberdiswnwy to Abercorris. The farmer, from a small beginning, rapidly became, like Job, a man of substance, possessed of thriving herds of cattle—a very patriarch among the mountains. But, alas! wanting Job’s restraining grace, his wealth made him proud, his pride made him forget his obligation to the elfin cow, and fearing she might soon become too old to be profitable, he fattened her for the butcher, and then even she did not fail to distinguish herself, for a more monstrously fat beast was never seen. At last the day of slaughter came—an eventful day in the annals of a mountain farm—the killing of a fat cow, and such a monster of obesity. No wonder all the neighbours were gathered together to see the sight. The old farmer looked upon the preparations in self-pleased importance; the butcher felt he was about no common feat of his craft, and, baring his arm, he struck the blow—not now fatal, for before even a hair had been injured, his arm was paralysed, the knife dropped from his hand, and the whole company was electrified by a piercing cry that awakened an echo in a dozen hills, and made the welkin ring again; and lo and behold! the whole assemblage saw a female figure, clad in green, with uplifted arms, standing on one of the rocks overhanging Llyn Barfog, and heard her calling with a voice loud as thunder:—|‘Dere di velen Einion,Cyrn cyveiliorn—braith y Llyn, A’r voel Dodin,Codwch, dewch adre.’|‘Come thou Einion’s yellow one,Stray horns—speckled one of the Lake,And the hornless Dodin, Arise, come home.’|
And no sooner were these words of power uttered, than the original lake cow, and all her progeny to the third and fourth generations, were in full flight towards the heights of Llyn Barfog, as if pursued by the evil one. Self-interest quickly roused the farmer, who followed in pursuit, till, breathless and panting, he gained an eminence overlooking the lake, but with no better success than to behold the green-attired dame leisurely descending mid-lake, accompanied by the fugitive cows, and her calves formed in a circle around her; they tossed their tails, she waved her hands in scorn, as much as to say, ‘You may catch us, my friend, if you can,’ as they disappeared beneath the dark waters of the lake, leaving only the yellow water-lily to mark the spot where they vanished, and to perpetuate the memory of this strange event. Meanwhile, the farmer looked with rueful countenance upon the spot where the elfin herd disappeared, and had ample leisure to deplore the effects of his greediness, as with them also departed the prosperity which had hitherto attended him, and he became impoverished to a degree below his original circumstances, and in his altered circumstances few felt pity for one who, in the noontide flow of prosperity, had shown himself so far forgetful of favours received, as to purpose slaying his benefactor.”


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