The Celtic Literature Collective

Lhuyd's Legends of Wales

THE following transcript has been made by me from the same manuscript that contains the legend of Llyn yr Afangc, published in your last Number. There are many very interesting notices in it relating to Welsh antiquities, obtained from traditional sources, such as the eminent writer so diligently collected with unceasing labour and perseverance.


Crigcaeth (or Cricciaeth, as it is usually called) is situated on the sea-coast near Aber y Traeth Mawr. This town was erected in the time of Brutus of the Blue Shield; and it has now not twenty houses, which are a very short way from the town itself (that is, the body of the town) which has been overwhelmed by the sea, no person remembering when the water came over it. To verify this, they say that often in the summer the walls may be seen in the sea. There is a considerable portion of the castle (situated on a conspicuous hill above the sea) still standing. But some doubt that this castle is not so old, because many a one that has been built (perhaps) a thousand years after it, and of stones better suited for a building, has now scarcely a stone upon stone remaining. Notwithstanding all this, some persons acknowledge that stone masons in former times were superior to those now-a-days; according to the old proverb, "worse and worse stone masons, better and better carpenters." And who can say that Sir Howel, who lived there, or some one before him, or, it may be, after him, did not restore the castle? I know, because I heard it as a veritable fact from the people of the town, that the castle exhibits such good workmanship, though it be of small stones, that no breach can be effected in it by an iron lever, but with great difficulty. It is not long since an iron arrow was found in the said castle, which is now in the possession of H., Bishop of Bangor.

The word Crigcaeth, in my opinion, means as much as straitened stones or rocks; because it is very difficult for any vessel (or ship) in the world to come to shore, that is, near the shore, so straitened is the landing place, between large stones and rocks. Some say that there is a wall in the sea reaching from Crigcaeth to Harlech, (beautiful on a slope); nor can anyone doubt but that there is something of the sort, if he notices the sea in that place; and I am not sure whether it is not the causeway which some call Sarn y bwch. We read in Latin books that the Welsh formerly made a causeway (that is, a wall) across the sea, over against Anglesey, to prevent the Romans from landing in that corner of the country, and to destroy them. It may be, perhaps, that this is Sara Badrig, since it is not very far from Anglesey, and is very dangerous to the most skilful sailors.

[The Hairy Man]
In Dab Siencin's cave were found the largest spit and cauldron that are in Gwaed ir (Gwedir, near Llanrwst). And in the hollow of the river lerch, at Nanhwynen, is the cave of the hairy man, who formerly came to Ty'n 'r Gwallt, (a little below the cave,) where a woman lay in her confinement, being alone in the house, for some of the family had gone to the church, (which was also close at hand, as you shall hear presently,) to have the child baptized, and the others were attending to something out of doors. The door, however, was shut, and he stretched his hairy hand over the door for the purpose of opening it; but when the woman saw this, she courageously cut off the hand with a hatchet; and when the people came home, they tracked the blood along the snow until they came to the cave, which to this day is called the cave of the hairy man. Near this place there was a church in old times; the foundation of the church is still to be seen; and the farm is hence called Havod y Llan. Near the church of Trawsvynydd is Tommen y Mur, or the court of Ednowain Bendew one of the fifteen tribes of North Wales.

[Llyn Dinas and Sir Owen Maxen]
On the banks of Llyn Dinas there are three graves, called the graves of the three youths, three men, or three soldiers (that is, the soldiers of Arthur), or the graves of the tall men ; and two graves, called the graves of the fiddler and his servant, or the graves of the black fiddler and his servant. And between Dinas and the lake is the grave of Sir Owen Maxen, who had been fighting against the giant with steel balls; there are depressions in the ground, where each stood, to be seen still. Others say that it was with arrows they fought, and that the depressions now seen were places that they dug to defend themselves. Neither of them, however, got over the affair. When the knight perceived that there was no hope of his living much longer, he was asked where he wished to be buried; he requested that an arrow should be shot skyward, and where it fell, that they should make his grave there.

[Trystan and Essyllt]
One of Arthur's soldiers, whose name was March (or Parch) y Meirchion, was the elder of Castellmarch in Lleyn. He had the ears of a horse (similar to Midas), and lest anyone should become aware of the circumstance he used to slay all whom he sought to shave his beard, for fear they should not be able to refrain from spreading the rumour about. And in the place where he buried them there grew reeds, and some person cut one of these to make a pipe, but the Eipe would emit no other strain than "Parch y Meirchion has the ears of a horse." When the soldier heard that, he would fain have killed the innocent man in consequence, had he himself not failed to produce any other lay on the pipe; but when he ascertained where the reed had grown, he did not attempt any longer to hide the murder or to conceal his ears. This man stole Essyllt, the wife of Trustan (or Trustan stole his wife, I am not sure which, but, however, it was not against her consent) and fled with her to the wood; and he came not within the grasp of those who were endeavouring to reconcile the two parties, saying, "It is easier to arbitrate from a wood than from a castle." But after long entreating him, he consented to abide by Arthur's decision, who gave judgment that one should have her as long as the leaves remained on the trees, and the other have her whilst the trees were without leaves, and that her husband should have the first choice, who chose to have her whilst there were no leaves on the trees. She joyfully answered,

"Blessed is Arthur's judgment, holly, ivy, and yew,
Will never lose their leaves so long as they live."

And her husband sang thus, or some one for him ; "

I had supposed, fair Esayllt, of benevolent mien,
Impetuous stream, advancing dawn, with golden hair,1 Worthy gift, that thou, comely lady,
Like a drift of snow, with thy fresh person,
Subject of song, worthy of great praise,
Wouldst not have proved so savage."

[Gwynen Chapel]
Three times was Gwynen Chapel founded, and according to the prophecy of Robin (or Davydd) Ddu, it is still, and always will be, unfinished, that is, unconsecrated.

[Havod Llwyvog]
Havod Llwyvog is so called, because there are elm trees there; but besides that name it has another name in poems, that is, Havod Lwyddog. The reason why trees are found at the bottom of lakes is, that trees were so thick in valleys formerly that it was impossible to traverse them, which was inconvenient in regard to the carriage of burdens, and many other things besides. Wherefore large oak trees were cut down, and thrown into the lakes. And some persons remember hearing it said, that so thick were the oaks that some used to cut them, and burn them on the ground, but probably they did not act thus when they could more easily cast them into lakes. This kingdom was formerly nothing but wilderness, as you know, and there are several places that have received their names from trees (in Wales).

At Nanhwynen trees were so thick that a man on a white horse could not be seen from Llyn y Dinas to Pen y Gwryd, except in two places, and one of these places has ever since been called Goleugoed. These were above the spot where the town of Nanhwynen was built. The path of Elen Lueddog is between Maen Gwynedd and Bwlch y Ddwylech on the Berwyn mountain, and is called the path of Elen's step. There is another path in the upper part of Festiniog, which comes over the pass of Carreg y Vran, and because it crosses the road it is called Croes ar Sarn; and it comes from Cwm Penammen, where it is called Ffordd Wneuthur, and it goes thence through Dolydd Elen, across Llyn Llygwy, and is called Sarn ar Vynydd, and it goes through the parish of Llan Rhychwyn, to Con way (Aber Cownen, because two reed grasses reached across the river in one place, where there is now a wide strand.) Elen came to Conway to Nant tal y Llyn, where Cidwm the giant from his castle killed her son with an arrow.

There is a house where he was buried, which is called Ty ym medd y Mab, and Ysgubor Evan (from this some suppose that his name was Evan). She came over Cadair yr Ychain (cadair aur wrychyn), where a causeway was made before her; thence she proceeded along the banks of Llyn Dinas, where her causeway is still seen, and from there through Nantmor, and over a pass (where occurred a battle between her and some one) since called Bwlch y Battel, and to a coombe where she first heard of her son's death. And after that inauspicious news she said Croesawr, which is the name of that coombe to this day. You know whence Beddgelert received its name.

There is a stone at Nanhwynen, where horses used to stumble formerly. To prevent this the Gospel was read upon it, which gave it the name of Llech yr Efengyl.


Williams' Notes

1. or "advancing dawn, fresh and wild," or "ruddy dawn with golden hair," or "wyllt" for "gwallt," if such a word is usual,