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From welsh fairy tales by william griffis.
Age Rating 8 plus.
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Start of Story
In the ancient Cymric gatherings, the Druids, poets, prophets, seers,
and singers all had part. The one most honored as the president of the
meeting was crowned and garlanded. Then he was led in honor and sat in
the chair of state. They called this great occasion an Eistedfodd, or
sitting, after the Cymric word, meaning a chair.
All over the world, the Welsh folks, who do so passionately love
music, poetry and their own grand language, hold the Eistedfodd at
regular intervals. Thus they renew their love for the Fatherland and
what they received long ago from their ancestors.
Now it happens that the fairies in every land usually follow the
customs of the mortals among whom they live. The Swiss, the Dutch, the
Belgian, the Japanese and Korean fairies, as we all know, although
they are much alike in many things are as different from each other as
the countries in which they live and play. So, when the Welsh fairies
all met together, they resolved to have songs and harp music and make
the piper play his tunes just as in the Eistedfodd.
The Cymric fairies of our days have had many troubles to complain of.
They were disgusted with so much coal smoke, the poisoning of the air
by chemical fumes, and the blackening of the landscape from so many
factory chimneys. They had other grievances also.
So the Queen Mab, who had a Welsh name, and another fairy, called
Pwca, or in English King Puck, sent out invitations into every part of
Wales, for a gathering on the hills, near the great rock called Dina's
seat. This is a rocky chair formed by nature. They also included in
their call those parts of western and south England, such as are still
Welsh and spiritually almost a part of Wales. In fact, Cornwall was
the old land, in which the Cymry had first landed when coming from
over the sea.
The meeting was to be held on a moonlight night, and far away from any
houses, lest the merry making, dancing and singing of the fairies
should keep the farmers awake. This was something of which the yokels,
or men of the plow, often complained. They could not sleep while the
fairies were having their parties.
Now among the Welsh fairies of every sort, size, dress, and behavior,
some were good, others were bad, but most of them were only full of
fun and mischief. Chief of these was the lively little fellow, Puck,
who lived in Cwm Pwcca, that is, Puck Valley, in Breconshire.
Now it had been an old custom, which had come down, from the days of
the cave men, that when anyone died, the people, friends and relatives
sat up all night with the corpse. The custom arose, at first, with the
idea of protection against wild beasts and later from insult by
enemies. This was called a wake. The watchers wept and wailed at
first, and then fell to eating and drinking. Sometimes, they got to be
very lively. The young folks even looked on a wake, after the first
hour or two, as fine fun. Strong liquor was too plentiful and it often
happened that quarrels broke out. When heads were thus fuddled, men
saw or thought they saw, many uncanny things, like leather birds, cave
eagles, and the like.
But all these fantastic things and creatures, such as foolish people
talk about, and with which they frighten children, such as corpse
candles, demons and imps, were ruled out and not invited to the fairy
meeting. Some other objects, which ignorant folks believed in, were
not to be allowed in the company. The door-keeper was notified not to
admit the eagles of darkness, that live in a cave which is never
lighted up; or the weird, featherless bird of leather, from the Land
of Illusion and Phantasy, that brushes its wing against windows, when
a funeral is soon to take place; or the greedy dog with silver eyes.
None of these would be permitted to show themselves, even if they came
and tried to get in. Some other creatures, not recognized in the good
society of Fairyland, were also barred out.
To this gathering, only the bright and lively fairies were welcome.
Some of the best natured among the big creatures, and especially
giants and dragons, might pay a visit, if they wanted to do so; but
all the bad ones, such as lake hags, wraiths, sellers of liquids for
wakes, who made men drunk, and all who, under the guise of fairies,
were only agents for undertakers, were ruled out. The Night Dogs of
the Wicked Hunter Annum, the monster Afang, Cadwallader's Goats, and
various, cruel goblins and ogres, living in the ponds, and that pulled
cattle down to eat them up, and the immodest mermaids, whose bad
behavior was so well known, were crossed off the list of invitations.
No ugly brats, such as wicked fairies were in the habit of putting in
the cradles of mortal mothers, when they stole away their babies, were
allowed to be present, even if they should come with their mothers.
This was to be a perfectly respectable company, and no bawling,
squealing, crying, or blubbering was to be permitted.
When they had all gathered together, at the evening hour, there was
seen, in the moonlight, the funniest lot of creatures, that one could
imagine, but all were neatly dressed and well behaved.
Quite a large number of the famous Fair Family, that moved only in the
best society of fairyland, fathers, mothers, cousins, uncles and
aunts, were on hand. In fact, some of them had thought it was to be a
wake, and were ready for whatever might turn up, whether solemn or
frivolous. These were dressed in varied costume.
Queen Mab, who above all else, was a Welsh fairy, and whose name, as
everybody knows who talks Cymric, suggested her extreme youth and
lively disposition, was present in all her glory.
When they saw her, several learned fairies, who had come from a
distance, fell at once into conversation on this subject. One
remarked: "How would the Queen like to add another syllable to her
name? Then we should call her Mab-gath (which means Kitten, or Little
"Well not so bad, however; because many mortal daddies, who have a
daughter, call her Puss. It is a term of affection with them and the
little girls never seem to be offended."
"Oh! Suppose that in talking to each other we call our Queen Mab-gar,
what then?" asked another, with a roguish twinkle in the eye.
"It depends on how you use it," said a wise one dryly. This fairy was
a stickler for the correct use of every word. "If you meant 'babyish,'
or 'childish,' she, or her friends might demur; but, if you use the
term 'love of children,' what better name for a fairy queen?"
"None. There could not be any," they shouted, all at once, "but let us
ask our old friend the harper."
Now such a thing as inquiring into each other's ages was not common in
Fairy Land. Very few ever asked such a question, for it was not
thought to be polite. For, though we hear of ugly fairy brats being
put into the cradles, in place of pretty children, no one ever heard,
either of fairies being born or of dying, or having clocks, or
watches, or looking to see what time it was. Nor did doctors, or the
census clerks, or directory people ever trouble the fairy ladies, to
ask their age.
Occasionally, however, there was one fairy, so wise, so learned, and
so able to tell what was going to happen to-morrow, or next year, that
the other fairies looked up to such an one with respect and awe.
Yet these honorables would hardly know what you were talking about, if
you asked any of them how old they might be, or spoke of "old" or
"young." If, by any chance, a fairy did use the world "old" in talking
of their number, it would be for honor or dignity, and they would mean
it for a compliment.
The fact was, that many of the most lively fairies showed their
frivolous disposition at once. These were of the kind, that, like
kittens, cubs, or babies, wanted to play all the time, yes, every
moment. Already, hundreds of them were tripping from flower to flower,
riding on the backs of fireflies, or harnessing night moths, or any
winged creatures they could saddle, for flight through the air. Or,
they were waltzing with glow worms, or playing "ring around a rosy,"
or dancing in circles. They could not keep still, one moment.
In fact, when a great crowd of the frolicsome creatures got singing
together, they made such a noise, that a squad of fairy policemen,
dressed in club moss and armed with pistils, was sent to warn them not
to raise their voices too high; lest the farmers, especially those
that were kind to the fairies, should be awakened, and feel in bad
So the knot of learned fairies had a quiet time to talk, and, when
able to hear their own words, the harper, who was very learned,
answered their questions about Queen Mab as follows:
"Well, you know the famous children's story book, in which mortals
read about us, and which they say they enjoy so much, is named
Mabinogion, that is, The Young Folks' Treasury of Cymric Stories."
"It is well named," said another fairy savant, "since Queen Mab is the
only fairy that waits on men. She inspires their dreams, when these
are born in their brains."
The talk now turned on Puck, who was to be the president of the
meeting. They were expected to show much dignity in his presence, but
some feared he would, as usual, play his pranks. Before he arrived in
his chariot, which was drawn by dragon flies, some of his neighbors
that lived in the valley near by chatted about him, until the gossip
became quite personal. Just for the fun of it, and the amusement of
the crowd, they wanted Puck to give an exhibition, off-hand, of all
his very varied accomplishments for he could beat all rivals in his
special variety, or as musicians say, his repertoire.
"No. 'Twould be too much like a Merry Andrew's or a Buffoon's
sideshow, where the freaks of all sorts are gathered, such as they
have at those county fairs, which the mortals get up, to which are
gathered great crowds. The charge of admission is a sixpence. I vote
"Well, for the very reason that Puck can beat the rest of us at spells
and transformations, I should like to see him do for us as many stunts
as he can. I've heard from a mortal, named Shakespeare, that, in one
performance, Puck could be a horse, a hound, a hog, a bear without any
head, and even kindle himself into a fire; while his vocal powers, as
we know, are endless. He can neigh, bark, grunt, roar, and even burn
up things. Now, I should like to see the fairy that could beat him at
tricks. It was Puck himself, who told the world that he was in the
habit of doing all these things, and I want to see whether he was
"Tut, tut, don't talk that way, about our king," said a fourth fairy.
All this was only chaff and fun, for all the fairies were in good
humor. They were only talking, to fill up the interval until the music
Now the canny Welsh fairies had learned the trick of catching
farthings, pennies and sixpences from the folks who have more
curiosity in them than even fairies do. These human beings, cunning
fellows that they are, let the curtain fall on a show, just at the
most interesting part. Then they tell you to come next day and find
out what is to happen. Or, as they say in a story paper, "to be
continued in our next."
Or, worse than all, the story teller stops, at some very exciting
episode, and then passes the hat or collection-box around, to get the
copper or silver of his listeners, before he will go on.
This time, however, it was Puck himself who came forward and declared
that, unless everyone of the fairies would promise to attend the next
meeting, there should be no music. Now a meeting of the Welshery,
whether fairies or human, without music was a thing not to be thought
of. So, although at first some fairies grumbled and held back, and
were quite sulky about it, even muttering other grumpy words, they at
last all agreed, and Puck sent for the fiddler to make music for the