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Thomas Gwynn Jones (b. 1871, Betws yn Rhos, near Abergele; d. 1949), was a highly distinguished and influential poet, a translator from Irish, German, Norwegian, Latin, Greek and English into Welsh, and from Welsh into English, a novelist, playwright, critic, biographer and journalist. He was awarded the Chair at the National Eisteddfod in 1902 and received honorary doctorates from the University of Wales and the National University of Ireland.

The following tales appear in the last chapter of his book, Welsh Folklore and Folk Custom (1930. Cockatrice, 2020), preceded by his own account of the decline of story-telling under English and nonconformist influences in Wales.

The disappearance of the courts of the native Princes, the Anglicising policy of the Tudors, some of the effects of the Reformation and finally the religious movements in the eighteenth century, had the effect, not only of indirectly arresting the development of professional story-telling in Wales, but also led to active discouragement and opposition. Yet, the habit seems never to have completely died out. The folk-raconteur seems to have lingered on to the eighteenth century, but with an ever-diminishing opportunity. Tales of the fixed-form type, so plentiful in Ireland, are scarce in Wales, and restricted to short specimens in which the cumulative element is present. Even then it is quite clear that frequently the incident order has been upset, or is incomplete.

With the coming of the religious movements in the eighteenth century and later, the art of the old cyfarwydd, ‘story-teller,’ appears in popular preaching, in which narrative, dialogue and dramatic action were prominent. The preaching of John Elias, a native of Anglesey, who died in 1841, owed its extraordinary effect to dramatic action. On one occasion, when some harvesters attended with sickles to break up an open-air service, he delivered a sermon describing the punishment of the wicked, making use of the simile of God’s avenging bow being drawn ready for the driving of the arrow. Motion, voice inflection, facial expression, silence, dialogue, all were employed. Then the tall figure stood erect in silence, the left arm was bent, the right drawn back, pulling the string and the arrow; slowly the elbow receded, momentarily stopped, quivering. And the crowd opened, leaving an empty space for the arrow to speed on its course. The meeting was not broken up.

Another popular preacher, who died in 1802, is said to have described the wicked being driven to perdition as a ship is driven on the rocks by a gale. It was at a seaboard village, on a fine summer day. Detail by detail the vessel is described, leaping, plunging, wallowing, as the waves break against the rocks and lurch back, heaping up against the on-coming rush into a swelling hill of water. At that moment the ship leaps on the ridge, then the speaker, who possessed a tremendous voice, gave one shout, with which people leapt to their feet, some of them rushing out to see the shattering of the vessel against the rocks hard by.

Many other instances of this type are recorded, and told by persons of a generation now almost entirely passed away. Modern story-telling, of the older type, is still occasionally heard in districts unaffected by many outside influences. One raconteur, known to the writer, is a young man, a resident of a district where story-telling has not ceased. His methods afford valuable illustration of the growth of folk-tales. He employs dialogue and dramatic action and has well-defined characterisation. His material is not traditional, except possibly some of the themes. He generally figures himself in the tale, accompanied by another character. They get into all sorts of situations and are mixed up with all manner of men, usually in circumstances unaccustomed to themselves. The story grows and is adapted, new inventions, as in the matter of lighting or of locomotion, taking the place of earlier methods.

Generally, old folk-tales are only told in outline, and frequently only half-remembered. Traditional material in the last century suffered from two prevalent attitudes, the anti-superstition pose and the literary pose. The first assumed that everything that preceded ‘this enlightened age’ deserved only contempt, and folk-tales, folk-beliefs and customs generally were attributed to the depravity of monks and to carefully practised deception on the part of priests and others. One cannot help the conclusion that the continual reiteration of this contempt for earlier beliefs and customs denotes a degree of fear and semi-belief, especially as it is almost always accompanied by implicit belief in types of stories differing only from earlier examples in the fact that they are told in connection with newer religious fashions. Those who did conserve some interest in folk-material, on the other hand, were generally much addicted to the literary pose, with the result that their transmission of beliefs and accounts of customs are inexact, and their versions of folk-tales are manipulated and padded to an insufferable extent. Not unfrequently, both poses are illustrated in the writings of one and the same person. A new set of tabus, euphemisms and circumlocutions is introduced. Apparitions of various kinds, fairies, magicians and witches, are mixed up and often referred to as ysbrydion drwg, ‘evil spirits.’ Some writers have undoubtedly introduced much of their own invention into material claimed to be traditional. Only extensive acquaintance with earlier material in Welsh and with general folklore can enable one to detect the interpolations and to detach genuine folk traditions from the jumble.

A few illustrative examples of some types of folk-tales found in Wales are subjoined, from material not hitherto printed, or generally known, so far as I am aware. They are given according to Aarne’s classification, and the numbers employed in that classification (FF Communications No. 74) are added in brackets where the Welsh tales seem to be of the same type, or to include the same or some of the same motives. Where the types here recorded seem to be common, only summaries are given, mainly with the object of indicating variants in detail.

Animal Tales

The Fox pretends to be dead, is thrown out of the henroost and escapes, or, when the man turns round and bends, leaps on his back and over the wall [Aarne 33]. Flatters the Raven into singing and so gets the cheese which the Raven drops [A 57].

The Cat saves itself by its only trick, that of climbing a tree. The Fox, who has a sackful of tricks, is captured [A 105]. The country Mouse visits the town Mouse, likes the food, but fears the Cat, and returns [A 112].

Two men (generally named) dispute as to which is strongest, instinct or training. One has a Cat trained to hold a candle between its paws for him to read. The other lets loose a Mouse on the table. The Cat lets fall the candle and pursues the Mouse [A 217].

The Grasshopper tells the Ant to enjoy himself in summer. The Ant tells the Grasshopper to do so in winter [A 249].

A child is in the habit of disappearing, and is found sitting in the garden, drinking milk out of a saucer and giving some to a snake, tapping it on the head when it wants too much [A 285].

A Mouse falls into a vat full of new beer, and a Cat jumps on the edge. The Mouse fears to come out and the Cat dare not go in. The Mouse promises to do the will of the Cat in return for help, but having got up on the roof, says it will never fulfil a promise made in drink [B 361-362].

Tales of Magic and Romance

Many of the motives noted by Aarne as occurring in tales of this type are found in earlier Welsh material, as, for instance, chaste cohabitation (Pwyll); the envious stepmother (Culhwch); adept shooting (Math); hearing, running and withstanding of cold (Culhwch and the Triads); becoming enamoured of a princess through a dream (Macsen); bird-speech, and decapitation (Branwen); rescue of ants from danger (Culhwch); difficult tasks to win a bride (Culhwch); adhesion to magic object (Manawydan); helpful lions (Peredur); mother accused of devouring her child (Pwyll); the guessing of names and the return from the other world after centuries (in several tales), and many transformations.

Other tales of this type, orally conserved, are: the giant goes to kill the Dwarf’s children, but the children’s nightcaps are exchanged and the giant kills his own [A 327B]. The devil fails to carry away a man because he has hold of an apple tree, and the man can neither be taken to heaven nor hell [A 330A. Also A 1030, A 1088, A 1157]. An eating contest between Giant and Dwarf. The Dwarf puts food into a sack under his clothes, then rips it with a knife. The Giant rips his stomach.

Heaven and Hell stories are numerous. I have heard versions of the story of the grumbler turned out of heaven for fault-finding [A 801] and of the fall of Peter’s mother back to hell because, when pulled up by her son, she kicked others who clung to her [A 804]. Many stories of this type, with a satirical motive, localised, with certain persons’ names, are known.

In an Anglesey record [RH] an angel takes with him a man who is unable to understand the ways of Providence. The angel rewards hospitality by suffocating a little child, stealing a silver cup, killing a man- servant and giving the stolen cup to drunkards, explaining that these things are done in order to save the child’s parents and the owners of the cup, to prevent the murder by the man-servant of his aged master, with the help of his unfaithful wife, and to hasten the unavoidable damnation of the drunkards [A 759].

Other folk-tales of this type with well-known motives are: A Wizard’s power is doubted by a man who, in order to test him, places a robin red-breast under a vessel and asks the wizard to tell him what was concealed. Believing himself to be caught, the wizard, whose name was Robin Ddu, exclaims: ‘Robin is caught,’ and the doubter is convinced of his wizardry [A 1641 III]. A lady, having lost a ring, sends for the same wizard, who, observing the servants, suspects one of them, tells her he knows she has the ring, but that if she gives it to him, he will not tell the lady. He gets the ring, puts it into a lump of dough and throws it to a peacock which swallows it. Robin then tells the lady to kill the bird and the ring is found.

A third tale of Robin states that a gentleman sends for him to find a lost ring. Robin places a cock under a newly-used cauldron on a table, darkens the room, brings all the servants in and tells them to pass in file by the table, each one to place his thumb on the cauldron in passing. If the thief was present the cock would crow when he placed his thumb on the cauldron. This is done but the cock does not crow. Robin uncovers the window and commands each of the servants to show his thumb. They all bore the mark of the cauldron but one [IJ].

Bareleg and the King’s Wizard
(Peniarth ms. 27ii 65)

Let all persons know that Llywelyn ap Iorwerth was a Prince of Wales, and that he had the daughter of King John to wife. And he loved to dwell at Trefriw, and was much given to praise St. Mary of Trefriw. And as he was riding to London, there being six score horsemen with him, behold, there met him on Cefn Tegeingl a bare-legged man with rough red hair, who takes hold of his horse’s bridle and asks him what place he was going to. And Llywelyn told him that he was going to London. ‘I shall come with thee, if thou wilt give me leave,’ said the bare-legged. ‘Come thou and welcome,’ answered Llywelyn. And so they went to London. And Llywelyn dismounted in London, and the Rough-red-haired one said to him: ‘Should there be any feat whatsoever wanting to you, let me be warned of it.’

Llywelyn went to the King’s court, and the King welcomed him and placed him to sit at the Prince’s table. And the King’s wizard made play, none other than to bring the sea up to the tables, with ships of merchandise and silver hooks, and the finest ware of the whole world. And when that play was ended, he made yet another play, a dirty yard, with cattle and sheep and goats, and maids milking. And the goats ran along the table where was Llywelyn. And he bethought him of what the bare-legged had said, and sent to fetch him, and ordered clothes to be bought for him. When they went to buy clothes for him, ‘I shall have none of the clothes,’ said he, and he came to Llywelyn. And then he made play, and brought the sea into the house, and ships of silver, with hooks of gold. And he made another play, a great oak growing on the floor of the hall, full of acorns, and pigs eating of them, the while there were twenty-four servants who chased away the black sows with the drooping ears, and slaughtered them and made pottage of their flesh, which they drank and then swilled over the King’s table. And Llywelyn was pleased at this.

And he then struck with a wand the King’s wizard until he became a buck, with twenty-four hounds after him, and they killed and skinned him. And then he greeted Llywelyn. ‘What player art thou?’ asked Llywelyn. Then he struck the skin with his wand and the man was alive and well.

On that day Llywelyn was sent from his lodging in London, and the same man made for him the fairest palace in all the world, and Llywelyn dwelt there for three months and a fortnight. And when Llywelyn left, there were many of the men of London who sought to get that palace for rent. Then said the man of the rough red hair: ‘I shall take this palace away. My lord, mount your horse.’ And then he drew his wand along the wall. And the palace was no longer there.

And then he walked barefoot as before with Llywelyn until they came to Cefn Tegeingl. And there he bade farewell to Llywelyn, saying: ‘I am called Cynfrig Coch of Trefriw, and Mary of Trefriw sent me to help thee, lest thy enemy have the better of thee, and I am an angel. Pray thou to Mary and she will keep thee.’

And so Mary saved Llywelyn ap Iorwerth from shame.

Three Brothers
(Pembrokeshire, T J J. The resemblance to Irish tales will be observed.)

There were three brothers, let us call them Wil, Siôn and Dai. They owned a farm which they worked together. One day, Wil was ploughing, and he struck one of the oxen a chance blow which killed him. Wil took the other ox home and told Siôn and Dai what had happened. They would not believe that it had been a mishap. Wil was bound with ropes, put into a sack and thrown into the sea at night. The others believed him to have been drowned, but Wil escapes, skins the dead ox unknown to his brothers and goes away. Coming to a town, he sells the hide, but is at a loss to know how to earn his living. He catches a wounded bird, which he tends until it is cured. He then hides some of the money he had got for the hide here and there outside the town, and then goes in. As his clothes are very ragged and as he carries the bird with great care, people take him for an idiot and start to question him.

‘Where art thou taking the bird?’ asks one.

‘Along with me,’ answers Wil.

‘What dost thou with it?’

‘I shall not tell thee.’

Many a question they asked him, getting only the same replies, but at last he tells one of them, by the way, as it were, that the bird could find money. This is told to the others at once. Someone asks the price of the bird. Wil says it is not for sale.

‘I’ll give thee a pound for it,’ says one.

‘I can find a pound a day with this bird,’ says Wil.

‘Thou art a liar!’

‘Very well, believe me or not, I don’t care which.’

By this time there was a crowd, and at last Wil offers to put the bird to a test. He takes care to go towards the spot where he had hidden the money. He places the bird near the hedge, saying it would cry out should there be hidden treasure anywhere near. The bird does not cry. The test is repeated, still the bird does not cry. Then coming to a spot where he had hidden money, Wil squeezes the bird, causing it to cry out. The money is found, and this is done several times, so that everybody wants to buy the bird, Wil refusing to name his price. At last, a bargain is struck and the bird is sold for a hundred pounds to an old miser.

Wil departs and comes to another town, where he buys a drove of sheep, with which he returns home. Believing him to have been drowned, his brothers are at first taken with fear, but at last they begin to question him.

‘Where didst thou get the sheep?’ asks Dai.

‘At the bottom of the sea,’ answers Wil, ‘and had I anyone to help me, I should have had many more – it is not easy to catch them down there.’

‘Where are they down there?’

‘O, just as they are up here, grazing where the grass is best, and that is always where the water is deepest. If you like, I’ll show you the best places.’

The three go to the sea. Standing close to the edge, above the deep water, Wil points to the place. Siôn leaps at once. Wil and Dai hear the gurgle of the water in his throat as he goes out of sight.

‘What is that noise?’ asks Dai.

‘He is taking the best sheep, jump in at once!’ cries Wil.

Dai takes the leap. Wil takes the whole farm.

Wil Wirion
(I J . Denbighshire. Cp. Folklore Record III pt. 2 pp. 153-155.)

Wil Wirion is a boy who can only remember the last expression he hears. He is sent to the mill with wheat to be ground, and ordered to say to the one-eyed miller, who took a heavy toll, ‘A bushel down and a bushel up.’ On the way he sees a man sowing wheat, who, upon hearing him repeat the words, tells him to say ‘Ar ei ganfed y delo i fyny’ (‘may it come up a hundredfold’). Misunderstanding the word canfed, he goes on saying ‘Ar ei grafange y delo i fyny’ (‘may it come up on its claws’). A man burying a dead dog hearing this expression tells him to say ‘May it never get out.’ This is heard by men trying to drag a bullock out of a bog, having already rescued one. One of the men tells him he ought to say ‘Let him who took out the first also take out the second,’ which is what Wil says to the one-eyed miller.

The Tail of the White Mare

Siôn Cwilt, a notorious miser, dies, telling his widow that he was going to heaven to build a palace for her, and that she was to take care of the money and to bring it with her when she followed him. A soldier hears the story, goes on a white horse and tells her he is come for the money to complete the palace. In leaving with the money, he is seen by a boy. He gives the boy a guinea, telling him to say if anyone questioned him that he had seen an angel. Pursuers come on horseback and question the boy. He tells them of the angel, and looking up to the sky, points to a streak of white cloud and says, ‘There you can see the tail of the white mare just going out of sight now.’ They said it was so and left. And that is why streaks of white cloud are called Cynffon y Gaseg Wen, ‘ the tail of the white mare’ (Cardiganshire).

Anecdotes

Tales denoted by the following figures in Aarne’s classification are known in Wales: 1210 (see version), 1240, 1250, 1319 (see version), 1363, 1365a, 1365b, 1380, 1529, 1585, 1589, 1590, 1610, 1641, 1641 III, 1645, 1678 (the boy who had never seen a woman he is told they are geese, and when asked what present he would like from a fair, says ‘A goose’); 1682 (localised, with names of persons); 1738 (a poet dreams that he goes to heaven and is asked by Peter whether there are no parsons in Wales, as he had not seen one for about three hundred years); 1790 (a man having told others what he had seen is called as a witness in a court of law, admits having seen a person take some hay from a stack, but when asked where the person had gone, he replied ‘I then woke up’); 1791; 1830 (a magician gives weather as desired by all who come to him, and on their complaining, tells them to agree among themselves first); 1950 (the laziest man is too lazy to lie down); 2030 (an old woman buys a lamb, appeals in vain for help to take it home, until the cat promises aid in return for milk). Also the following from Aarne’s unclassified tales: 63* (a fox rids himself of fleas by going into water with a tuft of wool in his mouth, sinking gradually until his nose only is out of the water – stated to have been actually seen on the Berwyn mountain); 202*; 333*; 650* (elements in the Taliesin story); 804*; 939* (in a well-known ballad called Cerdd y Blotyn Du, the Ballad of the Black Spot); 966*; 973*; 974*; 1322* (a poet in a quarrel with a fishwife silences her with a string of metrical terms); 1325*; 1699*; 1865*; 1911*; 2010* (a town-bred girl seeks potatoes on the tops).

The Cow On The Roof
(As told by a Denbighshire Teamsman)

Siôn Dafydd always grumbled that his wife could do nothing properly in the house. Neither a meal nor anything else ever pleased him. At last his wife got tired with his grumbling, and one day told him she would go to weed turnips and that he should stay to take care of the baby and the house, to make dinner, and some other things which she used to do. Siôn easily agreed, so that she might have an example.

In starting to the field, the wife said: ‘Now, you take care of the baby, feed the hens, feed the pig, turn out the cow to graze, sweep the floor, and make the porridge ready for dinner.’

‘Don’t you bother about all that,’ said Siôn, ‘you see to the turnips.’

The wife went to the field, Siôn to the house. The baby awoke. For a long time, Siôn rocked the cradle, and tried to sing to the child, which seemed to make the poor thing worse. Siôn then remembered the pig, which was squeaking very loudly. He went to get some buttermilk to make food for it. He spilt the milk on the kitchen floor. The pig heard the sound of the bucket, and made such noise that Siôn could not stand it.

‘You wait a bit, you rascal!’ he said to himself, but he meant the pig, ‘you shall go out to find food for yourself!’

So he opened the door to turn out the pig. Out went the pig like a shot, right between Siôn’s legs, throwing him into the dunghill. By the time he got up and tried to scrape a little of the dirt off his clothes, the pig was out of sight. Siôn went into the house. There the pig had gone to lap up the milk from the floor, and had, besides, overthrown another pot of milk and was busy with that.

‘You rascal!’ shouted Siôn, and catching hold of an axe, he struck the pig a blow on the head. The poor pig wobbled like a man in drink, then fell by the door and parted with this life.

By this time it was getting late, and Siôn thought of the porridge, but the cow had to be turned out to graze, and he had quite forgotten the hens, poor souls. The field where the cow had to gather its daily bread, as it were, was some distance from the yard, and if Siôn went to take it there, the porridge would never be ready in time. At that moment, Siôn happened to notice that there was some fine grass growing on the roof of the house. There was a rise at the back of the house, and the roof reached almost to the ground. Siôn thought the grass on the roof would be a good meal for a cow, and in order to be able to make the porridge as well, he took a rope, tied it round the cow’s neck, ran up the roof and dropped the other end of the rope through the chimney. Then he went to the porridge. So that he might have his two hands free, he tied the end of the rope round his ankle. In grazing on the roof the cow, without thinking, as it were, came to the top and slipped over suddenly. Siôn felt himself being pulled up by the leg, and into the chimney he went, feet first. Somehow, his legs went one on each side of the iron bar from which the kettle was hung over the fire, and there he stuck. Just at that moment, the wife came back from the turnip field, and was horrified to see the cow dangling in the air. She ran to the door and fell across the dead pig, and without seeing anything else, picked up the axe and ran to cut the rope and save the poor cow. Then she ran into the house, and the first thing she saw there was Siôn, standing on his head in the porridge.

The Greatest Fool
(I J. Caernarfonshire and Denbighshire)

Siôn Swch was a fool, kept by a gentleman for his amusement. On one occasion, the gentleman gave Siôn an elegant cloak and told him to wear it until he should meet with a greater fool than himself. Siôn wore the cloak for a long time. The old gentleman was taken ill, and feared his end was drawing near. He bade farewell to his family, and sent for Siôn.

‘Well, master,’ said Siôn, ‘what is the matter with you?’

‘O, Siôn,’ said the master, ‘I am going to leave you.’

‘Then where are you going, master? You cannot go very far, being that you are in bed like this.’

‘I am going to a strange country, Siôn.’

‘In God’s name, master, why should you go to such a place? Are we to go with you?’

‘No, Siôn. I must go by myself this time.’

‘I have never heard of such a thing before, master, going to a strange country by yourself at this age! Have you packed your things ready?’

‘No, Siôn, I cannot take anything with me to the country where I am now going.’

Siôn stood up and took off his cloak, saying with a mournful look,

‘Here, master, take it. You are the greatest fool I have ever met.’

Bravura
(Denbighshire. Type known as Straeon Celwydd Goleu, ‘Plain-lying tales.’ I J)

We had great trouble once, because of the loss of the best hen we ever had. The poor thing had broken her leg through some mishap not long before we lost sight of her, but I had made a sort of wooden leg for her and she was all right again. We lost her suddenly one day. Nobody had seen her. We gave up all hopes of ever seeing her again, thinking that a fox had got hold of her, as they often do. Some weeks later, however, I got news of her from Llandyrnog [a village some ten miles distant]. I went there, and sure enough, I found the hen, on the top of a hayrick. She had twelve fine chickens. Each of them had a wooden leg. We also lost a sow, a black one, the like of which there was not in the country, from which we expected a litter soon. We searched and asked the neighbours whether they had seen the sow, to no purpose. It was as if it had been swallowed by the earth. Some weeks later, I was going through the woods, and I saw a litter of fine pigs, eating acorns under an oak. The acorns were dropping down from the tree, and the little fellows running about and gobbling them up neatly. This made me look up, and upon my soul, what should I see there, shaking the branches, but the black sow.

Fool Stories

Llanwnwr fools buy a cheese at a fair. In going home, the cheese is dropped and rolls downhill. The fools follow, one of them jumping over a hedge and running on the other side, as is done to get in front of cattle. The cheese leaps over a precipice. The fools agree that they can get at it by one taking hold of the feet of the other. When all is ready, the top fool says, ‘Let me spit on my hands,’ and down they go (TJJ, Pembrokeshire).

Aberdaron fools go home late. In crossing a bridge, they see the reflection of the moon in the water. They think it is a cheese, and decide to hang on one to the feet of the other, to get it, but the topmost looses hold to spit on his hands (general in North Wales).

Aberdaron fools buy a cabbage at Pwllheli fair, having been told that it is a mare’s egg. Afraid to lose the egg in crossing a river, they throw it into some gorse bushes on the other side. A hare is startled, and they think the egg is broken and the colt run away (Denbighshire).

Llangernyw fools go to Conwy to see the sea. At Llanrwst they see a field of flax, waving with the breeze. They decide it is the sea and go to bathe in it. Coming out, they remember that persons were sometimes drowned in the sea. They count their number, which is one short, each in counting having omitted to count himself, but they cannot make out who is drowned. They go home, deciding that they should all come out next morning after having first kindled a fire. Should there be a chimney with no smoke they would know who was drowned. When they come out, one has forgotten to light a fire (Denbighshire, JLI W).

Ring and Fish
(A characteristic story, told at Penmachno, Caernarfonshire, some sixty years ago. I J)

One day, a woman was gathering shells on the beach. In bending down, the ring she was wearing slipped off her finger and fell on the sand. The same moment, a wave was breaking quite near. The woman leapt to avoid the water. When the wave had receded, there was no sign of the ring. The woman went home very sad and disconsolate. The next day, a man came round to sell fresh herrings. She bought some from him and went to fry some for dinner. She cut off the head of one and opened it. And what do you think she found inside? ‘The ring!’ ‘No. Guts.’

The Tailor Soused

The tailor is allowed better fare than the workmen at a farmhouse. A workman leaves for another farm, and understands that the tailor, who had not worked there before, is coming. He tells the farmer that the tailor gets certain fits of temper, the coming of which is indicated by his passing his hand briskly over the pieces of cloth on the table. The only thing to do to avoid the fits was to seize him and put him under the cold-water pump at once. The tailor in working passes his hand over the bits of cloth to find the scissors. He is at once seized and put under the pump (Caernarfonshire).

Beef, Bacon and Mother-in-Law

A farm hand seeking work is asked why he had left his former place. At first he avoids the question, but presently adds that the food was bad. An old cow died and they had cow’s meat for months. An old sow died and they had bacon like leather. The week before, the farmer’s mother-in-law died. The workman had then left (Cardiganshire).

The Gardener’s Flowers

A gentleman sends his gardener some valuable flower seeds with which he is to take great care. When the gentleman comes home and inquires about the seeds, the gardener shows him a row of herrings noses just out of the soil (Denbighshire, Caernarfonshire, Flintshire).

Speaking Through Signs

A priest takes it into his head that conversation can be carried on through signs. The bishop is doubtful, but asks the priest to bring one of his disciples to a test. The priest brings a baker, warning him not to utter a word but only to make signs in reply to the bishop. In the test the bishop is greatly impressed, telling the priest he had raised one finger to signify there is only One God, the other raising two to indicate Father and Son. The bishop had then raised three to represent the Trinity, whereat the other put up his fist to denote the unity of the three. Finally the bishop had shown an apple to say that the world is round, and the other showed a crust to add that man lives by bread grown from the earth. The baker’s account of the interview was that the bishop put up one finger to taunt him with having only one eye. He had held up two to reply that with one he saw more than the bishop saw with two. The bishop’s three fingers were put up to say that they had only three eyes between them, whereupon he had put up his fist to warn him to be careful. The apple meant the bishop took him for a gardener, and he had shown the crust to prove that he was a baker (Denbighshire).

The Man With Many Names

A man with several Christian names, being drunk, falls into a roadside ditch and calls for aid. A passer-by hears the call and asks, ‘Who is there?’ The man in the ditch gives his name in full. The other goes on, saying: ‘Help each other, you devils, there are plenty of you’ (Denbighshire, Flintshire).

Thieves and Murderers

The father of two sons is much distressed by a dream that one of his sons would be a thief and the other a murderer. A friend advises him not to worry, but to make a solicitor of one and a physician of the other. This is done and everything is all right (Denbighshire).

I am the author of three short story collections. Reasoning and For His Warriors, originally published by Gwasg y Bwthyn, Caernarfon, with Welsh Books Council support, now join Prayer at the End and Pugnacious Little Trolls in revised editions at Cockatrice Books. My anthology of fiction, Dangerous Asylums, including work by Gee and David Williams, Glenda Beagan, Carys Bray, Simon Thirsk and others, was published by the North Wales Mental Health Research Project, October 2016. I am a contributor with Nigel Jarrett, Rachel Trezise, Tristan Hughes and others to Brush with Fate, an anthology of Welsh fiction translated by Hala Salah Eldin, and to Land of Change, an anthology of radical writing forthcoming from Culture Matters. My work has appeared in Albawtaka Review, Annexe Magazine, Blue Tattoo, Cambrensis, Catharsis, East of the Web, The Harbinger, The Interpreter’s House, New Welsh Review, New Writing, Otherwise Engaged, The Swansea Review, Tears in the Fence, Writing in Education, and elsewhere. I am a member by election of the Welsh Academy.

I am the translator of Going South: The Stories of Richard Hughes Williams (Cockatrice, 2015), Hallowe’en in the Cwm: The Stories of Glasynys (Cockatrice, 2017), and A Book of Three Birds, the seventeenth-century classic by Morgan Llwyd (Cockatrice, 2017). In addition, I have translated fiction by D. Gwenallt Jones, Angharad Tomos, and Manon Steffan Ros.