Welsh Fairy-Tales and Other Stories | Annotated Tale

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Pellings, The

IN A meadow belonging to Ystrad, bounded by the river which falls from Cwellyn Lake, they say the fairies used to assemble, and dance in fair moonlight nights. One evening a young man, who was the heir and occupier of this farm, hid himself in a thicket close to the spot where they used to gambol. Presently they appeared, and when in their merry mood, out he bounced from his covert, and seized one of their females; the rest of the company dispersed themselves, and disappeared in an instant. Disregarding her struggles and screams, he hauled her to his home, where he treated her so very kindly that she became contented to live with him as his maid-servant, but he could not prevail upon her to tell him her name. Some time after, happening again to see the fairies upon the same spot, he heard one of them saying, “The last time we met here our sister Penelope was snatched away from us by one of the mortals.” Rejoiced at knowing the name of his incognita, he returned home; and as she was very beautiful and extremely active, he proposed to marry her, which she would not for a long time consent to; at last, however, she complied, but on this condition, “That if ever he should strike her with iron, she would leave him, and never return to him again.” They lived happy for many years together, and he had by her a son and a daughter; and by her industry and prudent management as a housewife he became one of the richest men in the country. He farmed, besides his own freehold, all the lands on the north side of Nant y Bettws to the top of Snowdon, and all Cwm brwynog in Llanberis, an extent of about five thousand acres or upwards.

              Unfortunately, one day Penelope followed her husband into the field to catch a horse, and he, being in a rage at the animal as he ran away from him, threw at him the bridle that was in his hand, which unluckily fell on poor Penelope. She disappeared in an instant, and he never saw her afterwards, but heard her voice in the window of his room one night after, requesting him to take care of the children, in these words:--

 “Rhag bod anwyd ar fy mâb,   
Yn rhodd rhowch arno gôb ei dâd:   
Rhag bod anwyd ar liw’r cann,  
Rhoddwch arni bais ei mam.”

              That is,

“Oh! lest my son should suffer cold,   
Him in his father’s coat infold:  
Lest cold should seize my darling fair,   
For her, her mother’s robe prepare.”

              These children and their descendants they say were called Pellings [1], a word corrupted from their mother’s name Penelope.


The name Billing and Belling is the family name of one of the oldest Cornish (Keltic) families--a fact that suggests other possibilities.--P. H. E.

Source: Taken verbatim from the old book referred to. In the context the author says these people inhabited the districts about the foot of Snowdon, and were known by the nickname of Pellings, which is not yet extinct; and he says they tell the tale as given. After telling the story, which he entitles a fairy story, he makes the following suggestive comments:—

              “Before the Reformation, when the Christian world was enveloped in Popish darkness and superstition, when the existence of fairies and other spectres was not questioned, and when such a swarm of idle people, under the names of minstrels, poets, begging friars, etc., were permitted to ramble about, it may be supposed that these vagrants had amongst themselves some kind of rule or government, if I may so term it, as we are assured those that now-a-days go under the name of gypsies have. Such people might, at appointed times on fine moonlight nights, assemble in some sequestered spot, to regulate their dark affairs and divide the spoil; and then perform their nightly orgies, so as to terrify people from coming near them, lest their tricks and cheats should be discovered. It is possible the men of Ystrad might have less superstition, and somewhat more courage, than their neighbours, and supposing such a one to come suddenly on these nightly revellers, he would of course cause great consternation amongst them; and, on finding a comely female in the group, it is not unnatural to imagine that he might, as the heroes of old have done before him, seize on a beauteous Helen, carry her home, and in process of time marry her—for many valorous knights have done the latter; but she, on account of some domestic jars, might afterwards have eloped from him, and returned to her former companions and occupation.”

              The author makes the following remarks in a foot-note:—

              “The English writers of romances feign the fairies to be of a smaller size than even the fabled pigmies; the Welsh people ever supposed them to be of the same stature with mankind. Shakespeare describes his fairy as less than a mite, riding through people’s brains to make the chase. This has not been my experience. I have had them described to me of all sizes, varying from a woman to little people two feet high. They have been described, when large, as dressed like ordinary ladies, when small, with short dresses; no hats, and hair in a plaited pigtail down the back.”

              Finally, the writer says:

              “What other interpretation can be given to this tale I know not. This, and such other tales, the material of which one might collect a volume, must, it may reasonably be supposed, have something of reality for their origin and foundation, before they were dressed out in the familiar garb given them by their authors.”

              So our author is a “realist” as regards the origin of fairies.


[1] In England we frequently meet with the surname Pilling and Billing; it might have happened, that a man had met with an English woman of that name, and had married her, and, as is usual in brides, she might have been, though married, called by her maiden name, and the appellation might have been continued to her posterity.--Authors Note.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Pellings, The
Tale Author/Editor: Emerson, Peter Henry
Book Title: Welsh Fairy-Tales and Other Stories
Book Author/Editor: Emerson, Peter Henry
Publisher: D. Nutt
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1894
Country of Origin: Wales
Classification: unclassified

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