Welsh Fairy-Tales and Other Stories | Annotated Tale

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Long-Lived Ancestors, The

THE Eagle of Gwernabwy had been long married to his female, and had by her many children; she died, and he continued a long time a widower; but at length be proposed a marriage with the Owl of Cwm Cwmlwyd; but afraid of her being young, so as to have children by her, and thereby degrade his own family, he first of all went to inquire about her age amongst the aged of the world. Accordingly he applied to the Stag of Rhedynfre, whom he found lying close to the trunk of an old oak, and requested to know the Owl’s age.

              “I have seen,” said the Stag, “this oak an acorn, which is now fallen to the ground through age, without either bark or leaves, and never suffered any hurt or strain except from my rubbing myself against it once a day, after getting up on my legs; but I never remember to have seen the Owl you mention younger or older than she seems to be at this day. But there is one older than I am, and that is the Salmon of Glynllifon.”

              The Eagle then applied to the Salmon for the age of the Owl. The Salmon answered, “I am as many years old as there are scales upon my skin, and particles of spawn within my belly; yet never saw I the Owl you mention but the same in appearance. But there is one older than I am, and that is the Blackbird of Cilgwri.”

              The Eagle next repaired to the Blackbird of Cilgwri, whom he found perched upon a small stone, and enquired of him the Owl’s age.

              “Dost thou see this stone upon which I sit,” said the Blackbird, “which is now no bigger than what a man can carry in his hand? I have seen this very stone of such weight as to be a sufficient load for a hundred oxen to draw, which has suffered neither rubbing nor wearing, save that I rub my bill on it once every evening, and touch the tips of my wings on it every morning, when I expand them to fly; yet I have not seen the Owl either older or younger than she appears to be at this day. But there is one older than I am, and that is the Frog of Mochno Bog, and if he does not know her age, there is not a creature living that does know it.”

              The Eagle went last of all to the Frog and desired to know the Owl’s age. He answered, “I never ate anything but the dust from the spot which I inhabit, and that very sparingly, and dost thou see these great hills that surround and overawe this bog where I lie? They are formed only of the excrements from my body since I have inhabited this place, yet I never remember to have seen the Owl but an old hag, making that hideous noise, Too, hoo, hoo! always frightening the children in the neighbourhood.”

              So the Eagle of Gwernabwy, the Stag of Rhedynfre, the Salmon of Glynllifon, the Blackbird of Cilgwri, the Frog of Mochno Bog, and the Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd are the oldest creatures in the whole world!


Source: Taken verbatim from the book quoted. This fable refers to the place, Cwm Caw Lwyd, regarding which the writer says:

              “With regard to the Cwm Caw Lwyd, there is a still extant fable entitled Creaduriaid Hir Hoedlog (i.e., the long-lived ancestors), which seems to be a composition of no modern date. At present the moral of it cannot be elucidated; but it seems that, in one respect, it was intended to represent the solitariness of this place, inhabited only by the weeping owl from remote antiquity; and certainly it is the most solitary and romantic retreat that the mind of man could imagine.” The writer says his is a “literal translation of the story, according to the Welsh phraseology”.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Long-Lived Ancestors, 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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