Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

The Forbidden Mountain

THERE was once a boy of twelve years of age who was often sent by his father to tend the sheep on the Frenni fach. Early one morning in June he drove the sheep to their pasture for the day and looked carefully at the top of the Frenni fawr to see which way the morning fog was declining. Young as he was, he was weather-wise, and knew that if the fog declined to the Pembroke-shire side it would be a fine day, whereas if it went to the Cardiganshire side the weather would be foul. The fog was going to the Pembrokeshire side, and the boy, delighted with the prospect of a fine day, was whistling a merry tune and looking idly about him, when he saw at a considerable distance away what seemed to be a party of soldiers busily engaged in some operation, the nature of which he could not make out at first.

"There cannot be any soldiers on the mountain as early as this," he reflected, and going to the top of a little hillock, he perceived that they were too small for soldiers. "I wonder whether they are the Fair Family," he said. He had often heard of them and had seen their rings, but he had never set eyes on the little people themselves. First of all, he thought of running home to tell his father and mother, but reflecting that they might disappear before he returned and that perhaps his parents might even forbid him to come back--for many people were afraid of the Fair Family--he dismissed that idea. After cogitating for a little while he determined to go as near them as he could, and by degrees he arrived within a short distance of the visitors, where he remained for some time observing their motions. The visitors were tiny little people of both sexes, and they were the most handsome people he had ever seen. Some of them were dancing, whirling round and round in a ring with joined hands. Others were chasing one another with surprising swiftness, and others again were galloping about on small white horses. Their dresses varied in colour, some being white and others scarlet. The little men wore red tripled caps and the little women a light head-dress, which waved fantastically in the breeze. All were laughing gleefully, and as merry as could be.

Before long they noticed the boy, and, with laughing faces, beckoned him to join them. So he gradually went nearer, till at length he ventured to place one foot in the circle. No sooner had he done so than his ears were charmed with the most melodious music in the world, and he moved his other foot into the circle.

The instant he did this, he found himself, not in a fairy ring on the mountain side, but in a magnificent palace glittering with gold and pearls. Every form of beauty surrounded him, and every variety of pleasure was offered him. He was free to range wherever he pleased, and his every movement was waited on by maidens of matchless loveliness. Instead of the tatws a llaeth (potatoes and butter-milk) and the flummery to which he had hitherto been accustomed, here were the choicest viands, served on silver plates, and instead of small beer, the only kind of intoxicating liquor he had before tasted, here were red and yellow wines of wondrous enjoyableness, brought in golden goblets richly inlaid with gems. There was only one restriction on his freedom: he was not to drink on any consideration from a certain fountain in the garden, in which swam fishes of golden and other colours. Each day new joys were provided for him; new pastimes were invented to charm him and new faces presented themselves, more lovely, if possible, than those he had seen before.

Possessing everything that mortal could desire, the boy still wanted the one thing forbidden. Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, he was undone by curiosity. One day he was near the fountain, gazing at the fishes sporting in the water. There was nobody looking on, and he plunged his hand into the fountain: the fishes all disappeared instantly. He put the water to his mouth: a confused shriek ran through the garden. He drank: the palace and all vanished, and he found himself on the mountain in the very place where he first entered the ring. The sheep were grazing just where he had left them, and the fog on the mountain had scarcely moved. He thought he had been absent for many years, but he had only been away so many minutes.

Next: Tudur ap Einion