Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

Dai Sion's Homecoming

DAI SION, the shoemaker's son, living near Pencader, in Carmarthenshire, chanced upon a fairy circle on the mountain and felt an irresistible inclination to dance. He just gave a turn, as he thought, to air his legs, and immediately jumped out of the ring again and proceeded to return home.

He had not gone far when he paused in amazement. Where was he? All was changed. Instead of an uncultivated waste, tilled land met his eye. There were houses where grouse had risen scared by his footfall. Where his father's circular wattled mud hut had been, there now stood a fine stone house. "Ah," said Dai to himself, "this is some fairy trick to deceive my eyes; it is not ten minutes since I stepped into the circle, and no one could have built my father a real house in that time." Thinking then that he was under some spell, he regarded all that he beheld as imaginary and unsubstantial, and hastened towards his father's dwelling. A thorn hedge stood right across the path which he had known from a child. He rubbed his eyes and felt the hedge with his hand to test its reality. A thorn ran into his finger and convinced him that the barrier was solid. "This is no fairy hedge, anyhow," he said, "nor judging by the age of the thorns was it grown in a few minutes' time." So he climbed over it and walked on. He reached the farmyard, and all seemed so strange that he felt himself an intruder. "Tango, Tango," said Dai, "though you have grown and changed your colour, don't you know me?" But the brute only barked the more. "Surely," he said to himself, "I have lost my way and am wandering through some unknown parish; but no, yonder is the Gareg Hir," and he stood staring at the Long Stone which still stands on the mountain south of Pencader and commemorates some battle long ago. As he gazed he heard footsteps behind him, and turning, beheld the occupant of the stone house, who had come out to see why his dog was barking. Dai's clothes were so ragged and he looked so wan that the farmer's Welsh heart went out to him. "Who are you, poor man?" he asked. "I know who I was," answered Dai, "but I do not know who I am now. I was the son of a shoemaker who lived in this place this morning." "My poor fellow," said the farmer, "you have lost your senses. This house was built by my great-grandfather and repaired by my father, and none but members of my family have ever lived here. What was your father's name?" "Sion Ifan y Crydd," was the answer. "I never heard of such a man," said the farmer, shaking his head. "Well, I do not know what to make of it," said Dai; "anyhow, I know the Long Stone well enough. It is but an hour since I was robbing a hawk's nest close by it." "But where have you been since?" asked the farmer. "I stepped into a fairy ring on the mountain, had a turn round and stepped out again." "Ah, you have been with the fairies?" said the farmer. "Old Catti Sion at Pencader is the one who knows most about the fairies about here. We will go down to see her, she will probably be able to tell us something. But come into the house to have some food before we go." With this he beckoned Dai to follow him, and led the way; but hearing behind him the sound of footsteps growing fainter and fainter, he turned round, and to his horror saw Dai ap Sion crumbling in an instant into a thimbleful of black ashes.

The farmer later on paid a visit to old Catti. He went to the wretched hovel in which she lived and knocked at the door. Getting no answer, he entered and called out, "Catti Sion, Catti Sion, where are you?" A thin quavering voice said, "I am in my bed." The farmer turned and saw a barricade of thick gorse, so closely packed and piled up that no bed was to be seen. "What is all this gorse for, Catti?" asked the farmer. "It is because of the Fair Family," said Catti; "they will never leave me alone. If I am up, they will sit upon the table making faces at me: they turn my milk sour and spill my tea, and before I put up this gorse they would not leave me at peace in my bed. But they cannot get through this, it pricks them so bad, and then I get some rest." "it is a splendid device, Catti," said the farmer, "but, tell me, do you remember a man called Sion Ifan y Crydd--was there such a man?" "Well," said Catti, "I have some faint recollection of hearing my grandfather relate that Sion's son was lost one morning, and they never heard of him afterwards, so that it was said he was taken by the fairies. Sion's cottage stood somewhere near your house."

Next: Melangell's Lambs