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Sunday 12 February 2012

The Legend of Bedd yr Afanc

Since some of the faithful followers of this blog have a soft spot for fairy tales and the like, it's worth mentioning that Bedd yr Afanc has quite strong folk traditions attached to it.  Not sacred -- strictly secular.  In Welsh mythology the "afanc" (translated as "beaver" today) was a fearsome water monster which terrorised the countryside and devoured cattle and other farm animals.

There are two main legends surrounding this strange and ruinous gallery grave.  One has it that the Afanc, dwelling on the Preseli slopes somewhere above Brynberian, ravaged the countryside, committing such depredations on the local livestock that a consultation of the wisest folk was held to devise some means of getting rid of him. They decided to slay him by a trick. A deputation was sent to him to ask him to dig a well for the people. This he agreed to do, and forthwith began working furiously. When he had dug to a great depth ("over one hundred yards" said one relater) the people above tipped into the hole he had made a big load of "white stones" (presumably quartz pebbles) which they had collected on the mountain-sides, intending to crush him to death. But next morning they found him still digging, and were informed by him that there had been a rather heavy snowstorm on the previous day, which he had found to be but a minor irritation.  Thus they were unable to do away with him; and he continued as before, eventually "dying a natural death", after which "he was buried on the hill side" between Hafod and Brynberian, "and his tomb may be seen to this day". 

This story was collected by T.R.Davis (past Schoolmaster of Newport School) and included by him in original Welsh in his prize essay on N. Pembrokeshire Folklore (MS. Maenchlochog, 1906). He heard it from shepherds and cottagers in the Precelly district.

This version of the myth was posted by Rhiannon on The Modern Antiquarian:

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