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Saturday 18 October 2014

The Brynberian Afanc

The fair maid of Brynberian, who allowed herself to be used as bait for the fearsome water monster called the Afanc....

Thinking about myths and legends, as one does from time to time, I recalled that the Afon Brynberian, which flows past Rhosyfelin, rises on the moorland on the northern slopes of Preseli.  There's an ancient tale centred on Bedd yr Afanc and Brynberian Bridge, less than 2 km upstream of Craig Rhosyfelin.  I published this tale in my book of folk tales called THE LAST DRAGON, in 1992.  Here it is again -- make of it what you will.......

(I have told this tale before on this blog, in two different forms, but it seems timely to tell it yet again, since such tales are now being hijacked and converted into official history!)

4.6 The Brynberian Afanc

Not far from Brynberian there is a most unusual burial chamber on the bleak moorland. It is a long, low gallery chamber which is said to have similarities with some of the Neolithic burial chambers of Ireland dating from about 2500 BC. There is no other burial chamber like it anywhere else in Wales. It is shaped like a wedge, and is about 35 feet long. It is called Bedd-yr-Afanc, which may be translated as "Monster's Grave". However, some authorities believe that the word "afanc" originally meant "dwarf", whereas in modern Welsh it means a beaver.

According to a very old legend there was once a terrible water monster which inhabited a deep pool in the stream near Brynberian bridge. It caused great fear in the hearts of local people, stealing sheep and other animals and laying waste the country round about. At last it was decided that the afanc must be slain, and so a plan was set in motion. It was known from ancient history that water monsters could not resist the sight of a fair maiden, so the fairest girl in the village agreed to be used as a bait. At dusk a powerful team of oxen was brought to the vicinity of the pool, while the men of the village set loops of strong iron chains along the river bank, with the chains connected to the oxen.

Later, when the full moon was high in the sky, the locals waited with bated breath for the afanc to appear, as it always did on the night of the full moon. The brave girl sat some way from the river bank, looking very beautiful in the moonlight, and with her long hair falling about her in waves. She felt extremely nervous, for she knew that long ago, according to legend, another afanc in North Wales had torn off the breast of a maiden such as she when it was captured. At last the monster emerged from the pool. Seeing the girl, it was immediately entranced, and lumbered towards her across the dewy grass of the river bank. She waited till the last possible moment, and then with a scream she fled. At the same time a great shout went up from the men who had been hiding nearby, and the oxen strained on the iron chains. The chain loops on the grass closed, and the afanc was caught around its legs. With a roar of fury it tried to return to the sanctuary of its pool, and as it thrashed about it temporarily reached the water. But the oxen were immensely strong, and as they were driven by their master there was no escape for the afanc. Bit by bit the chains were drawn tighter about its body, and bit by bit it was hauled out of the river and up the river bank. Then all the men attacked it, with whatever weapons they could muster -- axes, sickles, spades, scythes, forks and pointed spears.

At last, after a mighty battle, the bloodied monster lay dead on the grass. A rousing cheer echoed around the moonlit countryside, and as the news spread people came from near and far to see the dead beast. Nobody slept much that night; the ale flowed freely, and the celebrations went on until daybreak. Then, in the morning, the oxen hauled the dead monster up onto the moor. In a suitable place the chains were undone, and the creature was buried in a great tomb made of slabs of rock from the mountain. It was covered with stones and earth, and from that day to this the site has been called Bedd yr Afanc.

Date: c 1300? Sources: Rhys p 689, Davies p 325

1 comment:

TonyH said...

There is also a legend of an afanc in Llangorse Lake, on the Brecon Beacons close to Brecon itself. There is a Medieval poem about this fellow too, later in origin. According to what I have just read on the Internet (Llangorse: Wikipedia), some wildlife researcher linked to Fortean Times thinks the origin of the legend may go back to the presence of beavers at the lake. Ther is also a 9th Century crannog on the lake, excavated by Time Team in the last ten to fifteen years. Perhaps the eventual reintroduction of beavers to Wales, as England, will see more alarming afanc announcements??