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  • Writer's pictureGraham Watkins

The Lady of Llyn y Fan

Many years ago in the village of Llanddeusant in the county of Carmarthenshire a young man lived with his mother. Their home was Blaensawdde Farm on the bank of the River Sawdde. The young man dreamt of finding a wife but Blaensawdde was a lonely place which no one ever visited. The youth never had an opportunity to meet or woo a girl. This made his mother sad. She worried that one-day she would be too old to run the house. She knew that they both needed a younger woman to live with them.

Llyn y Fan

Each day the youth’s mother would send him up the valley to tend the animals as they grazed. As he watched the animals he would dream of meeting a girl to make his wife. At the top of the valley, hidden below the high cliffs and known to all as the Black Mountain, there was a small lake and it was here that he would lay on the soft grass as the days passed.

One bright summer day when the sun was high in the sky and the skylarks were singing the young man heard a noise. He looked around, and there across the lake, he saw a beautiful girl. She was singing and combing her long black hair. At once he stood up and ran around the lake towards her. The girl saw him coming but she was not afraid and let him run right up to her.

'Good Sir. Why do you run here so fast?' she asked, looking at him. The young man was entranced by her beauty and resolved at once that he should marry her. It was love at first sight.

'You are the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. Will you marry me?' he exclaimed without embarrassment. The girl laughed.

‘What token of love will you give me?’ she asked.

The young man thought hard. All he had was his lunch of stale bread and cheese. He reached into his pocket and presented the girl with the small loaf his mother had prepared.

The girl saw the bread and turned away, saying, 'Cras dy fara. Nid hawdd fy nala.'

'Hard baked is thy bread. I will not have thee.' Having spoken, she walked into the lake and vanished.

The following day, eager to see the girl again, he took the bread from the oven before it was completely baked and ran up the valley to the lake. The young woman was again seated on a rock by the lake. He offered her the bread but again she turned away, saying, 'Llaith dy fara. Ti ny fynna.' 'Unbaked is thy bread. I will not have thee.' One again she disappeared into the lake.

The young man told his mother what had happened and, wanting to help, she used all her skill to mix some dough for another loaf. She added fresh yeast and left the dough to rise overnight in the warm kitchen. The next day, the young man raced to the lake with the loaf his mother had just taken from the oven. It was wrapped in a towel, still warm, and had the smell of the hearth.

The girl was by the lake waiting for him. He handed her the bread. She took a bite and smiled at him. 'I will be your wife. But hit me three times without cause and we will part forever.' As she spoke, sheep, cows, oxen and chickens started to come out of the lake. Overjoyed the young man picked up his new fiancé and carried her down the valley. They laughed as they went and the animals, which were her dowry, followed the happy pair. They married and the farm prospered. The girl was a good wife and bore him three sons.

One day the man, for he was no longer young, scolded his wife for being slow to get ready for a family wedding. Irritated he pushed her lightly towards the door.

His wife spoke sharply. 'You had no cause to hit me.'

At the wedding he tapped her lightly on the arm, in jest, to remind her of their own wedding.

Again she spoke sharply. 'You had no cause to hit me.' On the way home she reminded him of her warning and never to hit her again or she would leave.

The man promised faithfully that he would not.

Years passed until one cold November day, at his mother’s funeral, the wife started to laugh. The man was upset by his wife’s rude behaviour and, forgetting his promise, he prodded her.

'Be quiet,' he hissed.

Without speaking a word, his wife marched out of the little church in Llanddeusant and up the valley. She walked quickly and behind her followed all the animals from the farm including a team of plough oxen. They were still pulling the plough as they went. They all walked into the lake and the man never saw them again.

If you look carefully you can still see the furrow made by the plough as the oxen returned to the lake.

Distraught the man searched the lake every day for a year until, broken hearted, his health failed and he sat at home crying. The three sons also missed their mother and visited the lake often in the hope of seeing her. One day, as they drew nearer the lake, they saw her sitting on the same rock where their father had first seen her.

She called out and they approached. She handed Rhiwallon, who was the eldest, a bag.

'In this bag are the secrets of healing from the Underworld. Take them and heal your father’s broken heart,' she said and, without saying goodbye, slid into the lake and vanished for the last time.

The boys took the bag of herbal remedies home but they were too late. Their father had already passed away. This however is not the end of the story. The brothers moved to Myddfai, near Llandovery and all became famous doctors known as ‘The Physicians of Myddfai.’ Their descendants continued for centuries as medical men and some say the last known Physicians of Myddfai was Doctor Charles Rice Williams who had his practice at Aberystwyth in 1881.


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