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The Devil's Bridge

September 23, 2017

The widow, Marged, lived on the south bank of Afon Mynach. For company she kept a little dog and a cow. Each morning, as the sun’s warming rays crept over the mountain, she would rise from her bed and milk her cow. The milk was rich and creamy and Marged would make butter and cheese. Each afternoon Marged would push a heavy barrow, loaded with butter and cheese, to the village of Ponterwyd where she would sell her produce at the crossroads. Because she could not cross the river near her house, the current being too fast, Marged had to push her simple cart along the bank of the river until it was shallow and calm enough to ford. Each evening, as the sun vanished in the west, she would trudge the long journey home along the riverbank, dragging the empty cart behind her.

'My bones ache and my legs are so stiff. If only there was a bridge; it would save me hours of walking,' she moaned, as she fell into bed. She slept a deep troubled sleep and did not hear the rain beating on her roof, nor see the lightening flashing across the sky or hear the thunder crashing as a great storm raged through the night.

Next morning, Marged woke and dressed. The dog, eager to start the day, scampered around her feet. She opened the door to the byre and called, 'I am here Malen (for that was the cows name). It is time to give your milk'.

Marged peered into the gloom but her precious cow was gone. The old woman ran outside. The dog followed and started to bark excited by her confusion.

'Where are you, Malen?' cried the old woman.  Then she saw her cow. It was standing on the far bank of the river. The river was swollen with the storm, running fast and deep with a deafening roar. Next to the cow, stood a man, dressed in a monk’s habit. A hood covered his head.

'Is this your cow?' yelled the monk. His voice was strangely powerful and carried easily above the thunder of the river. The old woman replied but her answer was carried away, drowned by the noise of the water. She nodded a reply.

'She must have been frightened and got lost in the night. You will have to walk miles upstream if you want to cross the river to collect her,' boomed the monk across the gorge.

'Oh dear! If only there was a bridge I could skip across the river and milk her in a moment,' wailed the old woman.

'Marged, I shall build you a bridge before noon,' cried the monk.

'A bridge before noon? That would be a miracle but how could I repay such a kindness? I have no money,' called the old woman. The monk laughed.

'Money means nothing to me. All I ask in return is the soul of the first living thing that walks over the bridge,' he cried. Marged wanted the bridge and eagerly agreed to the contract.

 

'Go inside your house and wait. I will call you when the bridge is finished,' yelled the monk. Marged took her dog into the house and closed the door. Outside, a great commotion started. She could hear rocks being hammered and split, trees being felled and sawn into planks, chains clanking with heavy loads and great shouts as the monk toiled to build the bridge. As time passed Marged grew hungry. She took some bread and cheese from the cupboard and started to eat. The noise outside stopped.

'It is ready,' called the monk. Marged opened the door and ran outside, still holding her breakfast in her hand. The monk and her cow were stood on the far side of the river. In front of them a fine bridge with a stone arch stretched across the ravine.

'Come across and inspect your new bridge,' invited the monk.

Just as she was about to walk onto the bridge, the old woman remembered what the monk wanted in payment for his work - the soul of the first living thing that walks over the bridge. She stopped.

'Your cow needs milking. You must come and get her,' implored the monk with a devious grin.

'How can I be sure the bridge will take my weight?' called Marged.

'Come, Marged. You can see how strong the bridge is,' coaxed the monk.

'The river runs fast. I might fall in and drown,' yelled the old woman.

'Trust me. You will be quite safe,' replied the monk. But Marged did not trust the monk.

'Here boy,' called the old woman. As the dog sprang up, Marged threw her bread and cheese right over the river. It landed by the monk’s feet. The hungry dog chased across the bridge to the food and wolfed it down. The monk flew into a rage. His face grew red and his hood fell to his shoulders revealing two black horns. Marged had dealt with the Devil.

'I’m an old woman but I’m not an old fool. Our deal is done. Be on your way Satan and take your dog’s soul with you,' cried Marged.

'The soul of a dog is no use to me. Keep it. You have tricked me, Marged. I won’t forget this,' boomed the Devil and vanished. The old woman lived with her dog and cow for many years and people travelled from far and wide to see her fine bridge over Afon Mynach. The Devil never returned but the bridge he built in one morning stands to this day. Some people say you can make out the Devil's face in the bank below the bridge. Have a look at the picture and see what you think.

 

 

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