The Shepherd of Myddvai
Up in the Black Mountains in Caermarthenshire
lies the lake known as
Lyn y Van Vach. To the margin of this lake the shepherd
once led his lambs, and lay there whilst they sought pasture.
Suddenly, from the dark waters of the lake, he saw three
rise. Shaking the bright drops from their hair and gliding
shore, they wandered about amongst his flock. They had
mortal beauty, and he was filled with love for her that
to him. He offered her the bread he had with him, and she
and tried it, but then sang to him:
Hard-baked is thy bread,
'Tis not easy to catch me,and then ran off laughing to the lake.
Next day he took with him bread not so well done, and
the maidens. When they came ashore he offered his bread
and the maiden tasted it and sang:
Unbaked is thy bread,
I will not have thee, and again disappeared in the waves.
A third time did the shepherd of Myddvai
try to attract the maiden,
and this time he offered her bread that he had found floating
near the shore. This pleased her, and she promised to become
wife if he were able to pick her out from among her sisters
following day. When the time came the shepherd knew his
love by the
strap of her sandal. Then she told him she would be as
good a wife
to him as any earthly maiden could be unless he should
three times without cause. Of course he deemed that this
be - and she, summoning from the lake three cows, two oxen,
bull, as her marriage portion, was led homeward by him
as his bride.
The years passed happily, and three children were born
shepherd and the lake-maiden. But one day here were going
christening, and she said to her husband it was far to
walk, so he
told her to go for the horses.
"I will," said she, "if
you bring me my gloves which I've left in
But when he came back with the gloves,
he found she had not gone for
the horses - so he tapped her lightly on the shoulder with
gloves, and said, "Go, go."
"That's one," said
Another time they were at a wedding, when suddenly the
fell a-sobbing and a-weeping, amid the joy and mirth of
Her husband tapped her on the
shoulder, and asked her, "Why
"Because they are entering
into trouble - and trouble is upon you -
for that is the second causeless blow you have given me.
Be careful -
the third is the last."
The husband was careful never to strike her again. But
one day at a
funeral she suddenly burst out into fits of laughter. Her
forgot, and touched her rather roughly on the shoulder,
this a time for laughter?"
"I laugh," she said, "because
those that die go out of trouble, but
your trouble has come. The last blow has been struck -
is at an end, and so farewell." And with that she
rose up and left
the house and went to their home.
Then she, looking round upon her home, called to the cattle
brought with her:
Brindle cow, white speckled,
Spotted cow, bold freckled,
Old white face, and gray Geringer,
And the white bull from the king's coast,
Grey ox, and black calf,
All, all, follow me home,
Now the black calf had just been slaughtered,
and was hanging on the
hook - but it got off the hook alive and well and followed
her - and
the oxen, though they were ploughing, trailed the plough
and did her bidding. So she fled to the lake again, they
her, and with them plunged into the dark waters.
And to this day is the furrow seen which the plough left
as it was
dragged across the mountains to the tarn.
Only once did she come again, when her sons were grown
and then she gave them gifts of healing by which they won
of Meddygon Myddvai, the physicians of Myddvai.