tiny lake of Llyn Gwyn and the island where Gwyn,
son of Mudd the king of the underworld, held his court.
if fairy men did not marry human women, they did prefer
them as midwives or foster mothers.
These stories also follow typical patterns. The midwife is collected at her home and taken to a richly adorned
cave where she attends the fairy mother. After the baby is born, she is given some ointment with which to
clean the baby. She
is warned not to get any of the mixture into her eyes, but
she invariably does. Her powers of sight then change, and she finds
herself in surroundings of either extreme poverty or opulence. The midwife does not disclose her new ability
and is generously rewarded for her help and taken home. Sometime later she sees the father once again,
perhaps at market or in the village, and asks him how his
wife is. He answers amicably, but, as their conversation
continues, asks with which eye she saw him.
She tells him, and he promptly blinds her in that
eye. She is never again able to see fairies.
our final tale, the midwife rides with a mysterious
prince to a small cave on an island in the middle of an
isolated lake. The ointment gets into her eyes, and she finds herself
in the most richly adorned palace, surrounded by servants
and courtiers, where she had once been alone.
The location for this tale is Llyn Gwyn, the fairy
kingdom that lies in the heart of the Welsh hills.
Osmond is assistant senior editor of the Culture section
of THE WORLD & I.