Despite their diverse natures, the fairies were believed
to share a common background, although there were two distinct
folk traditions that explained fairy origins. One explanation
stated that when Christ was living on the earth, he came
to the house of a woman. She saw him coming. On some unaccountable
impulse, she hid half her children. After Christ had departed,
she went to the place where she had hidden her children,
only to find that they had vanished. They were never seen
again. These were the first fairies.
The other explanation is that the fairies were the
original inhabitants of Britain. They were conquered by
an iron-using race (hence their horror of iron) and were
driven into hiding in the mountains of Wales. This theory
of the fairies as a lost race corresponds to other legends.
The first is of a great city and lands that are now lost
but that once stood in the area of Rhos Goch (the red bog)
in the southern part of the county. The other legends concern
a secret warrior force that sleeps beneath the hills. In
this context, Radnorshire’s fairy legends overlap with its
rich lode of Arthurian romance and lore and with tales of
Owen Lawgoch, the last warrior leader of the Cymryr (ancient
Welsh). There is a belief that Lawgoch will one day return
to drive the oppressors of the Cymryr out of Wales, and
there are stories throughout Celtic lands of a great king
and his warriors sleeping beneath the hills, waiting to
arise and combat the country’s enemies. The king is usually
identified as either Arthur or Owen, but these stories are
generally more concerned with the discovery of a treasure
trove that the sleeping knights guard.
Fairy rings and ensnarement
Whatever their origins and despite their supernatural
abilities, fairies were not considered intelligent and could
be easily outwitted. They could not count above five, had
no schools or formal education, and had no agriculture.
principal occupations seemed to be dancing
and bathing their babies, though occasionally fairy menfolk
could be seen hunting and riding horses the size of hares. Dancing took place in fairy rings at full moon and in the evenings,
when heads could be seen above the curling mists, bobbing
to the music. Rings,
often found beside yew, oak, or sycamore trees (but never
a rowan), varied in size from a few yards in diameter to
a radius of as much as three-quarters of an acre. They were distinguished by unusual fertility
and thicker grass patterns and might produce as much as
three times the normal crop yield if cultivated.
cultivation of a fairy ring was a dangerous task.
Fairy revenge could be dreadful indeed.