stepped into a fairy circle were often ensnared and might
disappear. One story tells of a farmer who vanished, in plain sight and in
broad daylight, while working in the middle of his field. Others, working nearby, ran to the spot.
There they found a fairy ring and could hear the
fading voice of the lost man calling for help. But he was never to be seen again.
Most people who were trapped in a fairy circle joined
the sprites in their eternal dance.
They were seldom released in less than a year and
a day, and after they returned to this world they seldom
lived for long. Many were reputed to crumble to dust when touched or given food.
Idwal of Nant Clwyd, for example, vanished as a young
man, leaving his family behind. Some generations later, a frail and elderly man came to the door
of the family home. It
was Idwal. The old man could not explain his long absence
or aged appearance, for he thought of himself as a young
man. The family realized that he had been ensnared
in a fairy circle. Idwal
then immediately disappeared.
Generally, the victims of fairy circles had no memory
of dancing, no idea of the passage of time, and their first
thoughts were of the tasks that they were involved in before
their ensnarement. People could be rescued from the rings, invariably
against their will, by using rowan sticks or iron and snatching
them out. Fairies
took great delight in ensnaring people yet were known to
sing that they experienced a pleasure in dancing that humans
were not permitted to know.
woman from Llandeilo reveals the identity of the changelings
substituted for her stolen babies by preparing a midday
meal in an eggshell.
Fairies not only captured the unwary but were reputed
to steal babies and substitute changelings. Indeed, fairies greatly appreciated human women as midwives and
as foster mothers. There
are many stories that explore these themes.
The tale of a woman named Llewellyn from Llandeilo
is a typical changeling story that also shows how easily
fairies could be outwitted. The woman and her husband lived in a cottage
outside the village, in a rather isolated spot. They had twin baby sons that they cared for dearly. One day, the woman was called to a neighbor’s
home on business. Returning
at the end of the day, she was horrified to see blue-coated
elves lurking in the woods near her cottage.
But when she arrived home she was relieved to find
her babies as she had left them, safe in their cradle.