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It is possible to trace many stories back to an original, and throughout North Wales there are stories which are clearly a variant on the same tale.  The myth of a fairy captured by a hunter or workman, ignorant of the contents of his bag is one such common tale.  All end with the terrified captor fleeing in terror.

Below are three examples that relate to North East Wales.

Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd: ‘Where is my son, John?’

A hunter of Coed Cochion, wishing to capture a fox, placed a bag with its mouth open over the entrance of a den.  He had seen a fox enter the den some time earlier and was prepared to wait until the fox re-emerged, into the bag.  With the trap set, the hunter retired a little and lay back against a tree. After a while he dozed, and slept a little as the evening wore on.

He was startled from his sleep by a commotion in the bag.  Pleased, the hunter leapt forward, seized the bag and tied off the mouth, throwing the bag over his shoulder.  Pleased with his work, he set off for home.

However, it wasn’t long before he heard footsteps behind him, and a voice calling from the dark, ‘Where is my son, John?’  

Though it was dark and he could not see the person who had spoken, the hunter was not particularly fearful – he was made of sterner stuff.  Still, the voice continued, enquiring to the mysterious stranger’s son, John, and though the hunter stopped and often peered into the gloom, he could not see the person who so persistently enquired.

‘Where is my son, John?’ came the urgent call again.

But this time, from the bag over the hunter’s shoulder came an answer, ‘There is dear father calling me.”

As if struck by lightning, the hunter dropped the bag to the floor, and without as much as a look over his shoulder, he was away as fleet as the fox he had thought he’d caught.

The Llandrillo Version.

Two men of Llandrillo were otter hunting at Cwm Pennant when they saw something reddish moving quickly by the river.  It disappeared down a hole in the riverbank.  Thinking it was an otter, the men leapt after it.

Beneath the roots of a tree they found two burrows, and believing the otter to be hiding somewhere within, the men set to work to trap the beast.  One of the men placed a bag over the entrance to one burrow, while the other pushed a large pole into the entrance of the other, hoping to flush the terrified creature into the bag.

It wasn’t long before into the trap shot their prey, and quickly the bag was secured.  Pleased with themselves, the pair began to make their way up the embankment, but they had not gone far before they heard a high pitched voice from the bag,

‘My mother is calling me.’

The men immediately dropped the bag and fled, believing they had mistakenly caught a member of the Tylwyth Teg.

Gwyddelwern Version.

A man was out to collect peat from a nearby hill.  Taking only a bag with him, since he meant only to take a little for immediate use, he made for the hill.  However, on arriving at the peat stack, he saw something running before him, and thinking it was a hare, he gave chase and caught it in his bag.

He had not proceeded far from the hill when he heard, much as the hunter of Llanfair Dyffryn Clwyd, a voice calling out from a small distance away, ‘Neddy, Neddy, where are you?’

The unfortunate man then heard a call from the bag he carried, ‘There is daddy calling me.’

The man immediately threw down the bag and made off for home as fast as his feet would carry him.

Further Reading

E. Owen, Welsh Folk-Lord: A Collection of the Folk-Tales and Legends of North Wales, Woodhall, Minshull & Co., Oswestry & Wrexham (1896)

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