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The Elf Dancers of Cae Caled – Bodfari

‘though I have often in mature age called to my mind the principles of religion and philosophy to account for it, I am forced to class it among my unknowables.’

Thus spoke the Rev. Dr. Edward Williams, the great non-conformist minister born in Glan Clwyd Isa in 1750, struggling to make sense of an experience which scarred his childhood. Commentators since, including Elias Owen, have ever since scratched their heads at the strangeness of the tale, the honesty and reason of Williams making his story that much more difficult to dismiss as nonsense. In all my years of reading and studying such tales, this is the one I am most taken with – and it begs all sorts of questions and considerations.

Williams childhood was one of idyllic calm and beauty, within the rural fastness and vastness of north east Wales. But, on one occasion he, his sister and their two friends came across a something so strange that it deeply affected him. Playing in a field near their home, the group of younglings came across a group of small people - ‘what shall I call them? Beings, neither men, women, nor children, dancing with great briskness.’

The children are frightened and begin to leave the field. But one of the ‘Lilliputians’ seems to take an interest in the group, and suddenly breaks from the group and charges after the children. Desperately, the younglings flee, clearing a stile to safety – all but Edward, who, being the youngest and smallest has fallen behind. The little man seems certain to capture Edward,

‘I screamed out exceedingly; my sister also and our companions set up a roar, and the former dragged me with violence over the stile on which, at the instant I was disengaged from it, this warlike Lilliputian leaned and stretched himself after me, but came not over.’

By the time the menfolk of the area had arrived at the field, one supposes with cudgels in hand, the group of little people had vanished – entirely.

Say what you wish, but the fact that decades later, Williams was still trying to reason his way through the experience, is telling. You get a sense from his writing that he doesn’t want to believe it, doesn’t want this to be real… If you’ve a mind to, you can stay in Williams old home – is now a series of holiday cottages. Good luck.

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