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The Red Curse

The wife of a farmer was busy one morning in the yard in front of her farmhouse, dyeing wool in an enormous tub.  The work was hard, and the blue dye stained her arms to the elbows, and her face where forgetfully she had wiped the sweat from her brow.  She was, as a consequence a little peevish by the time the old woman, a stranger appeared before her.


‘Lady, give me some of your wool, and a little of the dye that you are using,’ begged the old woman.


‘Be off with you, woman,’ snapped the wife, ‘I’ve no time for beggars, today.’


‘Just a little, lady, and you’ll gain a little luck in your endeavours in the future,’ pleaded the old woman.


The wife leaned forward in the tub, annoyed, ‘Away with you, old woman, I’ve none to spare.’


The old woman’s face turned from pleading to sneering, ‘You’ll regret your lack of charity, lady.’ And with that she turned and left.


The wife considered a moment, leaning forward in the tub, shaking her head at the cheek of the old woman.  Then she lifted out the wool from the tub to find that though the dye was blue, the wool and her arms were red.


No matter how many times she thrust the wool into the blue dye, it came out red.  Frantic, she splashed the wool about the dye, but nothing other than red wool came out.


That afternoon, a neighbour arrived and the wife told her what had happened.


‘There’s talk of a witch in the village,’ said the neighbour, ‘and I think it is her you met.’


‘What am I to do?  I need this wool to dye blue for market,’ asked the wife.


‘Aye, give the wool and dye to me, and we’ll see if the curse is on you or the wool,’ was the neighbour’s suggestion.


To the farmer wife’s great relief, the neighbour found the wool dyed blue on her own farm and by her own hands.

Further Reading

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

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