It should come as no suprise to find that Dinas Bran has become a draw to myth and legend. The following tale is my rendition of a tale that has been told for many years, a salutary reminder of the dangers of dancing with the Tylwyth Teg - especially when they are found to be the ellyllon.
Tudur ap Einion was a young shepherd who tended his father’s flock of sheep on the slopes of Dinas Bran. It was his habit to use a hollow on the side of the hill to round up the sheep before heading down to pen them at his father’s farm at the base of the hill at the end of the day.
Thus one evening as dusk approached, he began to make his way down the slope, only to be startled by the call of his name from the hollow.
‘Hello there, Tudur ap Einon’ came the cry.
Tudur looked around and saw a tiny man sitting in the hollow. He was dressed in the fineries of nature, all leaves, moss and twigs.
‘Do you like to dance?’ the little man asked, smiling from ear to ear.
‘Indeed I do.’ replied Tudur, who fancied himself a dancer of some ability.
‘Well and good,’ came the reply, ‘since I have come prepared.’
With that, the little man produced a fiddle, an instrument of some rarity in a land which favoured the harp. He began to play a swift and delightful jig which delighted the young shepherd.
As dusk faded to twilight, the little man stopped playing. ‘Look, Tudur, my family approach, and now you will see some dancing, for sure.’
From out of the evening haze, a procession of fair little people came into the hollow. ‘Tylwyth Teg!’ exclaimed Tudur.
Indeed they were. They bowed and greeted Tudur and the little man, who immediately began to play again. As the dancing began, the music became more and more frenzied, until the twisting shapes of the fairy folk became a dream like blur, mesmerising he young man.
‘Will you not dance, Tudur?’ shrieked the tiny man. ‘Will you not join this merry dance?’
Some part of Tudur faintly recalled the warning of his folk against dancing with fairies – some part of him remembered that it was thought an affront to God – but all such thoughts were swept away by the sight of the fairy dance. Leaping into the hollow, Tudur began to dance.
No sooner had he done so, then he felt the change. His feet seemed to move on their own accord. And the fairies themselves began to change – their fair façade slithered away and left behind foul, darkened, twisted shapes resembling goats and pigs. These were no the Tylwyth Teg after all, but ellyllon – goblins.
Crying out, but unable to stop his frenzied dancing, Tudur looked up at the fiddler on the hollow’s edge – and screamed. Horns! The tiny man now wore horns, and his grin had become a leer. As Tudur watched, the creature grew in size and stature, his clothes splitting, dark fur bursting through the rags, his feet swelling to hooves – and while the Diafol played, Tudur danced.
With a final cackle, the devil disappeared, his vile retinue along with him, but Tudur continued to dance – exhausted and despairing.
Meantime, the absent sheep had brought Tudur’s annoyed father up the steep slope of Dinas Bran. There, to his astonishment, he found his frantic son dancing madly.
‘Help me, Da, for I cannot!’ panted Tudur with the last of his breath.
‘Tup!’ cried his father, ‘Stop yourself, by God.’
And with those holy words, the spell was broken and Tudur fell to the ground, exhausted.
The spot of the devil’s dance became known as Nant-yr-Ellyllon – Hollow of the goblins, but the precise place has become lost in the many years that followed. Some say it is on the north east slopes of Dinas Bran – some say elsewhere. Best avoided come dusk.
W. Sikes, British Goblins. Welsh Folk-Lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Tradition, Sampson Low, Marston Searle & Rivington, London (1881)