Fairy Ladies Marrying Mortals


In the mythology of the Greeks, and other nations, gods and goddesses are

spoken of as falling in love with human beings, and many an ancient

genealogy began with a celestial ancestor. Much the same thing is said

of the Fairies. Tradition speaks of them as being enamoured of the

inhabitants of this earth, and content, for awhile, to be wedded to

mortals. And there are families in Wales who are said to have Fairy

d coursing through their veins, but they are, or were, not so highly

esteemed as were the offspring of the gods among the Greeks. The famous

physicians of Myddfai, who owed their talent and supposed supernatural

knowledge to their Fairy origin, are, however, an exception; for their

renown, notwithstanding their parentage, was always great, and increased

in greatness, as the rolling years removed them from their traditionary

parent, the Fairy lady of the Van Pool.

The Pellings are said to have sprung from a Fairy Mother, and the

author of Observations on the Snowdon Mountains states that the best

blood in his veins is fairy blood. There are in some parts of Wales

reputed descendants on the female side of the Gwylliaid Cochion race;

and there are other families among us whom the aged of fifty years ago,

with an ominous shake of the head, would say were of Fairy extraction.

We are not, therefore, in Wales void of families of doubtful parentage or


All the current tales of men marrying Fairy ladies belong to a class of

stories called, technically, Taboo stories. In these tales the lady

marries her lover conditionally, and when this condition is broken she

deserts husband and children, and hies back to Fairy land.

This kind of tale is current among many people. Max Muller in Chips

from a German Workshop, vol. ii, pp. 104-6, records one of these ancient

stories, which is found in the Brahmana of the Yagur-veda. Omitting

a few particulars, the story is as follows:--

Urvasi, a kind of Fairy, fell in love with Pururavas, the son of Ida,

and when she met him she said, 'Embrace me three times a day, but never

against my will, and let me never see you without your royal garments,

for this is the manner of women.' In this manner she lived with him a

long time, and she was with child. Then her former friends, the

Gandharvas, said: 'This Urvasi has now dwelt a long time among mortals;

let us see that she come back.' Now, there was a ewe, with two lambs,

tied to the couch of Urvasi and Pururavas, and the Gandharvas stole one

of them. Urvasi said: 'They take away my darling, as if I had lived in a

land where there is no hero and no man.' They stole the second, and she

upbraided her husband again. Then Pururavas looked and said: 'How can

that be a land without heroes and men where I am?' And naked, he sprang

up; he thought it too long to put on his dress. Then the Gandharvas sent

a flash of lightning, and Urvasi saw her husband naked as by daylight.

Then she vanished; 'I come back,' she said, and went.

Pururavas bewailed his love in bitter grief. But whilst walking along

the border of a lake full of lotus flowers the Fairies were playing there

in the water, in the shape of birds, and Urvasi discovered him and


'That is the man with whom I dwelt so long.' Then her friends said: 'Let

us appear to him.' She agreed, and they appeared before him. Then the

king recognised her, and said:--

'Lo! my wife, stay, thou cruel in mind! Let us now exchange some words!

Our secrets, if they are not told now, will not bring us back on any

later day.'

She replied: 'What shall I do with thy speech? I am gone like the first

of the dawns. Pururavas, go home again, I am hard to be caught, like the


The Fairy wife by and by relents, and her mortal lover became, by a

certain sacrifice, one of the Gandharvas.

This ancient Hindu Fairy tale resembles in many particulars similar tales

found in Celtic Folk-Lore, and possibly, the original story, in its main

features, existed before the Aryan family had separated. The very words,

I am hard to be caught, appear in one of the Welsh legends, which shall

be hereafter given:--

Nid hawdd fy nala,

I am hard to be caught.

And the scene is similar; in both cases the Fairy ladies are discovered

in a lake. The immortal weds the mortal, conditionally, and for awhile

the union seems to be a happy one. But, unwittingly, when engaged in an

undertaking suggested by, or in agreement with the wife's wishes, the

prohibited thing is done, and the lady vanishes away.

Such are the chief features of these mythical marriages. I will now

record like tales that have found a home in several parts of Wales.