The Gold Field

There was once a farmer who worked hard and who always had a kind word for his sheep, a crust of bread for the birds, and a song for the wind. Seeing this, the fairies favoured the farmer by leaving one of their treasures for him to find. One bright morning, when the farmer was out taking care of his sheep, he picked up a large acorn with a split in its side. The farmer could see the acorn’s heart was made of gold. He buried the acorn at the top of his field, to see if the gold would grow and to keep it safe. The farmer imagined a great oak taking root with golden leaves, but instead the soil of the field filled with specks of gold dust and it shone here and there among the grass.


That winter, when the storms came and the soil could hold no more rain, water streamed down the field taking gold dust with it towards the river. Seeing his gold swept down the field the farmer called for his sheep and asked for their help. The sheep clothed the fence at the bottom of the field with wool, making a net of it to catch the gold. Some gold clung to the tufts of wool, but most was washed through into the river.


Seeing his gold swept downstream the farmer called for the birds and asked for their help. Crows and swifts gathered sticks and moss and made the farmer a nest of a boat. Sailing in the boat the farmer was able to sift some gold from the water, but most was carried away.

Seeing his gold swept towards the sea the farmer called for the wind and asked for its help. A strong north westerly picked up his boat and lifted it right into the bay. Conwy Quay had filled with gold. In the saltwater gold dust had gathered into strands like seaweed, tangling together boats and their nets. As the farmer tried to fish the gold from the water his nest of a boat became too heavy and sank.


Fishermen gathered on the quayside, despairing there’d be no catch for them that day. The farmer took a deep breath and dived beneath the waves to call for the help of the Conwy mussels in their beds. The mussels let go of their precious pearls, and each took hold of a portion of gold instead until every last speck of it was locked away in their tough blue shells.


The fishermen on the quayside were furious as the mussels were now too heavy to be raked from their beds. But fairy treasure doesn’t stay in one place for long; after three new moons the gold had seeped out to sea. The farmer returned to his field and never touched an acorn again.

This project was supported by  EPSRC grant EP/L023636/1 which is related to EP/L023555/1 and EP/L023237/1