The Glaw Brenin

There was once a farmer who worked hard and who always had a kind word for his sheep 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.


Further up the valley from the farmer lived the Glaw Brenin, a creature of cloud with fine mist for hair and fingers of icy drizzle. From his mountaintop seat the Glaw Brenin watched people take whatever they wanted from the land and the river and the sea. He noticed how they made their lives richer with what they took and he saw how much fairy gold now glistened in the farmer’s field. The Glaw Brenin vowed to take as much of the gold as he could to gild his stony seat. He raged down the valley, flooding the soil, and carrying everything from the farmer’s field to the river. In his determination to take every last speck of gold he carried away the sheep, the fences, the pylons and even the farmer too. On the Glaw Brenin roared down the valley, taking every last tree and cow and tractor with him.


In Conwy Bay the fishermen tried to catch what they could before it was swept out to sea. Sheep made a strange catch in the nets that day, gulls perched in the branches of floating trees, and farmers were hauled from the water with their feet stuck in lobster pots. Everything and everyone was gilded with fairy gold, which sparkled like light, but weighed them down like stone.

The Glaw Brenin blustered overhead. No farmer, or townsfolk or fishermen could do any work to feed themselves that day, but they clung tight to the bulging nets so the Glaw Brenin couldn’t take everything from them. Seeing that they couldn’t hold on much longer, the farmer who always had a song for the wind called for its help. A strong southwesterly gusted through the bay pushed the boats and their weighty catches upriver until it could blow no further.


The townsfolk who always had a crust for the birds climbed to the top of the castle walls and called for their help.  A thousand jackdaws and gulls took ropes in their claws and heaved the boats and their weighty catches upriver until they could fly no further.


The fishermen who always had a salute for the sea called for its help. With a rumble, then a roar a spring tide came rushing in and carried the boats and their weighty catches upriver, to places the tide had never touched before. Every last tree and tractor was returned to its place in the valley, and the tide took the coating of fairy gold from all as it turned.


The Glaw Brenin crept back to his mountaintop seat where he sits and watches over the valley still.

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