British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions (1880)

Wirt Sikes, US consul to Cardiff from 1876 to 1883, describes the mythology and traditions of Wales, a land steeped in folklore. (Considering its geographic focus, why the book is not simply called Welsh Goblins remains a mystery.) The first section of the book concerns the fairies, which are known as “y Tylwyth Teg” in Welsh, meaning the fair folk or family. They come in five varieties: Ellyllon (elves), Coblynau (mine fairies), Bwbachod (household fairies), Gwragedd Annwn (underwater fairies), and Gwyllion (mountain fairies).

The Ellyllon are pigmy elves who haunt the groves and valleys. They dine on poisonous toadstools and fairy butter, which they extract from deep crevices in limestone rocks. Their hands are clad in the bells of the foxglove, the leaves of which are a powerful sedative. They are sometimes kindly, sometimes menacing and almost always mischievous. One variety of Ellyllon, the Ellylldan, will wait in boggy wetland and flash their fiery lures to lead travellers off the safe path, sometimes to their death.

The Coblynau populate the mines, quarries and underground regions of Wales. They are about half a metre tall, very ugly to look it, and generally good-natured. They will make a peculiar knocking or rapping sound to let miners know the whereabouts of a rich vein of ore. The word coblyn has the double meaning in Welsh of “knocker” and “sprite”. And, Wirt Sikes asks, “may it not be the original of ‘goblin’?”[…]


Source: British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions (1880)


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