The Shepherd of Myddvai
P in the Black Mountains in Caermarthenshire lies the lake
known as Lyn y Van Vach. To the margin of this lake the
shepherd of Myddvai once led his lambs, and lay there whilst
they sought pasture. Suddenly, from the dark waters of the
lake, he saw three maidens rise. Shaking the bright drops
from their hair and gliding to the shore, they wandered
about amongst his flock. They had more than mortal beauty,
and he was filled with love for her that came nearest to
him. He offered her the
 bread he had with him, and she took
it and tried it, but then sang to him:
Hard-baked is thy bread,
'Tis not easy to catch me,
and then ran off laughing to the lake.
Next day he took with him bread not so well done, and
watched for the maidens. When they came ashore he offered
his bread as before, and the maiden tasted it and sang:
Unbaked is thy bread,
I will not have thee,
and again disappeared in the waves.
A third time did the shepherd of Myddvai try to attract the
maiden, and this time he offered her bread that he had found
floating about near the shore. This pleased her, and she
promised to become his wife if he were able to pick her out
from among her sisters on the following day. When the time
came the shepherd knew his love by the strap of her sandal.
Then she told him she would be as good a wife to him as any
earthly maiden could be unless he should strike her three
times without cause. Of course he deemed that this could
never be; and she, summoning from the lake three cows, two
oxen, and a bull, as her marriage portion, was led homeward
by him as his bride.
The years passed happily, and three children were born to
the shepherd and the lake-maiden. But one day here were
going to a christening, and she said to her husband it was
far to walk, so he told her to go for the horses.
 "I will," said she, "if you bring me my gloves which I've
left in the house."
But when he came back with the gloves, he found she had not
gone for the horses; so he tapped her lightly on the
shoulder with the gloves, and said, "Go, go."
"That's one," said she.
Another time they were at a wedding, when suddenly the
lake-maiden fell a-sobbing and a-weeping, amid the joy and
mirth of all around her.
Her husband tapped her on the shoulder, and asked her, "Why
do you weep?"
"Because they are entering into trouble; and trouble is
upon you; for that is the second causeless blow you have
given me. Be careful; the third is the last."
The husband was careful never to strike her again. But one
day at a funeral she suddenly burst out into fits of
laughter. Her husband forgot, and touched her rather roughly
on the shoulder, saying, "Is this a time for laughter?"
"I laugh," she said, "because those that die go out of
trouble, but your trouble has come. The last blow has been
struck; our marriage is at an end, and so farewell."
And with that she rose up and left the house and went to
Then she, looking round upon her home, called to the cattle
she had brought with her:
Brindle cow, white speckled,
Spotted cow, bold freckled,
Old white face, and gray Geringer,
And the white bull from the king's coast,
Grey ox, and black calf,
All, all, follow me home,
Now the black calf had just been slaughtered, and was
hanging on the hook; but it got off the hook alive and well
and followed her; and the oxen, though they were ploughing,
trailed the plough with them and did her bidding. So she
fled to the lake again, they following her, and with them
plunged into the dark waters. And to this day is the furrow
seen which the plough left as it was dragged across the
mountains to the tarn.
Only once did she come again, when her sons were grown to
manhood, and then she gave them gifts of healing by which
they won the name of Meddygon Myddvai, the physicians of