Explore: For another story about treasure hunting, see Arthur in the Cave. For another story in which the devil makes an appearance, see The Devil's Bridge.
[notes by LKG]
This story is part of the Welsh Fairy Tales unit. Story source: The Welsh Fairy Book by W. Jenkyn Thomas with illustrations by Willy Pogány (1908).
John Gethin and the Candle
For a long time he could not secure a companion. He approached all his friends and acquaintances in vain: they were afraid and refused to have anything to do with such a perilous adventure.
At last, however, John Gethin, who was a reckless youth and said that he cared for nothing in heaven above, or in the earth beneath or in the water under the earth, said he would accompany the man with the iron hand on condition that he received half the treasure.
One dark night the twain went to the mountain and took up their stand on a greensward near the rock under which the wizard said the treasure was concealed. "Now," said the magician, "I am going to call upon the spirit which guards the treasure to present himself before us." He put on a robe of black covered with talismanic characters, girded himself with snake-skins tied together, and placed on his head a cap of sheepskin with a high crown bearing a plume of pigeons' feathers. In his hand he had a whip, the thong of which was made of the skin of an eel and the handle of bone. With this he traced two circles on the sward touching each other like the figure 8. After that he took a great black book and lit a candle and stepped into one of the circles. "Stand in the middle of the other circle," said he to Gethin, "and whatever happens, do not step out of the ring." Gethin did as he was told.
The wizard opened his book and read: "I adjure and invocate thee by the silence of the night and by the holy rites of magic and by the number of the infernal legions, that without delay thou present thyself here and answer my demand by the force of the words contained in this book." This he repeated thrice.
First there appeared a monstrous bull, bellowing dreadfully, but the plucky Gethin held his ground, and the bull vanished. Then a gigantic goat came and rushed full pelt at Gethin, but as he did not move the goat also melted into thin air. Next a huge bristly boar charged at him, and an immense fire-breathing lion crouched and leapt at him, but Gethin stood motionless, and as soon as these fearful apparitions crossed the circle drawn by the magician they vanished into space.
Then a great fly-wheel of fire, blazing brightly and roaring loudly, made straight for poor Gethin. For a moment he lost heart and swerved out of the ring. No sooner had he done this than the fly-wheel of fire assumed the shape of the Enemy of Mankind, and began to haul Gethin away. The man with the iron hand seized hold of him and tried to get him back. Poor Gethin nearly parted in half in the struggle between the two.
The Enemy of Mankind was getting the better of the tug of war, when the wizard said, "By the power of the East, Athanaton, of the West, Orgon, of the South, Boralim, of the North, Glauron, I charge and command thee to suffer this man to live while this candle lasts." The Evil One let go his hold of Gethin and vanished.
Thereupon the wizard immediately blew out the candle and gave it to Gethin. "Had you not swerved out of the circle," he said, "all would have been well, but as you disobeyed my command, this is the utmost respite that I can secure for you. Put the candle away in a cool place. As long as the candle lasts your life will be safe."
Gethin went home and preserved the piece of candle very carefully, stowing it away in the coldest place he could find. But as time went on he found it was wasting away, although it was never lighted. Gethin was never the same after his fearful night on the mountain, and when he found the candle was wasting away he took to his bed. As the candle wasted away he did the same, and after some years both came to an end at the same time.
The wizard attended him during his last hours, and those who carried the coffin, which was supposed to contain Gethin's mortal remains, found it very light. The story went that Gethin's body disappeared out of the coffin before it was nailed up, and that the wizard put a lump of clay there instead to save appearances, but no one was bold enough to open the coffin to find out the truth.
Next: Melangell's Lambs