Welsh Fairy Book: Melangell's Lambs

The Kingdom of Powys was located in eastern Wales, and it originally included the region of Powys in modern Wales along with most of Shropshire in what is now England. Brochel ap Cyngen, also known as Brochwel Ysgithrog, was a legendary King of Powys, and Powys is sometimes called "the land of Brochwel." Meanwhile, Saint Melangell is indeed a saint: her feast day is on May 27, and her shrine is located in Saint Melangell's Church in Wales.

Explore: For another story about a saint, see St Collen and the King of Fairy. For a quite different story about finding a woman in the wilderness, see Einion and the Lady of the Greenwood.

[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 Pog├íny (1908).

Melangell's Lambs

BROCHWEL, the Prince of Powys, upon a certain day in the year of our Lord 604, was hunting in a place called Pennant. His hounds started a hare, and pursued it into a dense thicket. Following them into the thicket, he saw a beautiful maiden on her knees praying devoutly to God. The hare was lying on the folds of her garment, facing the hounds boldly.

The prince shouted, "Catch her, catch her!" but the more he urged his hounds on, the further did they retreat, and at last they fled away, howling with terror. The prince, astonished at the strange behaviour of his hounds, turned to the maiden and asked her who she was.

"I am the daughter of a King of Ireland," she answered, "and because my father desired to wed me to one of his chiefs, I fled from my native soil, and, God guiding me, came to this desert place, where for fifteen years I have served God without seeing the face of any man." The Prince enquired her name, and she replied that she was called Melangell (the Latin form of the name is Monacella).

Thereupon the Prince broke forth in these words, "O most worthy Melangell, I perceive that thou art the handmaiden of the true God. Because it hath pleased Him for thy merits to give protection to this little wild hare from the attack and pursuit of the ravening hounds, I give and present to thee with willing mind these my lands for the service of God, to be a perpetual asylum and refuge. If any men or women flee hither to seek thy protection, provided they do not pollute thy sanctuary, let no prince or chieftain be so rash towards God as to attempt to drag them forth."

Melangell passed the rest of her days in this lonely place, sleeping on bare rock. Many were the miracles which she wrought for those who sought refuge in her sanctuary with pure hearts. The little wild hares were ever under her special protection, and that is why they are called "Melangell's lambs." Even now, if a hare is pursued by hounds and someone shouts after it, "God and Melangell be with thee," it will escape.

(400 words)

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