Explore: For a quite different saint's story, see Melangell's Lambs. For another story of demonic fairies, see Tudur ap Einion.
[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).
St Collen and the King of Faery
One day when he was in his cell he heard two men conversing about Gwyn ab Nudd, and saying that he was King of Annwn and of the fairies. Collen put his head out of the cell and said to them, "Hold your tongues quickly, those are but Devils."
"Hold thou thy tongue," said they, "thou shalt receive a reproof from him." And Collen shut his cell as before.
Soon after he heard a knocking at the door of his cell, and someone inquired if he were within.
Then said Collen: "I am. Who is it that asks?"
"It is I, a messenger from Gwyn ab Nudd, King of Annwn and of the fairies, to command thee to go and speak with him on the top of the hill at noon." But Collen did not go.
And the next day behold the same messenger came, ordering Collen to go and speak with the king on the top of the hill at noon. But Collen did not go.
And the third day behold the same messenger came, ordering Collen to go and speak with the king on the top of the hill at noon. "And if thou dost not go, Collen, thou wilt be the worse for it."
Then Collen, being afraid, arose and prepared some holy water, and put it in a flask at his side and went to the top of the hill. And when he came there he saw the fairest castle he had ever beheld, and around it the best appointed troops, and numbers of minstrels, and every kind of music of voice and instrument, and steeds with youths upon them the comeliest in the world, and maidens of elegant aspect, sprightly, light of foot, of graceful apparel and in the bloom of youth: and every magnificence becoming the court of a great king. A courteous man on the top of the castle bade him enter, saying that the king was waiting for him to come to meat.
Collen went into the castle, and when he entered the king was sitting in a golden chair. He welcomed Collen honourably, and desired him to eat, assuring him that besides what he saw he should have the most luxurious of every dainty and delicacy that the mind could desire, and should be supplied with every drink and liquor that his heart could wish: and that there should be in readiness for him every luxury of courtesy and service, of banquet and of honourable entertainment, of rank and of presents: and every respect and welcome due to a man of wisdom. "I will not eat," said Collen.
"Didst thou ever see men of better equipment than those in red and blue?" asked the King.
"Their equipment is good enough," said Collen, "for such equipment as it is."
"What kind of equipment is that?" said the king.
Then said Collen: "The red on the one part signifies burning, and the blue on the other signifies coldness." With that Collen drew out his flask, and threw the holy water on their heads, whereupon they vanished from his sight, so that there was neither castle, nor troops, nor men, nor maidens, nor music, nor song, nor steeds, nor youths, nor banquet, nor the appearance of anything whatever but the green hillock.
Next: Helig's Hollow