Explore: For another story about a fiddler, see Dick the Fiddler's Money. For another story about confronting the elves, see St Collen and the King of Fairy.
[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).
Tudur ap Einion
Once upon a time a young man, who was known as Tudur ap Einion Gloff, used to pasture his master's sheep in this hollow. One summer night Tudur was preparing to return to the lowlands with his woolly charge, when he suddenly saw, perched on a stone near him, a little man in moss breeches with a fiddle under his arm. He was the tiniest wee specimen of humanity imaginable. His coat was made of birch leaves, and he wore upon his head a helmet consisting of a gorse flower, while his feet were encased in shoes made of beetles' wings. He ran his fingers over his instrument, and the music made Tudur's hair stand on end.
"Nos dawch, nos dawch," said the little man (this means in English, "Good night to you, good night to you.")
"Ac i chwithau," replied Tudur, which is, being interpreted, "The same to you."
Then continued the little man, "You are fond of dancing, Tudur: and if you but tarry awhile you shall behold some of the best dancers in Wales. I," added the little man, swelling his chest out, "I am a musician."
"Where is your harp?" asked Tudur. "A Welshman cannot dance without a harp."
"Harp?" repeated the wee being scornfully. "I can discourse better music for dancing upon my fiddle."
"Is it a fiddle," rejoined Tudur, "that you call that stringed wooden spoon in your hand?" He had never seen such an instrument before.
And now Tudur beheld through the dusk hundreds of pretty little sprites converging from all parts of the mountain towards the spot where they stood. Some were dressed in white and some in blue and some in pink, and some carried glow-worms in their hands as torches. So lightly did they tread that not a blade of grass nor any flower was crushed beneath their weight, and all made a curtsey or a bow to Tudur as they passed. Tudur was not to be outdone in politeness, and he doffed his cap and bowed to each in return.
Presently the little minstrel drew his bow across the strings of his instrument, and the music produced was so enchanting that Tudur stood transfixed to the spot. Then at the sound of the sweet melody the fairies, if fairies they were, ranged themselves in groups and began to dance, and as the minstrel quickened his bow the dancers went round and round.
Now, of all the dancing Tudur had ever seen, none came near the dancing of the fairies. It was the very poetry of motion. Sian Lan was the best dancer within ten miles of Llangollen, and Tudur had often had a turn with her at the merry nights in Glyn Ceiriog, but Sian's dancing was clumsy and heavy compared with what he now saw.
He felt an itching in his feet and could not help keeping time to the merry music, but he was afraid to join in the dance. He wanted to go to Heaven in good time, though he was in no particular hurry, and it occurred to him that it might not be the most direct route to Paradise to dance on a mountain at night in strange company, to; perhaps, the devil's fiddle. The music became faster and the dance wilder, and Tudur's whole body kept time.
"Dance away, Tudur," cried the little man.
But Tudur was too wary. "Nay, nay," he said, "dance on, my little beauties, while I look on and admire."
The music became sweeter and the dance more enticing than before. Tudur looked on, more absorbed than ever, and his feet and hands became more and more excited. At last, losing all control over himself, he went into the middle of the ring. "Now for it," he shouted, throwing his cap into the air. "Play away, fiddler."
No sooner were these words uttered than everything underwent a change. The gorse-blossom cap vanished from the minstrel's head, and a pair of goat's horns branched out instead. His face became as black as soot: a long tail grew out of his leafy coat and cloven hoofs replaced the beetle-wing pumps. Tudur's heart was heavy, but his heels were light. Horror was in his bosom, but irresistible motion was in his feet.
The fairies changed into a variety of forms. Some became goats and some became dogs, some assumed the shape of foxes and others that of cats. It was the strangest crew that ever surrounded a human being. The dance became at last so furious that Tudur could not make out the forms of the dancers. They whirled round him with such rapidity that they resembled a wheel of fire. Tudur danced on and on. He could not stop, for the devil's music was too much for him, as the figure with the goat's horns poured it out of the strings of his fiddle with unceasing vigour. It went on thus throughout the night.
Next morning Tudur's master went up the mountain to see what had become of his sheep and his shepherd. He found the flock safe and sound, but was astonished to see Tudur spinning like mad in the middle of the hollow by himself. "Stop me, master, stop me," shouted Tudur to him.
"Stop yourself," replied he. "What is the matter with you, in the name of Heaven?"
At the word, Tudur fell panting and exhausted at his master's feet, and it was long before he recovered his breath and his senses sufficiently to explain his strange conduct.
Next: Dick the Fiddler's Money