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Friday, March 19, 2021

de la Mare - The Lovely Myfanwy (part 3 of 4) - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Flag of Wales 1959-present

I promised pronunciation help for the Welsh names in the story and my storytelling colleague, Beth Phillips, said:

Hi Lois, The castle's name is not Welsh. It looks like a made-up English word that wants to be Welsh. 🙂

Here's the lord's name in phonetic transcription: Oh-wen ap Gwy-thock, emphasis on last syllable of last name.

Myfyanwy: Muh-von-wee. There is a famous Welsh song with this name. If you look on YouTube with just the word Myfanwy, you will see lots of options to listen to the song.

Now that wasn't so hard was it?

Beth is a fluent Welsh speaker and I appreciate her help.  Her YouTube suggestion takes you to many performances of the love song, "Myfanwy", which probably inspired the British author, Walter de la Mare. 

By the way, for a coloring (colouring) sheet of the Welsh dragon and a few facts about Saint David's Day, which was March 1, and is as important to the Welsh as Saint Patrick is to the Irish, go to the blog, Hodge Podge Days.

Now here's the third section of our story with even more dramatic changes about to occur, especially to this over-protective father and his daughter, Myfanwy. 


To think that his Lovely One, his pearl of price, his gentle innocent, his Myfanwy—the one thing on earth he treasured most, and renowned for her gentleness and beauty in all countries of the world—had even for an instant forgotten their loves, forgotten her service and duty, was in danger of leaving and forsaking him for ever! In his jealousy and despair tears rolled down his furrowed cheeks as he ground his teeth together, thinking of the crafty enemy that was decoying her away.

Worse still; he knew in his mind's mind that in certain things in this world even the most powerful are powerless. He knew that against true love all resistance, all craft, all cunning at last prove of no avail. But in this grief and despair the bitterest of all the thoughts that were now busy in his brain was the thought that Myfanwy should be cheating and deceiving him, wantonly beguiling him; keeping things secret that should at once be told.

A dark and dismal mind was his indeed. To distrust one so lovely!—that might be forgiven him. But to creep about in pursuit of her like a weasel; to spy on her like a spy; to believe her guilty before she could prove her innocence! Could that be forgiven? And even at this very moment the avenger was at his heels.

For here was Myfanwy herself. Lovely as a convolvulus wreathing a withered stake, she was looking in at him from the doorpost, searching his face. For an instant she shut her eyes as if to breathe a prayer, then she advanced into the room, and, with her own hand, laid before him on the oak table beside his silver platter, first the nibbled apple, next the golden ball, and last the silken cord. And looking at him with all her usual love in her eyes and in her voice, she told him how these things had chanced into her hands, and whence they had come.

Her father listened; but durst not raise his eyes from his plate. The scowl on his low forehead grew blacker and blacker; even his beard seemed to bristle. But he heard her in silence to the end.

'So you see, dear father,' she was saying, 'how can I but be grateful and with all my heart to one who takes so much thought for me? And if you had seen the kindness and courtesy of his looks, even you yourself could not be angry. There never was, as you well know, anybody else in the whole wide world whom I wished to speak to but to you. And now there is none other than you except this stranger. I know nothing but that. Can you suppose indeed he meant these marvellous gifts for me? And why for me and no other, father dear? And what would you counsel me to do with them?'

Owen ap Gwythock stooped his head lower. Even the sight of his eyes had dimmed. The torches faintly crackled in their sconces, the candles on the table burned unfalteringly on.

He turned his cheek aside at last like a snarling dog. 'My dear,' he said, 'I have lived long enough in this world to know the perils that beset the young and fair. I grant you that this low mountebank must be a creature of infinite cunning. I grant you that his tricks, if harmless, would be worth a charitable groat. If, that is, he were only what he seems to be. But that is not so. For this most deadly stranger is a Deceiver and a Cheat. His lair, as I guess well, is in the cruel and mysterious East, and his one desire and stratagem is to snare you into his company. Once within reach of his claws, his infamous slaves will seize on you and bear you away to some evil felucca moored in the river. It seems, beloved, that your gentle charms are being whispered of in this wicked world. Even the beauty of the gentlest of flowers may be sullied by idle tongues. But once securely in the hands of this nefarious mountebank, he will put off to Barbary, perchance, or to the horrid regions of the Turk, perchance, there to set you up in the scorching marketplace and to sell you for a slave. My child, the danger, the peril is gross and imminent. Dismiss at once this evil wretch from your mind and let his vile and dangerous devices be flung into the fire. The apple is pure delusion; the veil which you describe is a mere toy; and the cord is a device of the devil.'

Myfanwy looked at her father, stooping there, with sorrow in her eyes, in spite of the gladness sparkling and dancing in her heart. Why, if all that he was saying he thought true—why could he not lift his eyes and meet her face to face?

'Well then, that being so, dear father,' she said softly at last, 'and you knowing ten thousand times more of God's world than I have ever had opportunity of knowing, whatever my desire, I must ask you but this one small thing. Will you promise me not to have these pretty baubles destroyed at once, before, I mean, you have thought once more of me? If I had deceived you, then indeed I should be grieved beyond endurance. But try as I may to darken my thoughts of him, the light slips in, and I see in my very heart that this stranger cannot by any possibility of nature or heaven be all that you tell me of him. I have a voice at times that whispers me yes or no: and I obey. And of him it has said only yes. But I am young, and the walls of this great house are narrow, and you, dear father, as you have told me so often, are wise. Do but then invite this young man into your presence! Question him, test him, gaze on him, hearken to him. And that being done, you will believe in him as I do. As I know I am happy, I know he is honest. It would afflict me beyond all telling to swerve by a hair's-breadth from my dear obedience to you. But, alas, if I never see him again, I shall wither up and die. And that—would it not——'she added smilingly—'that would be a worse disobedience yet? If you love me, then, as from my first hour in the world I know you have loved me, and I have loved you, I pray you think of me with grace and kindness—and in compassion too.'

And with that, not attempting to brush away the tears that had sprung into her eyes, and leaving the juggler's three gifts amid the flowers and fruit of the long table before him, Myfanwy hastened out of the room and returned to her chamber, leaving her father alone.

For a while her words lay like a cold refreshing dew on the dark weeds in his mind. For a while he pondered them, even; while his own gross fables appeared in all their ugly falseness.

But alas for himself and his pride and stubbornness, these gentler ruminations soon passed away. At thought once more of the juggler—of whom his spies had long since brought him far other tidings than he had expressed—rage, hatred and envy again boiled up in him and drowned everything else. He forgot his courtesy, his love for Myfanwy, his desire even to keep her love for him. Instead, on and on he sipped and sipped, and sat fuming and plotting and scheming with but one notion in his head—by hook or by crook to defeat this juggler and so murder the love of his innocent Myfanwy.

'Lo, now,' broke out at last a small shrill voice inside him. 'Lo, now, if thou taste of the magic apple, may it not be that it will give thee courage and skill to contend against him, and so bring all his hopes to ruin? Remember what a marvel but one merest nibble of the outer rind of it wrought in thy Myfanwy!'

And the foolish creature listened needfully to this crafty voice, not realizing that the sole virtue of the apple was that of making any human who tasted it more like himself than ever. He sat there—his fist over his mouth—staring intently at the harmless-looking fruit. Then he tiptoed like a humpback across the room and listened at the entry. Then having poured out, and drained at a draught, yet another cup of wine, he cautiously picked up the apple by its stalk between finger and ringed thumb and once more squinted close and steadily at its red and green, and at the very spot where Myfanwy's small teeth had rasped away the skin.

It is in a moment that cities fall in earthquake, stars collide in the wastes of space, and men choose between good and evil. For suddenly—his mind made up, his face all turned a reddish purple—this foolish lord lifted the apple to his mouth and, stalk to dried blossom, bit it clean in half. And he munched and he munched and he munched.

He had chawed for but a few moments, however, when a dreadful and continuous change and transformation began to appear upon him. It seemed to him that his whole body and frame was being kneaded and twisted and wrung in much the same fashion as dough being made into bread, or clay in a modeller's fingers. Not knowing what these aches and stabbings and wrenchings meant, he had dropped as if by instinct upon his hands and knees, and thus stood munching, while gazing blankly and blindly, lost in some inward horror, into the great fire on the hearth.

And meanwhile, though he knew it not in full, there had been sprouting upon him grey coarse hairs—a full thick coat and hide of them—in abundance. There had come a tail to him with a sleek, dangling tassel; long hairy ears had jutted out upon his temples; the purple face turned grey, lengthening as it did so until it was at least full eighteen inches long, with a great jawful of large teeth. Hoofs for his hands, hoofs where his feet used to be, and behold!—standing there in his own banqueting hall—this poor deluded Owen ap Gwythock, Lord of Eggleyseg, transmogrified into an ass!

For minutes together the dazed creature stood in utter dismay—the self within unable to realize the change that had come over its outer shape. But, happening to stretch his shaggy and unfamiliar neck a little outward, he perceived his own image in a scoured and polished suit of armour that stood on one side of the great chimney. He shook his head, the ass's head replied. He shook himself, the long ears flapped together like a wood-pigeon's wings. He lifted his hand—a hoof clawed at nowhere!

At this the poor creature's very flesh seemed to creep upon his bones as he turned in horror and dismay in search of an escape from the fate that had overtaken him. That ass he? he himself? His poor wits in vain endeavoured to remain calm and cool. A panic of fear all but swept him away. And at this moment his full, lustrous, long-lashed, asinine eyes fell by chance upon the golden ball lying ajar on the table beside his wine-cup—the Veil of Invisibility glinting like money-spider's web from within.

Now no ass is quite such a donkey as he looks. And this Owen ap Gwythock, though now completely shut up in this uncouth hairy body, was in his mind no more (though as much) of a donkey than he had ever been. His one thought, then, was to conceal his dreadful condition from any servant that might at any moment come that way, while he himself could seek out a quiet secluded corner in the dark wherein to consider how to rid himself of his ass's frame and to regain his own usual shape. And there lay the veil! What thing sweeter could there be than to defeat the juggler with his own devices.

Seizing the veil with his huge front teeth, he jerked it out of the ball and flung it as far as he could over his shaggy shoulders. But alas, his donkey's muzzle was far from being as deft as Myfanwy's delicate fingers. The veil but half concealed him. Tail, rump and back legs were now vanished from view; head, neck, shoulders and forelegs remained in sight. In vain he tugged; in vain he wriggled and wrenched; his hard hoofs thumping on the hollow flagstones beneath. One half of him stubbornly remained in sight; the rest had vanished. For the time being he was no more even than half an ass.

At last, breathless and wearied out with these exertions, trembling and shuddering, and with not a vestige of sense left in his poor donkey's noddle, he wheeled himself about once more and caught up with his teeth the silken cord. It was his last hope.

But this having been woven of wisdom—it being indeed itself the Serpent of Wisdom in disguise—at touch of his teeth it at once converted itself into a strong hempen halter, and, before he could so much as rear out of the way to escape its noose or even bray for help, it had tethered him to a large steel hook in his own chimneypiece.

Bray he did, none the less: 'Hee-haw! Hee-haw!! Hee-ee-ee-ee Haw-aw-aw!!!' His prolonged, see-saw, dismal lamentations shattered the silence so harshly and so hoarsely that the sound rose up through the echoing stone walls and even pierced into Myfanwy's own bedchamber, where she sat in the darkness at her window, looking out half in sorrow, half in unspeakable happiness, at the stars.

Filled with alarm at this dreadful summons, in an instant or two she had descended the winding stone steps; and a strange scene met her eyes.

There, before her, in the full red light of the flaming brands in the hearth and the torches on the walls, stood the forelegs, the neck, head, and ears of a fine, full-grown ass, and a yard or so behind them just nothing at all. Only vacancy!

Poor Myfanwy—she could but wring her hands in grief and despair; for there could be no doubt in her mind of who it was in truth now stood before her—her own dear father. And on his face such a look of rage, entreaty, shame and stupefaction as never man has seen on ass's countenance before. At sight of her the creature tugged even more furiously at his halter, and shook his shaggy shoulders; but still in vain. His mouth opened and a voice beyond words to describe, brayed out upon the silence these words: 'Oh, Myfanwy, see into what a pass your sorceries and deceits have reduced me!'

'Oh, my dear father,' she cried in horror, 'speak no more, I beseech you—not one syllable—or we shall be discovered. Or, if you utter a sound, let it be but in a whisper.'

She was at the creature's side in an instant, had flung her arms about his neck, and was whispering into his long hairy ear all the comfort and endearments and assurances that loving and tender heart could conceive. 'Listen, listen, dear father,' she was entreating him, 'I see indeed that you have been meddling with the apple, and the ball, and the cord. And I do assure you, with all my heart and soul, that I am thinking of nothing else but how to help you in this calamity that has overtaken us. Have patience. Struggle no more. All will be well. But oh, beloved, was it quite just to me to speak of my deceits?'

Her bright eyes melted with compassion as she looked upon one whom she had loved ever since she could remember, so dismally transmogrified.

'How can you hesitate, ungrateful creature?' the see-saw voice once more broke out. 'Relieve me of this awful shape, or I shall be strangled on my own hearthstone in this pestilent halter.'

But now, alas, footsteps were sounding outside the door. Without an instant's hesitation Myfanwy drew the delicate veil completely over the trembling creature's head, neck and fore-quarters and thus altogether concealed him from view. So—though it was not an instant too soon—when the Lord of Eggleyseg's Chief Steward appeared in the doorway, nothing whatever was changed within, except that his master no longer sat in his customary chair, Myfanwy stood solitary at the table, and a mysterious cord was stretched out between her hand and the hook in the chimneypiece.

'My father,' said Myfanwy, 'has withdrawn for a while. He is indisposed, and bids me tell you that not even a whisper must disturb his rest. Have a hot posset prepared at once, and see that the room beneath is left vacant.'

The moment the Steward had gone to do her bidding Myfanwy turned at once to her father, and lifting the veil, whispered into the long hairy ear again that he must be of good cheer. 'For you see, dear father, the only thing now to be done is that we set out together at once in search of the juggler who, meaning no unkindness, presented me with these strange gifts. He alone can and will, I am assured, restore you to your own dear natural shape. So I pray you to be utterly silent—not a word, not a murmur—while I lead you gently forth into the forest. Once there I have no doubt I shall be able to find our way to where he is. Indeed he may be already expectant of my coming.'

Stubborn and foolish though the Baron might be, he realized, even in his present shape, that this was his only wisdom. Whereupon, withdrawing the end of the bridle from the hook to which it was tethered, Myfanwy softly led the now invisible creature to the door, and so, gently onward down the winding stone staircase, on the stones of which his shambling hoofs sounded like the hollow beating of a drum.

The vast room beneath was already deserted by its usual occupants, and without more ado the two of them, father and daughter, were soon abroad in the faint moonlight that now by good fortune bathed the narrow bridle-path that led into the forest.

Next week is the final part of this story.  It's interesting that the magic apple only made "any human who tasted it more like himself than ever."  Yes, Myfanwy's father has "made an ass of himself."  Is there a way to end this fairy tale happily?

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.
Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.

    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown -
         - Richard Martin -
         - Spirit of Trees -
         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but the late Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

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