Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Legend of the Devil's Bridge in Wales by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr 1875

The Story of the Devil's Bridge in Wales by Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr 1875

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Wherever any singular freak of nature occurred which was imagined to be beyond the power of the fairy family, it is remarkable that the Devil was always credited with the phenomenon; and some of the most charming and humorous fictions in our language are those in which his skill and cunning are again pitted against that of humanity. Among many, we select the popular account of the building of the natural bridge across the Mynach river in Wales, because it is really a gem of this branch of literature. "Once upon a time, an old woman had a cow that fed on the Crom Toidder mountain, and came home night and morning to be milked. One evening she did not come, and the old lady, much troubled, went to fetch her. When she came to where the Mynach flows between the two high rocks, she saw the cow on the other side. Then she set up a loud lamentation, for she saw the cow could not come to her, and she could not go to the cow; for the river could not be crossed, and it was a day's journey to go round. In this strait the Devil appeared. 'So, so, you've lost your cow, old lady, have you? Never mind; I 'll build you a bridge, and you shall go and fetch her.' 'Thankee, kindly, sir; I'll be much obliged to you if you will,' and she curtsied low and with great humility. 'To be sure I will,' and he cast a look at her out of the corner of his eye. 'But the cow 's worth something—I must have toll —keep that dog quiet, can't you?' For the old woman had a cur dog that kept on growling and grumbling. 'Harkee, old lady--if I build you the bridge, I 'll have the first that crosses it. Is it a bargain?' She was sorely troubled. If she went over for the cow, she knew that she had sold herself to the Devil; and if the cow came to her, she lost her cow. 'Bridge or no bridge?' said the Devil. 'Build the bridge, sir, if you please.' 'Ay, ay,' said the Devil; 'it's very easy to say build the bridge, but do you agree to the toll?' 'Yes, sure, sir,' replied the woman —- and with that the Devil put both his forefingers to his mouth and gave a shrill whistle—-and there was the bridge sure enough, and the Devil sitting on the middle of it, smiling away like clock work, rocking himself to and fro, and switching his tail with great satisfaction. The old woman shook like an aspen leaf; but she took a crust of bread from her pocket, and showing it to the dog, threw it over the bridge. And the dog ran over the bridge and passed the Devil where he sat in the middle. 'Whip that dog,' said the Devil, for he was cut to the quick at being outwitted by the old woman; but he did not want the dog, and he did not try to stop him: so the bridge was crossed and the spell broken. He was mortified and angry; but being a gentleman, he arose and doffed his cap to the old lady—-for the keen respect the keen—and having done so, he hung his tail, much humbled, and walked off." Mr. Hemingway makes the following comment on the incident: "It must be acknowledged that Satan behaved very honorably, and kept his word—-which is more than men always do." Everyone knows that such stories as this abound in Ireland; and Wales and the Isle of Man are equally prolific.


In old wild Wales, there is a legend told,
How an old Welsh dame the devil sold,
It was on the Alps of Ystrad Fflur
His majesty found her old and poor;
She had climbed from the valley deep below,
Up to the moorland in search of a cow.
"Ha, ha," laughed he, "there is your cow," said he,
"Go fetch it woman." "Sir, I can't," says she,
"No, indeed, sir, look—see that chasm deep?
How can I cross the wild water's leap?"
"I'll build you a bridge to cross it," said he,
"Its name shall be celled in honour of me,
Who'll make it the wonder of all your vales,
A bridge that shall be the talk of all Wales.
But a condition I must make and bind
Before I would build a bridge of that kind;
The first living thing to cross it must be
Mine, mine," said the devil. "All right," said she.
The devil happy, cock sure of his prize,
Built up a strange bridge in front of her eyes;
No need to go back to the vale below
To climb the hill on the other side now.
"Come, cross by the bridge for the cow," said he,
"In a moment, I will, kind sir," said she;
When out from her pocket she took some bread
And threw it across the bridge Instead;
The dog by her side ran over the bridge;
And he chased the bread adown the ridge,
"Dear, dear! my poor dog is yours," said she.
"Curse the old dog, I'm sold," said he.

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