The Weeping Willow
Years ago, before men washed their coal in brooks, in the days when fossils were young, the Rhymney River was called the Elyrch because it sparkled with swans.
In the forest that skirted the Elyrch there lived a witch. Ugly of body and soul, she was a real fright, like something escaped from a nightmare. And she possessed magic powers to change people into any animal she wished.
A woodsman named Sannan also dwelt in the forest with his two children, Ieuan and Meidwen, and it was their daily delight to feed the swans that glossed the river. One morning they were approached by the witch who could be as nice as pie when it pleased her. The children fell for her flattery and promises of dainties and followed the witch to her cottage where she chained them up as slaves.
When Ieuan and Meidwen didnt return home, Sannan sent out a search party but the sorceress took the children to the Pwll-y-Bel falls on the Elyrch and turned them into salmon. For untold tides the salmon ebbed and flowed in the waters riding the white horses to the Salty Sea, known these days as the Severn. And they loved nothing more than having high jinks with the mermaids or basking their bellies in the sun.
One summer day a fairy fisherman was casting his net near Pwll-y-Bel when he landed two splendid salmon. He took them to his Fairy Queen who was so taken by the beauty that she placed them in a crystal pitcher. The Queens name was Briallen because a primrose grew wherever she set foot. She wore a white gown and, about her waist, slim as a swans neck, was a girdle of pure gold.
One day Sannan, a century older through sorrow, was wandering the forest when he came upon the Fairy Court. Briallen was touched by Sannans sad tale and seeing the truth of the story turned the two salmon back into their proper forms. Sannan was as happy as a king to see Ieuan and Meidwen again and wallowed in joyous tears.
The Fairy Queen decided to punish the witch for causing Sannan such sorrow and found her near the river bank. Briallen turned the witch into a willow with its branches hanging down in shame.
So it is, that every year, the tree weeps its leaves into the Elyrch as a penance for the witchs wicked deed.
Key Contact: Rhymney Valley Tales
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