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Llyn Barfog, Mynydd Y Llyn

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Map ReferenceSN69NE
Grid ReferenceSN6529098760
Unitary (Local) AuthorityGwynedd
Old CountyMerioneth
Type Of SiteLAKE
A lake located north east of Aberdovey, likely named Llyn Barfog (Bearded Lake) for the vegetation which grows around its banks. It is connected with several notable folk-traditions, including that of the afanc, a water monster associated with several lakes in Wales, which was supposed to cause flooding or otherwise despoil the land. In the tale of Peredur ap Efrawg, the afanc or addanc lives in a cave and kills three local princes each day only for them to be resurrected the following day. The Llyn Barfog story relates to tales where the afanc must be drawn from the lake by some cultural hero. The story was popularised especially from the nineteenth century by its inclusion in the `Third Series? of Triads, which were largely invented and included in the Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales by Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg). In this story, the afanc causes floods which are clearly a reference to the Biblical Deluge and is drawn from his watery lair by Hu Gadarn by use of his Ychen Bannog (long-horned oxen). In the case of Llyn Barfog, it is Arthur who pulls the beast from the lake, his horse leaving a hoof mark imbedded in stone as a reminder of the feat at Carn March Arthur, nearby (NPRN 286).

According to another folk-tale recorded in the 1850s, fairies used to appear, dressed in green, on the banks of Llyn Barfog with their dogs and cattle (C?n Annwn a Gwartheg y Llyn), all of which, as is usual in Welsh folklore and legendry, where white with red ears. One of the cows fell in love with one of the herd belonging to the farmer of Dyssyrnant in nearby Dyffryn Gwyn and passed into his possession, by which he profited greatly as the dairy and calves produced by the cow were of exceptional quality. However, the foolish farmer, in consequence of his greed, felt that the immortal fairy cow was advancing in years and fattened her for slaughter. However, the butcher was prevented from killing the cow by a supernatural agency and an echoing call was heard coming from the lake: `Dere di velen Einion, / Cyrn Cyveiliorn ?? braith y Llyn, / A'r voel Dodin, / Codwch, dewch adre.? (`Come yellow Anvil, stray horns, / Speckled one of the lake, / And of the hornless Dodin, / Arise, come home?) (Pughe 1854, 204; Rh's 1901, 145). Upon hearing this, the cow and all of her offspring to three or four generations ran to the lake and disappeared below the waters, leaving the farmer destitute. However, later in the nineteenth century a variant of the tale was recorded by Wirt Sikes which notes that one calf had been left behind, albeit turned from white to black, and that this was the origin of Welsh black cattle.

In connection with the supernatural folklore concerning the lake, John Pughe (1854) noted that `It is believed to be very perilous to let the waters out of the lake, and recently an aged inhabitant of the district informed the writer that she recollected this being done during a period of drought, in order to procure motive power for Llyn Pair Mill, and that long continued heavy rains followed? (202).

Near the lake there is also a slate slab with `TO ECHO? and a pointing hand inscribed on it, indicating a place where the nearby quarry creates a particularly notable echo.

(Sources: John Pughe, `Gwragedd Annwn.?The Dames of Elfen Land. A Legend of Llyn Barfog, Archaeologia Cambrensis, New Series: XV (July 1853), 201?05; Wirt Sikes, British Goblins: Welsh Folk-lore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions (London: Sampson Low, 1880), p. 36?37; John Rh's, Celtic Folklore; Welsh and Manx (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1901), pp. 141?46; Rachel Bromwich, `Triodedd ynys Prydain: The Myvyrian ?Third Series?, pt. II?, Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, 1969, p. 1, 127?55 (154))
A.N. Coward, RCAHMW, 28.01.2019