Some of the world’s darkest legends are from some of the worlds smallest places. One of those places is Wales. welsh folklore was born from Celtic mythology. But thousands of years of outside and home grown influence has distorted such legends to the point of being absolutely unique. From deadly curses to an unusual satanic pact, here are ten dark Welsh legends.
Somewhere in the countryside is a monstrous black dog known as Gwyllgi. Much larger than other dogs and with glowing red eyes, the Gwyllgi wanders remote roads, looking for lone travelers to prey on. It stalks them before pouncing and tearing the traveler to shreds. Those who look into it’s eyes find themselves mesmerized. Now unable to move until they feel it’s breath on their skin – by which time it will be too late. After taking a life the dog will disappear into the wilderness, only to stalk another road. The dog will only appear at night so that only it’s glowing red eyes can be seen in the darkness.
9: Old Woman of Lyn Cwm Llwch
Below the surface of a small lake, hundreds have lost their lives. The lake is occupied by some kind of being with the appearance of an old woman, but she is not quite human. With beautiful music she lures those passing by towards the lake. The closer they get, the more strongly they feel the pull of her music. On reaching the center of the lake the old woman emerges from below and drags them underwater to die. She was once a young woman, but cursed by a witch. The curse took her youth, her ability to die, and confined her to the lake. But the curse could be broken in exchange for 900 lives. And so she has since drowned hundreds, in the hope of regaining her youth.
8: The Witches of Llanddona
In the 17th century a group of women arrived at the Welsh coast in a boat. The boat had no sails, and so locals tried to push the boat away from the shore. In those days a common way to deal with witches in Welsh legends was to cast them into the sea in a boat without sails. But the women made it onto land. Locals promised them no harm if they settle outside of the town and agree not to enter. But they would not keep to this deal.
Turning out to be witches, the group soon took to terrorising locals. They put curses on farms, demanding payment to remove them. And they entered the town freely and stole goods, casting spells on anyone to resist. After months of terror at the hands of their new neighbours, locals attacked the witches as a group. Surrounding them, they burnt every witch at the stake. But now with a taste for blood and revenge, they could not distinguish between witches and innocent people. From that day, any woman to pass through their town was accused of witchcraft and burned alive.
7: Kenfig Pool Drowned Village
Centuries ago there was a thriving town ruled by a lord. His daughter fell in love with a lower class man. But her father would not let her marry him, as he was neither rich nor of noble birth. So the man left their town, promising not to return until he was vastly wealthy. He wandered remote roads and pathways until finally seeing an opportunity. A man on horseback wearing expensive clothing was approaching. He hid behind a bush, but jumped out when the wealthy man passed by and stabbed him to death. On the man he found enough gold to last a lifetime. He was rich if he could get away with it. So he buried the body and returned home as a wealthy man.
The lord was impressed by his change in fortune and allowed him to marry his daughter. On the night of their wedding, a large storm struck the area. Whistling through the wind he heard the words “vengeance will come”. They thought nothing of it. But on the day their child was born a similar storm hit the area. With it came massive waves. By the next morning the entire town was underneath a vast lake. It’s entire population drowned that night. None escapes and it’s ruins remain underwater.
6: Rhys a Meinir Skeleton Tree
In a small village, long a, two lovers were set to be married. Their village held a tradition where on the morning of a wedding day, the bride would hide somewhere. The groom would then come and find her. But unlike other weddings, this man was unable to find his bride. He searched the whole town but still didn’t find her. Some said she must have run away, but he couldn’t accept that. For several months he searched the surrounding countryside for her, slowly losing his mind as the search stretched on.
The now deranged man finally accepted that she was gone. Years later he was out wandering the town on a stormy night. He reached an Oak tree where he and his missing bride spent countless afternoons together. A bolt of lightning struck the tree, splitting it in half. And now, inside the Oak tree could be seen a female skeleton wearing a wedding dress. It was his bride from all those years ago. On realizing that, he died of grief and heartbreak. The tree still stands today. But no bird will land on it’s branches and no ground animal will go near it.
5: Raglan Castle Owl Curse
Raglan Castle was built in medieval times but on the site of an ancient battlefield. In the 18 hundreds an owl much larger than other owls was known to fly over the battlefield. Locals would stay away from the owl, believing it was part of a curse surrounding the battlefield. Thousands of years before, owls were seen as symbols of black magic, and their presence was a sign of evil. But now, one man from far away didn’t believe the battlefield was cursed. He shot the owl dead, admiring it’s size. Just as the curse told would happen, the man died before nightfall, choking on his dinner.
4: The Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach
Seven hundred years ago a young Shepard walked past a lake. On a rock in the lake he saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. The woman agreed to marry him if he would treat her with kindness. But warned that if he were to hit her three times she would return to the lake. On those terms, they married and had three children. But at the Christening of their first child she began to cry. She could see that the child was mortal, and unlike her could drown in water. He struck her to stop the crying.
Years later he would strike her again, at a wedding when she could see the groom would soon die. When the groom did die he struck his wife again out of grief. She had been hit three times, and so she immediately headed towards the lake. The Shepard tried to stop her, promising to never again hurt her. But she didn’t even look at him or their three children. She walked into the lake and was never seen again. But her children followed after her, drowning without their mother noticing. You might have noticed a lot of Welsh legends involve ladies of the lake who end up causing people to drown. That’s something I’ve noticed too. But I can’t explain it.
3: Merlin’s Oak
Carmarthen is a town in Southern Wales. Arthurian legend tells that Merlin was born in a cave outside the town and grew up in the area. He was especially fond of a particular Oak tree in the town. But as an adult he learned the tree was set to be cut down. So Merlin made a prophecy to protect it.
“When Merlin’s Oak shall tumble down, than shall fall Carmarthen town”
For centuries, people would cite these words, claiming the town would be flooded. But eventually the tree died. A man poisoned it during the 19th century to deter criminals from meeting under it. In coming decades the Oak would fall apart until in 1978 the last fragment of Merlin’s Oak was removed. Soon after, the worst flood in memory hit the town. Many saw this as Merlin’s prophecy actualizing. It’s obviously not just Welsh legends that feature Merlin – English and French folklore does just as much.
2: The Devil’s Bridge
Known as Devil’s bridge are three bridges built upon each other. The top bridge was built in 1901, the middle in 1753, and the first bridge in medieval times. You might think the more recent bridges were built out of necessity, as stronger bridges are required. But they were built to keep people away from the original bridge, so that no more people could be exposed to it’s evil. The first bridge was built by the devil.
An old woman once stood on the cliff top, with no way to cross over the river below. She felt desperate. And in that moment the devil appeared before her. He offered to build her a bridge in return for the soul of whoever crosses it first. She agreed to his terms. But with a bridge standing before her, was reluctant to cross and surrender her soul to the devil. One day later she threw a loaf of bread across the bridge, causing her dog to follow after it. The dog was first to cross the bridge. But refusing to accept this, Satan disappeared without claiming any soul.
1: Tylwyth Teg Fairy Door
Legend tells of an invisible island at the center of a lake. Humans could not see nor access the island apart from one day per year. Each year on May Day a doorway leading to the island would appear on a rock beside the lake. Those who walk through that door found themselves in a magical garden on the island. It was a paradise by comparison to the outside world, with an abundance of the best tasting food anyone could have. The garden was maintained by fairies and other mythical creatures who lived there.
They treated their human guests well. But they warned all humans not to take anything away from the island. But one man ignored the warning, taking a flower from the garden as proof of it’s existence. He walked back through the doorway assuming all was well. But the moment he stepped back into our world he fell to the ground in a state of confusion. He lost his mind that day. For the rest of his life he was known as a mindless fool. The doorway did not appear the next year, and in the centuries since has never been seen again.