The Lady of the Lake
Created | Updated Jan 28, 2002
Wales is a country of many fascinating legends and mysteries, including that of the Lady of the Lake.
The story is believed to date from around the 12th Century, and although many lakes have been put forward as the scene of the legend (no doubt with an eye on the benefits to local tourism), the most popular by far is Llyn-y-Fan Fach, near Llanddeusant in Dyfed.
The Story so Far
One day, a young man was tending the family's sheep by the shore of the lake, when three beautiful, identical maidens arose from the water. After a moment of surprise he greeted them politely, and they fell into conversation. The girls began dancing and singing and, when one paused to tie her shoelace, he asked her to marry him (as you do in such circumstances). Although she rejected his offer, before disappearing back into the lake, she promised that all three would return in one year's time, and, if he could tell her apart from her sisters, then she would be his wife.
A year later, the maidens reappeared as promised, accompanied by their father. The young man noticed that one girl had an untied shoelace, and identified her correctly. The father agreed to the marriage, offering a dowry of 'as many sheep, cows, goats, and horses as you can count in a single breath', and warning that if her husband struck her three times, or touched her once with iron, 'she will return to me and bring in her wake all she possesses'.
The couple were married, lived happily for many years near the village of Myddfai, and were blessed with three sons. Unfortunately, twice her husband struck her in anger and, though vowing never to do so, one day accidentally touched her with iron, as they were harnessing some horses to a plough. The wife immediately turned away and headed towards the lake, followed by all her animals. Even the horses that were harnessed to the plough followed her, leaving a deep furrow all the way to the lake.
Her husband went after her, but was drowned in the deep waters. When her sons followed the furrow to the lakeside, their mother rose from the water, and told the eldest, Rhiwallon, that he must become a physician, and 'give relief from pain and misery by healing all manner of diseases'. It is said that all the renowned physicians of Myddfai are descended from Rhiwallon and his sons.
Last Chance to See
According to local legend, if you visit the lake on the first Sunday in August, you may be rewarded by the sight of the lady rising from the water and combing her hair. Sadly, the mystique of the lake may have been lost somewhat as it was dammed early in the last century in order to make a reservoir.