The Legend of Llyn y Fan Fach

Wales is a land of myth and legend, and its mystical atmosphere certainly cannot be refuted. As part of a Visit Wales initiative, here at one of the finest hotels in South Wales, we are embracing the rich heritage of storytelling that is ingrained in the culture of our Welsh home. 2017 is Wales’ Year of Legends, and we could not be more excited! So, to help you get a feel for Wales’ legendary history, we thought we would tell you a tale from times gone by. But first, a little background information…

Llyn y Fan Fach (meaning “lake of the small beacon-hill”) is a small lake in the Brecon Beacons, about 35 miles west of Crickhowell and is not only the setting for our story; but the walk around the escarpment above the lake is one of the best walks in the Western end of the Brecon Beacons. The legend that has grown up around Llyn y Fan Fach is one of many fascinating tales that have leaked into Welsh subculture over the centuries and very close to our home here. Read on to uncover the mythical tale…

Our story starts in the rural town of Blaen Sawdde, just a short distance from Llyn y Fan Fach. A young man, whose name, if ever disclosed, has not made it as far as today’s version of the tale, earnt his living watching the cattle who grazed by Llyn y Fan Fach and spent the majority of his time gazing wistfully into the lake’s dazzling waters.

One day, while he gazed on idly, something very strange happened. Out from the clear water, rose a beautiful woman and, as the young man stared, she began to move closer. Once the mesmerising woman had reached the water’s edge, she told the boy that if he were to marry her, he would experience great prosperity and never want for anything again. Taken aback by her beauty, the young man avidly began to propose, only to be cut short by the ethereal object of his affections. She would only marry him, she said, if agreed to two conditions: that he would never reveal to anyone the supernatural nature of their meeting, and that he would not hit her 3 times. Of course the boy agreed, and they married.

The couple lived happily for many years; the man became a prosperous farmer with his wife’s dowry of magical livestock and the Lady of the Lake bore him several beautiful and healthy sons. Though over time, the man did hit his wife. He did not hit her out of anger or menace, each time proved more inadvertent than the last. He once teasingly flicked his wife with a pair of leather gloves and thus she warned; “This is the first causeless blow”. The man was shocked and apologised profusely but the Lady of the Lake had made up her mind.

Years later, the pair were at a christening and amongst the joyous frivolity of everyone around her, the lady began to cry. Her husband tapped her on the shoulder and asked what was the matter. “This child is small and frail,” she said, “and he will know nothing but sorrow in this world. And husband,” she warned, “you have struck me once more”. The man was beside himself, he had now unwittingly struck his beautiful wife twice.

From then on, the man guarded himself closely to ensure that he did not mistakenly strike his wife again. Then, not long after the christening, the couple attended the funeral of that same babe, and the Lady of the Lake began to laugh. The husband anxiously grabbed his wife shoulder and told her to stop. “Why should I stop?” she asked, “The poor child is finally free of his pain and suffering. And, dear husband, that is the third blow you have dealt me.”

After the funeral, the couple headed home. The farmer’s heart was heavy with guilt and worry. The Lady of the Lake did not say a word and took off across the farm. As she passed, each animal followed her in turn. Each cow, each sheep, each horse, each pig, each goose, and each chicken turned and followed her back to Llyn y Fan Fach, where they continued to follow her down into the cool depths of its magical waters, never to be seen again.

The farmer lived out the rest of his days alone, plagued by the loss of his wife and his own foolishness.

Now, this is just one version of the myth of The Lady of Llyn y Fan Fach. Some versions see the poor farmer die at the end when he plunges himself into the lake to be with his beloved wife. In some versions, the occasions on which the farmer strikes his wife are far more violent. But we like this version just fine. In fact, we love the legend of Llyn y Fan Fach so much, that we have our very own painting of the story hung in Room 2 at the hotel!

Lady of the Lake by Robert MacDonald

If you fancy seeing the mystical landscape of the Brecon Beacons for yourself, then why not pay our Brecon accommodation a visit? Book direct for our best rates, or give us a call on 01874 730 371 to enquire.