Taffy ap Sion

The consequences of even the most casual brush with fairies could be ruinous, as is shown in the Welsh tale of Taffy ap Sion. Taffy, a shoemaker's son, was a dreamy lad, and when work in his father's shop slackened, he often wandered out among the barren hills and boulder-littered meadows beyond his village, desiring nothing more than to be alone with the clouds and the cries of the rooks. His father warned him to stay clear of fairy rings. But Taffy's glance was rarely fixed on the ground, and one blustery afternoon as he wandered, he was startled when the day seemed to brighten suddenly. The next instant, he was deafened by a skirl of high-pitched pipes.

About the Welshman wirled a crowd of men in coats of bottle green and woman in gowns of scarlet and white. They were small and comely creatures, and in the searing brightness that enfolded them, they shone like jewels. Banqueting tables stood in their midst, laden with fruit, roast meat and goblets that brimmed and shimmered with ruby wine. All around these tables the flood of merrymakers surged and eddied. Beyond the circle of brilliance, the mountains and meadows seemed distant and ghostly, as if a heavy mist had descended. Taffy did not care; he had no wish to escape from so carefree and lovely place. Instead, he clasped his hands with two of the revelers and was swept up in the dancing throng.

After five minutes, or perhaps ten, Taffy stumbled and plunged headlong from the fairy ring. He sat on the grass for a moment, his head whirling, marveling that he could neither see nor hear the fairy merrymakers. Then he jumped to his feet. The landscape was transformed. The skyline of crags and ridges was familiar, but where Taffy remembered tussocky grass and hump-backed boulders, the uplands were quilted with verdant fields, edged with stone walls and threaded with lanes. It was some trick of the fairies, Taffy was certain, but he was uneasy as he set off for home, clambering over the unfamiliar and moss-grown walls. He rounded the hill that shadowed his father's cottage. The house stood where he remembered it - that much was a comfort - but from a hut with a thatched roof and a dusty yard it had grown into a sturdy, slate-roofed farmhouse, shaded by two tall pines. A dog he did not know loped from the doorstep to sniff and bark, and the man who came out to quiet the animal was not Taffy's father, or any neighbor of his kinsfolk.

The farmer, studying the wild-eyed and strangely dressed lad, at first thought the boy was deranged. When Taffy told his story, however, the farmer guessed the truth. He decided to consult an aged woman of the village who knew the lore of the days when the region was sparsely settled - long before the farmer's family had arrived. But as the man led Taffy down the hillside toward the town, the boy's footsteps grew faint, and the man heard a deep sigh. The farmer turned at the sound, and as he watched, Taffy's features blanched and froze, his figure became as tenuous as a ghost's, and then he vanished. A fine shower of black ash filtered to the ground.

It was as the farmer suspected. Minutes had passed within the fairy ring that Taffy danced so happily in, but centuries had rolled by in the mortal world. When Taffy rejoined his fellows and the weight of those years settled at last on his shoulders, he had simply crumbled away. As the old village woman explained to the shaken farmer later, more than 300 years had passed since a shoemaker's son named Taffy ap Sion vanished on the barren mountainside. The fairies who danced away the centuries with Taffy had made no effort to ensnare him, and they did no try to stop him when he stumbled from their midst. Malice played no part in his downfall, but the realm of the fairies was by nature hostile to the world of mortals, with its inexorable march of hours and days and years. Even the fairies' best intentions could not shelter a human from the cruel consequences of elvish time.

Yet, like everything to do with Faerie, the passage of time there was capricious. Mortals who entered the fairies' world did not necessarily stay for centuries. Peasants talked of captives who were released or rescued from fairy thrall after a year and a day of mortal time, or after seven years - periods that marked likely reopenings of the curtain dividing Fearie from the mortal world. But few who sojourned among the fairies returned unchanged. So complete a break with the order of nature was bound to leave its mark, most often in the form of a consuming desire to return to the alien realm.

See also
Fairies - Content | Myths and Legends