1755 (ca.): Rhys ap Morgan’s Disappearance

In 1828, Thomas Crofton Croaker published a collection of stories regarding fairies he had gathered from storytellers in Ireland in the previous year. A small number of the tales he was told were not legends, however: in these cases the storytellers assured him the events were known to be true, often because the events had happened to either the storyteller themselves or to people they personally knew. David Shone told such a story, assuring Croaker that the events, which happened around seventy years earlier, had happened to two men that Shone himself knew well.

        Around 1758, as Shone told it, at the farm of Llwyn y Ffynon, near the Vale of Neath in South Wales, there were two servants -- Rhys ap Morgan, and Llewellyn Walter -- who were returning to the farm at evening twilight after a hard day's work. As they enter a smooth plain along their path, Rhys stopped. He told Llewellyn he could hear music, a tune he'd "danced to a hundred times;" he told Llewellyn to continue home with their ponies and lime which they'd collected for their master, and that he'd catch up with Llewellyn after he'd had a quick dance with the musicians. Llewellyn tried to tell Rhys that he couldn't hear any music and that the area was too remote for anyone to be out, but Rhys was off to find the musicians almost instantly. Llewellyn figured that the whole matter was just an excuse for Rhys to run off to the alehouse, some five miles distant from where they stopped, and so Llewellyn returned to the farm, took care of the ponies and lime, had his supper, and went to bed.

        The next morning, however, Rhys ap Morgan had still not returned to the farm. Llewellyn had no choice but to tell his master what had happened the night previous, for he didn't have Rhys there to help him do his work... and this worried the farmer and his family because Rhys had never disappeared before, though he was notoriously fond of dancing. Too Llewellyn's dismay, the farmer and family didn't believe him about the mysterious music, and they questioned and re-questioned the poor man trying to determine what "really happened." The alehouse and countryside were searched; no one had heard or played music that night; and no one knew where Rhys ap Morgan was. Soon Llewellyn found himself being accused of murdering Rhys, which he protested but was never able to cast off the suspicions of.

        Almost a year later, a farmer who knew a few things about fairy customs, suggested that himself, Llewellyn, and some others should travel to the spot Rhys was last seen exactly a year after and at the exact same time of night. The men set out -- David Shone, the storyteller, being one of them -- and reached the spot a little ahead of time... the plain area was "green as the mountain-ash (Cerdin)."  Llewellyn found he could hear harp music, but no one else could; so Llewellyn instructed David to place a foot on top of his, and as he did so David saw that Llewellyn's foot was on the edge of a fairy circle on the ground. As each man placed his foot in the same spot, each man found they could hear the music, and see "countless numbers of little figures, the size of children of three or four years old," dancing round the fairy ring and enjoying themselves... and then they saw Rhys ap Morgan among the dancing figures.

        Llewellyn grabbed Rhys by his coat and pulled him out of the circle all at once, being careful not to step in himself; the moment Rhys was out, he belabored Llewellyn about the missing ponies, for he felt he'd been dancing only five minutes or so, and therefore Llewellyn couldn't have gotten the horses home yet! Rhys wanted to return to the dance, but Llewellyn knew he needed to return Rhys to the farm to clear his name of the suspicion of murder, so he forced Rhys to return home. Rhys, who was still dressed as when he vanished, couldn't account for the missing time; he was sure he'd only danced for around five minutes, but couldn't give any details about the people with whom he danced. Returned home, he became sullen and downcast, and eventually bedridden... and soon after, dead.

        An inspection of the area Rhys was found in the morning after showed the edge of the circle had turned red, as if trodden down, and the marks of tiny heel-prints, the size of Shone's thumb, could be seen.

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