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Dolmen / Quoit / Cromlech


A strange mix of symbolism in this story.
Arthur's Quoit, at Lligwy, near Moelfre, in Anglesea, is one of the stones of a cromlech once very important, and to it curious stories were formerly attached. A fisherman going down to the sea was overtaken by a storm, and halted to shelter beside Arthur's Quoit. When the rain was over, he looked towards the sea, and felt sure that somebody was struggling in the water. He hastened to the shore, and then discovered that a woman with very long dark hair was endeavouring to swim to land; but the ground swell was very strong, and each attempt proved unavailing.

The fisherman, fearless of the sea*, sprang in, and bore the swimmer to the shore, only just to escape a dangerous roller. The man observed that the woman was beautifully robed in white, and had jewelled bracelets on her arms. After squeezing the water out of her garments, she asked him to assist her to the "huge stone", meaning Arthur's Quoit. He did so, and while she sat to rest against the stone he noticed she was very beautiful and youthful. The man was about to ask her how she came to be in such peril, but she anticipated his question with a harsh voice, by no means in keeping with her beauty.

"Ha ha!" she cried. "If I had been swimming in my usual raiment, you would have allowed me to sink. I am a witch, and was thrown off a ship in Lligwy Bay; but I disguised myself, and was rescued."

The man shrank back in terror, fearing the woman would bewitch him. "Don't be frightened," said the witch; "one good turn deserves another. Here, take this." In the palm of her hand she held a small ball. "It is for you," she said, "and as long as you keep it concealed in a secret place where nobody can find it, good luck will be yours. Once a year you must take it out of hiding and dip it in the sea, then safely return it to its place of concealment. But remember, if it is lost, misfortune will follow."

The fisherman took the ball and thanked the witch, who gravely said: "That ball contains a snake-skin." Then she vanished mysteriously. But an hour later he saw her leaping from rock to rock in Lligwy Bay, where a boat was waiting for her, and in it she sailed away. Returning to Arthur's Quoit, the fisherman thought he could do no better than conceal the ball in a deep hole which he dug close beside the great stone which was reputed to be haunted, and accordingly avoided. He did this, and once a year he took it from concealment and dipped it in the sea. The ball was carefully preserved, and the family had remarkable runs of luck. But one evening when the fisherman went to look for the ball, it was nowhere to be found. He searched for many days, but without avail, and at last gave up his search as hopeless. Somebody evidently discovered his secret, and had stolen the precious ball.

Several years passed, during which time misfortune pursued the fisherman. At the end of that period a dying neighbour confessed to the theft of the ball, and restored it to its lawful owner. Good luck was at once restored to the family. When the fisherman died, he bequeathed it to his eldest son, who carefully preserved it. In the first half of the nineteenth century the fisherman's eldest son, accompanied by his only brother, started for Australia, where they eventually made large fortunes. A descendant in the female line of the old fisherman considered the ball one of her most precious treasures, and carefully preserved it in her far-away home in India. It was last heard of about forty years ago.
From Marie Trevelyan's "Folk lore and Folk Stories of Wales" (1909).

*surely not something a fisherman would be. In fact, many could not swim??
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
22nd September 2005ce

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