from the Welsh Kamishibai

an incantation before we begin..

The old grey man in the corner
Heard a story from his father,
Who had heard it from his father,
And now I will tell it to you.

Above Ystradgynlais, beneath the two peaks of Mynydd y Drum, between the twin waterfalls lies the fairies’ huge hoard of gold, buried beneath a lush green mountain meadow.

And only one man, a conjuror with an iron hand, had the wit and wisdom to know how to unearth it. But wit and wisdom were not enough; he needed a man with bravery and brawn to help him.

The conjuror recruited John Gethin. John was known to be up for anything, he was big on bravery, and small of brain.

Late that evening the two men went up to the fairy meadow and the conjuror drew out a figure of eight on the green sword with his iron finger. Inter-connected safe, magic circles to protect the two men from any devils the fairies might send.

The conjuror stood in one circle – John Gethin was told to stay in the other and not to move from its protection.

The conjuror stood in one circle reading his book of spells by the light of a stub of a candle.

The mist rose, the mist fell and there was a great big bull waving his horns and snorting at John Gethin. He knew he was safe in his circle but he couldn’t help taking one step backwards.

The conjuror stood in one circle reading his book of spells by the light of a stub of a candle.

The mist rose, the mist fell and there was a great big boar waving his tusks and snorting at John Gethin. He knew he was safe in his circle but he couldn’t help taking one step backwards.

The conjuror stood in one circle reading his book of spells by the light of a stub of a candle.

The mist rose, the mist fell and there was a long-horned goat waving his horns and snorting at John Gethin. He knew he was safe in his circle but he couldn’t help taking one step backwards.

The conjuror stood in one circle reading his book of spells by the light of a stub of a candle.

The mist rose, the mist fell and there was a fierce lion opening his mighty maw and roaring at John Gethin. He knew he was safe in his circle but he couldn’t help taking one step backwards.

…and if you are in a magic circle and keep taking one step backwards you get closer and closer to the edge and your safety is at risk.

The conjuror stood in one circle reading his book of spells by the light of a stub of a candle.

The mist rose, the mist fell and there was flywheel of fire flying at John Gethin’s head. He took one step backwards and had one foot in and one foot out of the magic circle.

John Gethin found himself the rope in a tug of war, pulled out of the circle by the fire-hand of the devil, pulled back in by the iron-hand of the conjuror. He felt that his arms would be wrenched from their sockets.

It looked hopeless until the conjuror offered the devil a deal… Give Gethin back to me until the stub of this candle is burnt away, and then he’s yours… And it was a very small candle stub, and surely it wouldn’t last long.

The deal was made, but then the conjuror snuffed out the candle with his iron finger and thumb. “You’ll wait an awful long time for an un-lit candle to burn”. The devil stamped his hoof and disappeared in a pool of acrid smoke back to the pits of hell knowing he’d been beaten.

But the Conjuror and John Gethin had lost their chance of recovering the gold that night. The conjuror gave John Gethin his candle and told him to guard it with his life because it was his life.

John Gethin took the candle home and put the stub on the cold slab in his larder where surely it would stay safe and sound.

But did it stay safe? No, that candle waned away to nothing…

A neighbour came calling and found John Gethin’s door ajar, he searched the house but all he found was John Gethin’s hat on the hook on the bedroom door, John Gethin’s nightshirt in the bed and a scorched hand print on John Gethin’s pillow.

So what’s in the coffin?

The neighbours made a life size clay model of John Gethin dressed it in his cap and night shirt and buried it six foot below the ground in the churchyard.

But where is the real body of John Gethin, and where is his soul? Some would say an awful lot lower in the ground in a very hot place.

info about the Welsh Kamishibai

The Welsh Kamishibai was made by Dez Quarréll in 2008 with a grant from Arts Council Wales. It’s main purpose was to re-engage boys who had become reluctant readers in years 5 to 8. The boys made their own Kamishibais and retold the tales using their own words. Why not try it out yourself and keep these stories alive. Full details of how you can make your own kamishibai can be found at https://mythstories.com/stories/lets-create-at-home-kamishibai/.

In this story set near Ystradgynlais the mountain Mynydd y Drum is now known as Onllwyn. We suppose that the conjuror could not get the fairy gold on his own because of his iron-hand as fairies detest iron and would not allow it anywhere near their hoard.