Once upon a time in Wales, near the Vale of the Beadhouse, there lived a strong young man who loved to roam the hills that surrounded his farmhouse. He especially loved the large field near the lake. He walked through the grass, amusing himself by watching the fairy family. On the hillside near the lake, they danced and sang beneath the light of the moon.

One night as the fairy family played, the young man happened to spy the most beautiful fairy damsel he had ever seen. She glowed like moonlight on the lake. Her eyes twinkled like stars. She sang more sweetly than the nightingale. She moved as gracefully as the swans. He felt his heart begin to pound as he watched her twirl and skip. At last he could not help himself. He dashed into the crowd and grabbed her. Then he ran off with her.The fairy family stopped dancing and gave chase, but by the time the family reached the lad's farmhouse, he had locked and bolted the door. The fairies shrieked, for they could not touch the bolt. You see, fairies must not touch iron or harm will come to them.

"I love you," the young man told the fairy maiden. "I will do anything for you. Please, if you will only marry me, I promise I will be a brave, strong and gentle husband."

As the fairy maiden shook her head, the young man watched the evening dew dance upon her curls. "I will never be your wife," she said. He begged and pleaded. At last she said, "I will not marry you, but if you learn my name, I will stay and be your servant."

"Your name! Simple!" And he began to guess. "Mary," he tried. She shook her curls. "Maude, Emily, Bridget." She laughed, and the sound was like tinkling crystal. He tried the names he had read in the Bible. He tried every name he had ever heard. "No," she said again and again, until at last the young man walked outside to think. He was determined to learn her name.

As he walked he searched for fairies. "I will find out her name from the family," he said to himself. Sure enough, before too long he spied a few of the young fairy maidens sitting very still upon the peat bog near the lake. They were conferring quietly, wondering how they might help their sister. The young man knelt down on his knees and listened, and before too long, he heard one of the maidens say, "What will we do to save our beloved Maeve?"

At once the young man stood up and sped home. "Maeve, that is your name!" he cried as he dashed through the door. She sighed and looked sadly at him. "Who has betrayed my name to you, a mere mortal?" she said. He reached and took her hands in his and said, "I love you. And you promised."

She kept her promise. Now the farm prospered. Nowhere in the countryside was there a farmhouse so clean, nor food so delicious, nor a place so full of life. When Maeve milked the cows, their milk was thicker and richer than any a mortal has tasted.

Still, the young man was not happy. "Please, Maeve," he begged, "marry me." He begged day and night. He complimented her and caressed her, for you see, he believed very well in the Welsh proverb, "Many a blow will break the stone."

He was right to believe that. At last Maeve consented to marry him. "There is but one condition," she said. "You must never touch me with iron. If you do that, I will leave you and return to my family, forever."

He looked at her and smiled gently. He would have agreed to any condition she offered, and this was simple. So it was that they wed. For many years they lived together happily. They bore two children, one boy and one girl. The family was so happy and joyous together that they grew rich beyond measure - rich in land and rich in love.

One day the husband walked outside to fetch a filly that was grazing in a field. He wished to sell her at the Carnarvon market. The filly was so frisky and wild that he could not catch her. He ran this way and that, but she gave chase. At last he called to Maeve to come to help.

Together they drove the filly into a corner. He walked slowly forward to put on her bridle, but as he did, the creature dashed past him. "I'll get you!" he cried, and he threw the bridle after the filly. What fate! His wife was running after her, and the iron bit struck her on the hand. At once she vanished.

"I have touched my wife with iron!" cried the distraught man. He wept, but he knew he had broken his promise, and that his loss was nothing more than what he had earned.

The young man missed his wife, and the children missed their mother terribly. And she, living among her fairy family, missed them as well. Often on quiet nights, the sound of their voices calling to each other could be heard near and far.

A month passed. One blistery cold winter's night, when the wind whistled and shrieked, the husband awoke in the middle of the night. He snapped on the light in his room, for he heard a tapping at the window. He looked. Outside a bright light glowed, for the full moon lighted the outdoors as if it were day. And soon the husband heard his wife's voice:

"If the cold bites my son,

"See he wears his father's coat,

"And if my daughter feels a chill,

"Wrap her in her mother's woolen skirts."

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The man smiled. When he closed his eyes he could see his wife clearly. He called to her. "I miss you, my beloved, and I shall always do as you ask."

Fairyland law forbade the fairy wife to walk again upon the earth. And so the maiden thought and thought until at last she knew what she would do. She called to her husband and children and she told them of her plan. She planned to build an island of sod, and this she cast upon the lake. Then she lay herself upon her island and floated up and down the lake's surface. Her children and her husband came to the shore. Up and down they walked, followed by geese and swans and all the other creatures who loved the fairies.

And in this way they lived together for many happy years, the fairy wife and mother floating on the lake, and her husband and children living close by on the shore. To this day the lake is known in Wales as Llyn y Dywarchen, the Lake of the Sod.

1993 Universal Press Syndicate

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