Brewery of Eggshells, by Joseph Jacobs
In Treneglwys there is a certain shepherd's cot known by the name of
Twty Cymrws because of the strange strife that occurred there. There
once lived there a man and his wife, and they had twins whom the woman
nursed tenderly. One day she was called away to the house of a
neighbour at some distance. She did not much like going and leaving her
little ones all alone in a solitary house, especially as she had heard
tell of the good folk haunting the neighbourhood.
Well, she went and came back as soon as she could, but on her way back
she was frightened to see some old elves of the blue petticoat crossing
her path though it was midday. She rushed home, but found her two
little ones in the cradle and everything seemed as it was before.
But after a time the good people began to suspect that something was
wrong, for the twins didn't grow at all.
The man said: "They're not ours."
The woman said: "Whose else should they be?"
And so arose the great strife so that the neighbours named the cottage
after it. It made the woman very sad, so one evening she made up her
mind to go and see the Wise Man of Llanidloes, for he knew everything
and would advise her what to do.
So she went to Llanidloes and told the case to the Wise Man. Now there
was soon to be a harvest of rye and oats, so the Wise Man said to her,
"When you are getting dinner for the reapers, clear out the shell of a
hen's egg and boil some potage in it, and then take it to the door as
if you meant it as a dinner for the reapers. Then listen if the twins
say anything. If you hear them speaking of things beyond the
understanding of children, go back and take them up and throw them into
the waters of Lake Elvyn. But if you don't hear anything remarkable, do
them no injury."
So when the day of the reap came the woman did all that the Wise Man
ordered, and put the eggshell on the fire and took it off and carried
it to the door, and there she stood and listened. Then she heard one of
the children say to the other:
Acorn before oak I knew,
An egg before a hen,
But I never heard of an eggshell brew
A dinner for harvest men.
So she went back into the house, seized the children and threw them
into the Llyn, and the goblins in their blue trousers came and saved
their dwarfs and the mother had her own children back and so the great
BREWERY OF EGGSHELLS.
Source.—From the Cambrian Quarterly Magazine, 1830, vol. ii. p.
86; it is stated to be literally translated from the Welsh.
Parallels.—Another variant from Glamorganshire is given in Y
Cymmrodor, vi. 209. Croker has the story under the title I have given
the Welsh one in his Fairy Legends, 41. Mr. Hartland, in his Science
of Fairy Tales, 113-6, gives the European parallels.