Notes, types and motifs

Notes for the story 'Where Are You Going Today, Lively Little Bird?'

Gwilym Major heard this item from his father, Richard Major, Llwyn Gwladus, Llangynwyd, when he was a child. Gwilym Major was almost sure that William Rhys was the name of the man who greeted the bird.

Among the dialect words found in Gwilym Major's oral account, of particular note are:

elan = gwialan/gwialen [switch or wand]
taclu [give]

Apart from one example in the opening paragraph, no attempt has been made to correct the rather numerous examples of missing or incorrect mutations in the storyteller's oral version.

Both story and song are recounted again by Gwilym Major on MWL tape 7495, recorded on 21.ix.1989.

Gwilym Major recited the verse, as did his father, but it has also been recorded in the form of a folk song. (See, for example, Cymru'r Plant, vol. 20, 1911, p. 71, and Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Alawon Gwerin Cymru (Journal of the Welsh Folk-Song Society), vol. 2, part 2, 1919, p. 135.) The folk song usually refers to 'y deryn bach syw' ['the wonderful or beautiful little bird'] rather than 'y deryn bach byw' ['the lively little bird']. The version published in Cymru'r Plant by W.J. Davies of George Town School, Merthyr, is accompanied by this note:

'It was sung [the 'lullaby'] by my grandmother, who hailed from Pen-bwlch Heble, near Aberystwyth, and who lived there from around 1820 to about 1845. She moved to Dowlais, and there my dear mother and myself were rocked to sleep, and were diverted by its charm many times. I have tried to write down the tune with the words...'

'I ble ti'n mynd heddy, deryn bach syw?'
'I mofyn bara, os bydda' i byw.'
'I beth ti'n mo'yn â bara, deryn bach syw?'
'I ddodi yn 'y nghawl, os bydda' i byw.'
'I beth ti'n mo'yn â cawl, deryn bach syw?'
'I ddodi yn 'y mola, os bydda' i byw.'
'I beth ti'n mo'yn â bola, deryn bach syw?'
'Wel, oni bai bola, byddwn i ddim byw.'

['Where are you going today, pretty little bird?'/'To fetch bread, if I should live.'/'What do you want with bread, pretty little bird?'/'To put in my soup, if I should live.'/'What do you want with soup, pretty little bird?'/'To put in my belly, if I should live.'/'What do you want with a belly, pretty little bird?'/'Well, if it weren't for [my] belly, I couldn't live.']

This is the note and the version of the song which were published in Cylchgrawn Cymdeithas Alawon Gwerin Cymru:

'Miss A. Jones, Criccieth, heard the following form of the rhyme sung by a South Wales soldier who was billeted in a neighbour's house. He used to sing the words while nursing his hostess's little grand-daughter.'

'Ble 'rwyt ti'n mynd, y deryn bach syw?'
'Rwy'n mynd i'r farchnad, os bydda' i byw.'
'Beth nei di yn y farchnad, y deryn bach syw?'
'I mo'yn halen, os bydda' i byw.'
'Beth nei di â halen, y deryn bach syw?'
'I roi yn y cawl, os bydda' i byw.'
'Beth nei di â'r cawl, y deryn bach syw?'
'I roi yn y bol, os bydda' i byw.'
'Beth nei di â'r bola, y deryn bach syw?'
(Emphatically) 'Oni bai am y bola,
b'aswn i ddim byw.'

['Where are you going, pretty little bird?'/'I'm going to the market, if I should live.'/'Why are you going to the market, pretty little bird?'/'To fetch salt, if I should live.'/'What will you do with salt, pretty little bird?'/'Put it in the soup, if I should live.'/'What will you do with soup, pretty little bird?'/'Put it in [my] belly, if I should live.'/'What will you do with [your] belly, pretty little bird?'/'If it wasn't for [my] belly, I couldn't live.']

In the verse recorded by T.H. Evans, 'Cadrawd' (MS MWL 1392), it is said that the 'lively little bird' was a robin redbreast. These are the two opening lines of the verse:

'Ble ti'n mynd heddi, deryn bach byw?'
'Lan i'r Daran, os bydda i byw.'

['Where are you going today, lively little bird?/Up to the Daran, if I should live.']

This version uses the dialect word cylla rather than bola for 'belly'.

The version recorded by Lilian Rees of Tumble (1973, MS MWL 2186/78) is close to the verse recited by Gwilym Major. It opens:

'Ble ti'n mynd heddi, dderyn bach byw?'
'Bant i'r coed, os bydda' i byw.'

['Where are you going today, lively little bird?'/'Off to the woods, if I should live.']


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