Notes, types and motifs

Notes for the story 'Robin Ddu And His Brothers'

This narrative belongs to the extensive repertoire of Lewis T Evans' blind uncle, Lewis Evans, Hafod Llan Isa, Pentrellyncymer. He was a brother of the informant's mother and had been blind since the age of about 15 or 20. He died when he was about 40 years old (c.1897?). Lewis T Evans lived at Hafod Llan Isa when he was between 9 and 10 years of age, 1891-2. He went there after leaving school to help his blind uncle on the farm as a gwas bach (a 'little servant'). It was 'blwyddyn yr eira mawr' ('the year of the great snow').

Although the uncle as a young lad was very much interested in reading, especially chap-books and novels, Lewis T Evans believed that he had heard most of his tales from friends and neighbours. Two such informants were the poet, Huw Jones, Hendre Ddu, Pentrellyncymer, and Dafydd Llwyd, Elusendai (Almshouses), Cerrigydrudion, who worked as a farm labourer in Pentrellyncymer. Huw Jones later lived in a house called 'Y Bŵt', Pentrellyncymer.

Hafod Llan Isa was a very popular meeting place for nearby neighbours, and informal storytelling was an important element in the evening's entertainment. Occasionally, the blind uncle would tell a story to his young nephew on condition that he would work hard the following day. Lewis T Evans and his cousin Wil were also encouraged to read a chapter from the Bible each evening. Lewis T Evans was allowed to 'stay down' until all the other members of the family retired. He shared the same bedroom as his unmarried uncle who, obviously, had a very great influence on the young farm servant. When interviewed three quarters of a century later, he was able to remember at least 36 of his uncle's narratives. They were tales which generally nobody else in the locality knew. The young Lewis T Evans remembered the tales because they appealed to him and because of the interesting manner in which his uncle recited them.

The character Robin Ddu appears in a number of Welsh tales from printed and oral sources. See, for example, Isaac Foulkes, Cymru Fu, Wrecsam, 1862, pp. 236-44, and the following narratives in Lewis T Evans' repertoire: nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5. Robin Ddu is usually referred to as Robin Ddu Ddewin ('Black Robin, the magician'), and is endowed with the gift of prophecy and the ability to discover lost treasure. He is identified with Robin Ddu ap Siencyn Bledrydd o Fôn, fl. c. 1450, the author of a number of prophetic poems (cywyddau brud). See also, Emyr Wyn Jones, 'Robin Ddu's Prophecy and "Our Lady's Lap"', Flintshire Historical Society Journal, vol. 29, 1979-80, pp. 19-50. Some of the tales featuring Robin Ddu are associated with the much later poet and traveller from Caernarfon, Robert Parry, 'Robin Ddu Eryri' (1804-92). Robert Parry in his autobiography, however, refers to Robin Ddu, the poet and magician, as 'Robin yr Addig [Robin Ddu Hiraddug]'. He mentions some of his tales - tales, he says, that were 'formed some twenty years before I was born, but which were attributed to me by some who know better.' (See Teithiau a Barddoniaeth Robyn Ddu Eryri, Hugh Humphreys, Caernarfon, 1857.)

For other versions of Lewis T Evans' narrative recorded on tape by the Museum of Welsh Life, see:

  1. 'The Story of Twm, Dai and Siôn and the Three Brown Calves', told by Kate Davies, Pren-gwyn, Cardiganshire, tapes MWL 3890, 6449, recorded 16.vi.1973 and 3.x.1979.
  2. 'The Story of Nopyn and his Three Brothers', told by Martha Williams, Llandanwg, Merionethshire, tape MWL 1297, recorded 9.iii.1966. See 'Welsh Versions of European Tales of Humour', narrative no. 1, in this work.)

For printed Welsh versions of this narrative, see, for example:

  1. 'The Fool and the Sheep', Journal of the Gypsy Lore Society, III, 1909, p.17. See also Francis H Groome, Gypsy Folk Tales, London, 1963, p. 262-3, and A O H Jarman and Eldra Jarman, The Welsh Gypsies, Children of Abram Wood, Cardiff, 1991, p. 167.
  2. 'The Three Brothers', T Gwynn Jones, Welsh Folklore and Folk-Custom, London, 1930, pp. 225-7.

For versions from England and North America, see Briggs, vol. A2, pp. 262-3, and Baughman, p.38.


Types

AT 1535

The Rich and the Poor Peasant. The rich peasant kills the poor one's horse. The clairvoyant horse-skin and the adulterous priest. The rich peasant kills his horse and his wife. Diving for sheep.

iii. Magic Cow-hide. (a) The pseudo magic cow-hide (horse-hide, bird-skin) is sold to the adulteress or her husband.

v. Fatal Deception. (a) The trickster escapes from a sack (chest) through exchange with a shepherd; see Type 1737 (The Parson in the Sack to Heaven). (b) His enemy wants to get sheep in the same manner and dives to the bottom of the sea for the sheep; cf. 1525 (The Master Thief). The full form of this tale is Grimm's Big Claus and Little Claus', Type 1737.

Motifs

B 143.0.8Crow as prophetic bird.
B 172Magic bird.
B 291.1Bird as messenger.
B 291.1.2Crow as messenger.
J 1820Inappropriate action from misunderstanding.
J 1832Jumping into the river after their comrade.
K 114Pseudo-magic oracular object sold.
K 130Sale of worthless animals.
K 196Selling by trickery.
K 500Escape from death or danger by deception.
K 510Death order evaded.
K 842Dupe persuaded to take prisoner's place in a sack; killed. The bag is to be thrown into the sea. The trickster keeps shouting that he does not want to go to heaven, the dupe gladly substitutes for him.
K 1051Diving for sheep. Dupe persuaded that sheep have been lost in river.
Z 71.1Formulistic number three


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