Bestiary: ‘L Is For The Llamhigyn Y Dwr: ‘It’s December, and Welsh lakes are getting colder than ever. That which lives at the bottom of the biggest lakes, stirs. Stirs, and is very hungry…’. So, started one of the stories that my grandmother would tell me when I was a child. The story of the Llamhigyn Y Dwr.
My grandmother would then proceed to tell me the blood-curdling story of the Llamhigyn Y Dwr (pronounced hlam-ig-in ee door], which means, ‘Water Leaper’. It was a great story that used to make me smile, as I had heard it many times before, and also scare me. As a child I loved that. Doubly so, because within a few hundred yards of my grandmother’s cottage was a large lake. Could it be home to a Llamhigyn Y Dwr? I never went too close to that lake after dusk, alone, as child.
Anyone who walks past a Welsh lake, had better watch for ripples on the lake’s surface, or listen for any sounds of wings being flapped in the air above. It could be the Llamhigyn Y Dwr, especially if the sun has gone down.
Want to know what this mythological creature looks like? Ofcourse, you do.
The story is myth. But, myth here may mean unreal, but it could also mean a founding story, a momentous story – the latter meaning is the more academic understanding of the word ‘myth’, and if so, then, perhaps, the Llamhigyn Y Dwr may, indeed, live in our physical plane. You have to decide.
The Llamhigyn Y Dwr, however, is a most fearsome creature.
It is said to have a body resembling a frog, but has bat-like wings, and a long, tapering tail. But, don’t think of a cute little frog that could fit in the palm of one hand, nor a huge toad that might be able to fit into a shoebox! No, the Llamhigyn Y Dwr stands over seven feet tall, and with it’s tail it measures fifteen feet long. It also has a rather nasty ‘stinger’ on the end of its tail. And it’s wings? It’s wingspan is over twenty feet. When it’s hungry, it is said to eat insects and birds, and the occasional sheep using its formidably powerful jaws, and sometimes, just sometimes, it is said to attack people.
It is ‘at home’ in the water, and is a good swimmer After all is part frog. But, with elements of bat incorporated into its physiology, it is also adept at flying extremely well. Fortunately, it is not too good at scrambling along on land.
As a child I had witnessed the occasional savaged sheep, and put that down to fox attacks. My grandmother suggested a different cause. I loved the not knowing.
As children we would talk about a local lake fisherman, Bryn Allgone. We used to tell each other how he went fishing after dusk – oh didn’t he know the Llamhigyn Y Dwr feed at sundown and throughout the night? As children we embellished the story, as if to outdo each other in our story-telling skills, and to scare ourselves even more. We loved that.
Bryn, we said, had mysteriously disappeared one night when lake-fishing, and no adults now talk about the fateful event. Ofcourse, it’s a story we used to re-tell as children, and when adults dismissed the story as nonsense, that would only confirm to us that the story was, indeed, true, but that the adults were too scared to ponder such a bad end for Bryn, or that they were protecting us children from such a nasty story. It only helped to perpetuate our own child-like horror story about poor Bryn.
‘And, what was left of Bryn, after the Llamhigyn Y Dwr attacked and ate Him?’, we would ask each other. ‘Nothing’, was the well-used reply that was shouted back’. And, then after a pause we’d exclaim, ‘After all, he was Allgone!’. Oh, how we laughed. Now you know the sort of child I was, and the friends that I associated with. Oh, wonderful times.
But now? There are some who say that the Celts, those Druids of old could talk the language of the Llamhigyn Y Dwr and placate it. There are none alive who speak its language, and so it vents it anger.
And so, it’s a brave person that fishes alone at some of Wales’ largest lakes, after dark. ‘The Llamhigyn Y Dwr is stirring. It’s December. It’s hungry….’