Pergrin and the Mermaiden
From The Welsh Fairy Book by W. Jenkyn Thomas (1908)
One fine September afternoon, about the beginning of the eighteenth
century, a fisherman of St. Dogmael's, whose name was Pergrin, was rowing in his boat near
Pen Cemmes. Looking up at the rocks casually, he thought he saw a maiden in a recess of
the cliff. Pergrin was an inquisitive man, and he determined to see what the strange lady
He rowed ashore as quietly as he could, stepped out of his boat and crawled up
to a place where he could see into the recess without being seen himself. He espied a
lovely maiden - at least, above the waist she was a lovely maiden, but below the waist
she was a fish with fins and spreading tail. She was combing her long hair so busily and
intently that she had no suspicion that she was being watched, and Pergrin gazed upon her
for a long time. During that time his mind was active, and he determined to carry her away.
Putting his resolve into action, Pergrin rushed at her, and taking her up
in his arms, carried her off to his boat. There he fastened her securely, and turning his
boat's nose in the direction of Llandudoch (that is the Welsh for St. Dogmael's), began to
ply his oars vigorously. When she realised her situation, being a woman (at least, as far
as the waist) she wept, and begged Pergrin to let her go. Pergrin, however, though he
answered her very kindly, would not accede to her tearful request, but carried her home
and shut her up in a room.
He treated her very tenderly, but she refused all meat and drink (she
rejected even the best cawl, with hundreds of eyes in it), and did nothing but shed tears
and beseech Pergrin to release her. A famous man once said that as much pity is to be
taken of a woman weeping as of a goose going barefoot, but Pergrin had never heard this
saying: it would have made no difference if he had, for he was soft-hearted, and the
sight of the beauteous half-woman's eyes becoming red, and her nose swollen with the
constant drip of salt water, affected him profoundly. Moreover, as she persistently
declined food, she became thin and peakish.
To add to his anxiety, a friend of his, who
knew far too much to be a pleasant companion, told him what had happened to a man in
Conway who caught a mermaid. She prayed him to place her tail at least in the water, but
he refused, and she died. Before dying she cursed her captor and the place of her
imprisonment. The captor had gone from bad to worse, and had perished miserably: the
people of Conway have been so poor ever since, that when a stranger happens to bring a
sovereign into that harp-shaped town they have to send across the water to Llansantffraid
So when the tearful prisoner at last said to Pergrin, "If thou wilt let me
go, Pergrin, I will give thee three shouts in the time of thy greatest need," he accepted
her offer. Carrying her down to the strand of the sea, he put her in the water, and she
immediately plunged into the depths.
Days and weeks passed without Pergrin seeing her after this. But one fine hot afternoon he was out fishing in his boat, and many of the fishermen were similarly engaged. The sea was calm, and there was hardly a cloud in the sky, so that no one had any thought of danger. Suddenly the mermaiden emerged out of the blue, sunlit water and shouted in a loud voice, "Pergrin, Pergrin, Pergrin, take up thy net, take up thy net, take up thy net." Pergrin instantly obeyed, drew in his net with great haste, and rowed over the bar homewards, amid the jeers of all the others. By the time he had reached the Pwll Cam a dread storm overspread the sea: the wind blew great guns and the waves ran mountain high. Pergrin reached dry land safely, but all the other fishermen, eighteen in number, found watery graves.
More Welsh Legends:
The legend of the 'Meddygon Myddfai' is another tale about a
farmer in the parish of Myddfai, Carmarthenshire, who, having bought some lambs in a
neighbouring fair, led them to graze near Llyn y Fan Fach, on the Black Mountains.
Whenever he visited these lambs three beautiful damsels appeared to him from the lake, on
whose shores they often made excursions. Sometimes he pursued and tried to catch them, but
always failed; the enchanting nymphs ran before him ...
is another typical story of an earthling joining the fairy people dating from