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Robin Ddu And His Brothers

Lewis T Evans (1882-1975)

Robin Ddu's two brothers wanted to get rid of him. They each had a cow. And what they did was to kill Robin's cow. Robin skinned the cow and thought he'd take the skin to market. And he put the skin on the wall, and a crow alighted on it. He caught hold of the crow's legs and took it along to the parson's house.

When Robin Ddu arrived at the house he went to listen at the door, and the lover of the parson's daughter was in the house. And the lover gave her one hundred pounds.

'Good gracious me! Where shall I put them?' she asked.

'Well, put them under the hearthstone', said the lad. And afterwards he gave her a pound of tea.

'Where shall I put this?' she asked.

'Oh, put it in that cupboard, he won't see it there.' And so she did. But the girl sees her father coming.

'Oh! where shall I go?' he said.

'Get into that oven', she said, 'I'll shut the door on you.'

And so it was.

Robin waits for the parson to come into the house and knocks on the door.

'What do you want, Robin?'

'Oh, this is a thing that will tell you everything', said Robin.

'No, that's an old black crow', he said, 'it won't say anything'.

'Yes it will. Let it say something to you.' Robin squeezed its throat. 'Waac!' said the old crow.

'What's it saying now?'

'Well, there's a pound of tea in the cupboard.' The old parson went to the cupboard.

'Good God, there's something in it', he said. 'Make it say something again.'

He squeezed its throat. 'Waac!' said the old crow.

'What's it saying now?'

'There - lift the hearthstone - there's a hundred pounds there.'

The old parson lifted the hearthstone.

'Well, goodness me, there they are', said he. 'You shall have these, the whole lot. Make it say one more thing before you go from here.' 'Waac!' again.

'Well, it says that if you put burning wood under the oven', said Robin, 'a devil will come out.'

And they put burning wood under the oven and the door opened and the fellow was out and away in a flash. And that was the end of the matter, and Robin went home with the hundred pounds. On the way he bought a hundred sheep, and then brought them home.

The brothers caught Robin and went to throw him into the sea. On the way, as they were taking him in a sack to the sea, they turned into a tavern for a glassful, and what did Robin do - there was an old woman passing - and Robin shouts:

'I'm going to heaven, I'm going to heaven. Who will come here instead of me?'

'Oh, I'll come', said the old woman, 'and you shall have these hundred sheep.'

And so it was.

'You be quite still', said Robin, and he tied her up, in the sack. Then the two left the tavern.

'God, this sack has become lighter, boy, that glass of beer has strengthened us.'

And Robin took the hundred sheep home, and the brothers flung the old woman into the sea, thinking it was Robin. And then they came home. Who was on the yard but Robin with another hundred sheep.

'Where did you get those, Robin?'

'In the sea', said Robin.

'Are there any more?'

'Yes, as many as you want.'

'Wonderful, throw us in!'

And so it was. He threw one in, and 'Ow-ow-ow!' said he, as he drowned.

'What's he doing now, Robin?'

'Oh, picking the fattest sheep.'

'Oh, throw me in, too, before he has the lot', said the other. And that's how it was. Robin flung the two brothers in and he went home to his sheep.


Robin Ddu And His Brothers

More information


MWL 1650. Recorded 19.ix.1967. Second recording 7.xi.1973 (tape: MWL 4050)


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 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.


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.