The Legend of the City of Ys

The Legend of the City of Ys

The Legend of the City of Ys

The Legend of the City of Ys

Excerpt

Death and evil, supernatural beings and revenants, saints and devils are favorite themes of Breton folklore. All find a place in the legend of the city of Ys. The core of the story is simplicity itself: a city is submerged by an encroachment of the sea. In the elaboration of that simple nucleus, however, there is possibility for infinite variation and embellishment.

Stories of sunken cities are common in all Celtic-speaking countries and, indeed, are found throughout Europe. In Wales one hears of Cantre'r Gwaelod, the Lowland Hundred submerged beneath Cardigan Bay; and of Llys Helig, the Court of Helig ap Glannawg identified in modern stories with rocks visible at the spring equinoctial tides beneath Conway Bay. Such stories were popular in Wales as early as the Middle Ages. Not only does the Black Book of Carmarthen contain a ninth-century poem on Cantre'r Gwaelod, but Branwen, one of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, recounts how Bendigeidfran led his Welsh host on an invasion of Ireland:

Bendigeidfran and the host of which we spoke sailed towards Ireland, and in those days the deep water was not wide. He went by wading. There were but two rivers, the Lli and the Archan were they called, but thereafter the deep water grew wider when the deep overflowed the kingdoms.

Ireland also has stories of lands submerged beneath the sea, but more tantalizing are its related stories of rivers and lakes. There is, for example, a story about the formation of the River Boyne (Boand in Irish) which . . .

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