Today’s article is a strange one. In fact, it’s a very strange one. It revolves around a monster-themed story that came from one Marie Trevelyan. She was an author, folklorist, and someone who knew just about all of the myths and legends of Wales. There’s no doubt that of all her various books, Folklore and Folk Stories of Wales – a book that was published way back in 1909 – is her most well-known. And it’s probably her most cherished one, too. One story from Trevelyan stands out in particular. It’s hard to say if these particular creatures described in the book should have been categorized under “Cryptozoology” or “Paranormal.” You’ll quickly see why. The tale revolves around nothing less than what could only be termed as “winged serpents.” and “flying serpents.” According to Trevelyan, she got the story from an old woman known to the author. As for the specific location, Trevelyan, wrote: “The woods around Penllyn Castle, Glamorgan, had the reputation of being frequented by winged serpents, and these were the terror of old and young alike [italics mine]. An aged inhabitant of Penllyn, who died a few years ago, said that in his boyhood the winged serpents were described as very beautiful.” Now, let’s have a look at the aforementioned Penllyn Castle.
The CastleWales site state: “Penllyn Castle, four miles south-east of Bridgend, was probably built by Robert Norris, Earl Robert of Gloucester’s sheriff. Lord of Penllyn by 1135, he seems to have erected one of the first Norman keeps in Glamorgan. It was an oblong tower, like contemporary Ogmore. The two surviving walls stand on the edge of a low cliff above the River Thaw. Near the base are six courses of ‘herringbone’ masonry, a feature of early Norman work in which the stones are set in alternate diagonal layers. Above are traces of a blocked first-floor entrance. The keep now forms one corner of a derelict building. This began as a Tudor manor house of the Turbeville family, but was converted to a stable when the adjacent mansion replaced in in the 1790s.”
Trevelyan wrote of the weird creatures: “They were coiled when in repose, and ‘looked as if they were covered with jewels of all sorts. Some of them had crests sparkling with all the colors of the rainbow.’ When disturbed they glided swiftly, ‘sparkling all over,’ to their hiding places. When angry, they ‘flew over people’s heads, with outspread wings, bright, and sometimes with eyes too, like the feathers in a peacock’s tail.’ He said it was ‘no old story invented to frighten children,’ but a real fact. His father and uncle had killed some of them, for they were as bad as foxes for poultry. The old man attributed the extinction of the winged serpents to the fact that they were ‘errors in the farmyards and coverts.'”
Interestingly, very similar stories came from other, nearby areas, too: “An old woman, whose parents in her early childhood took her to visit Penmark Place, Glamorgan, said she often heard the people talking about the ravages of the winged serpents in that neighborhood,” said Trevelyan. “She described them in the same way as the man of Penllyn. There was a ‘king and queen’ of winged serpents, she said, in the woods round Bewper. The old people in her early days said that wherever winged serpents were to be seen ‘there was sure to be buried money or something of value’ near at hand. Her grandfather told her of an encounter with a winged serpent in the woods near Porthkerry Park, not far from Penmark. He and his brother ‘made up their minds to catch one, and watched a whole day for the serpent to rise. Then they shot at it, and the creature fell wounded, only to rise and attack my uncle, beating him about the head with its wings.’ She said a fierce fight ensured between the men and the serpent, which was at last killed. She had seen its skin and feathers, but after the grandfather’s death they were thrown away. That serpent was as notorious ‘as any fox’ in the farmyards and coverts around Penmark.”
It should be noted that such strange “things” weren’t exclusive to Wales. For example, eerily tales of very similar flying beasts came out of Bursa, Bulgaria. One Izzet Goksu said of the Bulgarian version of Wales’ winged serpents: “I used to go and fetch fresh water from the spring 200 meters from our house. One lovely summer evening, I picked up two buckets and started to walk towards the spring. After about 40 meters, I noticed what looked like branches on the path, but as I got closer I saw them moving. They were black, grey, and white, thin and one or two meters long. I stopped, thinking they might be snakes, but they were moving in a straight line, not like snakes at all. As I got closer, something alarmed them and they noticed me. They gave the weirdest cry I have ever heard, before taking off and flying two or three meters above the ground straight as arrows. They flew all the way to the spring about 150 meters away and disappeared behind the trees. I don’t remember seeing any wings on them. Whenever I remember that cry my hair stands on end.”
Legend or reality? To this day, the mystery still goes on.