Once upon a time, in Snowdonia in North Wales, not far from the mountain Y Garn, there lived a kind old fellow called Carwyn. Everyone liked Carwyn, but they shook their heads when he began to talk about the fairies who once lived in the mountains.
Carwyn's wife, Bronwen, sighed when he began to tell his tales. "Those were the old days," she'd say. "Those fairies are long gone; stop daydreaming."
But Carwyn loved remembering the fairies. "When I was a boy, we used to go see them dance in the moonlight."
"Shush," Bronwen scolded. "You've told those stories thousands of times."
"There were their rings in the grass," Carwyn went on.
But Bronwen said, "You're only dreaming. Now wash these dishes."
One fine spring day, Carwyn was headed to the fair, which was on the other side of Y Garn. The day was warm, and the walk was long for the old man. He reached a lonely valley, and as he looked across at the mountain, he shook his head.
"I'll need rest if I'm going to make it to the fair," he said aloud. He looked up at the bright blue sky and smiled. "I'll just take a nap." And with that, he set his bag down and lay down in the grass. Before long, he was fast asleep.
Soon he was dreaming of the fairies, but it wasn't a dream, you see. For while he was sleeping, a band of fairies saw him lying there, and they hurried to his side and lifted him and carried him off. When they reached the fairy ring, they lifted it and carried Carwyn to their home underground.
When Carwyn woke, he stared in wonder, for there he was in a palace made of pure gold, and the fairies were dancing in a circle all around him, singing and full of the joy he remembered from his youth. The palace shimmered, and he could not stop smiling.
After a while the fairies began to show him around. They took him to every room, each one covered in gold, and they escorted him through the magnificent gardens with blooms larger than any he had ever seen -- lilacs and lilies, honeysuckle, daffodils, poppies and bluebells. There were orchards thick with fruit. And those fairies? Even as they showed him around, they were dancing. They were so lovely; Carwyn could not remember ever feeling so alive.
He danced and sang with them, too. After a while, he was so exhausted that they let him sit while they danced on. Soon he fell fast asleep, and they whispered in his ear, "Never tell a soul about this."
While Carwyn was sleeping, the fairies carried him back to the spot where they had first found him. They carefully placed him on the ground, and they placed his bag beside him.
When he awoke, he looked around groggily, but he saw no one -- only that lonely valley and the mountain in the distance. There, beside him, sat his bag.
"Must have been dreaming," he smiled. He stood up to walk to the fair, but when he reached for his bag, he could barely lift it. When he opened it, he discovered it was full of gold.
"Blessed day!" he cried to the sky. "I wasn't dreaming -- it was the fairies!" Somehow he managed to find the strength to lift that bag, and he carried it home, singing all the way.
"Bronwen," he called as he opened the door, "come see!" And when Bronwen saw him carrying only his bag, with no groceries or flowers or any of the other things he'd promised to buy at the fair, she began to scold him.
"Where have you been all day?" she demanded. "Why didn't you go to the fair?"
She tried to say more, but Carwyn stopped her. "Hush," he said. "Look here. I have something." He opened the bag and showed her the gold.
"Where did that come from?" she asked suspiciously. "Are you in trouble?"
He shook his head. "No, it's a gift, plain and simple. Don't worry."
"Don't worry?" she cried. "Don't keep secrets from me, Carwyn. Tell your wife the truth. Where on earth did you get that gold?"
"Not earth," he said. "Well, not exactly."
"Tell me now!" she cried.
Carwyn knew she would not stop asking, and he was tired, after all -- his knees were beginning to ache from all that dancing. Finally, he couldn't resist telling her.
"Don't tell a soul," he said, "but I've seen the fairies, and they gave me the gold."
"What? Go on," she said. He knew she wouldn't believe him, so he told her everything -- the golden palace, the gardens, the singing and dancing. Carwyn sounded so certain and so honest that Bronwen almost believed him.
When it was dark, Carwyn emptied the bag and put the gold in a box under their bed. "We'll keep it safe," he said. "We'll spend it wisely just as the fairies would like us to do."
They fell asleep, both of them dreaming of the gold. But in the morning when they woke and opened the box, instead of gold, the box was full of cockle shells.
"What is this?" Bronwen said, shaking her head. "Where's the gold?"
But Carwyn knew he'd made a mistake and had been punished by the fairies. He should have never said a word about his visit underground.
That afternoon, he walked to the valley. When he got there, he called out, "I'm sorry I didn't keep your secret." But he was grateful for his time with the fairies.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.