The Legend of the River Conwy Afanc

The legend of the huge water monster the Afanc and its removal from River Conwy to a lake on Mount Snowdon…

It is said that there was a period in time when the good folk who lived along the Conwy valley were constantly plagued with terrible floods that both drowned their livestock and ruined their crops. The cause of this destruction to people’s farms and livelihood was not however a natural occurrence: all knew that the floods were caused by the Afanc.

The Afanc was a legendary Welsh water monster, likened, some have said, to the Loch Ness Monster. The Afanc lived in Llyn-yr-Afanc (The Afanc Pool) in the River Conwy. It was a gigantic beast who, when annoyed, was strong enough to break the banks of the pool causing the floods. Many attempts had been made to kill him but it seems that his hide was so tough that no spear, arrow or any man-made weapon could pierce it.

The wise men of the valley held a meeting and decided that if force wouldn’t work, then the Afanc must somehow be enticed out of his pool and removed to a lake far away beyond the mountains, where he could cause no further trouble. The lake chosen to be the Afanc’s new home was Llyn Ffynnon Las, under the dark imposing shadow of Mount Snowdon.

Mountains of Snowdon
Mountains of Snowdon

Preparations started straight away: the finest blacksmith in the land forged the strong iron chains that would be required to bind and secure the Afanc, and they sent for Hu Gardan and his two long-horned oxen – the mightiest oxen in Wales – to come to Betws-y-coed.

One minor problem though: how to coax the Afanc out of this lake, bind him with chains and then hitch him to the oxen?

It appears that the Afanc, like many other ugly old monsters, was very partial to beautiful young women, and one maiden in particular, the daughter of a local farmer, was brave enough to volunteer for the quest.

The girl approached the Afanc’s lake while her father and the rest of the men remained hidden a short distance away. Standing on the shore she called softly to him, the waters began to heave and churn, and through it appeared the huge head of the monster.

Although tempted to turn and run the girl bravely stood her ground and, gazing fearlessly into the monsters green-black eyes, began to sing a gentle Welsh lullaby.

Slowly the massive great body of the Afanc crawled out of the lake towards the girl. So sweet was the song that the Afanc’s head slowly sank to the ground in slumber.

Afanc by Elle Wilson
Courtesy of Elle Wilson

The girl signalled to her father, and he and the rest of the men emerged from their hiding places and set about binding the Afanc with the forged iron chains.

They had only just finished their task when the Afanc awoke, and with a roar of fury at being tricked, the monster slid back into the lake. Fortunately the chains were long and a few of the men had been quick enough to hitch them onto the mighty oxen. The oxen braced their muscles and began to pull. Slowly, the Afanc was dragged out of the water, but it took the strength of Hu Gardan’s oxen and every available man to pull him onto the bank.

They dragged him up the Lledr valley, and then headed north-west toward Llyn Ffynnon Las (Lake of the Blue Fountain). On the way up a steep mountain field one of the oxen was pulling so hard that it lost an eye – it popped out with the strain and the tears the oxen shed formed Pwll Llygad yr Ych, (Pool of the Ox’s Eye).

The mighty oxen struggled on until they reached Llyn Ffynnon Las, close to the summit of Snowdon. There the chains of the Afanc were loosed, and with a roar, the monster leapt straight into the deep blue water that was to become his new home. Encased within the sturdy rock banks of the lake he remains trapped forever.

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