Elidor, or the Golden Ball
There befell in the parts of Gower and Swansey, in Wales, a thing not unworthy to be remembered, which Elidor, the priest, most firmly related to have happened to him.
For when he already reckoned the twelfth year of puerile innocence, (because, as Solomon saith, the root of learning is bitter, and the fruit sweet,) the boy, addicted to letters, that he might avoid discipline, and the frequent stripes of his preceptor, hid himself, a fugitive, in the hollow bank of a certain river: and, when he had now lurked there two days, continually fasting, there appeared to him two little men, as it were of pygmy stature, saying: If thou wilt come with us, we will lead thee into a land full of sports and delights: he assenting, and rising up, followed them, leading the way, through a road, at first, subterraneous and dark, into a most beautiful country, very much embellished with rivers and meads, woods and plains, nevertheless obscure, and not brightened with the open light of the sun.
All the days there were as if cloudy, and the nights most hideous by the absence of moon and stars. The boy was brought to the king, and presented to him before the court of the realm, and, when he had a long time beheld him, with the admiration of all, he, at length, recommending, assigned him to his son, a boy he had.
Now the men were of very small stature, but, for their size, very well shaped: all yellow-haired, and with luxuriant locks flowing down their shoulders in the manner of a woman. They had horses fit for their own height, with greyhounds conformable in size. They ate neither flesh, nor fish, using, for the most part milky food, and things made with saffron in the manner of a pudding. There were no oaths among them, for they detested nothing so much as lies. As often as they returned from the upper hemisphere, they reproached our ambitions, infidelities, and inconstancies. There was no religious worship among them openly; being only, it seemed, chief lovers and worshippers of truth.
Now the boy was wont frequently to ascend to our hemisphere, sometimes by the way by which he had come, sometimes by another, at first with others, and afterward by himself. He only committed himself to his mother, declaring to her the mode of the country, and the nature and condition of the people. Admonished, therefore, by his mother, that he would sometimes bring to her a present of the gold with which that country abounded, the golden ball with which the kings son had been accustomed to play, snatching it from him in the game, he, speedily hastening, carried to his mother, by the usual way; and, when he had now come to his fathers house, yet not without a train of that people, he hastened to enter, his foot stuck in the threshold, and so, falling within the house, where his mother was sitting, two pygmies following his foot-step, seized the ball which had fallen out of his hand, and, in going out, threw spit, contempt and derision upon the boy. He, verily, rising, and come to himself, was confounded with the wonderful shame of the deed, and, when, very much cursing and detesting the counsels of his mother, he prepared to return by the road he had been accustomed to, he came to the descent of the river, and subterraneous passage, no entrance appeared to him*.
* Girald Barry, Itinerarium Cambriæ, à Pouelo Londini, 1585, 8vo. p. 129.
From Fairy tales, now first collected, by Joseph Ritson. London, 1831.