Not all myths are heroic journeys or great love stories. Sometimes, a simple scene houses a battle of wits. And sometimes, the small battles have long consequences. I found this while looking up a town in Wales because of a Netflix show. I do adore wise woman tales.
A thousand years ago, the Devil decided to visit Wales, because in all his time on Earth and in Hell he’d never visited that corner of the world. Rumor had it, the country was beautiful, and the Devil was intrigued.
So he wandered the green countryside and found he agreed with all he’d heard about the gorgeous land, and thought he might stay a while. He came upon an old woman standing on the edge of a river, hunched and dejected.
“Why, madam, what vexes you so,” the Devil asked.
“My cow,” she said, pointing at the animal calmly grazing on the other side of the water. “She got away and managed to get across the river, and I have no idea how to get her back.” The Devil, never one to allow such an opportunity pass by, presented his most charming and polite smile.
“Why, I can help you get her back,” he said. “I’ll make you a deal. I’ll build a bridge tonight so you can get her back in the barn before milking time in the morning. You go home and rest.” He held out his hands in offering.
“Oh, you’ll just build a whole bridge overnight, then? Are you a wizard, sir?”
The Devil laughed and bowed.
“And what boon will you ask in payment for such an amazing feat,” the old woman asked, for she was no fool.
“I’ll take the first living thing to cross the bridge in payment,” the Devil replied with a smile. The old woman was convinced now that the man was full of bluster and lies, so she agreed and walked slowly home for the evening, still thinking of ways to get her cow back.
The next morning, she dressed for the cool Welsh bluster and considered what might happen if the magician HAD built a bridge. So, for caution’s sake, she took bread from the table and called her dog to walk with her to the river.
And there the Devil stood, shiny and bright next to a brand new sturdy bridge spanning the water. On the other side stood her cow, quietly eating as though bridges just appeared overnight regularly in her world. The Devil didn’t say anything, just gestured to the river with an open hand, inviting the old woman to cross. Instead, she threw the loaf of bread with all her strength.
And her faithful dog ran after it, becoming the first living creature to cross the bridge. The Devil gnashed his teeth and screamed, “NOOOOO! I don’t want your smelly, hairy farm dog’s soul!” and disappeared.
The old woman gathered her cow and dog, and went home.
The Devil never appeared in Wales again, too embarrassed to show his face after being outwitted by an old lady.
But high in the mountains near Aberystwyth, a bridge with three levels crosses the gorge over the river. The bottom bridge is said to have been built by the Devil himself, over Devil’s Falls.