The Giant Snake of Penhesgyn - an old Anglesey legend

by Ross Davies
(Pentraeth)

Many years ago, in the parish of Penmynydd, there used to be a prosperous farm call Penhesgyn.

Today, the land has been taken over by Anglesey County Council to develop a large rubbish re-cycling plant. So, it is rather difficult to imagine the farm as it used to be, but there is a strange tale attached to the place.
Way back, in days gone by, it is said that an enormous snake, a viper, arrived at the farm, and made the wilder parts its territory. The size of the viper and the fact that it was poisonous, made it very dangerous to humans. The land was owned by a husband and wife team. They had only one son, which made him the heir to everything and the focus of all their hopes for the future.
One day, a wandering fortune teller, or sage, called at the farm. Men like him often travelled the countryside, and they were always well received and given food and drink.
However, this particular fortune teller shocked the couple by proclaiming that a huge snake would cause the death of their only son in a matter of months. They were so devastated by this prediction that they decided to send him away at once to England, where the snake could not possibly reach him. There he would stay until the departure, or the demise of the snake.
Everybody in the whole parish sympathised with their dreadful predicament and wishes that they could think of some way of getting rid of the monster snake and restore their son to them. The plain truth was, however, that most of them were too frightened to even venture near the place.
Time wore on, until one day, a villager, slightly braver then the next, thought of a plan to put an end to the danger once and for all. With the aid of a friend, who acted as lookout, he dug a deep hole only a few metres away from the viper’s nest. When it was finished, he placed a very large, shallow, brass pan face downwards, pre-polished so that it shone like the sun. Within a couple of days, the weather became warm enough to entice the viper out into the open to sunbathe.
She saw something glittering in the sun and slithered nearer to investigate. On peering into the polished surface of the pan, she saw another snake as large as herself. It was her own reflection, of course, but she was not to know that. The thought of another snake on her territory infuriated the viper.
She reared her head, hissing loudly, and lashing her tail. She struck and struck, time and again, at the trespasser, pouring out poison through her fangs each time. The reflection in the pan did exactly the same thing, making the viper think that she was fighting for her life.
The onslaught went on for hours, making her supply of poison become more and more depleted. By dusk she was forced to withdraw, completely exhausted. She could hardly drag her huge bulk back to the nest.
The villager had been a witness to all this and he, quickly, seized his opportunity. He managed to kill her with just one blow on the head. Thus ended the reign of terror of the snake of Penhesgyn.
The whole parish celebrated the event and buried the body of the dreaded serpent in a little hillock nearby. The son of the farming couple was sent for at once, and within a couple of weeks, everybody had settled down to the kind of life that they had before the advent of the snake. However, there is a sting to this tale.
Sometime later, the young heir had a sudden urge to see the body of the viper for himself, So, he, and a group of servants, made for the hillock where it was buried. The soil was removed but all they could find was the bony skull. The young man laughed. “You have caused enough trouble here!” he cried. “Take that!”
He kicked the skull as hard as he could, forgetting that his expensive shoes were made from very thin leather. A sharp piece of skull penetrated through the shoe and embedded itself in his foot. Within hours, he became very ill and died. Some dregs of the virulent poison must have been retained in
the skull, and, with the kick, had been injected into his whole system.
Thus, the prediction of the fortune teller, that a snake would destroy the heir to Penhesgyn Farm, had finally come true.

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