The tale of King Herla is one of the most fantastical medieval legends. Telling of a faerie encounter that ends on the banks of the river Wye in good old Herefordshire.
King Herla one of Britain’s earliest Kings was in his court when a small man rode in and claimed that he too was a king, a king of many other kings. In his friendly manner he proposed that the Kings visit each other stating, “I will attend your wedding and a year later you will attend mine.” And so it was when King Herla married, the small king attended accompanied by his servants and a large entourage. A wonderful wedding took place and about a year later, the small king returned with an invitation for King Herla to his wedding.
A Faerie Celebration
King Herla arrived at the small king’s kingdom and followed others through a crevice in the cliff face. Nervously winding his way through pitch black tunnels into the mountain, he was relieved to spy a magical light and the most wonderful wedding taking place. King Herla and his men feasted and celebrated for three days and were given lavish gifts, horses, hawks, hounds and hunting gear. As he was about to leave King Herla was singled out and given a special gift, a bloodhound and was told by the small King to never dismount his horse until the hound did of his own accord.
Heading home King Herla spotted a shepherd and asked of news of his Queen and Kingdom. The shepherd appeared to barely understand him at first for he was a Saxon and King Herla a Briton, but relayed that the kingdom was now in the possession of the Saxons and had been for two hundred years. That the previous King had disappeared in the company of a faerie King and was never seen again.
Heed the words of the Faerie King
King Herla was clearly stunned by this news. A few of his men began to dismount in shock, forgetting the small King’s warning concerning the bloodhound. As soon as their feet touched the ground, the men instantly turned into dust. King Herla quickly ordered the rest of his men to stay mounted until the dog obliged them by leaping down.
But the dog never did leap down. The ages passed and King Herla’s company were condemned to a long, lonely march through time.
Accordingly to myth and legend they were last seen in the marches of Wales and Hereford in the first year of the reign of King Henry II. At that time, King Herla’s company were said to have been accosted by a large group of armed Welshmen, forcing the company to plunge into the river Wye, turn into air and vanish forever.
The moral of this wonderful tale is always be wary of accepting wedding invitations from faerie Kings!
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