Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Melangell and the Hare

Feast Day: May 27




The Story of Melangell and the Hare

Once, there was a woman who lived in the woods. As in many fairy tales, she was born a princess, but the royal life did not interest her. When her father, an Irish king, pressed her to choose a suitor, she fled to the middle part of Wales and made a hermitage in the woods. There, she lived the simple life for which she yearned, and dedicated herself to God. She had a special affinity for the animals of the forest, who often took refuge in her hermitage.

One day, the prince of the land was hunting a hare. The hare ran into the clearing of the forest where the woman prayed, and hid among in the folds of the woman’s skirts. The prince demanded that the woman return the hare to the hunt, but the woman refused. “The hare needs his life more than you need meat for your soup,” she said.

“I disagree,” the prince said, but when he commanded his hounds to chase the hare, they whimpered and shrunk away.

“Those who hunt and those who are hunted are all God’s creatures,” the woman said. “That is fair, for everyone must eat. But in this hermitage, all are safe from the supper plate.”

The prince was angry, but as the woman looked at him with quiet firmness, his resolve gave way to humility. “I will hunt in other woods,” the prince said. “For your sake, as well as for the hare that hides in your skirts, this land will be a perpetual refuge and place of sanctuary. In return, please keep my kingdom in your thoughts and myself in your prayers. ”

For years after and to this day, people visit that particular place in the woods as part of their pilgrimage. They pray and reflect upon their lives. The hares come, too, as it is the one place where they are free from hunters.

There are very few safe places in the world. They are small and hard to find. As the Rev. Canon A. M. Allchin said, "Even when human life is apparently most fulfilled and successful, we can become aware that there are dimensions of existence which altogether escape us, dimensions of life where we are in fact powerless, where we too like the defeated hare can only cry ‘Melangell hide me.’"

5 comments:

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

In case you were curious, Melangell is pronounced "Mel-eng-eth."

Tony said...

That's a great Melangell picture!

galetea said...

I love stories. :) I wish I could come to your storytelling sessions!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Galetea, I wish you could come to my storytelling sessions too. By the way, I learned another riddle tale this week in Ontario. I'll post it on the blog soon.

diana said...

Very cool story. I never heard of her before. I'm so pleased you told me about her!