Picton Toad Stories
First Picton Toad Story - The Toads That Ate
llyffaint = toad in Welsh
The Farmhouse Currently
"Trellyffant is the mansion house of Owen Picton as it has been to 3 or 4 of his ancestors, but in ancient time the land of Howell ap Jenkin of Nevern. It is in English & not unworthily called Toadstown for this is the place spoken of by Giraldus Cambrensis of a man consumed and eaten up with toads in miraculous sort.
He delivers the story of this sort: I will not pass in silence (says he) two accidents that befell in this country of Cemais, the one in our time, the other not long before & therefore that happened in our days, was that a young man born in these parts and lying sick a-bed was so molested with toads that all the toads of the country gathered upon him as if were by appointment, & when they were killed by his attendants and friends the multitude increased liked Hydra's head flocking to him from everywhere. At last when all of his friends and other his neighbors were tired herewith, the young man was laid onto of a high tree that had its boughs lopped off, where notwithstanding he was not in safety from his poisoned enemies, for they climbed up the tree thick and threefold and devoured him to the very bones, that he died miserably. His name was Seisyll Esgair Hir, that is Longshanks. The coat of the Picton is gules three pikes naint argent.
- A Book on Nevern by Dillwyn Miles
Second Picton Toad Story - Toad on the Wall
"In the fifteenth century Trellyffant formed part of the estate of the magnte Howel ap Jenkin of Nevern, from whom it passed to the Pictons and from them to the Youngs. In the taxation of 1670 William Young of Trellyffant was assessed at four hearths.
Before proceeding to the history of the family and its association with
Cwmgloyn, a few words may be given to an interesting little relic which perpetuated the memory of the creatures who had proved so fatal to an earlier owner. The
first known reference occurs in Fenton's Tour (1811), when he went to Trellyffant
'to see the figure of a toad, well-sculptured in black marble, which is introduced
into a chimney-piece, and was formerly covered with glass to preserve it from any
injury. It is said to have been brought from Italy, the work of a foreign artist. My
enquiries as to the date of its introduction here were fruitless, and all I could learn
was, that it had filled its present station for some centuries'. By the time we hear of
it next, some half a century on, it had been moved to Cwmgloyn, and in Arch-
aeologia Cambrensis, 1864, 310, we read, Trellyffaint In the parlour of the
house, over the chimney-piece, in the centre of a pretty landscape of the place,
painted on wood, was formerly a dark marble toad, said to be sent from Italy by
Sir Richard Mason, Knight of the Green Cloth to James II, to his relatives at
Trellyffaint in Pembrokeshire, who bore a toad for their crest. It was exhibited at
the Cardigan Archaeological Meeting (1859) and is now in the possession of
Mrs Owen of Cwmgloyn'.
Like all good toads it continued to hop, and by the time we hear of it next it
had reached Haverfordwest. In his attractive book, Nooks and Corners of
Pembrokeshire published in 1895, H Thornhill Timmins having recited the
traditional tale, proceeds As a momento of this incident, the marble effigy of a
toad was built into a chimney-piece at Trellyffan The toad was afterwards cut
away and removed from its place in the farmhouse, but eventually came into the
possession of its present owner, a resident at Haverfordwest, by whose courtesy
we are enabled to give a sketch of this venerable relic. The toad in question is
carved in a dark-green marble, about as large as the palm of a woman's hand, and
is reputed to be the work of an Italian artist'. A neat sketch of the object
accompanies this account. The 'resident at Haverfordwest' mentioned by
Timmins was the last of the line of Cwmgloyn and Trellyffant..."
- The National Library of Wales Journal - XXIII, page 348, also online
Third Toad Story, Back to Neolithic Burial Stones
Near Trellyffaint or Toad Hall, also referred to as Trellyfaint or Trellefant, is the much ruined burial monument of Trellyfant. Originally, the chamber seems to have been rectangular. To the north of the main chamber is a small square feature - possibly another chamber. This would make Trellyfant a double chambered tomb .This neolithic burial chamber is far earlier than the toad story by Giraldus Cambrensis (Gerald of Wales) in 1188 who believed that Trellyffant (‘Toad’s Hall’) was so-named because a chieftain buried inside the tomb had been devoured by toads.
Fourth Toad Story - How to Make a Toad Bone of Power
"A particularly interesting account of the ritual involving the diabolic pact/competition motifs, derives from Nevern in Pembrokeshire, Wales; the locality mentioned formerly in connection to the ‘Toad and Host’ form of witch-induction. In personal discussion with the broadcaster and folklorist, Roger Worsley (2000), I was told how he had in 1968/9 conducted some research in the Nevern area relating to a Neolithic burial chamber and had come across the bone-ritual by chance. The cromlech is known locally as Trellyffeint, meaning ‘Toad-town’. This curious name derives from a legend about the chieftain supposedly buried there, a matter which is recorded by Gerald de Barri (Giraldus Cambrensis) circa 1188. Barri’s account is worth quoting in full, because of the evident similarities to our ritual, as well to the recipe given in Scot (op.cit):
‘In our time, a young man [named Sisellus], during a severe illness, suffered as violent a persecution from Toads as if the reptiles of the whole province had come to be in agreement. And though destroyed by his nurses and friends, they increased again on all sides in infinite numbers, like hydras’ heads. His attendants, both friends and strangers, being wearied out, he was drawn up in a kind of bag, into a high tree stripped of its leaves and shred. Nor was he there safe from his venomous enemies, for they crept up the tree in great numbers, and consumed him, even unto the very bones...’ (cited in Worseley, 1980)
The Neolithic mound of Trellyffeint is evidently far older than Cambrensis’ account, and indeed one must consider that the tale he tells could itself date from before 1188. To one familiar with the toad-bone ritual the account is striking indeed; it almost reads as a human-orientated version of it, with the boy Sisellus taking the place of the flensed toad, and the attacking toads taking the place of the ants. The ‘kind of bag’ strung up a tree recalls the white cloth mentioned by Scot, and the phrase ‘unto the very bones’ seems a direct allusion. If a connection does exist with the toad-bone ritual, as Worsley suggests, the dating of Cambrensis’ account is important for our historical understanding of the practice. It is curious to note that local legend also relates that the nearby farmhouse kept a black marble toad on its mantel-shelf until the 19th century to commemorate the boy’s untimely demise.
Although the tale of Sisellus has structural and symbolic similarities with the bone ritual, the connection between the cromlech itself and the ritual is far more direct. In further discussion, Worsley related that when he visited the Trellyffaint farmhouse in 1968 to enquire about the cromlech and its naming legend, he was told by the old farmer that although he didn’t know why the site was called ‘Toad’s town’, he did know ‘how you became a Toad Man’. The farmer’s account is as follows:
‘You caught and pinned a toad.... then you pinned the body over an ants’ nest until the flesh had gone, leaving only the bones. These you took to the Caman brook, the little stream which flows through Nevern, and threw them in one by one. Eventually... one bone would turn and swim up against the stream, screaming as it went - this bone you caught and carried about in your pocket for three days and nights, returning to Trellyfaint tomb each night to walk round it three times, widdershins. At the third time, the Devil would try to get the bone from you - but if you survived that ordeal, you were then a Toad Man, and had power over animals.’ (published in Worsley, 1987).
The farmer relating the account of the ritual stated that although he had not performed the ritual himself, his father had, circa 1890. Apparently his father had performed the rite in order to get power specifically over cattle, indicating that the ritual was known as a way of gaining power in general, but could be used for particular personal objectives."
email from Kim Clayton Perilloux to Brian Picton Swann, me, et al
FROESCH and LLYFFAINT
These are our favorite Frog and Toad from the days of reading stories to and with
our daughters and listening to them read.
Froesch means "frog" in German, and Froeschner is my husband's surname.
Llyffaint means "toad" in Welsh.
Having toad stories to go along with my mother's maiden name Picton makes the connection complete.
Please contact me by email: Jeanette@Martin-Froeschner.net
updated March 2015