Taffy Morgan’s Harp

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Welsh Celtic Harp Jig

Dedicated to Lowenna and Fergus in China

Read by Natasha
Story from Welsh Fairy Tales by William Elliot Griffis, 1857 (lightly adapted)

Music by Bertie based on Mopsi Drop, a traditional Welsh jig
Picture by Bertie

Taffy Morgan’s HARP

Morgan is one of the oldest names in Welsh land. It means one who lives near the sea.

One of these named Taffy, was, like nearly all Welsh people, very fond of singing.

But unfortunately that the only person who loved to hear his voice was himself. It was very rough. And when it came to playing the harp, he was hardly better. Nobody could persuade him that his music was out of tune and his voice horrid. He continued to sing and play.

Now, a welsh bard was passing by Morgan’s house. He was a professional storyteller, who made up verses and sang them for a living. People considered him to be a very great artist.

He heard Taffy Morgan practising his scales


Someone on the street asked the poet how he liked the music which he had heard inside.

"Music?" replied the bard with a sneer. "Is that what Morgan is trying? Why! I thought it was first the lowing of an aged cow, and then the meowing of a love-stick tomcat. Do you call that music?"

The bard’s words were soon quoted by all Taffy Morgan’s neighbours, and he became known as “The Tomcat,” a name he did not appreciate. But he took no notice of his critics and continued his musical ways.

One evening, when Morgan thought his singing unusually fine and felt sorry that he lacked an audience, he heard a knock at his door.

He yelled out "Come in!"

The door opened and there stood three tired-looking strangers. They appeared to be travellers. One of them said:

"Kind sir, we are weary and worn and would be glad of a morsel of bread. If you can give us a little food, we shall not trouble you further."
"Is that all?" said Morgan. "See there the loaf and the cheese, with a knife beside them. Take what you want. No one shall ever say that Taffy Morgan denied anyone food when he had any himself."

Having heard the kind invitation, the three travellers sat down and began to eat.

Meanwhile, without being invited to do so, their host began to sing for them.

Now the three travellers were fairies in disguise. They were journeying over the country, from cottage to cottage, visiting the people. They came to reward all who gave them a welcome and were kind to them but to annoy and play tricks upon those who were stingy, bad-tempered, or sour. When they had finished eating, one of them said:

"You have been good to us and we are grateful. Now,what can we do for you? We have the power to grant anything you may desire. Please tell us what you would like most."

At this, Taffy looked hard in the faces of the three strangers, to see if one of them was the bard who had likened his voice in its ups and downs to a cow and a lovesick cat. Not seeing any familiar face, he plucked up his courage and said:

"If you are not making fun of me, I would like to own a fairy harp. And, if I can have my wish in full, I want one that will play only lively tunes. No sad music for me!"

Here Morgan stopped. Again he searched their faces, to see if they were laughing at him and then proceeded.

"And something else, if I can have it; but it's really the same thing I am asking for."

"Speak on, we are ready to do what you wish," answered the leader.

"I want a harp, which, which no matter how badly I may play, will sound out sweet and jolly music."

"Say no more," said the leader, who waved his hand. There was a flood of light, and, to Morgan's amazement, there stood on the floor a golden harp.
But where were the three travellers? They had disappeared in a flash.
He sat down, back of the harp, and made ready to sweep the strings. He hardly knew whether or not he touched the instrument, but there rolled out volumes of lively music as if the harp itself were mad. The tune was wild and such as would set the feet of young folks tapping, even in church.
As Taffy's fingers seemed every moment to become more skilful, the livelier the music increased until the very dishes rattled on the cupboard as if they wanted to join in. Even the chair looked as if about to dance.

Just then, Morgan's wife and some neighbours entered the house. Immediately, the whole party, one and all, began dancing in the jolliest way. For hours, they kept up the mad whirl. Yet all the while, Taffy seemed happier and the women the merrier.

No telegraph ever carried the news faster, all over the region, that Morgan had a wonderful harp.

All the grass in front of the house was soon worn away by the crowds, that came to hear and dance. As soon as Taffy touched the harp strings, the feet of everyone, young and old, began shuffling, nor could anyone stop, so long as Morgan played. Even very old, lame and one-legged people joined in. Several old women, whom nobody had persuaded for years to get out of their chairs, were cured of their aches and pains.

Taffy, with his harp, enjoyed both fun and fame.

It was party, party, party, all day and night. Hardly a moment’s peace could be enjoyed in the village. Pilgrims came from far and wide to hear Holy Morgan play and rid them of aches and pains.

One day, in the crowd that stood around his door waiting to begin to hop and whirl, Morgan saw the bard who had compared his voice to a cow and a cat. The bard had come to see whether the stories about the harp were true or not.

As soon as the harp music began, the bard’s feet began to go up, and his legs to kick and whirl. The more Morgan played, the madder the dance and the wilder the antics of the crowd. The bard had to join in the merriment, for he could not help himself. Soon they all began to spin round and round on the flagstones in front of the door, as if crazy. They broke soon broke the garden fence. Then they came into the house and knocked over the chairs and sofa, even when they cracked their shins against the wood. They bumped their heads against the walls and ceiling, and some scrambled over the roof and down again. The bard could no more stop his weary legs than could the other lunatics.

To Morgan, his revenge was so sweet, that he kept on until the bard's legs gave way, and he fell down on top of people that had tumbled from sheer weariness because no more strength was left in them.

Meanwhile, Morgan laughed until his jaws were tired and his stomach muscles ached.
But no sooner did he take his fingers off the strings, to rest them than he opened his eyes in wonder; for in a flash the harp had disappeared.
He had made a bad use of the ' gift, and the fairies were displeased. So now Morgan felt sorry.

Yet the grass grew again when the crazy musician played no more. The air seemed sweeter to breathe, because of the silence.

And the fairies kept on doing good to the people of goodwill, and today some of the sweetest singers in Wales come from the poorest homes.

And I’m delighted to dedicate this story to Lowenna and Fergus who live in Guangzhou (Canton), China, and really enjoy listening to Storynory on journeys or while waiting for their father, Philip, to finish cooking dinner. They particularly enjoy the Lapis stories, and also enjoyed learning about the mysterious land of Yorkshire through 'The Secret Garden'. It sounded very different from south China!, writes their dad. Lowenna's birthday is on 26th November, and she asked to become a Storynory supporter for her birthday. I

Well, a very happy birthday to you Lowenna! And thank you to your family for supporting us on Patreon.