Elizabeth Gaskell’s Ruth: Ch. 5 Annotation – “Pentre Voelas”

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

When Jenny tells Mr. Bellingham that the Inn is full, he replies:

“Nay, Jenny, you’re strangely altered, if you can turn out an old friend on such an evening as this. If I remember right, Pen tre Voelas [sic] is twenty miles across the bleakest mountain-road I ever saw.”

Mrs. Gaskell was familiar with Northern Wales having visited during her honeymoon and again a few years later both visits held different spectrum’s of emotion within her life. Pentrefoelas is currently located in the district of Conwy but during the Victorian era it was in the Denbighshire district (a name which will have some significance later on). The village has an interesting legend, it’s very possible Gaskell knew of it, let’s compare it with Ruth’s storyline so far:

On a misty morning, the son of Hafod Garreg was shepherding his father’s flock when he noticed a girl crying on the side of a peat-stack near him. He spoke kindly to her and she was comforted. Her beauty inspired words of love in his heart and he spoke them to her. But suddenly the girl’s father appeared and the young shepherd was left alone on the hill. Night after night he returned, hoping to see her again.

Parallel’s with Ruth: Mr. Bellingham was captivated by Ruth’s beauty and his kind gesture towards her was the gift of the camellia.

Pentrefoelas - Photo © Dave Pugh

In the Fairyland above earth the girl’s thoughts were with the kind man and she decided to go visit him. When her father discovered they were in love the shepherd begged him to allow them to marry. He consented but only until his daughter is struck with iron. They lived happily for several years and had a family.

Differences in Ruth: Ruth’s father is in Heaven but as he cannot physically come, the couple do as they please. But what of Mr. Bellingham’s mother?
Being hit with iron could represent a great pain or sorrow, heartbreak, anguish etc.

One day while trying to catch wild ponies the shepherd threw his iron bridle at them in frustration but it struck his wife by accident instead. He watched as the girl’s father, along with several Fairies, came to collect her. In moments, she was gone, before they could even say goodbye.
Devastated, the shepherd returned to his children, the only reminder of the Fairy he had once loved. ….(paraphrased from source 1).

Shows a slight carelessness and quick temper in the shepherd, which we’ve also seen in Mr. Bellingham.

Photo © Gary Hadden - Click on the photo to read about walking to Pentrefoelas

Discussion Question

  • What other loose parallels do you see between the legend and Ruth?

Sources

1 “The Pentrefoelas Legend, Pentrefoelas Conwy County Wales.” Hotels in Wales, hotels in Cardiff, Swansea, Tenby, Snowdonia, Llandudno….. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2011. <http://www.walesdirectory.co.uk/tourist-attractions/Welsh_Folklore_Myths_and_Legends/Wales9935.htm&gt;.

“History of Pentrefoelas, in Conwy and Denbighshire | Map and description.” A Vision of Britain through Time | Your national on-line library for local history | Maps, Statistics, Travel Writing and more. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 May 2011. <http://www.visionofbritain.org.uk/place/place_page.jsp?p_id=8479&gt;.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. tothehills says:

    Hi Katherine, interesting text. The surrounding hills are not paricularly high mountains, but they do have a very remote feel about them especially on the moors. Thanks for the excellent name check below my picure. Gary (tothehills) Hadden.

    1. Hello Gary,
      That fits perfectly with the character of Henry Bellingham, he’s being rather whinny here and would be prone to exaggeration.
      You have a lovely gallery of photographs on flickr, and I was delighted to find your blog post on your trip to Pentrefoelas through them. 🙂

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