How Enfys Earned Her Faery Wings
By Maggi Payne, Florida
Henry was, in a word, exhausted. He'd spent the better part of the morning at the local library, where children read stories to him every second and fourth Saturday of the month during his READing Paws visits. Following an afternoon nap, he and his person, Holly, drove to his breeder' house, where they had been invited to attend a Midsummer's Eve party. There was much frapping with his brother, sister, uncles, aunts, and cousins, not to mention the ingesting of some excellent treats in honor of the occasion. After all, every corgi knows the importance of the night before the Summer Solstice, according to Welsh faery folklore.
A bit of background is no doubt in order. Henry, a handsome sable fellow, possessed an excellent pedigree and striking good looks. Sadly, his career in the show ring was less than stellar, for he was much more interested in socializing with the crowd and schmoozing with the judges and the pretty bitches than in stacking and gaiting. He was retired from the conformation ring and went to live with his breeder's niece, Holly, a gentle and kind young lady who taught third grade. She welcomed him happily, and as a team they tried all sorts of pursuits. But Henry was bored with obedience; just how many times was a fellow supposed to retrieve a dumbbell, after all? Agility was far too strenuous, and Henry never did understand what all the fuss was about when he decided to lie down in the tunnel and take a short nap. He enjoyed the drive to the farm in the country where herding classes were held, but the sheep were just too - well - odoriferous.
The only remaining option at the canine training center was a therapy dog class, and here Henry and Holly finally found their groove. They breezed through the training, aced their assessment, and began visiting the many lonely people whom Henry came to love at a nearby nursing home.
Then Henry and Holly discovered the magical world of R.E.A.D. - the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program. What could be better than dogs, kids, and books, all rolled into one happy activity? They became a registered R.E.A.D. team, and, with several other teams, began a program at a nearby library, where Henry would have declared - had he been able to speak - that he was the world's happiest and luckiest corgi!
Back to that mystical Midsummer's Eve. After the revelry wound down, Henry and Holly returned home and quickly settled into bed for a good night's rest. As the grandmother clock in the hallway struck midnight, Henry sighed, snuggled up next to Holly, and closed his eyes.
Henry's nose began to tickle, and he opened his eyes to see a fluttering of wings and a sprinkling of gold dust on his nose. He looked up to fond a lovely little faery hovering overhead. He blinked, shook his head to clear the sleep from his eyes, and looked again. Then she spoke. "Good evening, Henry. My name is Fflur, and I am a Welsh faery. I've come to take you on an adventure." And with that, she produced a tiny saddle and a bridle made of miniature flowers strung together, and bade Henry rise. Thinking what a lovely dream this was, Henry laid his head back on the pillow and drifted off to sleep.
Some time later, Henry awoke to find himself in a dark cave, with only the flickering of fireflies to illuminate his surroundings. Adjusting his eyes, he saw the outline of a wee girl holding a book. Tears glistened in her eyes and dropped to moisten the book's pages, and Henry could easily see that the tiny person was visibly distraught. He rose slowly and inched his way over to her, gently touching her with his wet, black nose. She looked up at him and began to weep harder, so he attempted to comfort her with a gentle "woof." She turned to face him and continued to sob. At that moment, he had never in his life wished any harder that he could speak. He was quite accustomed to Holly's putting his thoughts into words at the library, but he was at a loss as to how to talk to this tiny, lovely girl. He did notice that she had no wings, so he assumed that she was not a faery like Fflur. Frustrated, he woofed again in an attempt to tell her that he really wanted to help her and find out what was the matter.
"Oh, dear Mr. Corgi, I doubt that you or anyone else can help me," the wee girl spoke. My name is Enfys, which means rainbow in Welsh. I am a faery, but I can't receive my wings until I am able to read, and no one has ever been able to teach me," she wailed. "My wings are in the pot of gold at the rainbow's end, but I fear I shall never reach them."
Henry was truly startled - first, that she had understood exactly what he had tried to tell her, and second, that her problem was one which he could help her resolve. "Oh, dear Miss Enfys, my name is Henry, and I believe I can help you with your conundrum. You see, I am a Reading Education Assistance Dog, and my job is helping children with their reading skills and encouraging them to become more comfortable readers."
Enfys brightened a bit at this news and extended her book to Henry. "Do you think you can really help me learn to read this book?" she asked. Henry glanced at the title and saw that it was one with which he was very familiar - I'll Teach My Dog 100 Words, by Michael Frith and P. D. Eastman. He and Holly had used it many times to help beginning readers at the library, and all the children who had read it to him had signed their names in Henry's book so that he would never forget them.
Illustration ©2014 Béatrice Quinio
Henry began by opening the book to the first page and pointing with his paw to the words in red. Then he showed Enfys how the illustrations depicted exactly what the words were saying. She was amazed that the pictures could help her read the words. Enfys had some alphabet flash cards, and Henry used these to demonstrate how phonics could help her sound out letters and put them together to read words. He employed a technic called paw-phonics, where he used his paw to cover up parts of words so that Enfys could see smaller words inside the larger ones. She was astounded that it was all coming to her so easily, and she gained confidence with every page, until they reached the end of the book. She was grateful that Henry never criticized or corrected her, as had others who had attempted to teach her. Instead, he encouraged her and gave her suggestions and ideas about how to decipher the words herself. "Oh, dear Henry, I can't believe I've read the whole book!" she exclaimed.
When it was time to take a break, Enfys took Henry by the paw and led him out of the cave and into a lovely woods. They snacked on juicy red berries and marveled at mushrooms large enough to serve as faery parasols. They strolled out of the woods and down into the faery compound, where Henry saw dozens of beautiful faeries cooking, doing laundry, sewing, and tending to all the chores necessary for daily life. There were many corgis about; some were pulling wagons full of laundry or groceries, and others were wearing wee saddles and bridles, standing ready to transport the faeries wherever they needed to go. Everyone had a job to do and seemed to be enjoying the work.
When Enfys and Henry returned to their little cave, they found Fflur waiting for them. She had brought them a tall stack of books. Enfys clapped her little hands and couldn't wait to resume reading and show Fflur what she had learned. She read several stories, then declared that her absolute favorite was Titus Rules, by Dick King-Smith. Although the faeries loved and revered their own Faery Queen, they also adored Queen Elizabeth II, and this was a book about a puppy named Titus, who lived with the Queen and stole her heart. Enfys especially liked that Prince Philip called his wife Madge, short for Your Majesty.
Henry had saved the very best book for last, and, as he expected, Enfys adored Tasha Tudor's Corgiville Fair. She was captivated by the Boggarts, as well as by Josephine, the racing goat. She declared that she would love to live in Corgiville, but Henry wisely pointed out to her that she already lived in her very own faery-corgi paradise.
As dusk was descending, Fflur returned to accompany Henry and Enfys to the village, where they saw that a Midsummer's Eve celebration was in progress. In the midst of the revelry was Rhiannon, the Divine Queen of the Faeries. She was dressed in gold, and her wings sparkled like diamonds. Fflur and five other faeries attended her, and it was apparent that they were Rhiannon's ladies in waiting. Fflur whispered in Rhiannon's ear, and she rose and beckoned Enfys to her side. Bashfully, Enfys clung to Henry, but he reassured her and nudged her in the direction of the Faery Queen. Henry tried to head over to take his place with the other corgis, who were gathered a short distance away, but Enfys, who was so tiny that the top of her head came only to his withers, wound her wee fingers into his luxurious coat and pleaded with him to stay with her.
Rhiannon spoke in a lilting voice reminiscent of tiny bells. "Enfys, I understand that with your friend Henry's help, you have become a most proficient reader. I am delighted to present you with your wings." And with that, one of her ladies in waiting handed the Fairy Queen a pair of small silvery wings, which she then attached to Enfrys. All the faeries cheered, and the corgis chimed in with gentle woofs. Enfrys threw her little arms around Henry, gave him the biggest hug she could muster, and told him, "Now, my dearest friend, I will be able to visit you and take you out for a ride every Midsummer's Eve!"
The revelry continued for a while longer, and then the faeries and corgis all retired to sleep and dream.
Holly was fast asleep as the first rays of dawn streamed into the bedroom. Henry opened one eye, only to see that gold dust still clung to his nose. Had this mystical adventure really occurred, or was it all just a lovely dream? And that red spot on his white bib - could that possibly be from one of those succulent berries? Next year's Midsummer's Eve would surely tell the tale. But for now, he would catch forty more winks, so that he would be in top form to visit all his friends at the nursing home later that day.
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In the spring of 2013, the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of the Potomac held a Myths and Legends writing contest and this story written by Maggi Payne in Florida won in the category of non-club-member entry. The story was published in the Potomac Club's newsletter, "The Tide", and reproduced with kind permission.
Make sure to also read Maggi Payne's delightful poem The Corgi's Midsummer's Eve