This is one of our favourite traditional Welsh tales taken from the story book ‘Once upon a time in Wales’ by John Owen Hughes.
There was once a rich prince called March. He was King Arthur’s cousin. He lived in Castellmarch and although he was rich and lived in great comfort, March was unhappy. He was unhappy because he had two long hairy ears like horse’s ears! In Welsh ‘March’ means ‘horse’.
March kept his hair long to hide his ears. Only one person knew his secret and that was his barber. The secret worried the barber greatly as March had told him he must keep the secret under pain of death! The barber was so worried he became ill and had to go to the doctor. The doctor asked him what was worrying him and the barber replied “I can’t tell you!” The doctor replied, “you must tell someone or something!”
“Something?” thought the barber. The doctor had given him a great idea.
If he couldn’t speak to a person then he would whisper his secret to the earth. So the barber went to the river Soch and whispered his secret to the earth. He felt better at once that he had shared his secrets and yet no one was any the wiser.
Some months later March decided to hold a feast. All the important people were invited, the finest food prepared and the best bards and musicians ordered to perform. One of the musicians was a young piper named Deio Bach. As it was such as important occasion he wanted to play with a new pipe so he went to the river bank and cut down one of the fine, long reeds that were growing there.
That night after the guests had finished eating, Deio Bach was the first musician to perform. He took a deep breath and began to blow his new pipe. But instead of sweet music this is what people heard:
‘March has horse’s ears! March has horse’s ears!’
The prince was absolutely furious! Now everyone knew his secret!
“Take the piper out and cut off his head at once!” shouted the Prince.
But Deio Bach said to the prince ‘It’s not my fault! There must be a spell on my new pipe!’ The prince blew the pipe and once again the people heard,
“March has horse’s ears! March has horse’s ears!”
Then the barber came forward and said it was his fault. He told March he had whispered the secret to the river bank. He was sure March would kill him but instead the prince smiled.
“I thought everyone would laugh at my ears. That’s why I hid them. I have been very foolish.”
From that day on March was happy and he no longer had a secret to hide.