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Gwyllion I
Gwyllion IV
Gwyllion 7
Gwyllion X
Gwyllion V
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Gwyllion III
Gwyllion VI
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This project was conceived some years ago, during a cold winters walk around a remote glacial lake on the West side of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Llyn y Fan Fach is a naturally formed lake surrounded on its South and East shores by the overbearing, striking and imposing  Bannau Sir Gaur escarpment.

It is a deeply mystical place with an aura that is so intense it’s can be almost unbearing. Why this is the case for me? Perhaps history played a part? The Mabinogion tells the tales of the Lady of the lake and the physicians of Myddfai. Arthurian legend is plentiful on this side of the Brecon Beacons. Perhaps it is this knowledge that fed my mind with apprehension and fear?

By photographing the bleakness of the Carmarthen Fan,  I believed (wrongly) it would also encompass that  feeling of angst. However, the initial images felt too safe, too rigid and certainly not representative of that inner emotion. They lacked anything other than a visual connection to the environment.

Having struggled with what exactly it was I was trying to photograph, I returned to research. It wasn’t until I was perusing a text about the Mabinogion and welsh folklore that I stumbled across the connection. I love how serendipity plays her part not only in practical image making but in my case the theoretical unison I was after.

Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings character set includes goblins, orcs and hobbits. The classification in welsh mythology is slightly different and breaks down into five groups:

The Ellyllon, or elves; the Coblynau, or mine fairies; The Bwbachod, or household fairies;  The Gwragedd Annwn, or fairies of the lakes and streams; and The Gwyllion, or mountain fairies.

The welsh word Gwyll translates roughly as gloom, shade, duskiness, a witch, a fairy. It is even referenced in the recent BBC Wales Drama “Hinterland” or Y Gwyll “The dusk”.  Specifically the Gwyllion are frightful female fairies, who haunt roads and tracks in the Welsh mountains leading wanderers astray.

Gwyllion was created.

Gwyllion is not about the dominance of the mountains or the imposing nature of remoteness, or even the majesty of escape but more of a greater force. Your mind. What makes you imagine, what makes you think, what makes you create. Maybe it’s Rob Macfarlanes snow hare that has thrown it’s cloak over me when I walk around Llyn y Fan Fach. Macfarlane looks at the magnetic attraction of mountains, the peculiar but real pleasure of fear and its core relationship to a mountain experience.  The wonder of a moment reduced to the simplicities of lost and found, right or wrong move, living and dying, friend or foe.

Gwyllion – Mountain spirits – A personal landscape project by Neil Mansfield


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