March ap Meirchion (King of Castellmarch)

Many years ago, in an enormous mansion called Castellmarch, near Abersoch in Llyn, lived King March ap Meirchion. ( 'ap' means 'son of') 'March' was a very unusual name. ( it's an old Welsh name for a horse) The reason why he was given this name was because he had the ears of a horse! This was his secret. No one knew of his problem as he always wore his crown to hide them. As he was a king, he was a very rich man. He had servants and maids galore caring for him, and many ships and much land. But even though he was very, very rich - he was unhappy. He let his hair grow long, to cover his ears as he was so ashamed and afraid that people would find out, make fun of him and disrespect him! But his hair grew so long that he almost tripped over it as he walked.

"Oh dear, I shall have to cut my hair or else I will trip and break my legs," thought March, "I will have to find a barber who can keep my secret!" He remembered about Ifan, a barber who used to cut his father's hair. Ifan was a short, round bellied little man, quiet and of a gentle nature. He was just the man to carry out such an important task. He was sent for, and was ushered into a splendid room in the mansion where March awaited him. In a very sober voice, March told him, "Ifan, when you cut my hair, you will discover my secret - you will find that my ears are different to anything that you have ever seen! You will have to promise me that you NEVER, EVER reveal my secret to anyone. Do you understand? If anyone ever finds out my secret - then your head will be cut off! Is that clear?" Ifan was so frightened that his hand shook as he cut March's hair - and he couldn't believe his eyes when he saw the long, hairy ears! "Your Majesty, I give you my word. Your secret's perfectly safe with me forever!" vowed Ifan.

As time went by, Ifan had difficulty coping with keeping this all important information to himself - so much that he became very ill. He visited his doctor to seek his advice. He was so afraid that he would reveal the secret by mistake - he worried day and night and couldn't sleep. The doctor advised him to whisper his secret to the earth. "The earth cannot speak, so your secret will be perfectly safe, and you will feel so much better," promised the doctor. Ifan roamed the Llŷn countryside seeking the ideal spot to spill his secret. At last he came across some marshland where tall reeds grew. All alone, he knelt and whispered to the earth, " March ap Meirchion has the ears of a horse." He then walked home with a spring in his stride and slept peacefully without a care in the world.

In time, King March decided to hold a feast at Castellmarch and had invited a flutist to entertain his guests. " I'll need a new flute to play in this special feast," murmured the flutist to himself. As he neared Castellmarch, he spotted beautiful, tall reeds,"These will do just fine for my new flute," thought the excited flutist. He cut some reeds and shaped them exactly the way he wanted them - off he went on the rest of his journey, humming the tunes in his head. As he approached Castellmarch, he heard the sound of enjoyment.

Every table was full of exotic food, gold plates, and plenty of wine and mead. March was overjoyed to see his guest dancing and having a good time. "Play your flute," ordered March. "Of course, Sir, I have just made myself a brand new one," he answered. He stood up, played the flute, and lo and behold, what the guests heard was, "March ap Meirchion has the ears of a horse." The flutist almost jumped out of his skin and the guests whispered amongst themselves. He attempted again - the same message was heard! The flutist could not believe what was happening, and feared for his life. March stood up and ordered the flutist to give him the flute - he attempted a tune - but the same words spilt out. He threw the flute to the floor in fright.

Out of a far corner, Ifan, the barber appeared, walking quietly towards March, fell to his knees in front of him, and admitted that he had betrayed him by telling the reeds his secret. He told him his story - and because March was a good and kind king, he said to Ifan, "I know you did not betray me Ifan - don't worry, you will come to no harm." He then turned to face his guests and said,"Friends, yes, I admit, I do have the ears of a horse," and he removed his crown for all to see. The bustling became silent, then everyone cheered, "Hurray! Our king is very special! Let's celebrate!"

March was overjoyed at their response and was happy to share the secret that had worried him all his life. He decided not to wear his crown ever again, so that he could show the world his ears. Yes, he was special, as no other king had the ears of a horse and this made him different - as indeed he was.