The King Under The Mountain is a common fairy tale motif, found all over the world and attached to many heroes. A typical version goes something as follows:
A military hero, sometimes with retinue, is sleeping in a cave in a remote or an otherwise inaccessible location. He has been placed there to await his descendents’ or Nation’s hour of need.
An unwitting herdsman or traveller finds the cave when looking for a lost animal or a place to wait out a grim storm. He finds the hero and / or retinue with lengthy beards (indicating the time they have been asleep).
The hero stirs and asks whether some omen is observed or some activity ceased – usually whether ravens have stopped flying in a particular location. The herdsman or a disembodied voice reply that the ravens still fly or the omen has not been fulfilled. The hero then says something to the effect of “My time has not yet come,” and dismisses the herdsman.
The herdsmen sometimes emerges from the cave supernaturally aged and may die upon telling the story, a plot point reminiscent of echtrai.
Most commonly told versions in the Blessed Isles place the sleeping hero explicitly in the Otherworld or use a cave or burial mound as an unrecognised Waypoint and therefore unwitting access point to the hidden reality. These stories have been attached to:
- Brân fab Llŷr
- Fionn mac Cumhaill
- Francis Drake
- Gerald FitzGerald
- Harold Godwineson
- Owain I Glyndŵr
- Owain Lawgoch
- Thomas the Rhymer