Water Spirit Legends 2
The Hour Is Come but the Man Is Not

folktales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 934K
(also categorized as Christiansen migratory legends type 4050)
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2008-2023


  1. The Hour Is Come but the Man Is Not (Wales).

  2. The Man with the Green Weeds (Wales).

  3. The Doomed Rider (Scotland).

  4. The Ryå River in Vendsyssel (Denmark).

  5. The Hour Is Come but Not the Man (Denmark).

  6. The Hour Is Here (1) (Germany).

  7. The Hour Is Here (2) (Germany).

  8. Water Will Have Its Sacrifice (Germany).

  9. Time Is Up (Austria/Italy).

  10. Links to related sites.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

The Hour Is Come but the Man Is Not


I was moreover much interested to discover at Llanegryn a scrap of kelpie story, which runs as follows, concerning Llyn Gwernen, situated close to the old road between Dolgelley and Llanegryn:
As a man from the village of Llanegryn was returning in the dusk of the evening across the mountain from Dolgettey, he heard, when hard by Llyn Gwernen, a voice crying out from the water:
Daeth yr awr ond ni ðaelh y dyn!

The hour is come but the man is not!

As the villager went on his way a little distance, what should meet him but a man of insane appearance, and with nothing on but his shirt. As he saw the man making full pelt for the waters of the lake, he rushed at him to prevent him from proceeding any further. But as to the sequel there is some doubt: one version makes the villager conduct the man back about a mile from the lake to a farm house called Dyffrydan, which was on the former's way home. Others seem to think that the man in his shirt rushed irresistibly into the lake, and this I have no doubt comes nearer the end of the story in its original form.
Lately I have heard a part of a similar story about Llyn Cynnwch, which has already been mentioned, p. 135, above. My informant is Miss Lucy Griffith, of Glynmalden, near Dolgettey, a lady deeply interested in Welsh folklore and Welsh antiquities generally. She obtained her information from a Dolgettey ostler, formerly engaged at the Ship Hotel, to the effect that on Gwyl Galan, '"the eve of New Year's Day," a person is seen walking backwards and forwards on the strand of Cynnwch Lake, crying out:
Mae'r awr wedi dyfod a'r ifyn heb ðyfod!

The hour is come while the man is not!

The ostler stated also that lights are to be seen on Cader Idris on the eve of New Year's Day, whatever that statement may mean. The two lake stories seem to suggest that the Lake Spirit was entitled to a victim once a year, whether the sacrifice was regarded as the result of accident or design.

By way of comparison, one may mention the notion, not yet extinct, that certain rivers in various parts of the kingdom regularly claim so many victims. For some instances at random see an article by Mr. J. M. Mackinlay, on "Traces of River Worship in Scottish Folklore," a paper published in the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 1895-96, pp. 69-76. Take for example the following rhyme:

Blood-thirsty Dee
Each year needs three;
But bonny Don
She needs none.
Or this:
Tweed said to Till,
"What gars ye rin sae still?"
Till said to Tweed,
"Though ye rin wi' speed
An' I rin slaw,
Yet whar ye droon ae man
I droon twa."

The Man with the Green Weeds


Llyn Gwernen is by the side of the old road leading from Dolgellau to Llanegryn, at the foot of Cader Idris. A number of the farmers of Llanegryn were once hurrying home from a fair at Dolgellau (they were hungry, because the men who sold food at Dolgellau fairs in the olden time used to serve it up so hot that no one could touch it. The farmers were so busy that they could not wait for the dishes to cool, and so it was very little they had for their money). They saw a great man, with green water weeds entwined in his hair, and naked save for a girdle of green weeds, walking round the lake and crying in a querulous tone, "The hour is come but the man is not, the hour is come but the man is not," over and over again.

The farmers were frightened and ran home. Others also who returned home later than they saw and heard him, and it was afterwards found out that the great man with the green water weeds kept on complaining, "The hour is come but the man is not," from ten o'clock at night until five o'clock in the morning.

Some days after the body of an Englishman was found floating, swollen and horrible, on the surface of the lake. He had caused a great stir in the regions round about Cader Idris by sitting all night in the chair in which the astronomer Idris used in early days to watch the stars. (Idris was of more than ordinary stature. One day in walking he felt something in his shoe hurting him; he pulled it off and shook out three stones, which are still to be seen by the Lake of the Three Pebbles, Llyn y Tri Graienyn. One of them is twenty-four feet long, eighteen feet broad, and twelve feet high.) His object was to test the truth of the saying that anyone who spent a night in the chair would by morning be either mad, or a poet, or a corpse. So far from being a poet by the next day, he was not even a bard, and he certainly was not dead then. It was therefore concluded that his intellect was deranged thereby, and he had in this state fallen into the clutches of the man with the green weeds, who had dragged him into the depths of the lake. The objection to that idea was that he must have been mad beforehand, because his chief delight was to climb to the summits of mountains. The folk who dwell at the feet of such mountains as Cader Idris and Snowdon make it a boast that they are much too sensible to attempt anything so silly.

The Doomed Rider


The Conan is as bonny a river as we hae in a' the north country. There 's mony a sweet sunny spot on its banks, an' mony a time an' aft hae I waded through its shallows, whan a boy, to set my little scautling-line for the trouts an' the eels, or to gather the big pearl-mussels that lie sae thick in the fords. But its bonny wooded banks are places for enjoying the day in -- no for passing the nicht. I kenna how it is; it 's nane o' your wild streams that wander desolate through a desert country, like the Aven, or that come rushing down in foam and thunder, ower broken rocks, like the Foyers, or that wallow in darkness, deep, deep in the bowels o' the earth, like the fearfu' Auldgraunt; an' yet no ane o' these rivers has mair or frightfuller stories connected wi' it than the Conan. Ane can hardly saunter ower half-a-mile in its course, frae where it leaves Coutin till where it enters the sea, without passing ower the scene o' some frightful auld legend o' the kelpie or the waterwraith.

And ane o' the most frightful looking o' these places is to be found among the woods of Conan House. Ye enter a swampy meadow that waves wi' flags an' rushes like a corn-field in harvest, an' see a hillock covered wi' willows rising like an island in the midst. There are thick mirk-woods on ilka side; the river, dark an' awesome, an' whirling round an' round in mossy eddies, sweeps away behind it; an' there is an auld burying-ground, wi' the broken ruins o' an auld Papist kirk, on the tap. Ane can see amang the rougher stanes the rose-wrought mullions of an arched window, an' the trough that ance held the holy water. About twa hunder years ago -- a wee mair maybe, or a wee less, for ane canna be very sure o' the date o' thae old stories -- the building was entire; an' a spot near it, whar the wood now grows thickest, was laid out in a corn-field. The marks o' the furrows may still be seen amang the trees.

A party o' Highlanders were busily engaged, ae day in harvest, in cutting down the corn o' that field; an' just aboot noon, when the sun shone brightest an' they were busiest in the work, they heard a voice frae the river exclaim, "The hour but not the man has come."

Sure enough, on looking round, there was the kelpie stan'in' in what they ca' a fause ford, just foment the auld kirk. There is a deep black pool baith aboon an' below, but i' the ford there 's a bonny ripple, that shows, as ane might think, but little depth o' water; an' just i' the middle o' that, in a place where a horse might swim, stood the kelpie. An' it again repeated its words, "The hour but not the man has come," an' then flashing through the water like a drake, it disappeared in the lower pool.

When the folk stood wondering what the creature might mean, they saw a man on horseback come spurring down the hill in hot haste, making straight for the fause ford. They could then understand her words at ance; an' four o' the stoutest o' them sprang oot frae amang the corn to warn him o' his danger, an' keep him back. An' sae they tauld him what they had seen an' heard, an' urged him either to turn back an' tak' anither road, or stay for an hour or sae where he was. But he just wadna hear them, for he was baith unbelieving an' in haste, an' wauld hae taen the ford for a' they could say, hadna the Highlanders, determined on saving him whether he would or no, gathered round him an' pulled him frae his horse, an' then, to mak' sure o' him, locked him up in the auld kirk.

Weel, when the hour had gone by -- the fatal hour o' the kelpie -- they flung open the door, an' cried to him that he might noo gang on his journey. Ah ! but there was nae answer, though; an' sae they cried a second time, an' there was nae answer still; an' then they went in, an' found him lying stiff an' cauld on the floor, wi' his face buried in the water o' the very stone trough that we may still see amang the ruins. His hour had come, an' he had fallen in a fit, as 'twould seem, head-foremost amang the water o' the trough, where he had been smothered, -- an' sae ye see, the prophecy o' the kelpie availed naething.

The Ryå River in Vendsyssel



The Ryå River in Vendsyssel takes a person every year, and when it demands one it shouts: "The time and the hour have come, but the man has not yet come."

When people hear this voice coming from the river, they must be careful not to get too close to it, because if they do so, they will have an irresistible urge to jump into it, and they will never come up again.

There must be many who have heard the river shout those words. Among others, there was a girl who was walking alongside it with a dog. When she heard the river cry, she shouted: "Not me, but the dog!" And immediately the dog jumped in and drowned.

She also saw a small little man with a big beard running in the river. He was a nøkk, and probably the one who had shouted.

The fact that the river takes a person like this every year is widely known and is believed by many to this day. Mothers often warn their children against getting too close to this bad river, not only to prevent their children from falling into it, but also because they themselves believe that it has the power to make people want to jump into it.

A legend tells the following about the creation of the river: The people of Vendsyssel needed a canal to divert the water from the swampy marshes that were formed by the Store Vildmose ("Great Wild Bog") and other bogs in southern Vendsyssel. They entered into an agreement with a man that he should dig such a canal. However, this man was a disgusting troll, or perhaps he was the nøkk who was running in the river.

This man knew what to do, for he simply took his spade and dragged it behind himself, and where he dragged it, the river formed in the same shape that it still has. When the man demanded the promised payment, the people of Vendsyssel refused to give it to him. Because it had been such an easy task for him, they gave him nothing.

At this the man became angry and said: "From now on, every year the river will take a human life."

It probably has done just that, and is still doing so.

A. E. Jakobsen.


The Ryå River is very deep, and once every year it must shout: "The time has come, but the man has not yet come," and then someone must drown.

Once no one had drowned for twelve years, but then it happened that twelve threshers all drowned at once. They had spent the winter at Birkelse and went home each the evening. If no one is claimed for a year or more, then the river takes whatever is still due to it all at once.

Jens Mark, Vokslev.


The Ryå's water, without being muddy, has a blackish appearance, which perhaps stems from its marshy bed. From time immemorial it has demanded a sacrifice every year, either when someone is bathing or when someone crosses over in a small sailboat. For six years there was no accident, but in the seventh year seven young people drowned all at once in the river.

A voice from the river says: "The time and the hour are here, but the man is not."

J. D. Jensen, Vindblæs.

The Hour Is Come but Not the Man


It was the Nök, or another water-troll, who late one evening shouted from the lake beside Hvide-sö Parsonage, "The time is come, but not the man."

As soon as the priest heard of this, he gave orders to watch the first man who came with intent to cross the lake, and stop him from going further. Immediately after this, there came a man in hot haste, and asked for a boat. The priest begged him to put off his journey, but as neither entreaties nor threats had any effect, the priest made them use force to prevent his crossing. The stranger became quite helpless, and remained lying so, until the priest had some water brought from the lake from which the cry came, and gave him it to drink. Scarcely had he drunk the water, when he gave up the ghost.

In southern Vend-syssel in Denmark the river-man is also known as the Nök. The river Ry there takes one person every year, and when it demands them, it calls, "The time and the hour are come, but the man is not yet come."

When this cry is heard from the river, folk must beware of going too near it, for if they do so, they are seized by an irresistible desire to spring into it, and then they never come up again.

There are many who are said to have heard the cry, among others a girl who was going along its bank with a dog by her side. When she heard the call, she cried out, "Not me, but the dog," which immediately sprang into the stream and was drowned. She also saw a little man with a large beard running about in the river; this was the Nök, from whom the cry no doubt came.

In Odense river there is also a river-man, who requires his victim every year, and if one year passes without any one being drowned there, he takes good care to have two in the year following.

It is said that two little boys were once playing on the bank, when one of them fell into the water. The other tried to help him out, but just as he got hold of his comrade's hand, a voice was heard out of the river, "No, I shall have both of you; I got no one last year," and with that this boy also slipped into the water and both were drowned.

Some men, who were witnesses of the accident from the opposite bank, hurried with a boat to lend their aid, but came too late. The bodies were never found either; the river-man had kept them.

The Hour Is Here (1)


In the vicinity of Schöneiche not far from Rüdersdorf a group of people were making merry on the bank of a small pond when suddenly they heard someone clapping his hands and a voice calling from the water, "The hour is here, and the person is not here yet!" This was repeated several times.

A short time later an apprentice came along the path, then hurried to the bank of the pond to quench his thirst. One of the merrymakers went to him and held him away from the water, telling him what they had heard. Thus the apprentice changed his mind and went with the merrymakers to a tavern in Schöneiche, where he ordered a glass of beer. He had scarcely brought it to his lips when he collapsed on the floor and died.

The Hour Is Here (2)


In the vicinity of Rothenburg some people were in a field busy with the harvest when they heard a voice calling loudly and clearly from a nearby pond, "The hour is here, but the man is not yet here." That same moment they saw a rider galloping toward them. Although they waved and shouted that he should keep his distance, he directed his horse toward the pond, jumping directly into the water. His horse soon emerged, but the rider had disappeared and was never seen again.

Water Will Have Its Sacrifice


  1. The Leine demands ten sacrifices every year (de Leine fret alle jâr teine), and if these do not drown then they die in some other manner. Thus one hot summer a servant girl was bringing their meal to some household servants who were working in a field near Hollenstedt. She was very thirsty and asked if they had something to drink in their jug. They had drunk everything and told her to go the Leine, which was here very shallow, and get a drink from the river. The girl went to the bank and drank, but she never stood up again, for she was dead.

  2. A boy insisted on approaching the water, but he was not allowed to do so. They held him back from the water, but he died soon thereafter anyway.

  3. There are three bridges on the Pfingst Meadow near Hollenstedt. Once a cavalryman en route to Stöckheim was riding across the meadow. Near the middle bridge he heard a voice cry out loudly, "If he is not here yet, then he is not coming," and in the same instant a boy came running toward him. Thinking that the child might drown (if he were pulled into the water) he quickly dropped his leather glove and asked the boy to pick it up and hand it to him. As the boy was reaching the glove toward him, he grabbed him by the hand and pulled him up onto the horse. However, the boy died immediately while seated before him on the horse.

Time Is Up


A teamster driving along Brenner Lake heard a voice calling out from the water, "Time is up, and the person is not here yet." He paid little heed to the voice and drove his horses onward. Then he met a fisherman who was walking down to the lake to fish. The teamster warned him and told him what he had heard. Following the teamster's advice, the fisherman changed his plans and accompanied the teamster to the Brenner tavern. However, the fisherman had scarcely taken the first bite of bread into his mouth when he collapsed dead onto the floor.

Links to related sites

Targets open in new windows.

  1. Water Spirit Legends 1. Another collection of tales, including stories of mermaids.

  2. Melusina. Legends about mermaids, water sprites, and forest nymphs who marry mortal men, not always with happy endings.

  3. The Mermaid Wife.

  4. Fairies' Hope for Christian Salvation. Migratory legends of type 5050.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised May 7, 2023.