15 Four Branches of the Mabinogi
by Allegra Villarreal
In 1282, the last native Prince of Wales was killed by the army of Edward I. This put an end to an independent dominion of Wales, though the Welsh continued on as a people, retaining their customs, laws and their own language until the present day. The Mabinogi is a classic of Welsh literature and contains 11 (or possibly 12) tales four “branches”; that is, four foundational texts named for fours characters (Pwyll, Branwen, Manawydan and Math). There are many “twigs” sprouting off in smaller narratives that cover a wide range of Celtic mythological tropes: speaking animals, giants, shapeshifters and other supernatural occurrences (Rider-Bezerra). They were composed, or collected, in the 11th century and survive in manuscripts from the 14th; this makes them the oldest prose stories of the literature of Britain (“Mabinogion”). It was Charlotte Guest (whose version you will read below) who first translated them into English in 1838-1849 (Black, et al.).
Mab means “boy” and Guest’s use of the term “Mabinogion” is likely loosely translated to “children’s tales” though it may have much older roots: Eric Hamp, a linguist, connected it to the Celtic god Maponos, a “Divine Son figure” in Celtic mythology (“Mabinogion”).
These stories take place in a “primal past” when the Welsh controlled nearly the whole isle of Britain (before the invasion of the Romans) and these are distinctly Welsh tales that reference specific place-names and landscapes that the Welsh reader will recognize instantly. Though often grouped with Anglo-Norman “Romances” of the time, these stories are a little bit of everything: fairytale, pre-Christian myth, and sociological study of the political and cultural issues affecting the Welsh in a crucial period of British history (Black, et. al.).
Black, Joseph, et. al., eds. The Broadview Anthology of British Literature: Volume 1, The Medieval Period. Broadview, 2015, pp. 187-189.
“Mabinogion.” Wikipedia. 04 Sept. 2020. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabinogion Accessed 11 Sept. 2020.
Rider-Bezzera, Sebastian. “The Mabinogion Project: A Brief History of the Mabinogion.” The Camelot Project: A Robbins Library Digital Project. d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/rider-bezerra-mabinogion-project Accessed 11 Sept. 2020.
- What details in the narratives appear to pre-date or post-date Christianity?
- Some commentators maintain that Celtic society was less patriarchal and women were held to be equal with men or even to be more powerful; is this view justified based on your reading of the tales below?
- Stories and legends often reveal what is valued and important in a society or culture. What can be gleaned about Celtic culture from the tales in The Mabinogion?
- What would the people of this world consider an “ideal king”?
- How do the two tales compare to each other?
- “In Our Time: History” podcast on the Mabinogion
- Documentary: “The Secret Life of Books: Mabinogion”
- A webpage with the history of the Mabinogion texts from the Digital Medievalist
Reading: Four Branches of the Mabinogi
The First Branch: Pwyell Pendeuic Dyfed: Sage, Prince of Dyfed
Pwyll Prince of Dyved was lord of the seven Cantrevs of Dyved; and once upon a time he was at Narberth his chief palace, and he was minded to go and hunt, and the part of his dominions in which it pleased him to hunt was Glyn Cuch. So he set forth from Narbeth that night, and went as far as Llwyn Diarwyd. And that night he tarried there, and early on the morrow he rose and came to Glyn Cuch, when he let loose the dogs in the wood, and sounded the horn, and began the chase. And as he followed the dogs, he lost his companions; and whilst he listened to the hounds, he heard the cry of other hounds, a cry different from his own, and coming in the opposite direction.
And he beheld a glade in the wood forming a level plain, and as his dogs came to the edge of the glade, he saw a stag before the other dogs. And lo, as it reached the middle of the glade, the dogs that followed the stag overtook it and brought it down. Then looked he at the colour of the dogs, staying not to look at the stag, and of all the hounds that he had seen in the world, he had never seen any that were like unto these. For their hair was of a brilliant shining white, and their ears were red; and as the whiteness of their bodies shone, so did the redness of their ears glisten. And he came towards the dogs, and drove away those that had brought down the stag, and set his own dogs upon it.
And as he was setting on his dogs he saw a horseman coming towards him upon a large light-grey steed, with a hunting horn round his neck, and clad in garments of grey woollen in the fashion of a hunting garb. And the horseman drew near and spoke unto him thus.
“Chieftain,” said he, “I know who thou art, and I greet thee not.”
“Peradventure,” said Pwyll, “thou art of such dignity that thou shouldest not do so.”
“Verily,” answered he, “it is not my dignity that prevents me.”
“What is it then, O Chieftain?” asked he.
“By Heaven, it is by reason of thine own ignorance and want of courtesy.”
“What discourtesy, Chieftain, hast thou seen in me?”
“Greater discourtesy saw I never in man,” said he, “than to drive away the dogs that were killing the stag and to set upon it thine own. This was discourteous, and though I may not be revenged upon thee, yet I declare to Heaven that I will do thee more dishonour than the value of an hundred stags.”
“O Chieftain,” he replied, “if I have done ill I will redeem thy friendship.”
“How wilt thou redeem it?”
“According as thy dignity may be, but I know not who thou art?”
“A crowned king am I in the land whence I come.”
“Lord,” said he, “may the day prosper with thee, and from what land comest thou?”
“From Annwvyn,” answered he; “Arawn, a King of Annwvyn, am I.”
“Lord,” said he, “how may I gain thy friendship?”
“After this manner mayest thou,” he said. “There is a man whose dominions are opposite to mine, who is ever warring against me, and he is Havgan, a King of Annwvyn, and by ridding me of this oppression, which thou canst easily do, shalt thou gain my friendship.”
“Gladly will I do this,” said he. “Show me how I may.”
“I will show thee. Behold thus it is thou mayest. I will make firm friendship with thee; and this will I do. I will send thee to Annwvyn in my stead, and I will give thee the fairest lady thou didst ever behold to be thy companion, and I will put my form and semblance upon thee, so that not a page of the chamber, nor an officer, nor any other man that has always followed me shall know that it is not I. And this shall be for the space of a year from to-morrow, and then we will meet in this place.”
“Yes,” said he; “but when I shall have been there for the space of a year, by what means shall I discover him of whom thou speakest?”
“One year from this night,” he answered, “is the time fixed between him and me that we should meet at the Ford; be thou there in my likeness, and with one stroke that thou givest him, he shall no longer live. And if he ask thee to give him another, give it not, how much soever he may entreat thee, for when I did so, he fought with me next day as well as ever before.”
“Verily,” said Pwyll, “what shall I do concerning my kingdom?”
Said Arawn, “I will cause that no one in all thy dominions, neither man nor woman, shall know that I am not thou, and I will go there in thy stead.”
“Gladly then,” said Pwyll, “will I set forward.”
“Clear shall be thy path, and nothing shall detain thee, until thou come into my dominions, and I myself will be thy guide!”
So he conducted him until he came in sight of the palace and its dwellings. “Behold,” said he, “the Court and the kingdom in thy power. Enter the Court, there is no one there who will know thee, and when thou seest what service is done there, thou wilt know the customs of the Court.”
So he went forward to the Court, and when he came there, he beheld sleeping-rooms, and halls, and chambers, and the most beautiful buildings ever seen. And he went into the hall to disarray, and there came youths and pages and disarrayed him, and all as they entered saluted him. And two knights came and drew his hunting-dress from about him, and clothed him in a vesture of silk and gold. And the hall was prepared, and behold he saw the household and the host enter in, and the host was the most comely and the best equipped that he had ever seen. And with them came in likewise the Queen, who was the fairest woman that he had ever yet beheld. And she had on a yellow robe of shining satin; and they washed and went to the table, and sat, the Queen upon one side of him, and one who seemed to be an Earl on the other side.
And he began to speak with the Queen, and he thought, from her speech, that she was the seemliest and most noble lady of converse and of cheer that ever was. And they partook of meat, and drink, with songs and with feasting; and of all the Courts upon the earth, behold this was the best supplied with food and drink, and vessels of gold and royal jewels.
And the year he spent in hunting, and minstrelsy, and feasting, and diversions, and discourse with his companions until the night that was fixed for the conflict. And when that night came, it was remembered even by those who lived in the furthest part of his dominions, and he went to the meeting, and the nobles of the kingdom with him. And when he came to the Ford, a knight arose and spake thus. “Lords,” said he, “listen well. It is between two kings that this meeting is, and between them only. Each claimeth of the other his land and territory, and do all of you stand aside and leave the fight to be between them.”
Thereupon the two kings approached each other in the middle of the Ford, and encountered, and at the first thrust, the man who was in the stead of Arawn struck Havgan on the centre of the boss of his shield, so that it was cloven in twain, and his armour was broken, and Havgan himself was borne to the ground an arm’s and a spear’s length over the crupper of his horse, and he received a deadly blow.
“O Chieftain,” said Havgan, “what right hast thou to cause my death? I was not injuring thee in anything, and I know not wherefore thou wouldest slay me. But, for the love of Heaven, since thou hast begun to slay me, complete thy work.”
“Ah, Chieftain,” he replied, “I may yet repent doing that unto thee, slay thee who may, I will not do so.”
“My trusty Lords,” said Havgan, “bear me hence. My death has come. I shall be no more able to uphold you.”
“My Nobles,” also said he who was in the semblance of Arawn, “take counsel and know who ought to be my subjects.”
“Lord,” said the Nobles, “all should be, for there is no king over the whole of Annwvyn but thee.”
“Yes,” he replied, “it is right that he who comes humbly should be received graciously, but he that doth not come with obedience, shall be compelled by the force of swords.”
And thereupon he received the homage of the men, and he began to conquer the country; and the next day by noon the two kingdoms were in his power. And thereupon he went to keep his tryst, and came to Glyn Cuch.
And when he came there, the King of Annwvyn was there to meet him, and each of them was rejoiced to see the other. “Verily,” said Arawn, “may Heaven reward thee for thy friendship towards me. I have heard of it. When thou comest thyself to thy dominions,” said he, “thou wilt see that which I have done for thee.”
“Whatever thou hast done for me, may Heaven repay it thee.”
Then Arawn gave to Pwyll Prince of Dyved his proper form and semblance, and he himself took his own; and Arawn set forth towards the Court of Annwvyn; and he was rejoiced when he beheld his hosts, and his household, whom he had not seen so long; but they had not known of his absence, and wondered no more at his coming than usual. And that day was spent in joy and merriment; and he sat and conversed with his wife and his nobles. And when it was time for them rather to sleep than to carouse, they went to rest.
Pwyll Prince of Dyved came likewise to his country and dominions, and began to inquire of the nobles of the land, how his rule had been during the past year, compared with what it had been before. “Lord,” said they, “thy wisdom was never so great, and thou wast never so kind or so free in bestowing thy gifts, and thy justice was never more worthily seen than in this year.”
“By Heaven,” said he, “for all the good you have enjoyed, you should thank him who hath been with you; for behold, thus hath this matter been.”
And thereupon Pwyll related the whole unto them. “Verily, Lord,” said they, “render thanks unto Heaven that thou hast such a fellowship, and withhold not from us the rule which we have enjoyed for this year past.”
“I take Heaven to witness that I will not withhold it,” answered Pwyll.
And thenceforth they made strong the friendship that was between them, and each sent unto the other horses, and greyhounds, and hawks, and all such jewels as they thought would be pleasing to each other. And by reason of his having dwelt that year in Annwvyn, and having ruled there so prosperously, and united the two kingdoms in one day by his valour and prowess, he lost the name of Pwyll Prince of Dyved, and was called Pwyll Chief of Annwvyn from that time forward.
Once upon a time, Pwyll was at Narberth his chief palace, where a feast had been prepared for him, and with him was a great host of men. And after the first meal, Pwyll arose to walk, and he went to the top of a mound that was above the palace, and was called Gorsedd Arberth. “Lord,” said one of the Court, “it is peculiar to the mound that whosoever sits upon it cannot go thence, without either receiving wounds or blows, or else seeing a wonder.”
“I fear not to receive wounds and blows in the midst of such a host as this, but as to the wonder, gladly would I see it. I will go therefore and sit upon the mound.”
And upon the mound he sat. And while he sat there, they saw a lady, on a pure white horse of large size, with a garment of shining gold around her, coming along the highway that led from the mound; and the horse seemed to move at a slow and even pace, and to be coming up towards the mound.
“My men,” said Pwyll, “is there any among you who knows yonder lady?”
“There is not, Lord,” said they.
“Go one of you and meet her, that we may know who she is.”
And one of them arose, and as he came upon the road to meet her, she passed by, and he followed as fast as he could, being on foot; and the greater was his speed, the further was she from him. And when he saw that it profited him nothing to follow her, he returned to Pwyll, and said unto him, “Lord, it is idle for any one in the world to follow her on foot.”
“Verily,” said Pwyll, “go unto the palace, and take the fleetest horse that thou seest, and go after her.”
And he took a horse and went forward. And he came to an open level plain, and put spurs to his horse; and the more he urged his horse, the further was she from him. Yet she held the same pace as at first. And his horse began to fail; and when his horse’s feet failed him, he returned to the place where Pwyll was.
“Lord,” said he, “it will avail nothing for any one to follow yonder lady. I know of no horse in these realms swifter than this, and it availed me not to pursue her.”
“Of a truth,” said Pwyll, “there must be some illusion here. Let us go towards the palace.”
So to the palace they went, and they spent that day. And the next day they arose, and that also they spent until it was time to go to meat. And after the first meal, “Verily,” said Pwyll, “we will go the same party as yesterday to the top of the mound. And do thou,” said he to one of his young men, “take the swiftest horse that thou knowest in the field.” And thus did the young man. And they went towards the mound, taking the horse with them. And as they were sitting down they beheld the lady on the same horse, and in the same apparel, coming along the same road. “Behold,” said Pwyll, “here is the lady of yesterday. Make ready, youth, to learn who she is.” “My lord,” said he, “that will I gladly do.” And thereupon the lady came opposite to them. So the youth mounted his horse; and before he had settled himself in his saddle, she passed by, and there was a clear space between them. But her speed was no greater than it had been the day before. Then he put his horse into an amble, and thought that notwithstanding the gentle pace at which his horse went, he should soon overtake her. But this availed him not; so he gave his horse the reins. And still he came no nearer to her than when he went at a foot’s pace. And the more he urged his horse, the further was she from him. Yet she rode not faster than before. When he saw that it availed not to follow her, he returned to the place where Pwyll was. “Lord,” said he, “the horse can no more than thou hast seen.” “I see indeed that it avails not that any one should follow her. And by Heaven,” said he, “she must needs have an errand to some one in this plain, if her haste would allow her to declare it. Let us go back to the palace.” And to the palace they went, and they spent that night in songs and feasting, as it pleased them.
And the next day they amused themselves until it was time to go to meat. And when meat was ended, Pwyll said, “Where are the hosts that went yesterday and the day before to the top of the mound?” “Behold, Lord, we are here,” said they. “Let us go,” said he, “to the mound, to sit there. And do thou,” said he to the page who tended his horse, “saddle my horse well, and hasten with him to the road, and bring also my spurs with thee.” And the youth did thus. And they went and sat upon the mound; and ere they had been there but a short time, they beheld the lady coming by the same road, and in the same manner, and at the same pace. “Young man,” said Pwyll, “I see the lady coming; give me my horse.” And no sooner had he mounted his horse than she passed him. And he turned after her and followed her. And he let his horse go bounding playfully, and thought that at the second step or the third he should come up with her. But he came no nearer to her than at first. Then he urged his horse to his utmost speed, yet he found that it availed nothing to follow her.
Then said Pwyll, “O maiden, for the sake of him whom thou best lovest, stay for me.”
“I will stay gladly,” said she, “and it were better for thy horse hadst thou asked it long since.” So the maiden stopped, and she threw back that part of her headdress which covered her face. And she fixed her eyes upon him, and began to talk with him.
“Lady,” asked he, “whence comest thou, and whereunto dost thou journey?”
“I journey on mine own errand,” said she, “and right glad am I to see thee.”
“My greeting be unto thee,” said he. Then he thought that the beauty of all the maidens, and all the ladies that he had ever seen, was as nothing compared to her beauty.
“Lady,” he said, “wilt thou tell me aught concerning thy purpose?”
“I will tell thee,” said she. “My chief quest was to seek thee.”
“Behold,” said Pwyll, “this is to me the most pleasing quest on which thou couldst have come; and wilt thou tell me who thou art?”
“I will tell thee, Lord,” said she. “I am Rhiannon, the daughter of Heveydd Hên, and they sought to give me to a husband against my will. But no husband would I have, and that because of my love for thee, neither will I yet have one unless thou reject me. And hither have I come to hear thy answer.”
“By Heaven,” said Pwyll, “behold this is my answer. If I might choose among all the ladies and damsels in the world, thee would I choose.”
“Verily,” said she, “if thou art thus minded, make a pledge to meet me ere I am given to another.”
“The sooner I may do so, the more pleasing will it be unto me,” said Pwyll, “and wheresoever thou wilt, there will I meet with thee.”
“I will that thou meet me this day twelvemonth at the palace of Heveydd. And I will cause a feast to be prepared, so that it be ready against thou come.”
“Gladly,” said he, “will I keep this tryst.”
“Lord,” said she, “remain in health, and be mindful that thou keep thy promise; and now I will go hence.”
So they parted, and he went back to his hosts and to them of his household. And whatsoever questions they asked him respecting the damsel, he always turned the discourse upon other matters. And when a year from that time was gone, he caused a hundred knights to equip themselves and to go with him to the palace of Heveydd Hên. And he came to the palace, and there was great joy concerning him, with much concourse of people and great rejoicing, and vast preparations for his coming. And the whole Court was placed under his orders.
And the hall was garnished and they went to meat, and thus did they sit; Heveydd Hên was on one side of Pwyll, and Rhiannon on the other. And all the rest according to their rank. And they ate and feasted and talked one with another, and at the beginning of the carousal after the meat, there entered a tall auburn-haired youth, of royal bearing, clothed in a garment of satin. And when he came into the hall, he saluted Pwyll and his companions.
“The greeting of Heaven be unto thee, my soul,” said Pwyll, “come thou and sit down.”
“Nay,” said he, “a suitor am I, and I will do mine errand.”
“Do so willingly,” said Pwyll.
“Lord,” said he, “my errand is unto thee, and it is to crave a boon of thee that I come.”
“What boon soever thou mayest ask of me, as far as I am able, thou shalt have.”
“Ah,” said Rhiannon, “wherefore didst thou give that answer?”
“Has he not given it before the presence of these nobles?” asked the youth.
“My soul,” said Pwyll, “what is the boon thou askest?”
“The lady whom best I love is to be thy bride this night; I come to ask her of thee, with the feast and the banquet that are in this place.” And Pwyll was silent because of the answer which he had given.
“Be silent as long as thou wilt,” said Rhiannon. “Never did man make worse use of his wits than thou hast done.”
“Lady,” said he, “I knew not who he was.”
“Behold this is the man to whom they would have given me against my will,” said she. “And he is Gwawl the son of Clud, a man of great power and wealth, and because of the word thou hast spoken, bestow me upon him lest shame befall thee.”
“Lady,” said he, “I understand not thine answer. Never can I do as thou sayest.”
“Bestow me upon him,” said she, “and I will cause that I shall never be his.”
“By what means will that be?” asked Pwyll.
“In thy hand will I give thee a small bag,” said she. “See that thou keep it well, and he will ask of thee the banquet, and the feast, and the preparations which are not in thy power. Unto the hosts and the household will I give the feast. And such will be thy answer respecting this. And as concerns myself, I will engage to become his bride this night twelvemonth. And at the end of the year be thou here,” said she, “and bring this bag with thee, and let thy hundred knights be in the orchard up yonder. And when he is in the midst of joy and feasting, come thou in by thyself, clad in ragged garments, and holding thy bag in thy hand, and ask nothing but a bagful of food, and I will cause that if all the meat and liquor that are in these seven Cantrevs were put into it, it would be no fuller than before. And after a great deal has been put therein, he will ask thee whether thy bag will ever be full. Say thou then that it never will, until a man of noble birth and of great wealth arise and press the food in the bag with both his feet, saying, ‘Enough has been put therein;’ and I will cause him to go and tread down the food in the bag, and when he does so, turn thou the bag, so that he shall be up over his head in it, and then slip a knot upon the thongs of the bag. Let there be also a good bugle horn about thy neck, and as soon as thou hast bound him in the bag, wind thy horn, and let it be a signal between thee and thy knights. And when they hear the sound of the horn, let them come down upon the palace.”
“Lord,” said Gwawl, “it is meet that I have an answer to my request.”
“As much of that thou hast asked as it is in my power to give, thou shalt have,” replied Pwyll.
“My soul,” said Rhiannon unto him, “as for the feast and the banquet that are here, I have bestowed them upon the men of Dyved, and the household, and the warriors that are with us. These can I not suffer to be given to any. In a year from to-night a banquet shall be prepared for thee in this palace, that I may become thy bride.”
So Gwawl went forth to his possessions, and Pwyll went also back to Dyved. And they both spent that year until it was the time for the feast at the palace of Heveydd Hên. Then Gwawl the son of Clud set out to the feast that was prepared for him, and he came to the palace, and was received there with rejoicing. Pwyll, also, the Chief of Annwvyn, came to the orchard with his hundred knights, as Rhiannon had commanded him, having the bag with him. And Pwyll was clad in coarse and ragged garments, and wore large clumsy old shoes upon his feet. And when he knew that the carousal after the meat had begun, he went towards the hall, and when he came into the hall, he saluted Gwawl the son of Clud, and his company, both men and women.
“Heaven prosper thee,” said Gwawl, “and the greeting of Heaven be unto thee.”
“Lord,” said he, “may Heaven reward thee, I have an errand unto thee.”
“Welcome be thine errand, and if thou ask of me that which is just, thou shalt have it gladly.”
“It is fitting,” answered he. “I crave but from want, and the boon that I ask is to have this small bag that thou seest filled with meat.”
“A request within reason is this,” said he, “and gladly shalt thou have it. Bring him food.” A great number of attendants arose and began to fill the bag, but for all that they put into it, it was no fuller than at first. “My soul,” said Gwawl, “will thy bag be ever full?”
“It will not, I declare to Heaven,” said he, “for all that may be put into it, unless one possessed of lands, and domains, and treasure, shall arise and tread down with both his feet the food that is within the bag, and shall say, ‘Enough has been put therein.’” Then said Rhiannon unto Gwawl the son of Clud, “Rise up quickly.” “I will willingly arise,” said he. So he rose up, and put his two feet into the bag. And Pwyll turned up the sides of the bag, so that Gwawl was over his head in it. And he shut it up quickly and slipped a knot upon the thongs, and blew his horn. And thereupon behold his household came down upon the palace. And they seized all the host that had come with Gwawl, and cast them into his own prison. And Pwyll threw off his rags, and his old shoes, and his tattered array; and as they came in, every one of Pwyll’s knights struck a blow upon the bag, and asked, “What is here?” “A Badger,” said they. And in this manner they played, each of them striking the bag, either with his foot or with a staff. And thus played they with the bag. Every one as he came in asked, “What game are you playing at thus?” “The game of Badger in the Bag,” said they. And then was the game of Badger in the Bag first played.
“Lord,” said the man in the bag, “if thou wouldest but hear me, I merit not to be slain in a bag.” Said Heveydd Hên, “Lord, he speaks truth. It were fitting that thou listen to him, for he deserves not this.” “Verily,” said Pwyll, “I will do thy counsel concerning him.”
“Behold this is my counsel then,” said Rhiannon; “thou art now in a position in which it behoves thee to satisfy suitors and minstrels; let him give unto them in thy stead, and take a pledge from him that he will never seek to revenge that which has been done to him. And this will be punishment enough.”
“I will do this gladly,” said the man in the bag.
“And gladly will I accept it,” said Pwyll, “since it is the counsel of Heveydd and Rhiannon.”
“Such then is our counsel,” answered they.
“I accept it,” said Pwyll. “Seek thyself sureties.”
“We will be for him,” said Heveydd, “until his men be free to answer for him.” And upon this he was let out of the bag, and his liegemen were liberated.
“Demand now of Gwawl his sureties,” said Heveydd, “we know which should be taken for him.” And Heveydd numbered the sureties. Said Gwawl, “Do thou thyself draw up the covenant.”
“It will suffice me that it be as Rhiannon said,” answered Pwyll. So unto that covenant were the sureties pledged. “Verily, Lord,” said Gwawl, “I am greatly hurt, and I have many bruises. I have need to be anointed; with thy leave I will go forth. I will leave nobles in my stead, to answer for me in all that thou shalt require.”
“Willingly,” said Pwyll, “mayest thou do thus.” So Gwawl went towards his own possessions.
And the hall was set in order for Pwyll and the men of his host, and for them also of the palace, and they went to the tables and sat down. And as they had sat that time twelvemonth, so sat they that night. And they ate, and feasted, and spent the night in mirth and tranquillity. And the time came that they should sleep, and Pwyll and Rhiannon went to their chamber.
And next morning at the break of day, “My Lord,” said Rhiannon, “arise and begin to give thy gifts unto the minstrels. Refuse no one to-day that may claim thy bounty.” “Thus shall it be gladly,” said Pwyll, “both to-day and every day while the feast shall last.” So Pwyll arose, and he caused silence to be proclaimed, and desired all the suitors and the minstrels to show and to point out what gifts were to their wish and desire. And this being done, the feast went on, and he denied no one while it lasted. And when the feast was ended, Pwyll said unto Heveydd, “My Lord, with thy permission I will set out for Dyved to-morrow.” “Certainly,” said Heveydd, “may Heaven prosper thee. Fix also a time when Rhiannon may follow thee.”
“By Heaven,” said Pwyll, “we will go hence together.”
“Willest thou this, Lord?” said Heveydd.
“Yes, by Heaven,” answered Pwyll.
And the next day, they set forward towards Dyved, and journeyed to the palace of Narberth, where a feast was made ready for them. And there came to them great numbers of the chief men and the most noble ladies of the land, and of these there was none to whom Rhiannon did not give some rich gift, either a bracelet, or a ring, or a precious stone. And they ruled the land prosperously both that year and the next.
And in the third year the nobles of the land began to be sorrowful at seeing a man whom they loved so much, and who was moreover their lord and their foster-brother, without an heir. And they came to him. And the place where they met was Preseleu, in Dyved.
“Lord,” said they, “we know that thou art not so young as some of the men of this country, and we fear that thou mayest not have an heir of the wife whom thou hast taken. Take therefore another wife of whom thou mayest have heirs. Thou canst not always continue with us, and though thou desire to remain as thou art, we will not suffer thee.”
“Truly,” said Pwyll, “we have not long been joined together, and many things may yet befall. Grant me a year from this time, and for the space of a year we will abide together, and after that I will do according to your wishes.” So they granted it. And before the end of a year a son was born unto him. And in Narberth was he born; and on the night that he was born, women were brought to watch the mother and the boy. And the women slept, as did also Rhiannon, the mother of the boy. And the number of the women that were brought into the chamber was six. And they watched for a good portion of the night, and before midnight every one of them fell asleep, and towards break of day they awoke; and when they awoke, they looked where they had put the boy, and behold he was not there.
“Oh,” said one of the women, “the boy is lost?”
“Yes,” said another, “and it will be small vengeance if we are burnt or put to death because of the child.”
Said one of the women, “Is there any counsel for us in the world in this matter?”
“There is,” answered another, “I offer you good counsel.”
“What is that?” asked they.
“There is here a stag-hound bitch, and she has a litter of whelps. Let us kill some of the cubs, and rub the blood on the face and hands of Rhiannon, and lay the bones before her, and assert that she herself hath devoured her son, and she alone will not be able to gainsay us six.” And according to this counsel it was settled. And towards morning Rhiannon awoke, and she said, “Women, where is my son?”
“Lady,” said they, “ask us not concerning thy son, we have nought but the blows and the bruises we got by struggling with thee, and of a truth we never saw any woman so violent as thou, for it was of no avail to contend with thee. Hast thou not thyself devoured thy son? Claim him not therefore of us.”
“For pity’s sake,” said Rhiannon; “the Lord God knows all things. Charge me not falsely. If you tell me this from fear, I assert before Heaven that I will defend you.”
“Truly,” said they, “we would not bring evil on ourselves for any one in the world.”
“For pity’s sake,” said Rhiannon, “you will receive no evil by telling the truth.” But for all her words, whether fair or harsh, she received but the same answer from the women.
And Pwyll the chief of Annwvyn arose, and his household, and his hosts. And this occurrence could not be concealed, but the story went forth throughout the land, and all the nobles heard it. Then the nobles came to Pwyll, and besought him to put away his wife, because of the great crime which she had done. But Pwyll answered them, that they had no cause wherefore they might ask him to put away his wife, save for her having no children. “But children has she now had, therefore will I not put her away; if she has done wrong, let her do penance for it.”
So Rhiannon sent for the teachers and the wise men, and as she preferred doing penance to contending with the women, she took upon her a penance. And the penance that was imposed upon her was, that she should remain in that palace of Narberth until the end of seven years, and that she should sit every day near unto a horseblock that was without the gate. And that she should relate the story to all who should come there, whom she might suppose not to know it already; and that she should offer the guests and strangers, if they would permit her, to carry them upon her back into the palace. But it rarely happened that any would permit. And thus did she spend part of the year.
Now at that time Teirnyon Twryv Vliant was Lord of Gwent Is Coed, and he was the best man in the world. And unto his house there belonged a mare, than which neither mare nor horse in the kingdom was more beautiful. And on the night of every first of May she foaled, and no one ever knew what became of the colt. And one night Teirnyon talked with his wife:
“Wife,” said he, “it is very simple of us that our mare should foal every year, and that we should have none of her colts.”
“What can be done in the matter?” said she.
“This is the night of the first of May,” said he.
“The vengeance of Heaven be upon me, if I learn not what it is that takes away the colts.” So he caused the mare to be brought into a house, and he armed himself, and began to watch that night. And in the beginning of the night, the mare foaled a large and beautiful colt. And it was standing up in the place. And Teirnyon rose up and looked at the size of the colt, and as he did so he heard a great tumult, and after the tumult behold a claw came through the window into the house, and it seized the colt by the mane. Then Teirnyon drew his sword, and struck off the arm at the elbow, so that portion of the arm together with the colt was in the house with him. And then did he hear a tumult and wailing, both at once. And he opened the door, and rushed out in the direction of the noise, and he could not see the cause of the tumult because of the darkness of the night, but he rushed after it and followed it. Then he remembered that he had left the door open, and he returned. And at the door behold there was an infant boy in swaddling-clothes, wrapped around in a mantle of satin. And he took up the boy, and behold he was very strong for the age that he was of.
Then he shut the door, and went into the chamber where his wife was.
“Lady,” said he, “art thou sleeping?”
“No, lord,” said she, “I was asleep, but as thou camest in I did awake.”
“Behold, here is a boy for thee if thou wilt,” said he, “since thou hast never had one.”
“My lord,” said she, “what adventure is this?”
“It was thus,” said Teirnyon; and he told her how it all befell.
“Verily, lord,” said she, “what sort of garments are there upon the boy?”
“A mantle of satin,” said he.
“He is then a boy of gentle lineage,” she replied. “My lord,” she said, “if thou wilt, I shall have great diversion and mirth. I will call my women unto me, and tell them that I have been pregnant.”
“I will readily grant thee to do this,” he answered. And thus did they, and they caused the boy to be baptized, and the ceremony was performed there; and the name which they gave unto him was Gwri Wallt Euryn, because what hair was upon his head was as yellow as gold. And they had the boy nursed in the Court until he was a year old. And before the year was over he could walk stoutly. And he was larger than a boy of three years old, even one of great growth and size. And the boy was nursed the second year, and then he was as large as a child six years old. And before the end of the fourth year, he would bribe the grooms to allow him to take the horses to water.
“My lord,” said his wife unto Teirnyon, “where is the colt which thou didst save on the night that thou didst find the boy?”
“I have commanded the grooms of the horses,” said he, “that they take care of him.”
“Would it not be well, lord,” said she, “if thou wert to cause him to be broken in, and given to the boy, seeing that on the same night that thou didst find the boy, the colt was foaled and thou didst save him?”
“I will not oppose thee in this matter,” said Teirnyon. “I will allow thee to give him the colt.”
“Lord,” said she, “may Heaven reward thee; I will give it him.” So the horse was given to the boy. Then she went to the grooms and those who tended the horses, and commanded them to be careful of the horse, so that he might be broken in by the time that the boy could ride him.
And while these things were going forward, they heard tidings of Rhiannon and her punishment. And Teirnyon Twryv Vliant, by reason of the pity that he felt on hearing this story of Rhiannon and her punishment, inquired closely concerning it, until he had heard from many of those who came to his court. Then did Teirnyon, often lamenting the sad history, ponder within himself, and he looked steadfastly on the boy, and as he looked upon him, it seemed to him that he had never beheld so great a likeness between father and son, as between the boy and Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn. Now the semblance of Pwyll was well known to him, for he had of yore been one of his followers. And thereupon he became grieved for the wrong that he did, in keeping with him a boy whom he knew to be the son of another man. And the first time that he was alone with his wife, he told her that it was not right that they should keep the boy with them, and suffer so excellent a lady as Rhiannon to be punished so greatly on his account, whereas the boy was the son of Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn. And Teirnyon’s wife agreed with him, that they should send the boy to Pwyll. “And three things, lord,” said she, “shall we gain thereby. Thanks and gifts for releasing Rhiannon from her punishment; and thanks from Pwyll for nursing his son and restoring him unto him; and thirdly, if the boy is of gentle nature, he will be our foster-son, and he will do for us all the good in his power.” So it was settled according to this counsel.
And no later than the next day was Teirnyon equipped, and two other knights with him. And the boy, as a fourth in their company, went with them upon the horse which Teirnyon had given him. And they journeyed towards Narberth, and it was not long before they reached that place. And as they drew near to the palace, they beheld Rhiannon sitting beside the horseblock. And when they were opposite to her,
“Chieftain,” said she, “go not further thus, I will bear every one of you into the palace, and this is my penance for slaying my own son and devouring him.”
“Oh, fair lady,” said Teirnyon, “think not that I will be one to be carried upon thy back.”
“Neither will I,” said the boy.
“Truly, my soul,” said Teirnyon, “we will not go.” So they went forward to the palace, and there was great joy at their coming. And at the palace a feast was prepared, because Pywll was come back from the confines of Dyved. And they went into the hall and washed, and Pwyll rejoiced to see Teirnyon. And in this order they sat. Teirnyon between Pwyll and Rhiannon, and Teirnyon’s two companions on the other side of Pwyll, with the boy between them. And after meat they began to carouse and to discourse. And Teirnyon’s discourse was concerning the adventure of the mare and the boy, and how he and his wife had nursed and reared the child as their own.
“And behold here is thy son, lady,” said Teirnyon. “And whosoever told that lie concerning thee, has done wrong. And when I heard of thy sorrow, I was troubled and grieved. And I believe that there is none of this host who will not perceive that the boy is the son of Pwyll,” said Teirnyon.
“There is none,” said they all, “who is not certain thereof.”
“I declare to Heaven,” said Rhiannon, “that if this be true, there is indeed an end to my trouble.”
“Lady,” said Pendaran Dyved, “well hast thou named thy son Pryderi, and well becomes him the name of Pryderi son of Pwyll Chief of Annwvyn.”
“Look you,” said Rhiannon, “will not his own name become him better?”
“What name has he?” asked Pendaran Dyved.
“Gwri Wallt Euryn is the name that we gave him.”
“Pryderi,” said Pendaran, “shall his name be.”
“It were more proper,” said Pwyll, “that the boy should take his name from the word his mother spoke when she received the joyful tidings of him.” And thus was it arranged.
“Teirnyon,” said Pwyll, “Heaven reward thee that thou hast reared the boy up to this time, and, being of gentle lineage, it were fitting that he repay thee for it.”
“My lord,” said Teirnyon, “it was my wife who nursed him, and there is no one in the world so afflicted as she at parting with him. It were well that he should bear in mind what I and my wife have done for him.” “I call Heaven to witness,” said Pwyll, “that while I live I will support thee and thy possessions, as long as I am able to preserve my own. And when he shall have power, he will more fitly maintain them than I. And if this counsel be pleasing unto thee, and to my nobles, it shall be that, as thou hast reared him up to the present time, I will give him to be brought up by Pendaran Dyved, from henceforth. And you shall be companions, and shall both be foster-fathers unto him.”
“This is good counsel,” said they all. So the boy was given to Pendaran Dyved, and the nobles of the land were sent with him. And Teirnyon Twryv Vliant, and his companions, set out for his country, and his possessions, with love and gladness. And he went not without being offered the fairest jewels and the fairest horses, and the choicest dogs; but he would take none of them.
Thereupon they all remained in their own dominions. And Pryderi, the son of Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn, was brought up carefully as was fit, so that he became the fairest youth, and the most comely, and the best skilled in all good games, of any in the kingdom. And thus passed years and years, until the end of Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn’s life came, and he died.
And Pryderi ruled the seven Cantrevs of Dyved prosperously, and he was beloved by his people, and by all around him. And at length he added unto them the three Cantrevs of Ystrad Tywi, and the four Cantrevs of Cardigan; and these were called the Seven Cantrevs of Seissyllwch. And when he made this addition, Pryderi the son of Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn desired to take a wife. And the wife he chose was Kicva, the daughter of Gwynn Gohoyw, the son of Gloyw Wallt Lydan, the son of Prince Casnar, one of the nobles of this Island.
And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogion.
The Second Branch: Branwen Uerch Llyr Blanche Crowe, Daughter of Llyr
Bendigeid Vran, the son of Llyr, was the crowned king of this island, and he was exalted from the crown of London. And one afternoon he was at Harlech in Ardudwy, at his Court, and he sat upon the rock of Harlech, looking over the sea. And with him were his brother Manawyddan the son of Llyr, and his brothers by the mother’s side, Nissyen and Evnissyen, and many nobles likewise, as was fitting to see around a king. His two brothers by the mother’s side were the sons of Eurosswydd, by his mother, Penardun, the daughter of Beli son of Manogan. And one of these youths was a good youth and of gentle nature, and would make peace between his kindred, and cause his family to be friends when their wrath was at the highest; and this one was Nissyen; but the other would cause strife between his two brothers when they were most at peace. And as they sat thus, they beheld thirteen ships coming from the south of Ireland, and making towards them, and they came with a swift motion, the wind being behind them, and they neared them rapidly. “I see ships afar,” said the king, “coming swiftly towards the land. Command the men of the Court that they equip themselves, and go and learn their intent.” So the men equipped themselves and went down towards them. And when they saw the ships near, certain were they that they had never seen ships better furnished. Beautiful flags of satin were upon them. And behold one of the ships outstripped the others, and they saw a shield lifted up above the side of the ship, and the point of the shield was upwards, in token of peace. And the men drew near that they might hold converse. Then they put out boats and came towards the land. And they saluted the king. Now the king could hear them from the place where he was, upon the rock above their heads.
“Heaven prosper you,” said he, “and be ye welcome. To whom do these ships belong, and who is the chief amongst you?”
“Lord,” said they, “Matholwch, king of Ireland, is here, and these ships belong to him.”
“Wherefore comes he?” asked the king, “and will he come to the land?”
“He is a suitor unto thee, lord,” said they, “and he will not land unless he have his boon.”
“And what may that be?” inquired the king.
“He desires to ally himself with thee, lord,” said they, “and he comes to ask Branwen the daughter of Llyr, that, if it seem well to thee, the Island of the Mighty may be leagued with Ireland, and both become more powerful.”
“Verily,” said he, “let him come to land, and we will take counsel thereupon.”
And this answer was brought to Matholwch. “I will go willingly,” said he. So he landed, and they received him joyfully; and great was the throng in the palace that night, between his hosts and those of the Court; and next day they took counsel, and they resolved to bestow Branwen upon Matholwch. Now she was one of the three chief ladies of this island, and she was the fairest damsel in the world.
And they fixed upon Aberffraw as the place where she should become his bride. And they went thence, and towards Aberffraw the hosts proceeded; Matholwch and his host in their ships; Bendigeid Vran and his host by land, until they came to Aberffraw. And at Aberffraw they began the feast and sat down. And thus sat they. The King of the Island of the Mighty and Manawyddan the son of Llyr on one side, and Matholwch on the other side, and Branwen the daughter of Llyr beside him. And they were not within a house, but under tents. No house could ever contain Bendigeid Vran. And they began the banquet and caroused and discoursed. And when it was more pleasing to them to sleep than to carouse, they went to rest, and that night Branwen became Matholwch’s bride.
And next day they arose, and all they of the Court, and the officers began to equip and to range the horses and the attendants, and they ranged them in order as far as the sea.
And behold one day, Evnissyen, the quarrelsome man of whom it is spoken above, came by chance into the place, where the horses of Matholwch were, and asked whose horses they might be. “They are the horses of Matholwch king of Ireland, who is married to Branwen, thy sister; his horses are they.” “And is it thus they have done with a maiden such as she, and moreover my sister, bestowing her without my consent? They could have offered no greater insult to me than this,” said he. And thereupon he rushed under the horses and cut off their lips at the teeth, and their ears close to their heads, and their tails close to their backs, and wherever he could clutch their eyelids, he cut them to the very bone, and he disfigured the horses and rendered them useless.
And they came with these tidings unto Matholwch, saying that the horses were disfigured, and injured so that not one of them could ever be of any use again. “Verily, lord,” said one, “it was an insult unto thee, and as such was it meant.” “Of a truth, it is a marvel to me, that if they desire to insult me, they should have given me a maiden of such high rank and so much beloved of her kindred, as they have done.” “Lord,” said another, “thou seest that thus it is, and there is nothing for thee to do but to go to thy ships.” And thereupon towards his ships he set out.
And tidings came to Bendigeid Vran that Matholwch was quitting the Court without asking leave, and messengers were sent to inquire of him wherefore he did so. And the messengers that went were Iddic the son of Anarawd, and Heveydd Hir. And these overtook him and asked of him what he designed to do, and wherefore he went forth.
“Of a truth,” said he, “if I had known I had not come hither. I have been altogether insulted, no one had ever worse treatment than I have had here. But one thing surprises me above all.”
“What is that?” asked they.
“That Branwen the daughter of Llyr, one of the three chief ladies of this island, and the daughter of the King of the Island of the Mighty, should have been given me as my bride, and that after that I should have been insulted; and I marvel that the insult was not done me before they had bestowed upon me a maiden so exalted as she.”
“Truly, lord, it was not the will of any that are of the Court,” said they, “nor of any that are of the council, that thou shouldest have received this insult; and as thou hast been insulted, the dishonour is greater unto Bendigeid Vran than unto thee.”
“Verily,” said he, “I think so. Nevertheless he cannot recall the insult.” These men returned with that answer to the place where Bendigeid Vran was, and they told him what reply Matholwch had given them. “Truly,” said he, “there are no means by which we may prevent his going away at enmity with us, that we will not take.”
“Well, lord,” said they, “send after him another embassy.”
“I will do so,” said he. “Arise, Manawyddan son of Llyr, and Heveydd Hir, and Unic Glew Ysgwyd, and go after him, and tell him that he shall have a sound horse for every one that has been injured. And beside that, as an atonement for the insult, he shall have a staff of silver, as large and as tall as himself, and a plate of gold of the breadth of his face. And show unto him who it was that did this, and that it was done against my will; but that he who did it is my brother, by the mother’s side, and therefore it would be hard for me to put him to death. And let him come and meet me,” said he, “and we will make peace in any way he may desire.”
The embassy went after Matholwch, and told him all these sayings in a friendly manner, and he listened thereunto. “Men,” said he, “I will take counsel.” So to the council he went. And in the council they considered that if they should refuse this, they were likely to have more shame rather than to obtain so great an atonement. They resolved therefore to accept it, and they returned to the Court in peace.
Then the pavilions and the tents were set in order after the fashion of a hall; and they went to meat, and as they had sat at the beginning of the feast, so sat they there. And Matholwch and Bendigeid Vran began to discourse; and behold it seemed to Bendigeid Vran, while they talked, that Matholwch was not so cheerful as he had been before. And he thought that the chieftain might be sad, because of the smallness of the atonement which he had, for the wrong that had been done him.
“Oh, man,” said Bendigeid Vran, “thou dost not discourse to-night so cheerfully as thou wast wont. And if it be because of the smallness of the atonement, thou shalt add thereunto whatsoever thou mayest choose, and to-morrow I will pay thee the horses.”
“Lord,” said he, “Heaven reward thee.”
“And I will enhance the atonement,” said Bendigeid Vran, “for I will give unto thee a cauldron, the property of which is, that if one of thy men be slain to-day, and be cast therein, to-morrow he will be as well as ever he was at the best, except that he will not regain his speech.” And thereupon he gave him great thanks, and very joyful was he for that cause.
And the next morning they paid Matholwch the horses as long as the trained horses lasted. And then they journeyed into another commot, where they paid him with colts until the whole had been paid, and from thenceforth that commot was called Talebolion.
And a second night sat they together.
“My lord,” said Matholwch, “whence hadst thou the cauldron which thou hast given me?”
“I had it of a man who had been in thy land,” said he, “and I would not give it except to one from there.”
“Who was it?” asked he.
“Llassar Llaesgyvnewid; he came here from Ireland with Kymideu Kymeinvoll, his wife, who escaped from the Iron House in Ireland, when it was made red hot around them, and fled hither. And it is a marvel to me that thou shouldst know nothing concerning the matter.”
“Something I do know,” said he, “and as much as I know I will tell thee. One day I was hunting in Ireland, and I came to the mound at the head of the lake, which is called the Lake of the Cauldron. And I beheld a huge yellow-haired man coming from the lake with a cauldron upon his back. And he was a man of vast size, and of horrid aspect, and a woman followed after him. And if the man was tall, twice as large as he was the woman, and they came towards me and greeted me. ‘Verily,’ asked I, ‘wherefore are you journeying?’ ‘Behold, this,’ said he to me, ‘is the cause that we journey. At the end of a month and a fortnight this woman will have a son; and the child that will be born at the end of the month and the fortnight will be a warrior fully armed.’ So I took them with me and maintained them. And they were with me for a year. And that year I had them with me not grudgingly. But thenceforth was there murmuring, because that they were with me. For, from the beginning of the fourth month they had begun to make themselves hated and to be disorderly in the land; committing outrages, and molesting and harassing the nobles and ladies; and thenceforward my people rose up and besought me to part with them, and they bade me to choose between them and my dominions. And I applied to the council of my country to know what should be done concerning them; for of their own free will they would not go, neither could they be compelled against their will, through fighting. And [the people of the country] being in this strait, they caused a chamber to be made all of iron. Now when the chamber was ready, there came there every smith that was in Ireland, and every one who owned tongs and hammer. And they caused coals to be piled up as high as the top of the chamber. And they had the man, and the woman, and the children, served with plenty of meat and drink; but when it was known that they were drunk, they began to put fire to the coals about the chamber, and they blew it with bellows until the house was red hot all around them. Then was there a council held in the centre of the floor of the chamber. And the man tarried until the plates of iron were all of a white heat; and then, by reason of the great heat, the man dashed against the plates with his shoulder and struck them out, and his wife followed him; but except him and his wife none escaped thence. And then I suppose, lord,” said Matholwch unto Bendigeid Vran, “that he came over unto thee.”
“Doubtless he came here,” said he, “and gave unto me the cauldron.”
“In what manner didst thou receive them?”
“I dispersed them through every part of my dominions, and they have become numerous and are prospering everywhere, and they fortify the places where they are with men and arms, of the best that were ever seen.”
That night they continued to discourse as much as they would, and had minstrelsy and carousing, and when it was more pleasant to them to sleep than to sit longer, they went to rest. And thus was the banquet carried on with joyousness; and when it was finished, Matholwch journeyed towards Ireland, and Branwen with him, and they went from Aber Menei with thirteen ships, and came to Ireland. And in Ireland was there great joy because of their coming. And not one great man or noble lady visited Branwen unto whom she gave not either a clasp, or a ring, or a royal jewel to keep, such as it was honourable to be seen departing with. And in these things she spent that year in much renown, and she passed her time pleasantly, enjoying honour and friendship. And in the meanwhile it chanced that she became pregnant, and in due time a son was born unto her, and the name that they gave him was Gwern the son of Matholwch, and they put the boy out to be foster-nursed, in a place where were the best men of Ireland.
And behold in the second year a tumult arose in Ireland, on account of the insult which Matholwch had received in Cambria, and the payment made him for his horses. And his foster-brothers, and such as were nearest unto him, blamed him openly for that matter. And he might have no peace by reason of the tumult until they should revenge upon him this disgrace. And the vengeance which they took was to drive away Branwen from the same chamber with him, and to make her cook for the Court; and they caused the butcher after he had cut up the meat to come to her and give her every day a blow on the ear, and such they made her punishment.
“Verily, lord,” said his men to Matholwch, “forbid now the ships and the ferry boats and the coracles, that they go not into Cambria, and such as come over from Cambria hither, imprison them that they go not back for this thing to be known there.” And he did so; and it was thus for not less than three years.
And Branwen reared a starling in the cover of the kneading trough, and she taught it to speak, and she taught the bird what manner of man her brother was. And she wrote a letter of her woes, and the despite with which she was treated, and she bound the letter to the root of the bird’s wing, and sent it towards Britain. And the bird came to this island, and one day it found Bendigeid Vran at Caer Seiont in Arvon, conferring there, and it alighted upon his shoulder and ruffled its feathers, so that the letter was seen, and they knew that the bird had been reared in a domestic manner.
Then Bendigeid Vran took the letter and looked upon it. And when he had read the letter he grieved exceedingly at the tidings of Branwen’s woes. And immediately he began sending messengers to summon the island together. And he caused sevenscore and four countries to come unto him, and he complained to them himself of the grief that his sister endured. So they took counsel. And in the council they resolved to go to Ireland, and to leave seven men as princes here, and Caradawc, the son of Bran, as the chief of them, and their seven knights. In Edeyrnion were these men left. And for this reason were the seven knights placed in the town. Now the names of these seven men were, Caradawc the son of Bran, and Heveydd Hir, and Unic Glew Ysgwyd, and Iddic the son of Anarawc Gwalltgrwn, and Fodor the son of Ervyll, and Gwlch Minascwrn, and Llassar the son of Llaesar Llaesgygwyd, and Pendaran Dyved as a young page with them. And these abode as seven ministers to take charge of this island; and Caradawc the son of Bran was the chief amongst them.
Bendigeid Vran, with the host of which we spoke, sailed towards Ireland, and it was not far across the sea, and he came to shoal water. It was caused by two rivers; the Lli and the Archan were they called; and the nations covered the sea. Then he proceeded with what provisions he had on his own back, and approached the shore of Ireland.
Now the swineherds of Matholwch were upon the seashore, and they came to Matholwch.
“Lord,” said they, “greeting be unto thee.”
“Heaven protect you,” said he, “have you any news?”
“Lord,” said they, “we have marvellous news, a wood have we seen upon the sea, in a place where we never yet saw a single tree.”
“This is indeed a marvel,” said he; “saw you aught else?”
“We saw, lord,” said they, “a vast mountain beside the wood, which moved, and there was a lofty ridge on the top of the mountain, and a lake on each side of the ridge. And the wood, and the mountain, and all these things moved.”
“Verily,” said he, “there is none who can know aught concerning this, unless it be Branwen.”
Messengers then went unto Branwen. “Lady,” said they, “what thinkest thou that this is?”
“The men of the Island of the Mighty, who have come hither on hearing of my ill-treatment and my woes.”
“What is the forest that is seen upon the sea?” asked they.
“The yards and the masts of ships,” she answered.
“Alas,” said they, “what is the mountain that is seen by the side of the ships?”
“Bendigeid Vran, my brother,” she replied, “coming to shoal water; there is no ship that can contain him in it.”
“What is the lofty ridge with the lake on each side thereof?”
“On looking towards this island he is wroth, and his two eyes, one on each side of his nose, are the two lakes beside the ridge.”
The warriors and the chief men of Ireland were brought together in haste, and they took counsel. “Lord,” said the nobles unto Matholwch, “there is no other counsel than to retreat over the Linon (a river which is in Ireland), and to keep the river between thee and him, and to break down the bridge that is across the river, for there is a loadstone at the bottom of the river that neither ship nor vessel can pass over.” So they retreated across the river, and broke down the bridge.
Bendigeid Vran came to land, and the fleet with him by the bank of the river. “Lord,” said his chieftains, “knowest thou the nature of this river, that nothing can go across it, and there is no bridge over it?”
“What,” said they, “is thy counsel concerning a bridge?”
“There is none,” said he, “except that he who will be chief, let him be a bridge. I will be so,” said he. And then was that saying first uttered, and it is still used as a proverb. And when he had lain down across the river, hurdles were placed upon him, and the host passed over thereby.
And as he rose up, behold the messengers of Matholwch came to him, and saluted him, and gave him greeting in the name of Matholwch, his kinsman, and showed how that of his goodwill he had merited of him nothing but good. “For Matholwch has given the kingdom of Ireland to Gwern the son of Matholwch, thy nephew and thy sister’s son. And this he places before thee, as a compensation for the wrong and despite that has been done unto Branwen. And Matholwch shall be maintained wheresoever thou wilt, either here or in the Island of the Mighty.” Said Bendigeid Vran, “Shall not I myself have the kingdom? Then peradventure I may take counsel concerning your message. From this time until then no other answer will you get from me.” “Verily,” said they, “the best message that we receive for thee, we will convey it unto thee, and do thou await our message unto him.” “I will wait,” answered he, “and do you return quickly.”
The messengers set forth and came to Matholwch. “Lord,” said they, “prepare a better message for Bendigeid Vran. He would not listen at all to the message that we bore him.”
“My friends,” said Matholwch, “what may be your counsel?”
“Lord,” said they, “there is no other counsel than this alone. He was never known to be within a house, make therefore a house that will contain him and the men of the Island of the Mighty on the one side, and thyself and thy host on the other; and give over thy kingdom to his will, and do him homage. So by reason of the honour thou doest him in making him a house, whereas he never before had a house to contain him, he will make peace with thee.” So the messengers went back to Bendigeid Vran, bearing him this message.
And he took counsel, and in the council it was resolved that he should accept this, and this was all done by the advice of Branwen, and lest the country should be destroyed. And this peace was made, and the house was built both vast and strong. But the Irish planned a crafty device, and the craft was that they should put brackets on each side of the hundred pillars that were in the house, and should place a leathern bag on each bracket, and an armed man in every one of them. Then Evnissyen came in before the host of the Island of the Mighty, and scanned the house with fierce and savage looks, and descried the leathern bags which were around the pillars. “What is in this bag?” asked he of one of the Irish. “Meal, good soul,” said he. And Evnissyen felt about it until he came to the man’s head, and he squeezed the head until he felt his fingers meet together in the brain through the bone. And he left that one and put his hand upon another, and asked what was therein. “Meal,” said the Irishman. So he did the like unto every one of them, until he had not left alive, of all the two hundred men, save one only; and when he came to him, he asked what was there. “Meal, good soul,” said the Irishman. And he felt about until he felt the head, and he squeezed that head as he had done the others. And, albeit he found that the head of this one was armed, he left him not until he had killed him. And then he sang an Englyn:—
“There is in this bag a different sort of meal,
The ready combatant, when the assault is made
By his fellow-warriors, prepared for battle.”
Thereupon came the hosts unto the house. The men of the Island of Ireland entered the house on the one side, and the men of the Island of the Mighty on the other. And as soon as they had sat down there was concord between them; and the sovereignty was conferred upon the boy. When the peace was concluded, Bendigeid Vran called the boy unto him, and from Bendigeid Vran the boy went unto Manawyddan, and he was beloved by all that beheld him. And from Manawyddan the boy was called by Nissyen the son of Eurosswydd, and the boy went unto him lovingly. “Wherefore,” said Evnissyen, “comes not my nephew the son of my sister unto me? Though he were not king of Ireland, yet willingly would I fondle the boy.” “Cheerfully let him go to thee,” said Bendigeid Vran, and the boy went unto him cheerfully. “By my confession to Heaven,” said Evnissyen in his heart, “unthought of by the household is the slaughter that I will this instant commit.”
Then he arose and took up the boy by the feet, and before any one in the house could seize hold of him, he thrust the boy headlong into the blazing fire. And when Branwen saw her son burning in the fire, she strove to leap into the fire also, from the place where she sat between her two brothers. But Bendigeid Vran grasped her with one hand, and his shield with the other. Then they all hurried about the house, and never was there made so great a tumult by any host in one house as was made by them, as each man armed himself. Then said Morddwydtyllyon, “The gadflies of Morddwydtyllyon’s Cow!” And while they all sought their arms, Bendigeid Vran supported Branwen between his shield and his shoulder.
Then the Irish kindled a fire under the cauldron of renovation, and they cast the dead bodies into the cauldron until it was full, and the next day they came forth fighting-men as good as before, except that they were not able to speak. Then when Evnissyen saw the dead bodies of the men of the Island of the Mighty nowhere resuscitated, he said in his heart, “Alas! woe is me, that I should have been the cause of bringing the men of the Island of the Mighty into so great a strait. Evil betide me if I find not a deliverance therefrom.” And he cast himself among the dead bodies of the Irish, and two unshod Irishmen came to him, and, taking him to be one of the Irish, flung him into the cauldron. And he stretched himself out in the cauldron, so that he rent the cauldron into four pieces, and burst his own heart also.
In consequence of that the men of the Island of the Mighty obtained such success as they had; but they were not victorious, for only seven men of them all escaped, and Bendigeid Vran himself was wounded in the foot with a poisoned dart. Now the seven men that escaped were Pryderi, Manawyddan, Gluneu Eil Taran, Taliesin, Ynawc, Grudyen the son of Muryel, and Heilyn the son of Gwynn Hen.
And Bendigeid Vran commanded them that they should cut off his head. “And take you my head,” said he, “and bear it even unto the White Mount, in London, and bury it there, with the face towards France. And a long time will you be upon the road. In Harlech you will be feasting seven years, the birds of Rhiannon singing unto you the while. And all that time the head will be to you as pleasant company as it ever was when on my body. And at Gwales in Penvro you will be fourscore years, and you may remain there, and the head with you uncorrupted, until you open the door that looks towards Aber Henvelen, and towards Cornwall. And after you have opened that door, there you may no longer tarry, set forth then to London to bury the head, and go straight forward.”
So they cut off his head, and these seven went forward therewith. And Branwen was the eighth with them, and they came to land at Aber Alaw, in Talebolyon, and they sat down to rest. And Branwen looked towards Ireland and towards the Island of the Mighty, to see if she could descry them. “Alas,” said she, “woe is me that I was ever born; two islands have been destroyed because of me!” Then she uttered a loud groan, and there broke her heart. And they made her a four-sided grave, and buried her upon the banks of the Alaw.
Then the seven men journeyed forward towards Harlech, bearing the head with them; and as they went, behold there met them a multitude of men and of women. “Have you any tidings?” asked Manawyddan. “We have none,” said they, “save that Caswallawn the son of Beli has conquered the Island of the Mighty, and is crowned king in London.” “What has become,” said they, “of Caradawc the son of Bran, and the seven men who were left with him in this island?” “Caswallawn came upon them, and slew six of the men, and Caradawc’s heart broke for grief thereof; for he could see the sword that slew the men, but knew not who it was that wielded it. Caswallawn had flung upon him the Veil of Illusion, so that no one could see him slay the men, but the sword only could they see. And it liked him not to slay Caradawc, because he was his nephew, the son of his cousin. And now he was the third whose heart had broke through grief. Pendaran Dyved, who had remained as a young page with these men, escaped into the wood,” said they.
Then they went on to Harlech, and there stopped to rest, and they provided meat and liquor, and sat down to eat and to drink. And there came three birds, and began singing unto them a certain song, and all the songs they had ever heard were unpleasant compared thereto; and the birds seemed to them to be at a great distance from them over the sea, yet they appeared as distinct as if they were close by, and at this repast they continued seven years.
And at the close of the seventh year they went forth to Gwales in Penvro. And there they found a fair and regal spot overlooking the ocean; and a spacious hall was therein. And they went into the hall, and two of its doors were open, but the third door was closed, that which looked towards Cornwall. “See, yonder,” said Manawyddan, “is the door that we may not open.” And that night they regaled themselves and were joyful. And of all they had seen of food laid before them, and of all they had heard of, they remembered nothing; neither of that, nor of any sorrow whatsoever. And there they remained fourscore years, unconscious of having ever spent a time more joyous and mirthful. And they were not more weary than when first they came, neither did they, any of them, know the time they had been there. And it was not more irksome to them having the head with them, than if Bendigeid Vran had been with them himself. And because of these fourscore years, it was called “the Entertaining of the noble Head.” The entertaining of Branwen and Matholwch was in the time that they went to Ireland.
One day said Heilyn the son of Gwynn, “Evil betide me, if I do not open the door to know if that is true which is said concerning it.” So he opened the door and looked towards Cornwall and Aber Henvelen. And when they had looked, they were as conscious of all the evils they had ever sustained, and of all the friends and companions they had lost, and of all the misery that had befallen them, as if all had happened in that very spot; and especially of the fate of their lord. And because of their perturbation they could not rest, but journeyed forth with the head towards London. And they buried the head in the White Mount, and when it was buried, this was the third goodly concealment; and it was the third ill-fated disclosure when it was disinterred, inasmuch as no invasion from across the sea came to this island while the head was in that concealment.
And thus is the story related of those who journeyed over from Ireland.
In Ireland none were left alive, except five pregnant women in a cave in the Irish wilderness; and to these five women in the same night were born five sons, whom they nursed until they became grown-up youths. And they thought about wives, and they at the same time desired to possess them, and each took a wife of the mothers of their companions, and they governed the country and peopled it.
And these five divided it amongst them, and because of this partition are the five divisions of Ireland still so termed. And they examined the land where the battles had taken place, and they found gold and silver until they became wealthy.
And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogi, concerning the blow given to Branwen, which was the third unhappy blow of this island; and concerning the entertainment of Bran, when the hosts of sevenscore countries and ten went over to Ireland to revenge the blow given to Branwen; and concerning the seven years’ banquet in Harlech, and the singing of the birds of Rhiannon, and the sojourning of the head for the space of fourscore year.
The Third Branch: Manawydan, son of Llyr
When the seven men of whom we spoke above had buried the head of Bendigeid Vran, in the White Mount an London, with its face towards France; Manawyddan gazed upon the town of London, and upon his companions, and heaved a great sigh; and much grief and heaviness came upon him.
“Alas, Almighty Heaven, woe is me,” he exclaimed, “there is none save myself without a resting-place this night.”
“Lord,” said Pryderi, “be not so sorrowful. Thy cousin is king of the Island of the Mighty, and though he should do thee wrong, thou hast never been a claimant of land or possessions. Thou art the third disinherited prince.”
“Yea,” answered he, “but although this man is my cousin, it grieveth me to see any one in the place of my brother Bendigeid Vran, neither can I be happy in the same dwelling with him.”
“Wilt thou follow the counsel of another?” said Pryderi.
“I stand in need of counsel,” he answered, “and what may that counsel be?”
“Seven Cantrevs remain unto me,” said Pryderi, “wherein Rhiannon my mother dwells. I will bestow her upon thee and the seven Cantrevs with her, and though thou hadst no possessions but those Cantrevs only, thou couldst not have seven Cantrevs fairer than they. Kicva, the daughter of Gwynn Gloyw, is my wife, and since the inheritance of the Cantrevs belongs to me, do thou and Rhiannon enjoy them, and if thou ever desire any possessions thou wilt take these.” “I do not, Chieftain,” said he; “Heaven reward thee for thy friendship.”
“I would show thee the best friendship in the world if thou wouldst let me.”
“I will, my friend,” said he, “and Heaven reward thee. I will go with thee to seek Rhiannon and to look at thy possessions.”
“Thou wilt do well,” he answered.
“And I believe that thou didst never hear a lady discourse better than she, and when she was in her prime none was ever fairer. Even now her aspect is not uncomely.”
They set forth, and, however long the journey, they came at length to Dyved, and a feast was prepared for them against their coming to Narberth, which Rhiannon and Kicva had provided. Then began Manawyddan and Rhiannon to sit and to talk together, and from their discourse his mind and his thoughts became warmed towards her, and he thought in his heart he had never beheld any lady more fulfilled of grace and beauty than she. “Pryderi,” said he, “I will that it be as thou didst say.” “What saying was that?” asked Rhiannon. “Lady,” said Pryderi, “I did offer thee as a wife to Manawyddan the son of Llyr.”
“By that will I gladly abide,” said Rhiannon.
“Right glad am I also,” said Manawyddan; “may Heaven reward him who hath shown unto me friendship so perfect as this.”
And before the feast was over she became his bride. Said Pryderi, “Tarry ye here the rest of the feast, and I will go into Lloegyr to tender my homage unto Caswallawn the son of Beli.”
“Lord,” said Rhiannon, “Caswallawn is in Kent, thou mayest therefore tarry at the feast, and wait until he shall be nearer.”
“We will wait,” he answered. So they finished the feast. And they began to make the circuit of Dyved, and to hunt, and to take their pleasure. And as they went through the country, they had never seen lands more pleasant to live in, nor better hunting grounds, nor greater plenty of honey and fish. And such was the friendship between those four, that they would not be parted from each other by night nor by day.
And in the midst of all this he went to Caswallawn at Oxford, and tendered his homage; and honourable was his reception there, and highly was he praised for offering his homage.
And after his return, Pryderi and Manawyddan feasted and took their ease and pleasure. And they began a feast at Narberth, for it was the chief palace; and there originated all honour. And when they had ended the first meal that night, while those who served them ate, they arose and went forth, and proceeded all four to the Gorsedd of Narberth, and their retinue with them. And as they sat thus, behold, a peal of thunder, and with the violence of the thunderstorm, lo there came a fall of mist, so thick that not one of them could see the other. And after the mist it became light all around. And when they looked towards the place where they were wont to see cattle, and herds, and dwellings, they saw nothing now, neither house, nor beast, nor smoke, nor fire, nor man, nor dwelling; but the houses of the Court empty, and desert, and uninhabited, without either man or beast within them. And truly all their companions were lost to them, without their knowing aught of what had befallen them, save those four only.
“In the name of Heaven,” cried Manawyddan, “where are they of the Court, and all my host beside these? Let us go and see.” So they came into the hall, and there was no man; and they went on to the castle and to the sleeping-place, and they saw none; and in the mead-cellar and in the kitchen there was nought but desolation. So they four feasted, and hunted, and took their pleasure. Then they began to go through the land and all the possessions that they had, and they visited the houses and dwellings, and found nothing but wild beasts. And when they had consumed their feast and all their provisions, they fed upon the prey they killed in hunting, and the honey of the wild swarms. And thus they passed the first year pleasantly, and the second; but at the last they began to be weary.
“Verily,” said Manawyddan, “we must not bide thus. Let us go into Lloegyr, and seek some craft whereby we may gain our support.” So they went into Lloegyr, and came as far as Hereford. And they betook themselves to making saddles. And Manawyddan began to make housings, and he gilded and coloured them with blue enamel, in the manner that he had seen it done by Llasar Llaesgywydd. And he made the blue enamel as it was made by the other man. And therefore is it still called Calch Lasar [blue enamel], because Llasar Llaesgywydd had wrought it.
And as long as that workmanship could be had of Manawyddan, neither saddle nor housing was bought of a saddler throughout all Hereford; till at length every one of the saddlers perceived that they were losing much of their gain, and that no man bought of them, but him who could not get what he sought from Manawyddan. Then they assembled together, and agreed to slay him and his companions.
Now they received warning of this, and took counsel whether they should leave the city. “By Heaven,” said Pryderi, “it is not my counsel that we should quit the town, but that we should slay these boors.” “Not so,” said Manawyddan, “for if we fight with them, we shall have evil fame, and shall be put in prison. It were better for us to go to another town to maintain ourselves.” So they four went to another city.
“What craft shall we take?” said Pryderi.
“We will make shields,” said Manawyddan.
“Do we know anything about that craft?” said Pryderi.
“We will try,” answered he. There they began to make shields, and fashioned them after the shape of the good shields they had seen; and they enamelled they, as them had done the saddles. And they prospered in that place, so that not a shield was asked for in the whole town, but such as was had of them. Rapid therefore was their work, and numberless were the shields they made. But at last they were marked by the craftsmen, who came together in haste, and their fellow-townsmen with them, and agreed that they should seek to slay them. But they received warning, and heard how the men had resolved on their destruction. “Pryderi,” said Manawyddan, “these men desire to slay us.”
“Let us not endure this from these boors, but let us rather fall upon them and slay them.”
“Not so,” he answered; “Caswallawn and his men will hear of it, and we shall be undone. Let us go to another town.” So to another town they went.
“What craft shall we take?” said Manawyddan.
“Whatsoever thou wilt that we know,” said Pryderi.
“Not so,” he replied, “but let us take to making shoes, for there is not courage enough among cordwainers either to fight with us or to molest us.”
“I know nothing thereof,” said Pryderi.
“But I know,” answered Manawyddan; “and I will teach thee to stitch. We will not attempt to dress the leather, but we will buy it ready dressed and will make the shoes from it.”
So he began by buying the best cordwal that could be had in the town, and none other would he buy except the leather for the soles; and he associated himself with the best goldsmith in the town, and caused him to make clasps for the shoes, and to gild the clasps, and he marked how it was done until he learnt the method. And therefore was he called one of the three makers of Gold Shoes; and, when they could be had from him, not a shoe nor hose was bought of any of the cordwainers in the town. But when the cordwainers perceived that their gains were failing (for as Manawyddan shaped the work, so Pryderi stitched it), they came together and took counsel, and agreed that they would slay them.
“Pryderi,” said Manawyddan, “these men are minded to slay us.”
“Wherefore should we bear this from the boorish thieves?” said Pryderi. “Rather let us slay them all.”
“Not so,” said Manawyddan, “we will not slay them, neither will we remain in Lloegyr any longer. Let us set forth to Dyved and go to see it.”
So they journeyed along until they came to Dyved, and they went forward to Narberth. And there they kindled fire and supported themselves by hunting. And thus they spent a month. And they gathered their dogs around them, and tarried there one year.
And one morning Pryderi and Manawyddan rose up to hunt, and they ranged their dogs and went forth from the palace. And some of the dogs ran before them and came to a small bush which was near at hand; but as soon as they were come to the bush, they hastily drew back and returned to the men, their hair bristling up greatly. “Let us go near to the bush,” said Pryderi, “and see what is in it.” And as they came near, behold, a wild boar of a pure white colour rose up from the bush. Then the dogs, being set on by the men, rushed towards him; but he left the bush and fell back a little way from the men, and made a stand against the dogs without retreating from them, until the men had come near. And when the men came up, he fell back a second time, and betook him to flight. Then they pursued the boar until they beheld a vast and lofty castle, all newly built, in a place where they had never before seen either stone or building. And the boar ran swiftly into the castle and the dogs after him. Now when the boar and the dogs had gone into the castle, they began to wonder at finding a castle in a place where they had never before seen any building whatsoever. And from the top of the Gorsedd they looked and listened for the dogs. But so long as they were there they heard not one of the dogs nor aught concerning them.
“Lord,” said Pryderi, “I will go into the castle to get tidings of the dogs.”
“Truly,” he replied, “thou wouldst be unwise to go into this castle, which thou hast never seen till now. If thou wouldst follow my counsel, thou wouldst not enter therein. Whosoever has cast a spell over this land has caused this castle to be here.”
“Of a truth,” answered Pryderi, “I cannot thus give up my dogs.” And for all the counsel that Manawyddan gave him, yet to the castle he went.
When he came within the castle, neither man nor beast, nor boar nor dogs, nor house nor dwelling saw he within it. But in the centre of the castle floor he beheld a fountain with marble work around it, and on the margin of the fountain a golden bowl upon a marble slab, and chains hanging from the air, to which he saw no end.
And he was greatly pleased with the beauty of the gold, and with the rich workmanship of the bowl, and he went up to the bowl and laid hold of it. And when he had taken hold of it his hands stuck to the bowl, and his feet to the slab on which the howl was placed, and all his joyousness forsook him, so that he could not utter a word. And thus he stood.
And Manawyddan waited for him till near the close of the day. And late in the evening, being certain that he should have no tidings of Pryderi or of the dogs, he went back to the palace. And as he entered, Rhiannon looked at him. “Where,” said she, “are thy companion and thy dogs?”
“Behold,” he answered, “the adventure that has befallen me.” And he related it all unto her. “An evil companion hast thou been,” said Rhiannon, “and a good companion hast thou lost.” And with that word she went out, and proceeded towards the castle according to the direction which he gave her. The gate of the castle she found open. She was nothing daunted, and she went in. And as she went in, she perceived Pryderi laying hold of the bowl, and she went towards him. “Oh, my lord,” said she, “what dust thou do here?” And she took hold of the bowl with him; and as she did so her hands became fast to the bowl, and her feet to the slab, and she was not able to utter a word. And with that, as it became night, lo, there came thunder upon them, and a fall of mist, and thereupon the castle vanished, and they with it.
When Kicva the daughter of Gwynn Gloyw saw that there was no one in the palace but herself and Manawyddan, she sorrowed so that she cared not whether she lived or died. And Manawyddan saw this. “Thou art in the wrong,” said he, “if through fear of me thou grievest thus. I call Heaven to witness that thou hast never seen friendship mere pure than that which I will bear thee, as long as Heaven will that thou shouldst be thus. I declare to thee that were I in the dawn of youth I would keep my faith unto Pryderi, and unto thee also will I keep it. Be there no fear upon thee, therefore,” said he, “for Heaven is my witness that thou shalt meet with all the friendship thou canst wish, and that it is in my power to show thee, as long as it shall please Heaven to continue us in this grief and woe.” “Heaven reward thee,” she said, “and that is what I deemed of thee.” And the damsel thereupon took courage and was glad.
“Truly, lady,” said Manawyddan, “it is not fitting for us to stay here, we have lost our dogs, and we cannot get food. Let us go into Lloegyr; it is easiest for us to find support there.” “Gladly, lord,” said she, “we will do so.” And they set forth together to Lloegyr.
“Lord,” said she, “what craft wilt thou follow? Take up one that is seemly.” “None other will I take,” answered he, “save that of making shoes, as I did formerly.” “Lord,” said she, “such a craft becomes not a man so nobly born as thou.” “By that however will I abide,” said he.
So he began his craft, and he made all his work of the finest leather he could get in the town, and, as he had done at the other place, he caused gilded clasps to be made for the shoes. And except himself all the cordwainers in the town were idle, and without work. For as long as they could be had from him, neither shoes nor hose were bought elsewhere. And thus they tarried there a year, until the cordwainers became envious, and took counsel concerning him. And he had warning thereof, and it was told him how the cordwainers had agreed together to slay him.
“Lord,” said Kicva, “wherefore should this be borne from these boors?” “Nay,” said he, “we will go back unto Dyved.” So towards Dyved they set forth.
Now Manawyddan, when he set out to return to Dyved, took with him a burden of wheat. And he proceeded towards Narberth, and there he dwelt. And never was he better pleased than when he saw Narberth again, and the lands where he had been wont to hunt with Pryderi and with Rhiannon. And he accustomed himself to fish, and to hunt the deer in their covert. And then he began to prepare some ground, and he sowed a croft, and a second, and a third. And no wheat in the world ever sprung up better. And the three crofts prospered with perfect growth, and no man ever saw fairer wheat than it.
And thus passed the seasons of the year until the harvest came. And he went to look at one of his crofts, and behold it was ripe. “I will reap this to-morrow,” said he. And that night he went back to Narberth, and on the morrow in the grey dawn he went to reap the croft, and when he came there he found nothing but the bare straw. Every one of the ears of the wheat was cut from off the stalk, and all the ears carried entirely away, and nothing but the straw left. And at this he marvelled greatly.
Then he went to look at another croft, and behold that also was ripe. “Verily,” said he, “this will I reap to-morrow.” And on the morrow he came with the intent to reap it, and when he came there he found nothing but the bare straw. “Oh, gracious Heaven,” he exclaimed, “I know that whosoever has begun my ruin is completing it, and has also destroyed the country with me.”
Then he went to look at the third croft, and when he came there, finer wheat had there never been seen, and this also was ripe. “Evil betide me,” said he, “if I watch not here to-night. Whoever carried off the other corn will come in like manner to take this. And I will know who it is.” So he took his arms, and began to watch the croft. And he told Kicva all that had befallen. “Verily,” said she, “what thinkest thou to do?” “I will watch the croft to-night,” said he.
And he went to watch the croft. And at midnight, lo, there arose the loudest tumult in the world. And he looked, and behold the mightiest host of mice in the world, which could neither be numbered nor measured. And he knew not what it was until the mice had made their way into the croft, and each of them climbing up the straw and bending it down with its weight, had cut off one of the ears of wheat, and had carried it away, leaving there the stalk, and he saw not a single stalk there that had not a mouse to it. And they all took their way, carrying the ears with them.
In wrath and anger did he rush upon the mice, but he could no more come up with them than if they had been gnats, or birds in the air, except one only, which though it was but sluggish, went so fast that a man on foot could scarce overtake it. And after this one he went, and he caught it and put it in his glove, and tied up the opening of the glove with a string, and kept it with him, and returned to the palace. Then he came to the hall where Kicva was, and he lighted a fire, and hung the glove by the string upon a peg.
“What hast thou there, lord?” said Kicva.
“A thief,” said he, “that I found robbing me.”
“What kind of thief may it be, lord, that thou couldst put into thy glove?” said she.
“Behold I will tell thee,” he answered. Then he showed her how his fields had been wasted and destroyed, and how the mice came to the last of the fields in his sight. “And one of them was less nimble than the rest, and is now in my glove; to-morrow I will hang it, and before Heaven, if I had them, I would hang them all.”
“My lord,” said she, “this is marvellous; but yet it would be unseemly for a man of dignity like thee to be hanging such a reptile as this. And if thou doest right, thou wilt not meddle with the creature, but wilt let it go.”
“Woe betide me,” said he, “if I would not hang them all could I catch them, and such as I have I will hang.”
“Verily, lord,” said she, “there is no reason that I should succour this reptile, except to prevent discredit unto thee. Do therefore, lord, as thou wilt.”
“If I knew of any cause in the world wherefore thou shouldst succour it, I would take thy counsel concerning it,” said Manawyddan, “but as I know of none, lady, I am minded to destroy it.”
“Do so willingly then,” said she.
And then he went to the Gorsedd of Narberth, taking the mouse with him. And he set up two forks on the highest part of the Gorsedd. And while he was doing this, behold he saw a scholar coming towards him, in old and poor and tattered garments. And it was now seven years since he had seen in that place either man or beast, except those four persons who had remained together until two of them were lost.
“My lord,” said the scholar, “good day to thee.”
“Heaven prosper thee, and my greeting be unto thee. And whence dost thou come, scholar?” asked he.
“I come, lord, from singing in Lloegyr; and wherefore dost thou inquire?”
“Because for the last seven years,” answered he, “I have seen no man here save four secluded persons, and thyself this moment.”
“Truly, lord,” said he, “I go through this land unto mine own. And what work art thou upon, lord?”
“I am hanging a thief that I caught robbing me,” said he.
“What manner of thief is that?” asked the scholar.
“I see a creature in thy hand like unto a mouse, and ill does it become a man of rank equal to thine to touch a reptile such as this. Let it go forth free.”
“I will not let it go free, by Heaven,” said he; “I caught it robbing me, and the doom of a thief will I inflict upon it, and I will hang it.”
“Lord,” said he, “rather than see a man of rank equal to thine at such a work as this, I would give thee a pound which I have received as alms, to let the reptile go forth free.”
“I will not let it go free,” said he, “by Heaven, neither will I sell it.”
“As thou wilt, lord,” he answered; “except that I would not see a man of rank equal to thine touching such a reptile, I care nought.” And the scholar went his way.
And as he was placing the crossbeam upon the two forks, behold a priest came towards him upon a horse covered with trappings.
“Good day to thee, lord,” said he.
“Heaven prosper thee,” said Manawyddan; “thy blessing.”
“The blessing of Heaven be upon thee. And what, lord, art thou doing?”
“I am hanging a thief that I caught robbing me,” said he.
“What manner of thief, lord?” asked he.
“A creature,” he answered, “in form of a mouse. It has been robbing me, and I am inflicting upon it the doom of a thief.”
“Lord,” said he, “rather than see thee touch this reptile, I would purchase its freedom.”
“By my confession to Heaven, neither will I sell it nor set it free.”
“It is true, lord, that it is worth nothing to buy; but rather than see thee defile thyself by touching such a reptile as this, I will give thee three pounds to let it go.”
“I will not, by Heaven,” said he, “take any price for at. As it ought, so shall it be hanged.”
“Willingly, lord, do thy good pleasure.” And the priest went his way.
Then he noosed the string around the mouse’s neck, and as he was about to draw it up, behold, he saw a bishop’s retinue with his sumpter-horses, and his attendants. And the bishop himself came towards him. And he stayed his work.
“Lord bishop,” said he, “thy blessing.”
“Heaven’s blessing be unto thee,” said he; “what work art thou upon?”
“Hanging a thief that I caught robbing me,” said he.
“Is not that a mouse that I see in thy hand?”
“Yes,” answered he. “And she has robbed me.”
“Aye,” said he, “since I have come at the doom of this reptile, I will ransom it of thee. I will give thee seven pounds for it, and that rather than see a man of rank equal to thine destroying so vile a reptile as this. Let it loose and thou shalt have the money.”
“I declare to Heaven that I will not set it loose.”
“If thou wilt not loose it for this, I will give thee four-and-twenty pounds of ready money to set it free.”
“I will not set it free, by Heaven, for as much again,” said he.
“If thou wilt not set it free for this, I will give thee all the horses that thou seest in this plain, and the seven loads of baggage, and the seven horses that they are upon.”
“By Heaven, I will not,” he replied. “Since for this thou wilt not, do so at what price soever thou wilt.”
“I will do so,” said he.
“I will that Rhiannon and Pryderi be free,” said he.
“That thou shalt have,” he answered.
“Not yet will I loose the mouse, by Heaven.”
“What then wouldst thou?”
“That the charm and the illusion be removed from the seven Cantrevs of Dyved.”
“This shalt thou have also; set therefore the mouse free.”
“I will not set it free, by Heaven,” said he.
“I will know who the mouse may be.”
“She is my wife.”
“Even though she be, I will not set her free. Wherefore came she to me?”
“To despoil thee,” he answered.
“I am Llwyd the son of Kilcoed, and I cast the charm over the seven Cantrevs of Dyved. And it was to avenge Gwawl the son of Clud, from the friendship I had towards him, that I cast the charm. And upon Pryderi did I revenge Gwawl the son of Clud, for the game of Badger in the Bag, that Pwyll Pen Annwvyn played upon him, which he did unadvisedly in the Court of Heveydd Hên. And when it was known that thou wast come to dwell in the land, my household came and besought me to transform them into mice, that they might destroy thy corn. And it was my own household that went the first night. And the second night also they went, and they destroyed thy two crofts. And the third night came unto me my wife and the ladies of the Court, and besought me to transform them. And I transformed them. Now she is pregnant. And had she not been pregnant thou wouldst not have been able to overtake her; but since this has taken place, and she has been caught, I will restore thee Pryderi and Rhiannon; and I will take the charm and illusion from off Dyved. I have now told thee who she is. Set her therefore free.”
“I will not set her free, by Heaven,” said he.
“What wilt thou more?” he asked.
“I will that there be no more charm upon the seven Cantrevs of Dyved, and that none shall be put upon it henceforth.”
“This thou shalt have,” said he. “Now set her free.”
“I will not, by my faith,” he answered.
“What wilt thou furthermore?” asked he.
“Behold,” said he, “this will I have; that vengeance be never taken for this, either upon Pryderi or Rhiannon, or upon me.”
“All this shalt thou have. And truly thou hast done wisely in asking this. Upon thy head would have lighted all this trouble.”
“Yea,” said he, “for fear thereof was it, that I required this.”
“Set now my wife at liberty.”
“I will not, by Heaven,” said he, “until I see Pryderi and Rhiannon with me free.”
“Behold, here they come,” he answered.
And thereupon behold Pryderi and Rhiannon. And he rose up to meet them, and greeted them, and sat down beside them. “Ah, Chieftain, set now my wife at liberty,” said the bishop. “Hast thou not received all thou didst ask?” “I will release her gladly,” said he. And thereupon he set her free.
Then Llwyd struck her with a magic wand, and she was changed back into a young woman, the fairest ever seen.
“Look around upon thy land,” said he, “and then thou wilt see it all tilled and peopled, as it was in its best state.” And he rose up and looked forth. And when he looked he saw all the lands tilled, and full of herds and dwellings. “What bondage,” he inquired, “has there been upon Pryderi and Rhiannon?”
“Pryderi has had the knockers of the gate of my palace about his neck, and Rhiannon has had the collars of the asses, after they have been carrying hay, about her neck.”
And such had been their bondage.
And by reason of this bondage is this story called the Mabinogi of Mynnweir and Mynord.
And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogi.
The Fourth Branch: Math, son of Mathonwy
Math the son of Mathonwy was lord over Gwynedd, and Pryderi the son of Pwyll was lord over the one-and-twenty Cantrevs of the South; and these were the seven Cantrevs of Dyved, and the seven Cantrevs of Morganwc, the four Cantrevs of Ceredigiawn, and the three of Ystrad Tywi.
At that time, Math the son of Mathonwy could not exist unless his feet were in the lap of a maiden, except only when he was prevented by the tumult of war. Now the maiden who was with him was Goewin, the daughter of Pebin of Dôl Pebin, in Arvon, and she was the fairest maiden of her time who was known there.
And Math dwelt always at Caer Dathyl, in Arvon, and was not able to go the circuit of the land, but Gilvaethwy the son of Don, and Eneyd the son of Don, his nephews, the sons of his sisters, with his household, went the circuit of the land in his stead.
Now the maiden was with Math continually, and Gilvaethwy the son of Don set his affections upon her, and loved her so that he knew not what he should do because of her, and therefrom behold his hue, and his aspect, and his spirits changed for love of her, so that it was not easy to know him.
One day his brother Gwydion gazed steadfastly upon him. “Youth,” said he, “what aileth thee?”
“Why,” replied he, “what seest thou in me?”
“I see,” said he, “that thou hast lost thy aspect and thy hue; what, therefore, aileth thee?”
“My lord brother,” he answered, “that which aileth me, it will not profit me that I should own to any.”
“What may it be, my soul?” said he.
“Thou knowest,” he said, “that Math the son of Mathonwy has this property, that if men whisper together, in a tone how low soever, if the wind meet it, it becomes known unto him.”
“Yes,” said Gwydion, “hold now thy peace, I know thy intent, thou lovest Goewin.”
When he found that his brother knew his intent, he gave the heaviest sigh in the world. “Be silent, my soul, and sigh not,” he said.
“It is not thereby that thou wilt succeed. I will cause,” said he, “if it cannot be otherwise, the rising of Gwynedd, and Powys, and Deheubarth, to seek the maiden. Be thou of glad cheer therefore, and I will compass it.”
So they went unto Math the son of Mathonwy. “Lord,” said Gwydion, “I have heard that there have come to the South some beasts, such as were never known in this island before.”
“What are they called?” he asked.
“And what kind of animals are they?”
“They are small animals, and their flesh is better than the flesh of oxen.”
“They are small, then?”
“And they change their names. Swine are they now called.”
“Who owneth them?”
“Pryderi the son of Pwyll; they were sent him from Annwvyn, by Arawn the king of Annwvyn, and still they keep that name, half hog, half pig.”
“Verily,” asked he, “and by what means may they be obtained from him?”
“I will go, lord, as one of twelve, in the guise of bards, to seek the swine.”
“But it may be that he will refuse you,” said he.
“My journey will not be evil, lord,” said he; “I will not come back without the swine.”
“Gladly,” said he, “go thou forward.”
So he and Gilvaethwy went, and ten other men with them. And they came into Ceredigiawn, to the place that is now called Rhuddlan Teivi, where the palace of Pryderi was. In the guise of bards they came in, and they were received joyfully, and Gwydion was placed beside Pryderi that night.
“Of a truth,” said Pryderi, “gladly would I have a tale from some of your men yonder.” “Lord,” said Gwydion, “we have a custom that the first night that we come to the Court of a great man, the chief of song recites. Gladly will I relate a tale.” Now Gwydion was the best teller of tales in the world, and he diverted all the Court that night with pleasant discourse and with tales, so that he charmed every one in the Court, and it pleased Pryderi to talk with him.
And after this, “Lord,” said he unto Pryderi, “were it more pleasing to thee, that another should discharge my errand unto thee, than that I should tell thee myself what it is?” “No,” he answered, “ample speech hast thou.” “Behold then, lord,” said he, “my errand. It is to crave from thee the animals that were sent thee from Annwvyn.” “Verily,” he replied, “that were the easiest thing in the world to grant, were there not a covenant between me and my land concerning them. And the covenant is that they shall not go from me, until they have produced double their number in the land.” “Lord,” said he, “I can set thee free from those words, and this is the way I can do so; give me not the swine to-night, neither refuse them unto me, and to-morrow I will show thee an exchange for them.”
And that night he and his fellows went unto their lodging, and they took counsel. “Ah, my men,” said he, “we shall not have the swine for the asking.” “Well,” said they, “how may they be obtained?” “I will cause them to be obtained,” said Gwydion.
Then he betook himself to his arts, and began to work a charm. And he caused twelve chargers to appear, and twelve black greyhounds, each of them white-breasted, and having upon them twelve collars and twelve leashes, such as no one that saw them could know to be other than gold. And upon the horses twelve saddles, and every part which should have been of iron was entirely of gold, and the bridles were of the same workmanship. And with the horses and the dogs he came to Pryderi.
“Good day unto thee, lord,” said he. “Heaven prosper thee,” said the other, “and greetings be unto thee.” “Lord,” said he, “behold here is a release for thee from the word which thou spakest last evening concerning the swine; that thou wouldst neither give nor sell them. Thou mayest exchange them for that which is better. And I will give these twelve horses, all caparisoned as they are, with their saddles and their bridles, and these twelve greyhounds, with their collars and their leashes as thou seest, and the twelve gilded shields that thou beholdest yonder.” Now these he had formed of fungus. “Well,” said he, “we will take counsel.” And they consulted together, and determined to give the swine to Gwydion, and to take his horses and his dogs and his shields.
Then Gwydion and his men took their leave, and began to journey forth with the pigs. “Ah, my comrades,” said Gwydion, “it is needful that we journey with speed. The illusion will not last but from the one hour to the same to-morrow.”
And that night they journeyed as far as the upper part of Ceredigiawn, to the place which, from that cause, is called Mochdrev still. And the next day they took their course through Melenydd, and came that night to the town which is likewise for that reason called Mochdrev between Keri and Arwystli. And thence they journeyed forward; and that night they came as far as that Commot in Powys, which also upon account thereof is called Mochnant, and there tarried they that night. And they journeyed thence to the Cantrev of Rhos, and the place where they were that night is still called Mochdrev.
“My men,” said Gwydion, “we must push forward to the fastnesses of Gwynedd with these animals, for there is a gathering of hosts in pursuit of us.” So they journeyed on to the highest town of Arllechwedd, and there they made a sty for the swine, and therefore was the name of Creuwyryon given to that town. And after they had made the sty for the swine, they proceeded to Math the son of Mathonwy, at Caer Dathyl. And when they came there, the country was rising. “What news is there here?” asked Gwydion. “Pryderi is assembling one-and-twenty Cantrevs to pursue after you,” answered they. “It is marvellous that you should have journeyed so slowly.” “Where are the animals whereof you went in quest?” said Math. “They have had a sty made for them in the other Cantrev below,” said Gwydion.
Thereupon, lo, they heard the trumpets and the host in the land, and they arrayed themselves and set forward and came to Penardd in Arvon.
And at night Gwydion the son of Don, and Gilvaethwy his brother, returned to Caer Dathyl; and Gilvaethwy took Math the son of Mathonwy’s couch. And while he turned out the other damsels from the room discourteously, he made Goewin unwillingly remain.
And when they saw the day on the morrow, they went back unto the place where Math the son of Mathonwy was with his host; and when they came there, the warriors were taking counsel in what district they should await the coming of Pryderi, and the men of the South. So they went in to the council. And it was resolved to wait in the strongholds of Gwynedd, in Arvon. So within the two Maenors they took their stand, Maenor Penardd and Maenor Coed Alun. And there Pryderi attacked them, and there the combat took place. And great was the slaughter on both sides; but the men of the South were forced to flee. And they fled unto the place which is still called Nantcall. And thither did they follow them, and they made a vast slaughter of them there, so that they fled again as far as the place called Dol Pen Maen, and there they halted and sought to make peace.
And that he might have peace, Pryderi gave hostages, Gwrgi Gwastra gave he and three-and-twenty others, sons of nobles. And after this they journeyed in peace even unto Traeth Mawr; but as they went on together towards Melenryd, the men on foot could not be restrained from shooting. Pryderi dispatched unto Math an embassy to pray him to forbid his people, and to leave it between him and Gwydion the son of Don, for that he had caused all this. And the messengers came to Math. “Of a truth,” said Math, “I call Heaven to witness, if it be pleasing unto Gwydion the son of Don, I will so leave it gladly. Never will I compel any to go to fight, but that we ourselves should do our utmost.”
“Verily,” said the messengers, “Pryderi saith that it were more fair that the man who did him this wrong should oppose his own body to his, and let his people remain unscathed.” “I declare to Heaven, I will not ask the men of Gwynedd to fight because of me. If I am allowed to fight Pryderi myself, gladly will I oppose my body to his.” And this answer they took back to Pryderi. “Truly,” said Pryderi, “I shall require no one to demand my rights but myself.”
Then these two came forth and armed themselves, and they fought. And by force of strength, and fierceness, and by the magic and charms of Gwydion, Pryderi was slain. And at Maen Tyriawc, above Melenryd, was he buried, and there is his grave.
And the men of the South set forth in sorrow towards their own land; nor is it a marvel that they should grieve, seeing that they had lost their lord, and many of their best warriors, and for the most part their horses and their arms.
The men of Gwynedd went back joyful and in triumph. “Lord,” said Gwydion unto Math, “would it not be right for us to release the hostages of the men of the South, which they pledged unto us for peace? for we ought not to put them in prison.” “Let them then be set free,” saith Math. So that youth, and the other hostages that were with him, were set free to follow the men of the South.
Math himself went forward to Caer Dathyl. Gilvaethwy the son of Don, and they of the household that were with him, went to make the circuit of Gwynedd as they were wont, without coming to the Court. Math went into his chamber, and caused a place to be prepared for him whereon to recline, so that he might put his feet in the maiden’s lap. “Lord,” said Goewin, “seek now another to hold thy feet, for I am now a wife.” “What meaneth this?” said he. “An attack, lord, was made unawares upon me; but I held not my peace, and there was no one in the Court who knew not of it. Now the attack was made by thy nephews, lord, the sons of thy sister, Gwydion the son of Don, and Gilvaethwy the son of Don; unto me they did wrong, and unto thee dishonour.” “Verily,” he exclaimed, “I will do to the utmost of my power concerning this matter. But first I will cause thee to have compensation, and then will I have amends made unto myself. As for thee, I will take thee to be my wife, and the possession of my dominions will I give unto thy hands.”
And Gwydion and Gilvaethwy came not near the Court, but stayed in the confines of the land until it was forbidden to give them meat and drink. At first they came not near unto Math, but at the last they came. “Lord,” said they, “good day to thee.” “Well,” said he, “is it to make me compensation that ye are come?” “Lord,” they said, “we are at thy will.” “By my will I would not have lost my warriors, and so many arms as I have done. You cannot compensate me my shame, setting aside the death of Pryderi. But since ye come hither to be at my will, I shall begin your punishment forthwith.”
Then he took his magic wand, and struck Gilvaethwy, so that he became a deer, and he seized upon the other hastily lest he should escape from him. And he struck him with the same magic wand, and he became a deer also. “Since now ye are in bonds, I will that ye go forth together and be companions, and possess the nature of the animals whose form ye bear. And this day twelvemonth come hither unto me.”
At the end of a year from that day, lo there was a loud noise under the chamber wall, and the barking of the dogs of the palace together with the noise. “Look,” said he, “what is without.” “Lord,” said one, “I have looked; there are there two deer, and a fawn with them.” Then he arose and went out. And when he came he beheld the three animals. And he lifted up his wand. “As ye were deer last year, be ye wild hogs each and either of you, for the year that is to come.” And thereupon he struck them with the magic wand. “The young one will I take and cause to be baptized.” Now the name that he gave him was Hydwn. “Go ye and be wild swine, each and either of you, and be ye of the nature of wild swine. And this day twelvemonth be ye here under the wall.”
At the end of the year the barking of dogs was heard under the wall of the chamber. And the Court assembled, and thereupon he arose and went forth, and when he came forth he beheld three beasts. Now these were the beasts that he saw; two wild hogs of the woods, and a well-grown young one with them. And he was very large for his age. “Truly,” said Math, “this one will I take and cause to be baptized.” And he struck him with his magic wand, and he become a fine fair auburn-haired youth, and the name that he gave him was Hychdwn. “Now as for you, as ye were wild hogs last year, be ye wolves each and either of you for the year that is to come.” Thereupon he struck them with his magic wand, and they became wolves. “And be ye of like nature with the animals whose semblance ye bear, and return here this day twelvemonth beneath this wall.”
And at the same day at the end of the year, he heard a clamour and a barking of dogs under the wall of the chamber. And he rose and went forth. And when he came, behold, he saw two wolves, and a strong cub with them. “This one will I take,” said Math, “and I will cause him to be baptized; there is a name prepared for him, and that is Bleiddwn. Now these three, such are they:—
The three sons of Gilvaethwy the false,
The three faithful combatants,
Bleiddwn, Hydwn, and Hychdwn the Tall.”
Then he struck the two with his magic wand, and they resumed their own nature. “Oh men,” said he, “for the wrong that ye did unto me sufficient has been your punishment and your dishonour. Prepare now precious ointment for these men, and wash their heads, and equip them.” And this was done.
And after they were equipped, they came unto him. “Oh men,” said he, “you have obtained peace, and you shall likewise have friendship. Give your counsel unto me, what maiden I shall seek.” “Lord,” said Gwydion the son of Don, “it is easy to give thee counsel; seek Arianrod, the daughter of Don, thy niece, thy sister’s daughter.”
And they brought her unto him, and the maiden came in. “Ha, damsel,” said he, “art thou the maiden?” “I know not, lord, other than that I am.” Then he took up his magic wand, and bent it. “Step over this,” said he, “and I shall know if thou art the maiden.” Then stepped she over the magic wand, and there appeared forthwith a fine chubby yellow-haired boy. And at the crying out of the boy, she went towards the door. And thereupon some small form was seen; but before any one could get a second glimpse of it, Gwydion had taken it, and had flung a scarf of velvet around it and hidden it. Now the place where he hid it was the bottom of a chest at the foot of his bed.
“Verily,” said Math the son of Mathonwy, concerning the fine yellow-haired boy, “I will cause this one to be baptized, and Dylan is the name I will give him.”
So they had the boy baptized, and as they baptized him he plunged into the sea. And immediately when he was in the sea, he took its nature, and swam as well as the best fish that was therein. And for that reason was he called Dylan, the son of the Wave. Beneath him no wave ever broke. And the blow whereby he came to his death, was struck by his uncle Govannon. The third fatal blow was it called.
As Gwydion lay one morning on his bed awake, he heard a cry in the chest at his feet; and though it was not loud, it was such that he could hear it. Then he arose in haste, and opened the chest: and when he opened it, he beheld an infant boy stretching out his arms from the folds of the scarf, and casting it aside. And he took up the boy in his arms, and carried him to a place where he knew there was a woman that could nurse him. And he agreed with the woman that she should take charge of the boy. And that year he was nursed.
And at the end of the year he seemed by his size as though he were two years old. And the second year he was a big child, and able to go to the Court by himself. And when he came to the Court, Gwydion noticed him, and the boy became familiar with him, and loved him better than any one else. Then was the boy reared at the Court until he was four years old, when he was as big as though he had been eight.
And one day Gwydion walked forth, and the boy followed him, and he went to the Castle of Arianrod, having the boy with him; and when he came into the Court, Arianrod arose to meet him, and greeted him and bade him welcome. “Heaven prosper thee,” said he. “Who is the boy that followeth thee?” she asked. “This youth, he is thy son,” he answered. “Alas,” said she, “what has come unto thee that thou shouldst shame me thus? wherefore dost thou seek my dishonour, and retain it so long as this?” “Unless thou suffer dishonour greater than that of my bringing up such a boy as this, small will be thy disgrace.” “What is the name of the boy?” said she. “Verily,” he replied, “he has not yet a name.” “Well,” she said, “I lay this destiny upon him, that he shall never have a name until he receives one from me.” “Heaven bears me witness,” answered he, “that thou art a wicked woman. But the boy shall have a name how displeasing soever it may be unto thee. As for thee, that which afflicts thee is that thou art no longer called a damsel.” And thereupon he went forth in wrath, and returned to Caer Dathyl and there he tarried that night.
And the next day he arose and took the boy with him, and went to walk on the seashore between that place and Aber Menei. And there he saw some sedges and seaweed, and he turned them into a boat. And out of dry sticks and sedges he made some Cordovan leather, and a great deal thereof, and he coloured it in such a manner that no one ever saw leather more beautiful than it. Then he made a sail to the boat, and he and the boy went in it to the port of the castle of Arianrod. And he began forming shoes and stitching them, until he was observed from the castle. And when he knew that they of the castle were observing him, he disguised his aspect, and put another semblance upon himself, and upon the boy, so that they might not be known. “What men are those in yonder boat?” said Arianrod. “They are cordwainers,” answered they. “Go and see what kind of leather they have, and what kind of work they can do.”
So they came unto them. And when they came he was colouring some Cordovan leather, and gilding it. And the messengers came and told her this. “Well,” said she, “take the measure of my foot, and desire the cordwainer to make shoes for me.” So he made the shoes for her, yet not according to the measure, but larger. The shoes then were brought unto her, and behold they were too large. “These are too large,” said she, “but he shall receive their value. Let him also make some that are smaller than they.” Then he made her others that were much smaller than her foot, and sent them unto her. “Tell him that these will not go on my feet,” said she. And they told him this. “Verily,” said he, “I will not make her any shoes, unless I see her foot.” And this was told unto her. “Truly,” she answered, “I will go unto him.”
So she went down to the boat, and when she came there, he was shaping shoes and the boy stitching them. “Ah, lady,” said he, “good day to thee.” “Heaven prosper thee,” said she. “I marvel that thou canst not manage to make shoes according to a measure.” “I could not,” he replied, “but now I shall be able.”
Thereupon behold a wren stood upon the deck of the boat, and the boy shot at it, and hit it in the leg between the sinew and the bone. Then she smiled. “Verily,” said she, “with a steady hand did the lion aim at it.” “Heaven reward thee not, but now has he got a name. And a good enough name it is. Llew Llaw Gyffes be he called henceforth.”
Then the work disappeared in seaweed and sedges, and he went on with it no further. And for that reason was he called the third Gold-shoemaker. “Of a truth,” said she, “thou wilt not thrive the better for doing evil unto me.” “I have done thee no evil yet,” said he. Then he restored the boy to his own form. “Well,” said she, “I will lay a destiny upon this boy, that he shall never have arms and armour until I invest him with them.” “By Heaven,” said he, “let thy malice be what it may, he shall have arms.”
Then they went towards Dinas Dinllev, and there he brought up Llew Llaw Gyffes, until he could manage any horse, and he was perfect in features, and strength, and stature. And then Gwydion saw that he languished through the want of horses and arms. And he called him unto him. “Ah, youth,” said he, “we will go to-morrow on an errand together. Be therefore more cheerful than thou art.” “That I will,” said the youth.
Next morning, at the dawn of day, they arose. And they took way along the sea coast, up towards Bryn Aryen. And at the top of Cevn Clydno they equipped themselves with horses, and went towards the Castle of Arianrod. And they changed their form, and pricked towards the gate in the semblance of two youths, but the aspect of Gwydion was more staid than that of the other. “Porter,” said he, “go thou in and say that there are here bards from Glamorgan.” And the porter went in. “The welcome of Heaven be unto them, let them in,” said Arianrod.
With great joy were they greeted. And the hall was arranged, and they went to meat. When meat was ended, Arianrod discoursed with Gwydion of tales and stories. Now Gwydion was an excellent teller of tales. And when it was time to leave off feasting, a chamber was prepared for them, and they went to rest.
In the early twilight Gwydion arose, and he called unto him his magic and his power. And by the time that the day dawned, there resounded through the land uproar, and trumpets and shouts. When it was now day, they heard a knocking at the door of the chamber, and therewith Arianrod asking that it might be opened. Up rose the youth and opened unto her, and she entered and a maiden with her. “Ah, good men,” she said, “in evil plight are we.” “Yes, truly,” said Gwydion, “we have heard trumpets and shouts; what thinkest thou that they may mean?” “Verily,” said she, “we cannot see the colour of the ocean by reason of all the ships, side by side. And they are making for the land with all the speed they can. And what can we do?” said she. “Lady,” said Gwydion, “there is none other counsel than to close the castle upon us, and to defend it as best we may.” “Truly,” said she, “may Heaven reward you. And do you defend it. And here may you have plenty of arms.”
And thereupon went she forth for the arms, and behold she returned, and two maidens, and suits of armour for two men, with her. “Lady,” said he, “do you accoutre this stripling, and I will arm myself with the help of thy maidens. Lo, I hear the tumult of the men approaching.” “I will do so, gladly.” So she armed him fully, and that right cheerfully. “Hast thou finished arming the youth?” said he. “I have finished,” she answered. “I likewise have finished,” said Gwydion. “Let us now take off our arms, we have no need of them.” “Wherefore?” said she. “Here is the army around the house.” “Oh, lady, there is here no army.” “Oh,” cried she, “whence then was this tumult?” “The tumult was but to break thy prophecy and to obtain arms for thy son. And now has he got arms without any thanks unto thee.” “By Heaven,” said Arianrod, “thou art a wicked man. Many a youth might have lost his life through the uproar thou hast caused in this Cantrev to-day. Now will I lay a destiny upon this youth,” she said, “that he shall never have a wife of the race that now inhabits this earth.” “Verily,” said he, “thou wast ever a malicious woman, and no one ought to support thee. A wife shall he have notwithstanding.”
They went thereupon unto Math the son of Mathonwy, and complained unto him most bitterly of Arianrod. Gwydion showed him also how he had procured arms for the youth. “Well,” said Math, “we will seek, I and thou, by charms and illusion, to form a wife for him out of flowers. He has now come to man’s stature, and he is the comeliest youth that was ever beheld.” So they took the blossoms of the oak, and the blossoms of the broom, and the blossoms of the meadow-sweet, and produced from them a maiden, the fairest and most graceful that man ever saw. And they baptized her, and gave her the name of Blodeuwedd.
After she had become his bride, and they had feasted, said Gwydion, “It is not easy for a man to maintain himself without possessions.” “Of a truth,” said Math, “I will give the young man the best Cantrev to hold.” “Lord,” said he, “what Cantrev is that?” “The Cantrev of Dinodig,” he answered. Now it is called at this day Eivionydd and Ardudwy. And the place in the Cantrev where he dwelt, was a palace of his in a spot called Mur y Castell, on the confines of Ardudwy. There dwelt he and reigned, and both he and his sway were beloved by all.
One day he went forth to Caer Dathyl, to visit Math the son of Mathonwy. And on the day that he set out for Caer Dathyl, Blodeuwedd walked in the Court. And she heard the sound of a horn. And after the sound of the horn, behold a tired stag went by, with dogs and huntsmen following it. And after the dogs and the huntsmen there came a crowd of men on foot. “Send a youth,” said she, “to ask who yonder host may be.” So a youth went, and inquired who they were. “Gronw Pebyr is this, the lord of Penllyn,” said they. And thus the youth told her.
Gronw Pebyr pursued the stag, and by the river Cynvael he overtook the stag and killed it. And what with flaying the stag and baiting his dogs, he was there until the night began to close in upon him. And as the day departed and the night drew near, he came to the gate of the Court. “Verily,” said Blodeuwedd, “the Chieftain will speak ill of us if we let him at this hour depart to another land without inviting him in.” “Yes, truly, lady,” said they, “it will be most fitting to invite him.”
Then went messengers to meet him and bid him in. And he accepted her bidding gladly, and came to the Court, and Blodeuwedd went to meet him, and greeted him, and bade him welcome. “Lady,” said he, “Heaven repay thee thy kindness.”
When they had disaccoutred themselves, they went to sit down. And Blodeuwedd looked upon him, and from the moment that she looked on him she became filled with his love. And he gazed on her, and the same thought came unto him as unto her, so that he could not conceal from her that he loved her, but he declared unto her that he did so. Thereupon she was very joyful. And all their discourse that night was concerning the affection and love which they felt one for the other, and which in no longer space than one evening had arisen. And that evening passed they in each other’s company.
The next day he sought to depart. But she said, “I pray thee go not from me to-day.” And that night he tarried also. And that night they consulted by what means they might always be together. “There is none other counsel,” said he, “but that thou strive to learn from Llew Llaw Gyffes in what manner he will meet his death. And this must thou do under the semblance of solicitude concerning him.”
The next day Gronw sought to depart. “Verily,” said she, “I will counsel thee not to go from me to-day.” “At thy instance will I not go,” said he, “albeit, I must say, there is danger that the chief who owns the palace may return home.” “To-morrow,” answered she, “will I indeed permit thee to go forth.”
The next day he sought to go, and she hindered him not. “Be mindful,” said Gronw, “of what I have said unto thee, and converse with him fully, and that under the guise of the dalliance of love, and find out by what means he may come to his death.”
That night Llew Llaw Gyffes returned to his home. And the day they spent in discourse, and minstrelsy, and feasting. And at night they went to rest, and he spoke to Blodeuwedd once, and he spoke to her a second time. But, for all this, he could not get from her one word. “What aileth thee?” said he, “art thou well?” “I was thinking,” said she, “of that which thou didst never think of concerning me; for I was sorrowful as to thy death, lest thou shouldst go sooner than I.” “Heaven reward thy care for me,” said he, “but until Heaven take me I shall not easily be slain.” “For the sake of Heaven, and for mine, show me how thou mightest be slain. My memory in guarding is better than thine.” “I will tell thee gladly,” said he. “Not easily can I be slain, except by a wound. And the spear wherewith I am struck must be a year in the forming. And nothing must be done towards it except during the sacrifice on Sundays.” “Is this certain?” asked she. “It is in truth,” he answered. “And I cannot be slain within a house, nor without. I cannot be slain on horseback nor on foot.” “Verily,” said she, “in what manner then canst thou be slain?” “I will tell thee,” said he. “By making a bath for me by the side of a river, and by putting a roof over the cauldron, and thatching it well and tightly, and bringing a buck, and putting it beside the cauldron. Then if I place one foot on the buck’s back, and the other on the edge of the cauldron, whosoever strikes me thus will cause my death.” “Well,” said she, “I thank Heaven that it will be easy to avoid this.”
No sooner had she held this discourse than she sent to Gronw Pebyr. Gronw toiled at making the spear, and that day twelvemonth it was ready. And that very day he caused her to be informed thereof.
“Lord,” said Blodeuwedd unto Llew, “I have been thinking how it is possible that what thou didst tell me formerly can be true; wilt thou show me in what manner thou couldst stand at once upon the edge of a cauldron and upon a buck, if I prepare the bath for thee?” “I will show thee,” said he.
Then she sent unto Gronw, and bade him be in ambush on the hill which is now called Bryn Kyvergyr, on the bank of the river Cynvael. She caused also to be collected all the goats that were in the Cantrev, and had them brought to the other side of the river, opposite Bryn Kyvergyr.
And the next day she spoke thus. “Lord,” said she, “I have caused the roof and the bath to be prepared, and lo! they are ready.” “Well,” said Llew, “we will go gladly to look at them.”
The day after they came and looked at the bath. “Wilt thou go into the bath, lord?” said she. “Willingly will I go in,” he answered. So into the bath he went, and he anointed himself. “Lord,” said she, “behold the animals which thou didst speak of as being called bucks.” “Well,” said he, “cause one of them to be caught and brought here.” And the buck was brought. Then Llew rose out of the bath, and put on his trowsers, and he placed one foot on the edge of the bath and the other on the buck’s back.
Thereupon Gronw rose up from the bill which is called Bryn Kyvergyr, and he rested on one knee, and flung the poisoned dart and struck him on the side, so that the shaft started out, but the head of the dart remained in. Then he flew up in the form of an eagle and gave a fearful scream. And thenceforth was he no more seen.
As soon as he departed Gronw and Blodeuwedd went together unto the palace that night. And the next day Gronw arose and took possession of Ardudwy. And after he had overcome the land, he ruled over it, so that Ardudwy and Penllyn were both under his sway.
Then these tidings reached Math the son of Mathonwy. And heaviness and grief came upon Math, and much more upon Gwydion than upon him. “Lord,” said Gwydion, “I shall never rest until I have tidings of my nephew.” “Verily,” said Math, “may Heaven be thy strength.” Then Gwydion set forth and began to go forward. And he went through Gwynedd and Powys to the confines. And when he had done so, he went into Arvon, and came to the house of a vassal, in Maenawr Penardd. And he alighted at the house, and stayed there that night. The man of the house and his house-hold came in, and last of all came there the swineherd. Said the man of the house to the swineherd, “Well, youth, hath thy sow come in to-night?” “She hath,” said he, “and is this instant returned to the pigs.” “Where doth this sow go to?” said Gwydion. “Every day, when the sty is opened, she goeth forth and none can catch sight of her, neither is it known whither she goeth more than if she sank into the earth.” “Wilt thou grant unto me,” said Gwydion, “not to open the sty until I am beside the sty with thee?” “This will I do, right gladly,” he answered.
That night they went to rest; and as soon as the swineherd saw the light of day, he awoke Gwydion. And Gwydion arose and dressed himself, and went with the swineherd, and stood beside the sty. Then the swineherd opened the sty. And as soon as he opened it, behold she leaped forth, and set off with great speed. And Gwydion followed her, and she went against the course of a river, and made for a brook, which is now called Nant y Llew. And there she halted and began feeding. And Gwydion came under the tree, and looked what it might be that the sow was feeding on. And he saw that she was eating putrid flesh and vermin. Then looked he up to the top of the tree, and as he looked he beheld on the top of the tree an eagle, and when the eagle shook itself, there fell vermin and putrid flesh from off it, and these the sow devoured. And it seemed to him that the eagle was Llew. And he sang an Englyn:—
“Oak that grows between the two banks;
Darkened is the sky and hill!
Shall I not tell him by his wounds,
That this is Llew?”
Upon this the eagle came down until he reached the centre of the tree. And Gwydion sang another Englyn:—
“Oak that grows in upland ground,
Is it not wetted by the rain? Has it not been drenched
By nine score tempests?
It bears in its branches Llew Llaw Gyffes!”
Then the eagle came down until he was on the lowest branch of the tree, and thereupon this Englyn did Gwydion sing:—
“Oak that grows beneath the steep;
Stately and majestic is its aspect!
Shall I not speak it?
That Llew will come to my lap?”
And the eagle came down upon Gwydion’s knee. And Gwydion struck him with his magic wand, so that he returned to his own form. No one ever saw a more piteous sight, for he was nothing but skin and bone.
Then he went unto Caer Dathyl, and there were brought unto him good physicians that were in Gwynedd, and before the end of the year he was quite healed.
“Lord,” said he unto Math the son of Mathonwy, “it is full time now that I have retribution of him by whom I have suffered all this woe.” “Truly,” said Math, “he will never be able to maintain himself in the possession of that which is thy right.” “Well,” said Llew, “the sooner I have my right, the better shall I be pleased.”
Then they called together the whole of Gwynedd, and set forth to Ardudwy. And Gwydion went on before and proceeded to Mur y Castell. And when Blodeuwedd heard that he was coming, she took her maidens with her, and fled to the mountain. And they passed through the river Cynvael, and went towards a court that there was upon the mountain, and through fear they could not proceed except with their faces looking backwards, so that unawares they fell into the lake. And they were all drowned except Blodeuwedd herself, and her Gwydion overtook. And he said unto her, “I will not slay thee, but I will do unto thee worse than that. For I will turn thee into a bird; and because of the shame thou hast done unto Llew Llaw Gyffes, thou shalt never show thy face in the light of day henceforth; and that through fear of all the other birds. For it shall be their nature to attack thee, and to chase thee from wheresoever they may find thee. And thou shalt not lose thy name, but shalt be always called Blodeuwedd.” Now Blodeuwedd is an owl in the language of this present time, and for this reason is the owl hateful unto all birds. And even now the owl is called Blodeuwedd.
Then Gronw Pebyr withdrew unto Penllyn, and he dispatched thence an embassy. And the messengers he sent asked Llew Llaw Gyffes if he would take land, or domain, or gold, or silver, for the injury he had received. “I will not, by my confession to Heaven,” said he. “Behold this is the least that I will accept from him; that he come to the spot where I was when he wounded me with the dart, and that I stand where he did, and that with a dart I take my aim at him. And this is the very least that I will accept.”
And this was told unto Gronw Pebyr. “Verily,” said he, “is it needful for me to do thus? My faithful warriors, and my household, and my foster-brothers, is there not one among you who will stand the blow in my stead?” “There is not, verily,” answered they. And because of their refusal to suffer one stroke for their lord, they are called the third disloyal tribe even unto this day. “Well,” said he, “I will meet it.”
Then they two went forth to the banks of the river Cynvael, and Gronw stood in the place where Llew Llaw Gyffes was when he struck him, and Llew in the place where Gronw was. Then said Gronw Pebyr unto Llew, “Since it was through the wiles of a woman that I did unto thee as I have done, I adjure thee by Heaven to let me place between me and the blow, the slab thou seest yonder on the river’s bank.” “Verily,” said Llew, “I will not refuse thee this.” “Ah,” said he, “may Heaven reward thee.” So Gronw took the slab and placed it between him and the blow.
Then Llew flung the dart at him, and it pierced the slab and went through Gronw likewise, so that it pierced through his back. And thus was Gronw Pebyr slain. And there is still the slab on the bank of the river Cynvael, in Ardudwy, having the hole through it. And therefore is it even now called Llech Gronw.
A second time did Llew Llaw Gyffes take possession of the land, and prosperously did he govern it. And, as the story relates, he was lord after this over Gwynedd. And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogi.
Guest, Charlotte. The Mabinogion. Project Gutenberg, licensed under no known copyright.