Second Edition, Copyright © 2009 and 2016 by by James Hampton Belton
This is a modern English adaptation of the four branches of the Mabinogion. It is based on the English translation by Lady Charlotte Guest, which is in the public domain. This version is copyrighted, and all rights are reserved.
Pwyll, Prince of Dyved
Pwyll, Prince of Dyved, was lord of the seven Cantrevs of Dyved. Once, when he was at Narberth, his chief palace, he decided to go hunting. The part of his dominions in which he liked to hunt was Glyn Cuch. Setting forth from Narbeth, he went as far as Llwyn Diarwyd. He stayed there for the night and, early the next day, rose and went on to Glyn Cuch. He let his dogs loose in the wood, sounded his horn, and began the chase.
As he followed the dogs, he lost his companions. As he listened to his hounds, he heard the cries of other hounds, not his own, coming in the opposite direction. He came to a level glade in the woods and, as his dogs reached the edge of it, saw a stag running from the other dogs. As it reached the middle of the glade, the dogs that followed the stag overtook it and brought it down. Of all the hounds that he had ever seen, none were like these. Their hair was brilliant shining white, their ears were red, and as the whiteness of their bodies shone, so the redness of their ears glistened. He rode towards the dogs that had brought down the stag, drove them away and set his own dogs upon it.
As Pwyll was setting his dogs on the stag, a horseman approached upon a large light gray steed. He had a hunting horn round his neck, and wore hunting garments of gray wool. The man drew near and spoke.
“Chieftain,” he said, “I know who you are, but I will not greet you.”
“Perhaps,” said Pwyll, “you are too dignified to do so.”
“It is not my dignity that prevents me,” the other answered.
“What is it then, Chieftain?” asked Pwyll.
“It is your ignorance and discourtesy,” the man replied.
“What discourtesy have I done you?” asked Pwyll.
“I never saw a greater discourtesy than to drive away my dogs when they were killing the stag and to set your own upon it,” he said. “Though I will not take revenge upon you, I will do you more dishonor than the value of a hundred stags.”
“Chieftain,” Pwyll replied, “if I have done wrong, I wish to redeem your friendship.”
“How will you redeem it?” the man asked.
“That depends on your station. May I know who you are?”
“I am a crowned king in the land I come from.”
“From Annwvyn,” answered the other, “I am Arawn, a King of Annwvyn.”
“Lord,” said Pwyll, “how may I gain your friendship?”
“The man whose dominions are opposite mine is always at war with me. He is Havgan, also a King of Annwvyn,” said Arawn. “By ridding me of his oppression, which you can easily do, you will gain my friendship.”
“I would be glad to do this,” said Pwyll. “Tell me how I can.”
“I will tell you,” said Arawn. “I will make firm friendship with you, send you to Annwvyn in my place, give you the fairest lady you have ever seen as your companion, and give you my form and appearance. Not a page of the chamber, an officer, nor any of the men who have always followed me shall know that you are not me. You shall stay for a year from tomorrow, and then we will meet again in this place.”
“Yes,” said Pwyll, “but how shall I find the enemy of whom you spoke?”
“One year from this night,” said Arawn, “is the time we have agreed to meet at the ford. Be there in my likeness, strike him once, and he shall die. If he asks you strike him again, do not, no matter how much he begs you, for when I did so, he fought with me next day as well as ever before.”
“What shall I do concerning my own kingdom?” asked Pwyll.
“I will make it so that no one in all your dominions, neither man nor woman, shall know that I am not you, and I will go there in your place,” said Arawn.
“Gladly then,” said Pwyll, “I will set forward.”
“You path will be clear, and nothing will detain you, until you come into my dominions,” said Arawn. “I myself will be your guide!”
Arawn led Pwyll until they came in sight of Arawn’s palace and its dwellings.
“Here,” said Arawn, “are the court and the kingdom I put in your power. Enter the court. No one there will know you. Watch what is done there, you will learn the customs of the court.”
So Pwyll went to the court and he saw bedrooms, halls, chambers, and the most beautiful buildings he had ever seen. He went into the hall and pages came and removed his armour, and each saluted him as they entered. Two knights came and took his hunting clothes from him, and dressed him in a robe of silk and gold. The hall was prepared, and he saw the household and the host enter, and the host was the most handsome and the best equipped that he had ever seen. The Queen came with them, and was the fairest woman that he had ever seen. She had on a yellow robe of shining satin. They washed, went to the table, and sat, the Queen on one side of him, and one who seemed to be an Earl on the other side.
He began to speak with the Queen, and he thought, from her speech, that she was the most attractive and noble lady in conversation and cheer that ever was. And they shared meat and drink, songs and feasting. Of all the courts upon the earth, this was the best supplied with food and drink, vessels of gold, and royal jewels.
He spent the year hunting, feasting, and enjoying minstrelsy, diversions, and conversation with his companions until the night that was fixed for the conflict. When that night came, even those who lived in the furthest part of his dominions remembered it. He went to the meeting place and the nobles of the kingdom went with him. When he came to the ford, a knight arose.
“Lords, listen well.” he said, “This meeting is between two kings, and between them only. Each claims the other’s land and territory. Stand aside and let them meet in single combat.”
The two kings approached each other in the middle of the Ford, and fought. At the first thrust, Pwyll struck Havgan on the center of the boss of his shield, so that it was split in two, and the king’s armor was broken. Havgan himself was thrown to the ground, an arm’s and a spear’s length over the crupper of his horse, and had received a fatal blow.
“O Chieftain,” said Havgan, “what right do you have to cause my death? I have not done you any harm, and I do not know why you would kill me. For the love of Heaven, since you have fatally wounded me, complete your work.”
“Chieftain,” replied Pwyll, “I may yet regret doing this to you, but say what you may, I will not do more.”
“My trusty Lords,” said Havgan, “bear me away. My death has come. I shall be no longer be able to support you.”
“My Nobles,” said Pwyll, “take counsel and tell me who ought to be my subjects.”
“Lord,” said the Nobles, “all should be, for now there is no king in all of Annwvyn but you.”
“It is right that those who come humbly should be received graciously,” said Pwyll. “But those that do not come obediently shall be compelled to by the sword.”
After he received the fealty of Havgan’s men, he began to conquer their country. The next day, by noon, both kingdoms were in his power. Then he went to meet Arawn, and came to Glyn Cuch. When he arrived, the King of Annwvyn was there to meet him, and they rejoiced to see each other.
“May Heaven reward you for your friendship towards me,” said Arawn. “I have heard what you have done. When you come to your own dominions, you will see what I have done for you.”
“Whatever you have done for me, may Heaven repay you for it,” said Pwyll.
Then Arawn gave Pwyll Prince of Dyved his proper form and appearance, and he resumed his own. Arawn set forth towards the Court of Annwvyn. He rejoiced when he beheld his host, and his household, whom he had not seen in so long. But they had not known of his absence, and wondered no more at his coming than usual. That day was spent in joy and merriment, and he sat and conversed with his wife and his nobles. When it was time for them to sleep rather than to drink, they went to bed.
Pwyll Prince of Dyved came to his own country and dominions, and began to inquire of the nobles of the land how his rule had been during the past year, compared with how it had been before.
“Lord,” they said, “your wisdom was never as great, and you were never as kind or as free in giving gifts, and your justice was never more honorable than in this year.”
“By Heaven,” he said, “for all the good you have enjoyed, you should thank the one who has been with you, for this is how the matter has been.”
Then Pwyll told them the whole story.
“Lord,” said they, “thank Heaven that you have such a fellowship, and do not withhold from us the rule which we have enjoyed for this past year.”
“I take Heaven to witness that I will not withhold it,” answered Pwyll.
Arwan and Pwyll strengthened their friendship, and each sent the other horses, greyhounds, hawks, and such jewels as he thought would please his friend. And because he had dwelt that year in Annwvyn, ruled there so prosperously, and united the two kingdoms in one day by his valour and prowess, Pwyll lost the name Pwyll Prince of Dyved, and was called Pwyll Chief of Annwvyn from that time forward.
One day, Pwyll was at Narberth, his chief palace, where a feast had been prepared for him, and a great host of men were with him. After breakfast, Pwyll got up to walk, and he went to the top of a mound above the palace that was called the Gorsedd of Arberth.
“Lord,” said one of his courtiers, “whoever sits upon this mound will not leave without either receiving wounds or blows, or else seeing a wonder.”
“I don’t fear wounds and blows in the midst of such a host as this, but as to the wonder, I would gladly see one,” said Pwyll. “I will therefore go and sit upon the mound.”
He sat upon the mound. While he sat there, he saw a lady in a shining gold garment riding a large, pure white horse, along the highway that led toward the mound. The horse seemed to move at a slow and even pace as it came toward them.
“Men,” said Pwyll, “do any of you know this lady?”
“We do not, Lord,” they said.
“One of you go and meet her, so that we may know who she is,” he said.
One of them rose but, as he came onto the road to meet her, she passed by. He followed as fast as he could on foot, but the faster he went, the further she was from him. When he saw that he couldn’t catch her, he returned to Pwyll.
“Lord, it is a waste of time for anyone in the world to follow her on foot,” he said.
“Go to the palace, take the fleetest horse that you find, and go after her,” said Pwyll.
The man took a horse and set off after her. He came to an open level plain, and put the spurs to his horse, but the more he urged his horse, the further she was from him. Yet she held the same pace she had at first. His horse began to tire; and when his horse’s feet failed him, the man returned to Pwyll.
“Lord,” said he, “it won’t help for any one to follow that lady. I know of no horse in the realm swifter than this, and it didn’t help me to catch her.”
“There must be some illusion here,” said Pwyll, “Let us return to the palace.”
They went to the palace and spent the rest of the day there. The next day they arose, and stayed there until it was time for breakfast.
“The same group as yesterday will go to the top of the mound,” said Pwyll after they’d eaten. “And you,” he said to one of his young men, “take the swiftest horse that you know to the field.”
The young man fetched the horse and they went to the mound, taking the horse with them. As they were sitting down, they saw the lady, wearing the same clothes and on the same horse, coming along the road.
“There is the lady we saw yesterday.” said Pwyll, “Make ready, young man, to learn who she is.”
“My lord,” said the youth, “that will I gladly do.”
The lady came towards them. The youth mounted his horse; but before he had settled himself in his saddle, she had passed by and there was a clear space between them. Her speed was no greater than it had been the day before. Then the youth put his horse into an amble, and thought that despite the gentle pace at which his horse went, he should soon overtake her. But this didn’t help him; so he gave his horse the reins, and still he came no nearer to her than when he went at a walk. The more he urged his horse, the further she got from him, yet she rode no faster than before. When he saw that it did not help to follow her, he returned to Pwyll.
“Lord,” he said, “the horse can do no more than you have seen.”
“I see that no one can catch her,” said Pwyll. “She must have an errand to some one on this plain, if her haste would allow her to tell of it. Let us go back to the palace.”
To the palace they went, and they spent that night in songs and feasting, as it pleased them. The next day, they amused themselves until it was time to go to eat.
“Where are the hosts that went yesterday and the day before to the top of the mound?” asked Pwyll when they were done. “Let us go to the mound and sit there.”
He turned to the page who tended his horse and said “Saddle my horse well, hasten with him to the road, and bring my spurs with you.”
The youth did so and they went and sat upon the mound. Before they had been there long, they saw the lady coming by the same road, in the same manner, and at the same pace.
“Young man, I see the lady coming.” said Pwyll, “Give me my horse.”
No sooner had he mounted his horse than she passed him. He turned and followed her. Letting his horse bound playfully, he thought that at the second step or the third he would catch up with her. But he came no nearer to her. Then he urged his horse to his utmost speed, yet he found that it didn’t help to follow her.
“Oh maiden, for the sake of him who you love best, wait for me,” said Pwyll.
“I will wait gladly,” she said, “It would have been better for your horse if you had asked me long ago.”
The maiden stopped, and she threw back the veil that covered her face. She looked at him, waited for him to speak.
“Lady, where do you come from, and where are you going?” he asked.
“I journey on my own errand, but I’m very happy to see you,” said she.
“I greet you, then,” said he.
He thought that of all the maidens and all the ladies that he had ever seen, none compared to her in beauty.
“Lady, will you tell me anything of your purpose?” he asked.
“I will tell you,” she said, “I came to find you.”
“To me, this is the most pleasing quest on which you could have come,” said Pwyll. “Will you tell me who you are?”
“I am Rhiannon, the daughter of Heveydd Hên,” she replied. “He sought to give me to a husband against my will. I will take no other man as husband because of my love for you, unless you reject me. I have come here for your answer.”
“If I could choose among all the ladies and damsels in the world, I would choose you,” answered Pwyll.
“If that is true, promise to meet me before I am given to another,” said Rhiannon.
“The sooner I do, the more pleased I will be,” said Pwyll. “I will meet with you wherever you wish.”
“I want you to meet me on this exact day next year at the palace of my father, Heveydd,” she said. “I will have a feast ready when you come.”
“I will keep this tryst gladly,” he said.
“Lord, stay healthy and be sure that you keep your promise,” she said. “Now I must go.”
So they parted, and he went back to his host and his household. No matter what they asked him about the damsel, he always changed the subject. When a year had passed, he had a hundred knights equip themselves and go with him to the palace of Heveydd Hên. He came to the palace, and there was large gathering of people and great rejoicing. Vast preparations had been made for his coming. The whole court was placed under his orders.
The hall was decorated and they entered to eat. Heveydd Hên sat on one side of Pwyll, and Rhiannon on the other, and all the rest according to their rank. They ate, feasted, and talked with one another. As they began of the drinking after they had eaten, a tall auburn haired youth of royal bearing, clothed in satin, entered. As he came into the hall, he saluted Pwyll and his companions.
“The greeting of Heaven to you, my friend,” said Pwyll. “Come and sit down.”
“No,” said the youth, “I am a suitor, and I will do what I’ve come to do.”
“Then do so.” said Pwyll.
“Lord,” said the youth, “my errand is to you, and it is to ask a favour of you that I’ve come.”
“Whatever favour you ask of me, I will grant if I am able,” said Pwyll.
“Ah,” said Rhiannon, “why did you give that answer?”
“Has he not given it in the presence of these nobles?” asked the youth.
“My friend,” said Pwyll, “what is the favour you ask?”
“The lady whom I love best is to be your bride tonight, and I’ve come to ask you for her, along with the feast and the banquet.”
Pwyll was silent because of the answer he had given.
“Be silent as long as you want,” said Rhiannon. “A man never made worse use of his wits than you have done.”
“Lady,” said Pwyll, “I did not know who he was.”
“This is the man to whom my father would have given me against my will,” she said. “He is Gwawl, son of Clud, a man of great power and wealth. Because of the promise you have made, give me to him, or shame will befall you.”
“Lady,” said Pwyll, “I don’t understand you. I cannot do what you suggest.”
“Give me to him,” she said, “and I will make sure that I shall never be his.”
“How will you do that?” asked Pwyll.
“I’ll give you a small bag,” said she. “See that you keep it safe, and let him ask you for the banquet, the feast, and the preparations, which are not yours to give. I will give them to the hosts and the household. And this will be your answer respecting this. As for myself, I will engage to become his bride one year from tonight. At the end of the year, be here, and bring this bag with you, and leave your hundred knights in the orchard up over there. When he is in the middle of drinking and feasting, come in by yourself, clad in ragged garments, and holding the bag in your hand, and ask for nothing but a bagful of food. I will make sure that if all the meat and liquor in these seven Cantrevs were put into it, it would be no fuller than before. After a great deal has been put in, he will ask you whether your bag will ever be full. Say that it will never be full until a man of noble birth and great wealth treads on the food in the bag with both feet, saying “enough has been put in.” I will make him go and tread down the food in the bag, and when he does, pull the bag up over his head and tie the thongs in a knot. Make sure you have a good bugle about your neck, and as soon as you have bound him in the bag, blow your horn and signal your knights. When they hear the sound of the horn, let them come down upon the palace.”
“Lord,” said Gwawl, “it is only fitting that I have an answer to my request.”
“As much of what you’ve asked as it is in my power to give, you will have,” replied Pwyll.
“As for the feast and the banquet, I have given them to the men of Dyved, the household, and the warriors that are with us,” said Rhiannon to Gwawl. “I cannot allow them to be given to anyone else. A year from tonight, a banquet shall be prepared for you in this palace, and I will become your bride.”
So Gwawl went back to his lands, and Pwyll went back to Dyved. They both waited all year until it was time for the feast at the palace of Heveydd Hên. Then Gwawl, son of Clud, set out for the feast that was prepared for him, came to the palace, and was received there with rejoicing.
Pwyll, the Chief of Annwvyn, came to the orchard with his hundred knights, as Rhiannon had commanded him, and brought the bag with him. He was clad in coarse and ragged garments, and wore large clumsy old shoes upon his feet. When he knew that the drinking after the meal had begun, he went into the hall and saluted Gwawl the son of Clud and his company, both men and women.
“Heaven give you prosperity,” said Gwawl, “and the greeting of Heaven to you.”
“Lord, may Heaven reward you,” said Pwyll. “I have a request to make of you.”
“I welcome your request, and if what you ask of me is just, you will have it gladly.” Said Gwawl.
“That is fitting,” answered Pwyll. “I want only what I need, and the favour that I ask is to have this small bag filled with meat.”
“That is a reasonable request and I’ll gladly grant it,” said Gwawl. “Bring him food.”
A great number of attendants arose and began to fill the bag, but no matter how much they put into it, it was no fuller than at first.
“My friend,” said Gwawl, “will your bag ever be full?”
“It will not, no matter how much is put into it, unless one who owns lands, domains, and treasure, treads the food in the bag down with his feet, and says, ‘enough has been put in.’” said Pwyll.
“Rise up quickly and do so,” said Rhiannon to Gwawl.
“I will,” he said.
He got up and stepped into the bag. Pwyll pulled the sides of the bag up over Gwawl’s head. He closed the bag quickly, knotted the thongs, and blew his horn. His household came down upon the palace, seized all who had come with Gwawl, and cast them into prison. Pwyll threw off his rags, and his old shoes, and his tattered clothes. As they came back in, each of Pwyll’s knights struck the bag a blow and asked “What’s in here?”
“A badger,” answered the rest.
Each of them struck the bag, either with his foot or with a staff. Every one as he came in asked, “What game are you playing at?”
“The game of Badger in the Bag,” said the ones who were already there.
And so the game of Badger in the Bag was first played.
“Lord, I do not deserve to be slain in a bag,” cried the man in the bag.
“Lord, he speaks truth,” said Heveydd Hên. “It is fitting that you listen to him, for he doesn’t deserve this.”
“I will do as you suggest concerning him,” said Pwyll.
“This is my counsel,” said Rhiannon. “You are now obliged to satisfy suitors and minstrels. Let Gwawl give to them instead, and ask for his word that he will never seek revenge for what you have done to him. This will be punishment enough.”
“I will do this gladly,” said the man in the bag.
“Then I gladly accept,” said Pwyll, “since it is the counsel of Heveydd and Rhiannon. But I seek your guaranties.”
“I will vouch for him until his men are free to answer for him,” said Heveydd.
And upon this, Gwawl was let out of the bag, and his liegemen were freed.
“Now demand guaranties from Gwawl,” said Heveydd. “We know which should be asked of him.”
Heveydd listed the sureties.
“You yourself draw up the covenant,” said Gwawl.
“It is sufficient to me that it be as Rhiannon said,” answered Pwyll.
Gwawl gave his word to keep that covenant.
“Lord, I am greatly hurt, and have many bruises,” said Gwawl. “I need to be anointed. With your leave, I will go forth. I will leave nobles in my place, to answer all that you require from me.”
“You may do this,” said Pwyll.”
So Gwawl left and returned to his own lands.
The hall was put in order for Pwyll and the men of his host, and for the men of the palace, and they went to the tables and sat down. They sat just as they had sat a year before. They ate, feasted, and spent the night in mirth and tranquillity. The time came to sleep, and Pwyll and Rhiannon went to their chamber.
“My Lord,” said Rhiannon the next morning at the break of day, “arise and give your gifts to the minstrels. Refuse no one today that asks for your generosity.”
“I’ll do it gladly,” said Pwyll, “today and every day the feast lasts.”
He rose, called for silence, and asked all the suitors and minstrels to point out what gifts they desired. When this was done, the feast went on, and he denied no one while it lasted. When the feast ended, Pwyll said to Heveydd, “My Lord, with your permission, I will set out for Dyved tomorrow.”
“Certainly,” said Heveydd, “and set a time when Rhiannon should follow you.”
“We will go there together,” said Pwyll
“You want this, Lord?” said Heveydd.
“Yes, by Heaven,” answered Pwyll.
The next day, they set forth for Dyved and journeyed to the palace of Narberth, where a feast was made ready for them. Large numbers of the chief men and the most noble ladies of the land came to visit them there, and to each of these Rhiannon gave a rich gift, either a bracelet, a ring, or a precious stone.
They ruled the land prosperously both that year and the next. In the third year the nobles of the land began to be worry that the man whom they loved so much, and who was moreover their lord and their foster brother, was without an heir. They came to meet him at Preseleu, in Dyved.
“Lord,” they said, “You are no longer as young as some of the men of this country, and we fear that the wife who you have taken may not give you an heir. Take another wife with whom you may father heirs. You won’t always be with us, and though you desire to remain our king, we will not suffer you in old age.”
“We have not been together long, and many things may yet happen,” said Pwyll, “Grant me the space of a year, and after that, if Rhiannon is without child, I will do as you wish.”
They agreed, and before the end of the year a son was born to him. The boy was born in Narberth. On the night that he was born, six women were brought into Rhiannon’s chamber to watch the mother and the boy. The women watched for a good portion of the night, but before midnight every one of them fell asleep, as did Rhiannon. Towards daybreak they awoke, and looked where they had left the boy, and he was not there.
“Is the boy lost?” said one of the women
“Yes,” said another, “and we will be lucky if we are burnt or put to death because of it.”
“What shall we do?” said the first woman.
“I offer you good counsel.” answered another. “There is a stag hound in the palace, and she has a litter of pups. Let us kill some of the pups, and rub the blood on the face and hands of Rhiannon, and lay the bones before her, and say that she has devoured her son, and she alone will not be able to gainsay us six.”
They all agreed to this. Towards morning Rhiannon awoke.
“Women,” she said, “where is my son?”
“Lady, don’t ask us about your son,” they said. “We have nothing but the blows and the bruises we got by struggling with you, and we never saw any woman as violent as you, and could not contend with you. You devoured your own son, so don’t ask us for him.”
“For pity’s sake; the Lord God knows all things,” said Rhiannon. “Do not charge me falsely. If you tell me this from fear, I assure you before Heaven that I will defend you.”
“We would not bring evil on ourselves for any one in the world,” they said.
“For pity’s sake,” said Rhiannon, “you will receive no evil by telling the truth.”
But despite all her words, whether fair or harsh, she received the same answer from the women.
Then Pwyll the chief of Annwvyn arose, and his household, and his host. The loss of the boy could not be concealed, and the story spread throughout the land, and all the nobles heard it. They came to Pwyll, and demanded that he send away his wife because of the great crime that she had committed. Pwyll answered that they had no reason to ask him to send away his wife, save for her having no children.
“But she has had a child now, so I will not send her away,” he said. “If she has done wrong, let her atone for it.”
Rhiannon chose to be punished rather than contend with the women, so she sent for teachers and wise men, and took their penance upon her. The penalty imposed was that she should remain in the palace of Narberth for seven years, and sit every day near a horse block outside the gate. She had to relate the story to all who came who she did not to already know, and offer to carry guests and strangers upon her back into the palace, if they would permit her. It rarely happened that any would allow her to, and so she spent part of the year.
At that time, Teirnyon Twryv Vliant was Lord of Gwent Is Coed, and he was the best man in the world. He owned a mare, and no horse in the kingdom was more beautiful. Every night o the first of May she bore a foal, but no one knew what happened to them. One year, Teirnyon spoke with his wife.
“Wife,” he said, “it is very stupid of us to let our mare foal every year, and then have none of her colts.”
“What can we do?” she asked.
“This is the night of the first of May. May heaven take vengeance upon me if I don’t learn what it is that takes away the colts,” he said.
He had the mare brought into a house, armed himself, and began to watch. Early that night, the mare foaled a large and beautiful colt, which stood up. Teirnyon rose and sized up the colt, and as he did so he heard a great tumult, and when the noise had died down, a clawed arm came through the window into the house, and seized the colt by the mane. Teirnyon drew his sword and struck off the arm at the elbow, so that the forearm and the colt fell into the house. Then he heard a tumult and wailing. He opened the door, and rushed out in the direction of the noise, but he could not see what caused it in the darkness, though he rushed after it. Then he remembered that he had left the door open, and returned.
At the door there was an infant boy in swaddling clothes, wrapped in a mantle of satin. Teirnyon took up the boy, who was very strong for his age. He shut the door, and went into the chamber where his wife was.
“My lady,” he said, “are you sleeping?”
“No, lord,” she said, “I was asleep, but when you came in I awoke.”
“Here is a son for you if you wish,” he said, “since you have never had a child.”
“My lord,” said she, “where did he come from?”
“It was like this,” said Teirnyon; and he told her all that had happened.
“What sort of clothes are these on the boy?” she asked.
“A mantle of satin,” he said.
“Then he is of noble lineage,” she replied. “My lord, if you agree, I shall have great fun. I will call my women to me, and tell them that I have been pregnant.”
“I will happily let you do this,” he answered.
And so they did, and they had the boy baptized. The ceremony was performed in Gwent; and they named him Gwri Wallt Euryn, because the hair was on his head was as yellow as gold. They had the boy nursed in the court until he was a year old. Before the year was up he could walk steadily and was larger than a boy of three, even one of great size. The boy was nursed for a second year, after which he was as large as a six-year-old. By his fourth year, he would bribe the grooms to allow him to take the horses to water.
“My lord,” Teirnyon’s wife said, “where is the colt which you saved on the night that you found Gwri?”
“I have commanded the grooms to take care of him,” he said.
“Wouldn’t it be good, lord,” said she, “if you had him broken and given to the boy, seeing that on the same night that you found him, the colt was foaled and you saved him too?”
“I am not against this,” said Teirnyon. “I will let you give him the colt.”
“Lord,” said she, “may Heaven reward you. I will give it to him.”
So the horse was given to the boy. The lady went to the grooms who tended the horses, and commanded them to care for the horse, and to have him broken by the time the boy could ride him.
While these things were happening, they heard of Rhiannon and her punishment. Teirnyon Twryv Vliant, because of the pity that he felt on hearing this story of Rhiannon and her punishment, inquired closely concerning it, until he had heard it from many of those who came to his court. Then Teirnyon, lamenting the sad history, began to think about it. He looked at the boy a long time, and as he looked upon him, it seemed to him that he had never seen as great a likeness between father and son as there was between the Gwri and Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn. Pwyll was well known to him, for long ago, he had been one of Pwyll’s followers. He became saddened by the wrong he was doing, keeping a boy who he knew to be the son of another man. When he was alone with his wife, he told her that it was not right that they keep Gwri and allow so excellent a lady as Rhiannon to be punished so greatly on his account, because the boy was the son of Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn. Teirnyon’s wife agreed that they should send the boy to Pwyll.
“We shall gain three things by this, lord,” she said. “Thanks and gifts for releasing Rhiannon from her punishment; thanks from Pwyll for nursing his son and restoring him to him; and third, if the boy is of gentle nature, he will be our foster son, and will do us all the good in his power.”
The next day, Teirnyon armed himself, taking two other knights with him, and the boy as the fourth in their company on the horse that Teirnyon had given him. They journeyed to Narberth, and soon reached it. As they drew near the palace, they saw Rhiannon sitting beside the horseblock and went up to her.
“Chieftain,” said she, “go no further. I will bear each of you into the palace. This is my punishment for killing my own son and devouring him.”
“Oh, fair lady,” said Teirnyon, “I will not be carried upon your back.”
“Neither will I,” said Gwri.
They went into the palace, and there was great joy at their coming. A feast had been prepared, because Pywll had returned from the borders of Dyved. They went into the hall and washed, and Pwyll rejoiced to see Teirnyon. Teirnyon sat between Pwyll and Rhiannon, with his two companions on the other side of Pwyll, and Gwri between them. After they had eaten, they began to drink and talk. Teirnyon related the adventure of the mare and the boy, and how he and his wife had nursed and reared the child as their own.
“He is your son, lady,” said Teirnyon. “Whoever told that lie concerning you has done wrong. When I heard of your sorrow, I was troubled and grieved. I believe that no one in this host will not see that the boy is the son of Pwyll.”
“There is none,” the gathered men said, “who is not certain.”
“I declare to Heaven,” said Rhiannon, “that if this is true, there is indeed an end to my trouble.”
“Won’t his own name suit him better?” said Rhiannon.
“What is his name?” asked Pendaran Dyved.
“Gwri Wallt Euryn is the name that we gave him,” said Teirnyon.
“Pryderi,” said Pendaran, “shall be his name.”
“It is proper,” said Pwyll, “that the boy should take his name from the word his mother spoke when she received the joyful tidings of him. Teirnyon, heaven reward you for rearing the boy until now and, being of gentle lineage, it is fitting that he repay you for it.”
“My lord,” said Teirnyon, “it was my wife who nursed him, and there is no one in the world so saddened as she at parting with him. He should remember what my wife and I have done for him.”
“I call Heaven to witness,” said Pwyll, “that while I live I will support you and your possessions, as long as I am able to preserve my own. And when Pryderi takes power, he will maintain them better than I do. If it pleases you and my nobles, since you have reared him until now, I will give him to Pendaran Dyved to be brought up from now on. You shall be companions, and shall both be foster fathers to him.”
“This is good counsel,” they all agreed.
So the boy was given to Pendaran Dyved, and the nobles of the land were sent with him. Teirnyon Twryv Vliant and his companions, set out for his country, and his lands, with love and gladness. He had been offered the fairest jewels and horses, and the choicest dogs, but he would take none of them.
They all remained in their own dominions and Pryderi, the son of Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn, was brought up carefully and became the fairest youth, the most handsome, and the best skilled in games, of any in the kingdom. Many years passed, until finally Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn reached the end of his life, and he died.
After this, Pryderi ruled the seven Cantrevs of Dyved prosperously, and was beloved by his people, and by all around him. At length he added to them the three Cantrevs of Ystrad Tywi, and the four Cantrevs of Cardigan; and these were called the Seven Cantrevs of Seissyllwch. When he made this addition, Pryderi the son of Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn wanted to marry. He chose for a wife Kicva, the daughter of Gwynn Gohoyw, the son of Gloyw Wallt Lydan, the son of Prince Casnar, one of the nobles of the island.
Branwen, the Daughter of Llyr
Bendigeid Bran, the son of Llyr, was the crowned king of the island of Britain, and he was exalted by the crown of London. One afternoon, he was at Harlech in Ardudwy, at his Court, and he sat upon the rock of Harlech, looking out over the sea. With him were his brother Manawyddan, the son of Llyr, and his half brothers on his mother’s side, Nissyen and Evnissyen, and many other nobles as well, as was usual to see around a king. His two half brothers were the sons of Eurosswydd and his mother, Penardun, the daughter of Beli son of Manogan. Nissyen was good and gentle, and would make peace between his kindred, and cause his family to be friends when their wrath was at its highest. But Evnissyen would cause strife between his two brothers when they were most at peace. As they all sat there, they saw thirteen ships coming from the south of Ireland; they came toward them swiftly, the wind being behind them, and neared quickly.
“I see ships in the distance,” said the King, “coming swiftly towards the land. Command the men of the court to arm themselves, and go and learn the intent of our visitors.”
So the men equipped themselves and went down towards the shore. When they saw the ships approach, they were certain that they had never seen better furnished vessels. Beautiful flags of satin flew from their masts. 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. Then they put out boats that came towards the land, and drew near so that the men could converse, and they saluted the king. The king could hear them from where he was, upon the rock above their heads.
“Heaven make you prosper, and be welcome,” said Bran. “To whom do these ships belong, and who is chief among you?”
“Lord,” they said, “Matholwch, the King of Ireland, is here, and these ships belong to him.”
“Why has he come?’ asked King Bran, “and will he come ashore?”
“He comes as a suitor to you, lord,” said they, “and he will not land unless he has his wish.”
“And what may that be?” inquired the king.
“He wishes to ally himself with you, lord,” said they, “and to ask for the hand of Branwen, the daughter of Llyr, so that, if it seems good to you, the Island of the Mighty may be allied with Ireland, and both become more powerful.”
“Let him land, and we will discuss this,” said Bran.
This answer was brought to Matholwch.
“I will go willingly,” he said.
He landed, and they received him joyfully; and there was a great feast in the palace that night, between Matholwch’s host and those of the court. The next day they took counsel, and resolved to bestow Branwen upon Matholwch. She was one of the three chief ladies of the island, and was the fairest damsel in the world.
They fixed upon Aberffraw as the place where she should become his bride. They went forth, and the hosts proceeded towards Aberffraw. Matholwch and his host went in their ships, Bendigeid Bran and his host by land. At Aberffraw, they sat down and began the feast. The King of the Island of the Mighty and Manawyddan the son of Llyr sat on one side, and Matholwch on the other side, with Branwen the daughter of Llyr beside him. They were not inside a house, but under tents. No house could contain Bendigeid Bran. They began the banquet and drank and talked. When it was more pleasing to them to sleep than to drink, they went to bed, and that night Branwen became Matholwch’s bride.
The next day they arose, and all of the court and the officers began to arm and to arrange the horses and the attendants, and they arranged them in order as far as the sea. Evnissyen, Bran’s quarrelsome stepbrother, came by chance to the place where the horses of Matholwch were, and asked whose horses they were.
“They are the horses of Matholwch king of Ireland, who is married to Branwen, your sister,” said the squires.
“They have done this with a maiden such as she, who is moreover my sister, bestowing her without my consent? They could have offered no greater insult to me than this,” her said.
He rushed to the horses and cut off their lips at the teeth, 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 bone. He disfigured the horses and rendered them useless.
Matholwch squires came to him, and told him that the horses were disfigured, and injured so that not one of them could ever be of any use again.
“Truly, lord,” said one, “it was an insult to you, and was meant as such.”
“I marvel that, if they want to insult me, they should have given me a maiden of such high rank and so beloved by her kindred, as they have done.”
“Lord,” said another, “you see that it is so, and there is nothing for you to do but to go to your ships.”
Matholwch set out towards his ships. Tidings came to Bendigeid Bran that Matholwch was leaving the court without asking permission, and messengers were sent to inquire why he did so. The messengers were Iddic the son of Anarawd, and Heveydd Hir. They overtook Matholwch and asked him what he was doing, and why he had left.
“I have been altogether insulted; no one ever had worse treatment than I have had here,” said Matholwch. “If I had known I would not have come here. But one thing surprises me above all.”
“What is that?” asked the messengers.
“That Branwen the daughter of Llyr, one of the three chief ladies of this island, and the sister 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. I marvel that the insult was not done me before they had bestowed upon me a maiden so exalted as she is.”
“Truly, lord, it was not the will of any of the court,” they said, “nor of any of the council, that you should have received this insult. Since you have been insulted, the dishonour is greater to Bendigeid Bran than to you.”
“I agree,” said Matholwch. “Nevertheless he cannot recall the insult.”
The men returned to Bendigeid Bran, and they told him the reply Matholwch had given them.
“There are no means by which we may prevent his going away at enmity with us that we will not take,” said Bran.
“Well, lord,” said they, “send another embassy after him.”
“Arise, Manawyddan son of Llyr, and Heveydd Hir, and Unic Glew Ysgwyd, and go after him,” said Bran. “Tell him that he shall have a sound horse for every one that has been injured. As atonement for the insult, he shall have a staff of silver, as large and as tall as he is, and a plate of gold of the breadth of his face. Tell him who did this, and that it was done against my will, but that the one who did it is my half brother on my mother’s side, and therefore it would be hard for me to put him to death. Ask him to come and meet me, and we will make peace in any way he desires.”
The embassy went after Matholwch, and told him this in a friendly manner, and he listened to them.
“Men,” said he, “I will take counsel.”
In the council they considered that if they refused this, they were likely to have more shame rather than to obtain so great an atonement. They resolved to accept it, and returned to the court in peace.
The pavilions and the tents were set up in the fashion of a hall, and they went to eat, and sat just as they had sat at the beginning of the feast. Matholwch and Bendigeid Bran began to talk. It seemed to Bendigeid Bran, while they talked, that Matholwch was not as cheerful as he had been before. And he thought that the chieftain might be sad, because of the smallness of the atonement that he had been given for the wrong that had been done him.
“My friend,” said Bendigeid Bran, “you do not speak tonight as cheerfully as you did. If it is because of the meagerness of my atonement, you shall add to it whatever you choose, and tomorrow I will give you the horses.”
“Lord,” said Matholwch, “Heaven reward you.”
“I will enhance your compensation,” said Bendigeid Bran, “for I will give you a cauldron that has the following property: if one of your men is slain today, and cast into it, tomorrow he will be as well as ever he was at the best, except that he will not regain his speech.”
Matholwch gave him great thanks, and was very joyful at having been given the cauldron. The next morning, they gave Matholwch horses for as long as the trained horses lasted. They then journeyed into another commot, where they gave him colts until the whole number of horses that had been mutilated had been compensated for. From then on, that commot was called Talebolion.
A second night they sat together.
“My lord,” said Matholwch, “Where did you get the cauldron which you gave me?”
“I got it from a man who had been in your land,” said Bran, “and I would not give it except to one from there.”
“Who was it?” asked Matholwch.
“Llassar Llaesgyvnewid; he came here from Ireland with Kymideu Kymeinvoll, his wife. They escaped from the Iron House in Ireland, when it was made red hot around them, and fled here. I am suprised that you know nothing of the matter.”
“As much as I know, I will tell you,” said Matholwch. “One day I was hunting in Ireland, and I came to a mound at the head of a lake, called the Lake of the Cauldron. I beheld a huge yellow-haired man coming from the lake with a cauldron upon his back. He was vast and horrid looking, and a woman followed after him. And if the man was tall, the woman was twice as large, and they came towards me and greeted me. ‘Where are you journeying?’ I asked. ‘This,’ he said to me, ‘is the cause of our journey. At the end of a month and a fortnight this woman will have a son; and the child 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. They were with me for a year, and that year I had them with me not grudgingly. But after that, there was murmuring because 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. So my people rose up and asked me to part with them, and to choose between them and my dominions. I sought the council of my countrymen to know what should be done concerning them, for they would not go of their own free will, nor could they be compelled against their will, through fighting. The people of the country being in this strait, they caused a chamber to be made of iron. When the chamber was ready, every smith in Ireland came, and every one who owned tongs and hammer piled coals up as high as the top of the chamber. They had the man, woman, and children served with plenty of meat and drink. When they were all drunk, the smiths set fire to the coals about the chamber, and they blew on them with bellows until the house was red hot all around them. A council was held in the center of the floor of the chamber. The man waited until the plates of iron were 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. And then I suppose, lord,” said Matholwch to Bendigeid Bran, “that he came over to you.”
“Doubtless he came here,” said Bran, “and gave me the cauldron.”
“In what manner did you 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 live with men and arms, of the best that were ever seen.”
That night they continued to discourse as much as they would, and had minstrelry and carousing, and when it was more pleasant to them to sleep than to sit longer, they went to rest. The banquet carried on joyously; and when it was finished, Matholwch journeyed to Ireland, and Branwen with him. They left from Aber Menei with thirteen ships, and came to Ireland. In Ireland was there great joy because of their coming. Not one great man or noble lady visited Branwen to 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. She spent that year in much renown, and passed her time pleasantly, enjoying honour and friendship. Meanwhile it chanced that she became pregnant, and in due time a son was born to 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.
In the second year, a tumult arose in Ireland, due to the insult that Matholwch had received in Cambria, and the payment made to him for his horses. His foster-brothers and those who were nearest to him, blamed him openly for that matter. He might have no peace by reason of the tumult until they should avenge the disgrace upon him. In vengeance, they drove away Branwen from his chamber and made her cook for the Court. They made the butcher after he had cut up the meat to come to her and give her a blow on the ear every day.
“Lord,” said his men to Matholwch, “forbid ships, ferry boats and coracles from going to Cambria. If any come over from Cambria, imprison them so that they can’t go back for this to be known there.”
He did so; and so it was for three years.
Branwen reared a starling in the cover of the kneading trough, and she taught it to speak, and taught the bird what manner of man her brother was. She wrote a letter about her woes, and the cruelty with which she was treated, and bound the letter to the base of the bird’s wing, and sent it towards Britain. The bird came to the island, and found Bendigeid Bran at Caer Seiont in Arvon, conferring there, and alighted upon his shoulder and ruffled its feathers, so that the letter was seen, and he knew that the bird had been reared in a domestic manner.
Bendigeid Bran took the letter and opened it. When he had read it, he grieved to hear of Branwen’s woes. Immediately, he began sending messengers to summon the men of the island together. He caused the men of one hundred and fourty-four countries to come to him, and he complained to them of the grief that his sister endured. They took counsel and resolved to go to Ireland. They decided to leave seven men as princes in Britain, with Caradawc, the son of Bran, as the chief of them, and their seven knights. The princes were left in Edeyrnion and the seven knights placed in the town. The names of these seven were Caradawc the son of Bran, Heveydd Hir, Unic Glew Ysgwyd, Iddic the son of Anarawc Gwalltgrwn, Fodor the son of Ervyll, Gwlch Minascwrn, Llassar the son of Llaesar Llaesgygwyd, and Pendaran Dyved, who was left as a young page with them. They remained as seven ministers to take charge of this island; and Caradawc the son of Bran was chief among them.
Bendigeid Bran, with the host, sailed towards Ireland. Not far across the sea, and he came to shoal water, caused by two rivers, the Lli and the [?]; the British armada covered the sea. Bran proceeded with what provisions he had on his own back, and approached the shore of Ireland.
The swineherds of Matholwch were upon the seashore, and they came before Matholwch.
“Lord,” they said, “greetings to you.”
“Heaven protect you,” said he, “have you any news?”
“Lord,” said they, “we have marvelous news. We have seen a wood upon the sea, in a place where we never before saw a single tree.”
“This is indeed a marvel,” said he; “Did you see anything else?”
“We saw a vast mountain beside the wood, and there was a lofty ridge on the top of the mountain, and a lake on each side of the ridge,” they said. “The wood, the mountain, and all these things moved.”
“No one can know anything about this, unless it is Branwen,” said Matholwch.
Messengers went to Branwen.
“Lady,” they said, “what do you think that this is?”
“The men of the Island of the Mighty, who have come here on hearing of my ill-treatment and my woes.”
“What is the forest that was seen upon the sea?” they asked.
“The yards and the masts of ships,” she answered.
“What is the mountain that was seen beside the ships?”
“Bendigeid Bran, my brother,” she replied, “coming to shoal water; there is no ship that can contain him in it.”
“What is the lofty ridge with a lake on each side of it?”
“Looking towards this island, he is angry, 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 to Matholwch, “there is no other counsel than to retreat over the Linon (a river in Ireland), to keep the river between you and him, and to break down the bridge across the river. For there is a load-stone at the bottom of the river that neither ship nor vessel can pass over.”
They retreated across the river, and broke down the bridge.
Bendigeid Bran came to land, and the fleet with him, by the bank of the river.
“Lord,” said his chieftains, “do you know the nature of this river, that nothing can go across it, and that there is no bridge over it? What is your 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.”
So that saying was first uttered, and it is still used as a proverb. When he had lain down across the river, hurdles were placed upon him, and the host passed over him. As he rose up, the messengers of Matholwch came to him, and saluted him, and greeted him in the name of Matholwch, his kinsman, and showed how his goodwill had merited him nothing but good.
“For Matholwch has given the kingdom of Ireland to Gwern, the son of Matholwch, your nephew and your sister’s son. And, as compensation for the wrong that has been done to Branwen, Matholwch shall stay wherever you wish, either here or in the Island of the Mighty.”
“Shall I not have the kingdom myself?” asked Bendigeid Bran. “Then I must take counsel concerning your message. Until then, you will get no answer from me.”
“The best message that we receive for you, we will convey to you,” they said. “Please wait for a message from Matholwch.”
“I will wait,” he answered, “if you return quickly.”
The messengers set forth and came to Matholwch.
“Lord,” said they, “prepare a better message for Bendigeid Bran. He would not listen at all to the message that we bore him.”
“My friends,” said Matholwch, “what is your counsel?”
“Lord,” said they, “He has never been within a house. Therefore, make a house that will contain him and the men of the Island of the Mighty on the one side, and yourself and your host on the other. Give over your kingdom to his will, and do him homage. By reason of the honour you do him in making him a house, since he never before had a house to contain him, he will make peace with you.”
So the messengers went back to Bendigeid Bran, bearing him this message.
He took counsel, and in the council it was resolved that he should accept this, and this also the advice of Branwen, lest the country should be destroyed. Peace was made, and the house was built both vast and strong. But the Irish planned a crafty device. They put brackets on each side of the hundred pillars that were in the house, and placed a leather bag on each bracket, with an armed man in every one.
Evnissyen came in before the host of the Island of the Mighty, scanned the house with fierce and savage looks, and saw the leather bags that were around the pillars.
“What is in this bag?” asked he of one of the Irish.
“Meal, good soul,” the Irishman replied.
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 in it.
“Meal,” said the Irishman.
So he did the same to every one of them, until he had left alive, of all the two hundred men, only one; 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 did not leave him 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.”
Then the hosts came into the house. The men of the Island of Ireland entered the house on one side, and the men of the Island of the Mighty on the other. As soon as they had sat down, there was a concord between them; sovereignty was conferred upon the boy. When the peace was concluded, Bendigeid Bran called the boy to him. From Bendigeid Bran the boy went to Manawyddan, and he was beloved by all that beheld him. From Manawyddan, Nissyen the son of Eurosswydd called the boy, and the boy went to him lovingly.
“Why,” said Evnissyen, “does not my nephew, the son of my sister, come to me? Even if he were not king of Ireland, yet willingly would I fondle the boy.”
“Cheerfully let him go to you,” said Bendigeid Bran, and the boy went to 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 Bran 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.
“The gadflies of Morddwydtyllyon’s Cow!” said Morddwydtyllyon.
While they all sought their arms, Bendigeid Bran 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. When Evnissyen saw the dead bodies of the men of the Island of the Mighty were not 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 befall me if I don’t find a way to deliver them from it.” And he cast himself among the dead bodies of the Irish. Two unshod Irishmen came to him, and, taking him to be one of the Irish, flung him into the cauldron. He stretched himself out in the cauldron, so that he broke it into four pieces, and burst his own heart also.
As a consequence, 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 Bran himself was wounded in the foot with a poisoned dart. 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.
Bendigeid Bran commanded them to cut off his head.
“Take my head,” said he, “and bear it the White Mount, in London, and bury it there, with the face towards France. A long time will you be upon the road. In Harlech, you will be feasting seven years, the birds of Rhiannon singing to you all the while. And all that time, my head will be to you as pleasant company as it ever was when on my body. At Gwales in Penvro, you will stay eighty years. You may remain there, my head with you uncorrupted, until you open the door that looks towards Aber Henvelen, and towards Cornwall. After you have opened that door, and you may no longer tarry there, set forth to London to bury the head. Now go forth, straight away.”
So they cut off his head, and the seven sailed forth with it, and Branwen with them. They landed at Aber Alaw, in Talebolyon, and sat down to rest. Branwen looked towards Ireland and towards the Island of the Mighty, to see if she could see them.
“Alas,” said she, “woe is me that I was ever born; two islands have been destroyed because of me!”
She uttered a loud groan, and her heart broke. They made her a four-sided grave, and buried her upon the banks of the Alaw. Then the seven men journeyed toward Harlech, bearing the head with them; and as they went, they met a multitude of men and of women.
“Have you any tidings?” asked Manawyddan.
“We have none,” they said, “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 because of this; for he could see the sword that slew the men, but knew not who it was that wielded it. Caswallawn had flung upon himself the Veil of Illusion, so that no one could see him slay the men, but only the sword. He did not want to slay Caradawc, because he was his nephew, the son of his cousin. Caradoc was the third whose heart had broken 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 stopped there to rest, and they procured meat and liquor, and sat down to eat and to drink. Three birds came and began singing them a song, and all the songs they had ever heard were unpleasant compared to it. The birds seemed to be a great distance from them over the sea, yet they appeared as distinct as if they were close by, and they continued at their repast for seven years.
At the close of the seventh year, they went forth to Gwales in Penvro. There they found a fair and regal spot overlooking the ocean, and a spacious hall was there. They went into the hall, and two of its doors were open, but the third door was closed, the one that looked towards Cornwall.
“There,” said Manawyddan, “is the door that we may not open.”
That night they regaled themselves and were joyful. Of all the food laid before them, and all they heard, they remembered nothing; neither of that, nor of any sorrow whatsoever. There they remained eighty years, unconscious of having ever spent a time more joyous and mirthful. They were no more weary than when first they came, and none of them knew how long they had been there. It was not more irksome to them having the head with them, than if Bendigeid Bran had been with them himself. These eighty years were called “the Entertaining of the noble Head”, the entertaining of Branwen and Matholwch being the time that they went to Ireland.
One day, Heilyn the son of Gwynn said “Evil befall me, if I do not open the door to know whether what was said concerning it is true.”
So he opened the door and looked towards Cornwall and Aber Henvelen. When they had looked, they were as conscious of all the evils they had ever sustained, and all the friends and companions they had lost, and all the misery that had befallen them, as if it had all happened in that very spot, especially of the fate of their lord. Because of their perturbation they could not rest, but journeyed forth with the head towards London. They buried the head in the White Mount, and this was the third goodly concealment. And it was the third ill-fated disclosure when it was disinterred, since no invasion had come from across the sea while the head was in its concealment.
In Ireland, none were left alive except five pregnant women in a cave in the Irish wilderness. 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 from 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.
Manawyddan, the Son of Llyr
When the seven survivors had buried the head of Bendigeid Bran in the White Mount in London with its face towards France, Manawyddan gazed upon the town of London, and upon his companions, and heaved a great sigh. Much grief and heaviness came upon him.
“Alas, Almighty Heaven, woe is me,” he exclaimed, “there is none save myself without a resting place tonight.”
“Lord,” said Pryderi, “don’t be so sorrowful. Your cousin is king of the Island of the Mighty, and though he has done you wrong, you have never claimed land or possessions. You are the third disinherited prince.”
“Yes,” answered Manawyddan, “but although this man is my cousin, it grieves me to see any one in the place of my brother Bendigeid Bran. I can’t be happy in the same dwelling with him.”
“Will you follow the counsel of another?” said Pryderi.
“I stand in need of counsel,” he answered, “What may that counsel be?”
“Seven Cantrevs remain to me,” said Pryderi, “where Rhiannon my mother dwells. I will bestow her upon you and the seven Cantrevs with her, and though you will have no possessions but those Cantrevs only, you could not have seven Cantrevs fairer than they. Kicva, the daughter of Gwynn Gloyw, is my wife, and since the Cantrevs belong to me, let you and Rhiannon enjoy them, and if you ever desire any possessions you will take these.”
“I do not, Chieftain,” said he, “But heaven reward you for your friendship.”
“I will show you the best friendship in the world if you will let me.”
“I will, my friend,” he said, “and Heaven reward you. I will go with you to seek Rhiannon and to look at your possessions.”
“You will do well,” he answered. “And I believe that you will never hear a lady discourse better than she. When she was in her prime none was ever fairer. Even now her looks are not uncomely.”
They set forth, and came at length to Dyved, and Rhiannon and Kicva prepared a feast for them when they came to Narberth. Manawyddan and Rhiannon sat and talked together, and his mind and thoughts warmed towards her, and he thought in his heart he had never beheld any lady more full of grace and beauty than she.
“Pryderi,” said he, “I wish that it was as you said.”
“What saying was that?” asked Rhiannon.
“Lady,” said Pryderi, “I offered you as a wife to Manawyddan the son of Llyr.”
“By that will I gladly abide,” said Rhiannon.
“I am also glad,” said Manawyddan. “May Heaven reward him who has shown me friendship so perfect as this.”
And before the feast was over she became his bride.
“Tarry here for the rest of the feast, and I will go into Lloegyr to give my homage to Caswallawn the son of Beli,” said Pryderi.
“Lord,” said Rhiannon, “Caswallawn is in Kent. You may therefore stay at the feast, and wait until he shall be nearer.”
“We will wait,” he answered.
So they finished the feast and began to make the circuit of Dyved, and to hunt, and to take their pleasure. 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. Such was the friendship between those four that they would not be parted from each other by night or by day.
In the midst of all this Pryderi went to Caswallawn at Oxford, and tendered his homage. He was honorably received, and highly praised for offering his homage. After his return, Pryderi and Manawyddan feasted and took their ease and pleasure. 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, the four of them rose and went to the Gorsedd of Narberth with their retinue. As they sat there, there was a peal of thunder with the violence of a thunderstorm, and mist fell so thick that one could not see the other. When the mist rose, it became light all around. When they looked towards the cattle, and herds, and dwellings, they saw nothing, neither house, nor beast, nor smoke, nor fire, nor man, nor dwelling. The houses of the Court were empty, deserted and uninhabited, with neither man nor beast within them. All their companions were lost to them, save only those four.
“In the name of Heaven,” cried Manawyddan, “where are the Court, and all my host beside these? Let us go and see.”
They came into the hall, and there was no one. They went on to the castle to the sleeping-place, and they saw none. In the mead-cellar and the kitchen there was nothing but desolation. So the four feasted, and hunted, and took their pleasure. They began to travel the land and all the possessions that they had, and they visited the houses and dwellings, and found nothing but wild beasts. When they had consumed their feast and all their provisions, they fed upon the game they killed in hunting, and the honey of the wild swarms. So they passed the first year pleasantly, and the second; but at the last they began to be weary.
“Truly,” said Manawyddan, “we must not live like this. Let us go into Lloegyr, and seek some craft by which we may make our living.”
So they went into Lloegyr, and came as far as Hereford. They took to making saddles. 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. He made the blue enamel as Llasar made it, and therefore it is still called Calch Lasar [blue enamel], because so Llasar Llaesgywydd had wrought it.
As long as that workmanship could be had of Manawyddan, neither saddle nor housing was bought of any other saddler throughout all Hereford. At length, all the saddlers perceived that they were losing much of their profit, and that no man bought from them except he who could not get what he sought from Manawyddan. They assembled together, and agreed to slay him and his companions. Manawyddan and Pryderi 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 gain an evil reputation, and shall be put in prison. It is better for us to go to another town to maintain ourselves.”
The 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 Manawyddan.
They began to make shields, and fashioned them after the shape of the good shields they had seen. They enameled them as they had done the saddles. They prospered in that place, so that not a shield was asked for in the whole town, except what was had from them. They worked rapidly and made numberless shields. 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 the four received warning, and heard how the men had resolved to destroy them.
“Pryderi,” said Manawyddan, “these men mean to slay us.”
“Let us not endure this from these boors, but let us rather fall upon them and slay them.”
“Not so,” answered Manawyddan, “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 you want that we know,” said Pryderi.
“No,” he replied, “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 of it,” said Pryderi.
“But I know,” answered Manawyddan, “and I will teach you to stitch. We will not attempt to dress the leather, but will buy it ready dressed and will make the shoes from it.”
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. He associated with the best goldsmith in the town, and had him make clasps for the shoes, and gild the clasps, and he watched how it was done until he learnt the method. Therefore was he called one of the three makers of gold shoes. When they could be had from him, neither shoes nor hose were bought from any of the other cordwainers in the town. When the cordwainers perceived that their profits 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 planning to slay us.”
“Why 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, but neither will we remain in Lloegyr any longer. Let us set forth to Dyved to see it.”
So they journeyed until they came to Dyved, and went to Narberth. And there they kindled fire and lived by hunting. They gathered their dogs around them, and tarried there one year.
One morning Pryderi and Manawyddan rose to hunt, and they ranged their dogs and went forth from the palace. Some of the dogs ran before them and came to a small bush that was nearby. As soon as they came to the bush, they hastily drew back and returned to the men, their hair bristling up greatly.
“Let us approach the bush,” said Pryderi, “and see what is in it.”
As they came near, a wild boar of a pure white rose up from the bush. Then the dogs, being set on by the men, rushed towards him. He left the bush, fell back a little way from the men, and made a stand against the dogs without retreating from them, until the men came near. When the men came up, he fell back a second time, and took flight. They pursued the boar until they beheld a vast and lofty castle, newly built, in a place where they had never before seen either stone or building. The boar ran swiftly into the castle and the dogs after him. 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. From the top of the Gorsedd they looked and listened for the dogs. But as long as they were there they heard not one of the dogs nor anything concerning them.
“Lord,” said Pryderi, “I will go into the castle to get tidings of the dogs.”
“You would be unwise to go into this castle, which you have never seen till now,” Manawyddan replied. “If you follow my counsel, you will not enter it. Whoever has cast a spell over this land has caused this castle to be here.”
“I cannot give up my dogs.” answered Pryderi.
Despite all the counsel that Manawyddan gave him, to the castle he went. When he went into the castle, neither man nor beast, nor boar nor dogs, nor house nor dwelling did he see within it. But in the center of the castle floor, he saw 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.
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 bowl was placed, and all his joyousness left him, so that he could not utter a word. And so he stood.
Manawyddan waited for him till near the close of the day. Late in the evening, certain that he would have no tidings of Pryderi or of the dogs, he went back to the palace of Narberth. As he entered, Rhiannon looked at him.
“Where,” said she, “are your companion and your dogs?”
“Behold,” he answered, “the adventure that has befallen me.”
And he related it all to her.
“You’ve been an evil companion,” said Rhiannon, “and you have lost a good companion.”
With that, she went out, and proceeded towards the castle according to the directions that he gave her. She found the gate of the castle open. She was undaunted, and went in. There she saw Pryderi holding the bowl, and she went towards him.
“Oh, my lord,” said she, “why are you 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 unable to utter a word. As night came, there was thunder, and a fall of mist, and 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 was so sad that she didn’t care whether she lived or died. And Manawyddan saw this.
“You are wrong,” said he, “if you grieve like this through fear of me. I call Heaven to witness that you have never seen friendship more pure than that which I will bear you, as long as Heaven wills that you should be like this. I swear to you that were I in the dawn of youth, I would keep faith with Pryderi. To you also will I keep it. Don’t fear, for Heaven is my witness that you shall meet with all the friendship you can wish, and that it is in my power to show you, as long as it shall please Heaven to keep us in this grief and woe.”
“Heaven reward you,” she said, “and that is what I deemed of you.”
With that, the damsel took courage and was glad.
“Lady,” said Manawyddan, “we cannot stay here. We have lost our dogs, and cannot get food. Let us go into Lloegyr; it is easiest for us to support ourselves there.”
“Gladly, lord,” said she, “we will do so.”
They set forth together to Lloegyr.
“Lord,” said she, “what craft will you follow? Take up one that is seemly.”
“None other will I take,” he answered, “save that of making shoes, as I did formerly.”
“Lord,” said she, “such a craft does not become a man so nobly born as you.”
“By it however I will live,” 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 in the other place, he caused gilded clasps to be made for the shoes. Except for him, 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. They stayed there a year, until the cordwainers became envious, and took counsel concerning him. He had warning of how the cordwainers had agreed to slay him.
“Lord,” said Kicva, “why should this be borne from these boors?”
“No,” said he, “we will go back to Dyved.”
So they set forth for Dyved. Manawyddan took with him a burden of wheat. He went to Narberth, and dwelt there. He was never more pleased than when he saw Narberth again, and the lands where he had liked to hunt with Pryderi and Rhiannon. He became accustomed to fishing, and to hunting the deer in their covert. Then he began to prepare some ground, and he sowed a croft, and then a second, and a third. No wheat in the world ever sprung up better. The three crofts prospered with perfect growth, and no man ever saw fairer wheat than it.
The seasons of the year passed until the harvest came. He went to look at one of his crofts, and it was ripe.
“I will reap this tomorrow,” said he.
That night he went back to Narberth. The next day in the grey dawn he went to reap the croft, but when he came there he found nothing but bare straw. Every one of the ears of the wheat had been cut from off the stalk, and all the ears carried away, and nothing but the straw left. He marveled at this greatly.
He went to look at the second croft, and that was also ripe.
“Truly,” said he, “I will reap this tomorrow.
The next day he came, intending to reap it, but when he came he again found nothing but the bare straw.
“Oh, gracious Heaven,” he exclaimed, “I know that whoever 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 it was also ripe.
“Evil will befall me,” said he, “if I do not watch here tonight. Whoever carried off the other corn will come in like manner to take this. I will learn who it is.”
Returning to Narberth, he told Kicva all that had happened.
“What do you think you should do?” she asked.
“I will watch the croft tonight,” said he.
He armed himself and went to watch the croft. At midnight, there arose the loudest tumult in the world. He looked, and beheld the mightiest host of mice in the world, which could neither be numbered nor measured. He didn’t know not what it was until the mice had made their way into the croft. Each of them climbed up a straw bent it down with its weight, cut off one of the ears of wheat, and carried it away, leaving the stalk. He didn’t see a single stalk that did not have a mouse on it. They all ran away, carrying the ears with them.
Wrathful and angry, he rushed upon the mice, but he could no more catch up with them than if they had been gnats, or birds in the air, except for one, which though it was sluggish, went so fast that a man on foot could scarcely overtake it. 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. He came to the hall where Kicva was, and he lit a fire, and hung the glove by the string upon a peg.
“What do you have there, lord?” said Kicva.
“A thief,” said he, “that I found robbing me.”
“What kind of thief may it be, lord, that you could put into your glove?” said she.
“I will tell you,” he answered.
Then he showed her how his fields had been wearied and destroyed, and how he had seen the mice come to the last of the fields.
“And one of them was less nimble than the rest, and is now in my glove; tomorrow I will hang it, and before Heaven, if I had them, I would hang them all.”
“My lord,” said she, “this is marvelous; yet it would be unseemly for a man of dignity like you to be hanging such a reptile as this. If you do right, you will not meddle with the creature, but will 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.”
“Lord,” said she, “there is no reason that I should save this reptile, except to prevent discredit to you. Do therefore, lord, as you will.”
“If I knew of any cause in the world why you should save it, I would take your counsel concerning it,” said Manawyddan, “but as I know of none, lady, I am minded to destroy it.”
“Do so willingly then,” said she.
He went to the Gorsedd of Narberth, taking the mouse with him. There he set up two forks on the highest part of the Gorsedd. While he was doing this, he saw a scholar coming towards him, in old, poor and tattered garments. It was now seven years since he had seen either man or beast in that place, except those four persons who had remained together until two of them were lost.
“My lord,” said the scholar, “good day to you.”
“Heaven prosper you, and my greeting be to you. Where do you come from, scholar?” asked Manawyddan.
“I come, lord, from singing in Lloegyr; why do you ask?”
“Because for the last seven years,” answered he, “I have seen no man here save four secluded persons, and yourself this moment.”
“Truly, lord,” said he, “I pass through this land to my own. What are you doing, 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 your hand like a mouse, and it is unbecoming a man of rank equal to you to touch a reptile such as this. Let it go 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 your rank at such a work as this, I will give you a pound which I have received as alms, to let the reptile go free.”
“I will not let it go free,” said he, “and by Heaven, neither will I sell it.”
“As you wish, lord,” he answered; “except that I would not see a man of rank equal to you touching such a reptile, I care not.”
The scholar went his way.
As Manawyddan was placing the crossbeam upon the two forks, a priest came towards him upon a horse covered with trappings.
“Good day to you, lord,” said he.
“Heaven prosper you,” said Manawyddan; “your blessing.”
“The blessing of Heaven be upon you. And what, lord, are you 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 you 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; but rather than see you defile yourself by touching such a reptile as this, I will give you three pounds to let it go.”
“I will not, by Heaven,” said he, “take any price for it. As it ought, so shall it be hanged.”
“Willingly, lord, do your good pleasure.”
The priest went his way. Manawyddan noosed the string around the mouse’s neck, and as he was about to draw it up, he saw a bishop’s retinue with his sumpter-horses, and his attendants. The bishop himself came towards him. Manawyddan stayed his work.
“Lord bishop,” said he, “your blessing.”
“Heaven’s blessing be to you,” said he; “what work art you upon?”
“Hanging a thief that I caught robbing me,” said he.
“Is not that a mouse that I see in your 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 you. I will give you seven pounds for it, and that rather than see a man of rank equal to yours destroying so vile a reptile as this. Let it loose and you shall have the money.”
“I declare to Heaven that I will not set it loose.”
“If you will not loose it for this, I will give you twenty four pounds of ready money to set it free.”
“I will not set it free, by Heaven, for as much again,” said he.
“If you will not set it free for this, I will give you all the horses that you see on 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 you will not, do so at whatever price you will.”
“I will do so,” said he. “I wish that Rhiannon and Pryderi be free,” said he.
“That you shall have,” he answered.
“Not yet will I loose the mouse, by Heaven.”
“What more, then, would you have?”
“That the charm and the illusion be removed from the seven Cantrevs of Dyved.”
“This shall you have also; therefore set 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. Why did she come to me?”
“To despoil you,” 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, because my friendship for him, that I cast the charm. I avenged Gwawl the son of Clud upon Pryderi, 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. When it was known that you had come to dwell in the land, my household came and besought me to transform them into mice, that they might destroy your corn. It was my own household that went the first night. The second night they also went, and they destroyed your two crofts. The third night, my wife came to me with the ladies of the Court, and besought me to transform them, and I did. She is pregnant. Had she not been, you would not have been able to catch her; but since this has taken place, and she has been caught, I will restore to you Pryderi and Rhiannon; and I will remove the charm and illusion from Dyved. I have now told you who she is. Set her therefore free.”
“I will not set her free, by Heaven,” said he.
“What more do you want?” he asked.
“I wish that there be no more charm upon the seven Cantrevs of Dyved, and that none shall be put upon it henceforth.”
“This you shall have,” said he. “Now set her free.”
“I will not, by my faith,” he answered.
“What would you have furthermore?” asked he.
“This will I have; that vengeance be never taken for this, either upon Pryderi or Rhiannon, or upon me.”
“All this shall you have. And truly you have done wisely in asking this. Upon your 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 he saw Pryderi and Rhiannon. 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. “Have you not received all you asked?”
“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 your land,” said he, “and you will see it all tilled and peopled, as it was in its best state.”
Manawyddan rose up and looked forth. And he 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.
Math, the Son of Mathonwy
Math the son of Mathonwy was lord over Gwynedd, and Pryderi the son of Pwyll was lord over the twenty-one Cantrevs of the South; these were the seven Cantrevs of Dyved, 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 live unless his feet were in the lap of a virgin, except when he was prevented by the tumult of war. 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.
Math always dwelt at Caer Dayourl, in Arvon, and was not able to travel the circuit of the land, but Gilvaethwy and Eneyd, the sons of Don, his nephews, the sons of his sisters, with his household, made the circuit of the land in his stead.
Now the maiden was with Math continually, but Gilvaethwy the son of Don set his affections upon her, and loved her so much that he did not know what to do because of her, and his colour, his looks, and his spirits changed for love of her, so much that it was hard to recognize him.
One day his brother Gwydion gazed steadfastly upon him. “Youth,” said he, “what ails you?”
“Why,” replied Gilvaethwy, “what do you see in me?”
“I see,” said he, “that you have lost your looks and your colour. What, therefore, ails you?”
“My lord brother,” he answered, “it will not profit me to tell anyone what ails me.”
“What may it be, my brother?” said Gwydion.
“You know,” he said, “that Math the son of Mathonwy has this property, that if men whisper together, no matter how quietly, if the wind meets it, it becomes known to him.”
“Yes,” said Gwydion, “now hold your peace. I know your intent. You love Goewin.”
When he found that his brother knew his intent, Gilvaethwy gave the heaviest sigh in the world.
“Be silent, my brother, and do not sigh,” said Gwydion. “It is not by that that you will succeed. I will cause, if it cannot be otherwise, the rising of Gwynedd, and Powys, and Deheubarth, to help you seek the maiden. Be glad, therefore, and I will accomplish it.”
They went to 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 on this island before.”
“What are they called?” Math asked.
“And what kind of animals are they?”
“They are small animals, and their meat is better than the meat of oxen.”
“They are small, then?”
“And they have other names. They are called swine by some.”
“Who owns 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.”
“By what means may they be obtained from him?” asked Math.
“I will go, lord, as one of twelve, disguised as bards, to seek the swine.”
“But it may be that he will refuse you,” said he.
“My journey will not be evil, lord,” said Gwydion. “I will not come back without the swine.”
“Gladly,” said Math, “go forward.”
So Gwydion and Gilvaethwy went, and ten other men with them. They came to Ceredigiawn, to the place that is now called Rhuddlan Teivi, where the palace of Pryderi was. In the guise of bards they came, and they were received joyfully, and Gwydion was placed beside Pryderi that night.
“I would gladly have a tale from one of your men,” said Pryderi.
“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. I will gladly relate a tale.”
Gwydion was the best teller of tales in the world, and he diverted all the Court that night with pleasant discourse and with tales, and charmed every one in the Court, and it pleased Pryderi to talk with him.
“Lord,” said he to Pryderi after a time, “would it be more pleasing to you that another should tell you of my errand to you, than that I should tell you myself what it is?”
“No,” Pryderi answered, “you have ample speech.”
“Behold then, lord,” said he, “my errand. It is to crave from you the animals that were sent you from Annwvyn.”
“That would be the easiest thing in the world to grant,” Pryderi replied, “were there not a covenant between me and my land concerning them. The covenant is that they shall not go from me, until they have produced double their number in the land.”
“Lord,” said Gwydion, “I can set you free from your promise, and this is the way I can do so; do not give me the swine tonight, but neither refuse them to me, and tomorrow I will show you an exchange for them.”
That night he and his fellows went to their lodging, and they took counsel. “Ah, my men,” he said, “we shall not have the swine for the asking.”
“Well,” they said, “how may they be obtained?”
“I will obtain them,” said Gwydion.
Then he took to his arts, and began to work a charm. 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 were twelve saddles, and every part which should have been of iron was entirely of gold, and the bridles were of the same workmanship. Finally he formed twelve gilded shields of fungus. With the horses, the dogs and the shields he came to Pryderi.
“Good day to you, lord,” said he.
“May heaven make you prosper,” said the other, “and greetings to you.”
“Lord,” said he, “here is a release for you from the word of which you spoke last evening concerning the swine, that you would neither give nor sell them. You may exchange them for that which is better. 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 you see, and the twelve gilded shields that you see here.”
“Well,” said Pryderi, “we will take counsel.”
The men of the south consulted together, and determined to give the swine to Gwydion, and to take his horses, his dogs and his shields.
Then Gwydion and his men took their leave, and journeyed forth with the pigs.
“Ah, my comrades,” said Gwydion, “we must journey with speed. The illusion will only last from this hour to the same hour tomorrow.”
That night they journeyed as far as the upper part of Ceredigiawn, to the place which, for that reason, is called Mochdrev still. 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. From there they journeyed on, and that night they came as far as the Commot in Powys that upon account of this is called Mochnant, and there they spent that night. They journeyed from there to the Cantrev of Rhos, and the place where they were that night is still called Mochdrev.
“Men,” said Gwydion, “we must push forward into the fastnesses of Gwynedd with these animals, for there is a gathering host in pursuit of us.”
They journeyed on to the highest town of Arllechwedd, and there they made a sty for the swine, and therefore the name of Creuwyryon was given to that town. After they had made the sty for the swine, they proceeded to Math the son of Mathonwy, at Caer Dayourl. When they came there, the country was rising.
“What news is there?” asked Gwydion.
“Pryderi is assembling one-and-twenty Cantrevs to pursue you,” Math answered. “It is a marvel to me that you should have journeyed so slowly. Where are the animals of which you went in quest?”
“We have had a sty made for them in the Cantrev below,” said Gwydion.
They heard the trumpets of the pursuing host in the land, and they arrayed themselves and set forward and came to Penardd in Arvon.
That night, Gwydion the son of Don, and Gilvaethwy his brother returned to Caer Dayourl. Gilvaethwy took Math the son of Mathonwy’s couch. He turned the other damsels out of the room discourteously, and made Goewin unwillingly remain.
When they saw daybreak the next morning, they went back to the place where Math the son of Mathonwy was with his host. When they arrived, the warriors were deciding in which district they should await the coming of Pryderi and the men of the South. They went in to the council. It was resolved to wait in the stronghold of Gwynedd, in Arvon. Within the two Maenors they took their stand, Maenor Penardd and Maenor Coed Alun. There Pryderi attacked them, and the combat took place. Great was the slaughter on both sides; but the men of the South were forced to flee. They fled to the place which is still called Nantcall. There the men of Gwynedd followed them, and they slaughtered a vast number of them there, until they fled again as far as the place called Dol Pen Maen, and there they halted and sought to make peace.
So that he might have peace, Pryderi gave hostages. He gave Gwrgi Gwerera and twenty-three others, sons of nobles. After this they journeyed in peace to Traeth Mawr; but as they went on together towards Melenryd, the men on foot could not be restrained from shooting. Pryderi dispatched an embassy to Math to ask him to forbid his people, and to keep the dispute between Pryderi and Gwydion the son of Don, for that he had caused all this. The messengers came to Math.
“If it pleases Gwydion the son of Don, I will leave it so gladly,” said Math, “But I will never compel anyone to fight, unless we ourselves have done our utmost.”
“Pryderi says that it would be fairer that the man who did him this wrong meet him in single combat, and let his people remain unscathed,”said the messengers.
“I will not ask the men of Gwynedd to fight because of me,” said Gwydion. “If I am allowed to fight Pryderi myself, I will gladly oppose him.”
They took his answer back to Pryderi.
“I shall require no one to demand my rights but myself,” said Pryderi.
The two came forth and armed themselves, and they fought. By force of strength, and fierceness, and by the magic and charms of Gwydion, Pryderi was slain. At Maen Tyriawc, above Melenryd, was he buried, and there is his grave.
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 to Math, “would it not be right for us to release the hostages of the men of the South, which they pledged to us for peace? For we ought not to put them in prison.”
“Let them then be set free,” said Math.
So the youth Gwrgi and the other hostages that were with him were set free to follow the men of the South.
Math himself went ahead to Caer Dayourl. Gilvaethwy the son of Don and those of the household that were with him went to make the circuit of Gwynedd as they usually did, without coming to the Court. Math went into his chamber, and caused a place to be prepared for him on which to recline, so that he might put his feet in the maiden’s lap.
“Lord,” said Goewin, “seek another to hold your feet, for I am now a wife.”
“What does this mean?” he said.
“An attack, lord, was made upon me unaware. I did not hold my peace, and there was no one in the Court who did not know of it. The attack was made by your nephews, lord, the sons of your sister, Gwydion and Gilvaethwy, the sons of Don. They did wrong to me, and to you dishonour.”
“I will do to the utmost of my power concerning this matter.” he exclaimed. “But first I will give you compensation, and then will I have amends made to myself. You, I will take you to be my wife, and the possession of my dominions will I give to your hands.”
Gwydion and Gilvaethwy did not come near the Court, but stayed in the confines of the land until it was forbidden by Math to give them meat and drink. At first they still did no come to Math, but at the last they did.
“Lord,” said they, “good day to you.”
“Well,” said he, “have you come to compensate me?”
“Lord,” they said, “we are at your 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 you come here to do my will, I shall begin your punishment immediately.”
Then he took his magic wand, and struck Gilvaethwy, so that he became a deer, and he seized upon the Gwydion hastily lest he should escape from him. And he struck him with the same magic wand, and he became a deer also.
“Since now you are in bonds, I command that you go forth together and be companions, and have the nature of the animals whose form you bear. A year from today, return here to me.”
At the end of a year from that day, there was a loud noise under the chamber wall, and the barking of the dogs of the palace together with the noise.
“Look,” said Math, “what is without.”
“Lord,” said one of his men, “I have looked. There are there two deer, and a fawn with them.”
Then Math arose and went out. When he came he beheld the three animals and lifted his wand.
“As you were deer last year, be wild hogs each of you, for the year that is to come.”
Then he struck them with the magic wand.
“Go and be wild swine, each of you, and have the nature of wild swine. And a year from this day, be here under the wall. The young one will I take and baptize.”
The name that he gave him was Hydwn.
At the end of the year, the barking of dogs was heard under the wall of the chamber. The Court assembled, and Math arose and went forth, and when he came out he saw three beasts: two wild hogs of the woods, and a well-grown young one with them, who was very large for his age.
“This one will I take and baptize,” said Math.
He struck him with his magic wand, and the young pig become a fine fair auburn-haired youth, and the name that Math gave him was Hychdwn.
“Now as for you, as you were wild hogs last year, be wolves for the year that is to come,” said Math.
He struck them with his magic wand, and they became wolves.
“Be alike in nature with the animals whose semblance you bear, and return here a year from this day beneath this wall.”
At the same day at the end of the year, he heard a clamour and the barking of dogs under the wall of the chamber. He rose and went forth and when he emerged, he saw two wolves and a strong cub with them.
“This one I will take and baptize,” said Math. “There is a name prepared for him, and that is Bleiddwn. Now these three, the three sons of Gilvaethwy the false, are the three faithful combatants, Bleiddwn, Hydwn, and Hychdwn the Tall.”
Then he struck the two wolves with his magic wand, and they resumed their true nature. “For the wrong that you did to me your punishment and your dishonour have been sufficient,” he said. “Prepare precious ointment for these men, and wash their heads, and equip them.”
This was done and after they were equipped, they came to him.
“Oh men,” said he, “you have obtained peace, and you shall likewise have friendship. Give your counsel to me, what maiden I should seek.”
“Lord,” said Gwydion the son of Don, “it is easy to give you counsel; seek Arianrod, the daughter of Don, your niece, your sister’s daughter.”
They brought her to him, and the maiden came in.
“Ha, maiden,” said Math, “are you a virgin?”
“I know not, lord, other than that I am,” she replied.
Then he took up his magic wand, and bent it.
“Step over this,” said he, “and I shall know if you are.”
She stepped she over the magic wand, and there appeared a fine, chubby blond boy. When the boy cried out, she went towards the door. Another 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 at the bottom of a chest at the foot of his bed.
“I will have this one baptized,” said Math the son of Mathonwy of the fine blond boy, “and Dylan is the name I will give him.”
They had the boy baptized, and as they baptized him he plunged into the sea. As soon as he was in the sea, he took its nature, and swam as well as the best fish in the ocean. For that reason was he called Dylan, the son of the Wave. No wave ever broke beneath him. His uncle Govannon struck the blow by which he died. It was called the third fatal blow.
As Gwydion lay one morning awake on his bed, he heard a cry from the chest at his feet; it was not loud, but just enough that he could hear it. He arose in haste, opened the chest, and beheld an infant boy stretching out his arms from the folds of the scarf, and casting it aside. 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. He agreed with the woman that she should take charge of the boy. And for that year, the boy was nursed.
At the end of the year, he seemed by his size as though he were two years old. By the second year, he was a big child, and was able to go to the Court by himself. When he came to Court, Gwydion noticed him, and the boy became familiar with him, and loved him better than any one else. 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, bringing the boy with him; and when he came into her Court, Arianrod arose to meet him, and greeted him and bade him welcome.
“Heaven prosper you,” said he.
“Who is the boy that follows you?” she asked.
“This youth is your son,” he answered.
“Alas,” said she, “what has come to you that you should shame me like this? Why do you seek my dishonour, and retain it so long as this?”
“Unless you suffer a dishonour greater than that of my bringing up such a boy as this, your disgrace will be small.”
“What is the name of the boy?” she asked.
“He has not yet been given a name.” he replied.
“Well, then,” she said, “I lay this doom upon him: he shall never have a name until he receives one from me.”
“Heaven bears me witness,” answered Gwydion, “that you are a wicked woman. But the boy shall have a name, however displeasing it may be to you. As for you, that which afflicts you is that you are no longer called a damsel.”
He went forth in anger, and returned to Caer Dayourl and there he stayed that night.
The next day he arose and took the boy with him, they walked on the seashore between that place and Aber Menei. He found sedge and seaweed, and he turned them into a boat. Out of dry sticks and sedge he made some Cordovan leather, a great deal of it, and he coloured it so that no one ever saw leather more beautiful than it. Then he made a sail for the boat, and he and the boy sailed in it to the port of the castle of Arianrod. He began forming shoes and stitching them, until he was observed from the castle. When he knew that the people of the castle were observing him, he disguised himself and the boy so that they would not be known.
“Who are those men in that boat?” said Arianrod.
“They are cordwainers,” answered her messenger.
“Go and see what kind of leather they have, and what kind of work they can do.”
He went down to the boat. When he came, Gwydion was colouring some Cordovan leather, and gilding it. The messenger returned and told her this.
“Take the measure of my foot,” she said, “and ask the cordwainer to make shoes for me.”
Gwydion made the shoes for her, but not according to the measuremets, but larger. The shoes then were brought to her, and they were too large.
“These are too large,” said she, “but he shall receive their value. Let him also make some that are smaller.”
He made her another pair that were much smaller than her feet, and sent them to her.
“Tell him that these will not go on my feet,” said she.
The messenger told him this.
“Truly,” said he, “I will not make her any more shoes unless I see her feet.”
This was told to her. 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 you.”
“Heaven make you prosper,” said she. “I marvel that you can not manage to make shoes according to a measure.”
“I could not,” he replied, “but now I shall be able.”
Then 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. She smiled.
“Truly,” said she, “with a steady hand did the lion aim at it.”
“May heaven not reward you, but now has your son has a name, and a good enough name it is. Llew Llaw Gyffes he will be called from now on.”
The work turned back into seaweed and sedge, and he went on with it no further. But for that reason was he called the third golden shoemaker.
“You will not do any better for doing evil to me,” said Arianrod.
“I have done you no wrong yet,” said Gwydion. He restored the boy to his own form.
“I lay another doom upon this boy,” she said, “that he shall never have arms and armour until I invest him with them.”
“Let your malice be what it may,” said Gwydion, “but he shall have arms.”
They went to Dinas Dinllev, and there he brought up Llew Llaw Gyffes, until the boy could manage any horse, and was perfect in features, strength, and stature. Then Gwydion saw that Llew languished for want of horses and arms. And he called him to him.
“Ah, youth,” said he, “we will go tomorrow on an errand together. Be therefore more cheerful than you are.”
“That I will,” said the youth.
Next morning, at the dawn of the day, they arose. They took the way along the sea coast, up towards Bryn Aryen. At the top of Cevn Clydno, they equipped themselves with horses and went towards the Castle of Arianrod. Gwydion changed his form, and they spurred towards the gate as two youths, but the looks of Gwydion were plainer than those of Llew.
“Porter,” said he, “go in and say that there are bards here from Glamorgan.”
The porter went in.
“The welcome of Heaven to them, and let them in,” said Arianrod.
They were greeted with great joy. The hall was arranged, and they went to eat. When dinner was over, Arianrod spoke with Gwydion of tales and stories. Gwydion was an excellent teller of tales. When it was time to leave the feast, a chamber was prepared for them, and they went to rest.
In the early twilight Gwydion arose, and he called to him his magic and his power. By the time the day dawned, there resounded through the land an uproar, and trumpets and shouts. They heard knocking at the door of their chamber, and heard Arianrod asking them to open the door. Up rose the youth and opened it to her, and she entered, a maiden with her.
“Ah, good men,” she said, “we are in an evil plight.”
“We heard trumpets and shouts,” said Gwydion. “What do you think that they may mean?”
“We cannot see the ocean for all the ships, side by side,” she replied. “They are making for the land with all the speed they can. What can we do?”
“Lady,” said Gwydion, “there is nothing to do but to close the castle and to defend it as best we may.”
“May Heaven reward you if you defend it,”said she. “Here you may have plenty of arms.”
She went forth for the arms, and returned with two maidens, bearing suits of armour for two men, with her.
“Lady,” said Gwydion, “please arm this stripling, and I will arm myself with the help of your maidens. I hear the tumult of your enemies approaching.”
“I will do so, gladly.”
She armed Llewfully, and that right cheerfully.
“Have you finished arming the youth?” said Gwydion.
“I have finished,” she answered.
“Then I likewise have finished,” said Gwydion. “Let us take off our arms; we have no need of them.”
“What?” said she. “There is an army around the house.”
“Lady, there is no army.”
“Oh,” cried she, “then what was the tumult?”
“The tumult was but to break your prophecy and to obtain arms for your son. And now has he got arms, without any thanks to you.”
“By Heaven,” said Arianrod, “you are a wicked man. Many a youth might have lost his life through the uproar you have caused in this Cantrev today. I will lay a final doom upon this youth,” she said. “He shall never have a wife of the race that now inhabits this earth.”
“You were always a malicious woman, and no one ought to support you,” said Gwydion. “He shall have a wife, notwithstanding your curse.”
They went to Math the son of Mathonwy, and complained to him most bitterly of Arianrod. Gwydion showed him how he had procured arms for the youth.
“Well,” said Math, “we will seek, I and you, by charms and illusion, to form a wife for him out of flowers. For he has grown to a man’s stature, and he is the comeliest youth that was ever beheld.”
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. They baptized her, and gave her the name of Blodeuwedd.
After she had become Llew’s bride, and they had feasted, said Gwydion, “It is not easy for a man to maintain himself without possessions.”
“By my word,” said Math, “I will give the young man the best Cantrev to hold.”
“Lord,” said Llew, “what Cantrev is that?”
“The Cantrev of Dinodig,” he answered.
Today it is called Eivionydd and Ardudwy. He dwelt in a palace in a spot called Mur y Castell, on the confines of Ardudwy. There he reigned, and both he and his rule were beloved by all.
One day he went forth to Caer Dayourl, to visit Math the son of Mathonwy. On the day that he set out for Caer Dayourl, Blodeuwedd walked in the Court of Mur y Castell. She heard the sound of a horn. Soon after, a tired stag went by, with dogs and huntsmen following it. After the dogs and the huntsmen there came a crowd of men on foot.
“Send a youth,” she ordered, “to ask who this host may be.”
So a youth went, and inquired who they were.
“We are the followers of Gronw Pebyr, the lord of Penllyn,” they said, and so the youth told her.
Gronw Pebyr pursued the stag, and by the river Cynvael he overtook it and killed it. What with flaying the stag and baiting his dogs, he was there until the night began to close in upon him. As the day departed and the night drew near, he came to the gate of the Court.
“The Chieftain will speak ill of us if at this hour we let him depart to another land without inviting him in.”said Blodeuwedd.
“Yes, truly, lady,” said the courtiers. “It would be most fitting to invite him.”
Messengers went to meet him and invite him in. He accepted her bidding gladly, and came to the Court, and Blodeuwedd went to meet him, greeted him, and bade him welcome.
“Lady,” said he, “Heaven repay you your kindness.”
When he had removed his hunting clothes, they went to sit down. From the moment that Blodeuwedd looked on him, she became filled with love for him. He gazed on her, and the same thought came to him as to her, and he could not conceal from her that he loved her, but declared to her that he did so. At this she was very joyful. All their conversation that night was concerning the affection and love which they felt for one another, which had arisen in a single evening. They passed the entire evening in each other’s company.
The next day he sought to depart.
“I pray you go not from me today,” said Blodeuwedd.
So that night he stayed as well. They discussed by what means they might always be together.
“There is none other counsel,” he said, “but that you strive to learn from Llew Llaw Gyffes in what manner he will meet his death. You do this under the pretense of solicitude concerning him.”
The next day Gronw sought to depart.
“I ask you not to go from me today,” she said.
“At your insistence will I not go,” said he. “Though, I must say, there is danger that the chieftain who owns the palace may return home.”
“Tomorrow,” she answered, “I will permit you to go forth.”
The next day he sought to go, and she did not hinder him.
“Remember what I said to you,” said Gronw. “Converse with him fully, and under the guise of the dalliance of love, and find out by what means his death may be brought about.”
That night Llew Llaw Gyffes returned home. They spent the day in conversation, minstrelsy, and feasting. At night they went to rest. He spoke to Blodeuwedd and, when she didn’t answer, he spoke to her a second time. He could not get one word from her.
“What ails you?” said he, “are you well?”
“I was thinking,” said she, “of that which you never think of concerning me; for I would be sorrowful for your death, should you go sooner than I.”
“Heaven reward your care for me,” he said, “but until Heaven takes me I shall not easily be slain.”
“For the sake of Heaven, and for mine, show me how you may be slain. My memory in guarding is better than yours.”
“I will tell you gladly,” he said. “I cannot be easily slain, except by a wound. The spear with which I am struck must take a year in its forming. No work must be done to it except during the sacrifice on Sundays.”
“Is this certain?” she asked she.
“It is true,” he answered. “Furthermore, I cannot be slain within a house, nor without. I cannot be slain on horseback nor on foot.”
“Truly,” said she, “in what manner then can you be slain?”
“I will tell you,” said he. “By making a bath for me by the side of a river, putting a roof over the cauldron and thatching it tightly, and bringing a buck and putting it beside the cauldron. If I then place one foot on the buck’s back, and the other on the edge of the cauldron, whosoever strikes me will cause my death.”
“Well,” said she, “I thank Heaven that it will be easy to avoid this.”
No sooner had she learned this than she sent a message to Gronw Pebyr. Gronw toiled at making the spear, and a year from that day it was ready. That very day he sent a messenger to informed her.
“Lord,” said Blodeuwedd to Llew, “I have been wondering how it is possible that what you told me can be true. Will you show me how you could stand at once upon the edge of a cauldron and upon a buck, if I prepare the bath for you?”
“I will show you,” he said.
She sent a message to Gronw and told him wait in ambush on the hill which is now called Bryn Kyvergyr, on the bank of the river Cynvael. She also had all the goats in the Cantrev collected and brought to the other side of the river, opposite Bryn Kyvergyr.
“Lord,” she said the next day she, “I have caused the roof and the bath to be prepared, and they are ready.”
“Well,” said Llew, “Let us go to look at them.”
The day after, they came and looked at the bath.
“Will you get into the bath, lord?” she asked.
“I will,” he answered.
Into the bath he went, and anointed himself.
“Lord,” said she, “there are the animals which you called bucks.”
“Well,” said he, “have one of them caught and brought here.”
A buck was brought. Llew rose out of the bath, put on his trowsers, and placed one foot on the edge of the bath and the other on the buck’s back.
Then Gronw rose up from the hill called Bryn Kyvergyr, and rested on one knee, flung a poisoned dart and struck Llew in the side so that the shaft stuck out, but the head of the dart remained in. Llew flew up in the form of an eagle and gave a fearful scream, and was he no more seen.
As soon as he departed Gronw and Blodeuwedd went to the palace together. The next day, Gronw arose and took possession of Ardudwy. After he had overcome the people of the land, he ruled over it, so that Ardudwy and Penllyn were both under his sway.
Tidings reached Math the son of Mathonwy. Heaviness and grief came upon him, and much more upon Gwydion than upon him.
“Lord,” said Gwydion, “I shall never rest until I have tidings of my nephew.”
“Truly,” said Math, “may Heaven be your strength.”
Gwydion set forth and he went through Gwynedd and Powys to the confines. When he had done so, he went into Arvon, and came to the house of a vassal, in Maenawr Penardd. He stopped at the house, and stayed the night there. The man of the house and his household came in, and last of all came the swineherd.
“Well, youth, has your sow come in tonight?” asked the man of the house of the swineherd.
“She has,” he said, “and has this instant returned to the pigs.”
“Where does this sow go to?” said Gwydion.
“Every day, when the sty is opened, she goes forth and none can catch sight of her. It is as if she sank into the earth.”
“Will you promise me,” said Gwydion, “not to open the sty until I am beside it with you?”
“I will do so gladly,” answered the boy.
That night they went to rest. As soon as the swineherd saw the light of day, he awoke Gwydion. Gwydion arose and dressed himself, and went with the swineherd, and stood beside the sty. Then the swineherd opened the sty. As soon as he opened it, the sow leaped forth, and set off at great speed. Gwydion followed her, and she went along the course of a river, and made for a brook, which is now called Nant y Llew. There she halted under a tree and began feeding. Gwydion came under the tree, and looked for what it might be that the sow was feeding on. He saw that she was eating putrid flesh and maggots. Then looked he up into the top of the tree, and beheld an eagle. When the eagle shook itself, maggots and putrid flesh fell from it, and these were what the sow devoured. It seemed to Gwydion that the eagle might be Llew, so 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 hearing this, the eagle came down until he reached the center of the tree, so 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 descended until he was on the lowest branch of the tree, and Gwydion sang this Englyn:
“Oak that grows beneath the steep;
Stately and majestic is its aspect!
Shall I not speak it?
That Llew will come to my lap?”
The eagle landed upon Gwydion’s knee. 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.
Gwydion took Llew to Caer Dayourl, and brought him good physicians from Gwynedd, and before the end of the year he was quite healed.
“Lord,” said he to Math the son of Mathonwy, “it is time now that I have retribution against he by whom I have suffered all this woe.”
“He will never be able to keep you from the lands which are yours,” said Math.
“The sooner I have what is mine by right, the better shall I be pleased,” said Llew.
They called together the whole of Gwynedd, and set forth to Ardudwy. Gwydion went on ahead and proceeded to Mur y Castell. When Blodeuwedd heard that he was coming, she took her maidens with her, and fled to the mountain. They passed through the river Cynvael, and made for a court that was upon the mountain, but from fear they could not proceed without constantly looking backwards, so that unaware they fell into the lake. They were all drowned except Blodeuwedd herself, and Gwydion overtook her.
“I will not slay you, but I will do to you worse than that,” he said. “I will turn you into a bird, and because of the shame of what you have done to Llew Llaw Gyffes, you shall never show your face in the light of day from today forth and you shall fear all other birds. It shall be their nature to attack you, and to chase you from whereever they find you. You shall keep your name, and shall be always called Blodeuwedd.”
Now Blodeuwedd means owl in the Welsh language, and for this reason the owl is hateful to all other birds.
Gronw Pebyr withdrew to Penllyn, and he dispatched an embassy. The messengers he sent asked Llew Llaw Gyffes if he would take land, domain, gold, or silver, for the injury he had received.
“I will not, by my confession to Heaven,” said Llew. “This is the least that I will accept from him: that he come to the spot where I was when he wounded me with his dart, and that I stand where he did, and that with a dart I take aim at him. This is the very least that I will accept.”
This was told to Gronw Pebyr.
“Do I really need to do this?” he asked. “My faithful warriors, and my household, and my foster-brothers, is there not one among you who will take the blow in my stead?”
“There is not,” they answered.
And because of their refusal to suffer one stroke for their lord, they are called the third disloyal tribe even to this day.
“Well, then,” he said, “I must meet it.”
They met on 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.
“Since it was through the wiles of a woman that I did to you as I have done, I beg you by Heaven to let me put between me and the blow, the slab you see on the river’s bank,”said Gronw Pebyr.
“I will not refuse you this,”said Llew.
“May Heaven reward you,” said Gronw, and he took the slab and put it between him and Llew.
Then Llew flung the dart at him, and it pierced the slab and went through Gronw as well, so that it came out through his back. And so Gronw Pebyr was slain. There is still a slab on the bank of the river Cynvael, in Ardudwy, that has a hole through it, and it is called Llech Gronw.
For a second time, Llew Llaw Gyffes took possession of the land, and he governed it prosperously. And later, when Math had passed away, Llew became lord over all Gwynedd.