The original, squashed down to read in about 40 minutes
The tale of Llew Llaw Gyffes
Illustration by Briony May Smith http://brionymaysmith.com/
This collection of Welsh folk-takes comes from manuscripts of the 13th Century, but is thought to be taken from much older, pre-Christian, Celtic stories, and possibly goes back to a late Iron Age tradition of oral storytelling. The name 'Mabinogion' comes from the odd and puzzling term 'mabinogi' which appears before and at the end of some texts.
Abridged: GH, substantially based on the 1849 translation by Lady Charlotte Guest.
Here begins the mabinog...
Pwyll, Prince of the seven Cantrevs of Dyved, was hunting by Glyn Cuch when he came upon a stag already taken by hounds other than his. Such hounds! Their hair was of a brilliant shining white, and their ears were red. And he drove away those shining hounds, and set his own dogs to feast off the deer.
Then came a horseman, calling out "Chieftain! I know thee! Thou does me great discourtesy, to take my own hunted stag from my own hounds! You have wronged me, sir! "O Chieftain," replied Pwyll, "Tell me what you would have me do, that I may redeem thy friendship."
"I am Arawn, a King of Annwvyn of the world below, and I give you the task to rid me of Havgan, my enemy. Today I will put my form and semblance upon thee, so that no man, nor even my wife, shall know that it is not I, and I will send thee to Annwvyn in my stead. And I will take your form, and rule your Kingdom. One year from this night, you will meet Havgan by the ford and you will give him one single blow only, and he will live no more.
So he conducted Pwyll to the most beautiful buildings ever seen. And the year he spent in hunting, and minstrelsy, and feasting, and diversions, and ruled the land with generosity. And when the year's night came Pwyll went to the ford and there encountered Havgan, and Pwyll struck Havgan on the centre of the boss of his shield, so that it was cloven in twain, and his armour was broken, and Havgan fell to the ground, crying "O Chieftain, for the love of Heaven, slay me, complete thy work." "That I will not" said Pwyll, and the men of Havgan carried their Lord away with his dying breath.
And thereupon Pwyll went to keep his tryst at Glyn Cuch. There Arawn gave to Pwyll Prince of Dyved his proper form and semblance, and he himself took his own, and honoured Pwyll highly for having slept chasely with the wife of Arawn. And they went each to their own households to carousing and to rest.
And thenceforth they made strong the friendship that was between them, and each sent unto the other horses, and greyhounds, and hawks, and jewels. And so were united the two kingdoms and Pwyll Prince of Dyved was called Pwyll Chief of Annwvyn.
Once upon a time, Pwyll was at his hall of Narberth, and after a great feast, the whole company went to the top of the hill of Gorsedd Arberth, which hill has the property that whosoever nobleman sits there will either receive a wound, or see a wonder.
And from there they saw a lady, on a pure white horse, with a garment of shining gold, coming along the highway at a gentle pace. And Pwyll send swift horses to follow her, but they could not catch up to her, though they raced fiercely and she yet ambled. And Pwyll thought on the beauty of that maiden and himself rode after her crying, "O maiden, for the sake of him whom thou best lovest, stay for me." "I will stay gladly," said she "I am Rhiannon, daughter of Heveydd Hên and they sought to give me to a husband against my will. But no husband would I have, but thee alone."
"By Heaven," said Pwyll, "Of all the ladies and damsels in the world, thee would I choose."
Said she, "Meet me this day twelvemonth at the palace of Heveydd."
So they parted, and when a year was gone, Pwyll caused a hundred knights to go with him to the palace of Heveydd Hên, where they were met with joy. And they went to meat, and thus did they sit; Heveydd Hên was on one side of Pwyll, and Rhiannon on the other.
And after the meat, there entered a tall auburn-haired youth, of royal bearing, he saluted Pwyll and his companions, saying "Lord, I crave a boon." "Name it," said Pwyll, "and I will grant it." And the youth said. "I come to take Rhiannon to my wife" And Pwyll was silent because of the answer which he had given. "Be long silent," said Rhiannon. "This is Gwawl the son of Clud, and because of the word thou hast spoken, thou must bestow me upon him lest shame befall thee. I will engage to become his bride this night twelvemonth, and you must promise that on that day you will come to the feast, dressed as a poor man, and ask for nothing but a bagful of food." And Rhiannon gave to Pwyll a little bag. And so it did happen. In a year the feast was held at Heveydd Hên, and Pwyll came there clad in coarse and ragged garments, and saluted Gwawl the son of Clud, and his company, both men and women, saying,"I crave but from want, that this little bag might be filled with meat." "Gladly." said Gwawl. But as his attendants began to fill the bag, for all that they put into it, it was no fuller than at first, so that all the food in Heveydd Hên might not fill it. "Twill consume all," said Rhiannon, "unless a knight of noble birth step in the bag to press the food down." And Gwawl the son of Clud stepped into the bag, and Pwyll turned up the sides of the bag, and closed it over his head. And the knights of Pwyll came and struck blows upon the bag each with his foot or with a staff. So thus was the game of 'Badger in the Bag' first played. Gwawl the son of Clud was sent home to tend his wounds, and so and thus did Pwyll take Rhiannon to wife.
And in the third year a year a son was born unto them. And six women of the house watched over the child, but every one of them fell asleep, and towards break of day they awoke; and behold the boy was not there. "Oh," said one of the women, "Let us kill the cub of yon staghound bitch, and rub blood on the face of as she sleeps, and lay the bones before her, and assert that she herself hath devoured her son, and she will not be able to gainsay us six." And so they did. And so was Rhiannon banished from the household and for her penance was made to sit by day upon a horseblock that was without the gate, and to tell her story to all who should come there, and to carry on her back all who would be so carried.
Now at that time Teirnyon was Lord of Gwent Is-Coed, and he was the best man in the world. And unto his house there belonged a mare. And on the night of every first of May she foaled, and no one ever knew what became of the colt. And one night Teirnyon talked with his wife: "Wife," said he, "Let us watch over our mare to see what becomes of her colt." And so they watched, and the colt was born, and behold a great claw came through the window, and it seized the colt. Then Teirnyon drew his sword, and struck off the great arm at the elbow, and ran out to see what monster was there. But there was nothing to be seen, and when he went in, the colt was gone, and instead an infant boy lay in the stable. And he took up the boy, and behold he was very strong. And they caused the boy to be baptised, and called Gwri Wallt Euryn, for his hair was as yellow as gold. And they nursed him and brought him up. And before the year was over he could walk stoutly. And by the second year he was as large as a child six years old. And by the fourth year he rode to horse.
Then did Teirnyon come by Rhiannon and heard her strange story, and he saw a great likeness between the boy and Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn as between father and son. So they went to Pwyll and Pwyll rejoiced to see them. And in this order they sat; Teirnyon between Pwyll and Rhiannon, and Teirnyon's two companions on the other side of Pwyll, with the boy between them. And Teirnyon's told of the mare and the boy. "And behold here is thy son, lady," said Teirnyon. So did the boy return to his father and to his mother and they named him Pryderi. And Pryderi, the son of Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn, was brought up carefully as was fit, so that he became the fairest youth, and the most comely, and the best skilled in all good games, of any in the kingdom. And thus passed years and years, until the end of Pwyll the Chief of Annwvyn's life came, and he passed. And Pryderi chose to wife Kicva, the daughter of Gwynn Gohoyw, and he ruled the seven Cantrevs of Dyved prosperously, beloved by his people.
And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogion.
Bendigeid Vran the son of Llyr, the king of this island, crowned of London, was sat upon the rock of Harlech, looking over the sea when he saw approaching a great ship with flags of satin. It was Matholwch, king of Ireland, come to ask the hand of Branwen the daughter of Llyr, the fairest damsel in the world, "That the Island of the Mighty may be leagued with Ireland, and both become more powerful." And so Bendigeid Vran the son of Llyr bestowed Branwen upon Matholwch, and they banqueted and caroused and discoursed, but not within a house, but under tents, for no house could ever contain Bendigeid Vran. And that night Branwen became Matholwch's bride.
But behold Evnissyen, the brother of Branwen the daughter of Llyr, was sore angered that his sister had been married without his consent. So he went to the horses of Matholwch king of Ireland and cut off their lips at the teeth, and he disfigured the horses and rendered them useless.
And Matholwch was angered mightily. So Bendigeid Vran offered an atonement, a staff of silver, as tall as himself, and a plate of gold of the breadth of his face, and horses new. But seeing that Matholwch was not yet cheered, said Bendigeid Vran, "I will give unto thee a cauldron, which can restore to life men who are slain, all but their power of speech."
That night the banquet carried on with joyousness.
And so Matholwch with Branwen returned to Ireland with thirteen ships. And in due time a son was born unto her, and the name that they gave him was Gwern the son of Matholwch.
And behold in the second year a tumult arose in Ireland, among those who heard of the insult which Matholwch had received in Cambria, and of the hurt done to the horses. And in vengeance they took Branwen from the chamber with him, and made her cook for the Court; and they caused the butcher after he had cut up the meat to come to her and give her every day a blow on the ear.
And Branwen reared a starling in the cover of the kneading trough, and she taught it to speak. And she wrote a letter of her woes, and bound the letter to the bird's wing, and sent it towards Britain. And the bird found Bendigeid Vran at Caer Seiont in Arvon, so that he learned of Branwen's woes.
Branwen the daughter of Lyr
From 'Wonder Stories from the Mabinogion', 1908
And he caused sevenscore and four countries to come unto him, and Bendigeid Vran and his host sailed towards Ireland.
Messengers then went unto Branwen, saying "We see a forest upon the sea? And a mountain beside it?" "The masts of many ships," she answered. "And the great Bendigeid Vran, my brother," she replied, "coming to shoal water; for there is no ship that can contain him."
When they came to land none could cross the river, so Bendigeid Vran laid down and hurdles were placed upon him, and the host passed over thereby, he saying, "He who would be a chief, let him be a bridge", which was the first time that proverb was uttered. And the men of Ireland said to Matholwch their king, "This great man was never known to be within a house, let us make therefore a house that will contain him and the men of the Island of the Mighty on the one side, and thyself and thy host on the other; and there we will show that his sister's son will be our heir and sometime king of Ireland."
And this was made, and the house was built both vast and strong. But the Irish planned a crafty device, that they should put a leathern bag by each of the hundred pillars that were in the house, and an armed man in every one of them.
Then Evnissyen came in, and scanned the house with fierce and savage looks, and descried the leathern bags. "What is in this bag?" asked he of one of the Irish. "Meal, good soul," said he. And Evnissyen felt about it until he came to the man's head, and he squeezed the head until he felt his fingers meet together in the brain through the bone. So he did the like unto every one of them, until he had not left alive, of all the two hundred men.
The men of the Island of Ireland entered the house on the one side, and the men of the Island of the Mighty on the other. And there was concord between them; and the sovereignty was conferred upon the boy, Gwern the son of Matholwch, and he was beloved by all that beheld him.
Then Evnissyen arose and took up the boy by the feet, and thrust him headlong into the blazing fire. Then never was there made so great a tumult in one house as was made by them, as each man armed himself.
Then the Irish kindled a fire under the cauldron of renovation, and they cast their dead therein, and the next day they came forth fighting-men as good as before, except that they were not able to speak. Then when Evnissyen saw that the dead of the Island of the Mighty were nowhere resuscitated, he cried in his heart and he cast himself among the dead of the Irish. And two unshod Irishmen came and flung him into the cauldron. And rent the cauldron in four pieces, and burst his own heart also.
Thus the men of the Island of the Mighty were not victorious, for only seven men of them all escaped, and Bendigeid Vran himself was grievous wounded in the foot with a poisoned dart. Now the seven men that escaped were Pryderi, Manawyddan, Gluneu Eil Taran, Taliesin, Ynawc, Grudyen the son of Muryel, and Heilyn the son of Gwynn Hen.
And Bendigeid Vran commanded them that they should cut off his head, and travel to London. "And a long time will you be upon the road," said he, "In Harlech you will be feasting seven years, the birds of Rhiannon singing unto you the while. And all that time my head will be to you as pleasant company as it ever was when on my body. And at Gwales in Penvro you will be fourscore years and the head with you uncorrupted, until you open the door that looks towards Cornwall. And then you must to London to bury the head on the White Mount, with the face towards France."
So they cut off his head, and these seven went forward therewith, and became known as "The Assembly of the Noble Head."
And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogi.
WHEN the seven men of whom we spoke had buried the head of Bendigeid Vran, in the White Mount of London, with its face towards France; Manawyddan heaved a great sigh. "Alas, there is none save myself without a resting-place this night." "Lord," said Pryderi, "be not so sorrowful. Seven Cantrevs remain unto me, wherein Rhiannon my mother dwells. I will bestow her upon thee and the seven Cantrevs with her, for thou didst never hear a lady discourse better, and even now her aspect is not uncomely."
And so they went into Dyved, and feasted, and before the feast was over she became his bride. And such was the friendship between those four, that they would not be parted from each other by night nor by day. Pryderi and Kicva, and Manawyddan and Rhiannon. Said Pryderi, "Tarry ye here, and I will go into Lloegyr to Oxford to tender my homage unto Caswallawn the son of Beli." And honourable was his reception there, and highly was he praised for offering his homage.
And after his return, Pryderi and Manawyddan feasted and took their ease. And as they sat, behold, a peal of thunder, and lo there came a fall of mist, so thick that not one of them could see the other. And after the mist it became light all around. And when they looked they saw neither house, nor beast, nor smoke, nor fire, nor man, nor dwelling; but the houses of the Court empty, and desert, and uninhabited, without either man or beast within them. And they came into the hall, and there was no man; and to the sleeping-place, and they saw none; and in the mead-cellar and in the kitchen there was nought but desolation. Then they began to go through the land and all the possessions that they had, and they visited the houses and dwellings, and found nothing but wild beasts. And when they had consumed their feast and all their provisions, they fed upon the prey they killed in hunting, and the honey of the wild swarms. And thus they passed the first year pleasantly, and the second; but at the last they began to be weary.
"Verily," said Manawyddan, "Let us go into Lloegyr, and seek some craft whereby we may gain our support." So they went into the land of Lloegyr, to Hereford, and they betook themselves to making saddles. And Manawyddan gilded and coloured them with blue enamel, in the manner done by Llasar Llaesgywydd. And so fine was their work that no man bought saddles but of them. So the saddle-makers of Hereford assembled together, and agreed to slay Manawyddan and his companions.
Now they received warning, so they went to another city, and took to the craft of making shields, and to another they took the craft of shoemakers. But their craft was so fine that they were marked everywhere by the craftsmen there, and so left for another city.
So they journeyed to Dyved, and went to Narberth again, and there they kindled fire and supported themselves by hunting. And one morning Pryderi and Manawyddan rose up to hunt, and they pursued a boar, all white, until they beheld a vast and lofty castle, all newly built, in a place where they had never before seen either stone or building. And the boar ran swiftly into the castle and their dogs after him. "Truly," said Manawyddan, "Whosoever has cast a spell over this land has caused this castle to be here." And Pryderi, to the castle he went. And within he beheld a fountain of marble, and a golden bowl hanging by chains from the air, to which he saw no end. And he went up to the bowl and laid hold of it, whenupon his hands stuck to the bowl, and his feet to the floor, and all his joyousness forsook him, so that he could not utter a word.
And they waited for him till near the close of the day, then only Rhiannon woukld go into the strange place. And as she went in, she perceived Pryderi, and she took hold of the bowl with him; and as she did so her hands became fast to the bowl, and her feet to the slab, and she was not able to utter a word. And, lo, there came thunder upon them, and a fall of mist, and thereupon the castle vanished, and they with it.
Then did Kicva the daughter of Gwynn Gloyw and Manawyddan sorrow that they were alone. "Truly, lady," said Manawyddan, "it is not fitting for us to stay here. Let us go into Lloegyr, I can work as a shoemaker." "Lord," said she, "such a craft becomes not a man so nobly born as thou." "By that however will I abide," said he.
So he began his craft, and thus they tarried there a year, until the cordwainers became envious, and took counsel concerning him. So towards Dyved they set forth to return.
And never was he better pleased than when he saw Narberth again, and the lands where he had been wont to hunt with Pryderi and with Rhiannon. And then he began to prepare some ground, and he sowed a croft, and a second, and a third. And the three crofts prospered with perfect growth, and no man ever saw fairer wheat grown there.
And thus passed the seasons of the year until the harvest came. And then as each day Manawyddan set forth to reap, the crop he found grew less. So, by night, he went to watch the croft. And at midnight, lo, there arose the loudest tumult in the world. And he looked, and behold the mightiest host of mice in the world, which could neither be numbered nor measured. And they all took their way, carrying the ears of wheat with them.
In wrath and anger did he rush upon the mice, and caught one of them up, and put it in his glove. Then he came to the hall and said to Kicva, "I have caught a thief, and I will hang him on the morrow." "My lord," said she, "it would be unseemly for a man of dignity like thee to be hanging such a reptile as this. And if thou doest right, thou wilt not meddle with the creature, but wilt let it go."
But he would not hear her, and he went to the Gorsedd of Narberth, taking the mouse with him, and there he set up two forks. And behold he saw a scholar coming towards him, in old and poor and tattered garments. And it was now seven years since he had seen in that place either man or beast, except those four persons who had remained together until two of them were lost.
And the scholar saw his work and chided him that a man of rank man might go about hanging a mouse. "Lord," said he, "I would give thee a pound which I have received as alms, to let the reptile go forth free." But he would not, and the scholar went his way.
Then came by a priest. And the priest saw his work and chided him that a man of rank man might go about hanging a mouse. "Lord," said he, "rather than see thee touch this reptile, I will give thee three pounds to let it go." But he would not, and the priest went his way.
Then he noosed the string around the mouse's neck, and as he was about to draw it up, behold, he saw a bishop's retinue with his sumpter-horses, and his attendants. And the bishop came towards him, saying, "If thou wilt set free this mouse, I will grant whatever you ask." "I ask that Rhiannon and Pryderi be free, and the charm and the illusion be removed from the seven Cantrevs of Dyved." said he. "That thou shalt have," he answered. "And I will know who the mouse may be." "She is my wife."
"I am Llwyd the son of Kilcoed, and I cast the charm over the seven Cantrevs of Dyved. to avenge Gwawl the son of Clud, for the game of Badger in the Bag, from the friendship I had towards him.
And thereupon behold he saw Pryderi and Rhiannon, and greeted them, and sat down beside them. Then Llwyd struck the mouse with a magic wand, and she was changed back into a young woman, the fairest ever seen.
And when he looked he saw all the lands tilled, and full of herds and dwellings, as it was in its best state. "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 by reason of this bondage is this story called the Mabinogi of Mynnweir and Mynord.
And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogi.
Math the son of Mathonwy was lord over Gwynedd in the North, and Pryderi the son of Pwyll was lord over the one-and-twenty Cantrevs of the South.
And Math the son of Mathonwy could not exist unless his feet were in the lap of a maiden, except when he went to war. And his maiden was Goewin, the daughter of Pebin. And Gilvaethwy the son of Don set his desire upon her, saying to his brother Gwydion, "I shall have her, even if we must tear up the kingdoms."
So they went unto Math the son of Mathonwy, saying, "We have heard that Pryderi the son of Pwyll in the South has beasts called pigs, or swine, such as were never known in this island before, and their flesh is better than the flesh of oxen. They were sent to him from Annwvyn, by Arawn the king of Annwvyn. Shall we go, lord, as one of twelve, in the guise of bards, to bring thee the swine?" "Gladly," said he, "go thou forward."
So he and Gilvaethwy went, and at the house of Pryderi did Gwydion divert all the Court with tales. Then the next day Gwydion betook himself to his arts, and worked a charm, and caused the form of twelve chargers and twelve black dogs to appear, all with trappings of gold. And Gwydion said unto Pryderi, "My errand is to crave from thee the animals of Annwvyn." "Alas," he replied, "there is a covenant that they shall not be given or sold from me" "But", said Pryderi, "thou mayest exchange them for that which is better." And they consulted together, and determined to give the swine to Gwydion, and to take his horses and his dogs. Then Gwydion and his men took their leave with the pigs.
But by the next day did the illusion fade, and so did Pryderi call together one-and-twenty Cantrevs to pursue after them. And they fought, the North and the South, the people of Math and the people of Pryderi, and greivous were their losses. Then said Pryderi, "I declare to Heaven, I will not ask the men of Gwynedd to fight because of me. I shall fight this Gwydion alone." Thus, by force of strength, and fierceness, and by the magic and charms of Gwydion, Pryderi was slain. And at Maen Tyriawc was he buried, and there is his grave.
And the men of the South set forth in sorrow towards their own land. And Math the son of Mathonwy returned from war into his house and into his chamber, and to his foot-maiden. But, "Lord," said Goewin, "seek now another to hold thy feet, for I am no longer a maiden. Thy nephews, lord, Gwydion and Gilvaethwy; did force me, and did wrong unto me, and unto thee dishonour." "Verily," he exclaimed, "I will do right. I will cause thee to have compensation, and I will take thee to be my wife."
And Gwydion and Gilvaethwy came at last to the court of Math seeking forgiveness. And Math took his magic wand, and struck them both so that they became deer. Saying, "And this day twelvemonth come hither unto me."
And at the the year's end the two deer brought him a fawn, and he made them became swine. And at that year's end the two swine brought him a young one, and he made them became wolves. And at that year's end the two wolves brought him a cub, and he lifted up his wand, and struck them, that they both resumed their own nature.
"Oh men," said Math, "sufficient has been your punishment. Now, give your counsel; what maiden shall be my foot-holder?" And they brought Arianrod, the daughter of Don unto him, and Math had her step over his magic wand, to see if she were maiden. And there appeared a fine chubby yellow-haired boy. And then also a small form; and Gwydion unnoticed took it and hid it in his bed-chest.
"Verily," said Math the son of Mathonwy, "I will take the yellow-haired boy, "I will call him Dylan, and baptize him in the sea." And he swam as well as the best fish that was therein.
As Gwydion lay one morning on his bed awake, he heard a cry in the chest at his feet, and and opened the chest: and there beheld an infant boy. And he took up the boy in his arms, and took him to a nurse, and the boy grew strong in few years only.
And one day Gwydion took the boy to the Castle of Arianrod the daughter of Don, saying, "This youth is thy son". Alas," said she, "Why seek ye to announce my dishonour? I lay this destiny upon him, that he shall never have a name but from me." "Heaven bears me witness," answered he, "that thou art a wicked woman." And thereupon he went forth in wrath.
And the next day he made a boat of sedges and seaweed and sticks and Cordovan leather, coloured most beautiful, and took the boy in it to the port of the castle of Arianrod. And Arianrod saw that they were cordwainers of leather, and so went unto them that they might take the measure of her foot to make shoes. Thereupon behold a wren stood upon the deck of the boat, and the boy shot at it, and hit it in the leg between the sinew and the bone. "Verily," said she, "the little lion has a steady hand." "Heaven reward thee not," said Gwydion, for now has he got a name, Llew Llaw Gyffes shall he be called." "Well," said she, "I lay this destiny upon him, that he shall never have arms and armour but from me."
Then they went towards Dinas Dinllev, and there he brought up Llew Llaw Gyffes, until he could manage any horse, and he was perfect in features, and strength, and stature. And then Gwydion took him to the castle of Arianrod, and there they entered under the guise of bards, and well entertained them with stories, and went to rest. In the early twilight Gwydion arose, and he called unto his magic and made the sound of a tumult and a roar of trumpets as of an army approaching. And thereupon Arianrod went she forth and gave out arms and armours among them, so that her son was given arms and armour. "By Heaven," said Arianrod, seeing what was done, "thou art a wicked man. I lay a destiny upon this youth, that he shall never have a wife of the people of this earth."
They went thereupon unto Math the son of Mathonwy, and he said, "We will seek, I and thou, by charms and illusion, to form a wife for him out of flowers." So they took the blossoms of the oak, and the broom, and of the meadow-sweet, and produced from them a maiden, the fairest and most graceful that man ever saw. And they baptized her, and gave her the name of Blodeuwedd.
After she had become his bride, and they had feasted, said Gwydion, "It is not easy for a man to maintain himself without possessions. I will give thee the Cantrev of Dinodig," There dwelt he and reigned, and they were beloved by all.
One day Llew Llaw Gyffes went away to Caer Dathyl, to visit Math the son of Mathonwy. And Gronw Pebyr, the lord of Penllyn, came by his hall, pursuing a stag. And Blodeuwedd looked upon him, and became filled with desire for him. And he also. And that night he tarried there. And the night after. And they plotted a plot together.
When Llew Llaw Gyffes returned home, Blodeuwedd spoke to him, saying, "I am sorrowful as to thy death." "Heaven reward thy care for me," said he, "but I shall never be slain but only by a spear a year in the forming, done only during the sacrifice on Sundays. And I cannot be slain within a house, nor outdoors. I cannot be slain on horseback nor on foot, and ever only with one foot on a buck's back, and the other on the edge of a cauldron." "Well," said she, "I thank Heaven that will be easy to avoid."
Then told she to Gronw Pebyr, and he toiled at making a spear only while mass was celebrated, and that day twelvemonth it was ready. And that very day Blodeuwedd caused to be made a sheltered roof, with a cauldron for bathing beneath. And she called to Llew Llaw Gyffes, "Wilt thou go into the bath, lord?" said she. So into the bath he went, and he anointed himself. And she had collected all the goats of the Cantrev, and had a buck brought to the shelter. Then Llew rose out of the bath, and put on his trowsers, and he placed one foot on the edge of the bath and the other on the buck's back.
Thereupon Gronw flung a poisoned spear and struck Llew Llaw Gyffes on the side, so that he gave a fearful scream and flew up away in the form of an eagle.
And Gronw and Blodeuwedd went together unto the palace, and took possession of Ardudwy and ruled over it.
Then these tidings reached Math the son of Mathonwy heaviness and grief came upon him and also upon Gwydion.
Then Gwydion set forth, and at Nant y Llew he saw a sow eating putrid flesh and vermin, fallen from a tree beneath the lair of an eagle. And there Gwydion sang an 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!"
And the eagle came down upon Gwydion's knee, and Gwydion struck him with his magic wand, so that he returned to his own form.
"Lord," said Llew Llaw Gyffes unto Math the son of Mathonwy, "it is time now that I have retribution." Then they called together the whole of Gwynedd, and set forth to Ardudwy. And when Blodeuwedd heard that they were coming, she took her maidens with her, and fled to the mountain. And through fear they could not proceed except with their faces looking backwards, so that unawares they fell into the lake and were drowned, all except Blodeuwedd herself.
And her Gwydion overtook. And he said unto her, "I will not slay thee, but I will do worse than that. For I will turn thee into a bird; thou shalt fear the light of day, thou shalt fear all other birds. Thou shalt be an owl. "
Then Gronw Pebyr withdrew unto Penllyn, and there did Llew Llaw Gyffes meet with him. And said Gronw Pebyr unto Llew, "It was only by the wiles of a woman I did unto thee as I have done, I adjure thee by Heaven to let me defend myself behind yon stone." Then did Llew fling the spear at him, and it pierced the slab it pierced Gronw likewise, and thus was Gronw Pebyr slain. And there is still the slab on the bank of the river Cynvael, in Ardudwy, having the hole through it.
A second time did Llew Llaw Gyffes take possession of the land, and prosperously did he govern it, and he was lord after this over Gwynedd.
And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogi.
Detail of page from the Red Book of Hergest, one of the sources of the Mabinogion
Image: Jesus College, Oxford
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