Legend 2: Pwyll, Rhiannon and Pryderi
Some time later, Pwyll and his noblemen ascend the mound of Gorsedd Arberth and witness the arrival of Rhiannon, appearing to them as a beautiful woman dressed in gold silk brocade and riding a shining white horse. Pwyll sends his best horsemen after her, but she always remains ahead of them, though her horse never does more than amble. After three days, he finally calls out to her, and Rhiannon tells him she has come seeking him because she would rather marry him than her fiance, Gwawl ap Clud.
This is the interaction part I love the best, so here it goes:
“Young man, said Powel, “I see the lady coming give me my horse.” And no sooner had he mounted his horse than she passed him. And he turned after her, and followed her. And he let his horse go bounding playfully, and thought that at the second step or the third he should come up with her. But he came no nearer to her than at first. Then he urged his horse to his utmost speed, yet he found that it availed nothing to follow her. Then said Powel, “O maiden, ” for the sake of him who thou best lovest, stay for me.”
“I will stay gladly,” said she, “and it were better for thy horse hadst thou asked it long since.” So the maiden stopped, and she threw back that part of her head-dress which covered her face. And she fixed her eyes upon him, and began to talk with him,
“Lady,” asked he, “whence comest thou, and whereunto dost thou journey ?”
“I journey on mine own errand,” said she, “and right glad am I to see thee.”
“My greeting be unto thee,” said he. Then he thought that the beauty of all the maidens, and all the ladies that he had ever seen, was as nothing compared to her beauty.
“Lady,” he said, “wilt thou tell me aught concerning thy purpose?”
“I will tell thee,” said she. ” My chief quest was to seek thee.”
“Behold,” said Powel, “this is to me the most pleasing quest on which thou couldst have come. And wilt thou tell me who thou art ?”
“I will tell thee, lord,” said she. “I am Rhiannon, the daughter of Heveyth Hên, and they sought to give me to a husband against my will. But no husband would I have, and that because of my love for thee, neither will I yet have one unless thou reject me. And hither have I come to hear thy answer.”
“By Heaven,” said Powel, “behold this is my answer. If I might choose among all the ladies and damsels in the world, thee would I choose.”
“Verily,” said she, “if thou art thus minded, make a pledge to meet me ere I am given to another.”
“The sooner I may do so, the more pleasing will it be unto me,” said Powel, “and wheresoever thou wilt, there will I meet with thee.”
“I will that thou meet me this day twelvemonth, at the palace of Heveyth. And I will cause a feast to be prepared, so that it be ready against thou come.”
“Gladly,” said he, ” will I keep this tryst.”
“Lord,” said she, “remain in health, and be mindful that thou keep thy promise And now I will go hence.”
A year after their meeting, Pwyll accidentally and foolishly promises Rhiannon to Gwawl, before managing to win her back through outwitting, bloodying and dishonouring his rival.
There is also this another part that I like, which reminds me of… well, me, actually.
And the hall was set in order for Powel and the men of his host, and for them also of the palace, and they went to the tables and sat down. And as they had sat that time twelvemonth, so sat they that night. And they ate and feasted, and spent the night in mirth and tranquillity.
And next morning, at the break of day, “My lord,” said Rhiannon, “arise and begin to give thy gifts unto the minstrels. Refuse no one to-day that may claim thy bounty.”
“Thus shall it be, gladly,” said Powel, “both to-day and every day while the feast shall last.” So Powel arose, and he caused silence to be proclaimed, and desired all the suitors and the minstrels to show and to point out what gifts were to their wish and desire. And this being done, the feast went on, and he denied no one while it lasted.
Under the advice of his noblemen, Pwyll and Rhiannon attempt to supply an heir to the kingdom and eventually a boy is born. However, on the night of his birth, he disappears while in the care of six of Rhiannon’s ladies-in-waiting. To avoid the king’s wrath, the ladies smear dog’s blood onto a sleeping Rhiannon, claiming that she had committed infanticide and cannibalism through eating and “destroying” her child. Rhiannon is forced to do penance for her crime.
This was a part which I found strange in narration, because I got the impression that Rhiannon took the ‘penance’ willingly to appease and pacify people, not that she was guilty, or Pwyll believed she was:
And Powel the chief of Annuvyn arose, and his household and his hosts. And this occurrence could not be concealed; but the story went forth throughout the land, and all the nobles heard it. Then the nobles came to Powel, and besought him to put away his wife because of the great crime which she had done. But Powel answered them that they had no cause wherefore they might ask him to put away his wife.
So Rhiannon sent for the teachers and the wise men, and as she preferred doing penance to contending with the women, she took upon her a penance. And the penance that was imposed upon her was that she should remain in that palace of Narberth until the end of seven years, and that she should sit every day near unto a horse-block that was without the gate ; and that she should relate the story to all who should come there whom she might suppose not to know it already; and that she should offer the guests and strangers, if they would permit her, to carry them upon her back into the palace. But it rarely happened that any would permit. And thus did she spend part of the year.
The child is discovered outside a stable by an ex-vassal of Pwyll’s, Teyrnon, the lord of Gwent Is Coed. He and his wife claim the boy as their own and name him Gwri Wallt Euryn (English: Gwri of the Golden hair), for “all the hair on his head was as yellow as gold.” The child grows to adulthood at a superhuman pace and, as he matures, his likeness to Pwyll grows more obvious and, eventually, Teyrnon realises Gwri’s true identity. The boy is eventually reunited with Pwyll and Rhiannon and is renamed Pryderi.
“Behold here is thy son, lady,” said Teirnyon. “And whosoever told that lie concerning thee has done wrong. When I heard of thy sorrow, I was troubled and grieved. And I believe that there is none of this host who will not perceive that the boy is the son of Powel,” said Teirnyon.
“There is none,” said they all, ” who is not certain thereof.”
“I declare to Heaven,” said Rhiannon, “that if this be true, there is indeed an end to my trouble.”
“Lady,” said Pendaran Dyfed, “well hast thou named thy son Pryderi (end of trouble), and well becomes him the name of Pryderi son of Powel chief of Annuvyn.”
There are many legends, and famous real, or fictitious people with ‘Paul’ in their name, and I happen to be one of them. My favorite ‘Paul’ among them all is, in fact, Pwyll (Powel) from Celtic mythology, so here is his legend, as narrated in http://cy.wikisource.org/wiki/Pwyll_Pendeuic_Dyuet (no, I can’t speak Welsh, or even read it properly, but the letters themselves seem to be fascinating – hey, I’m a linguist after all… and I know how to use Google… to find this: http://www.mabinogi.net/pwyll.htm – and there is also this another link http://www.surlalunefairytales.com/authors/jacobs/moreceltic/powelprince.html – and hey, I can read that, too!).
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Pwyll, in Celtic mythology, legendary mortal, king of Dyfed, a beautiful land containing a magic caldron of plenty. In Arthurian legend, Pwyll’s caldron became the Holy Grail, and Pwyll appeared as Pelles, the keeper of the Grail. And Dyfed is an actual Welsh land, by the way, you can find more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Dyfed
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Legend 1: The Otherworld /Annwn/
Whilst hunting in Glyn Cuch, Pwyll, prince of Dyfed becomes separated from his companions and stumbles across a pack of hounds feeding on a slain stag. Pwyll drives the hounds away and sets his own hounds to feast, earning the anger of Arawn, lord of the otherworldly kingdom of Annwn. In recompense, Pwyll agrees to trade places with Arawn for a year and a day, taking on the lord’s appearance and takes his place at Arawn’s court.
Now that was the part I liked a lot:
‘Chieftain, if I’ve committed an offence, I will redeem your friendship.’
‘In what form will you redeem it?’
‘As appropriate to your rank – I don’t know who you are…’
‘A crowned king am I in the land I am from.’
‘Lord,’ said Pwyll ‘good day to you. Which land is it that you are from?’
‘From Annwvyn. Arawn king of Annwfn am I.’
‘Lord, how might I obtain your friendship?’
‘This is how you might obtain it: there is a man whose kingdom borders on my kingdom, who is constantly at war with me. He is Hafgan king of Annwfn. The removal of this oppression from me – which you can do easily – will win you my friendship.’
At the end of the year, Pwyll engages in single combat against Hafgan, Arawn’s rival, and mortally wounds him with one blow and earns Arawn overlordship of all of Annwn.
That was also elegantly executed, I can’t help but cite again:
‘Good men,’ said he ‘listen well. Between [these] two kings is this appointment, and that between their two persons [only]. Each one is a claimant against the other, over issues of land and territory. May all [the rest] of you stand back, and let [the fight] be between them [alone].’
At that the two kings closed in on one another to the middle of the ford for their encounter. At the first onslaught the king who was in the place of Arawn struck Hafgan in the middle of the boss of his shield, so it split in two halves and all his armour was broken and Hafgan was a spear-and-arms length over the back of his horse and onto the ground, with a mortal wound upon him.
‘Chieftain,’ said Hafgan ‘what right have you to my death? I was not bringing any claim against you, I do not know why you are killing me either; but by God’, he said ‘since you have begun my death, finish it [now]!’
‘Chieftain,’ he replied ‘it may be that I would regret doing what I did to you. Find someone [else] to kill you; [but] I will not kill you.’
‘My faithful peers,’ said Hafgan ‘carry me away from here. The conclusion of my death is truly upon me. I am in no condition to uphold you any more.’
‘Peers of mine’ said the man who was in the place of Arawn ‘take a reckoning, and find out those [out there] who owe me allegiance.’
After Hafgan’s death, Pwyll and Arawn meet once again, revert to their old appearance and return to their respective courts. They become lasting friends because Pwyll slept chastely with Arawn’s wife for the duration of the year. As a result of Pwyll’s successful ruling of Annwn, he earns the title Pwyll Pen Annwfn; “Pwyll, head of Annwn.”