the Son of Llyr
(Translation by Lady Charlotte Guest)
PWYLL and Rhiannon had a son, whom they named Pryderi. And
when he was grown up, Pwyll, his father, died. And Pryderi married
Kicva, the daughter of Gwynn Gloy.
Now Manawyddan returned from the war in Ireland, and he found
that his cousin had seized all his possessions, and much grief
and heaviness came upon him. "Alas! woe is me!" he
exclaimed; "there is none save myself without a home and
a resting-place." "Lord," said Pryderi, "be
not so sorrowful. Thy cousin is king of the Island of the Mighty,
and though he has done thee wrong, thou hast never been a claimant
of land or possessions." "Yea," answered he, "but
although this man is my cousin, it grieveth me to see any one
in the place of my brother, Bendigeid Vran; neither can I be
happy in the same dwelling with him." "Wilt thou follow
the counsel of another?" said Pryderi. "I stand in
need of counsel," he answered, "and what may that counsel
be?" "Seven cantrevs belong unto me," said Pryderi,
"wherein Rhiannon, my mother, dwells. I will bestow her
upon thee, and the seven cantrevs with her; and though thou hadst
no possessions but those cantrevs only, thou couldst not have
any fairer than they. Do thou and Rhiannon enjoy them; and if
thou desire any possessions thou wilt not despise these."
"I do not, chieftain," said he.
"Heaven reward thee for thy friendship! I will go with thee
to seek Rhiannon, and to look at thy possessions." "Thou
wilt do well," he answered; "and I believe thou didst
never hear a lady discourse better than she, and when she was
in her prime, none was ever fairer. Even now her aspect is not
They set forth, and, however long the journey, they came at last
to Dyved; and a feast was prepared for them by Rhiannon and Kicva.
Then began Manawyddan and Rhiannon to sit and talk together;
and his mind and his thoughts became warmed towards her, and
he thought in his heart he had never beheld any lady more fulfilled
of grace and beauty than she. "Pryderi," said he, "I
will that it be as thou didst say." "What saying was
that?" asked Rhiannon. "Lady," said Pryderi, "I
did offer thee as a wife to Manawyddan, the son of Llyr."
"By that will I gladly abide," said Rhiannon. "Right
glad am I also," said Manawyddan; "may Heaven reward
him who hath shown unto me friendship so perfect as this."
And before the feast was over she became his bride. Said Pryderi,
"Tarry ye here the rest of the feast, and I will go into
England to tender my homage unto Caswallawn, the son of Beli."
"Lord," said Rhiannon, "Caswallawn is in Kent;
thou mayest therefore tarry at the feast, and wait until he shall
be nearer." "We will wait," he answered. So they
finished the feast. And they began to make the circuit of Dyved,
and to hunt, and to take their pleasure. And as they went through
the country, they had never seen lands more pleasant to live
in, nor better hunting-grounds, nor greater plenty of honey and
fish. And such was the friendship between these four, that they
would not be parted from each other by night nor by day. And
in the midst of all this be went to Caswallawn at Oxford, and
tendered his homage; and honorable was his reception there, and
highly was he praised for offering his homage.
And after his return Pryderi and Manawyddan feasted and took
their ease and pleasure. And they began a feast at Narberth,
for it was the chief palace. And when they had ended the first
meal, while those who served them ate, they arose and went forth,
and proceeded to the Gorsedd, that is, the Mound of Narberth,
and their retinue with them. And as they sat thus, behold a peal
of thunder, and with the violence of the thunder-storm, lo! there
came a fall of mist, so thick that not one of them could see
the other. And after the mist it became light all around. And
when they looked towards the place where they were wont to see
cattle and herds and dwellings, they saw nothing now, neither
house, nor beast, nor smoke, nor fire, nor man, nor dwelling,
but the buildings of the court empty, and desert, and uninhabited,
without either man or beast within them. And truly all their
companions were lost to them, without their knowing aught of
what had befallen them, save those four only.
"In the name of Heaven," said Manawyddan, "where
are they of the court, and all my host beside? Let us go and
see." So they came to the castle, and saw no man, and into
the hall, and to the sleeping-place, and there was none; and
in the mead-cellar and in the kitchen there was naught 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 one morning Pryderi and Manawyddan rose up to hunt, and they
ranged their dogs and went forth. And some of the dogs ran before
them, and came to a bush which was near at hand; but as soon
as they were come to the bush, they hastily drew back, and returned
to the men, their hair bristling up greatly. "Let us go
near to the bush," said Pryderi, "and see what is in
it." And as they came near, behold, a wild boar of a pure
white color rose up from the bush. Then the dogs, being set on
by the men, rushed towards him; but he left the bush, and fell
back a little way from the men, and made a stand against the
dogs, without retreating from them, until the men had come near.
And when the men came up, he fell back a second time, and betook
him to flight. Then they pursued the boar until they beheld a
vast and lofty castle, all newly built, in a place where they
had never before seen either stone or building. And the boar
ran swiftly into the castle, and the dogs after him. Now when
the boar and the dogs had gone into the castle, the men began
to wonder at finding a castle in a place where they had never
seen any building whatsoever. And from the top of the Gorsedd
they looked and listened for the dogs. But so long as they were
there, they heard not one of the dogs, nor aught concerning them.
"Lord," said Pryderi, "I will go into the castle
to get tidings if the dogs." "Truly," he replied,
"thou wouldst be unwise to go into this castle, which thou
hast never seen till now. If thou wouldst follow my counsel,
thou wouldst not enter therein. Whosoever has cast a spell over
this land, has caused this castle to be here." "Of
a truth," answered Pryderi, "I cannot thus give up
my dogs." And for all the counsel that Manawyddan gave him,
yet to the castle he went. When he came within the castle neither
man, nor beast, nor boar, nor do, nor house, nor dwelling, saw
he within it. But in the centre of the castle floor he beheld
a fountain with marble-work around it, and on the margin of the
fountain a golden bowl upon a marble slab, and chains banging
from the air, to which he saw no end.
And he was greatly pleased with the beauty of the gold, and with
the rich workmanship of the bowl; and he went up to the bowl,
and laid hold of it. And when he had taken hold of it his hands
stuck to the bowl, and his feet to the slab on which the bowl
was placed; and all his joyousness forsook him, so that he could
not utter a word. And thus he stood.
And Manawyddan waited for him till near the close of the day.
And late in the evening, being certain that he should have no
tidings of Pryderi or the dogs, he went back to the palace. And
as he entered Rhiannon looked at him. "Where," said
she, "are thy companion and thy dogs?" "Behold,"
he answered, "the adventure that has befallen me."
And he related it all unto her. "An evil companion hast
thou been," said Rhiannon, "and a good companion hast
thou lost." And with that word she went out, and proceeded
towards the castle, according to the direction which he gave
her. The gate of the castle she found open. She was nothing daunted,
and she went in. And as she went in she perceived Pryderi laying
hold of the bowl, and she went towards him. "O my lord,"
said she, "what dost thou here?" And she took hold
of the bowl with him; and as she did so her hands also became
fast to the bowl, and her feet to the slab, and she was not able
to utter a word. And with that, as it became night, lo! there
came thunder upon them, and a fall of mist; and thereupon the
castle vanished, and they with it.
When Kicva, the daughter of Gwynn Gloy, saw that there was no
one in the palace but herself and Manawyddan, she sorrowed so
that she cared not whether she lived or died. And Manawyddan
saw this. "Thou art in the wrong," said he, "if
through fear of me thou grievest thus. I call Heaven to witness
that thou hast never seen friendship more pure than that which
I will bear thee, as long as Heaven will that thou shouldst be
thus. I declare to thee that, were I in the dawn of youth, I
would keep my faith unto Pryderi, and unto thee also will I keep
it. Be there no fear upon thee, therefore." "Heaven
reward thee!" she said; "and that is what I deemed
of thee." And the damsel thereupon took courage, and was
"Truly, lady," said Manawyddan, "it is not fitting
for us to stay here; we have lost our dogs, and cannot get food.
Let us go into England; it is easier for us to find support there."
"Gladly, lord," said she, "we will do so."
And they set forth together to England. "Lord," said
she, "what craft wilt thou follow? Take up one that is seemly."
"None other will I take," answered he, "but that
of making shoes." "Lord," said she, "such
a craft becomes not a man so nobly born as thou." "By
that however will I abide," said he. "I know nothing
thereof," said Kicva. "But I know," answered Manawyddan,
"and I will teach thee to stitch. We will not attempt to
dress the leather, but we will buy it ready dressed, and will
make the shoes from it."
So they went into England, and went as far as Hereford; and they
betook themselves to making shoes. And he began by buying the
best cordwain that could be had in town, and none other would
he buy. And he associated himself with the best goldsmith in
the town, and caused him to make clasps for the shoes, and to
gild the clasps; and he marked how it was done until be learned
the method. And therefore is he called one of the three makers
of gold shoes. And when they could be had from him not a shoe
nor hose was bought from any of the cordwainers in the town.
But when the cordwainers perceived that their gains were failing
(for as Manawyddan shaped the work so Kicva stitched it), they
came together and took counsel, and agreed that they would slay
them. And he had warning thereof, and it was told him how the
cordwainers had agreed to slay him.
"Lord," said Kicva, "wherefore should this be
borne from these boors?" "Nay," said he, "we
will go back unto Dyved." So towards Dyved they set forth.
Now Manawyddan, when he set out to return to Dyved, took with
him a burden of wheat. And he proceeded towards Narberth, and
there he dwelt. And never was he better pleased than when he
saw Narberth again, and the lands where he had been wont to hunt
with Pryderi and with Rhiannon. And he accustomed himself to
fish and to hunt the deer in their covert. And then he began
to prepare some ground, and he sowed a croft, and a second, and
a third. And no wheat in the world ever sprang up better. And
the three crofts prospered with perfect growth, and no man ever
saw fairer wheat than it.
And thus passed the seasons of the year until the harvest came.
And he went to look at one of his crofts, and, behold, it was
ripe. "I will reap this to-morrow," said he. And that
night he went back to Narberth, and on the morrow, in the gray
dawn, he went to reap the croft; and when he came there he found
nothing but the bare straw. Every one of the ears of the wheat
was cut off from the stalk, and all the ears carried entirely
away, and nothing but the straw left. And at this he marvelled
Then he went to look at another croft, and, behold, that also
was ripe. "Verily," said he, "this will I reap
to-morrow." And on the morrow he came with the intent to
reap it; and when he came there he found nothing but the bare
straw. "O gracious Heaven!" he exclaimed, "I know
that whomsoever has begun my ruin is completing it, and has also
destroyed the country with me."
Then he went to look at the third croft; and when he came there,
finer wheat had there never been seen, and this also was ripe.
"Evil betide me," said he, "if I watch not here
to-night. Whoever carried off the other corn will come in like
manner to take this, and I will know who it is." And he
told Kicva all that had befallen. "Verily," said she,
"what thinkest thou to do?" "I win watch the croft
tonight," said he. And he went to watch the croft.
And at midnight he heard something stirring among the wheat;
and he looked, and behold, the mightiest host of mice in the
world, which could neither be numbered nor measured. And he knew
not what it was until the mice had made their way into the croft,
and each of them, climbing up the straw, and bending it down
with its weight, had cut off one of the ears of wheat, and had
carried it away, leaving there the stalk; and he saw not a single
straw there that had not a mouse to it. And they all took their
way, carrying the ears with them. In wrath and anger did he rush
upon the mice; but he could no more come up with them than if
they had been gnats or birds of the air, except one only, which,
though it was but sluggish, went so fast that a man on foot could
scarce overtake it. And after this one he went, and he caught
it, and put it in his glove, and tied up the opening of the glove
with a string, and kept it with him, and returned to the palace.
Then he came to the hall where Kicva was, and he lighted a fire,
and hung the glove by the string upon a peg. "What hast
thou there, lord?" said Kicva. "A thief," said
he, "that I found robbing me." "What kind of a
thief may it be, lord, that thou couldst put into thy glove?"
said she. Then he told her how the mice came to the last of the
fields in his sight. "And one of them was less nimble than
the rest, and is now in my glove; to-morrow I will hang it."
"My lord," said she, "this is marvellous; but
yet it would be unseemly for a man of dignity like thee to be
hanging such a reptile as this." "Woe betide me,"
said he "if I would not hang them all, could I catch them,
and such as I have I will hang." "Verily, lord,"
said she, "there is no reason that I should succor this
reptile, except to prevent discredit unto thee. Do therefore,
lord, as thou wilt."
Then he went to the Mound of Narberth, taking the mouse with
him. And he set up two forks on the highest part of the mound.
And while he was doing this, behold, he saw a scholar coming
towards him, in old and poor and tattered garments. And it was
now seven years since he had seen in that place either man or
beast, except those four persons who had remained together until
two of them were lost. "My lord," said the scholar,
"good day to thee." "Heaven prosper thee, and
my greeting be unto thee! And whence dost thou come, scholar?"
asked he. "I come, lord, from singing in England; and wherefore
dost thou inquire?
seven cantrevs of Dyved." "This shalt
thou have also; set therefore the mouse free." "I will
not set it free, by Heaven," said he, "till I know
who the mouse may be." "She is my wife." "Wherefore
came she to me?" "To despoil thee," he answered.
"I am Lloyd, the son of Kilwed, and I cast the charm over
the seven cantrevs of Dyved. And it was to avenge Gawl, the son
of Clud, from the friendship that I had towards him, that I cast
the charm. And upon Pryderi did I avenge Gawl, the son of Clud,
for the game of Badger in the Bag, that Pwyll, the son of Auwyn,
played upon him. And when it was known that thou wast come to
dwell in the land, my household came and besought me to transform
them into mice, that they might destroy thy corn. And they went
the first and the second night, and destroyed thy two crops.
And the third night came unto me my wife and the ladies of the
court, and besought me to transform them. And I transformed them.
Now she is not in her usual health. And had she been in her usual
health, thou wouldst not have been able to overtake her; but
since this has taken place, and she has been caught, I will restore
to thee Pryderi and Rhiannon, and I will take the charm and illusion
from off Dyved. Set her therefore free." "I will not
set her free yet." "What wilt thou more?" he asked.
"I will that there be no more charm upon the seven cantrevs
of Dyved, and that none shall be put upon it henceforth; moreover,
that vengeance be never taken for this, either upon Pryderi or
Rhiannon, or upon me."
"All this shalt thou have. And truly thou hast done wisely
in asking this. Upon thy head would have lit all this trouble."
"Yea," said he, "for fear thereof was it that
I required this." "Set now my wife at liberty."
"I will not," said he, "until I see Pryderi and
Rhiannon with me free." "Behold, here they come,"
she answered. And thereupon behold Pryderi and Rhiannon. And
he rose up to meet them, and greeted them, and sat down beside
them. "Ah, chieftain, set now my wife at liberty,"
said the bishop. "Hast thou not received all thou didst
ask?" "I will release her, gladly," said he. And
thereupon he set her free.
Then he struck her with a magic wand, and she was changed back
into a young woman, the fairest ever seen.
"Look round upon thy land," said he, "and thou
wilt see it all tilled and peopled as it was in its best estate."
And he rose up and looked forth. And when he looked he saw all
the lands tilled, and full of herds and dwellings.
And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogi.
The following allusions to the preceding story are found in a
letter of the poet Southey to John Rickman, Esq., dated June
6th, 1802:- "You will read the Mabinogeon, concerning which
I ought to have talked to you. In the last, that most odd and
Arabian-like story of the mouse, mention is made of a begging
scholar, that helps to the date; but where did the Cymri get
the imagination that could produce such a tale? That enchantment
of the basin hanging by the chain from heaven is in the wildest
spirit of the Arabian Nights. I am perfectly astonished that
such fictions should exist in Welsh. They throw no light on the
origin of romance, everything being utterly dissimilar to what
we mean by that term, but they do open a new world of fiction;
and if the date of their language be fixed about the twelfth
or thirteenth century, I cannot but think the mythological substance
is of far earlier date; very probably brought from the East by
some of the first settlers or conquerors."