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    david poole

      One day in the Kingdom of Arberth, Pwyll prince of Dyfed was out riding with his men when he spotted one of the tribe’s great ancestral mounds. Within their people the mounds held great sway as a site of supernatural power and was greatly revered.

      “I rather fancy visiting that mound”, said Pwyll.

      “I would advise against that, my lord”, said one of the men.

      “And why is that? Surely there can be no danger, as long as my armed soldiers are with me?”

      “There is a legend associated with this mound, my lord”, said the soldier. “It is said that anyone sitting upon the mound will receive either a wonder or a wound in return for placing themselves there. The chance is too great to take, we cannot afford to lose you.”

      “In spite of that I have a good feeling about this”, Pwyll said. “Come, let us ride up there and see what we may see.” And so Pwyll and his soldiers rode up the mound of Gorsedd Arberth. There they discovered a stone seat, clearly shaped so as to allow a single person to sit down within it.

      “See, there is no harm to be found here”, said Pwyll. “I fancy that I shall see a wonder.” So saying he placed himself down in the seat, and looked outwards at the magnificent view. And indeed he did behold a wonder, for at that moment he beheld a mysterious woman sitting astride a white horse, dressed in gold brocade. There was something beautiful and very desirable about her, though no-one could say what it was. She certainly possessed herself well, with a calm and stoicism which were clear. She appeared quite regal in her demeanour.

      “Who on earth might that be?”, he wondered. “Indeed, I have beheld a wondrous sight.”

      Convinced of the blessing of that sight and with an army of men around him, Pwyll decided to send his soldiers out to capture the woman he had seen. For two days and two nights the men tried to follow and capture this mysterious woman, with no success. Every time they got close, she simply evaded them and rode away again, turning back from time to time to look backwards at her pursuers. It was impossible to tell what game she was playing with them, except it was clear that she was up to something.

      Pwyll finally decided to ride out after the woman himself. In spite of the fact that he drove his horse to the limits of its ability, whatever he did he could get no closer to her. The mysterious horse woman was always just out of reach. After about a day, he decided to change his strategy and stopped his horse, waiting for the woman to see what she would do. To his great surprise she did actually stop this time, and finally they met.

      “Why did you not stop for me?”, said Pwyll. “I only wanted to talk with you. Surely there can be no harm in that. I must admit that I find you most entrancing”, he added slyly.

      “My name is Rhiannon”, she said. “I am intended to be married to Gwall Ap Clud, but I do not like him. I rode out here in order to escape, but I do not think that I shall return. I shall only be forced into an arranged marriage if I do, and neither of us shall be happy with that. But you, however”, she added, looking at Pwyll intently, “strike me as being far more attractive. And you are certainly very determined. Perhaps that proves your worth after all.”

      Rhiannon and Pwyll agreed there and then that they would return to the royal court of Arberth and marry there, which they did indeed do, and both were very happy with the arrangement. Gwall however was not very happy at all when he learned of what had happened. With his most trusted magician and advisor Llwyd Ap Cilcoed he decided that they would both visit the court, where they would take advantage of local custom to ask for a gift, using this to get to the lady Rhiannon which was what Pwyll actually wanted. They waited until Pwyll and Rhiannon were holding a great feast before turning up from out of the blue.

      Pwyll was somewhat surprised by their appearance and guessed that trouble was afoot, but as both men had the status of guests they both had to be treated with courtesy, according to custom. Rhiannon was also surprised, but she had a plan, unlike her husband.

      “Gwall! What a surprise it is to see you here!”, said Pwyll. “What may I offer you as our guest?”

      Rhiannon leaned over to him. “Say that you will offer only what you are capable of giving him, but nothing more. Leave the rest to me.”

      It seemed to be simple enough, agreed Pwyll.

      “I shall offer you whatever I am capable of giving you”, he said to Pwyll, leaving out the key part of giving nothing more. A simple but crucial error. Rhiannon slapped her head, groaning slightly.

      “You have made a mistake, never mind now it’s a little too late”, she said. “We shall try to get out of this. I have an idea.”

      “So, a man of honour”, Gwall said, addressing the court. “Whatever is within my means. It is your wife Rhiannon that I want.” The court gasped in shock, knowing that Gwall had not forgotten his loss and intended to take the lady’s hand by exploiting the local custom of hospitality to its utmost limit. Gwall fully expected even this drastic request to be granted, but Rhiannon had thought this through carefully and had a response ready.

      “Your request will be granted”, she said. Gwall was very happy with this statement, but there was more. “We shall prepare a wedding feast for our marriage. You must return a year and a day from now, where both the feast and myself shall be waiting.”

      “That seems like rather a long time”, said Gwall. “But you have sworn. We shall return indeed, and then at the feast we shall marry at last.” And so saying, Gwall and Llwyd departed.

      A year and a day later the two men returned to the Gorsedd of Arberth, where a great and mighty feast awaited both of them. The lady Rhiannon was also waiting for them at the court. What neither of them knew, however, was that Pwyll had arranged for a squadron of his soldiers to be waiting outside in the gathering darkness where they could not be seen by any unwelcome guests. Pwyll himself was present in disguise as a beggar in order to complete the deception. He entered the court where Gwall was holding sway, unrecognised by the men present who were mostly busy feasting and drinking. he stood in front of Gwall, who stared at him.

      “Who on earth are you?”, he asked the disguised Pwyll, somewhat abruptly. Pwyll, as a prince, was not used to being treated like this and nearly responded; it took some inner discipline not to do so.

      “Merely a simple beggar, my lord”, said Pwyll, looking at the feast and the food piled high on the table of the court. “May I beg my lord for some food, if it may please you? We have very little money and the harvest has been extremely poor this year.”

      “Oh well, you are meant to be treated as our guest” said Gwall, looking at Pwyll disdainfully. Pwyll clothing was rather dirty and ragged, a very good disguise. After a moment, he remembered what local custom was. “Very well, that is simple enough. Give this man some food”, he said, indicating to his men to put some of the food from the tables into Pwyll’s bag. Some of the men stepped forward to carry out this request.

      Pwyll held out the bag which he had brought with him, tied to his belt. What no-one knew and what Gwall did not know was that Pwyll’s bag was magically enchanted, such that no matter how much was put into it, it would never fill up.

      Gwall’s men fetched food and tipped it into the bag. It did not seem to be quite full, which was most unusual, so they decided to gather some more food. For some reason that did not appear to be filling the bag up either. Gwall was also suprised.

      “What is happening with this bag?” said Gwall, his anger and disbelief growing steadily. “Does it have a hole in the bottom of it?”

      Rhiannon knew about the enchantment and leaned over to Gwall, ready with an appropriate response.

      “I have seen this before”, she said. “He is pretending that the bag has a hole in it. But it does not. The solution is very simple. A noble man must stand inside the bag then say, ‘this bag is now full.’ That should be enough to do the trick.

      To Gwall, who believed this story for why would his future wife lie to him, it seemed believable enough. He stood up and walked around to the other side of the table where Pwyll was waiting. Pwyll reached up to pull the hood a little tighter over his head, and turned away slightly, just in case Gwall might turn and get too close a look, but Gwall was intent on the bag itself, fortunately for Pwyll. Gwall hitched one leg over and then another, standing upright inside the bag.

      “The bag is now full”, he said.

      Pwyll seized the opportunity which he had been given and pulled the bag up over Gwall’s head, throwing him to the ground. Gwall was thrown onto his hands and feet, and struggled desperately to escape.

      “Help, help, I am trapped!” screamed Gwall but it was no use, the bag was tied tight.

      Pwyll knew that his men were waiting just outside, listening for his signal.

      “Men, to me!” shouted Pwyll.

      The attendants at the feast were shocked when an army of soldiers ran into the hall, menacing them with their swords. No-one dared to put up a fight. Some of them wandered over to Gwall inside the bag, and laughed at the helpless figure, beating and kicking.

      “Just like a badger in the bag!”, they said.

      “Help me, help me, I am being beaten black and blue here! Let me out!” screamed Gwall. Pwyll leaned over him.

      “We will let you out yes”, he said. “But there are conditions.”

      “Please! What are they! I will do anything if you just let me out of here!”

      “You must promise to leave and not to return. Also, you must take no retaliation against me or this court. Agree to these terms, or I shall have my men beat you to death.”

      Gwall was terrified by this but realised that he had little choice. “I agree!”, he cried. At this, Pwyll signalled to his men to let Gwall out, which they did. the bag was lowered carefully and Gwall emerged, smelling badly of all of the food with which he was now smeared. It was completely humiliating, made worse by the fact that everyone was staring at him emerge in repulsion at the terrible smell.

      “Remember, you promised not to retaliate”, Pwyll reminded him. Gwall glared a bit but agreed. “Now off both of you go.” Llwyd was not happy either but decided to give his lord a helping shoulder to lean on as they both walked out. Rhiannon was very happy at the way things had worked out, so was Pwyll.

      Gwall was out of fight but Llwyd was just as unhappy as he was, and concocted a plan. It was a very evil and deceptive plan, but his magics were powerful enough to carry it all out. This would not happen immediately however but only years later. In that time Pwyll and Rhiannon became married and conceived a son, a young boy, about three years after the encounter with Gwall and Llwyd. Rhiannon was now the queen of Arberth, a fitting position for such a noble woman. The couple had come under some pressure from the nobles to conceive so it was not entirely their own choice, although both of them were very happy with the arrangement.

      With both Rhiannon and Pwyll being nobles they were both extremely busy of course, and so they decided, naturally or so it appeared, to give some of the care of their son to six of their maidens, old and experienced.

      “This should take care of any small talk among the court regarding the sincerity of our marriage” said Pwyll to Rhiannon one night. “I have business to attend to, I shall be leaving you along for a while where you will be completely safe.” Pwyll exited the court, but Rhiannon was confident that all would be well.

      Outside in the night a strange fog had descended upon the court and its village of dwellings, swirling about them with white, slender tendrils that grew until they smothered everything. Within this cold and embracing whiteness a huge, monstrous figure stode forward. It was taller than the dwellings among which it walked and taller than the trees themselves. As the entire court lay sleeping, a giant arm and hand reached forward into the room where the child was sleeping and seized him and took him away, breaking the cot into tiny pieces in the process.

      The maids were awoken by the sound and saw the remains of the cot, empty and smashed, the child missing.

      “What shall we do? The baby has gone! Surely we shall be imprisoned or executed for our negligence.” they said.

      “Not necessarily”, said the leader of the maids. “I have a plan. We shall kill one of the pups here and smear Rhiannon with its blood. We shall then convince the queen that she murdered her own child. There are six of us, six against the word of a murderer. No-one shall believe her word against ours and we will escape alive and unharmed.”

      It was an extremely evil plan but it made sense. They killed one of the court pups with a knife, then smeared the blood from the pup over Rhiannon’s clothing and face. It looked very unpleasant, there was no way to tell where the blood actually came from.

      Rhiannon stirred, waking up slowly, unaware of what had happened until she looked at herself and saw blood everywhere. She screamed.

      “What has happened? Where is my baby”, she said, pleading with the maids.

      “Don’t you remember?”, said the leader. “You destroyed him yourself, an evil deed if ever there was. How could you, the child’s mother?”

      “I don’t believe you, how could I do such a terrible thing?”

      The maid pointed to the remains of the crib. “There is further proof if you need it. The child is gone.”

      Rhiannon wailed and the sound brought many people flooding in, who saw all of the blood and the smashed cot and realised that the baby was missing. Unfortunately for Rhiannon the people of the court believed the maids’s story and not hers. Rhiannon was soon dragged outside the perimeter of Arberth where she found the local nobles waiting.

      “You have committed a hideous crime, killing your own child. What do you have to say for yourself?”, they said.

      Rhiannon knew for a fact that she was innocent.

      “I will not stand here and be accused by liars!” she said hotly, pointing to the maids who stood watching from beneath the gate. They looked very worried at this but kept silent.

      “Pwyll! You are the prince here. What sentence do you think is appropriate for a mother who has murdered her own child?” said the nobles.

      “I do not believe it”, said Pwyll. he had not seen anything of what had happened but was confident that Rhiannon would never have done anything so hideous. “I cannot pass sentence on her. I am sure that we still have a child. Therefore my wife cannot be sentenced for murder.” He turned and walked away a little, knowing that his authority was limited when the crime appeared so severe. The nobles had reached their own decision.

      “We have decided upon a sentence. Lady Rhiannon, you shall stand outside this gorsedd where you shall tell everyone of the terrible crime which you have committed, whether you know them or not.”

      “These women know the truth. Look at them, they have lied to you all!” she said, pointing at the maidens, who looked away.

      “Because of your intransigence you shall also be made to carry all visitors to Arberth into the court upon your back as well”, said the leader of the nobles, adding to her sentence.

      And so it was, for the next six years Rhiannon had to stand outside of the court of Arberth, where she slowly became more and more lean, tired and ragged, hit by the weather but out at all times. Every time a visitor came to the court she had to tell them the untrue story of how she had killed her own child. Many people walked away from her at this point, afraid and repelled. It was hard to cope with. Some of the more sadistic people did indeed ask to be borned into the court upon Rhiannon’s back, whipping her as they rode, adding physical injury to mental injury.

      Pwyll watched helplessly from the ramparts of the court. There was so little that he could do; he was expressly forbidden from assisting his wife, who he still believed was innocent. At the end of every day he met with her and tried to reassure and support her in the best way that he could, but their child was still missing. It all seemed so unfair and hopeless. Rhiannon was still allowed to eat at the feasting hall. It seemed like a mockery. Everyone watched them both of course, deeply wary but trying to show as little sign of it as possible. Both were well aware of the attention and deeply uncomfortable.

      Going back a few years to the time of the monster attack, Llwyd was having his creation do more than one task. He had decided to chance his luck once more and to have his monster attack another village, this time belonging to Teyrnon, the lord of Gwent Is Coed. Teyrnon was awake that night, tending to his prize mare which foaled every May Eve. The foal had just given birth and needed some serious attention.

      The tall, skeletal monster stopped outside of the roundhouse which was the stable. A giant, crimson eye stared in through a hole in the wall. No-one would expect anything. It was time to attack. A giant arm smashed through the wattle and daub wall and reached in to grab the new foal. Teyrnon was startled but responded quickly, drawing out his shortsword and hacking at the arm. The arm came off and the monster jumped away and lumbered off into the distance and the enveloping fog.

      Teyrnon stared at the monster’s severed arm. There was a crying sound from within. He moved forward cautiously and carefull slit the arm open with the point of his sword. Within the arm lay Rhiannon and Pryderi’s missing son, still alive and well but bawling heavily.

      “Upon my soul, the monster was carrying a child!”, exclaimed Teyrnon, and he picked up the wailing infant. He showed the child to his wife, who was also surprised. They decided to name the young boy Gwri Waly Euryn. Gwri grew up very quickly. He had golden hair and an unexpected affinity with horses, a gift from his mother’s side. Eventually Teyrnon recognised who the child actually was.

      “This child looks like someone who I used to know. I was once a courtier in the court of Arberth under prince Pwyll. This looks like Pwyll’s child, I am sure of it.”

      His wife agreed with this assessment and together they decided to return with the child to the gorsedd of Arberth. Rhiannon was outside as usual as she had been for a very, very long time. It was weighing her down mightily, but nothing was worse than knowing that her child had been missing for years, apart from knowing that she was completely innocent and falsely accused. The shame of it had never really gone away.

      She was surprised when she saw Teyrnon and his wife approaching with Gwri, but she knew what she was supposed to do, as bitter as it was.

      “Would you like to ride into the gorsedd upon my back? I can carry you if you like. I murdered my own child and hid the evidence by the way, if you don’t want to change your mind.” Most people left at this point of course.

      Gwri was quite scared, as you would be yourself if you heard such a story.

      “I really don’t think we should do that!” said Gwri, turning to cling onto his parents. Teyrnon and his wife stood firm, however, and undaunted, for they both knew that Rhiannon was not what she appeared to be.

      “This is you son, who you were sure had gone missing so long ago”, said Teyrnon. He indicated to Gwri to step forward, and reluctantly the boy did so, for he did not recognise his own mother. Rhiannon stared at Gwri for a very long time, then slowly realisation dawned and she became jubilant.

      “Indeed it is my son, he is alive and well and my innocence can now be proved.” She looked radiant once again.

      Together the four of them walked into the gorsedd of Arberth where the noblemen and Pwyll were gathered as usual, doing their courtly business. They were all surprised to see Rhiannon walking in when she was supposed to be carrying out her sentence. Fortunately lord Teyrnon was present to explain what was happening.

      “This is Rhiannon and Pwyll’s son, he did not die after all and Rhiannon is innocent.” Teyrnon and his wife described the circumstances of Gwri’s appearance. Pwyll was stunned of course but rapidly took it all onboard, and made his case before the court.

      “My wife is innocent after all and must be acquitted at once”, he said.

      With the evidence clearly before them the assembled nobles immediately saw their mistake and exonerated Rhiannon, who was permanently scarred by her experience but nonetheless deeply relieved to have her child alive and well and with her once again.

      “I am so glad that this has happened to us, that our child has been returned”, said Rhiannon. “He shall rule on after us of course.”

      “Gwri does not seem like an appropriate name for a ruler”, said Pwyll. “How about Pryderi? That name sounds fitting for one destined to rule.”

      “Pryderi does seem appropriate somehow. That word is a play on worried. And indeed we were both very worried about him. But through good fortune he has been returned to us. Pryderi it is then.” agreed Rhiannon.

      And so was named the child who would go on to rule the kingdom of Dyfed following his father’s death, arranged a marriage between his mother and Manawyden, amalgamated the seven cantrefs of Dyfed, become one of the seven survivors of the disastrous Irish wars, buries the head of Bran the king of Britain along with Manawydan, who will become the lead character in the Third Branch of the Mabinogion. With Rhiannon, Pryderi and Cigfa, Pryderi’s wife, Manwydan sat upon the Gorsedd of Arberth as Pwyll had once done.

      Unfortunately this all ends in disaster for them. Thunder and mist came down leaving the entire land empty except for the four of them. They were forced to travel across the borderlands of the kingdom, where they used their skills to make a living at skilled crafts, building businesses within three different cities. They made saddles, shoes and shields, essential equipment for the armies of the kingdom and greatly valued. Their reputation grew. Competition was stiff, however, and sometimes it was a struggle. Pryderi began to develop other plans.

      “I think that we should all fight for our kingdom”, he said. “We are good craftsmen, but it is other people who take all of the risks. Are we in truth less brave or worthy than they are?”

      “Of course not”, said Manawydan, “but we are craftspeople, we possess no skill in combat. We would merely be throwing our lives away, although it would be the patriotic thing to do.” Manawydan used this argument to sway the others around, and they finally agreed with him. And so Manawydan and Pryderi returned to Dyfed. One day the two of them were out hunting when they spied a white boar.

      “This must be a magical creature of some kind!”, said Manawydan. “Let us follow it to see where it may lead us. Surely this creature would be a great prize for anyone who might capture it.”

      They pursued the boar for a long time, eventually arriving at a strange tower in the middle of nowhere.

      “I don’t like the look of this”, said Manawydan. “Maybe we should go back to the court of Arberth, we could muster some soldiers for support. I think we need it this time.”

      By this time Pryderi’s hounds had already gone in. Pryderi was desperate to follow them.
      “You can do what you like, I want to retrieve my hounds”, he said, and so saying went inside the tower. There was no sign of Manawydan, but there was however an enormous golden bowl. Entranced by its glowing beauty Pryderi was unable to tear himself away and became frozen in place. Manawydan, who was standing at the threshold uncertain of what to do, witnessed this and ran back to the gorsedd. Rhiannon was waiting there, shocked and then angry when she realised that Pryderi, her son, had somehow been left behind.

      “You are supposed to be a man of honour! How could you possibly desert another to his fate, and my own son of all people? He would never have left you behind if it had happened to you!”, she said. “Why did you not even try to save him?”

      Manawydan stumbled across his words, still almost hypnotised by his memory of that mysterious golden bowl. “I will, and we shall. Let me take some of the men, together we shall free him.” He assembled some of the men with Rhiannon’s permission and together with the queen herself, who was determined to free her son, they all rode off towards the tower which had been found. When the reached the tower Rhiannon dismounted and ran inside, where Pryderi could still be found, frozen in place.

      “Pryderi! Come with me, your friends are here to free you!” she said, wrapping her arms around his motionless form. As Manawydan watched in horror a blanket of mist appeared from nowhere, surrounding the tower, the soldiers and Manwydan himself. The tower suddenly disappeared, and Rhiannon and Pryderi were gone. Distraught, Manawydan returned to Arberth with the soldiers, where the local nobles were waiting.

      “Where has the lady Rhiannon and her son gone to?”, they asked him. Manawydan explained what had happened. “In that case, you must set off to find them. The Gorsedd needs its queen and the queen needs her son. Set off at once, and do not return until you have found them both.” Manawydan vowed that he would do so.

      Manwydan journeyed for a long time. Eventually he came to a field in the middle of the country, where he decided to rest up for a while. While he was sleeping a swarm of mice descended upon the crops, devouring everything in sight.

      “Where are all of these mice coming from?” said Manawydan, as he dove in every direction, throwing himself around, trying to drive the little pests away. But there were too many of them, and it was all but impossible. Manawydan lay there on the ground, exhausted. One of the mice was a little slower than the others. Lungeing forward he was able to grab it by the tail. “Got you!” he said delighted, and dropped it into one of his gloves. “I will deal with you as you deserve, you little thief!”

      Daylight came and Manwydan carried his glove with the mouse now awake once more and squirming inside to the top of a nearby hill. He had picked up some twigs from a tree which he had found near the field and put them into his pocket. Manawydan drew them out and stuck them into the ground. While he was doing this a local wanderer came up to see what was going on.

      “What are you doing there?”, said the wanderer.

      “I am building a gallows to hang a thief!”, said Manawydan.

      “Shame on you! Hanging an innocent mouse like that!”, exclaimed the man. “I will offer you a gold piece if you will let it go free!”

      “Never, this is a thief and justice shall be carried out regardless of your offer.”

      “Oh well”, said the wanderer, feigning indifference. “If you can live with yourself.” And off he went.

      Next there came a local minister. The minister looked at Manawydan and his prisoner with surprise. “What on earth are you up to?” said the minister to Manwydan.

      “I am preparing to hang a thief”, said Manawydan.

      The minister looked shocked. “I will pay you ten gold pieces if you will set the mouse free once more!”

      “Never!”, responded Manawydan. “A thief has stolen the wheat and a thief shall hang.”

      The minister looked very happy but turned around and walked off. A short while later the local archbishop turned up, he walked up the hill and saw as the others had that a very unusual man was trying to prepare a hangman’s noose and a gibbet upon the ground. Most people would have simply assumed insanity, but the archbishop was not like most other people.

      “I will give you twenty five gold pieces if you set that mouse free!” said the archbishop.

      Manwydan was now starting to become suspicious about all of these vistors. What could possibly be going on here? He was all alone and yet a series of men had come to visit him, all asking the same question.

      “First of all, first tell me why you want me to free this mouse”, said Manwydan.

      “She is my wife, and she is bearing our child. Now free her. Please!” The archbishop was beginning to look desperate.

      “No”, said Manawydan. “First of all, promise me that you will cast no more enchantments upon me.”

      “I will do so”, said the archbishop. “Now free my wife!”

      “No. You must promise not to take any revenge upon me first.”

      “Very well, I promise. Now free her, I beg of you!”

      Manwydan felt somewhat reassured by this, but there was something else which he needed, something very, very important.

      “Before I do any of that, I want to see Rhiannon and Pryderi first. When I see them, then I will set your wife and child free, I promise.” Manawydan had never really had any intention to carry out his plan, as he had suspected for a while that some kind of enchantment was involved and that the mouse was not what it really appeared to be after all.

      The archbishop’s face fell, but he agreed. “I have both of them after all, they are with me and they are safe, and here they both are.” He made a gesture behind him, Manwydan looked in that direction and was delighted to see both Rhiannon and Pryderi running towards him up the hill. They came together and embraced. “It is so good to see you both once again!” exclaimed Manwydan. “What is going on here?” As a group they turned to face the archbishop, who suddenly changed through a series of forms. He became the priest, then he became the wanderer, then he became the woman who had been in charge of the maidens, the maidens who had spoken a calumny against Rhiannon herself and gotten her falsely accused. Everyone was startled by this.

      “Surely this cannot be happening!”, exclaimed Rhiannon. “You were her all along? The leader of my accusers, the inventor of all those lies? Myself and my husband and even my son suffered for years because of you.” She was growing angry now, and the others recognised this as a dangerous sign. They were very worried about what might happen next. By this point the soldiers from the gorsedd had finally found them and they were surrounded. The maid was looking very scared by this point, as Rhiannon pointed at her. “Show yourself at once, or I will order my men to do their duty and it will be the worse for you!”

      There was one final change, the maid became Llwyd the enchanter, the magician who served Pwall. No-one had expected that to happen and there were gasps all round.

      “Why did you do it?”, said Pryderi. Silent until now, he was finally moved to speak.

      “Remember the events which took place within the court?”, said Llwyd. “You made Gwall swear not to commit any act of revenge upon you. But you did not make me so swear. You humiliated both of us in front of everyone and I failed my master, which I had never done before.”

      “So it was you all along!”, said Rhiannon, remembering now she had been reminded of the events which had occurred so long ago. In spite of the terrible injustice she realised that she still had her husband and her son after all. With some degree of compassion befitting her nobility she decided against revenge. “I will set you free, on condition that you promise not to take any further action against us, that you do not cast any more enchantments against our kingdom, and that you leave forthwith.”

      Llwyd was all alone and could see that he possesses no further options at that point, so he readily agreed. “I will”, he said.

      Rhiannon nodded to the soldiers around them and they parted, and Llwyd walked away.

      The family was finally reunited and the kingdom was back on course. Pwyll and Rhiannon would go on to reign together quite happily for a very long time afterwards. What eventually happened to Llwyd or to Pwall they never really found out.


        Hello David.

        Very impressive work. Did you write that all out from memory?

        Is Rhiannon a memory of Epona in your opinion? The connections with horses seem too strong to ignore.


        david poole

          Thank you Dowrgi. I basically made a list out of the key plot points, that was all that I had to work with. I had to make sure that every event was covered in the correct sequence. After that I pretty much made it up, the dialogue, the thoughts and feelings of the characters, the flow of the story. It was pretty much taken from memory, apart from a little bit at the end which was rewritten quite heavily so as to form a coherent narrative. I don’t know whether Rhiannon is a memory of Epona; I think that there is supposed to be some kind of connection with Rigatona, another leading goddess who I think was some kind of warrior queen.


            Hi David.

            The derivation of Rhiannon from *Rigantona would mean “Great or Divine Queen” and Rhiannon was a queen. Likewise, Teyrnon could derive from *Tegernonos, “Great King”. There also seems to be a plausible connection with the Madron-Mabon legend too, and horses seem definitely to play a part. Epona means the “Great Mare”. I think would could be dealing with epithets again. What do you think?


            david poole

              That argument kind of makes sense Dowrgi. Which languages are we talking about here? To me it looks like Latin is being used here. Is that right? I thought that Rhiannon’s punishment was very horse like, she basically becomes a horse as her punishment for alleged infanticide. Epona is Roman, that much I do know. The Romans invaded Britain and assimilated the Celts or the Celts accepted parts of their culture and did trade and business with them, until Christianity came in. Maybe the white horses of England are explained as being part of her horse cult?


                Hi again.

                It’s reconstructed (hence the asterisk) Brittonic, the ancestor of modern Welsh, Cornish and Breton – and would have been very close to Gaulish. Latin and Gaulish were quite closely related in linguistic terms and some have theorised that both the Italic and Celtic languages came from a common original branch of the Indo-European family tree, which they name Italo-Celtic. If you change a Latin “kw” to a Gaulish “p” you get equus (horse) turning into “epos”. Curiously, the Italic languages seem to have a p/q division similar to the Celtic languages.

                We know of Epona through inscriptions in Latin and Greek from the Roman period, however, she is definitely Gaulish/Celtic in origin and seems to have been very popular during the Gallo-Roman period. The Romans took her cult to Rome where she was venerated as a protectress of their cavalry units among other things. Interestingly, she seems to be the only non-Roman goddess that was adopted widely throughout the empire and was not ever “married off” to a Roman deity either.

                Let’s not forget that the Romans, Celts, Etruscans, Greeks and myriad other peoples didn’t live in a bubble, they inevitably influenced each other and were influenced from outside too. There are common themes running through many of their mythologies.

                My own feeling is that Epona is a Romanised Gaulish memory of *Rigantona, but I need to do more research on this one, so I stand to be corrected.


                david poole

                  Your knowledge is superior to mine in this area Dowrgi. I know that Equus is the name of a play by Anthony Shaeffer author of The Wicker Man about a boy who blinds horses; we get shades of that in the story of Branwen where Evynissiyen mutilates some horses in order to make them worthless, a quite graphic sequence just behind the child burning. Possibly Shaeffer was making some kind of indirect reference towards that particular story. Most gods and goddesses of the period which you mention were probably mentioned in inscriptions, this may be the only or main evidence of their existence or worship. The Romans did some interesting things with the Celtic gods. For example, Rosmerta was often depicted alongside Mercury, suggesting that Celtic and Roman beliefs were placed side by side. This occurred in Britain, not in Rome to my knowledge. Mars was I think involved in some way as well. I would very much like to see something on Rigantona explaining more of who she actually was.


                    Your knowledge is superior to mine in this area Dowrgi.

                    Knowledge doesn’t belong to anyone, it’s a gift that we should all share. I’m happy that you find what I can share useful.

                    I do like getting to the heart of words, the etymology, the derivation and the original thought behind, or perhaps within, the word itself because I think that it may teach us a lot. I’m still running with the idea from Julian Jaynes that all words are metaphors and, given that we’re both on our bardic course and journey, I think it’s appropriate on many levels.

                    I found this interesting site/link re Rhiannon, Rigantona and Epona. It seems quite well researched and there’s also some stuff on Thomas the Rhymer that may be interesting.




                      Stevie Nicks
                      Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
                      And wouldn’t you love to love her
                      She rules her life like a bird in flight
                      And who will be her lover
                      And who will be her lover
                      All your life you’ve never seen
                      A woman, taken by the wind
                      Would you stay if she promised you heaven
                      Will you ever win
                      She is like a cat in the dark
                      And then she is the darkness
                      She rules her life like a fine skylark
                      And when the sky is starless
                      All your life you’ve never seen
                      A woman, taken by the wind
                      Would you stay if she promised you heaven
                      Will you ever win
                      Dreams unwind.
                      Love’s a state of mind.


                        Rhiannon is the young goddess of the triple goddess. She is the goddess of justice. She is horse goddess and looks over all horses. She is a goddess of love.


                          Hello again David.

                          I don’t know if you know the Celtic Source? Well, here’s a link I thought you might find interesting re our discussion of Rhiannon.


                          david poole

                            Thank you Dowrgi that was very interesting. I don’t know the Celtic source yet, I need to look into it. My story of course was based very closely on the First Branch of the Mabinogion; but that is dated from the medieval period, not the Celtic period. I may try to find out if there is any further evidence dating it back, but this video appears to be a good start.


                              Hi David,

                              I’m glad you found it interesting. There’s some really interesting stuff at Celtic Source – especially from a bardic point of view – and I like the balanced way Dr Gwilym Morus-Baird looks at different sides of an argument. He is also makes reference to a book I have, an excellent source in my opinion, The Celtic Heroic Age by John T. Koch – really worth getting your hands on a copy if you are able to.

                              Just as a clarification, when I say “Celtic” I mean anything and everything in the Celtic-speaking cultures, past and present. I know that the use of the word Celtic has become troublesome for many, so I just hope it’s clear that’s what I mean.


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