The Mabinogion: Pwyll (Part 2)
The year passed and when the time came Pwyll gathered ninety nine
companions and they rode to the court of Heveydd the Old. There was great joy at the
company's arrival and a great feast was laid on, as Rhiannon had promised, and they
ate and caroused and made merry. After the first sitting, an auburn haired youth appeared
before Pwyll and Rhiannon. "Greetings to you friend, sit down" said Pwyll but
the stranger replied "I will not for I am a suppliant and I have come to ask you a
favour". Pwyll told the youth, "whatever you ask, so far as it lies within my
power, you shall have it". "Alas" cried Rhiannon "why did you answer
him so?". The youth told Pwyll "Lord, the woman I love best you are to sleep
with tonight and it his to ask for her and for the preparations and the feast that I have
Pwyll fell silent for he had given the youth his word and there was only one answer hi
could give to his request. "Stay silent" said Rhiannon "for I have never
witnessed such a feeble witted performance". "Lady, I did not know who he
was" exclaimed Pwyll. "This is Gwawl son of Clud, the man to whom I was to be
betrothed against my will and now as you have given your word you must give me to him or
else you will dishonour yourself". Heartbroken, Pwyll replied "I could never do
that my Lady" but Rhiannon had a plan. "Give me to him now and I will see to it
that he never has me. I will give you a bag which you must keep with you. He has asked you
for the preparations and the feast but those are not within your power, I will give the
feast to your host and your company and this will be your answer to him. I will set a
date, a year and a day from now, for him to bed me and at that time you, with your bag and
your company must enter dressed in rags and ask for nothing more than the filling of the
bag with food. I will ensure that even if all the food and drink in this entire land were
to be placed in that bag it would still not be filled. After a great deal of food has been
placed I the bag Gwawl will ask you if it will ever be filled to which you must respond
that it will not unless a very powerful noble were to press down the food with both feet
and says "enough has been put inside". I will then persuade Gwawl to step into
the bag, when he does turn the bag upside down and tie the strings so that he is trapped
inside. Once trapped sound your horn as a signal to your company to descend upon the
Rhiannon turned to Gwawl, "You shall have as much of your request as I am able to
give but as for the preparations and the feast, I have already given them to the troops of Dyved and so a year from tonight another feast shall be prepared for you and you shall
sleep with me".
Pwyll returned to Dyved and Gwawl to his own kingdom and each spent the year waiting
for the feast. When the time came Gwawl went to the court of Heveydd the Old and was
welcomed warmly by all while Pwyll and his ninety nine men waited in the orchard as
arranged. Hearing that the carousing after the first course had begun Pwyll, dressed in
rags, descended to the court and greeted Gwawl thus "Lord, I am a suppliant and I
have come to ask favour of you". Gwawl replied "your request is welcome and, if
it is reasonable, shall be granted." "It is reasonable Lord, for all I ask is
that my bag be filled with food and drink". "A modest request and one that I
will gladly grant" said Gwawl and he ordered that Pwyll's bag be filled. As
Rhiannon had foretold, no matter how much food or drink was placed in the bag, it was no
fuller than before. "Will your bag ever be full" asked Gwawl. "No sir"
replied Pwyll "not until a nobleman of land and possessions steps inside and presses
the food down with his feet and says "enough has been put inside". "Rise at
once my Champion" said Rhiannon to Gwawl and he did as he was asked. As soon as Gwawl
stepped inside the bag, Pwyll turned it upside down, tied the strings and blew his horn.
As his company descended from the orchard Pwyll threw off his rags.
As each of Pwyll's company entered the court he struck the bag and called out
"what is this" to which the rest of the company would respond "A
badger" and this was the first playing of the game "badger in the bag".
Gwawl cried out from inside the bag, "Lord, this is no proper end for me". To
which Rhiannon advised Pwyll that he ought to spare him on condition that Gwawl satisfy
the requests of all suppliants and that he should swear to take no revenge and make no
claim against the couple. Gwawl agreed to these terms.
For the rest of the day the company caroused and made merry until Pwyll and Rhiannon
retired to bed and spent the night in pleasure and delight and the next morning the couple
made their way back to Dyved.
Pwyll and Rhiannon ruled Dyved well for the first and second year and were loved by the
people. During the third year, the men of Dyved began to grow restless that their lord and
his lady had yet to produce a child and so they summoned Pwyll to a meeting at Presseleu
and voiced their concerns. "Lord, we fear Rhiannon will never bear you a child and
ask that you take another woman so that you may produce an heir. Though you may want
things to remain as they are, we cannot permit it". Pwyll loved Rhiannon deeply and
asked that the men give them another year and that if a child was not born, he would
accept their advice.
Before the year was up Rhiannon did indeed produce a son and on the night he was born
six women were brought to her chamber to care for both mother and child. Through the
evening the women kept watch but by midnight all had fallen asleep. Upon waking at dawn
the women were horrified to find the baby gone and despite searching high and low, no
trace could be found of him. The women were in great panic for they feared for their lives
"is there any hope for us" said one, "I have a plan" said another
"There is a deer at court with pups. We must kill some of the pups and smear the
blood on Rhiannon's face and hands, throw the bones about her and swear that it was
she who killed the child".
When Rhiannon woke and asked to see her child the women exclaimed "Lady, do not
ask us for your child, we are covered in bruises and wounds from struggling with you and
we are certain that we have never seen such fight in any woman so that all our struggling
was in vain". "What do you speak of ?" cried Rhiannon. "Do not accuse
me thus. God knows your words are false, if you are in fear of your safety I will protect
you". Despite Rhiannon's' pleading and her sureties the women stood fast to
News soon spread of the events of that morning and of the claims of the women and when
it reached the ears of the nobles of the land they assembled and asked Pwyll to separate
from Rhiannon because of her deeds. Pwyll stood by his wife and said "the only fault
that can be found with my wife is that I am childless and since I know she has born a
child I will not part from her, if she has done wrong then she shall be punished".
Rhiannon summoned the wise men of the land and was told her punishment. She was to remain
at court for seven years where she must sit at the mounting block by the main gate and
tell her story to all that might hear it. In addition she was to offer to carry all
visitors to the court on her back though it was rare that any would accept.
Tiernon Twrvliant was Lord of Gwent Ys Coed at the time and he was the owner of the
finest mare anyone had ever seen. Every May eve, the mare foaled but come morning the
foals were never to be seen. One May eve, Tiernon turned to his wife and said
fools to lose a foal every year, it's May eve tonight and I shall arm myself and stay
with the mare and keep watch". As night fell Tiernon's mare foaled and no finer
or perfect a foal had ever been born. As Tiernon rose to admire his new colt he heard a
great noise and saw a huge claw come through the window and seize the colt. Tiernon drew
his sword and struck such a blow that it severed the arm off at the elbow and the creature
let out such a terrible scream that Tiernon ran out to follow the beast. Realising that he
had left the door open, he rushed back to find the colt and with it a small boy dressed in
swaddling clothes and wrapped in a silk mantle.
Tiernon took the boy back to his home and presented him to his wife, "Lady, here
is a boy for you, for I know it is the one thing that you have always wanted but never
had". Tiernon's wife was greatly pleased, "look at the finery the lad is
dressed in, he is obviously of noble blood. I will tell some of the local women that I am
pregnant and we shall raise the boy as out own".
The boy was baptised and given the name Gwri Golden Hair because the hair on his head
was a beautiful golden colour. Gwri was a remarkable boy, before he was a year old he was
as big as a boy three times his age. At his second year he was as grown as a six year old
and by the time he was four he was arguing with the stable boys to let him ride the
horses. Because of the boy's interest in horse Tiernon and his wife decided to have
the colt that was born alongside Gwri, broken in and given to him.
Meanwhile news of Rhiannon's downfall had reached Tiernon
and, looking at Gwri, he realised that the boy bore a striking resemblance to Pwyll Head
of Annwvyn. Talking with his wife later that night Tiernon told her of his suspicions and
remarked that it was not right to keep Gwri and allow such a fine lady as Rhiannon to
suffer such an injustice. Sadly, the couple decided that Gwri must be returned to his
rightful parents. The very next day Tiernon, Gwri and three companions went to Arberth and
upon entering court came across Rhiannon who offered to carry them to the court on her
back. "No lady", replied Tiernon "I do not suppose any of will allow you to
carry him". When Tiernon entered the court there was much rejoicing. Tiernon told
Pwyll of the events of that May eve, "Lady, look upon your son, for whoever lied
about you did wrong, surely you cannot doubt that he is your son".