The Mabinogi of Math



Math son of Mathonwy[1] was lord of Gwynedd, and Pryderi was lord of the twenty-one cantrefs in the South. Those were the seven cantrefs of Dyfed, seven of Morganog, four of Ceredigion and three of Ystrad Tywi[2].

At that time, Math son of Mathonwy could not live except when he had his feet enfolded in the lap of a maiden, unless the commotion of war prevented him[3]. The maiden that was with him was Goewin daughter of Pebin of Dol Pebin in Arfon. She was the most beautiful woman known [around] there in her day.

Caer Dathyl was his constant abode. He could not do the circuit of the land, but Gilfaethwy son of Don and Gwydion[4] son of Don – his nephews, sons of his sister, and the household with them – would go on the circuit on his behalf.

The maiden was with Math all of the time, but Gilfaethwy set his heart on the maiden, and loved her so much that there was nothing he could do because of her. And lo! his colour, his face and his demeanour wasting away from his love, until he could hardly be recognised.

One day Gwydion looked hard at his brother.

‘Lad,’ said he ‘what has happened to you?’

‘Why?’ said the other ‘what is it that you can see on me?’

‘I can see on you that you have lost your spirit and your colour,’ he replied ‘[so] what has happened to you?’

‘Lord brother,’ he said ‘it would not be fruitful for me to tell anyone what has happened to me.’

‘What is it, friend?’

‘You know,’ he said ‘the ability[5] of Math son of Mathonwy: whatever whisper, however small, that there might be between people, once the wind has met it, he will know it.’

‘Aye,’ said Gwydion ‘Speak no further. I know your mind: you are in love with Goewin.’

When he knew his brother recognised his mind, he gave the heaviest sigh in the world.

‘Be quiet, friend, with your sighing. No-one wins from doing that[6]. Since it cannot be done without it, I will arrange a mustering of Gwynedd, Powys and Deheuparth, so that the maiden might be had. So be happy – I will arrange it for you.’

At that they went to Math son of Mathonwy.

‘Lord,’ said Gwydion ‘I have heard that a [certain] type of creature has come into the South, which has never come to this Island before.’

‘What is their name?’ asked the other.

‘“Hogs”,  Lord.’

‘What kind of animals are those?’

‘Small animals, their meat is better than the meat of oxen. They are small and they are changing names. “Pigs” is what they are called nowadays.’[7]

‘To whom do they belong?’

‘Pryderi son of Pwyll, sent to him from Annwfn by Arawn king of Annwfn.’[8]

(And still [to this day] that [name] is preserved [in the expression]: ‘half sow, half hog.’[9])

‘Aye,’  he replied ‘by what means will you get them?’

‘I will go in a group of twelve, in the guise of bards, Lord, to ask for the pigs.’

‘And what if he refuses you?’[10]

‘Not bad is my plan, Lord,’ said he ‘I will not come [back] without the pigs.’

‘Go to it [then], gladly,’ he replied.

He went, with Gilfaethwy and ten men with them, to Ceredigion – to the place that is nowadays called Rhuddlan Teifi. There was a court of Pryderi’s there, and they went in, in the guise of bards[11].  There was joy at ther arrival. Gwydion was placed next to Pryderi that night.

‘Aye,’ said Pryderi ‘it would be good for us to get a tale from some of those young men yonder.’

‘It is our custom, Lord’ said Gwydion ‘that the first night one comes to a great man, [there should be] a recital from the chief bard. I will gladly recite a tale.’

Gwydion himself was the best cyfarwyd[12] in the world. And that night he delighted the court with entertaining recitals and story-telling, until he was feted by the whole court, and it was with pleasure that Pryderi conversed with him. And at the end of that [he spoke]:

‘Lord,’ he asked ‘is there anyone would  present my petition to you better than me myself?[13]

‘There would be none better [than you],’ answered the other ‘your’s is a right good tongue!’

‘Here is my petition, Lord: to ask you for the animals which were sent to you from Annwfn.’

‘Aye,’ he replied ‘that would be the easiest thing in the world if it were not for an agreement between me and my country over them: that is, they are not to leave me until they have bred twice their number in the land.’

‘Lord,’ said the other ‘I can free you from those words. This is how I’ll do it: don’t give me the pigs tonight, but don’t refuse them to me either. Tomorrow I will show you [something you can] exchange[14] them for.’

That night he and his companions went to their lodging to take counsel.

‘Men,’ said he ‘we will not get the pigs by asking for them.’

‘Aye,’ said they ‘what ploy [can there be there] for their acquistion?’

‘I will arrange their acquistion,’ assured Gwydion.

And then he performed his arts and began to reveal his magic[15]. He conjured up[16] twelve steeds, twelve grey-hounds (each of them black, with a white breast) with twelve collars and twelve leashes on them. Anyone seeing any of [them] would not know they were not of gold; and twelve saddles on the horses: and wherever there would normally be iron on them, it was all gold, and the bridles were of the same workmanship as that[17].

He came to Pryderi with the horses and the dogs.

‘Good day to you, Lord,’ said he.

‘God give well to you,’ he replied ‘and welcome.’

‘Lord,’ he said ‘here is a way out for you from the word[s] you said last night about the pigs – that you might not give or sell them. But you would be able to exchange them for [that which] might be better… I will give you these twelve horses – equipped[18] as they are with their saddles and their bridles – and twelve grey-hounds with their collars and leashes, just as you see, with the twelve golden shields you can see over there.’ (Those he had made by magic out of a toadstool).

‘Aye,’ said he ‘we will take counsel.’

And what was decided in that counsel was to give the pigs to Gwydion, and to take [in return] the horses, the dogs and the shields that he had.

[The others] for their part took their leave, and began herding off the pigs.

‘O brave ones,’ said Gwydion ‘we need to move more swiftly.. The magic will not last from one day to the next.’[19]

That night they made it[20] as far as the uplands of Ceredigion – and the place [where they stopped] is still called ‘Mochdref’[21] because of that. The next day they went on their way [and] they came through Elenid. That night they were between Keri and Arwystli, in a township that is also called ‘Mochtref’ for that reason. And thense they went onwards, and that night they came to a commote in Powys which is likewise called ‘Mochnant’[22] after that incident[23], and they were there for the night. And from there they went on as far as the cantref of Rhos, and there they were that night in a town still known as ‘Mochtref’.

‘Men,’ said Gwydion ‘we will make for the fastness[24] of Gwynedd with these animals. There is an angry mustering behind us [25].

They made for the highest township of Arllechwedd, and there they made a sty for the pigs, and for that reason the name ‘Creuwyryon’[26] was given to that township. And then, when they had finished the pig-sty[27], they went over to Math son of Mathonwy, over in Caer Dathyl. When they got there the land was in turmoil.

‘What news is there in here?’ asked Gwydion.

‘Pryderi is mustering the twenty-one cantrefs after you,’ they repied ‘the only strange thing is how long its taken you[28]!’

‘Where are the animals you went after?’ asked Math.

‘They are in a sty which has been made for them[29] in the cantref below.’

At that, lo! they heard the sound of trumpets and a mustering throughout the land. At that they too armed themselves and went forth until they reached Pennard in Arfon.

That night, Gwydyon son of Don and Gilfaethwy his brother returned to Caer Dathyl. And in the bed[30] of Math, Goewin daughter of Pebin was put to sleep with Gilfaethwy, and the maidens were forced out rudely, and she was slept with against her will that night.

When they saw the day dawning, they made for the place where Math son of Mathonwy was with his war-band. When they arrived, those men were on their way to a council[31] about on which flank they should wait for Pryderi and the men of the South. And they joined in that counsel. What they decided in their counsel was to remain the fastness of Gwynedd[32] in Arfon. And between two fortresses[33] they waited: Maynawr Bennard and Maynawr Coet Alun.

Pryderi advanced towards them there, and there the battle was. There was great slaughter on both sides[34], and the men of the South had to retreat. The place to which they retreated up to was a place that is still called ‘Nant Call’, and they were harried as far as there. Then there was an immeasurable conflict. They then retreated to a place called Dol Penmaen. Then they rallied and sought to make a truce – and Pryderi gave hostages [in return] for peace. This is who he gave: Gwrgi Gwasta[35] and twenty-three sons of noblemen.

After that, they went in peace as far as Traeth Mawr; and as they came up to Uelen Rhyd together, the foot soldiers could not be stopped from firing at each other. Messengers were sent from Pryderi to ask for the two war-bands to be called off, and to ask for it to be left between himself and Gwydion son of Don: since he had caused it [in the first place]. The message came to Math son of Mathonwy.

‘Aye,’ said Math ‘between myself and God, if it is good with Gwydion, I will allow it gladly. I will not compel anyone to come to combat without doing all we can.’

‘God knows,’ said the messenger ‘Pryderi thinks its fair [that] the man who did this wrong to him should pit his body against him, and leave the two hosts in peace[36].

‘I swear by my confession to God,’ [said Gwydion] ‘I will not send the men of Gwynedd to war on my behalf. I myself will go to combat with Pryderi. I will pit my body against his gladly.’[37]That [reply] was sent to Pryderi.

‘Aye,’ said Pryderi ‘I too will not ask my rights of anyone but myself.’

Those two men were put opposite one another[38], they were armed[39], and [then] they went into combat. Through strength and valour and aggression and magic and enchantment Gwydion prevailed, and Pryderi was killed. He was buried at Maen Tyuynawc, above Uelen Rhyd, and there his grave is [still].

The men of the South went back to their country with grievous lamentation – and nor was that surprising: they had lost their lord and many of their best men, and their horses and their weapons, for the most part.

The men of Gwynedd returned again in triumphant joy.

‘Lord,’ said Gwydion to Math ‘would it not be right for us to release their nobleman to the men of the South, the one that they gave as a hostage to secure the peace? We don’t need to keep him [any longer].’

‘Set him free,’ said Math.

That man, and the hostages that were with him, were allowed [to follow] on after the men of the South

For his part, Math made for Caer Dathyl. Gilfaethwy son of Don and the household that was with him toured the circuit of Gwynedd as was their wont – but without coming to court. Math made for his chamber, and ordered the preparation of a place for him to recline, so he could place his feet in the fold of a virgin’s lap.

‘Lord,’ said Goewin ‘you must seek a virgin to go under your feet now. I am woman.’

‘What is the explanation of that?’

‘An attack, Lord, was committed upon my person[40] – quite openly – and I myself did not stay silent. There is no-one in this court who wouldn’t have known about it. It was your nephews who came, Lord, sons of your sister: Gwydion son of Don and Gilfaethwy son of Don. They committed an assault on me and an insult upon you. They slept with me – and they did that in your chamber and in your bed.’

‘Aye,’ said he ‘This is what I can [do]. I will first get justice[41] for you, and after that I will get justice for myself,’ he continued ‘ as for you, I will take you as my wife, and I will give the power[42] of my country into your hands.’

And meanwhile [Gwydion and Gilfaethwy] did not come into the vicinity of the court, but rather carried on the circuit until a ban on food and drink went out against them. At first they did not come near him – then eventually they did.

‘Lord,’ said they ‘a good day to you.’

‘Aye,’ he replied ‘is it to render me justice you have come?’

‘Lord, we are at your will.’

‘If it had been my will, I would not have lost the men and arms that I lost. You are not able to compensate my shame, let alone the death of Pryderi. But since you have both come to my will, I will begin a punishment for you.’

Then he took his magic wand and struck Gilfaethwy, turning him into a sizable hind[43]. He seized the [Gwydion] quickly – and though he would have liked to escape, he was not able. He was struck with the same magic wand, turning him into a stag.

‘Since you have been in league together[44], I will make you fare together and be mated. You will have the same nature as the beasts[45] whose shapes you are in; and during this time, they will have offspring – so you will have them too. A year from today, come to me here.’

After a year to the day, lo! he could hear an uproar below the wall of the chamber, with the dogs of the court barking on top of that uproar.

‘[Go and] see what’s outside.’ said he.

‘Lord,’ someone said ‘ I have looked. There is a stag and a hind and a fawn with them.’ 

At that, he arose and came outside. When he came, what he could see was the three creatures. The three creatures were a stag, a hind and sturdy fawn. He raised up his wand.

‘The one that was a hind for the last year, let him be a wild boar this year. And the one of you that was a stag, let him be a wild sow.’

And with that, he struck them both with the wand.

‘The boy, however, I will take, and have him raised and baptized.’

He was given the name ‘Hydwn’.

‘As for you [two], begone. One of you be a wild boar, the other a wild sow. And the nature that is in wild swine, that is what you will be [like]. A year from today, be here outside the wall, and your offspring with you.’

At the end of the year, lo! they heard barking below the wall of the chamber, and the court stirred-up in response. At that, he arose and went outside. When he came outside, he could see three creatures. The kind of creatures he could see were a wild boar, a wild sow and a fine little piglet[46] with them. And it was big for its age.

‘Aye,’ he said ‘I will take this one myself, and have him baptized.’


He struck it with his wand: turning it into a handsome, red-haired boy. He was given the name ‘Hychdwn’.  

‘And you, the one who was a wild boar for the last year, let him be a she-wolf this year, and the one that was a sow last year, let him be a wolf this year.’

Thereupon, they were struck with the wand, turning them into a wolf and she-wolf.

‘And the nature of the animals in whose shape you are, let that be yours. Be here a year from today, at the bottom of this wall.’

The same day one year later, lo! he could hear an uproar and barking below the wall of the chamber. He went outside, and when he came he could see a wolf, a she-wolf and a sturdy wolf-cub with them.

‘I will take this one,’ he said ‘ and have him baptized; and there’s already a name for him: that is “Bleidwn”. The three boys are yours, and they are:

Three sons of Gilfaethwy the False –

Three warriors true

Bleidwn, Hydwn and Hychdwn[47] the Tall

At that, he struck both of them with the magic wand, returning the back to their own flesh


‘Men,’ he said ‘for the injury you inflicted on me, you have had enough punishment. You have incurred great shame – each of you having borne children from the other. Prepare a bath, and wash their heads, and have them arrayed[48].’ And that was done for them..



After they had been arrayed, they came to him.

‘Men,’ he said ‘you have got peace, and you will get friendship. Give me counsel on what maiden I should take.’

‘Lord,’ said Gwydion ‘there is a simple answer to that[49]. Aranrhod[50], daughter of Don, your niece – daughter of your sister.’

She was brought to him. The maiden came inside.

‘Maiden,’ he said ‘are you [still] a maiden[51]?’ 

‘I know no reason why I should not be.[52]

Then he took the magic wand and bent it.

‘Step over this,’ he said ‘and if you are a maiden, I will know it.’

Then she stepped over the magic wand, and in that step she dropped a large boy with curly yellow hair. What the boy did was give a loud cry. After the boy’s cry, she made for the door, and in the process a little something[53] [dropped] from her. Before anyone could get second look of it, Gwydion picked it up and wrapped a sheet of brocaded silk around it, and hid it away. [The place] where he hid it was in a small chest at the foot of his bed.

‘Aye,’ said [Math son of][54] Mathonwy about the curly yellow haired boy ‘I will have this one baptized. The name I will give [him] is Dylan.’

The boy was baptized, and as soon, as he was baptized he made for the sea. And there, as soon as he came to the sea, he took the nature of the sea.  He could swim as well as the best fish in the sea, and for that reason he was called ‘Dylan Prince of the Wave’. No wave ever broke beneath him. The blow by which his death was came to him was cast by Govannon, his uncle. And that was one of the Three Ill-Fated Blows.

As Gwydion was waking up in his bed one day, he heard a cry in the chest at his feet. Although it wasn’t loud, it loud enough for him to hear it. He quickly got up and opened the chest. As he opened it, he could see a little boy thrusting his arms out of the folds[55] of the sheet, pushing it away. He took the boy between his hands, and made for the township with him, where he knew there was a woman with [milk in her] breasts. He made a deal a woman to nurture the boy. The boy was reared for that year. And [he grew so fast that] after the period of a year, they would have been impressed by his size even if he had been two years old[56].

[By] the next year old he was a large boy, and able to go to the court by himself. Gwydion, for his part, acknowledged him when he came to court. And the boy got to know him, and loved him more than any other person. The boy was then raised in the court until he was four years old. And it would have been impressive if a boy of eight years old had been as large as him.

One day, he followed Gwydion outside for a walk. What he did was make for Caer Aranrhod[57], together with the boy. After his arrival at the court, Aranrhod got up to meet him and make him welcome.

‘God give well to you,’ said he.

‘Who is that boy following you?’

‘This boy is a boy of yours.’[58]

‘Alas, man! What has come over you, shaming me [like this], and continuing my shame, and keeping it[59] with you for as long as this?’

‘If your shame is nothing more than my having reared a boy this fine, then a small thing[60] is your shame.’

‘What is the name of your boy?’ said she.

‘God knows,’ said he ‘there is no name upon him yet.’

‘Aye,’ said she ‘I will swear an oath upon him: he will not get a name until he gets it from me.’

‘I swear to God by my confession,’ said he ‘you are a wretched woman! The boy will get a name, even if it is evil to you. And you,’ he continued ‘because of him grief [is] upon you: you are not called a maiden, and will never be called a maiden again!’

At that, he walked off in a fury, and made for Caer Dathyl – and was there for the night.

The next day he arose, and taking his boy[61] with him went on a walk beside the ocean, between there and Aber Menei. And wherever he saw dulse and sea-girdle, he conjured up a ship. And out of sea-weed and dulse, he conjured dovan leather – and plenty of it – and dappled them, so that no-one had ever seen leather more beautiful than that. And at that, he arrayed a sail on the ship, and came, he and the boy in the boat, to the threshold of the gate of Caer Aranrhod.

When he realised he had been seen from caer, he took away their own appearance, and placed a different appearance upon them – so that they would not be recognised

‘What people are in the boat? asked Aranrhod.

‘Shoe-makers,’ said they.

‘Go and see what kind of leather they have, and what kind of work they do,’ said she.

Then they came up to him, and when they came, he was [busy] dappling the dovan – in gold. The messengers went back and related that to her.

‘Aye,’ said she ‘take the measure of my foot, and ask the shoe-makers to make me [some] shoes.’

For his part, [Gwydion] cut out the shoes – not to measure, but too big instead. The shoes came to her. And, sure enough, the shoes were too big.

‘These are too big,’ said she ‘he will get payment for them, but let him also make some that are smaller.’

What he did was make some others that were very much smaller than her foot, and sent them to her.

‘Tell him that not one of these [pairs of] shoes fits me.’

That was told to him.

‘Aye,’ he replied ‘I won’t fashion the shoes for her until I can see her foot.’

That was said to her.

‘Aye,’ said she ‘I will go out to him.’

Then she came out to the boat. When she came, he was cutting-out, and the boy was stitching.

‘Aye, Lady,’ he said ‘good day to you.’

‘God give well to you,’ said she ‘it seems strange to me that you are not able to adjust the shoes to my measure.’

‘I couldn’t,’ he said ‘[but] now I can.’

At that, suddenly, there was a wren[62] alighting on the deck of the boat. The boy took aim and hit it between the sinew and the bone of its leg[63]. She laughed.

‘God knows,’ said she ‘the fair one strikes it with a skilful hand![64]

‘Aye,’ he replied ‘and the wrath of God upon you! He has obtained a name, and the name is good enough “Lleu Skillful Hand” he will be from now on.’


Then the work faded back into dulse and sea-weed, and he pursued that trade no longer than that. [But] from [doing] that, he was called one of the ‘Three Golden shoemakers.

‘God knows,’ said she ‘you will not thrive from being so evil to me!’

‘I have not been evil to you, even now,’ he replied.

Then he released his boy into his former appearance[65], and took his own appearance as well.

‘Aye,’ said she ‘I will swear an oath on this boy – that he never take arms until I arm him myself[66].’

‘Between me and God!’ said he ‘this [all] springs from your wretchedness – but he will [his] arms get [nonetheless]!’

Then they came back over to Dinas Dinlleu.

Lleu Skillful-Hand was reared until he could ride every horse, and was complete in form, growth and weight. 

Then Gwydion noticed that he was getting despondent from the lack of horses and arms, and he called him in.

‘Lad,’ said he ‘we will go, you and I, on an errand tomorrow. So do be more cheerful than you are.’

‘That I will do,’ said the youth.

The following morning in the young of the day, they walked along the beach up as far as Brynn Aryen; and at the top of Cefyn Cludno, they kitted-out [some] horses[67] and went along to Caer Aranrhod. Then they changed their semblance: and made for the gate in the guise of two young lads, except Gwydion appearance was more serious than that of the youth.

‘Gate-keeper,’ said he ‘go inside and say there are [some] bards from Morganog here.’ The gate-keeper went.

‘God’s welcome to them. Let them in,’ said she.

There was great joy at their arrival. The hall was prepared and they went to eat. After the meal was finished, Gwydion made conversation with her about legends and lore. Gwydion himself was a good cyfarwydd[68].After it was time to depart from carousing, a chamber was prepared for them, and they went to bed.

At cock-crow, Gwydion arose. Then he invoked his enchantment and his powers[69]. At the first light of day, there was a multitude of trumpet blasts and shouting resounding throughout the countryside[70]. When day-break came they heard a knocking on the chamber door, and (at that) Aranrhod asking them to open it. The youth got up and opened it. She came inside, a maiden with her.

‘Good men,’ said she ‘we are in an evil position.’

‘Aye,’ he replied ‘we can hear trumpets and shouting. What do you suppose from that?’

‘God knows,’ said she ‘we can’t even see the colour of the ocean for all the boats crammed-up together [out there]. And the bulk [of them] are heading for land as fast as they can. What should we do?’

‘Lady,’ said Gwydion ‘there’s nothing for it but to close up the caer around us, and defend it as best we can.’

‘Aye,’ said she ‘God repay you. Protect us.  You will find weapons a-plenty here.’

At that, she went to get the weapons. And then she was back, two maidens with her [carrying] arms for two men.

‘Lady,’ said he ‘arm up this young man. And I, with the  maidens, will arm myself. I can hear the sound of the men coming.’

‘I will do that gladly.’

And she armed him gladly, and to the full.

‘Is it finished?’ he asked ‘the arming of that young man?’

‘Its finished,’ she replied.

‘Then I’ve finished too,’ said he ‘take off the weapons now, we have no need for them.’

‘Och!’ she said ‘how is that? Look at the fleet around the house!’

‘Woman, there isn’t a single boat out there[71].’

‘Och!’ said she ‘what sort of mustering was it out there?’

‘That mustering,’ he replied ‘[was] to break your destiny upon your boy, and for him to get [his own] weapons. And he got his weapons indeed – no thanks to you.’

‘Between me and God, you are an evil man!’ she exclaimed ‘Many a boy could have lost his life in the mustering you caused in this cantref today. I will swear a destiny upon him,’ she continued ‘that he will never get a wife, from any race that in the world today!’ [72]

‘Aye,’ said he ‘you have always been a wretched woman, and no-one should support you. But he will get a wife just the same.’




They went to Math son of Mathonwy, and made the most serious complaint in the world against Aranrhod, and [Gwydion] told him about all he had had to do to obtain for arms him[73].

‘Aye,’ said Math ‘we must endeavour, you and I, to conjure a wife for him out of flowers, using our magic and enchantment.’

 [Lleu], for his part, was a fully grown man, and the most handsome youth anyone had ever seen.

Then they took the flowers of the oak, the flowers of the broom, and the flowers of the meadowsweet – and from those they called forth[74] the fairest and most beautiful woman anyone had ever seen. She was baptised with the baptism they practiced [back] then[75], and [the name of] “Blodeuedd”[76] was put upon her.

After [that] they slept together over the feast.

‘It is not easy,’ remarked Gwydion ‘for a man to support himself without lands.’

‘Aye,’ said Math ‘I will give him the best cantref for a youth to get.’

‘Lord,’ he asked ‘which cantref is that?’

‘Cantref Dinoding,’ he replied. (Nowadays that is called Eifonydd and Ardudwy).

The place in the cantref where he set up his court was a place called Mur Castell, and that is in the Ardudwy area. He settled then and ruled his lands. And everyone was satisfied with him and his rule.

Then, once upon a time[77], he made his way over to Caer Dathyl to visit Math son of Mathonwy. The day he went to Caer Dathyl, she [i.e. Blodeuedd] was doing the rounds inside the court. She heard the blast of a horn, and in the wake of the horn-blast there was an exhausted stag passing by, with dogs and huntsmen coming after it. And after the dogs and huntsmen, a crowd of men on foot came [by].

‘Send a lad,’ said she ‘to find out what that retinue is.’

[Off] went the lad, and asked who they were.

‘This is Gronw Pebyr – the man who is lord of Penllyn[78],’ said they. And that the lad reported back to her.

For his part, [Gronw] went after the stag. At the River Cynfael, he caught up with the stag and killed it. He was busy flaying the stag and baiting his hounds until the night closed in on him. And as the sun went down, and the night drew near, he came past the gate of the court.

‘God knows,’ said she ‘we will incur dishonour from the chieftain if we let him [pass through] to another land without inviting him in.’

‘God knows, Lady,’ said they ‘it would be best[79] to invite him in.’

Then messengers went to meet him and invite him in. He took the invitation gladly then, and came to the court. She came to welcome him and greet him warmly.

‘Lady, God repay your kindness.’

They got changed and went to sit down. Blodeuedd looked upon him, and in the instance she looked, there was not an emotion[80] within her that wasn’t filled with love for him. And he also gazed at her, and the same thought came to him as had come to her. He was not able to hide that he was in love her, and he told her so. And she took great pleasure at that. And because of the passion and love each felt for the other, that was [all] they talked about that night. Nor did they wait any longer than that night before they embraced one another. That night they slept together.

The next day, he got ready to go[81].

‘God knows,’ said she ‘you will not go away from me tonight.’

That night too they were together. And that night they discussed how they might stay together longer.

‘There is nothing you can do except this:’ he said ‘to find out from him by what means his death might come – under the pretence of caring about him.’

The next day, he got ready to go.

‘God knows,’ said she ‘I am not counselling you to go from me today.’

‘God knows, since you are not counselling me [to], I’m not going,’ he said ‘I am saying, however, that there is a danger that the chieftain whose court this is might come home.’

‘Aye,’ said she ‘tomorrow I will allow you leave.’

The next day, he got ready to go, and she did not hinder him.

‘Aye,’ he said ‘remember what I said to you, and talk earnestly with him, and do that under the guise of affectionate nagging[82]. And find out from him by what means death might be brought about.’

That night he came home. They passed the day in conversation, song and carousal. That night they went to sleep together. He spoke some words to her, [once] and a second time. But no [reply] did he get then.

‘What’s happened to you?’ he asked ‘are you well?

‘I’ve been thinking,’ she said ‘something you wouldn’t think about me[83], its just’ she continued ‘that I’ve been worried about your death, if you go before me…’

‘Aye,’ said he ‘God repay your care. But unless God kills me, however, it is not easy to kill me.’

‘Will you, for God’s sake and mine, tell me by what means you might be killed? Since my memory is a better safeguard than yours.’

‘I’ll tell you gladly,’ he said ‘It is not easy,’ he continued ‘to kill me by a blow . It would be necessary to spend a year making the spear to strike me with – and without making any of it [at any other time] except when one was at mass on Sundays.’ 

‘And is that certain?’ she asked.

‘It’s certain, God knows,’ he replied ‘I cannot be killed inside a house, nor outside,’ he continued ‘I cannot be killed on horseback or on foot.’

‘Aye,’ said she ‘[so] in what way can you be killed?’

‘I’ll tell you,’ he replied. ‘By making a bath for me by the side of a river, making a curved, slatted roof over the tub, and thatching that well and without [leaving] any gaps. And bringing a buck,’ he continued ‘and putting it next to the tub, and me putting one of my feet on the buck’s back, and the other one on the side of the tub. Whoever would strike me [while I am] like that would bring about my death.’

‘Aye,’ said she ‘I thank God for that. That can be easily avoided.’

No sooner than she had obtained that information[84], she sent for Gronw Pebyr. Gronw laboured at making that spear, and on the same day at the end of the year it was ready. And on that day he let her know.

‘Lord,’ said she ‘I am thinking about how what you were talking about with me earlier might be possible. Would you show me how you would stand on the edge of the tub and on the buck if I prepare the bath?’

‘I’ll show you’ he replied.

She sent for Gronw, and asked him to abide in the shadow of the hill which is now called “Brynn Kyfegyr[85]”: that was on the bank of the River Kynfael. She arranged for all the goats[86] in cantref to be obtained and herded together, and brought them over to the river opposite Bryn Kyfegyr.

The next day she spoke to him.

‘Lord,’ said she ‘I have arranged what you said, I have prepared the slats and the bath and they are ready.’

‘Aye,’ said he ‘We’ll go and look at it, gladly.’

They went the next day to look at the bath.

‘Will you go in the bath, Lord?’ she asked.

‘I’ll go in, gladly,’ he said.

He went in the bath, and began to wash himself.

‘Lord,’ said she ‘here are the animals which you said had [the name of]“bucks”.[87]

‘Aye,’ said he ‘arrange for one of them to be seized, and have it brought over here.’

It was brought over.

Then he got up from the bath, put on his trousers and put one foot on the edge of the tub, and the other on the back of the buck.

Gronw rose up from the hill that was called Bryn Kyfergyr, went up on one knee, and cast the poison spear and struck him on the side, with the shaft protruding out of him and the head stuck inside. Then [Lleu] took flight in the form of an eagle, and gave a terrible scream, and after that they lost sight of him[88].

As soon as he had gone off, they made for the court, and that night they slept together. The next day Gronw arose and subdued Ardudwy. After he subdued the land, he ruled it – so that Ardudwy and Penllyn were [both under] his [control].

Then news came to Math son of Mathonwy. Math was depressed and troubled by that, and Gwydion even more so than him.

‘Lord,’ said Gwydion ‘I will never rest until I get news about my nephew.’

‘Aye,’ said Math ‘may God be your strength.’

Then he set out, and began his wandering. He wandered Gwynedd and the far reaches of Powys. After he had explored every place, he came to Arfon, and came to the house of the son of a villein in Maenawr Bennard.

He alighted in the house, and spent the night there. The man of the house and his family came in, and last of all came the swineherd. The man of the house spoke to the swineherd.

‘Lad’, said he ‘has your sow come in tonight?’

‘She has come,’ he replied ‘now she comes to the pig.’

‘What kind of journey does that sow have?’ asked Gwydion.

‘When the sty is opened every day she goes out. It is not possible to get a hold of her, and it is not known where she goes any more than if she went into the earth[89].’

‘Will you do [this] for me?’ asked Gwydion. ‘Do not open the sty until I am next to the sty with you[90].’

‘I’ll do [that] gladly,’ he replied.

And they went to sleep that night.

When the swine-herd saw the light of day, he woke Gwydion, and Gwydion got up and got dressed and came with him to stand next to the sty. The swine-herd opened the sty. As soon as it was open, there she was, launching herself out of the sty. And she roamed far, with Gwydion following her. She went up-stream, making for a valley (which is now called Nant Lleu[91]), and then slowed down and [started] grazing.

Gwydion, for his part, came under the tree, and looked for what the sow was grazing on. He could see the sow was grazing on rotting flesh and maggots. He looked up into the top of the tree. When he looked up, he could see an eagle in the top of the tree. When the eagle shook himself, worms and rotting flesh fell from him, and those the sow was devouring. It occurred to him that the eagle was Lleu[92], and he sung an englyn:

‘An oak grows between two pools,

Dark-black branches sky and glen

If I do not tell a lie

From the flowers of Lleu this has come!’

The eagle let himself down until he was in the middle of the tree. [Then] Gwydion sang another englyn:

‘An oak grows upon a high plain

Rain neither wets it, nor drips upon it

Nine-score strikes[93] has it endured

In its top, Lleu Skillful-Hand

And then he let himself down until he was on the lowest branch of the tree. Then [Gwydion] sang an englyn:

Grows an oak upon a steep

The sanctuary of fair lord

Unless I speak falsely:

 Lleu will come down into my lap[94]


 And he fell onto Gwydion’s knee; and then Gwydion struck him with a magic wand, until he was [back] in his own form. However, no-one had ever seen a man in a sorrier state[95]. He was nothing but skin and bones.

Then he made for Caer Dathyl, and there the best doctors that could be found in Gwynedd were brought before him. Before the end of the year, he was [back] in good health.

‘Lord,’ he said to Math son of Mathonwy ‘it is high time I got justice from the man who inflicted [such] trouble upon me.’

‘God knows,’ said Math ‘he will not be able to defend himself, justice to you lies with him.[96]

‘Aye,’ said the other ‘the sooner I can get justice the better’

Then they mustered Gwynedd and made for Ardudwy. Gwydion went in front, and made for Mur Castell. Blodeuedd, [when] she heard that they were on their way, took her maidens with her and made for the mountain, across the River Cynfael, making for a court that was up the mountain. And so frightened were they, that they could not walk without facing backwards[97]. Then, before they knew it, they fell into a lake and all drowned except [Blodeuedd] herself. And then Gwydion overtook her, and spoke:

‘I will not kill you. What I am going to do is [even] worse,’ he said ‘that is, I will release you in the shape of a bird. Because of the shame that you have wrought upon Lleu Llaw Gyffes, you will not dare to show your face ever again in the light of day ever again, and that [will be] because of enmity between you and all[other] birds. It will be in their nature to harass you and despise you wherever they find you. And you will not loose your name – that will always be “Bloddeuwedd[98]”.’

“Blodeuwedd” means “owl” in the language of today. And it is because of that there is hostility between birds and owls, and the owl is still known as Blodeuwedd.


For his part, Gronw Pebyr made for Penllyn, and from there he sent envoys. The messengers conveyed a request to Lleu Skilful-Hand [offering him] whatever he wanted [in terms] of blood-payment: either land or territory or gold or silver.

‘I will not take [it], by the confession I give to God!’ said he ‘Here is the least I’ll accept from him: going to the place where I was, when he cast the spear, with me in the place where he was. And let me cast a spear at him. That is the least I will accept from him.’

That was told to Gronw Pebyr.

‘Aye’, he said ‘I will have to do that[99]. O loyal noblemen, my war-band, my foster-brothers: is there anyone one of you that would take this blow for me?’

‘God knows, there is not’ said they.

Because of their refusal to endure the taking of a single blow on behalf of their lord, they are called one of the Three Disloyal Warbands, from that day to this.

‘Aye,’ he said ‘[then] I will take it.’

Both of them came to the bank of the River Cynfael. Then Gronw Pebyr stood, where Lleu Skillful Hand had been when he had cast [the spear] at him, and Lleu in the place where he himself had been.

Then Gronw Pebyr came before Lleu.

‘Lord,’ said he ‘since it was through the wiles of a woman that I did what I did to you, I am asking you, for God’s sake, that you let me put that stone which I see by the bank of the river between me and blow.’

‘God knows,’ said Lleu ‘I will not refuse you that.’

‘Aye,’ said he ‘God repay you.’

Then Gronw took the stone and put it between himself and the blow.

Lleu cast the spear at him. It went pierced though the stone, pierced through him and broke his back.

And then Gronw Pebyr died, and there on the bank of the River Cynfael in Ardudwy the stone is [still], with a hole through it. And for that reason, it is called ‘The Stone of Gronw’.

Lleu Skillful Hand, for his part, conquered the land a second time. And, according to the tradition, he was lord of Gwynedd thereafter.

Thus ends this branch of the Mabinogi.

[1] Williams (###) notes an Irish cognate Mathgammain  ( > Mahony), which was also the name of one of Gruffydd ap Cynan’s Hiberno-Norse step-father (Gruffudd ap Cynan: A collaborative biography ed. Karen Maund p.107). However, Bromwich TYP p.448 and others are probably correct to  interperate Mathonwy a matronymic, as with Gwydion uab Don (the name of Gwydion’s father is never mentioned). If this is the case, then it would appear that Gwynedd in the Fourth Branch is being represented as a matrilinear kingship, with power descending through the female line (as seems to have been the case in Early Medieval Pictland, Nora Chadwick, Early Celtic Scotland pp.92-93)

[2] This was, of course, the political geography of 1165-1197 (see pp. ###-### below)

[3] The Laws of Hywel Dda (twelfth-century texts, purportedly based on traditions established by the tenth-century king Hywel Dda (see pp. ### et al.) record the tradition of the footholder, who was evidently a junior member of the king’s personal staff:

The [footholder] is entitled to his land free and his horse in attendence, and his woollen clothing from the King and his linen clothing from the Queen … It is right for [the footholder] to hold the king’s feet in his lap from when he begins sitting at the banquet until he goes to sleep, and to scratch the King; and for as long a period as that let him guard the King from harm … His sarhaed [see pp. ##-##] is skine and six-score pence.  (Laws of Hywel Dda, p. 33)

What is unusual in this context is not the occurance of a ‘footholder’ in the court of a Welsh king, but the fact that this footholder was female (the laws implicitly assume a male functionary). This immediately gives the setting a curious slant - equivilant to a High Medieval setting in which the page-servants (inexplicably) were all young girls instead of boys. This sets the tone for the subsequent events in the Branch, in which the inversion of gender roles is a notable feature (cf. Valente, 1992), and emphasises the archaic matrilineal ‘otherness’ of Gwynedd in this time. 

[4] Emmended by IW. Both W and R have ‘Hefaidd son of Don’ here instead

[5] kynedaf  lit. ‘nature’ ‘faculty’ ‘peculiarity’

[6] nyt o hynny y goruydir lit. ‘not from that does one win’

[7] hobeu ‘hogs’ mocheu  ‘pigs’. Hobeu (sg. hob) is the rarer of these two porcine synonyms, and has been translated with a correspondingly rarer/more archaic English term. The juxtaposition of hob with hwch (‘sow’) in the traditional phrase (see n. ## below) suggests  that the former may have denoted a specifically male animal. 

[8] For pigs as a totem of the Indigenous Underworld, see pp. ## n. ##, p. ###, n. ### etc. As custodian of these pigs, Pryderi is fulfilling his traditional role as the ‘Powerful Swineherd’ (see pp. ## ff).

[9] ac etwa yd ys yn cadw o’r hwnnw hanner hwch, hanner hob. The sense of this is not entirely clear. It may have been a traditional periphrasis for bisexuality (c.f. ‘neither fish nor fowl’ etc.). P.K. Ford offers the alternative (and equally valid) translation: ‘and still they preserve that name in the word for a side of pork: hanner hob)

[10] Ef a ry eill ych necau lit. ‘he may refuse you’ The affirmative particle ry here being used to emphasise possibility (see GMW p. 168).

[11] This may reflect an intentional recollection of Lord Rhys’ eisteddfodd of 1174 (p. ##). This possibility is discussed further on p. ### below

[12] Cyfarwyd ‘Story-teller’ ‘Historian’ see pp. #-## above.

[13] ae gwell y gwna neb uy neges; wrthyt ti no mi uu hun?  lit: ‘is it better the doing by somebody my petition to you than if it was me myself’

[14] gyfnewit ‘exchange’ This word is also found in the name of Llasar Llaes Gyfnewid the chthonic, cauldron bearing figure in the Second Branch exiled from Ireland by Matholwch and settled in Britain by Bendigeidfran. Decorative techniques learned from Llasar Llaes were also used by Manawydan and Pryderi in the Third Branch, during their time as wandering craftsmen in the towns of England. 

[15] Ac yna yd aeth ef yn y geluydodeu, ac y dechreuuawt dangos y hut lit. ‘He went into his arts, and began to show his magic’. It is hard to know precisely what these words would have meant to a Medieval Welsh audience. In traditional Celtic lore, magical acts are typically performed through the agency of the chanted or spoken word, sometimes with an ecstatic element involved (cf. the awenyddion and traditions of bardic prophesy p. ##). On the other hand, it is quite possible that Gwydion’s ‘arts’ (keluydodeu) were envisaged as being of a necromantic nature. Rumours of this sinister form of diabolic magic were not unheard of in Medieval Wales (see p.##, ###-###).

For the significance of the word hut ‘enchantment’ see pp. ## n.### above.

[16] hudwys ‘enchanted’ ‘magicked’. The sense here is ‘created by illusion’

[17] ac am pob lle y dylyei hayarn uot arnut, y bydei gwybyl eur  lit. ‘and wherever it was right for there to be iron on them, it was completely gold’

The shields and fine metal-work recall the activities of Manawydan in the Third Branch. Both the horse and the dog were important signifiers within the symbolic language of the Mabinogi. This is dicussed in more depth on p. ### below.

[18] Kyueir see p. ### above

[19] The essentials of this tradition were already known to the School of Taliesin before the composition of the Mabinogi, as the following lines from the 10th/11th century poem Kadeir Kerriten would tend to suggest:

Gwydion son of Don

… Who brought swine from south,

… Who made horses to please the court,

And saddles with gold-fittings wrought,

BT 36, 3-7 (the translation of this difficult text is by no means conclusive, I am following that suggested Browmwich in TYP p. 401)

[20] Kerdessant hyt ygwarthaf Keredigion lit. ‘they walked as far as upper Ceredigion’

[21] Mochdref  lit. ‘Pig Town’

[22] Mochnant  lit. ‘Pig Valley’

[23] ystyr lit. ‘meaning’ ‘story’ see p. ###

[24] kedernit  lit. ‘strength’

[25] yd ys yn lludyawc yn an ol ‘there is anger after us’

[26] The meaning of the last element of this word is unknown. Gatz (p. 102) points out that if (g)wyryon is read as gwydyon the name could be understood as Creuwydyon ‘Gwydion’s Sty’.

[27] Ac yna guedy gwneuthur creu y’r moch lit. ‘And then, after the making of a sty for the pigs’

[28] Ryued uu hwyret y kerdyssawchi  lit. ‘It was strange how slowly you had walked’

[29] maent gwedy gwneuthur creu udunt lit. ‘they are [in] after the making of a sty to them’ gwedy (=after) here has the force of a past past participle.

[30] Gwely = ‘bed’  WR has y gweleiUath  ‘in the sight of Math’

[31] yn mynet y gymret kynghor lit ‘[in the process of] going to the taking of a council’

[32] kedernit Gwynydd ‘the strength of Gwynedd’, Arfon being the heartland of Gwynedd, and presumably therefore the easiest part to defend.

[33] Maenawr = Maenor i.e. manor, borough, fortified stronghold

[34] llas lladfa uawr o pop parth lit. ‘a great slaughter was killed from every side’ (llas being the past impersonal form of the verb llad = ‘kill’ ‘cut’)

[35] There are some resemblances between this capitive’s name, and that of Gwri/Gwair of the ‘magical prisoner’ complex (see pp. ###-### above), implying that in some versions of that tradition Gwri/Gwair was a prisoner of the Children of Don rather than of the Indigenous Underworld. 

[36] yn segur  lit. ‘at rest’

[37] This recalls the single combat between Pwyll and Hafgan in the First Branch (p. ### above).

[38] neilltuwyt lit. ‘on different sides’

[39] a dechreuwyt gwiscaw amdanunt lit. ‘the arming of them was begun’

[40] y’m penn lit. ‘on my head’. Millersdaughter (pp. ###) suggests an idiom for the hymen is being suggested (cf. English ‘maidenhead’)

[41] Mi a baraf iawn  lit. ‘I will order/arrange justice’

[42] medyant see n. ### above.

[43] yny uyd daran ewic  lit. ‘in order that he would be a good sized hind’

[44] yn rwymedigaeth lit. ‘in obligation [to one another]’

[45] This rather grotesque combination of incest and bestiality is shocking enough in itself; but there is some reason to believe that by specifying a change in nature (anyan) as well as physical form the author was seeking to transgress rather more than just good taste. Medievalist Caroline Walker Bynum has made a study of twelfth- and thirteenth-century writing on the interrelated subjects of resurrection, metempsychosis and bodily change. As Bynum and others have noted there appears to have been was an obsessive interest in these ontological problems in the Central Middle Ages, which reached a peak in the decades surrounding 1200  (2001, p.77-111). This might be associated, at least in part, with the rediscovery of Ovid’s Metamorphoses during this period, as well as more generalised intellectual, religious and cultural upheavals taking place in late twelfth-century Europe. For whatever reason, the religious and intellectual elite in the late twelfth century seems to have been particularly anxious to affirm the inalienable categories of nature; while in wider society, the public imagination appears to have become increasingly fascinated by stories of werewolves, hybrid monsters, alchemic transformation etc. Writers such as Gerald of Wales were to credit the reality of story of the werewolves in Ireland (Topographia Hiberniae  Ch. 52), but would be careful to affirm that the ‘inner nature remained the same’ [interiore manente natura]. Even Marie de France, in her Lai de Bisclavret, represents the transformed wolf-man as retaining, poignantly, its human powers of reasoning (Bynum, 2001, p.173).

If the author of the Mabinogi had any familiarity with these scholastic debates (directly or otherwise), he would appear to be adopting a deliberately confrontational  position in attributing to Math the power of simultaneous power of inner and outer change over his victims. This would have been regarded as profoundly heretical by authorities such as Peter Lombard and Bernard of Clairveaux – who were insistant that such transformatio substiarum was specifically only possible through Divine intervention (ibid p. 85 ff). It may not be insignificant that around the time when the Mabinogi would have been composed and enjoyed that Conrad of Hirsau was explicitly forbidding the reading of tales in which man’s reason (the image of God) was obscured by his mutation into beasts or stones.

[46] Crynllwdyn  < cryn  ‘small’ + llwd(y)n ‘young of an animal’; lit. ‘fine little young one’. It is hard not to hear a mocking tone in the descriptions of these animal offspring

[47] These first element in each of these names seems to derive from an elided form plural the name of the animal involved hyd- < hyddod ‘deer’, hychd- < hychod ‘pig’, bleid- < bleiddiaid ‘wolf’. The precise significance of the –wn. It is similar though not identical to a common Welsh diminuitive ­–an, and likewise comes close in sound to the suffix –wr (< gŵr ‘man’): this would have perhaps implied a meaning close to ‘Little Wolf Man’, ‘Little Pig Man’ etc. Katherine Millersdaughter (2002, pp.301-302) points out that –wn is also identical to the standard first-person plural ending, giving the meaning ‘we-are-deering’, ‘we-are-swining’, ‘we-are-wolving’ etc. The same ending is also used for the first person singular past-tense, rendering the further meaning: ‘I-deered’, ‘I-swined’, ‘I wolved’. This was perhaps, as Millersdaughter points out, part of the punishment of the Sons of Don – the very names of their sons being a public reminder of their bestial transgressions.

Whether or not this is the case, the incident as a whole is a reminder of the importance of animal symbolism in the Four Branches, and the correlation in this particular genre of narrative discourse between external phenomena (animals, landscapes, magical objects etc.) and internal psychic states.  The specific associations of the deer, the wolf and the pig respectively are discussed on p. ### below. 

[48] This represents a symbolic cleansing of their earlier bestial degradation. This compares interesteringly to the badger-in-the-bath incident, which also invokes the imagery of bestial degradation. Gwawl’s first request after this ordeal is to have bath – the purpose of which was to confirm his re-entry into the human world, as well as to recover from the physical side of the punishment involved. Baptism (which probably would have involved full immersion) likewise seems to have featured a ritual of entry into human society, as we say in the case of Hyddwn, Hychdwn and Bleidwn themselves (p. ###).

[49] hawd yw dy gynghori  lit. ‘Easy is your advising’

[50] Sometimes known as Aryanrot or Arianrhod this was clearly a figure of some importance in the Medieval Welsh tradition. Triad 35 describes her as merch Veli ‘daughter of Beli [Mawr]’, which suggests significant ties between the matriarchal dynasty of Don and the incoming Sons of Beli Mawr (this is discussed further on pp. ###-### below). Indeed, the same triad describes her two sons (Gwenwynwyn and Gwanar) as joining their uncle Casswallawn in the ‘Third Silver Hosting’, which saw twenty-one thousand men cross the sea in pursuit of Julius Caesar. Unfortunately, there are no more references to this tradition extant in the Welsh literary corpus, but the triadic material hints at a body of narrative lore every bit as rich and extensive as that documented in the Four Branches.

Also in Triad 35, we have the name of Aranrhod’s consort: Lliaws mab Nwyfre ‘Multitude son of Sky’. This name, and Aranrhod’s name itself (sometimes translated as ‘Silver Wheel’, understood to be a lunar epithet) gives this figure a strongly mythological aura. In the Book of Taliesin (36, 15), she is described as being famous for her ‘beauty beyond the dawn of fine weather…’.

[51]A uorwyn’ heb ef ‘a wyt uorwyn di?’  lit ‘Maiden, are you a maiden?’  This question juxtaposes two closely related meanings (yet distinct) meanings of the word morwyn  (i) a young, unmarried female and (ii) a virgin. It is clearly the latter that is required by Math. The same ambiguity is to be found in the double meaning of mab  meaning both ‘boy’ and ‘son’ in the subsequent exchanges between Gwydion and Aranrhod with reference to Lleu. The fatherhood of Lleu, like the sexual status of Aranrhod, is shrouded in  uncertainty, with the hint of incest being strongly implied.   See p. ###-### for the full discussion.

[52] Ny wnn I amgen no’m bot  lit. ‘I know no other than that I am.’  Aranrhod’s surley evasiveness is understandable enough, given the intrusive nature of the question.

[53]  pethan  < peth- ‘thing’  -an diminuative suffix, i.e. ‘a little thing’, ‘a little something’. Some kind of after-birth or placenta is implied, but the language is intentionally unspecific.

[54] Emmendment supplied by Ifor Williams (PKM, p.77)

[55] The same word plyc ‘fold’ is used to describe the maiden’s lap in which Math must rest his feet. In conjunction with with the womb-like capacity of the chest itself, the whole effect is suggestive of the female reproductive anatomy ‘the chest …is the surrogate womb in which Guydyon carries Aranrot’s pregnancy to term’ (Millersdaugher 2002,  p. 303).

[56]hof oed ganthunt y ureisket bei dwy ulwyd  lit. ‘it was praiseworthy to them if a two-year old had been as large’

[57] Still known as Caer Arianrhod, this is a rocky island of the coast of Caernarvonshire (located opposite Dinas Dinlle and Morfa Dinlle – both associated with the figure of Lleu). This island setting maybe significant – signifying Aranrhod’s removal from the social mainstream, but also invoking the image of chastisy and sexual isolation associated with figures such as Danae and the giant Balor’s unnamed daughter – both of whom feature as the mother of the hero in the traditional Prophesied Death scenario.

[58] Y mab hwnn, mab y ti yw  ‘Mab’ of course can mean either ‘son’ or ‘boy’. See n. ### above

[59] a’y gadw yn gyhyt a hwnn? lit. ‘and keeping him with you as long as this’. It is unclear whether Aranrhod is refering to the boy or her shame (kywilyd – a masculine noun). In practice, the context makes it clear the reluctant mother makes little distinction – the boy represents little more to her than the embodiment of her ‘shame’ (the exact nature of which is never explicitly revealed).

[60] ys bychan a beth uyd dy gywilid  lit. ‘it is a small thing your shame might be’  Gwydion would seem to be punning on ‘the small something’ (ryw bethan) which originally dropped from Arahrhod, out of which the boy was grown, and the insignificance of Aranrhod’s cause for shame (bychan a beth). 

[61]  y uab  ‘his son’ ‘his boy’, not ‘the boy’ as it is sometimes translated (the lenition of the masculine moun mab identifies the preciding  y as 3rd person singular possessive pronoun rather than a definite pronoun).

This would suggested that Gwydion is being identified as the father, as well as the uncle of the boy – which would certainly explain the shame (kiwilydd) he seems to provke in Aranrhod see Welsh, 1990, pp. 356). The issue of Lleu’s paternity is left intentially ambiguous, as we have already suggested above (p. ###, n. ###), and the implication of incest is not unknown elsewhere in Medieval Celtic hero-conception stories (see pp. ###). However, perhaps it is more accurate, as Valenta suggested (#####) to see Gwydion as adopting a maternal rolein his continuation of the germination of Lleu from the pethan ‘little thing’ dropped by Aranrhod after her delivery of Dylan (n. ### above). In doing so, he may (as suggested by Sullivan) have been asserting a patrinear model over the traditionally matrilineal system which seems to have been the rule in Ancient Gwynedd, as represented in the Fourth Branch.

The rather murky sexual politicals of the Fourth Branch are discussed more fully on pp. ###-### below.

[62] J.G.Frazer notes (pp.536-537) By many European peoples … the wren has been designated the king, the little king, the king of birds, the hedge king, and so forth, and has been reckoned amongst those birds which it is extremely unlucky to kill … Notwithstanding such beliefs, the custom of annually killing the wren has prevailed widely both in this country and France’. As one of a number of examples of this practice, Frazer cites the midwinter ritual at Carcasonne in which ‘the young people of the street of St. Jean used to go out of the town armed with sticks, with which they beat the bushes, looking for wrens. The first to strike down one of these birds was proclaimed King. Then they returned to the town in a procession, headed by the King, who carried the wren on a pole … which was adorned with a verdant wreath of olive, of oak, and sometimes mistletoe grown on an oak.’

Robert Graves suggests (n.b. p. ### ), of Aranrhod: ‘She is the mother of the usual Divine-Fish-Child Dylan who, after killing the usual Wren (as the New Year Robin does on St. Stephen’s day) becomes Llew Llaw Gyffes (‘the Lion with the Steady Hand’ (p.97) 

[63] In the same vein, Robert Graves suggests (p.318) ‘this was presumably the spot between the Achilles tendon and the ankle-bone where, as I point out in my King Jesus, the nail was driven in to pin the foot of the crucified man to the side of the cross, in the Roman ritual borrowed from the Canaanite Cartheginians; for the victim of crucifixion was originally the annual sacred king. The child Llew Law’s exact aim was praised by his mother Arianrhod because as the New Year Robin, alias Belin, he transfixed his father the Wren alias Bran to whom the wren was sacred, ‘between the sinew and the bone’ of his leg.

[64] Ys llaw gyfes y medrwys y Lleu ef lit. ‘It is a skilful hand (llaw gyfess) by which the fair one (lleu) strikes. In applying this nick-name (presumably based on the boy’s fair complexion), Aranrhod unwittingly names the boy.

[65] … y bryt e hun lit. ‘his own appearance’

[66]yny gwiscof i ymdanaw lit. ‘until I clothe it to him’. The verb gwiscaw ‘the clothe’ is used for thre act of putting on armour, and by extension, taking up arms.

[67] …ymgeiraw ar ueirch a wnaethant lit. ‘they prepared themselves on horses’

[68] Cyfarwydd ‘historian’, ‘story-teller’ ‘knowledgable person’ p. ###-### above

[69] yna y gelwis ef y hut a’y allu attaw lit: ‘then he called to his enchantment and his powers to himself’ cf. n ## above.

[70] Yd oed gyniweir ac utkyrn a lleuein lit. ‘there was a frequenting and trumpet blasts and shouting…’ This sentence makes slightly more sense if gyniweir ac utkyrn… is emended to gyniweir oc utkyrn ‘a multitude of trumpets (etc)…’

[71] nit oes yna un llynghes lit ‘there is not a single fleet there’

[72] This might be compared with the curse put upon the hero at the beginning of the Early Arthurian tale of Culhwch and Olwen. Culhwch’s stepmother, in revenge for his turning down her own daughter, swears a destiny (tynged) upon him that he will never touch ‘the flesh of a woman’ until he marries the unobtainable Olwen daughter of the monstrous Ysbaddaden Chief Giant.

The influence of the mythology of Lugus is apparent on this burlesque tale, especially in the confrontation between the hero and the giant, in which the latter is blinded by a poison spear. This raises the interesting possibility that this representation of the ‘Castrating Mother’ (see p. ### for a fuller discussion) might have also been part of the mythological tradition involved from a relatively early stage in its historical development

[73] a menegei ual paryssei yr arueu idaw oll lit. ‘he told all how he had arrange arms for him’

[74] asswynaw lit. ‘petition’ ‘entreat’

[75] cf. n.##, p. ###.

[76] Blodeuedd ‘Flowers’ ‘Blossoms’

[77] The formulaic opening treigylgueith ‘once upon a time’ also appears at the beginning of Pwyll I and II respectively (cf. p. ###, n. ###).  The paralells between this episode and the opening of the First Branch were initially highlighted by Gantz (‘Thematic Structure of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi' Medium Aevum 47 (1978) pp.247-254), and is discussed here on pp. #### below.

The association between hunting, sexuality and otherworld experience should be noted (cf. p. ###, n. ###).

[78] Penllyn: a cantref on the Gwynedd/Powys border.

[79] Iawnaf  lit. ‘most right’

[80] kyweir The range of meanings of this complex and significant word have been explored on pp. #### above. A further meaning, which probably would have understood here was ‘mood, temper’ (also used of musical keys, harmonies) – by extension ‘emotion’.

[81] arouun a wnaaeth ef a ymdeith lit. ‘he intended to go’

[82] ysmalawch lit. ‘mockery’ ‘persistance’

[83] medylyaw yd wyf, yr hynn ny medylyut ti amdanaf  This statement is revealing in its ambiguity. See p.### below.

[84] ymadrawd lit. ‘saying’ ‘utterance’,

[85] Bryn Kyfegyr lit. ‘the hill of combat’

[86] The name for a billy-goat in Welsh is bwch gafr ‘buck goat’. This onomastic equation might be likened to Cúchulain’s accidental breaking of his canine-totem taboo by his killing of an otter (= doborcú lit. ‘water dog’). However, Blodeuedd’s failure to procure a genuine bwch (which usually denotes a young male deer) may have been understood to account for why Lleu’s demise is only partially achieved in this episode.

[87]llyma yr aniueuleit a dywedeisti uot bwch arnunt lit. ‘here are the animals which you spoke of [as] [having the] being of bucks [to them]’

[88] ny chahat y welet ef odyna y maes lit. ‘thereafter no sight of him could be obtained in the field’

[89] For the chthonic associations of the pig, see p. ###.

[90] yny uwyf i yn y neillparth y’creu y gyt a thi lit. ‘until I am at the same side [neillparth] of the sty with you’

[91] Usually identified with Nantlle on the western approaches of the Snowdonian mountains.

[92] sef a wnaeth ynteu, medylyaw y mae Lleu oed yr eryr  lit. ‘this is what he did for his part, think that the eagle was Lleu’ See p. ### (notes on translation)

[93] angerd  An untranslatable word, which has the following range of meanings: i) ‘attribute’ ‘peculiar quality’  ‘gift’ or ‘craft’ ii) ‘strength’ ‘force’ iii) ‘anger’ ‘violence’ (cf. This semantic range is comparable to the French coup ‘blow’, as in coup de grace, coup d’état etc) 

[94] These three rather strange englynion present us with a number of problems. As well as some evidence of textual corruption, there is are considerable linguistic and metric ambiguities,  particularly in the second verse. For those who are interested, the (unamended) White Book text reads as follows:

Dar a dyf y rwng deu lenn

Gorduwrych awyr a glenn,

Ony dywedaf I eu

O ulodeu Lleu pan yw hynn

Dar a dyf yn ard uaes

Nis gwlych glaw, nis mwytawd

Naw ugein angerd aborthes

Yn y blaen, Llew Law Gyfess

Dar a dyf dan anwaeret

Mirein medur ymywet

Ony dywedaf i eu

Dydau Llew ym arfet

The four-line milwr metric form is most characteristic of the later englyn period from the twelfth century onwards. However, if Williams’ argument can be accepted about the disyllabic pronounciation of the word uaes (maes < Br. mages ‘a plain’) is accepted then this verse material is unlikely to have been composed any later than  1100, and may even be considerably older (####: ##).

[95] ny welesei neb ar wr dremynt druanach hagen moc a oed arnaw ef  lit. ‘no man had ever seen a sorrier condition than that which was upon him’

[96] ny eill ef ymgynhal, a’th iawn di gantaw lit. ‘he will not be able to ?consolidate, and your justice [will be] with him’ The precise meaning of this legalistic formulation is not entirely clear – but the general sense seems to be that Lleu is well-placed to extract some kind of recompense from Gronw Pebyr.

[97] Ac ni wydyn gerdet rac ouyn, namyn ac eu hwyneb tra eu keuyn lit. ‘they could not walk through fear, except with their faces towards their backs’

[98] Blodeuwedd (< blodeu ‘flower’ + (g)wedd ‘face, apsect’). This differs slightly from her baptismal name Blodeuedd which was simply the plural of blodeu i.e. ‘Flowers’. This underlines the importance of naming and identity in the Four Branches.

[99] … dir yw ymi gwneuthur hynny lit. ‘necessary is it to me doing that’


© Will Parker 2003