Mabinogion: The Game of Badger in the Bag

This story is part of the Mabinogion unit. Story source: The Mabinogion, translated by Lady Charlotte Guest (1877).

The Game of Badger in the Bag

So Gwawl went forth to his possessions, and Pwyll went also back to Dyved. And they both spent that year until it was the time for the feast at the palace of Heveydd Hen. Then Gwawl the son of Clud set out to the feast that was prepared for him, and he came to the palace and was received there with rejoicing.

Pwyll also, the Chief of Annwvyn, came to the orchard with his hundred knights as Rhiannon had commanded him, having the bag with him. And Pwyll was clad in coarse and ragged garments, and wore large clumsy old shoes upon his feet. And when he knew that the carousal after the meat had begun, he went towards the hall, and when he came into the hall, he saluted Gwawl the son of Clud, and his company, both men and women.

"Heaven prosper thee," said Gwawl, "and the greeting of Heaven be unto thee."

"Lord," said he, "may Heaven reward thee, I have an errand unto thee."

"Welcome be thine errand, and if thou ask of me that which is just, thou shalt have it gladly."

"It is fitting," answered he. "I crave but from want, and the boon that I ask is to have this small bag that thou seest filled with meat."

"A request within reason is this," said he, "and gladly shalt thou have it. Bring him food."

A great number of attendants arose and began to fill the bag, but for all that they put into it, it was no fuller than at first.

"My soul," said Gwawl, "will thy bag be ever full?"

"It will not, I declare to Heaven," said he, "for all that may be put into it, unless one possessed of lands and domains and treasure shall arise and tread down with both his feet the food that is within the bag and shall say, 'Enough has been put therein.'"

Then said Rhiannon unto Gwawl the son of Clud, "Rise up quickly."

"I will willingly arise," said he.

So he rose up and put his two feet into the bag. And Pwyll turned up the sides of the bag so that Gwawl was over his head in it. And he shut it up quickly, and slipped a knot upon the thongs, and blew his horn.

And thereupon, behold, his household came down upon the palace. And they seized all the host that had come with Gwawl and cast them into his own prison.

And Pwyll threw off his rags, and his old shoes, and his tattered array, and, as they came in, every one of Pwyll's knights struck a blow upon the bag and asked, "What is here?"

"A Badger," said they. And in this manner they played, each of them striking the bag either with his foot or with a staff. And thus played they with the bag.

Every one as he came in asked, "What game are you playing at thus?"

"The game of Badger in the Bag," said they. And then was the game of Badger in the Bag first played.

"Lord," said the man in the bag, "if thou wouldest but hear me, I merit not to be slain in a bag."

Said Heveydd Hen, "Lord, he speaks truth. It were fitting that thou listen to him, for he deserves not this."

"Verily," said Pwyll, "I will do thy counsel concerning him."

"Behold this is my counsel then," said Rhiannon; "thou art now in a position in which it behoves thee to satisfy suitors and minstrels: let him give unto them in thy stead and take a pledge from him that he will never seek to revenge that which has been done to him. And this will be punishment enough."

"I will do this gladly," said the man in the bag.

"And gladly will I accept it," said Pwyll, "since it is the counsel of Heveydd and Rhiannon."

"Such then is our counsel," answered they.

"I accept it," said Pwyll. "Seek thyself sureties."

"We will be for him," said Heveydd, "until his men be free to answer for him."

And upon this he was let out of the bag, and his liegemen were liberated.

"Demand now of Gwawl his sureties," said Heveydd; "we know which should be taken for him."

And Heveydd numbered the sureties.

Said Gwawl, "Do thou thyself draw up the covenant."

"It will suffice me that it be as Rhiannon said," answered Pwyll. So unto that covenant were the sureties pledged.

"Verily, Lord," said Gwawl, "I am greatly hurt, and I have many bruises. I have need to be anointed; with thy leave, I will go forth. I will leave nobles in my stead to answer for me in all that thou shalt require."

"Willingly," said Pwyll, "mayest thou do thus."

So Gwawl went towards his own possessions.


(800 words)


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