Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mabinogion: Gwawl's Request

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

Gwawl's Request

And the hall was garnished and they went to meat, and thus did they sit; Heveydd Hen was on one side of Pwyll, and Rhiannon on the other. And all the rest according to their rank.

And they ate and feasted and talked one with another, and at the beginning of the carousal after the meat, there entered a tall auburn-haired youth, of royal bearing, clothed in a garment of satin. And when he came into the hall, he saluted Pwyll and his companions.

"The greeting of Heaven be unto thee, my soul," said Pwyll; "come thou and sit down."

"Nay," said he, "a suitor am I, and I will do mine errand."

"Do so willingly," said Pwyll.

"Lord," said he, "my errand is unto thee, and it is to crave a boon of thee that I come."

"What boon soever thou mayest ask of me, as far as I am able, thou shalt have."

"Ah," said Rhiannon, "wherefore didst thou give that answer?"

"Has he not given it before the presence of these nobles?" asked the youth.

"My soul," said Pwyll, "what is the boon thou askest?"

"The lady whom best I love is to be thy bride this night; I come to ask her of thee, with the feast and the banquet that are in this place."

And Pwyll was silent because of the answer which he had given.

"Be silent as long as thou wilt," said Rhiannon. "Never did man make worse use of his wits than thou hast done."

"Lady," said he, "I knew not who he was."

"Behold this is the man to whom they would have given me against my will," said she. "And he is Gwawl the son of Clud, a man of great power and wealth, and because of the word thou hast spoken, bestow me upon him lest shame befall thee."

"Lady," said he, "I understand not thine answer. Never can I do as thou sayest."

"Bestow me upon him," said she, "and I will cause that I shall never be his."

"By what means will that be?" asked Pwyll.

"In thy hand will I give thee a small bag," said she. "See that thou keep it well, and he will ask of thee the banquet, and the feast, and the preparations which are not in thy power. Unto the hosts and the household will I give the feast. And such will be thy answer respecting this. And as concerns myself, I will engage to become his bride this night twelvemonth. And at the end of the year be thou here," said she, "and bring this bag with thee, and let thy hundred knights be in the orchard up yonder. And when he is in the midst of joy and feasting, come thou in by thyself, clad in ragged garments and holding thy bag in thy hand, and ask nothing but a bagful of food, and I will cause that if all the meat and liquor that are in these seven Cantrevs were put into it, it would be no fuller than before. And after a great deal has been put therein, he will ask thee whether thy bag will ever be full. Say thou then that it never will, until a man of noble birth and of great wealth arise and press the food in the bag with both his feet, saying, 'Enough has been put therein,' and I will cause him to go and tread down the food in the bag, and when he does so, turn thou the bag so that he shall be up over his head in it, and then slip a knot upon the thongs of the bag. Let there be also a good bugle horn about thy neck, and as soon as thou hast bound him in the bag, wind thy horn, and let it be a signal between thee and thy knights. And when they hear the sound of the horn, let them come down upon the palace."

"Lord," said Gwawl, "it is meet that I have an answer to my request."

"As much of that thou hast asked as it is in my power to give, thou shalt have," replied Pwyll.

"My soul," said Rhiannon unto him, "as for the feast and the banquet that are here, I have bestowed them upon the men of Dyved, and the household, and the warriors that are with us. These can I not suffer to be given to any. In a year from tonight, a banquet shall be prepared for thee in this palace that I may become thy bride."


(800 words)

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