Mabinogion: Pwyll and the Wondrous Lady

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

Pwyll and the Wondrous Lady

Pwyll Prince of Dyved came likewise to his country and dominions and began to inquire of the nobles of the land how his rule had been during the past year, compared with what it had been before.

"Lord," said they, "thy wisdom was never so great, and thou wast never so kind or so free in bestowing thy gifts, and thy justice was never more worthily seen than in this year."

"By Heaven," said he, "for all the good you have enjoyed, you should thank him who hath been with you, for behold, thus hath this matter been."

And thereupon Pwyll related the whole unto them.

"Verily, Lord," said they, "render thanks unto Heaven that thou hast such a fellowship and withhold not from us the rule which we have enjoyed for this year past."

"I take Heaven to witness that I will not withhold it," answered Pwyll.

And thenceforth they made strong the friendship that was between them, and each sent unto the other horses, and greyhounds, and hawks, and all such jewels as they thought would be pleasing to each other.

And by reason of his having dwelt that year in Annwvyn, and having ruled there so prosperously and united the two kingdoms in one day by his valour and prowess, he lost the name of Pwyll Prince of Dyved, and was called Pwyll Chief of Annwvyn from that time forward.

Once upon a time, Pwyll was at Narberth his chief palace, where a feast had been prepared for him, and with him was a great host of men. And after the first meal, Pwyll arose to walk, and he went to the top of a mound that was above the palace and was called Gorsedd Arberth.

"Lord," said one of the Court, "it is peculiar to the mound that whosoever sits upon it cannot go thence without either receiving wounds or blows or else seeing a wonder."

"I fear not to receive wounds and blows in the midst of such a host as this, but as to the wonder, gladly would I see it. I will go therefore and sit upon the mound."

And upon the mound he sat. And while he sat there, they saw a lady, on a pure white horse of large size, with a garment of shining gold around her, coming along the highway that led from the mound, and the horse seemed to move at a slow and even pace, and to be coming up towards the mound.

"My men," said Pwyll, "is there any among you who knows yonder lady?"

"There is not, Lord," said they.

"Go one of you and meet her, that we may know who she is."

And one of them arose, and as he came upon the road to meet her, she passed by, and he followed as fast as he could, being on foot, and the greater was his speed, the further was she from him. And when he saw that it profited him nothing to follow her, he returned to Pwyll and said unto him, "Lord, it is idle for any one in the world to follow her on foot."

"Verily," said Pwyll, "go unto the palace, and take the fleetest horse that thou seest, and go after her."

And he took a horse and went forward. And he came to an open level plain, and put spurs to his horse, and the more he urged his horse, the further was she from him. Yet she held the same pace as at first. And his horse began to fail, and when his horse's feet failed him, he returned to the place where Pwyll was.

"Lord," said he, "it will avail nothing for any one to follow yonder lady. I know of no horse in these realms swifter than this, and it availed me not to pursue her."

"Of a truth," said Pwyll, "there must be some illusion here. Let us go towards the palace."

So to the palace they went, and they spent that day. And the next day they arose, and that also they spent until it was time to go to meat. And after the first meal, "Verily," said Pwyll, "we will go the same party as yesterday to the top of the mound. And do thou," said he to one of his young men, "take the swiftest horse that thou knowest in the field." And thus did the young man.

And they went towards the mound, taking the horse with them. And as they were sitting down, they beheld the lady on the same horse and in the same apparel, coming along the same road.

"Behold," said Pwyll, "here is the lady of yesterday. Make ready, youth, to learn who she is."

"My lord," said he, "that will I gladly do."

And thereupon the lady came opposite to them. So the youth mounted his horse; and before he had settled himself in his saddle, she passed by, and there was a clear space between them. But her speed was no greater than it had been the day before. Then he put his horse into an amble, and thought that notwithstanding the gentle pace at which his horse went, he should soon overtake her. But this availed him not, so he gave his horse the reins. And still he came no nearer to her than when he went at a foot's pace. And the more he urged his horse, the further was she from him. Yet she rode not faster than before.

When he saw that it availed not to follow her, he returned to the place where Pwyll was. "Lord," said he, "the horse can no more than thou hast seen."

"I see indeed that it avails not that any one should follow her. And by Heaven," said he, "she must needs have an errand to some one in this plain if her haste would allow her to declare it. Let us go back to the palace."

And to the palace they went, and they spent that night in songs and feasting, as it pleased them.

(1000 words)

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