Mabinogion: The Son of Pwyll

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

The Son of Pwyll

And the hall was set in order for Pwyll and the men of his host and for them also of the palace, and they went to the tables and sat down. And as they had sat that time twelvemonth, so sat they that night. And they ate, and feasted, and spent the night in mirth and tranquillity. And the time came that they should sleep, and Pwyll and Rhiannon went to their chamber.

And next morning at the break of day, "My Lord," said Rhiannon, "arise and begin to give thy gifts unto the minstrels. Refuse no one today that may claim thy bounty."

"Thus shall it be gladly," said Pwyll, "both today and every day while the feast shall last."

So Pwyll arose, and he caused silence to be proclaimed and desired all the suitors and the minstrels to show and to point out what gifts were to their wish and desire. And this being done, the feast went on, and he denied no one while it lasted.

And when the feast was ended, Pwyll said unto Heveydd, "My Lord, with thy permission I will set out for Dyved tomorrow."

"Certainly," said Heveydd; "may Heaven prosper thee. Fix also a time when Rhiannon may follow thee."

"By Heaven," said Pwyll, "we will go hence together."

"Willest thou this, Lord?" said Heveydd.

"Yes, by Heaven," answered Pwyll.

And the next day, they set forward towards Dyved and journeyed to the palace of Narberth where a feast was made ready for them. And there came to them great numbers of the chief men and the most noble ladies of the land, and of these there was none to whom Rhiannon did not give some rich gift, either a bracelet, or a ring, or a precious stone. And they ruled the land prosperously both that year and the next.

And in the third year, the nobles of the land began to be sorrowful at seeing a man whom they loved so much, and who was moreover their lord and their foster-brother, without an heir. And they came to him. And the place where they met was Preseleu, in Dyved.

"Lord," said they, "we know that thou art not so young as some of the men of this country, and we fear that thou mayest not have an heir of the wife whom thou hast taken. Take therefore another wife of whom thou mayest have heirs. Thou canst not always continue with us, and though thou desire to remain as thou art, we will not suffer thee."

"Truly," said Pwyll, "we have not long been joined together, and many things may yet befall. Grant me a year from this time, and for the space of a year we will abide together, and after that I will do according to your wishes." So they granted it.

And before the end of a year a son was born unto him. And in Narberth was he born, and on the night that he was born, women were brought to watch the mother and the boy. And the women slept, as did also Rhiannon, the mother of the boy. And the number of the women that were brought into the chamber was six. And they watched for a good portion of the night, and before midnight every one of them fell asleep, and towards break of day they awoke, and when they awoke, they looked where they had put the boy, and, behold: he was not there.

"Oh," said one of the women, "the boy is lost?"

"Yes," said another, "and it will be small vengeance if we are burnt or put to death because of the child."

Said one of the women, "Is there any counsel for us in the world in this matter?"

"There is," answered another. "I offer you good counsel."

"What is that?" asked they.

"There is here a stag-hound bitch, and she has a litter of whelps. Let us kill some of the cubs, and rub the blood on the face and hands of Rhiannon, and lay the bones before her, and assert that she herself hath devoured her son, and she alone will not be able to gainsay us six."

And according to this counsel it was settled.

And towards morning Rhiannon awoke, and she said, "Women, where is my son?"

"Lady," said they, "ask us not concerning thy son; we have nought but the blows and the bruises we got by struggling with thee, and of a truth we never saw any woman so violent as thou, for it was of no avail to contend with thee. Hast thou not thyself devoured thy son? Claim him not therefore of us."

"For pity's sake," said Rhiannon, "the Lord God knows all things. Charge me not falsely. If you tell me this from fear, I assert before Heaven that I will defend you."

"Truly," said they, "we would not bring evil on ourselves for anyone in the world."

"For pity's sake," said Rhiannon, "you will receive no evil by telling the truth."

But for all her words, whether fair or harsh, she received but the same answer from the women.

(900 words)

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