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Chapter 28


PWYLL and Rhiannon had a son, whom they named Pryderi. And when he
was grown up, Pwyll, his father, died. And Pryderi married Kicva,
the daughter of Gwynn Gloy.
Now Manawyddan returned from the war in Ireland, and he found that
his cousin had seized all his possessions, and much grief and
heaviness came upon him. "Alas! woe is me!" he exclaimed; "there is
none save myself without a home and a resting-place." "Lord," said
Pryderi, "be not so sorrowful. Thy cousin is king of the Island of the
Mighty, and though he has done thee wrong, thou hast never been a
claimant of land or possessions." "Yea," answered he, "but although
this man is my cousin, it grieveth me to see any one in the place of
my brother, Bendigeid Vran; neither can I be happy in the same
dwelling with him." "Wilt thou follow the counsel of another?" said
Pryderi. "I stand in need of counsel," he answered, "and what may that
counsel be?" "Seven cantrevs belong unto me," said Pryderi, "wherein
Rhiannon, my mother, dwells. I will bestow her upon thee, and the
seven cantrevs with her; and though thou hadst no possessions but
those cantrevs only, thou couldst not have any fairer than they. Do
thou and Rhiannon enjoy them; and if thou desire any possessions
thou wilt not despise these." "I do not, chieftain," said he.
"Heaven reward thee for thy friendship! I will go with thee to seek
Rhiannon, and to look at thy possessions." "Thou wilt do well," he
answered; "and I believe thou didst never hear a lady discourse better
than she, and when she was in her prime, none was ever fairer. Even
now her aspect is not uncomely."
They set forth, and, however long the journey, they came at last
to Dyved; and a feast was prepared for them by Rhiannon and Kicva.
Then began Manawyddan and Rhiannon to sit and talk together; and his
mind and his thoughts became warmed towards her, and he thought in his
heart he had never beheld any lady more fulfilled of grace and
beauty than she. "Pryderi," said he, "I will that it be as thou
didst say." "What saying was that?" asked Rhiannon. "Lady," said
Pryderi, "I did offer thee as a wife to Manawyddan, the son of
Llyr." "By that will I gladly abide," said Rhiannon. "Right glad am
I also," said Manawyddan; "may Heaven reward him who hath shown unto
me friendship so perfect as this."
And before the feast was over she became his bride. Said Pryderi,
"Tarry ye here the rest of the feast, and I will go into England to
tender my homage unto Caswallawn, the son of Beli." "Lord," said
Rhiannon, "Caswallawn is in Kent; thou mayest therefore tarry at the
feast, and wait until he shall be nearer." "We will wait," he
answered. So they finished the feast. And they began to make the
circuit of Dyved, and to hunt, and to take their pleasure. And as they
went through the country, they had never seen lands more pleasant to
live in, nor better hunting-grounds, nor greater plenty of honey and
fish. And such was the friendship between these four, that they
would not be parted from each other by night nor by day.
And in the midst of all this be went to Caswallawn at Oxford, and
tendered his homage; and honorable was his reception there, and highly
was he praised for offering his homage.
And after his return Pryderi and Manawyddan feasted and took their
ease and pleasure. And they began a feast at Narberth, for it was
the chief palace. And when they had ended the first meal, while
those who served them ate, they arose and went forth, and proceeded to
the Gorsedd, that is, the Mound of Narberth, and their retinue with
them. And as they sat thus, behold a peal of thunder, and with the
violence of the thunder-storm, lo! there came a fall of mist, so thick
that not one of them could see the other. And after the mist it became
light all around. And when they looked towards the place where they
were wont to see cattle and herds and dwellings, they saw nothing now,
neither house, nor beast, nor smoke, nor fire, nor man, nor
dwelling, but the buildings of the court empty, and desert, and
uninhabited, without either man or beast within them. And truly all
their companions were lost to them, without their knowing aught of
what had befallen them, save those four only.
"In the name of Heaven," said Manawyddan, "where are they of the
court, and all my host beside? Let us go and see."
So they came to the castle, and saw no man, and into the hall, and
to the sleeping-place, and there was none; and in the mead-cellar
and in the kitchen there was naught but desolation. Then they began to
go through the land, and all the possessions that they had; and they
visited the houses and dwellings, and found nothing but wild beasts.
And when they had consumed their feast and all their provisions,
they fed upon the prey they killed in hunting, and the honey of the
wild swarms.
And one morning Pryderi and Manawyddan rose up to hunt, and they
ranged their dogs and went forth. And some of the dogs ran before
them, and came to a bush which was near at hand; but as soon as they
were come to the bush, they hastily drew back, and returned to the
men, their hair bristling up greatly. "Let us go near to the bush,"
said Pryderi, "and see what is in it." And as they came near,
behold, a wild boar of a pure white color rose up from the bush.
Then the dogs, being set on by the men, rushed towards him; but he
left the bush, and fell back a little way from the men, and made a
stand against the dogs, without retreating from them, until the men
had come near. And when the men came up, he fell back a second time,
and betook him to flight. Then they pursued the boar until they beheld
a vast and lofty castle, all newly built, in a place where they had
never before seen either stone or building. And the boar ran swiftly
into the castle, and the dogs after him. Now when the boar and the
dogs had gone into the castle, the men began to wonder at finding a
castle in a place where they had never seen any building whatsoever.
And from the top of the Gorsedd they looked and listened for the dogs.
But so long as they were there, they heard not one of the dogs, nor
aught concerning them.
"Lord," said Pryderi, "I will go into the castle to get tidings if
the dogs." "Truly," he replied, "thou wouldst be unwise to go into
this castle, which thou hast never seen till now. If thou wouldst
follow my counsel, thou wouldst not enter therein. Whosoever has
cast a spell over this land, has caused this castle to be here." "Of a
truth," answered Pryderi, "I cannot thus give up my dogs." And for all
the counsel that Manawyddan gave him, yet to the castle he went.
When he came within the castle neither man, nor beast, nor boar, nor
do, nor house, nor dwelling, saw he within it. But in the centre of
the castle floor he beheld a fountain with marble-work around it,
and on the margin of the fountain a golden bowl upon a marble slab,
and chains banging from the air, to which he saw no end.
And he was greatly pleased with the beauty of the gold, and with the
rich workmanship of the bowl; and he went up to the bowl, and laid
hold of it. And when he had taken hold of it his hands stuck to the
bowl, and his feet to the slab on which the bowl was placed; and all
his joyousness forsook him, so that he could not utter a word. And
thus he stood.
And Manawyddan waited for him till near the close of the day. And
late in the evening, being certain that he should have no tidings of
Pryderi or the dogs, he went back to the palace. And as he entered
Rhiannon looked at him. "Where," said she, "are thy companion and
thy dogs?" "Behold," he answered, "the adventure that has befallen
me." And he related it all unto her. "An evil companion hast thou
been," said Rhiannon, "and a good companion hast thou lost." And
with that word she went out, and proceeded towards the castle,
according to the direction which he gave her. The gate of the castle
she found open. She was nothing daunted, and she went in. And as she
went in she perceived Pryderi laying hold of the bowl, and she went
towards him. "O my lord," said she, "what dost thou here?" And she
took hold of the bowl with him; and as she did so her hands also
became fast to the bowl, and her feet to the slab, and she was not
able to utter a word. And with that, as it became night, lo! there
came thunder upon them, and a fall of mist; and thereupon the castle
vanished, and they with it.
When Kicva, the daughter of Gwynn Gloy, saw that there was no one in
the palace but herself and Manawyddan, she sorrowed so that she
cared not whether she lived or died. And Manawyddan saw this. "Thou
art in the wrong," said he, "if through fear of me thou grievest thus.
I call Heaven to witness that thou hast never seen friendship more
pure than that which I will bear thee, as long as Heaven will that
thou shouldst be thus. I declare to thee that, were I in the dawn of
youth, I would keep my faith unto Pryderi, and unto thee also will I
keep it. Be there no fear upon thee, therefore." "Heaven reward thee!"
she said; "and that is what I deemed of thee." And the damsel
thereupon took courage, and was glad.
"Truly, lady," said Manawyddan, "it is not fitting for us to stay
here; we have lost our dogs, and cannot get food. Let us go into
England; it is easier for us to find support there." "Gladly, lord,"
said she, "we will do so." And they set forth together to England.
"Lord," said she, "what craft wilt thou follow? Take up one that
is seemly." "None other will I take," answered he, "but that of making
shoes." "Lord," said she, "such a craft becomes not a man so nobly
born as thou." "By that however will I abide," said he. "I know
nothing thereof," said Kicva. "But I know," answered Manawyddan,
"and I will teach thee to stitch. We will not attempt to dress the
leather, but we will buy it ready dressed, and will make the shoes
from it."
So they went into England, and went as far as Hereford; and they
betook themselves to making shoes. And he began by buying the best
cordwain that could be had in town, and none other would he buy. And
he associated himself with the best goldsmith in the town, and
caused him to make clasps for the shoes, and to gild the clasps; and
he marked how it was done until be learned the method. And therefore
is he called one of the three makers of gold shoes. And when they
could be had from him not a shoe nor hose was bought from any of the
cordwainers in the town. But when the cordwainers perceived that their
gains were failing (for as Manawyddan shaped the work so Kicva
stitched it), they came together and took counsel, and agreed that
they would slay them. And he had warning thereof, and it was told
him how the cordwainers had agreed to slay him.
"Lord," said Kicva, "wherefore should this be borne from these
boors?" "Nay," said he, "we will go back unto Dyved." So towards Dyved
they set forth.
Now Manawyddan, when he set out to return to Dyved, took with him
a burden of wheat. And he proceeded towards Narberth, and there he
dwelt. And never was he better pleased than when he saw Narberth
again, and the lands where he had been wont to hunt with Pryderi and
with Rhiannon. And he accustomed himself to fish and to hunt the
deer in their covert. And then he began to prepare some ground, and he
sowed a croft, and a second, and a third. And no wheat in the world
ever sprang up better. And the three crofts prospered with perfect
growth, and no man ever saw fairer wheat than it.
And thus passed the seasons of the year until the harvest came.
And he went to look at one of his crofts, and, behold, it was ripe. "I
will reap this to-morrow," said he. And that night he went back to
Narberth, and on the morrow, in the gray dawn, he went to reap the
croft; and when he came there he found nothing but the bare straw.
Every one of the ears of the wheat was cut off from the stalk, and all
the ears carried entirely away, and nothing but the straw left. And at
this he marvelled greatly.
Then he went to look at another croft, and, behold, that also was
ripe. "Verily," said he, "this will I reap to-morrow." And on the
morrow he came with the intent to reap it; and when he came there he
found nothing but the bare straw. "O gracious Heaven!" he exclaimed,
"I know that whomsoever has begun my ruin is completing it, and has
also destroyed the country with me."
Then he went to look at the third croft; and when he came there,
finer wheat had there never been seen, and this also was ripe. "Evil
betide me," said he, "if I watch not here to-night. Whoever carried
off the other corn will come in like manner to take this, and I will
know who it is." And he told Kicva all that had befallen. "Verily,"
said she, "what thinkest thou to do?" "I win watch the croft tonight,"
said he. And he went to watch the croft.
And at midnight he heard something stirring among the wheat; and
he looked, and behold, the mightiest host of mice in the world,
which could neither be numbered nor measured. And he knew not what
it was until the mice had made their way into the croft, and each of
them, climbing up the straw, and bending it down with its weight,
had cut off one of the ears of wheat, and had carried it away, leaving
there the stalk; and he saw not a single straw there that had not a
mouse to it. And they all took their way, carrying the ears with them.
In wrath and anger did he rush upon the mice; but he could no more
come up with them than if they had been gnats or birds of the air,
except one only, which, though it was but sluggish, went so fast
that a man on foot could scarce overtake it. And after this one he
went, and he caught it, and put it in his glove, and tied up the
opening of the glove with a string, and kept it with him, and returned
to the palace. Then he came to the hall where Kicva was, and he
lighted a fire, and hung the glove by the string upon a peg. "What
hast thou there, lord?" said Kicva. "A thief," said he, "that I
found robbing me." "What kind of a thief may it be, lord, that thou
couldst put into thy glove?" said she. Then he told her how the mice
came to the last of the fields in his sight. "And one of them was less
nimble than the rest, and is now in my glove; to-morrow I will hang
it." "My lord," said she, "this is marvellous; but yet it would be
unseemly for a man of dignity like thee to be hanging such a reptile
as this." "Woe betide me," said he "if I would not hang them all,
could I catch them, and such as I have I will hang." "Verily, lord,"
said she, "there is no reason that I should succor this reptile,
except to prevent discredit unto thee. Do therefore, lord, as thou
Then he went to the Mound of Narberth, taking the mouse with him.
And he set up two forks on the highest part of the mound. And while he
was doing this, behold, he saw a scholar coming towards him, in old
and poor and tattered garments. And it was now seven years since he
had seen in that place either man or beast, except those four
persons who had remained together until two of them were lost.
"My lord," said the scholar, "good day to thee." "Heaven prosper
thee, and my greeting be unto thee! And whence dost thou come,
scholar?" asked he. "I come, lord, from singing in England; and
wherefore dost thou inquire?" "Because for the last seven years,"
answered he, "I have seen no man here save four secluded persons,
and thyself this moment." "Truly, lord," said he, "I go through this
land unto mine own. And what work art thou upon, lord?" "I am
hanging a thief that I caught robbing me," said he. "What manner of
thief is that?" asked the scholar. "I see a creature in thy hand
like unto a mouse, and ill does it become a man of rank equal to thine
to touch a reptile such as this. Let it go forth free." "I will not
let it go free, by Heaven," said he, "I caught it robbing me, and
the doom of a thief will I inflict upon it, and I will hang it."
"Lord," said he, "rather than see a man of rank equal to thine at such
a work as this, I would give thee a pound, which I have received as
alms, to let the reptile go forth free." "I will not let it go
free," said he, "neither will I sell it." "As thou wilt, lord," he
answered; "I care naught." And the scholar went his way.
And as he was placing the cross-beam upon the two forks, behold, a
priest came towards him, upon a horse covered with trappings. "Good
day to thee, lord," said he. "Heaven prosper thee!" said Manawyddan;
"thy blessing." "The blessing of Heaven be upon thee! And what,
lord, art thou doing?" "I am hanging a thief that I caught robbing
me," said he. "What manner of thief, lord?" asked he. "A creature," he
answered, "in form of a mouse. It has been robbing me, and I am
inflicting upon it the doom of a thief." "Lord," said he, "rather than
see thee touch this reptile, I would purchase its freedom." "By my
confession to Heaven, neither will I sell it nor set it free." "It
is true, lord, that it is worth nothing to buy; but rather than see
thee defile thyself by touching such a reptile as this, I will give
thee three pounds to let it go." "I will not, by Heaven," said he,
"take any price for it. As it ought, so shall it be hanged." And the
priest went his way.
Then he noosed the string around the mouse's neck, and as he was
about to draw it up, behold, he saw a bishop's retinue, with his
sumpter-horses and his attendants. And the bishop himself came towards
him. And he stayed his work. "Lord Bishop," said he, "thy blessing."
"Heaven's blessing be unto thee!" said he. "What work art thou
upon?" "Hanging a thief that I caught robbing me," said he. "Is not
that a mouse that I see in thy hand?" "Yes," answered he, "and she has
robbed me." "Ah," said he, "since I have come at the doom of this
reptile, I will ransom it of thee. I will give thee seven pounds for
it, and that rather than see a man of rank equal to thine destroying
so vile a reptile as this. Let it loose, and thou shalt have the
money." "I declare to Heaven that I will not let it loose." "If thou
wilt not loose it for this, I will give thee four and twenty pounds of
ready money to set it free." "I will not set it free, by Heaven, for
as much again," said he. "If thou wilt not set it free for this, I
will give thee all the horses that thou seest in this plain, and the
seven loads of baggage, and the seven horses that they are upon."
"By Heaven, I will not," he replied. "Since for this thou wilt not set
it free, do so at what price soever thou wilt." "I will that
Rhiannon and Pryderi be free," said he. "That thou shalt have," he
answered. "Not yet will I loose the mouse, by Heaven." "What then
wouldst thou?" "That the charm and the illusion be removed from the
seven cantrevs of Dyved." "This shalt thou have also; set therefore
the mouse free." "I will not set it free, by Heaven," said he, "till I
know who the mouse may be." "She is my wife." "Wherefore came she to
me?" "To despoil thee," he answered. "I am Lloyd, the son of Kilwed,
and I cast the charm over the seven cantrevs of Dyved. And it was to
avenge Gawl, the son of Clud, from the friendship that I had towards
him, that I cast the charm. And upon Pryderi did I avenge Gawl, the
son of Clud, for the game of Badger in the Bag, that Pwyll, the son of
Auwyn, played upon him. And when it was known that thou wast come to
dwell in the land, my household came and besought me to transform them
into mice, that they might destroy thy corn. And they went the first
and the second night, and destroyed thy two crops. And the third night
came unto me my wife and the ladies of the court, and besought me to
transform them. And I transformed them. Now she is not in her usual
health. And had she been in her usual health, thou wouldst not have
been able to overtake her; but since this has taken place, and she has
been caught, I will restore to thee Pryderi and Rhiannon, and I will
take the charm and illusion from off Dyved. Set her therefore free."
"I will not set her free yet." "What wilt thou more?" he asked. "I
will that there be no more charm upon the seven cantrevs of Dyved, and
that none shall be put upon it henceforth; moreover, that vengeance be
never taken for this, either upon Pryderi or Rhiannon, or upon me."
"All this shalt thou have. And truly thou hast done wisely in asking
this. Upon thy head would have lit all this trouble." "Yea," said
he, "for fear thereof was it that I required this." "Set now my wife
at liberty." "I will not," said he, "until I see Pryderi and
Rhiannon with me free." "Behold, here they come," she answered.
And thereupon behold Pryderi and Rhiannon. And he rose up to meet
them, and greeted them, and sat down beside them. "Ah, chieftain,
set now my wife at liberty," said the bishop. "Hast thou not
received all thou didst ask?" "I will release her, gladly," said he.
And thereupon he set her free.
Then he struck her with a magic wand, and she was changed back
into a young woman, the fairest ever seen.
"Look round upon thy land," said he, "and thou wilt see it all
tilled and peopled as it was in its best estate." And he rose up and
looked forth. And when he looked he saw all the lands tilled, and full
of herds and dwellings.
And thus ends this portion of the Mabinogi.

The following allusions to the preceding story are found in a letter
of the poet Southey to John Rickman, Esq., dated June 6th, 1802:-
"You will read the Mabinogeon, concerning which I ought to have
talked to you. In the last, that most odd and Arabian-like story of
the mouse, mention is made of a begging scholar, that helps to the
date; but where did the Cymri get the imagination that could produce
such a tale? That enchantment of the basin hanging by the chain from
heaven is in the wildest spirit of the Arabian Nights. I am
perfectly astonished that such fictions should exist in Welsh. They
throw no light on the origin of romance, everything being utterly
dissimilar to what we mean by that term, but they do open a new
world of fiction; and if the date of their language be fixed about the
twelfth or thirteenth century, I cannot but think the mythological
substance is of far earlier date; very probably brought from the
East by some of the first settlers or conquerors."

Thomas Bulfinch