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Chapter 29


KILYDD, the son of Prince Kelyddon, desired a wife as a helpmate,
and the wife that he chose was Goleudid, the daughter of Prince
Anlawd. And after their union the people put up prayers that they
might have an heir. And they had a son through the prayers of the
people; and called his name Kilwich.
After this the boy's mother, Goleudid, the daughter of Prince
Anlawd, fell sick. Then she called her husband to her, and said to
him, "Of this sickness I shall die, and thou wilt take another wife.
Now wives are the gift of the Lord, but it would be wrong for thee
to harm thy son. Therefore I charge thee that thou take not a wife
until thou see a briar with two blossoms upon my grave." And this he
promised her. Then she besought him to dress her grave every year,
that no weeds might grow thereon. So the queen died. Now the king sent
an attendant. every morning to see if anything were growing upon the
grave. And at the end of the seventh year they neglected that which
they had promised to the queen.
One day the king went to hunt; and he rode to the place of burial,
to see the grave, and to know if it were time that he should take a
wife; and the king saw the briar. And when he saw it, the king took
counsel where he should find a wife. Said one of his counsellors, "I
know a wife that will suit thee well; and she is the wife of King
Doged." And they resolved to go to seek her; and they slew the king,
and brought away his wife. And they conquered the king's lands. And he
married the widow of King Doged, the sister of Yspadaden Penkawr.
And one day his stepmother said to Kilwich, "It were well for thee
to have a wife." "I am not yet of an age to wed," answered the
youth. Then said she unto him, "I declare to thee that it is thy
destiny not to be suited with a wife until thou obtain Olwen, the
daughter of Yspadaden Penkawr." And the youth blushed, and the love of
the maiden diffused itself through all his frame, although he had
never seen her. And his father inquired of him, "What has come over
thee, my son, and what aileth thee?" "My stepmother has declared to me
that I shall never have a wife until I obtain Olwen, the daughter of
Yspadaden Penkawr." "That will be easy for thee," answered his father.
"Arthur is thy cousin. Go, therefore, unto Arthur, to cut thy hair,
and ask this of him as a boon."
And the youth pricked forth upon a steed with head dappled gray,
four winters old, firm of limb, with shell-formed hoofs, having a
bridle of linked gold on his head, and upon him a saddle of costly
gold. And in the youth's hand were two spears of silver, sharp, well
tempered, headed with steel, three ells in length, of an edge to wound
the wind, and cause blood to flow, and swifter than the fall of the
dew-drop from the blade of reed-grass, when the dew of June is at
the heaviest. A gold-hilted sword was upon his thigh, the blade of
which was gilded, bearing a cross of inlaid gold of the hue of the
lightning of heaven. His war-horn was of ivory. Before him were two
brindled, white-breasted greyhounds, having strong collars of rubies
about their necks, reaching from the shoulder to the ear. And the
one that was upon the left side bounded across to the right side,
and the one on the right to the left, and, like two sea-swallows,
sported around him. And his courser cast up four sods, with his four
hoofs, like four swallows in the air, about his head, now above, now
below. About him was a four-cornered cloth of purple, and an apple
of gold was at each corner, and every one of the apples was of the
value of an hundred kine. And there was precious gold of the value
of three hundred kine upon his shoes, and upon his stirrups, from
his knee to the tip of his toe. And the blade of grass bent not
beneath him, so light was his courser's tread, as he journeyed
toward the gate of Arthur's palace.
Spoke the youth: "Is there a porter?" "There is; and if thou holdest
not thy peace, small will be thy welcome. I am Arthur's porter every
first day of January." "Open the portal." "I will not open it."
"Wherefore not?" "The knife is in the meat, and the drink is in the
horn, and there is revelry in Arthur's hall; and none may enter
therein but the son of a king of a privileged country, or a
craftsman bringing his craft. But there will be refreshment for thy
dogs and for thy horse; and for thee there will be collops cooked
and peppered, and luscious wine, and mirthful songs; and food for
fifty men shall be brought unto thee in the guest-chamber, where the
stranger and the sons of other countries eat, who come not into the
precincts of the palace of Arthur. Thou wilt fare no worse there
than thou wouldst with Arthur in the court. A lady shall smooth thy
couch, and shall lull thee with songs; and early to-morrow morning,
when the gate is open for the multitude that come hither to-day, for
thee shall it be opened first, and thou mayest sit in the place that
thou shalt choose in Arthur's hall, from the upper end to the
lower." Said the youth: "That will I not do. If thou openest the gate,
it is well. If thou dost not open it, I will bring disgrace upon thy
lord, and evil report upon thee. And I will set up three shouts at
this very gate, than which none were ever heard more deadly." "What
clamor soever thou mayest make," said Glewlwyd the porter, "against
the laws of Arthur's palace, shalt thou not enter therein, until I
first go and speak with Arthur."
Then Glewlwyd went into the hall. And Arthur said to him, "Hast thou
news from the gate?" "Half of my life is passed," said Glewlwyd,
"and half of thine. I was heretofore in Kaer Se and Asse, in Sach
and Salach, in Lotor and Fotor, and I have been in India the Great and
India the Lesser, and I have also been in Europe and Africa, and in
the islands of Corsica, and I was present when thou didst conquer
Greece in the East. Nine supreme sovereigns, handsome men, saw we
there, but never did I behold a man of equal dignity with him who is
now at the door of the portal." Then said Arthur, "If walking thou
didst enter here, return thou running. It is unbecoming to keep such a
man as thou sayest he is in the wind and the rain." Said Kay: "By
the hand of my friend, if thou wouldst follow my counsel, thou wouldst
not break through the laws of the court because of him." "Not so,
blessed Kay," said Arthur; "it is an honor to us to be resorted to,
and the greater our courtesy, the greater will be our renown and our
fame and our glory."
And Glewlwyd came to the gate, and opened the gate before Kilwich;
and although all dismounted upon the horse-block at the gate, yet
did he not dismount, but he rode in upon his charger. Then said he,
"Greeting be unto thee, sovereign ruler of this island, and be this
greeting no less unto the lowest than unto the highest. and be it
equally unto thy guests and thy warriors and thy chieftains; let all
partake of it as completely as thyself. And complete be thy favor
and thy fame and thy glory, throughout all this island." "Greeting
unto thee also," said Arthur; "sit thou between two of my warriors,
and thou shalt have minstrels before thee, and thou shalt enjoy the
privileges of a king born to a throne, as long as thou remainest here.
And when I dispense my presents to the visitors and strangers in
this court, they shall be in thy hand at my commencing." Said the
youth: "I came not here to consume meat and drink; but if I obtain the
boon that I seek, I will requite it thee, and extol thee; but if I
have it not I will bear forth thy dispraise to the four quarters of
the world, as far as thy renown has extended." Then said Arthur,
"Since thou wilt not remain here, chieftain, thou shalt receive the
boon, whatsoever thy tongue may name, as far as the wind dries, and
the rain moistens, and the sun revolves, and the sea encircles, and
the earth extends; save only my ship Prydwen, and my mantle, and
Caleburn, my sword, and Rhongomyant, my lance, and Guenever, my
wife. By the truth of Heaven, thou shalt have it cheerfully, name what
thou wilt." "I would that thou bless my hair," said he. "That shall be
granted thee."
And Arthur took a golden comb, and scissors whereof the loops were
of silver, and he combed his hair. And Arthur inquired of him who he
was; "for my heart warms unto thee, and I know that thou art come of
my blood. Tell me, therefore, who thou art." "I will tell thee,"
said the youth. "I am Kilwich, the son of Kilydd, the son of Prince
Kelyddon, by Goleudid my mother, the daughter of Prince Anlawd." "That
is true," said Arthur; "thou art my cousin. Whatsoever boon thou
mayest ask, thou shalt receive, be it what it may that thy tongue
shall name." "Pledge the truth of Heaven and the faith of thy
kingdom thereof." "I pledge it thee gladly." "I crave of thee, then,
that thou obtain for me Olwen, the daughter of Yspadaden Penkawr, to
wife; and this boon I likewise seek at the hands of thy warriors. I
seek it from Kay and from Bedwyr; and from Gwynn, the son of Nudd, and
Gadwy, the son of Geraint, and Prince Flewddur Flam, and Iona, king of
France, and Sel, the son of Selgi, and Taliesin, the chief of the
bards, and Geraint, the son of Erbin, Garanwyn, the son of Kay, and
Amren, the son of Bedwyr, Ol, the son of Olwyd, Bedwin, the bishop,
Guenever, the chief lady, and Guenhywach, her sister, Morved, the
daughter of Urien, and Gwenlian Deg, the majestic maiden, Creiddylad,*
the daughter of Lludd, the constant maiden, and Ewaedan, the
daughter of Kynvelyn,*(2) the half-man." All these did Kilwich, the
son of Kilydd, adjure to obtain his boon.

* Creiddylad is no other than Shakespeare's Cordelia, whose
father, King Lear, is by the Welsh authorities called indiscriminately
Llyr or Llydd. All the old chroniclers give the story of her
devotion to her aged parent, but none of them seems to have been aware
that she is destined to remain with him till the day of doom. whilst
Gwyn ap Nudd, the king of the fairies, and Gwythyr ap Greidiol,
fight for her every first of May, and whichever of them may be
fortunate enough to be the conqueror at that time will obtain her as
his bride.
*(2) The Welsh have a fable on the subject of the half-man, taken to
be illustrative of the force of habit. In this allegory Arthur is
supposed to be met by a sprite, who appears at first in a small and
indistinct form, but who, on approaching nearer, increases in size,
and, assuming the semblance of half a man, endeavors to provoke the
king to wrestle. Despising his weakness, and considering that he
should gain no credit by the encounter, Arthur refuses to do so, and
delays the contest until at length the half-man (Habit) becomes so
strong that it requires his utmost efforts to overcome him.

Then said Arthur, "O chieftain, I have never heard of the maiden
of whom thou speakest, nor of her kindred, but I will gladly send
messengers in search of her. Give me time to seek her." And the
youth said, "I will willingly grant from this night to that at the end
of the year to do so." Then Arthur sent messengers to every land
within his dominions to seek for the maiden, and at the end of the
year Arthur's messengers returned without having gained any
knowledge or intelligence concerning Olwen more than on the first day.
Then said Kilwich, "Every one has received his boon, and I yet lack
mine. I will depart, and bear away thine honor with me." Then said
Kay, "Rash chieftain! dost thou reproach Arthur? Go with us, and we
will not part until thou dost either confess that the maiden exists
not in the world, or until we obtain her." Thereupon Kay rose up.
And Arthur called Bedwyr, who never shrank from any enterprise upon
which Kay was bound. None were equal to him in swiftness throughout
this island except Arthur alone; and although he was one-handed, three
warriors could not shed blood faster than he on the field of battle.
And Arthur called to Kyndelig, the guide, "Go thou upon this
expedition with the chieftain." For as good a guide was he in a land
which he had never seen as he was in his own.
He called Gurhyr Gwalstat, because he knew all tongues.
He called Gawain, the son of Gwyar, because he never returned home
without achieving the adventure of which he went in quest.
And Arthur called Meneu, the son of Teirgwed, in order that, if they
went into a savage country, be might cast a charm and an illusion over
them, so that none might see them whilst they could see every one.
They journeyed until they came to a vast open plain, wherein they
saw a great castle, Which was the fairest of the castles of the world.
And when they came before the castle they beheld a vast flock of
sheep. And upon the top of a mound there was a herdsman keeping the
sheep. And a rug made of skins was upon him, and by his side was a
shaggy mastiff, larger than a steed nine winters old.
Then said Kay, "Gurhyr Gwalstat, go thou and salute yonder man."
"Kay," said he, "I engaged not to go further than thou thyself."
"Let us go then together," answered Kay. Said Meneu, "Fear not to go
thither, for I will cast a spell upon the dog so that he shall
injure no one." And they went up to the mound whereon the herdsman
was, and they said to him, "How dost thou fare, herdsman?" "Not less
fair be it to you than to me." "Whose are the sheep that Thou dost
keep, and to whom does yonder castle belong?" "Stupid are ye, truly!
not to know that this is the castle of Yspadaden Penkawr. And ye also,
who are ye?" "We are an embassy from Arthur, come to seek Olwen, the
daughter of Yspadaden Penkawr." "O men! the mercy of Heaven be upon
you; do not that for all the world. None who ever came hither on
this quest has returned alive." And the herdsman rose up. And as he
rose Kilwich gave unto him a ring of gold. And he went home and gave
the ring to his spouse to keep. And she took the ring when it was
given her, and she said, "Whence came this ring, for thou art not wont
to have good fortune?" "O wife, him to whom this ring belonged thou
shalt see here this evening." "And who is he?" asked the woman.
"Kilwich, the son of Kilydd, by Goleudid, the daughter of Prince
Anlawd, who is come to seek Olwen as his wife." And when the heard
that she had joy that her nephew, the son of her sister, was coming to
her, and sorrow because she had never known any one depart alive who
had come on that quest.
And the men went forward to the gate of the herdsman's dwelling. And
when she heard their footsteps approaching she ran out with joy to
meet them. And Kay snatched a billet out of the pile. And when she met
them she sought to throw her arms about their necks. And Kay placed
the log between her two hands, and she squeezed it so that it became a
twisted coil. "O woman," said Kay, "if thou hadst squeezed me thus
none could ever again set their affections on me. Evil love were
this." They entered into the house and were served; and soon after
they all went forth to amuse themselves. Then the woman opened a stone
chest that was before the chimney-corner, and out of it rose a youth
with yellow, curling hair. Said Gurhyr, "It is a pity to hide this
youth. I know that it is not his own crime that is thus visited upon
him." "This is but a remnant," said the woman. "Three and twenty of my
sons has Yspadaden Penkawr slain, and I have no more hope of this
one than of the others." Then said Kay, "Let him come and be a
companion with me and he shall not be slain unless I also am slain
with him." And they ate. And the woman asked them, "Upon what errand
come you here?" "We come to seek Olwen for this youth." Then said
the woman, "In the name of Heaven, since no one from the castle hath
yet seen you, return again whence you came." "Heaven is our witness
that we will not return until we have seen the maiden. Does she ever
come hither, so that she may be seen?" "She comes here every
Saturday to wash her head, and in the vessel where she washes she
leaves all her rings, and she never either comes herself or sends
any messenger to fetch them." "Will she come here if she is sent
to?" "Heaven knows that I will not destroy my soul, nor will I
betray those that trust me; unless you will pledge me your faith
that you will not harm her I will not send to her." "We pledge it,"
said they. So a message was sent, and she came.
The maiden was clothed in a robe of flame-colored silk, and about
her neck was a collar of ruddy gold, on which were precious emeralds
and rubies. More yellow was her head than the flower of the broom,*
and her skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, and fairer were her
hands and her fingers than the blossoms of the wood-anemone amidst the
spray of the meadow fountain. The eye of the trained hawk was not
brighter than hers. Her bosom was more snowy than the breast of the
white swan, her cheek was redder than the reddest roses. Whoso
beheld her was filled with her love. Four white trefoils sprung up
wherever she trod. And therefore was she called Olwen.

* The romancers dwell with great complacency on the fair hair and
delicate complexion of their heroines. This taste continued for a long
time, and to render the hair light was an object of education. Even
when wigs came into fashion they were all flaxen. Such was the color
of the hair of the Gauls and of their German conquerors. It required
some centuries to reconcile their eyes to the swarthy beauties of
their Spanish and Italian neighbors.

She entered the house and sat beside Kilwich upon the foremost
bench; and as soon as he saw her he knew her. And Kilwich said unto
her, "Ah! maiden, thou art she whom I have loved; come away with me
lest they speak evil of thee and of me. Many a day have I loved thee."
"I cannot do this, for I have pledged my faith to my father not to
go without his counsel, for his life will last only until the time
of my espousals. Whatever is to be, must be. But I will give thee
advice, if thou wilt take it. Go ask me of my father, and that which
he shall require of thee, grant it, and thou wilt obtain me; but if
thou deny him anything, thou wilt not obtain me, and it will be well
for thee if thou escape with thy life." "I promise all this, if
occasion offer," said he.
She returned to her chamber, and they all rose up, and followed
her to the castle. And they slew the nine porters, that were at the
nine gates, in silence And they slew the nine watch-dogs without one
of them barking. And they went forward to the hall.
"The greeting of Heaven and of man be unto thee, Yspadaden Penkawr,"
said they. "And you, wherefore come you?" "We come to ask thy daughter
Olwen for Kilwich, the son of Kilydd, the son of Prince Kelyddon."
"Where are my pages and my servants? Raise up the forks beneath my two
eyebrows, which have fallen over my eyes, that I may see the fashion
of my son-in-law." And they did so. "Come hither to-morrow, and you
shall have an answer."
They rose to go forth, and Yspadaden Penkawr seized one of the three
poisoned darts that lay beside him, and threw it after them. And
Bedwyr caught it, and flung it, and pierced Yspadaden Penkawr
grievously with it through the knee. Then he said, "A cursed
ungentle son-in-law, truly! I shall ever walk the worse for his
rudeness, and shall ever be without a cure. This poisoned iron pains
me like the bite of a gad-fly. Cursed be the smith who forged it,
and the anvil on which it was wrought! So sharp is it!
That night also they took up their abode in the house of the
herdsman. The next day, with the dawn, they arrayed themselves and
proceeded to the castle, and entered the hall; and they said,
"Yspadaden Penkawr, give us thy daughter in consideration of her dower
and her maiden fee, which we will pay to thee, and to her two
kinswomen likewise." Then he said, "Her four great-grandmothers, and
her four great-grandsires are yet alive; it is needful that I take
counsel of them." "Be it so," they answered; "we will go to meat."
As they rose up, he took the second dart that was beside him, and cast
it after them. And Meneu, the son of Gawedd, caught it, and flung it
back at him, and wounded him in the centre of the breast. "A cursed
ungentle son-in-law, truly!" said he; "the hard iron pains me like the
bite of a horse-leech. Cursed be the hearth whereon it was heated, and
the smith who formed it! So sharp is it! Henceforth, whenever I go
up hill, I shall have a scant in my breath, and a pain in my chest,
and I shall often loathe my food." And they went to meat.
And the third day they returned to the palace. And Yspadaden Penkawr
said to them, "Shoot not at me again, unless you desire death. Where
are my attendants? Lift up the forks of my eyebrows, which have fallen
over my eyeballs, that I may see the fashion of my son-in-law." Then
they arose, and, as they did so, Yspadaden Penkawr took the third
poisoned dart and cast it at them. And Kilwich caught it, and threw it
vigorously, and wounded him through the eyeball. "A cursed ungentle
son-in-law, truly! As long as I remain alive, my eyesight will be
the worse. Whenever I go against the wind, my eyes will water; and
peradventure my head will burn, and I shall have a giddiness every new
moon. Like the bite of a mad dog is the stroke of this poisoned
iron. Cursed be the fire in which it was forged!" And they went to
And the next day they came again to the palace, and they said,
"Shoot not at us any more, unless thou desirest such hurt and harm and
torture as thou now hast, and even more." Said Kilwich, "Give me thy
daughter; and if thou wilt not give her, thou shalt receive thy
death because of her." "Where is he that seeks my daughter? Come
hither, where I may see thee." And they placed him a chair face to
face with him.
Said Yspadaden Penkawr, "Is it thou that seekest my daughter?"
"It is I," answered Kilwich.
"I must have thy pledge that thou wilt not do toward me otherwise
than is just; and when I have gotten that which I shall name, my
daughter thou shalt have."
"I promise thee that, willingly," said Kilwich; "name what thou
"I will do so," said he. "Seest thou yonder red tilled ground?"
"I see it."
"When first I met the mother of this maiden, nine bushels of flax
were sown therein, and none has yet sprung up, white or black. I
require to have the flax to sow in the new land yonder, that when it
grows up it may make a white wimple for my daughter's head on the
day of thy wedding."
"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
think it will not be easy."
"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get,-
the harp of Teirtu, to play to us that night. When a man desires
that it should play, it does so of itself; and when he desires that it
should cease, it ceases. And this he will not give of his own free
will, and thou wilt not be able to compel him."
"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
think that it will not be easy."
"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get.
I require thee to get me for my huntsman Mabon, the son of Modron.
He was taken from his mother when three nights old, and it is not
known where he now is, nor whether he is living or dead."
"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
think it will not be easy."
"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get,-
the two cubs of the wolf Gast Rhymhi; no leash in the world will
hold them, but a leash made from the beard of Dillus Varwawc, the
robber. And the leash will be of no avail unless it be plucked from
his beard while he is alive. While he lives, he will not suffer this
to be done to him, and the leash will be of no use should he be
dead, because it will be brittle."
"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
think it will not be easy."
"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get,-
the sword of Gwernach the Giant; of his own free will he will not give
it, and thou wilt never be able to compel him."
"It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
think it will not be easy."
"Though thou get this, there is yet that which thou wilt not get.
Difficulties shalt thou meet with, and nights without sleep, in
seeking this, and if thou obtain it not, neither shalt thou obtain
my daughter."
"Horses shall I have, and chivalry; and my lord and kinsman, Arthur,
will obtain for me all these things. And I shall gain thy daughter,
and thou shalt lose thy life."
"Go forward. And thou shalt not be chargeable for food or raiment
for my daughter while thou art seeking these things; and when thou
hast compassed all these marvels, thou shalt have my daughter for
thy wife."

Thomas Bulfinch