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Chapter 30


ALL that day they journeyed until the evening, and then they
beheld a vast castle, which was the largest in the world. And lo! a
black man, larger than three of the men of this world, came out from
the castle. And they spoke unto him, and said, "O man, whose castle is
that?" "Stupid are ye, truly, O men! There is no one in the world that
does not know that this is the castle of Gwernach the Giant." "What
treatment is there for guests and strangers that alight in that
castle?" "O chieftain, Heaven protect thee! No guest ever returned
thence alive, and no one may enter therein unless he brings with him
his craft."
Then they proceeded towards the gate. Said Gurhyr Gwalstat, "Is
there a porter!" "There is; wherefore dost thou call?" "Open the
gate." "I will not open it." "Wherefore wilt thou not?" "The knife
is in the meat, and the drink is in the horn, and there is revelry
in the hall of Gwernach the Giant; and except for a craftsman who
brings his craft, the gate will not be opened to-night." "Verily,
porter," then said Kay, "my craft bring I with me." "What is thy
craft?" "The best burnisher of swords am I in the world." "I will go
and tell this unto Gwernach the Giant, and I will bring thee an
So the porter went in, and Gwernach said to him, "Hast thou news
from the gate?" "I have. There is a party at the door of the gate
who desire to come in." "Didst thou inquire of them if they
possessed any art?" "I did inquire," said he, "and one told me that he
was well skilled in the burnishing of swords." "We have need of him
then. For some time have I sought for some one to polish my sword, and
could find no one. Let this man enter, since he brings with him his
The porter thereupon returned and opened the gate. And Kay went in
by himself, and he saluted Gwernach the Giant. And a chair was
placed for him opposite to Gwernach. And Gwernach said to him, "O man,
is it true that is reported of thee, that thou knowest how to
burnish swords?" "I know full well how to do so," answered Kay. Then
was the sword of Gwernach brought to him. And Kay took a blue
whet-stone from under his arm, and asked whether he would have it
burnished white or blue. "Do with it as it seems good to thee, or as
thou wouldst if it were thine own." Then Kay polished one half of
the blade, and put it in his band. "Will this please you?" asked he.
"I would rather than all that is in my dominions that the whole of
it were like this. It is a marvel to me that such a man as thou should
be without a companion." "O noble sir, I have a companion, albeit he
is not skilled in this art." "Who may he be?" "Let the porter go
forth, and I will tell him whereby he may know him. The head of his
lance will leave its shaft, and draw blood from the wind, and will
descend upon its shaft again." Then the gate was opened, and Bedwyr
entered. And Kay said, "Bedwyr is very skilful, though he knows not
this art."
And there was much discourse among those who were without, because
that Kay and Bedwyr had gone in. And a young man who was with them,
the only son of the herdsman, got in also; and he contrived to admit
all the rest, but they kept themselves concealed.
The sword was now polished, and Kay gave it unto the hand of
Gwernach the Giant, to see if he were pleased with his work. And the
Giant said, "The work is good; I am content therewith." Said Kay,
"It is thy scabbard that hath rusted thy sword; give it to me, that
I may take out the wooden sides of it, and put in new ones." And he
took the scabbard from him, and the sword in the other hand. And he
came and stood over against the giant, as if he would have put the
sword into the scabbard; and with it he struck at the head of the
giant, and cut off his head at one blow. Then they despoiled the
castle, and took from it what goods and jewels they would. And they
returned to Arthur's court, bearing with them the sword of Gwernach
the Giant.
And when they told Arthur how they had sped, Arthur said, "It is a
good beginning." Then they took counsel, and said, "Which of these
marvels will it be best for us to seek next?" "It will be best,"
said one, "to seek Mabon, the son of Modron; and he will not be
found unless we first find Eidoel, the son of Aer, his kinsman."
Then Arthur rose up, and the warriors of the island of Britain with
him, to seek for Eidoel; and they proceeded until they came to the
castle of Glivi, where Eidoel was imprisoned. Glivi stood on the
summit of his castle, and he said, "Arthur, what requirest thou of me,
since nothing remains to me in this fortress, and I have neither joy
nor pleasure in it, neither wheat nor oats? Seek not, therefore, to do
me harm." Said Arthur, "Not to injure thee came I hither, but to
seek for the prisoner that is with thee." "I will give thee my
prisoner, though I had not thought to give him up to any one, and
therewith shalt thou have my support and my aid."
His followers said unto Arthur, "Lord, go thou home; thou canst
not proceed with thy host in quest of such small adventures as these."
Then said Arthur, "It were well for thee, Gurhyr Gwalstat, to go
upon this quest, for thou knowest all languages, and art familiar with
those of the birds and the beasts. Thou, Eidoel, oughtest likewise
to go with thy men in search of thy cousin. And as for you, Kay and
Bedwyr, I have hope of whatever adventure ye are in quest of, that
ye will achieve it. Achieve ye this adventure for me."
They went forward until they came to the Ousel of Cilgwri. And
Gurhyr adjured her, saying, "Tell me if thou knowest aught of Mabon,
the son of Modron, who was taken when three nights old from between
his mother and the wall?" And the Ousel answered, "When I first came
here, there was a smith's anvil in this place, and I was then a
young bird; and from that time no work has been done upon it, save the
pecking of my beak every evening; and now there is not so much as
the size of a nut remaining thereof; yet during all that time I have
never heard of the man for whom you inquire. Nevertheless, I will do
that which is fitting that I should for an embassy from Arthur.
There is a race of animals who were formed before me, and I will be
your guide to them."
So they proceeded to the place where was the Stag of Redynvre. "Stag
of Redynvre, behold, we are come to thee, an embassy from Arthur,
for we have not heard of any animal older than thou. Say, knowest thou
aught of Mabon, the son of Modron, who was taken from his mother
when three nights old?" The Stag said, "When first I came hither there
was a plain all around me, without any trees save one oak sapling,
which grew up to be an oak with an hundred branches; and that oak
has since perished, so that now nothing remains of it but the withered
stump; and from that day to this I have been here, yet have I never
heard of the man for whom you inquire. Nevertheless, being an
embassy from Arthur, I will be your guide to the place where there
is an animal which was formed before I was, and the oldest animal in
the world, and the one that has travelled most, the Eagle of Gwern
Gurhyr said, "Eagle of Gwern Abwy, we have come to thee, an
embassy from Arthur, to ask thee if thou knowest aught of Mabon, the
son of Modron, who was taken from his mother when he was three
nights old?" The Eagle said, "I have been here for a great space of
time, and when I first came hither there was a rock here from the
top of which I pecked at the stars every evening; and it has
crumbled away, and now it is not so much as a span high. All that time
I have been here, and I have never heard of the man for whom you
inquire, except once when I went in search of food as far as Llyn
Llyw. And when I came there I struck my talons into a salmon, thinking
he would serve me as food for a long time. But he drew me into the
water, and I was scarcely able to escape from him. After that I made
peace with him. And I drew fifty fish-spears out of his back, and
relieved him. Unless he know something of him you seek I cannot tell
who may. However, I will guide you to the place where he is."
So they went thither; and the Eagle said, "Salmon of Llyn Llyw, I
have come to thee with an embassy from Arthur, to ask thee if thou
knowest aught of Mabon, the son of Modron, who was taken away at three
nights old from his mother." "As much as I know I will tell thee. With
every tide I go along the river upward, until I come near to the walls
of Gloucester, and there have I found such wrong as I never found
elsewhere; and to the end that ye may give credence thereto, let one
of you go thither upon each of my two shoulders." So Kay and Gurhyr
Gwalstat went upon the two shoulders of the Salmon, and they proceeded
until they came unto the wall of the prison; and they heard a great
wailing and lamenting from the dungeon. Said Gurhyr, "Who is it that
laments in this house of stone?" "Alas! it is Mabon, the son of
Modron, who is here imprisoned; and no imprisonment was ever so
grievous as mine." "Hast thou hope of being released for gold or for
silver, or for any gifts of wealth, or through battle and fighting?"
"By fighting will whatever I may gain be obtained."
Then they went thence, and returned to Arthur, and they told him
where Mabon, the son of Modron, was imprisoned. And Arthur summoned
the warriors of the island, and they journeyed as far as Gloucester,
to the place where Mabon was in prison. Kay and Bedwyr went upon the
shoulders of the fish, whilst the warriors of Arthur attacked the
castle. And Kay broke through the wall into the dungeon, and brought
away the prisoner upon his back, whilst the fight was going on between
the warriors. And Arthur returned home, and Mabon with him at liberty.
On a certain day as Gurhyr Gwalstat was walking over a mountain he
heard a wailing and a grievous cry. And when he heard it he sprang
forward, and went towards it. And when he came there he saw a fire
burning among the turf, and an ant-hill nearly surrounded with the
fire. And he drew his sword, and smote off the ant-hill close to
earth, so that it escaped being burned in the fire. And the ants
said to him, "Receive from us the blessing of Heaven, and that which
no man can give we will give thee." Then they fetched the nine bushels
of flaxseed which Yspadaden Penkawr had required of Kilwich, and
they brought the full measure, without lacking any, save one flaxseed,
and that the lame pismire brought in before night.
Then said Arthur, "Which of the marvels will it be best for us to
seek next?" "It will be best to seek for the two cubs of the wolf Gast
"Is it known," said Arthur, "where she is?" "She is in Aber
Cleddyf," said one. Then Arthur went to the house of Tringad, in
Aber Cleddyf, and he inquired of him whether he had heard of her
there. "She has often slain my herds, and she is there below in a cave
of Aber Cleddyf."
Then Arthur went in his ship Prydwen by sea, and the others went
by land to hunt her. And they surrounded her and her two cubs, and
took them, and carried them away.
As Kay and Bedwyr sat on a beacon-cairn on the summit of Plinlimmon,
in the highest wind that ever was, they looked around them and saw
smoke afar off. Then said Kay, "By the hand of my friend, yonder is
the fire of a robber." Then they hastened towards the smoke, and
they came so near it that they could see Dillus Varwawc scorching a
wild boar. "Behold, yonder is the greatest robber that ever fled
from Arthur," said Bedwyr to Kay. "Dost thou know him?" "I do know
him," answered Kay; "he is Dillus Varwawc, and no leash in the world
will be able to hold the cubs of Gast Rhymhi save a leash made from
the beard of him thou seest yonder. And even that will be useless
unless his beard be plucked out alive, with wooden tweezers; for if
dead it will be brittle." "What thinkest thou that we should do
concerning this?" said Bedwyr. "Let us suffer him to eat as much as he
will of the meat, and after that he will fall asleep." And during that
time he they employed themselves in making the wooden tweezers. And
when Kay knew certainly that he was asleep, he made a pit under his
feet, and he struck him a violent blow, and squeezed him into the pit.
And there they twitched out his beard completely with the wooden
tweezers, and after that they slew him altogether. And from thence
they went, and took the leash made of Dillus Varwawc's beard, and they
gave it into Arthur's hand.
Thus they got all the marvels that Yspadaden Penkawr had required of
Kilwich; and they set forward, and took the marvels to his court.
And Kilwich said to Yspadaden Penkawr, "Is thy daughter mine now?"
"She is thine," said he, "but therefore needest thou not thank me, but
Arthur, who hath accomplished this for thee." Then Goreu, the son of
Custennin, the herdsman, whose brothers Yspadaden Penkawr had slain,
seized him by the hair of his head, and dragged him after him to the
keep, and cut off his head, and placed it on a stake in the citadel.
Then they took possession of his castle, and of his treasures. And
that night Olwen became Kilwich's bride, and she continued to be his
wife as long as she lived.

Thomas Bulfinch