The Mabinogi

Translation of Branch 3: Manawydan, Son of Llŷr


Manawydan, Son of Llŷr

After the seven men we spoke of above had finished burying the head of Bendigeidfran in the White Hill in London, facing France, Manawydan gazed at the township of London, and at his companions, and gave a heavy sigh, and felt great grief and longing in [his heart].

'Alas God almighty, woe is me' said he 'there is no-one without a place of their own tonight except me.'

'Lord,' said Pryderi 'don't be so unhappy about that. Your cousin is king of Island of the Mighty and although he may do you wrong' he continued 'you have never been a claimant for land or territory. You are the third Humbled Chieftain.'

'Aye,' said he 'though that man is my cousin, I find it somewhat sad to see anyone in the place of Bendigeidfran my brother, and I cannot be happy in the same house as him.'

'[Then] will you pursue another counsel?' asked Pryderi.

'I have been needing counsel,' said he ' what counsel is that?'

'The Seven Cantrefs of Dyfed have been left to me,' said Pryderi 'And Rhiannon my mother is there. I will give her to you, and the sovereignty of the Seven Cantrefs with her. And though you might have no more domains than those seven cantrefs, there are no cantrefs better than they. Cigfa, daughter of Gwyn Gloyw is my wife,' he continued 'and though it may be my territory in name, let the enjoyment of it be yours and Rhiannon's. And had you ever desired territory, it would have [probably] been [those] that you would have taken.'

'I do not desire [any], chieftain,' replied Manawydan '[but] God repay your kindness.'

'The best friendship I can offer will be yours, if you wish it.'

'I wish it, friend,' he replied. 'God repay you. I will come with you to see Rhiannon and to see your territory.'

'You are right to do so,' he replied. 'I believe you will not ever have listened a woman more companionable than her. When she was in her prime, no woman was as beautiful as her; and even now you will not be disappointed with her looks.'

[So] they went on their way, and however long [it was that] they were on the road, they [eventually] came to Dyfed. There was a feast ready for them in Arberth (after its preparation by Rhiannon and Cigfa).

Then Manawydan and Rhiannon sat down together and began to talk; and from that conversation his heart and mind warmed to her, and he felt that he had never seen a woman before better endowed with beauty and attractiveness than she.

'Pryderi,' he said ' I will abide by what you said.'

'And what was it that you did say?' asked Rhiannon.

'Lady,' said Pryderi 'I have given you as a wife to Manawydan son of Llŷr.'

'I will abide with that, gladly' said Rhiannon.

'I too am glad,' said Manawydan 'God repay the man who gives me friendship as unwavering as that!'

Before the end of that feast, he had slept with her.

'What is left of the feast,' said Pryderi 'you finish it; I for my part will go and pledge my allegiance to Casswallon son of Beli [over] in England.'

'Lord,' said Rhiannon 'Casswallon is in Kent, and [so] you can finish this feast, and wait until he is nearer.'

'We will wait for him [then],' he said.

They finished that feast, and began to progress through Dyfed, hunting and taking their pleasure.

And as they wandered throughout the land, they [realised that] they had never seen a country so hospitable, nor a better hunting ground, nor more bountiful with honey and fishes than that. With that, a friendship grew up between the four of them, so that neither of them would wish to be without the other day or night.

Around that time, [Pryderi] went to Caswallawn in Oxford and pledged his allegiance. And there was very great joy at his arrival, and thanks were given for his pledge of allegiance. After [his] return, Pryderi and Manawydan feasted and took their pleasure.

They began their feasting in Arberth, as it was [the] chief court, and from here every celebration was begun. After the first course of that evening, while the serving men were eating, the four got up and made for the Gorsedd Arberth, and a host with them.

As they were seated thus, suddenly there was a clap of thunder and, with such a great clap of thunder, a fall of mist so that no-one could see anyone else. After the mist, everywhere [was filled] with bright light. And when they looked where before they would have once seen flocks and herds and dwellings, they could see nothing at all: neither house, nor animal, nor smoke, nor fire, nor man, nor dwellings; [nothing] except the empty buildings of the court, deserted, uninhabited, without man or beast within them, their own companions lost, without them knowing anything about them; [no-one left] except the four of them.

'Alas, Lord God,' said Manawydan 'is the host of the court and our host nothing but this? Let us go and look.'

They came to the hall - there was nobody. They made for the chamber and the sleeping house - none did they see. Neither in the mead cellar nor the kitchen was there anything except desolation.

[Then] those four began wandering the land, they hunted and took their pleasure; each one of them began to roam the land and the country, searching for a house or a settlement: but there was nothing of any kind to be seen, except wild beasts.

And when they had finished their feast and their supplies, they began to live off hunted meat, fish and wild swarms. And thus one year and the next they passed in contentment. But in the end, they found it intolerable.

'God knows,' said Manawydan 'we can't go on like this. Let us make for England where we can find a trade and make a living.'

They made for England, until they came to Henford; and took up saddle-making. Manawydan began to fashion pommels, and they were coloured in the way he had seen Llassar Llaes Gyfnewid do with blue azure; and they [even] made their own blue azure, just as the other man had done. And for that reason, it is still called "calch llasar", after Llassar Llaes Gyfnewit.

And as a result of that work, not a saddle nor a pommel could be sold by a saddler anywhere in Henford, as long as it could be got from Manawydan - until each of the saddlers realised they were loosing profit, and nothing was being bought from them, unless it could not be got from Manawydan.

Thereupon, they banded together and agreed to kill him and his companion. Thereupon [the four] got a warning, and they took counsel about leaving the township.

'Between myself and God,' said Pryderi 'I will not counsel leaving the township, rather than killing those peasants.'

'No,' said Manawydan 'if we fight with them, we will get a bad name, and be thrown in prison. It is better for us,' he continued 'to make for another township and earn a living there.'

And [so] the four went to another city.

'What craft shall we take up?' asked Pryderi.

'We will make shields,' said Manawydan.

'Do we know anything about that?' asked Pryderi.

'We will try it,' he replied.

They started the work of making shields - fashioning them in the style of good shields they had seen, and decorating them with the same colour they had put upon the saddles.

And that work was successful for them, and no shield was sold in the whole of that town unless it came from them. Swift was their work, and innumerable [shields] did they make; and so they went on until their neighbours were irked by them, until they decided to seek their death. But warning came to them, and they heard about men who intended to kill them.

'Pryderi,' said Manawydan 'these men wish to destroy us.'

'We should not take [that] from these peasants. Let us descend on them and kill.'

'No!' he replied 'Casswallon and his men will hear of it, and we would be ruined. Let us make for another township.'

To another township they came.

'What craft shall we follow?' asked Manawydan.

'Whichever one you like, from those we know,' said Pryderi.

'No,' said Manawydan 'we will make shoes. The shoemakers won't have the heart to either fight or forbid us.'

'I know nothing about that [trade]' protested Pryderi.

'[But] I do know [something of] it,' replied Manawydan 'and I will teach you to stitch. We will not get involved with dressing the leather, but buy it ready-made, and make our work from that.'

Then he started buying the finest dovan leather which he got in the town, and he bought no other leather than that, except for the soles. He began to associate with the best goldsmith in the township, and had buckles made for the shoes and the buckles gilded - and he practiced that until he had mastered it. And for that reason, he became known as one of the Three Golden Shoemakers.

As long as it could be obtained from him, no shoe nor boot nor anything could be sold by a shoemaker in the whole of the township. As for the shoemakers, they realised their profits were failing: for just as Manawydan crafted his work, so Pryderi stitched. The shoemakers came and took counsel, and what came out of that counsel was an agreement to kill them.

'Pryderi,' said Manawydan 'these men wish to kill us.'

'Why are we taking that from the thieving peasants?' demanded Pryderi 'rather than killing them all.'

'No,' said Manawydan 'we will not fight with them, and we will not remain in England any longer. Let us make for Dyfed, and go and look round it.'

However long they were on the road, they [eventually] came to Dyfed, and made for Arberth. They lit a fire, and began foraging and hunting, and they spent a month in this way. They gathered their dogs about them and hunted and remained there for a year like that.

One morning, Pryderi and Manawydan got up to hunt, prepared their dogs and went outside the court. Some of the dogs then ran ahead, going to a small copse that was nearby. As soon as they went [up] to the copse, they withdrew again swiftly, all bristling and fearful, and came back towards the men.

'Let's approach that copse,' said Pryderi ' and see what is within it.'

They drew towards the copse. When they had come near to it, suddenly there was a shining white boar, arising out of the copse. The dogs - with encouragement from the men - rushed towards it. [The boar], for its part, left the copse, and withdrew a short distance away from the men, then it would stand ground against the dogs without retreating until the men came near. When the men closed in, it withdrew once again, and broke away.

After the boar they went, until they could see a great, towering caer, [all] newly-made, in a place they had never seen either stone or building before. The boar was making for it swiftly with the dogs [running] after it.

Once the boar and the dogs had gone into the caer, they wondered at the sight of a caer where they had never seen a building before (that). And from the top of the mound they watched, and listened out for their dogs. However long they were there, they neither heard any of their dogs nor saw any sign of them.

'Lord,' said Pryderi 'I am going into that caer, to find out about those dogs.'

'God knows,' said the other 'your counsel to go into the caer is not good. [We did not see] this [caer] here ever before. If you would follow my counsel, you would not go in. Whoever put enchantment on this land, has [also] made the caer [appear] here.'

'God knows,' said Pryderi 'I will not give up my dogs.'

Whatever else Manawydan would say, he [nonetheless] made for the caer. When he got to the caer, he could not see man, nor beast, nor the boar, nor the dogs, nor house, nor dwelling inside the caer. [All] he could see, approximately in the middle of the courtyard, [was] a fountain with marble stonework around it. Beside the fountain [was] a golden bowl, attached by four chains, which was above [the] marble slab - with the chains reaching up into the air, and he could not see the end of them.

He was inspired at the beauty of the gold, and [at] how good the workmanship of the bowl [was]. He came up to where the bowl was, and laid hold of it. As soon as he had laid hold of the bowl, his hands stuck to the bowl, and his two feet to the slab on which he was standing. The power of speech was taken from him so he could not utter a single word. And thus he stood [unable to move].

Manawydan waited for him until it was nearly the end of the day. Late in the afternoon, after he was certain he would get no tidings of Pryderi or his dogs, he came back to the court. When he came in, Rhiannon stared at him.

'Where is your companion?' she asked ' and your dogs?'

'Look,' he said 'here's my story.' and he recounted it all.

'God knows,' said Rhiannon 'bad is the companion you have been, and good is the companion you have lost.'

With that word she went out, and over to where he had said the man and the caer were, and made towards it.

She saw the gate of the caer was open and unprotected. Inside she went, and as soon as she had gone inside, she caught sight of Pryderi grasping the bowl, and she came over to him.

'Och, Lord, what are you doing here?' she exclaimed, grasping the bowl along with him.

And as soon as she grasps it, her two hands stick to the bowl, and her two feet to the slab, so that she too could not utter a single word. And thereupon, as soon as it was night, lo! there was a peal of thunder, and a fall of mist and with that the caer disappeared, leaving along with [Pryderi and Rhiannon].

When Cigfa, daughter of Gwyn Gloyw and wife of Pryderi, saw that there was no-one in the court except her and Manawydan - she lamented that her life to her was no no better than her death.. Manawydan stared at her.

'God knows,' he said 'you are wrong to worry about demands from me. God as my witness, you have never seen a truer companion than you will find [in] me, as long as God wishes it thus. Between me and God, if I was in the first flush of my youth, I would keep faith with Pryderi, and for your sake I would keep it as well. Don't be afraid' he continued 'between me and God, you will get the companionship you wish from me, as much as I am able, as long as God would wish us to be in this wretchedness and misery.'

'God repay you, that is what I thought.'

And the young woman was cheered and reassured by that.

'Aye, friend,' said Manawydan 'it is not a suitable place here for us to stay. We have lost our dogs and it is not possible for us to support ourselves. Let us go to England. It will be easiest for us to support ourselves there.'

'Gladly, Lord,' she replied 'we will do that.'

Together they went to England.

'Lord,' said she 'what trade are you going to take? Take a proper one.'

'I will not take anything except shoe-making,' he replied 'like I did before.'

'Lord,' she protested ' that is not flattering to the honour of a man as skilled and as high-ranking as you.'

'That is what I am going to do [nonetheless],' he replied.

He began his craft, and fashioned his work from the finest dovan leather he could find in the township. And just as they had begun in the other place, he started to buckle the shoes with golden buckles, until the work of all the shoe-makers in the town-ship was tawdry and meagre compared to his own. And as long as [there were] either a shoe or boot [that] could be got from him, none would be brought from anybody else.

He spent a year like that there, until the shoemakers grew resentful and envious towards him, so that warnings came to him, saying the shoemakers had agreed to kill him.

'Lord,' said Cigfa 'why is this to be endured from peasants?'

'No,' he replied 'we are going to Dyfed, however.'

They made for Dyfed. When he set out for Dyfed, Manawydan took with him a bushel of wheat. He made for Arberth and settled there. And there was nothing more pleasant to him than seeing Arberth and the territory where he used to hunt: him and Pryderi, and Rhiannon with them.

He began to practice catching fish, and wild deer in their lairs. After that he began tilling, and after that he sewed one croft, and a second, and a third. The wheat that grew up was the best in the world, and the three crofts all grew just as well: wheat more beautiful than anyone had ever seen.

He passed the seasons of the year. Then it was harvest. He came to one of his crofts and behold, that was fully grown.

'I would like to reap this tomorrow,' said Manawydan.

He came back that night to Arberth.

The following day, in the green of dawn, he came, minded to harvest the croft. When he came, there was nothing but bare stalks - each one had been broken off where the ear comes out of the stalk, and the ear had gone clean away, leaving just the bare stalk.

He wondered greatly at that, and went to examine a second croft; and behold, it was fully grown.

'God knows,' said he 'I would like to reap this tomorrow.'

The next day he came, minded [to carry out] that harvest. And when he got there, there was nothing except bare stalks.

'O Lord God,' he said 'who is completing my ruin? I know it - whoever began my downfall, is the one who is completing it - and he has ruined my country with me!'

He came to examine the third croft. When he got there, no-one had ever seen finer wheat - and that was as fully grown.

'Shame on me,' he said 'if I do not keep guard tonight. Whoever carried the other corn off will come to carry this off [as well], and I'll find out what it is.'

He took his weapons, and began watching the croft.

He told Cigfa all about it.

'Aye,' said she 'what is it that you have in mind?'

'I will guard the croft tonight,' he said.

He went to guard the croft. Around about midnight he was thus [occupied] when all of a sudden there was the greatest commotion in the world. He looked [out]. Lo! there was a horde of mice: and it was not possible to count or reckon them.

Before he knew it, the mice were falling upon the croft, and every one of them was climbing to the tip of a stalk, bending it with them, and breaking off the ear and making off with it, leaving the stalks - and as far as he could tell, there was no stalk on which there had not been a mouse. And they made their exit, the ears with them.

Then, [his mind somewhere] between anger and fury, he lunged out into the mice. [But] he could no more keep sight of them than gnats or birds in the air - except for one he saw that was so bulky, so he guessed it was not capable of anything [faster] than a walk. After it he went, and laid hold of it, and put it inside his glove, and tied the end of the glove with string. He kept it with him and made for the court.

He came to the hall where Cigfa was, stoked the fire, and hung the glove by [its] string on a peg.

'What is in there, Lord?' asked Cigfa.

'A thief,' he replied 'that I caught thieving from me.'

'Lord, what sort of thief can you put in your glove?' she asked.

'Here is the whole story,' he said. And he told her how his croft had been spoiled and destroyed, and how the mice had come to the last croft while he had been there.

'And one of them was very bulky, which I caught, and which is in the glove, and which I will hang tomorrow. And, by my confession to God, if I had caught all of them, I would have hanged them [as well].'

'No wonder, Lord,' said she, 'however, its unsightly to see as high-ranking - as noble - a man as yourself hanging vermin like that. And if you did right, you would not trouble yourself with such a creature, but [rather] let it go.'

'Shame on me if I caught all of them' he replied 'because I would have hanged [them all]. [But since] I [only] have this one, I will hang it.'

'Aye, Lord,' she replied. 'I have no reason to defend this creature: except to avoid humiliation for you. You do what you want, Lord.'

'If I knew of any reason in the world to agree with you in defending this creature, I would take your advice on this. But, seeing as I do not, my lady, it is my intention to destroy it.'

'You do that then, gladly' said she.

Then he made for Gorsedd Arberth, and the mouse with him, and he planted two forks in the highest place on the mound. As he was doing this, suddenly he could see a scholar coming towards him, wearing an old garment, threadbare and poor. It had been all of seven years since he had seen man or beast - other than the four people who had been together (until two had been lost).

'Lord,' said the scholar 'good day to you.'

'May God give well to you, and welcome!' he said 'where have you come from, scholar?'

'Lord, I am coming from singing in England. Why do you ask, Lord?'

'For seven years,' said he 'I haven't seen a single person here, except for four [other] exiles - and now yourself.'

'Aye,' said the other 'myself, I'm passing through this country this hour, on my way to my own country. And what kind of work are you doing [up there]?

'Hanging a thief I caught thieving from me,' said he.

'What kind of thief, Lord?' he asked. 'The creature I see in your hand looks like a mouse. It poorly becomes a man of such [high] rank as yourself to handle such a creature as that. Let it go.'

'I will not let it go, between myself and God,' he replied 'I caught it thieving, and I will execute the punishment for a thief upon it - [which is] hanging.'

'Lord,' replied the other 'rather than [have to] watch a man as high-ranking as yourself [engaging] in such work, I will give you a pound that I was given in alms to let that creature go.'

'I will not let it go, between myself and God, neither will I sell it.'

'You do that, Lord' said he 'if it was not wrong to see a man of your rank handling such a creature as that, it would not trouble me.'

And away went the scholar.

As he was engaged with putting the cross-beam on the gallows, suddenly there was a priest coming towards him, on a well-kept horse.

'Lord,' he said 'good day to you.'

'May God give well to you,' replied Manawydan ' and bless you.'

'The blessing of God to you. And what kind of work, Lord, are you engaged in [there]?'

'I am hanging a thief whom I caught thieving from me,' said he.

'What kind of thief, Lord?' asked the other.

'A creature in the shape of a mouse,' said he 'who was committing theft against me. And the fitting end for a thief I am executing upon it.'

'Lord, rather than watch you handling that creature, I will redeem it. Let it go.'

'By my confession to God, I will neither sell it nor let it go.'

'It is true, Lord, it is not worth anything. [But] rather than see you defiling yourself with that creature, I will give you three pounds to let it go.'

'Between me and God,' he replied 'I don't want any payment, except what this one is due - its hanging.'

'Gladly, Lord, you do as you please.'

Off went the priest.

What he did, for his part, was to tie the noose around the neck of the mouse.

As he was busy raising it, behold, he could see the retinue of a bishop, with his sumpters and his host; and the bishop himself making towards him. He stopped his work.

'Lord Bishop,' he said 'your blessings.'

'[And] God give blessing to you,' said [the bishop] 'what kind of work are you engaged with [there]?'

'Hanging a thief I caught thieving from me,' he replied.

'Is it not a mouse I see in your hand?' asked the other

'Aye,' he replied 'and a thief it has been to me.'

'Aye,' said the bishop 'since I have come upon the destruction of that creature, I will redeem it from you. I will give you seven pounds for it: rather than see as high-ranking man as yourself destroying a creature as wretched as that. Release it and you will be rewarded.'

'I will not let it go, between me and God,' he replied.

'Since you will not let it go for that, I will give you twenty-four pounds of mint silver - so let it go.'

'I will not let it go, by my confession to God, for the same amount again.'

'If you let it go,' said [the bishop] 'I will give you all the horses on the plain, and the seven sumpters that are here, and the seven horses that carry them.'

'I do not want [them], between me and God,' he replied'

'Since you do not want that, name your price.'

'I will name it,' he replied 'the freeing Rhiannon and Pryderi.'

'You will get that.'

'I don't want [it], between me and God.'

'What do you want?'

'Deliverance from the magic and enchantment upon the seven cantrefs of Dyfed.'

'That you will have also, if you release the mouse.'

'I will not free it, between me and God,' said [Manawydan] 'I want to know who the mouse is.'

'She is my wife, and were that not so, we would not be freeing her'

'By what means did she come to me?'

'To plunder,' he replied 'I am Llwyd Cil Coed, and it was me that put magic on the seven cantrefs of Dyfed to avenge Gwawl son of Clud, for [the sake of] his friendship I laid the enchantment; and on Pryderi I avenged the playing of Badger in the Bag, [from] when it was done by Pwyll Pen Annwfn at the court of Hyfaidd Hen - the ill-advised deed.

'After hearing that you were settled in the land' he continued 'my war-band came to see me, and asked me to turn them into mice, so they might destroy your corn. On the first night my war-band came alone. On the second night they came too, and destroyed the two crofts. On the third night my wife and the women of the court came to me, and asked me to transform them [as well], [so] I transformed them [too]. [But] she was pregnant. Had she not been pregnant, you would not have caught up with her.

'But since she was, and she got caught, I will give you Pryderi and Rhiannon, and remove the magic and enchantment from Dyfed. I have told you who she is - now let her go.'

'I will not let her go, between me and God.'

'What do want?' he asked.

'Behold,' he replied ' this is what I want: that they may never be [any more] magic or enchantment upon the seven cantrefs of Dyfed, and [no more] be placed upon it.'

'You will have that,' he said '[now] let her go.'

'I will not let her go, between me and God.'

'What do you want?' he asked.

'This,' he said 'is what I want: there must be no revenge against Pryderi, Rhiannon or myself, ever from this.'

'All that you shall get. And, God knows, that was a good move,' he said 'if you had not moved thus, all of the grief would have come upon your head.'

'Aye,' he replied 'against that I have protected myself.'

'Now release my wife.'

'I will not release her until I see Pryderi and Rhiannon in front of me.'

'See them coming here!' he said

Thereupon, there was Pryderi and Rhiannon. He arose to meet them, and welcomed them, and they sat down together.

'Good man, now [please] free my wife, for you have certainly obtained all of what you were asking for.'

'I will free her gladly,' he said.

And then he freed her. He hit her with his magic wand, and she changed into the most beautiful young woman anyone had ever seen.

'Look around you upon the land,' said he 'and you will see all the homesteads and the settlements - as they were at their best.'

And when he got up to look he could see the whole of the country inhabited, in [full] order in terms of its herds and habitations.

'What form of servitude were Pryderi and Rhiannon under?' he asked.

'Pryderi would have the gate-hammers of the court around his neck, and Rhiannon would have the collars of asses, after they had been carrying hay. Such was their imprisonment.'

And, on account of that imprisonment, that tale was called 'The Mabinogi of Mynweir and Mynordd'.

Thus ends this branch of the Mabinogi.

This translation is Copyright © Will Parker | Linc allanol: Agorir mewn ffenestr newydd

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