by Joseph Jacobs
Powel, Prince of Dyfed
POWEL, Prince of Dyfed, was lord of the seven Cantrevs of Dyfed; and once upon a time Powel was at Narberth, his chief palace, where a feast had been prepared for him, and with him was a great host of men. And after the first meal, Powel arose to walk, and he went to the top of a mound that was above the palace, and was called Gorseth Arberth.
" Lord," said one of the court, "it is peculiar to the mound that whosoever sits upon it cannot go thence without either receiving wounds or blows, or else seeing a wonder."
"I fear not to receive wounds and blows in the midst of such a host as this; but as to the wonder, gladly would I see it. I will go, therefore, and sit upon the mound."
And upon the mound he sat. And while he sat there, they saw a lady, on a pure white horse of large size, with a garment of shining gold around her, coming along the highway that led from the mound; and the horse seemed to move at a slow and even pace, and to be coming up towards the mound.
"My men," said Powel, " is there any among you who knows yonder lady?"
"There is not, lord," said they.
"Go one of you and meet her, that we may know who she is."
And one of them arose ; and as he came upon the road to meet her she passed by, and he followed as fast as he could, being on foot; and the greater was his speed, the farther was she from him. And when he saw that it profited him nothing to follow her, he returned to Pwyll, and said unto him, "Lord, it is idle for any one in the world to follow her on foot."
"Verily," said Powel, "go unto the palace, and take the fleetest horse that thou seest, and go after her."
And he took a horse and went forward. And he came to an open level plain, and put spurs to his horse; and the more he urged his horse, the farther was she from him. Yet she held the same pace as at first. And his horse began to fail; and when his horse's feet failed him, he ye-turned to the place where Powel was.
"Lord," said he, " it will avail nothing for any one to follow yonder lady. I know of no horse in these realms swifter than this, and it availed me not to pursue her."
"Of a truth," said Powel, "there must be some illusion here. Let us go towards the palace." So to the palace they went, and they spent that day. And the next day they arose, and that also they spent until it was time to go to meat. And after the first meal, "Verily," said Powel, "we will go, the same party as yesterday, to the top of the mound. Do thou," said he to one of his young men, "take the swiftest horse that thou knowest in the field. And thus did the young man. They went towards the mound, taking the horse with them. And as they were sitting down they beheld the lady on the same horse, and in the same apparel, coming along the same road. "Behold," said Powel, "here is the lady of yesterday. Make ready, youth, to learn who she is."
My lord," said he "that will I gladly do." And thereupon the lady came opposite to them. So the youth mounted his horse ; and before he had settled himself in his saddle, she passed by, and there was a clear space between them. But her speed was no greater than it had been the day before. Then he put his horse into an amble, and thought, that, notwithstanding the gentle pace at which his horse went, he should soon overtake her. But this availed him not: so he gave his horse the reins. And still he came no nearer to her than when he went at a foot's pace. The more he urged his horse, the farther was she from him. Yet she rode not faster than before. When he saw that it availed not to follow her, he returned to the place where Powel was. " Lord," said he, "the horse can no more than thou hast seen."
"I see indeed that it avails not that any one should follow her. And by Heaven," said he, "she must needs have an errand to some one in this plain, if her haste would allow her to declare it. Let us go back to the palace." And to the palace they went, and they spent that night in songs and feasting, as it pleased them.
The next day they amused themselves until it was time to go to meat. And when meat was ended, Powel said, "Where are the hosts that went yesterday and the day before to the top of the mound ?"
"Behold, lord, we are here," said they.
"Let us go," said he, "to the mound to sit there. And do thou," said he to the page who tended his horse, "saddle my horse well, and hasten with him to the road, and bring also my spurs with thee." And the youth did thus, They went and Sat upon the mound. And ere they had been there but a short time, they beheld the lady coming by the same road, and in the same manner, and at the same pace. "Young man, said Powel, "I see the lady coming give me my horse." And no sooner had he mounted his horse than she passed him. And he turned after her, and followed her. And he let his horse go bounding playfully, and thought that at the second step or the third he should come up with her. But he came no nearer to her than at first. Then he urged his horse to his utmost speed, yet he found that it availed nothing to follow her. Then said Powel, "O maiden, " for the sake of him who thou best lovest, stay for me."
"I will stay gladly," said she, "and it were better for thy horse hadst thou asked it long since." So the maiden stopped, and she threw back that part of her head-dress which covered her face. And she fixed her eyes upon him, and began to talk with him,
"Lady," asked he, "whence comest thou, and whereunto dost thou journey ?"
"I journey on mine own errand," said she, "and right glad am I to see thee."
"My greeting be unto thee," said he. Then he thought that the beauty of all the maidens, and all the ladies that he had ever seen, was as nothing compared to her beauty.
"Lady," he said, "wilt thou tell me aught concerning thy purpose?"
"I will tell thee," said she. " My chief quest was to seek thee."
"Behold," said Powel, "this is to me the most pleasing quest on which thou couldst have come. And wilt thou tell me who thou art ?"
"By Heaven," said Powel, "behold this is my answer. If I might choose among all the ladies and damsels in the world, thee would I choose."
"Verily," said she, "if thou art thus minded, make a pledge to meet me ere I am given to another."
"The sooner I may do so, the more pleasing will it be unto me," said Powel, "and wheresoever thou wilt, there will I meet with thee."
"I will that thou meet me this day twelvemonth, at the palace of Heveyth. And I will cause a feast to be prepared, so that it be ready against thou come."
"Gladly," said he, " will I keep this tryst."
"Lord," said she, "remain in health, and be mindful that thou keep thy promise And now I will go hence."
So they parted, and he went back to his hosts and to them of his household. And whatsoever questions they asked him respecting the damsel, he always turned the discourse upon other matters. And when a year from that time was gone, he caused a hundred knights to equip themselves, and to go with him to the palace of Heveyth Hên. And he came to the palace, and there was great joy concerning him, with much concourse of people, and great rejoicing, and vast preparations for his coming. And the whole court was placed under his orders.
And the hall was garnished, and they went to meat, and thus did they sit; Heveyth Hên was on one side of Powel, and Rhiannon on the other. And all the rest according to their rank. And they ate and feasted and talked, one with another; and at the beginning of the carousal after the meat, there entered a tall auburn-haired youth, of royal bearing, clothed in a garment of satin. And when he came into the hall he saluted Powel and his companions.
"The greeting of Heaven be unto thee, my soul," said Powel. "Come thou and sit down."
"Nay," said he, "a suitor am I; and I will do mine errand."
"Do so willingly," said Powel.
"Lord," said he, "my errand is unto thee ; and it is to crave a boon of thee that I come."
"What boon soever thou mayest ask of me, as far as I am able, thou shalt have."
"Ah," said Rhiannon, "wherefore didst thou give that answer ?"
"Has he not given it before the presence of these nobles?" asked the youth.
"My soul," said Powel, "what is the boon thou askest?"
"The lady whom best I love is to be thy bride this night I come to ask her of thee, with the feast and the banquet that are in this place."
And Powel was silent because of the answer which he had given.
"Be silent as long as thou wilt," said Rhiannon. "Never did man make worse use of his wits than thou hast done."
"Lady," said he, "I knew not who he was."
"Behold, this is the man to whom they would have given me against my will," said she.
"And he is Gwawl the son of Clud, a man of great power and wealth; and because of the word thou hast spoken, bestow me upon him, lest shame befall thee."
"Lady," said he, "I understand not thine answer. Never can I do as thou sayest."
"Bestow me upon him," said she, "and I will cause that I shall never be his."
"By what means will that be?" said Powel.
"In thy hand will I give thee a small bag," said she. See that thou keep it well, and he will ask of thee the banquet and the feast, and the preparations, which are not in thy power. Unto the hosts and the household will I give the feast. And such will be thy answer respecting this. And as concerns myself, I will engage to become his bride this night twelvemonth. And at the end of the year be thou here," said she, "and bring this hag with thee and let thy hundred knights be in the orchard up yonder. And when he is in the midst of joy and feasting, come thou in by thyself, clad in ragged garments, and holding thy bag in thy hand, and ask nothing but a bagful of food and I will cause that if all the meat and liquor that are in these seven cantrevs were put into it, it would be no fuller than before. And after a great deal has been put therein, he will ask thee whether thy bag will ever be full. Say thou then that it never will, until a man of noble birth and of great wealth arise and press the food in the bag with both his feet, saying, 'Enough has been put therein.' And I will cause him to go and tread down the food in the bag, and when he does so, turn thou the bag, so that he shall be up over his head in it' and then slip a knot upon the thongs of the bag. Let there be also a good bugle-horn about thy neck, and as soon as thou hast bound him in the bag, wind thy horn, and let it be a signal between thee and thy knights. And when they hear the sound of the horn,. let them come down upon the palace."
"Lord," said Gwawl, "it is meet that I have an answer to my request."
"As much of that thou hast asked as it is in my power to give, thou shalt have," replied Powel.
"My soul," said Rhiannon unto him, "as for the feast and the banquet that are here, I have bestowed them upon the men of Dyved, and the household, and the warriors that are with us. These can I not suffer to be given to any. In a year from to-night a banquet shall be prepared for thee in this palace, that I may become thy bride."
So Gwawl went forth to his possessions, and Powel went also back to Dyved. And they both spent that year until it was the time for the feast at the palace of Heveyth Hên. Then Gwawl the son of Clud set out to the feast that was prepared for him, and he came to the palace and was received there with rejoicing. Powel also, the chief of Annuvyn, came to the orchard with his hundred knights, as Rhiannon had commanded him, having the bag with him. And Powel was clad in coarse and ragged garments, and wore large clumsy old shoes upon his feet. And when he knew that the carousal after the meat had begun, he went towards the hall, and when he came into the hall, he saluted Gwawl the son of Clud, and his company, both men and women.
"Heaven prosper thee " said Gwawl, "and the greeting of Heaven be unto thee!"
"Lord," said he, "may Heaven reward thee !" I have an errand unto thee."
"Welcome be thine errand, and, if thou ask of me that which is just, thou shalt have it gladly."
"It is fitting," answered he. "I crave but from want and the boon that I ask is to have this small bag that thou seest filled with meat."
"A request within reason is this," said he, " and gladly shalt thou have it. Bring him food."
"My soul," said Gwawi, "will thy bag be ever full ?"
"It will not, I declare to Heaven," said he, "for all that may be put into it, unless one possessed of lands and domains and treasure shall arise, and tread down with both his feet the food which is within the bag, and shall say, 'Enough has been put herein.' "
Then said Rhiannon unto Gwawl the son of Clud, "Rise up quickly."
"I will willingly arise," said he. So he rose up, and put his two feet into the bag. And Powel turned up the sides of the bag, so that Gwawl was over his head in it. And he shut it up quickly, and slipped a knot upon the thongs, and blew his horn. And thereupon behold his household came down upon the palace. And they seized all the host that had come with Gwawl, and cast them into his own prison. And Powel threw off his rags, and his old shoes, and his tattered array. And as they came in, every one of Powel's knights struck a blow upon the bag, and asked, " What is here ?"
"A badger," said they. And in this manner they played, each of them striking the bag, either with his foot or with a staff. And thus played they with the bag. Every one as he came in asked, "What game are you playing at thus?"
"The game of Badger in the Bag," said they. And then was the game of Badger in the Bag first played.
"Lord," said the man in the bag, "if thou wouldest but hear me, I merit not to be slain in a bag."
Said Heveyth Hên, "Lord, he speaks truth. It were fitting that thou listen to him ; for he deserves not this."
"Verily," said Powel, "I will do thy counsel concerning him."
"Behold, this is my counsel then," said Rhiannon "Thou art now in a position in which it behoves thee to satisfy suitors and minstrels let him give unto them in thy stead, and take a pledge from him that he will never seek to revenge that which has been done to him. And this will he punishment enough."
"I will do this gladly," said the man in the bag.
"And gladly will I accept it,'' said Powel, '' since it is the counsel of Heveyth and Rhiannon."
"Such, then, is our counsel," answered they.
"I accept it," said Powel.
"Seek thyself sureties."
"We will be for him," said Heveyth, until his men be free to answer for him." And upon this he was let out of the bag, and his liege-men were liberated. Demand now of Gwawl his sureties," said Heveyth : "we know which should be taken for him." And Heveyth numbered the sureties.
Said Gwawl, " Do thou thyself draw up the covenant."
"It will suffice me that it be as Rhiannon said," answered Powel. So unto that covenant were all the sureties pledged.
"Verily, lord," said Gwawl "I am greatly hurt, and I have many bruises. I have need to be anointed ; with thy leave I will go forth. I will leave nobles in my stead to answer for me in all that thou shalt require."
"Willingly," said Powel, " mayest thou do thus." So Gwawl went towards his own possessions.
And the hall was set in order for Powel 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 next morning, at the break of day, "My lord," said Rhiannon, "arise and begin to give thy gifts unto the minstrels. Refuse no one to-day that may claim thy bounty."
"Thus shall it be, gladly," said Powel, "both to-day and every day while the feast shall last." So Powel 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, Powel said unto Heveyth, "My lord, with thy permission, I will set out for Dyved to-morrow."
"Certainly," said Heveyth. "May Heaven prosper thee! Fix also a time when Rhiannon may follow thee."
Said Powel, " We will go hence together."
"Willest thou this, lord ?" said Heveyth.
"Yes," answered Powel.
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 fourth year a son was born to them, and women were brought to watch the babe at night. And the women slept, as did also Rhiannon. And when they awoke they looked where they had put the boy, and behold he was not there. And the women were frightened ; and, having plotted together, they accused Rhiannon of having murdered her child before their eyes.
"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 any one 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.
And Powel the chief of Annuvyn arose, and his household and his hosts. And this occurrence could not be concealed; but the story went forth throughout the land, and all the nobles heard it. Then the nobles came to Powel, and besought him to put away his wife because of the great crime which she had done. But Powel answered them that they had no cause wherefore they might ask him to put away his wife.
So Rhiannon sent for the teachers and the wise men, and as she preferred doing penance to contending with the women, she took upon her a penance. And the penance that was imposed upon her was that she should remain in that palace of Narberth until the end of seven years, and that she should sit every day near unto a horse-block that was without the gate ; and that she should relate the story to all who should come there whom she might suppose not to know it already; and that she should offer the guests and strangers, if they would permit her, to carry them upon her back into the palace. But it rarely happened that any would permit. And thus did she spend part of the year.
Now at that time Teirnyon Twryv Vliant was lord of Gwent Is Coed, and he was the best man in the world. And unto his house there belonged a mare than which neither mare nor horse in the kingdom was more beautiful. And on the night of every first of May she foaled, and no one ever knew what became of the colt. And one night Teirnyon talked with his wife: "Wife," said he, "it is very simple of us that our mare should foal every year, and that we should have none of her colts."
"What can be done in the matter?" said she.
"This is the night of the first of May," said he. "The vengeance of Heaven be upon me, if I learn not what it is that takes away the colts." So he armed himself, and began to watch that night. Teirnyon heard a great tumult, and after the tumult behold a claw came through the window into the house, and it seized the colt by the mane. Then Teirnyon drew his sword, and struck off the arm at the elbow: so that portion of the arm, together with the colt, was in the house with him. And then did he hear a tumult and wailing both at once. And he opened the door, and rushed out in the direction of the noise, and he could not see the cause of the tumult because of the darkness of the night; but he rushed after it and followed it. Then he remembered that he had left the door open, and he returned. And at the door behold there was an infant-boy in swaddling clothes, wrapped around in a mantle of satin. And he took up the boy, and behold he was very strong for the age that he was of.
Then he shut the door, and went into the chamber where his wife was. " Lady," said he, "art thou sleeping ?"
"No, lord," said she: "I was asleep, but as thou camest in I did awake."
"Behold, here is a boy for thee, if thou wilt," said he, "since thou hast never had one."
"My lord," said she, "what adventure is this ?"
"It was thus," said Teirnyon. And he told her how it all befell.
"Verily, lord," said she, " what sort of garments are there upon the boy?"
"A mantle of satin," said he.
"My lord," said his wife unto Tiernyon, " where is the colt which thou didst save on the night that thou didst find the boy ?"
"I have commanded the grooms of the horses," said he, "that they take care of him."
"Would it not be well, lord," said she, "if thou wert to cause him to be broken in, and given to the boy, seeing that on the same night that thou didst find the boy, the colt was foaled, and thou didst save him?"
"I will not oppose thee in this matter," said Tiernyon. "I will allow thee to give him the colt."
"Lord," said she, "may Heaven reward thee ! I will give it him." So the horse was given to the boy. Then she went to the grooms and those who tended the horses, and commanded them to be careful of the horse, so that he might be broken ii' by the time that the boy could ride him.
And while these things were going forward, they heard tidings of Rhiannon and her punishment. And Teirnyon Twryv Vliant, by reason of the pity that he felt on hearing this story of Rhiannon and her punishment, inquired closely concerning it, until he had heard from many of those who came to his court. Then did Teirnyon, often lamenting the sad history, ponder with himself; and he looked steadfastly on the boy, and as he looked upon him, it seemed to him that he had never beheld so great a likeness between father and son as between the boy and Powel the chief of Annuvyn. Now the semblance of Powel was well known to him, for he had of yore been one of his followers. And thereupon he became grieved for the wrong that he did in keeping with him a boy whom he knew to be the son of another man. And the first time that he was alone with his wife he told her that it was not right that they should keep the boy with them, and suffer so excellent a lady as Rhiannon to be punished so greatly on his account, whereas the boy was the son of Powel the chief of Annuvyn. And Teirnyon's wife agreed with him that they should send the boy to Powel. "And three things, lord," said she, "shall we gain thereby - thanks and gifts for releasing Rhiannon from her punishment, and thanks from Powel for nursing his son and restoring him unto him ; and, thirdly, if the boy is of gentle nature, he will be our foster-son, and he will do for us all the good in his power." So it was settled according to this counsel.
And no later than the next day was Teirnyon equipped and two other knights with him. And the boy, as a fourth in their company, went with them upon the horse which Teirnyon had given him. And they journeyed towards Narberth, and it was not long before they reached that place. And as they drew near to the palace, they beheld Rhiannon sitting beside the horse-block. And when they were opposite to her, " Chieftain," said she, " go not farther thus "I will bear every one of you into the palace. And this is my penance for slaying my own son, and devouring him."
"Oh, fair lady," said Teirnyon, "think not that I will be one to be carried upon thy back."
"Neither will I," said the boy.
"Truly, my soul," said Teirnyon, " we will not go." So they went forward to the palace, and there was great joy at their coming. And at the palace a feast was prepared because Powel was come back from the confines of Dyfed And they went into the hall and washed, and Powel rejoiced to see Teirnyon. And in this order they sat Teirnyon between Powel and Rhiannon, and Teirnyon's two companions on the other side of Powel, with the boy between them. And after meat they began to carouse and discourse. And Teirnyon's discourse was concerning the adventure of the mare and the boy, and how he and his wife had nursed and reared the child as their own. "Behold here is thy son, lady," said Teirnyon. "And whosoever told that lie concerning thee has done wrong. When I heard of thy sorrow, I was troubled and grieved. And I believe that there is none of this host who will not perceive that the boy is the son of Powel," said Teirnyon.
"There is none," said they all, " who is not certain thereof."
"I declare to Heaven," said Rhiannon, "that if this be true, there is indeed an end to my trouble."
"Lady," said Pendaran Dyfed, "well hast thou named thy son Pryderi (end of trouble), and well becomes him the name of Pryderi son of Powel chief of Annuvyn."
"Look you," said Rhiannon "will not his own name become him better?"
"What name has he ?" asked Pendaran Dyfed.
"Goldenlocks is the name that we gave him."
"Pryderi," said Pendaran, "shall his name be."
"It were more proper," said Powel, "that the boy should take his name from the word his mother spoke when she received the joyful tidings of him." And thus was it arranged.
"Teirnyon," said Powel, "Heaven reward thee that thou hast reared the boy up to this time, and, being of gentle lineage, it were fitting that he repay thee for it."
"My lord," said Teirnyon, "it was my wife who nursed him, and there is no one in the world so afflicted as she at parting with him. It were well that he should bear in mind what I and my wife have done for him."
"I call Heaven to witness," said Powel, "that while I live I will support thee and thy possessions as long as I am able to preserve my own. And when he shall have power, he will more fitly maintain them than I. And if this counsel be pleasing unto thee and to my nobles, it shall be, that, as thou hast reared him up to the present time, I will give him to be brought up by Pendaran Dyfed from henceforth. And you shall be companions, and shall both be foster-fathers unto him."
"This is good counsel," said they all. So the boy was given to Pendaran Dyfed, and the nobles of the land were sent with him. And Teirnyon Twryv VIant and his companions set out for his country and his possessions, with love and gladness. And he went not without being offered the fairest jewels, and the fairest horses, and the choicest dogs; but he would take none of them.
Thereupon they all remained in their own dominions. And Pryderi the son of Powel the chief of Annuvyn was brought up carefully, as was fit, so that he became the fairest youth, and the most comely, and the best skilled in all good games, of any in the kingdom. And thus passed years and years until the end of Powel the chief of Annuvyn's life came, and he died.
Jacobs, Joseph. More Celtic Fairy
Tales. London: David Nutt, 1894.
Jacobs' Notes and References
Source -Lady Guest's Mabinogion, with the names slightly anglicised, and omitting the opening incident.
Parallels -For the incident of tearing off the hands, cf Morraha; the enchanted hill and maiden occur at the beginning of "Tuairisgeul Môr" in Scottish Celtic Review, i. 61, and are fully commented upon by Mr. Nutt, I.c. 137.