Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 188

“for as a friend thou art the most sincere, and as a lover the most devoted.”

Owain did as he was bidden, and the maiden concealed him. In that night a great lamentation was heard in the castle—its lord had died of the wound which Owain had given him. Soon afterwards Owain got sight of the mistress of the castle, and love of her took entire possession of him. Luned, the maiden who had rescued him, wooed her for him, and he became her husband, and lord of the Castle of the Fountain and all the dominions of the Black Knight. And he then defended the fountain with lance and sword as his forerunner had done, and made his defeated antagonists ransom themselves for great sums, which he bestowed among his barons and knights. Thus he abode for three years.

The Search for Owain

After this time Arthur, with his nephew Gwalchmai and with Kymon for guide, rode forth at the head of a host to search for tidings of Owain. They came to the fountain, and here they met Owain, neither knowing the other as their helms were down. And first Kai was overthrown, and then Gwalchmai and Owain fought, and after a while Gwalchmai was unhelmed. Owain said, “My lord Gwalchmai, I did not know thee; take my sword and my arms.” Said Gwalchmai, “Thou, Owain, art the victor; take thou my sword.” Arthur ended the contention in courtesy by taking the swords of both, and then they all rode to the Castle of the Fountain, where Owain entertained them with great joy. And he went back with Arthur to Caerleon, promising to his countess that he would remain there but three months and then return.

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Owain Forgets his Lady

But at the Court of Arthur he forgot his love and his duty, and remained there three years. At the end of that time a noble lady came riding upon a horse caparisoned with gold, and she sought out Owain and took the ring from his hand. “Thus,” she said, “shall be treated the deceiver, the traitor, the faithless, the disgraced, and the beardless.” Then she turned her horse's head and departed. And Owain, overwhelmed with shame and remorse, fled from the sight of men and lived in a desolate country with wild beasts till his body wasted and his hair grew long and his clothing rotted away.

Owain and the Lion

In this guise, when near to death from exposure and want, he was taken in by a certain widowed countess and her maidens, and restored to strength by magic balsams; and although they besought him to remain with them, he rode forth again, seeking for lonely and desert lands. Here he found a lion in battle with a great serpent. Owain slew the serpent, and the lion followed him and played about him as if it had been a greyhound that he had reared. And it fed him by catching deer, part of which Owain cooked for himself, giving the rest to his lion to devour; and the beast kept watch over him by night.

Release of Luned

Owain next finds an imprisoned damsel, whose sighs he hears, though he cannot see her nor she him. Being questioned, she told him that her name was Luned—she was the handmaid of a countess whose husband had left her, “and he was the friend I loved best in the world.” Two of the pages of the countess had traduced [pg 399] him, and because she defended him she was condemned to be burned if before a year was out he (namely, Owain son of Urien) had not appeared to deliver her. And the year would end to-morrow. On the next day Owain met the two youths leading Luned to execution and did battle with them. With the help of the lion he overcame them, rescued Luned, and returned to the Castle of the Fountain, where he was reconciled with his love. And he took her with him to Arthur's Court, and she was his wife there as long as she lived. Lastly comes an adventure in which, still aided by the lion, he vanquishes a black giant and releases four-and-twenty noble ladies, and the giant vows to give up his evil ways and keep a hospice for wayfarers as long as he should live.

“And thenceforth Owain dwelt at Arthur's Court, greatly beloved, as the head of his household, until he went away with his followers; and these were the army of three hundred ravens which Kenverchyn had left him. And wherever Owain went with these he was victorious. And this is the tale of the Lady of the Fountain.”

The Tale of Enid and Geraint

In this tale, which appears to be based on the “Erec” of Chrestien de Troyes, the main interest is neither mythological nor adventurous, but sentimental. How Geraint found and wooed his love as the daughter of a great lord fallen on evil days; how he jousted for her with Edeyrn, son of Nudd—a Cymric deity transformed into the “Knight of the Sparrowhawk”; how, lapped in love of her, he grew careless of his fame and his duty; how he misunderstood the words she [pg 400] murmured over him as she deemed him sleeping, and doubted her faith; how despitefully he treated her; and in how many a bitter test she proved her love and loyalty—all these things have been made so familiar to English readers in Tennyson's “Enid” that they need not detain us here. Tennyson, in this instance, has followed his original very closely.

Legends of the Grail: The Tale of Peredur

The Tale of Peredur is one of great interest and significance in connexion with the origin of the Grail legend. Peredur corresponds to the Perceval of Chrestien de Troyes, to whom we owe the earliest extant poem on the Grail; but that writer left his Grail story unfinished, and we never learn from him what exactly the Grail was or what gave it its importance. When we turn for light to “Peredur,” which undoubtedly represents a more ancient form of the legend, we find ourselves baffled. For “Peredur” may be described as the Grail story without the Grail. The strange personages, objects, and incidents which form the usual setting for the entry upon the scene of this mystic treasure are all here; we breathe the very atmosphere of the Grail Castle; but of the Grail itself there is no word. The story is concerned simply with the vengeance taken by the hero for the slaying of a kinsman, and for this end only are the mysteries of the Castle of Wonders displayed to him.