Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 169

[pg 362] the banquet. Gwawl cheerfully consented, and an attendant went to fill the bag. But however much they put into it it never got fuller—by degrees all the good things on the tables had gone in; and at last Gwawl cried: “My soul, will thy bag never be full?” “It will not, I declare to heaven,” answered Pwyll—for he, of course, was the disguised beggar man—“unless some man wealthy in lands and treasure shall get into the bag and stamp it down with his feet, and declare, ‘Enough has been put herein.’ ” Rhiannon urged Gwawl to check the voracity of the bag. He put his two feet into it; Pwyll immediately drew up the sides of the bag over Gwawl's head and tied it up. Then he blew his horn, and the knights he had with him, who were concealed outside, rushed in, and captured and bound the followers of Gwawl. “What is in the bag?” they cried, and others answered, “A badger,” and so they played the game of “Badger in the Bag,” striking it and kicking it about the hall.

At last a voice was heard from it. “Lord,” cried Gwawl, “if thou wouldst but hear me, I merit not to be slain in a bag.” “He speaks truth,” said Hevydd Hēn.

So an agreement was come to that Gwawl should provide means for Pwyll to satisfy all the suitors and minstrels who should come to the wedding, and abandon Rhiannon, and never seek to have revenge for what had been done to him. This was confirmed by sureties, and Gwawl and his men were released and went to their own territory. And Pwyll wedded Rhiannon, and dispensed gifts royally to all and sundry; and at last the pair, when the feasting was done, journeyed down to the palace of Narberth in Dyfed, where Rhiannon gave rich gifts, a bracelet and a ring or a precious stone to all the lords and ladies of [pg 363] her new country, and they ruled the land in peace both that year and the next. But the reader will find that we have not yet done with Gwawl.

The Penance of Rhiannon

Now Pwyll was still without an heir to the throne, and his nobles urged him to take another wife. “Grant us a year longer,” said he, “and if there be no heir after that it shall be as you wish.” Before the year's end a son was born to them in Narberth. But although six women sat up to watch the mother and the infant, it happened towards the morning that they all fell asleep, and Rhiannon also slept, and when the women awoke, behold, the boy was gone! “We shall be burnt for this,” said the women, and in their terror they concocted a horrible plot: they killed a cub of a staghound that had just been littered, and laid the bones by Rhiannon, and smeared her face and hands with blood as she slept, and when she woke and asked for her child they said she had devoured it in the night, and had overcome them with furious strength when they would have prevented her—and for all she could say or do the six women persisted in this story.

When the story was told to Pwyll he would not put away Rhiannon, as his nobles now again begged him to do, but a penance was imposed on her—namely, that she was to sit every day by the horse-block at the gate of the castle and tell the tale to every stranger who came, and offer to carry them on her back into the castle. And this she did for part of a year.

The Finding of Pryderi

Now at this time there lived a man named Teirnyon of Gwent Is Coed, who had the most beautiful mare in [pg 364] the world, but there was this misfortune attending her, that although she foaled on the night of every first of May, none ever knew what became of the colts. At last Teirnyon resolved to get at the truth of the matter, and the next night on which the mare should foal he armed himself and watched in the stable. So the mare foaled, and the colt stood up, and Teirnyon was admiring its size and beauty when a great noise was heard outside, and a long, clawed arm came through the window of the stable and laid hold of the colt. Teirnyon immediately smote at the arm with his sword, and severed it at the elbow, so that it fell inside with the colt, and a great wailing and tumult was heard outside. He rushed out, leaving the door open behind him, but could see nothing because of the darkness of the night, and he followed the noise a little way. Then he came back, and behold, at the door he found an infant in swaddling-clothes and wrapped in a mantle of satin. He took up the child and brought it to where his wife lay sleeping. She had no children, and she loved the child when she saw it, and next day pretended to her women that she had borne it as her own. And they called its name Gwri of the Golden Hair, for its hair was yellow as gold; and it grew so mightily that in two years it was as big and strong as a child of six; and ere long the colt that had been foaled on the same night was broken in and given him to ride.