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Arawn and Havgan
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Arawn and Havgan



It is told of Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, that once he went hunting in Glyn Cuch, and that having loosed his hounds in the wood and sounded his horn, he found that his companions were no longer with him, and that as he went on he heard the cry of other hounds, a cry different from that of his own, and coming in the opposite direction.

It is told of Pwyll that he found himself in a glade in the wood forming a level plain, and that as his hounds came to the edge of the glade, he saw a stag before the hounds that were not his. And lo! as it reached the middle of the glade, these hounds overtook it and brought the stag down. And Pwyll stayed to look on the colour of the hounds rather than to look upon the stag: of all the hounds he had

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ever seen in the world, he had never seen any that were like unto these. For their hair was of a brilliant shining white, and their ears were red; and as the whiteness of their bodies shone, so did the redness of their ears glisten. But after he had looked upon them for a while, he drove them off, and he set his own hounds upon the stag.

As he was setting on his hounds he saw a horseman coming towards him; he had a hunting horn round his neck, he was in a hunting garb of grey woollen, and he was mounted upon a large light-grey steed. As the horseman came near he spoke to Pwyll, saying, "Chieftain, I know who thou art, but I salute thee not." "Peradventure," said Pwyll, "art thou of such state that thou shouldst not salute me?" "Verily," answered the other, "it is not my state, great as it is, that prevents my saluting thee." "What is it, then, O chieftain?" asked Pwyll. "Thine own discourtesy and rude behaviour," answered the stranger.

Then said Pwyll, "What discourtesy and rude behaviour hast thou seen in me, O chieftain?" "Greater discourtesy I never saw in any man," said the other, "than to drive away the hounds that were killing the stag and to set on it thine own hounds." "O chieftain," said Pwyll, "all that can be done I will do to redeem thy friendship, for I perceive that thou art of noble kind." "A crowned king am I in the land that I come from," said the stranger. "Lord," said Pwyll, "show me how I may redeem thy friendship."

Said the stranger, "I am Arawn, a king of Annwfn. Thou canst win my friendship by championing my cause. Know that Annwfn has another king, a king who makes war upon me. And if thou shouldst go into my realm and fight that king thou shouldst overthrow him, and the whole of the realm would be mine." "Lord," said Pwyll, "instruct me; tell me what thou wouldst have me do, and I will do it to redeem thy friendship."

Then said Arawn, King of Annwfn, "I will make a firm friendship with thee, and this I will do. I will send thee to Annwfn in my stead, and I will give thee the fairest lady thou didst ever behold to be thy companion; I will put my form and semblance upon thee, so that not a page of the chamber, nor an officer, nor any other man that has always followed me shall know that it is not I. And this shall he for the space of a year from to-morrow, and then we shall meet in this place."

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"Yea, Lord," said Pwyll, "but when I have been there for the space of a year, by what means shall I discover him of whom thou speakest?" "One year from this night," said the King of Annwfn, "is the time fixed for combat between him and me. Be thou at the ford in my likeness. With one stroke that thou givest him he will lose his life. And if he should ask thee to give another stroke, do not give it, no, not if he entreat thee even. If thou shouldst give him another stroke he will be able to fight thee the next day as well as ever." "If I go into thy realm," said Pwyll, "and stay there in thy semblance for a year and a day, what shall I do concerning my own dominion?" "I will cause that no one in all thy dominion, neither man nor woman, shall know that I am not thou, and I will go there in thy stead." "Gladly then," said Pwyll, "will I set forward." "Clear be thy path, and nothing shall detain thee, until thou come into my dominion, and I myself will be thy guide." And saying this, the King of Annwfn, who had come into the wood with his hounds for no other purpose than to bring Pwyll into his realm on that day, conducted him until he came in sight of the palace and its dwellings.

"Behold," he said, "the court and the kingdom; all is in thy power. Enter the court; there is no one there who will know thee, and when thou seest what service is done there, thou wilt know the customs of the court." And when he had said this the man who had been with Pwyll went from his sight.

So Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, went forward to the court, and when he came there, he beheld sleeping-rooms, and halls, and chambers, and the most beautiful buildings ever seen. And he went into the hall to disarray, and there came youths and pages and disarrayed him, and all as they entered saluted him. And two knights came and drew his hunting-dress from about him, and clothed him in a vesture of silk and gold. And the hall was prepared, and he saw the household enter in. And with them came in likewise the queen, and she was the fairest woman he had ever yet beheld. She had on a yellow robe of shining satin. He spoke with her, and her speech was the wisest and the most cheerful he had ever listened to. She was his queen for the year he was there, and of all the courts of kings on the earth this court of Annwfn was, to the mind of Pwyll, the best supplied with food and drink, with vessels of gold and with royal jewels.

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A year went by. Every day for Pwyll there was hunting and minstrelsy, there was feasting and discourse with wise and fair companions. And then there came the day on which the combat of the kings was to take place, and even in the farthest part of the realm the people were mindful of that day.

Pwyll went to the ford where the combat was to be, and the nobles of Arawn's court went with him. And when they came to the ford they saw that Havgan, the king against whom the battle was to be, was coming from the other side. Then a knight rose and spake, saying, "Lords, this is a combat between two kings, and between them only. Each claimeth of the other his land and territory. This combat will decide it. And do all of you stand aside and leave the fight to be between the kings."

Thereupon Pwyll in the semblance of Arawn approached Havgan. They were in the middle of the ford when they encountered. Pwyll struck Havgan on the centre of the boss of his shield, so that his shield was broken in two, and his armour was broken, and Havgan himself was flung on the ground over the crupper of his horse, and he received a deadly blow. "O chieftain," he cried, "what right didst thou have to cause my death? I was not injuring thee in any thing; I know not wherefore thou shouldst slay me. But since thou hast begun to slay me, complete thy work." "Ah, chieftain," said Pwyll, "I may yet repent of what I have done to thee. But I will not strike thee another blow." "My lords," said Havgan then, "bear me hence, for my death has come, and I shall be no more able to uphold you." "My nobles," said he who was in the likeness of Arawn, "take counsel, and let all who would be my subjects now come to my side. It is right that be who would come humbly should be received graciously, but he that doth not come with obedience shall be compelled by force of swords." "Lord," said the nobles, "there is no king over the whole of Annwfn but thee." And thereupon they gave him homage. And Pwyll, in the likeness of Arawn, went through all the realm of Annwfn, and he received submission from those who had been Havgan's subjects, so that the two halves of the kingdom were in his power.

Thereupon he went to keep his tryst with Arawn. When he came into the glade in the wood the King of Annwfn was there to meet him, and each rejoiced to see the other. "Verily," said Arawn, "may Heaven

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reward thee for what thou hast done for me. When thou comest thyself to thine own dominions," said he, "thou wilt see what I have done for thee."

Then Arawn, King of Annwfn, gave Pwyll back his own proper semblance, and he himself took on his own. Arawn went back to the realm of Annwfn, and Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, went back to his own country and his own dominion, and was lord once more of the seven Cantrevs of Dyfed.

And after he had been a while in his own country and dominion, Pwyll inquired of his nobles how his rule had been in the year that was past, compared with what it had been before. "Lord," said his nobles all, "thy wisdom was never so great before, and thou wast never so kind nor so free in bestowing gifts, and thy justice was never more worthily shown than in this year." "By Heaven," said Pwyll, "for all the good you have enjoyed, you should thank him who hath been with you, for this is the way matters have been." And thereupon Pwyll related to his nobles all that had happened. "Verily, Lord," they said, "render thanks unto Heaven that thou hast made so good a friendship."

After that the friendship between Pwyll and Arawn was made even stronger. Each sent unto the other horses, and greyhounds, and hawks, and such jewels as they thought would be pleasing to each other. And by reason of his having dwelt a year in Annwfn he lost the name of Prince of Dyfed, and he was called Pwyll, Head of Annwfn, from that time forward.

Next: Math, the Son of Mathonwy: Part I. The Treachery of Gwydion and Gilvaethwy