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p. 298



Manawyddan was now the sole survivor of the family of Llyr. He was homeless and landless. But Pryderi offered to give him a realm in Dyfed, and his mother, Rhiannon, for a wife. The lady, her son explained, was still not uncomely, and her conversation was pleasing. Manawyddan seems to have found her attractive, while Rhiannon was not less taken with the son of Llyr. They were wedded, and so great became the friendship of Pryderi and Kicva, Manawyddan and Rhiannon, that the four were seldom apart.

One day, after holding a feast at Narberth, they went up to the same magic mound where Rhiannon had first met Pwyll. As they sat there, thunder pealed, and immediately a thick mist sprang up, so that not one of them could see the other. When it cleared, they found themselves alone in an uninhabited country. Except for their own castle, the land was desert and untilled, without sign of dwelling, man, or beast. One touch of some unknown magic had utterly changed the face of Dyfed from a rich realm to a wilderness.

Manawyddan and Pryderi, Rhiannon and Kicva

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traversed the country on all sides, but found nothing except desolation and wild beasts. For two years they lived in the open upon game and honey.

During the third year, they grew weary of this wild life, and decided to go into Lloegyr 1, and support themselves by some handicraft. Manawyddan could make saddles, and he made them so well that soon no one in Hereford, where they had settled, would buy from any saddler but himself. This aroused the enmity of all the other saddlers, and they conspired to kill the strangers. So the four went to another city.

Here they made shields, and soon no one would purchase a shield unless it had been made by Manawyddan and Pryderi. The shield-makers became jealous, and again a move had to be made.

But they fared no better at the next town, where they practised the craft of cordwainers, Manawyddan shaping the shoes and Pryderi stitching them. So they went back to Dyfed again, and occupied themselves in hunting.

One day, the hounds of Manawyddan and Pryderi roused a white wild boar. They chased it till they came to a castle at a place where both the hunts-men were certain that no castle had been before. Into this castle went the boar, and the hounds after it. For some time, Manawyddan and Pryderi waited in vain for their return. Pryderi then proposed that he should go into the castle, and see what had become of them. Manawyddan tried to dissuade him, declaring that whoever their enemy was

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who had laid Dyfed waste had also caused the appearance of this castle. But Pryderi insisted upon entering.

In the castle, he found neither the boar nor his hounds, nor any trace of man or beast. There was nothing but a fountain in the centre of the castle floor, and, on the brink of the fountain, a beautiful golden bowl fastened to a marble slab by chains.

Pryderi was so pleased with the beauty of the bowl that he put out his hands and took hold of it. Whereupon his hands stuck to the bowl, so that he could not move from where he stood.

Manawyddan waited for him till the evening, and then returned to the palace, and told Rhiannon. She, more daring than her husband, rebuked him for cowardice, and went straight to the magic castle. In the court she found Pryderi, his hands still glued to the bowl and his feet to the slab. She tried to free him, but became fixed, herself, and, with a clap of thunder and a fall of mist, the castle vanished with its two prisoners.

Manawyddan was now left alone with Kicva, Pryderi's wife. He calmed her fears, and assured her of his protection. But they had lost their dogs, and could not hunt any more, so they set out together to Lloegyr, to practise again Manawyddan's old trade of cordwainer. A second time, the envious cordwainers conspired to kill them, so they were obliged to return to Dyfed.

But Manawyddan took back a burden of wheat with him to Narberth, and sowed three crofts, all of which sprang up abundantly.

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When harvest time came, he went to look at his first croft, and found it ripe. "I will reap this to-morrow," he said. But in the morning he found nothing but the bare straw. Every ear had been taken away.

So he went to the next croft, which was also ripe. But, when he came to cut it, he found it had been stripped like the first. Then he knew that whoever had wasted Dyfed, and carried off Rhiannon and Pryderi, was also at work upon his wheat.

The third croft was also ripe, and over this one he determined to keep watch. In the evening he armed himself and waited. At midnight he heard a great tumult, and, looking out, saw a host of mice coming. Each mouse bit off an ear of wheat and ran off with it. He rushed among them, but could only catch one, which was more sluggish than the rest. This one he put into his glove, and took it back, and showed it to Kicva.

"To-morrow I will hang it," he said. "It is not a fit thing for a man of your dignity to hang a mouse," she replied. "Nevertheless will I do so," said he. "Do so then," said Kicva.

The next morning, Manawyddan went to the magic mound, and set up two forks on it, to make a gallows. He had just finished, when a man dressed like a poor scholar came towards him, and greeted him.

"What are you doing, Lord?" he said.

"I am going to hang a thief," replied Manawyddan.

"What sort of a thief? I see an animal like a

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mouse in your hand, but a man of rank like yours should not touch so mean a creature. Let it go free."

"I caught it robbing me," replied Manawyddan, "and it shall die a thief's death."

"I do not care to see a man like you doing such a thing," said the scholar. "I will give you a pound to let it go."

"I will not let it go," replied Manawyddan, "nor will I sell it."

"As you will, Lord. It is nothing to me," returned the scholar. And he went away.

Manawyddan laid a cross-bar along the forks. As he did so, another man came by, a priest riding on a horse. He asked Manawyddan what he was doing, and was told. "My lord," he said, "such a reptile is worth nothing to buy, but rather than see you degrade yourself by touching it, I will give you three pounds to let it go."

"I will take no money for it," replied Manawyddan. "It shall be hanged."

"Let it be hanged," said the priest, and went his way.

Manawyddan put the noose round the mouse's neck, and was just going to draw it up, when he saw a bishop coming, with his whole retinue.

"Thy blessing, Lord Bishop," he said.

"Heaven's blessing upon you," said the bishop. "What are you doing?"

"I am hanging a thief," replied Manawyddan. "This mouse has robbed me."

"Since I happen to have come at its doom, I

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will ransom it," said the bishop. "Here are seven pounds. Take them, and let it go."

"I will not let it go," replied Manawyddan.

"I will give you twenty-four pounds of ready money if you will let it go," said the bishop.

"I would not, for as much again," replied Manawyddan.

"If you will not free it for that," said the bishop, "I will give you all my horses and their baggage to let it go."

"I will not," replied Manawyddan.

"Then name your own price," said the bishop.

"That offer I accept," replied Manawyddan. "My price is that Rhiannon and Pryderi be set free."

"They shall be set free," replied the bishop.

"Still I will not let the mouse go," said Manawyddan.

"What more do you ask?" exclaimed the bishop. "That the charm be removed from Dyfed," replied Manawyddan.

"It shall be removed," promised the bishop. "So set the mouse free."

"I will not," said Manawyddan, "till I know who the mouse is."

"She is my wife," replied the bishop, "and I am called Llwyd, the son of Kilcoed, and I cast the charm over Dyfed, and upon Rhiannon and Pryderi, to avenge Gwawl son of Clod for the game of 'badger in the bag' which was played on him by Pwyll, Head of Annwn. It was my household that came in the guise of mice and took away your corn.

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[paragraph continues] But since my wife has been caught, I will restore Rhiannon and Pryderi and take the charm off Dyfed if you will let her go."

"I will not let her go," said Manawyddan, "until you have promised that there shall be no charm put upon Dyfed again."

"I will promise that also," replied Llwyd. "So let her go."

"I will not let her go," said Manawyddan, "unless you swear to take no revenge for this hereafter."

"You have done wisely to claim that," replied Llwyd. "Much trouble would else have come upon your head because of this. Now I swear it. So set my wife free."

"I will not," said Manawyddan, "until I see Rhiannon and Pryderi."

Then he saw them coming towards him; and they greeted one another.

"Now set my wife free," said the bishop.

"I will, gladly," replied Manawyddan. So he released the mouse, and Llwyd struck her with a wand, and turned her into "a young woman, the fairest ever seen".

And when Manawyddan looked round him, he saw Dyfed tilled and cultivated again, as it had formerly been.

The powers of light had, this time, the victory. Little by little, they increased their mastery over the dominion of darkness, until we find the survivors of the families of Llyr and Pwyll mere vassals of Arthur.


298:1 Retold from Lady Guest's translation of the Mabinogi of Manawyddan, the Son of Llyr.

299:1 Saxon Britain--England.

Next: Chapter XX. The Victories of Light Over Darkness