Part 6 out of 6
'I know nothing of making shoes,' answered Pryderi, who in truth
despised so peaceful a craft.
'But I know,' replied Manawyddan, 'and I will teach thee to
stitch. We will buy the leather ready dressed, and will make the
shoes from it.
Then straightway he sought the town for the best leather, and for
a goldsmith to fashion the clasps, and he himself watched till it
was done, so that he might learn for himself. Soon he became
known as 'The Maker of Gold Shoes,' and prospered so greatly,
that as long as one could be bought from him not a shoe was
purchased from the shoemakers of the town. And the craftsmen were
wroth, and banded together to slay them.
'Pryderi,' said Manawyddan, when he had received news of it, 'we
will not remain in England any longer. Let us set forth to
So they journeyed until they came to their lands at Narberth.
There they gathered their dogs round them, and hunted for a year
After that a strange thing happened. One morning Pryderi and
Manawyddan rose up to hunt, and loosened their dogs, which ran
before them, till they came to a small bush. At the bush, the
dogs shrank away as if frightened, and returned to their masters,
their hair brisling on their backs.
'We must see what is in that bush,' said Pryderi, and what was in
it was a boar, with a skin as white as the snow on the mountains.
And he came out, and made a stand as the dogs rushed on him,
driven on by the men. Long he stood at bay; then at last he
betook himself to flight, and fled to a castle which was newly
built, in a place where no building had ever been known. Into the
castle he ran, and the dogs after him, and long though their
masters looked and listened, they neither saw nor heard aught
concerning dogs or boar.
'I will go into the castle and get tidings of the dogs,' said
Pryderi at last.
'Truly,' answered Manawyddan, 'thou wouldst do unwisely, for
whosoever has cast a spell over this land has set this castle
'I cannot give up my dogs,' replied Pryderi, and to the castle he
But within was neither man nor beast; neither boar nor dogs, but
only a fountain with marble round it, and on the edge a golden
bowl, richly wrought, which pleased Pryderi greatly. In a moment
he forgot about his dogs, and went up to the bowl and took hold
of it, and his hands stuck to the bowl, and his feet to the
marble slab, and despair took possession of him.
Till the close of day Manawyddan waited for him, and when the sun
was fast sinking, he went home, thinking that he had strayed far.
'Where are thy friend and thy dogs?' said Rhiannon, and he told
her what had befallen Pryderi.
'A good friend hast thou lost,' answered Rhiannon, and she went
up to the castle and through the gate, which was open. There, in
the centre of the courtyard, she beheld Pryderi standing, and
hastened towards him.
'What dost thou here?' she asked, laying her hand on the bowl,
and as she spoke she too stuck fast, and was not able to utter a
word. Then thunder was heard and a veil of darkness descended
upon them, and the castle vanished and they with it.
When Kieva, the wife of Pryderi, found that neither her husband
nor his mother returned to her, she was in such sorrow that she
cared not whether she lived or died. Manawyddan was grieved also
in his heart, and said to her:
'It is not fitting that we should stay here, for he have lost our
dogs and cannot get food. Let us go into England--it is easier
for us to live there.' So they set forth.
'What craft wilt thou follow?' asked Kieva as they went along.
'I shall make shoes as once I did,' replied he; and he got all
the finest leather in the town and caused gilded clasps to be
made for the shoes, till everyone flocked to buy, and all the
shoemakers in the town were idle and banded together in anger to
kill him. But luckily Manawyddan got word of it, and he and Kieva
left the town one night and proceeded to Narberth, taking with
him a sheaf of wheat, which he sowed in three plots of ground.
And while the wheat was growing up, he hunted and fished, and
they had food enough and to spare. Thus the months passed until
the harvest; and one evening Manawyddan visited the furthest of
his fields of wheat; and saw that it was ripe.
'To-morrow I will reap this,' said he; but on the morrow when he
went to reap the wheat he found nothing but the bare straw.
Filled with dismay he hastened to the second field, and there the
corn was ripe and golden.
'To-morrow I will reap this,' he said, but on the morrow the ears
had gone, and there was nothing but the bare straw.
'Well, there is still one field left,' he said, and when he
looked at it, it was still fairer than the other two. 'To-night I
will watch here,' thought he, 'for whosoever carried off the
other corn will in like manner take this, and I will know who it
is.' So he hid himself and waited.
The hours slid by, and all was still, so still that Manawyddan
well-nigh dropped asleep. But at midnight there arose the loudest
tumult in the world, and peeping out he beheld a mighty host of
mice, which could neither be numbered nor measured. Each mouse
climbed up a straw till it bent down with its weight, and then it
bit off one of the ears, and carried it away, and there was not
one of the straws that had not got a mouse to it.
Full of wrath he rushed at the mice, but he could no more come up
with them than if they had been gnats, or birds of the air, save
one only which lingered behind the rest, and this mouse
Manawyddan came up with. Stooping down he seized it by the tail,
and put it in his glove, and tied a piece of string across the
opening of the glove, so that the mouse could not escape. When he
entered the hall where Kieva was sitting, he lighted a fire, and
hung the glove up on a peg.
'What hast thou there?' asked she.
'A thief,' he answered, 'that I caught robbing me.'
'What kind of a thief may it be which thou couldst put in thy
glove?' said Kieva.
'That I will tell thee,' he replied, and then he showed her how
his fields of corn had been wasted, and how he had watched for
'And one was less nimble than the rest, and is now in my glove.
To-morrow I will hang it, and I only wish I had them all.'
'It is a marvel, truly,' said she, 'yet it would be unseemly for
a man of thy dignity to hang a reptile such as this. Do not
meddle with it, but let it go.'
'Woe betide me,' he cried, 'if I would not hang them all if I
could catch them, and such as I have I will hang.'
'Verily,' said she, 'there is no reason I should succour this
reptile, except to prevent discredit unto thee.'
'If I knew any cause that I should succour it, I would take thy
counsel,' answered Manawyddan, 'but as I know of none, I am
minded to destroy it.'
'Do so then,' said Kieva.
So he went up a hill and set up two forks on the top, and while
he was doing this he saw a scholar coming towards him, whose
clothes were tattered. Now it was seven years since Manawyddan
had seen man or beast in that place, and the sight amazed him.
'Good day to thee, my lord,' said the scholar.
'Good greeting to thee, scholar. Whence dost thou come?'
'From singing in England; but wherefore dost thou ask?'
'Because for seven years no man hath visited this place.'
'I wander where I will,' answered the scholar. 'And what work art
'I am about to hang a thief that I caught robbing me!'
'What manner of thief is that?' inquired the scholar. 'I see a
creature in thy hand like upon a mouse, and ill does it become a
man of thy rank to touch a reptile like this. Let it go free.'
'I will not let it go free,' cried Manawyddan. 'I caught it
robbing me, and it shall suffer the doom of a thief.'
'Lord!' said the scholar, 'sooner than see a man like thee at
such a work, I would give thee a pound which I have received as
alms to let it go free.'
'I will not let it go free, neither will I sell it.'
'As thou wilt, lord,' answered the scholar, and he went his way.
Manawyddan was placing the cross-beam on the two forked sticks,
where the mouse was to hang, when a priest rode past.
'Good-day to thee, lord; and what art thou doing?'
'I am hanging a thief that I caught robbing me.'
'What manner of thief, lord?'
'A creature in the form of a mouse. It has been robbing me, and
it shall suffer the doom of a thief.'
'Lord,' said the priest, 'sooner than see thee touch this
reptile, I would purchase its freedom.'
'I will neither sell it nor set it free.'
'It is true that a mouse is worth nothing, but rather than see
thee defile thyself with touching such a reptile as this, I will
give thee three pounds for it.'
'I will not take any price for it. It shall be hanged as it
'Willingly, my lord, if it is thy pleasure.' And the priest went
Then Manawyddan noosed the string about the mouse's neck, and was
about to draw it tight when a bishop, with a great following and
horses bearing huge packs, came by.
'What work art thou upon?' asked the bishop, drawing rein.
'Hanging a thief that I caught robbing me.'
'But is not that a mouse that I see in thine hand?' asked the
'Yes; that is the thief,' answered Manawyddan.
'Well, since I have come at the doom of this reptile, I will
ransom it of thee for seven pounds, rather than see a man of thy
rank touch it. Loose it, and let it go.'
'I will not let it loose.'
'I will give thee four and twenty pounds to set it free,' said
'I will not set it free for as much again.'
'If thou wilt not set it free for this, I will give thee all the
horses thou seest and the seven loads of baggage.'
'I will not set it free.'
'Then tell me at what price thou wilt loose it, and I will give
'The spell must be taken off Rhiannon and Pryderi,' said
'That shall be done.'
'But not yet will I loose the mouse. The charm that has been cast
over all my lands must be taken off likewise.'
'This shall be done also.'
'But not yet will I loose the mouse till I know who she is.'
'She is my wife,' answered the bishop.
'And wherefore came she to me?' asked Manawyddan.
'To despoil thee,' replied the bishop, 'for it is I who cast the
charm over thy lands, to avenge Gwawl the son of Clud my friend.
And it was I who threw the spell upon Pryderi to avenge Gwawl for
the trick that had been played on him in the game of Badger in
the Bag. And not only was I wroth, but my people likewise, and
when it was known that thou wast come to dwell in the land, they
besought me much to change them into mice, that they might eat
thy corn. The first and the second nights it was the men of my
own house that destroyed thy two fields, but on the third night
my wife and her ladies came to me and begged me to change them
also into the shape of mice, that they might take part in
avenging Gwawl. Therefore I changed them. Yet had she not been
ill and slow of foot, thou couldst not have overtaken her. Still,
since she was caught, I will restore thee Pryderi and Rhiannon,
and will take the charm from off thy lands. I have told thee who
she is; so now set her free.'
'I will not set her free,' answered Manawyddan, 'till thou swear
that no vengeance shall be taken for his, either upon Pryderi, or
upon Rhiannon, or on me.'
'I will grant thee this boon; and thou hast done wisely to ask
it, for on thy head would have lit all the trouble. Set now my
'I will not set her free till Pryderi and Rhiannon are with me.'
'Behold, here they come,' said the bishop.
Then Manawyddan held out his hands and greeted Pryderi and
Rhiannon, and they seated themselves joyfully on the grass.
'Ah, lord, hast thou not received all thou didst ask?' said the
bishop. 'Set now my wife free!'
'That I will gladly,' answered Manawyddan, unloosing the cord
from her neck, and as he did so the bishop struck her with his
staff, and she turned into a young woman, the fairest that ever
'Look around upon thy land,' said he, 'and thou wilt see it all
tilled and peopled, as it was long ago.' And Manawyddan looked,
and saw corn growing in the fields, and cows and sheep grazing on
the hill-side, and huts for the people to dwell in. And he was
satisfied in his soul, but one more question he put to the
'What spell didst thou lay upon Pryderi and Rhiannon?'
'Pryderi has had the knockers of the gate of my palace hung about
him, and Rhiannon has carried the collars of my asses around her
neck,' said the bishop with a smile.
From the 'Mabinogion.'
The Believing Husbands
Once upon a time there dwelt in the land of Erin a young man who
was seeking a wife, and of all the maidens round about none
pleased him as well as the only daughter of a farmer. The girl
was willing and the father was willing, and very soon they were
married and went to live at the farm. By and bye the season came
when they must cut the peats and pile them up to dry, so that
they might have fires in the winter. So on a fine day the girl
and her husband, and the father and his wife all went out upon
They worked hard for many hours, and at length grew hungry, so
the young woman was sent home to bring them food, and also to
give the horses their dinner. When she went into the stables, she
suddenly saw the heavy pack-saddle of the speckled mare just over
her head, and she jumped and said to herself:
'Suppose that pack-saddle were to fall and kill me, how dreadful
it would be!' and she sat down just under the pack-saddle she was
so much afraid of, and began to cry.
Now the others out on the moor grew hungrier and hungrier.
'What can have become of her?' asked they, and at length the
mother declared that she would wait no longer, and must go and
see what had happened.
As the bride was nowhere in the kitchen or the dairy, the old
woman went into the stable, where she found her daughter weeping
'What is the matter, my dove?' and the girl answered, between her
'When I came in and saw the pack-saddle over my head, I thought
how dreadful it would be if it fell and killed me,' and she cried
louder than before.
The old woman struck her hands together: 'Ah, to think of it! if
that were to be, what should I do?' and she sat down by her
daughter, and they both wrung their hands and let their tears
'Something strange must have occurred,' exclaimed the old farmer
on the moor, who by this time was not only hungry, but cross. 'I
must go after them.' And he went and found them in the stable.
'What is the matter?' asked he.
'Oh!' replied his wife, 'when our daughter came home, did she not
see the pack-saddle over her head, and she thought how dreadful
it would be if it were to fall and kill her.'
'Ah, to think of it!' exclaimed he, striking his hands together,
and he sat down beside them and wept too.
As soon as night fell the young man returned full of hunger, and
there they were, all crying together in the stable.
'What is the matter?' asked he.
'When thy wife came home,' answered the farmer, 'she saw the
pack-saddle over her head, and she thought how dreadful it would
be if it were to fall and kill her.'
'Well, but it didn't fall,' replied the young man, and he went
off to the kitchen to get some supper, leaving them to cry as
long as they liked.
The next morning he got up with the sun, and said to the old man
and to the old woman and to his wife:
'Farewell: my foot shall not return to the house till I have
found other three people as silly as you,' and he walked away
till he came to the town, and seeing the door of a cottage
standing open wide, he entered. No man was present, but only some
women spinning at their wheels.
'You do not belong to this town,' said he.
'You speak truth,' they answered, 'nor you either?'
'I do not,' replied he, 'but is it a good place to live in?'
The women looked at each other.
'The men of the town are so silly that we can make them believe
anything we please,' said they.
'Well, here is a gold ring,' replied he, 'and I will give it to
the one amongst you who can make her husband believe the most
impossible thing,' and he left them.
As soon as the first husband came home his wife said to him:
'Thou art sick!'
'Am I?' asked he.
'Yes, thou art,' she answered; 'take off thy clothes and lie
So he did, and when he was in his bed his wife went to him and
'Thou art dead.'
'Oh, am I?' asked he.
'Thou art,' said she; 'shut thine eyes and stir neither hand nor
And dead he felt sure he was.
Soon the second man came home, and his wife said to him:
'You are not my husband!'
'Oh, am I not?' asked he.
'No, it is not you,' answered she, so he went away and slept in
When the third man arrived his wife gave him his supper, and
after that he went to bed, just as usual. The next morning a boy
knocked at the door, bidding him attend the burial of the man who
was dead, and he was just going to get up when his wife stopped
'Time enough,' said she, and he lay still till he heard the
funeral passing the window.
'Now rise, and be quick,' called the wife, and the man jumped out
of bed in a great hurry, and began to look about him.
'Why, where are my clothes?' asked he.
'Silly that you are, they are on your back, of course,' answered
'Are they?' said he.
'They are,' said she, 'and make haste lest the burying be ended
before you get there.'
Then off he went, running hard, and when the mourners saw a man
coming towards them with nothing on but his nightshirt, they
forgot in their fright what they were there for, and fled to hide
themselves. And the naked man stood alone at the head of the
Very soon a man came out of the wood and spoke to him.
'Do you know me?'
'Not I,' answered the naked man. 'I do not know you.'
'But why are you naked?' asked the first man.
'Am I naked? My wife told me that I had all my clothes on,'
'And my wife told me that I myself was dead,' said the man in the
But at the sound of his voice the two men were so terrified that
they ran straight home, and the man in the coffin got up and
followed them, and it was his wife that gained the gold ring, as
he had been sillier than the other two.
From 'West Highland Tales.'
Once there lived a farmer who had three daughters, and good
useful girls they were, up with the sun, and doing all the work
of the house. One morning they all ran down to the river to wash
their clothes, when a hoodie came round and sat on a tree close
'Wilt thou wed me, thou farmer's daughter?' he said to the
'Indeed I won't wed thee,' she answered, 'an ugly brute is the
hoodie.' And the bird, much offended, spread his wings and flew
away. But the following day he came back again, and said to the
'Wilt thou wed me, farmer's daughter?'
'Indeed I will not,' answered she, 'an ugly brute is the hoodie.'
And the hoodie was more angry than before, and went away in a
rage. However, after a night's rest he was in a better temper,
and thought that he might be more lucky the third time, so back
he went to the old place.
'Wilt thou wed me, farmer's daughter?' he said to the youngest.
'Indeed I will wed thee; a pretty creature is the hoodie,'
answered she, and on the morrow they were married.
'I have something to ask thee,' said the hoodie when they were
far away in his own house. 'Wouldst thou rather I should be a
hoodie by day and a man by night, or a man by day and a hoodie by
The girl was surprised at his words, for she did not know that he
could be anything but a hoodie at all times.
Still she said nothing of this, and only replied, 'I would rather
thou wert a man by day and a hoodie by night,' And so he was; and
a handsomer man or a more beautiful hoodie never was seen. The
girl loved them both, and never wished for things to be
By and bye they had a son, and very pleased they both were. But
in the night soft music was heard stealing close towards the
house, and every man slept, and the mother slept also. When they
woke again it was morning, and the baby was gone. High and low
they looked for it, but nowhere could they find it, and the
farmer, who had come to see his daughter, was greatly grieved, as
he feared it might be thought that he had stolen it, because he
did not want the hoodie for a son-in-law.
The next year the hoodie's wife had another son, and this time a
watch was set at every door. But it was no use. In vain they
determined that, come what might, they would not close their
eyes; at the first note of music they all fell asleep, and when
the farmer arrived in the morning to see his grandson, he found
them all weeping, for while they had slept the baby had vanished.
Well, the next year it all happened again, and the hoodie's wife
was so unhappy that her husband resolved to take her away to
another house he had, and her sisters with her for company. So
they set out in a coach which was big enough to hold them, and
had not gone very far when the hoodie suddenly said:
'You are sure you have not forgotten anything?'
'I have forgotten my coarse comb,' answered the wife, feeling in
her pocket, and as she spoke the coach changed into a withered
faggot, and the man became a hoodie again, and flew away.
The two sisters returned home, but the wife followed the hoodie.
Sometimes she would see him on a hill-top, and then would hasten
after him, hoping to catch him. But by the time she had got to
the top of the hill, he would be in the valley on the other side.
When night came, and she was tired, she looked about for some
place to rest, and glad she was to see a little house full of
light straight in front of her, and she hurried towards it as
fast as she could.
At the door stood a little boy, and the sight of him filled her
heart with pleasure, she did not know why. A woman came out, and
bade her welcome, and set before her food, and gave her a soft
bed to lie on. And the hoodie's wife lay down, and so tired was
she, that it seemed to her but a moment before the sun rose, and
she awoke again. From hill to hill she went after the hoodie, and
sometimes she saw him on the top; but when she got to the top, he
had flown into the valley, and when she reached the valley he was
on the top of another hill--and so it happened till night came
round again. Then she looked round for some place to rest in, and
she beheld a little house of light before her, and fast she
hurried towards it. At the door stood a little boy, and her heart
was filled with pleasure at the sight of him, she did not know
why. After that a woman bade her enter, and set food before her,
and gave her a soft bed to lie in. And when the sun rose she got
up, and left the house, in search of the hoodie. This day
everything befell as on the two other days, but when she reached
the small house, the woman bade her keep awake, and if the hoodie
flew into the room, to try to seize him.
But the wife had walked far, and was very tired, and strive as
she would, she fell sound asleep.
Many hours she slept, and the hoodie entered through a window,
and let fall a ring on her hand. The girl awoke with a start, and
leant forward to grasp him, but he was already flying off, and
she only seized a feather from his wing. And when dawn came, she
got up and told the woman.
'He has gone over the hill of poison,' said she, 'and there you
cannot follow him without horse-shoes on your hands and feet. But
I will help you. Put on this suit of men's clothes, and go down
this road till you come to the smithy, and there you can learn to
make horse-shoes for yourself.'
The girl thanked her, and put on the cloths and went down the
road to do her bidding. So hard did she work, that in a few days
she was able to make the horse-shoes. Early one morning she set
out for the hill of poison. On her hands and feet she went, but
even with the horse-shoes on she had to be very careful not to
stumble, lest some poisoned thorns should enter into her flesh,
and she should die. But when at last she was over, it was only to
hear that her husband was to be married that day to the daughter
of a great lord.
Now there was to be a race in the town, and everyone meant to be
there, except the stranger who had come over the hill of poison--
everyone, that is, but the cook, who was to make the bridal
supper. Greatly he loved races, and sore was his heart to think
that one should be run without his seeing it, so when he beheld a
woman whom he did not know coming along the street, hope sprang
up in him.
'Will you cook the wedding feast in place of me?' he said, 'and I
will pay you well when I return from the race.'
Gladly she agreed, and cooked the feast in a kitchen that looked
into the great hall, where the company were to eat it. After that
she watched the seat where the bridegroom was sitting, and taking
a plateful of the broth, she dropped the ring and the feather
into it, and set if herself before him.
With the first spoonful he took up the ring, and a thrill ran
through him; in the second he beheld the feather and rose from
'Who has cooked this feast?' asked he, and the real cook, who had
come back from the race, was brought before him.
'He may be the cook, but he did not cook this feast,' said the
bridegroom, and then inquiry was made, and the girl was summoned
to the great hall.
'That is my married wife,' he declared, 'and no one else will I
have,' and at that very moment the spells fell off him, and never
more would he be a hoodie. Happy indeed were they to be together
again, and little did they mind that the hill of poison took long
to cross, for she had to go some way forwards, and then throw the
horse-shoes back for him to put on. Still, at last they were
over, and they went back the way she had come, and stopped at the
three houses in order to take their little sons to their own
But the story never says who had stolen them, nor what the coarse
comb had to do with it.
From 'West Highland Tales.'
The Brownie of the Lake
Once upon a time there lived in France a man whose name was Jalm
Riou. You might have walked a whole day without meeting anyone
happier or more contented, for he had a large farm, plenty of
money, and above all, a daughter called Barbaik, the most
graceful dancer and the best-dressed girl in the whole country
side. When she appeared on holidays in her embroidered cap, five
petticoats, each one a little shorter than the other, and shoes
with silver buckles, the women were all filled with envy, but
little cared Barbaik what they might whisper behind her back as
long as she knew that her clothes were finer than anyone else's
and that she had more partners than any other girl.
Now amongst all the young men who wanted to marry Barbaik, the
one whose heart was most set on her was her father's head man,
but as his manners were rough and he was exceedingly ugly she
would have nothing to say to him, and, what was worse, often made
fun of him with the rest.
Jegu, for that was his name, of course heard of this, and it made
him very unhappy. Still he would not leave the farm, and look for
work elsewhere, as he might have done, for then he would never
see Barbaik at all, and what was life worth to him without that?
One evening he was bringing back his horses from the fields, and
stopped at a little lake on the way home to let them drink. He
was tired with a long day's work, and stood with his hand on the
mane of one of the animals, waiting till they had done, and
thinking all the while of Barbaik, when a voice came out of the
gorse close by.
'What is the matter, Jegu? You mustn't despair yet.'
The young man glanced up in surprise, and asked who was there.
'It is I, the brownie of the lake,' replied the voice.
'But where are you?' inquired Jegu.
'Look close, and you will see me among the reeds in the form of a
little green frog. I can take,' he added proudly, 'any shape I
choose, and even, which is much harder, be invisible if I want
'Then show yourself to me in the shape in which your family
generally appear,' replied Jegu.
'Certainly, if you wish,' and the frog jumped on the back of one
of the horses, and changed into a little dwarf, all dressed in
This transformation rather frightened Jegu, but the brownie bade
him have no fears, for he would not do him any harm; indeed, he
hoped that Jegu might find him of some use.
'But why should you take all this interest in me?' asked the
'Because of a service you did me last winter, which I have never
forgotten,' answered the little fellow. 'You know, I am sure,
that the korigans[FN#3: The spiteful fairies.] who dwell in the
White Corn country have declared war on my people, because they
say that they are the friends of man. We were therefore obliged
to take refuge in distant lands, and to hide ourselves at first
under different animal shapes. Since that time, partly from habit
and partly to amuse ourselves, we have continued to transform
ourselves, and it was in this way that I got to know you.'
'How?' exclaimed Jegu, filled with astonishment.
'Do you remember when you were digging in the field near the
river, three months ago, you found a robin redbreast caught in a
'Yes,' answered Jegu, 'I remember it very well, and I opened the
net and let him go.'
'Well, I was that robin redbreast, and ever since I have vowed to
be your friend, and as you want to marry Barbaik, I will prove
the truth of what I say by helping you to do so.'
'Ah! my little brownie, if you can do that, there is nothing I
won't give you, except my soul.'
'Then let me alone,' rejoined the dwarf, 'and I promise you that
in a very few months you shall be master of the farm and of
'But how are you going to do it?' exclaimed Jegu wonderingly.
'That is my affair. Perhaps I may tell you later. Meanwhile you
just eat and sleep, and don't worry yourself about anything.'
Jegu declared that nothing could be easier, and then taking off
his hat, he thanked the dwarf heartily, and led his horses back
to the farm.
Next morning was a holiday, and Barbaik was awake earlier than
usual, as she wished to get through her work as soon as possible,
and be ready to start for a dance which was to be held some
distance off. She went first to the cow-house, which it was her
duty to keep clean, but to her amazement she found fresh straw
put down, the racks filled with hay, the cows milked, and the
pails standing neatly in a row.
'Of course, Jegu must have done this in the hope of my giving him
a dance,' she thought to herself, and when she met him outside
the door she stopped and thanked him for his help. To be sure,
Jegu only replied roughly that he didn't know what she was
talking about, but this answer made her feel all the more certain
that it was he and nobody else.
The same thing took place every day, and never had the cow-house
been so clean nor the cows so fat. Morning and evening Barbaik
found her earthen pots full of milk and a pound of butter freshly
churned, ornamented with leaves. At the end of a few weeks she
grew so used to this state of affairs that she only got up just
in time to prepare breakfast.
Soon even this grew to be unnecessary, for a day arrived when,
coming downstairs, she discovered that the house was swept, the
furniture polished, the fire lit, and the food ready, so that she
had nothing to do except to ring the great bell which summoned
the labourers from the fields to come and eat it. This, also, she
thought was the work of Jegu, and she could not help feeling that
a husband of this sort would be very useful to a girl who liked
to lie in bed and to amuse herself.
Indeed, Barbaik had only to express a wish for it to be
satisfied. If the wind was cold or the sun was hot and she was
afraid to go out lest her complexion should be spoilt, she need
only to run down to the spring close by and say softly, 'I should
like my churns to be full, and my wet linen to be stretched on
the hedge to dry,' and she need never give another thought to the
If she found the rye bread too hard to bake, or the oven taking
too long to heat, she just murmured, 'I should like to see my six
loaves on the shelf above the bread box,' and two hours after
there they were.
If she was too lazy to walk all the way to market along a dirty
road, she would say out loud the night before, 'Why am I not
already back from Morlaix with my milk pot empty, my butter bowl
inside it, a pound of wild cherries on my wooden plate, and the
money I have gained in my apron pocket?' and in the morning when
she got up, lo and behold! there were standing at the foot of her
bed the empty milk pot with the butter bowl inside, the black
cherries on the wooden plate, and six new pieces of silver in the
pocket of her apron. And she believed that all this was owing to
Jegu, and she could no longer do without him, even in her
When things had reached this pass, the brownie told the young man
that he had better ask Barbaik to marry him, and this time the
girl did not turn rudely away, but listened patiently to the end.
In her eyes he was as ugly and awkward as ever, but he would
certainly make a most useful husband, and she could sleep every
morning till breakfast time, just like a young lady, and as for
the rest of the day, it would not be half long enough for all she
meant to do. She would wear the beautiful dresses that came when
she wished for them, and visit her neighbours, who would be dying
of envy all the while, and she would be able to dance as much as
she wished. Jegu would always be there to work for her and save
for her, and watch over her. So, like a well-brought-up girl,
Barbaik answered that it should be as her father pleased, knowing
quite well that old Riou had often said that after he was dead
there was no one so capable of carrying on the farm.
The marriage took place the following month, and a few days later
the old man died quite suddenly. Now Jegu had everything to see
to himself, and somehow it did not seem so easy as when the
farmer was alive. But once more the brownie stepped in, and was
better than ten labourers. It was he who ploughed and sowed and
reaped, and if, as happened, occasionally, it was needful to get
the work done quickly, the brownie called in some of his friends,
and as soon as it was light a host of little dwarfs might have
been seen in the fields, busy with hoe, fork or sickle. But by
the time the people were about all was finished, and the little
fellows had disappeared.
And all the payment the brownie ever asked for was a bowl of
From the very day of her marriage Barbaik had noted with surprise
and rage that things ceased to be done for her as they had been
done all the weeks and months before. She complained to Jegu of
his laziness, and he only stared at her, not understanding what
she was talking about. But the brownie, who was standing by,
burst out laughing, and confessed that all the good offices she
spoke of had been performed by him, for the sake of Jegu, but
that now he had other business to do, and it was high time that
she looked after her house herself.
Barbaik was furious. Each morning when she was obliged to get up
before dawn to milk the cows and go to market, and each evening
when she had to sit up till midnight in order to churn the
butter, her heart was filled with rage against the brownie who
had caused her to expect a life of ease and pleasure. But when
she looked at Jegu and beheld his red face, squinting eyes, and
untidy hair, her anger was doubled.
'If it had not been for you, you miserable dwarf!' she would say
between her teeth, 'if it had not been for you I should never
have married that man, and I should still have been going to
dances, where the young men would have brought me present of nuts
and cherries, and told me that I was the prettiest girl in the
parish. While now I can receive no presents except from my
husband. I can never dance, except with my husband. Oh, you
wretched dwarf, I will never, never forgive you!'
In spite of her fierce words, no one knew better than Barbaik how
to put her pride in her pocket when it suited her, and after
receiving an invitation to a wedding, she begged the brownie to
get her a horse to ride there. To her great joy he consented,
bidding her set out for the city of the dwarfs and to tell them
exactly what she wanted. Full of excitement, Barbaik started on
her journey. It was not long, and when she reached the town she
went straight to the dwarfs, who were holding counsel in a wide
green place, and said to them, 'Listen, my friends! I have come
to beg you to lend me a black horse, with eyes, a mouth, ears,
bridle and saddle.'
She had hardly spoken when the horse appeared, and mounting on
his back she started for the village where the wedding was to be
At first she was so delighted with the chance of a holiday from
the work which she hated, that she noticed nothing, but very soon
it struck her as odd that as she passed along the roads full of
people they all laughed as they looked at her horse. At length
she caught some words uttered by one man to another. 'Why, the
farmer's wife has sold her horse's tail!' and turned in her
saddle. Yes; it was true. Her horse had no tail! She had
forgotten to ask for one, and the wicked dwarfs had carried out
her orders to the letter!
'Well, at any rate, I shall soon be there,' she thought, and
shaking the reins, tried to urge the horse to a gallop. But it
was of no use; he declined to move out of a walk; and she was
forced to hear all the jokes that were made upon her.
In the evening she returned to the farm more angry than ever, and
quite determined to revenge herself on the brownie whenever she
had the chance, which happened to be very soon.
It was the spring, and just the time of year when the dwarfs held
their fete, so one day the brownie asked Jegu if he might bring
his friends to have supper in the great barn, and whether he
would allow them to dance there. Of course, Jegu was only too
pleased to be able to do anything for the brownie, and he ordered
Barbaik to spread her best table-cloths in the barn, and to make
a quantity of little loaves and pancakes, and, besides, to keep
all the milk given by the cows that morning. He expected she
would refuse, as he knew she hated the dwarfs, but she said
nothing, and prepared the supper as he had bidden her.
When all was ready, the dwarfs, in new green suits, came bustling
in, very happy and merry, and took their seats at the table. But
in a moment they all sprang up with a cry, and ran away
screaming, for Barbaik had placed pans of hot coals under their
feet, and all their poor little toes were burnt.
'You won't forget that in a hurry,' she said, smiling grimly to
herself, but in a moment they were back again with large pots of
water, which they poured on the fire. Then they joined hands and
danced round it, singing:
Wicked traitress, Barne Riou,
Our poor toes are burned by you;
Now we hurry from your hall--
Bad luck light upon you all.
That evening they left the country for ever, and Jegu, without
their help, grew poorer and poorer, and at last died of misery,
while Barbaik was glad to find work in the market of Morlaix.
From 'Le Foyer Breton,' par E. Souvestre.
The Winning of Olwen
There was once a king and queen who had a little boy, and they
called his name Kilweh. The queen, his mother, fell ill soon
after his birth, and as she could not take care of him herself
she sent him to a woman she knew up in the mountains, so that he
might learn to go out in all weathers, and bear heat and cold,
and grow tall and strong. Kilweh was quite happy with his nurse,
and ran races and climbed hills with the children who were his
playfellows, and in the winter, when the snow lay on the ground,
sometimes a man with a harp would stop and beg for shelter, and
in return would sing them songs of strange things that had
happened in the years gone by.
But long before this changes had taken place in the court of
Kilweh's father. Soon after she had sent her baby away the queen
became much worse, and at length, seeing that she was going to
die, she called her husband to her and said:
'Never again shall I rise from this bed, and by and bye thou wilt
take another wife. But lest she should make thee forget thy son,
I charge thee that thou take not a wife until thou see a briar
with two blossoms upon my grave.' And this he promised her. Then
she further bade him to see to her grave that nothing might grow
thereon. This likewise he promised her, and soon she died, and
for seven years the king sent a man every morning to see that
nothing was growing on the queen's grave, but at the end of seven
years he forgot.
One day when the king was out hunting he rode past the place
where the queen lay buried, and there he saw a briar growing with
two blossoms on it.
'It is time that I took a wife,' said he, and after long looking
he found one. But he did not tell her about his son; indeed he
hardly remembered that he had one till she heard it at last from
an old woman whom she had gone to visit. And the new queen was
very pleased, and sent messengers to fetch the boy, and in his
father's court he stayed, while the years went by till one day
the queen told him that a prophecy had foretold that he was to
win for his wife Olwen the daughter of Yspaddaden Penkawr.
When he heard this Kilweh felt proud and happy. Surely he must be
a man now, he thought, or there would be no talk of a wife for
him, and his mind dwelt all day upon his promised bride, and what
she would be like when he beheld her.
'What aileth thee, my son?' asked his father at last, when Kilweh
had forgotten something he had been bidden to do, and Kilweh
blushed red as he answered:
'My stepmother says that none but Olwen, the daughter of
Yspaddaden Penkawr, shall be my wife.'
'That will be easily fulfilled,' replied his father. 'Arthur the
king is thy cousin. Go therefore unto him and beg him to cut thy
hair, and to grant thee this boon.'
Then the youth pricked forth upon a dapple grey horse of four
years old, with a bridle of linked gold, and gold upon his
saddle. In his hand he bore two spears of silver with heads of
steel; a war-horn of ivory was slung round his shoulder, and by
his side hung a golden sword. Before him were two brindled white-
breasted greyhounds with collars of rubies round their necks, and
the one that was on the left side bounded across to the right
side, and the one on the right to the left, and like two sea-
swallows sported round him. And his horse cast up four sods with
his four hoofs, like four swallows in the air about his head, now
above, now below. About him was a robe of purple, and an apple of
gold was at each corner, and every one of the apples was of the
value of a hundred cows. And the blades of grass bent not beneath
him, so light were his horse's feet as he journeyed toward the
gate of Arthur's palace.
'Is there a porter?' cried Kilweh, looking round for someone to
open the gate.
'There is; and I am Arthur's porter every first day of January,'
answered a man coming out to him. 'The rest of the year there are
other porters, and among them Pennpingyon, who goes upon his head
to save his feet.'
'Well, open the portal, I say.'
'No, that I may not do, for none can enter save the son of a king
or a pedlar who has goods to sell. But elsewhere there will be
food for thy dogs and hay for thy horse, and for thee collops
cooked and peppered, and sweet wine shall be served in the guest
'That will not do for me,' answered Kilweh. 'If thou wilt not
open the gate I will send up three shouts that shall be heard
from Cornwall unto the north, and yet again to Ireland.'
'Whatsoever clamour thou mayest make,' spake Glewlwyd the porter,
'thou shalt not enter until I first go and speak with Arthur.'
Then Glewlwyd went into the hall, and Arthur said to him:
'Hast thou news from the gate?' and the porter answered:
'Far have I travelled, both in this island and elsewhere, and
many kingly men have I seen; but never yet have I beheld one
equal in majesty to him who now stands at the door.'
'If walking thou didst enter here, return thou running,' replied
Arthur, 'and let everyone that opens and shuts the eye show him
respect and serve him, for it is not meet to keep such a man in
the wind and rain.' So Glewlwyd unbarred the gate and Kilweh rode
in upon his charger.
'Greeting unto thee, O ruler of this land,' cried he, 'and
greeting no less to the lowest than to the highest.'
'Greeting to thee also,' answered Arthur. 'Sit thou between two
of my warriors, and thou shalt have minstrels before thee and all
that belongs to one born to be a king, while thou remainest in my
'I am not come,' replied Kilweh, 'for meat and drink, but to
obtain a boon, and if thou grant it me I will pay it back, and
will carry thy praise to the four winds of heaven. But if thou
wilt not grant it to me, then I will proclaim thy discourtesy
wherever thy name is known.'
'What thou askest that shalt thou receive,' said Arthur, 'as far
as the wind dries and the rain moistens, and the sun revolves and
the sea encircles and the earth extends. Save only my ship and my
mantle, my word and my lance, my shield and my dagger, and
Guinevere my wife.'
'I would that thou bless my hair,' spake Kilweh, and Arthur
'That shall be granted thee.'
Forthwith he bade his men fetch him a comb of gold and a scissors
with loops of silver, and he combed the hair of Kilweh his guest.
'Tell me who thou art,' he said, 'for my heart warms to thee, and
I feel thou art come of my blood.'
'I am Kilweh, son of Kilydd,' replied the youth.
'Then my cousin thou art in truth,' replied Arthur, 'and
whatsoever boon thou mayest ask thou shalt receive.'
'The boon I crave is that thou mayest win for me Olwen, the
daughter of Yspaddaden Penkawr, and this boon I seek likewise at
the hands of thy warriors. From Sol, who can stand all day upon
one foot; from Ossol, who, if he were to find himself on the top
of the highest mountain in the world, could make it into a level
plain in the beat of a bird's wing; from Cluse, who, though he
were buried under the earth, could yet hear the ant leave her
nest fifty miles away: from these and from Kai and from Bedwyr
and from all thy mighty men I crave this boon.'
'O Kilweh,' said Arthur, 'never have I heard of the maiden of
whom thou speakest, nor of her kindred, but I will send
messengers to seek her if thou wilt give me time.'
'From this night to the end of the year right willingly will I
grant thee,' replied Kilweh; but when the end of the year came
and the messengers returned Kilweh was wroth, and spoke rough
words to Arthur.
It was Kai, the boldest of the warriors and the swiftest of foot-
- he would could pass nine nights without sleep, and nine days
beneath the water--that answered him:
'Rash youth that thou art, darest thou speak thus to Arthur? Come
with us, and we will not part company till we have won that
maiden, or till thou confess that there is none such in the
Then Arthur summoned his five best men and bade them go with
Kilweh. There was Bedwyr the one-handed, Kai's comrade and
brother in arms, the swiftest man in Britain save Arthur; there
was Kynddelig, who knew the paths in a land where he had never
been as surely as he did those of his own country; there was
Gwrhyr, that could speak all tongues; and Gwalchmai the son of
Gwyar, who never returned till he had gained what he sought; and
last of all there was Menw, who could weave a spell over them so
that none might see them, while they could see everyone.
So these seven journeyed together till they reached a vast open
plain in which was a fair castle. But though it seemed so close
it was not until the evening of the third day that they really
drew near to it, and in front of it a flock of sheep was spread,
so many in number that there seemed no end to them. A shepherd
stood on a mound watching over them, and by his side was a dog,
as large as a horse nine winters old.
'Whose is this castle, O herdsmen?' asked the knights.
'Stupid are ye truly,' answered the herdsman. 'All the world
knows that this is the castle of Yspaddaden Penkawr.'
'And who art thou?'
'I am called Custennin, brother of Yspaddaden, and ill has he
treated me. And who are you, and what do you here?'
'We come from Arthur the king, to seek Olwen the daughter of
Yspaddaden,' but at this news the shepherd gave a cry:
'O men, be warned and turn back while there is yet time. Others
have gone on that quest, but none have escaped to tell the tale,'
and he rose to his feet as if to leave them. Then Kilweh held out
to him a ring of gold, and he tried to put it on his finger, but
it was too small, so he placed it in his glove, and went home and
gave it to his wife.
'Whence came this ring?' asked she, 'for such good luck is not
wont to befall thee.'
'The man to whom this ring belonged thou shalt see here in the
evening,' answered the shepherd; 'he is Kilweh, son of Kilydd,
cousin to king Arthur, and he has come to seek Olwen.' And when
the wife heard that she knew that Kilweh was her nephew, and her
heart yearned after him, half with joy at the thought of seeing
him, and half with sorrow for the doom she feared.
Soon they heard steps approaching, and Kai and the rest entered
into the house and ate and drank. After that the woman opened a
chest, and out of it came a youth with curling yellow hair.
'It is a pity to hid him thus,' said Gwrhyr, 'for well I know
that he has done no evil.'
'Three and twenty of my sons has Yspaddaden slain, and I have no
more hope of saving this one,' replied she, and Kai was full of
sorrow and answered:
'Let him come with me and be my comrade, and he shall never be
slain unless I am slain also.' And so it was agreed.
'What is your errand here?' asked the woman.
'We seek Olwen the maiden for this youth,' answered Kai; 'does
she ever come hither so that she may be seen?'
'She comes every Saturday to wash her hair, and in the vessel
where she washes she leaves all her rings, and never does she so
much as send a messenger to fetch them.'
'Will she come if she is bidden?' asked Kai, pondering.
'She will come; but unless you pledge me your faith that you will
not harm her I will not fetch her.'
'We pledge it,' said they, and the maiden came.
A fair sight was she in a robe of flame-coloured silk, with a
collar of ruddy gold about her neck, bright with emeralds and
rubies. More yellow was her head than the flower of the broom,
and her skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, and fairer
were her hands than the blossoms of the wood anemone. Four white
trefoils sprang up where she trod, and therefore was she called
She entered, and sat down on a bench beside Kilweh, and he spake
'Ah, maiden, since first I heard thy name I have loved thee--wilt
thou not come away with me from this evil place?'
'That I cannot do,' answered she, 'for I have given my word to my
father not to go without his knowledge, for his life will only
last till I am betrothed. Whatever is, must be, but this counsel
I will give you. Go, and ask me of my father, and whatsoever he
shall required of thee grant it, and thou shalt win me; but if
thou deny him anything thou wilt not obtain me, and it will be
well for thee if thou escape with thy life.'
'All this I promise,' said he.
So she returned to the castle, and all Arthur's men went after
her, and entered the hall.
'Greeting to thee, Yspaddaden Penkawr,' said they. 'We come to
ask thy daughter Olwen for Kilweh, son of Kilydd.'
'Come hither to-morrow and I will answer you,' replied Yspaddaden
Penkawr, and as they rose to leave the hall he caught up one of
the three poisoned darts that lay beside him and flung it in
their midst. But Bedwyr saw and caught it, and flung it back so
hard that it pierced the knee of Yspaddaden.
'A gentle son-in-law, truly!' he cried, writhing with pain. 'I
shall ever walk the worse for this rudeness. Cursed be the smith
who forged it, and the anvil on which it was wrought!'
That night the men slept in the house of Custennin the herdsman,
and the next day they proceeded to the castle, and entered the
hall, and said:
'Yspaddaden Penkawr, give us thy daughter and thou shalt keep her
dower. And unless thou wilt do this we will slay thee.'
'Her four great grandmothers and her four great grandfathers yet
live,' answered Yspaddaden Penkawr; 'it is needful that I take
counsel with them.'
'Be it so; we will go to meat,' but as they turned he took up the
second dart that lay by his side and cast it after them. And Menw
caught it, and flung it at him, and wounded him in the chest, so
that it came out at his back.
'A gentle son-in-law, truly!' cried Yspaddaden, 'the iron pains
me like the bite of a horse-leech. Cursed be the hearth whereon
it was heated, and the smith who formed it!'
The third day Arthur's men returned to the palace into the
presence of Yspaddaden.
'Shoot not at me again,' said he, 'unless you desire death. But
lift up my eyebrows, which have fallen over my eyes, that I may
see my son-in-law.' Then they arose, and as they did so
Yspaddaden Penkawr took the third poisoned dart and cast it at
them. And Kilweh caught it, and flung it back, and it passed
through his eyeball, and came out on the other side of his head.
'A gentle son-in-law, truly! Cursed be the fire in which it was
forged and the man who fashioned it!'
The next day Arthur's men came again to the palace and said:
'Shoot not at us any more unless thou desirest more pain than
even now thou hast, but give us thy daughter without more words.'
'Where is he that seeks my daughter? Let him come hither so that
I may see him.' And Kilweh sat himself in a chair and spoke face
to face with him.
'Is it thou that seekest my daughter?'
'It is I,' answered Kilweh.
'First give me thy word that thou wilt do nothing towards me that
is not just, and when thou hast won for me that which I shall
ask, then thou shalt wed my daughter.'
'I promise right willingly,' said Kilweh. 'Name what thou wilt.'
'Seest thou yonder hill? Well, in one day it shall be rooted up
and ploughed and sown, and the grain shall ripen, and of that
wheat I will bake the cakes for my daughter's wedding.'
'It will be easy for me to compass this, although thou mayest
deem it will not be easy,' answered Kilweh, thinking of Ossol,
under whose feet the highest mountain became straightway a plain,
but Yspaddaden paid no heed, and continued:
'Seest thou that field yonder? When my daughter was born nine
bushels of flax were sown therein, and not one blade has sprung
up. I require thee to sow fresh flax in the ground that my
daughter may wear a veil spun from it on the day of her wedding.'
'It will be easy for me to compass this.'
'Though thou compass this there is that which thou wilt not
compass. For thou must bring me the basket of Gwyddneu Garanhir
which will give meat to the whole world. It is for thy wedding
feast. Thou must also fetch me the drinking-horn that is never
empty, and the harp that never ceases to play until it is bidden.
Also the comb and scissors and razor that lie between the two
ears of Trwyth the boar, so that I may arrange my hair for the
wedding. And though thou get this yet there is that which thou
wilt not get, for Trwyth the boar will not let any man take from
him the comb and the scissors, unless Drudwyn the whelp hunt him.
But no leash in the world can hold Drudwyn save the leash of Cant
Ewin, and no collar will hold the leash except the collar of
'It will be easy for me to compass this, though thou mayest think
it will not be easy,' Kilweh answered him.
'Though thou get all these things yet there is that which thou
wilt not get. Throughout the world there is none that can hunt
with this dog save Mabon the son of Modron. He was taken from his
mother when three nights old, and it is not know where he now is,
nor whether he is living or dead, and though thou find him yet
the boar will never be slain save only with the sword of Gwrnach
the giant, and if thou obtain it not neither shalt thou obtain my
'Horses shall I have, and knights from my lord Arthur. And I
shall gain thy daughter, and thou shalt lose thy life.'
The speech of Kilweh the son of Kilydd with Yspaddaden Penkawr
Then Arthur's men set forth, and Kilweh with them, and journeyed
till they reached the largest castle in the world, and a black
man came out to meet them.
'Whence comest thou, O man?' asked they, 'and whose is that
'That is the castle of Gwrnach the giant, as all the world
knows,' answered the man, 'but no guest ever returned thence
alive, and none may enter the gate except a craftsman, who brings
his trade.' But little did Arthur's men heed his warning, and
they went straight to the gate.
'Open!' cried Gwrhyr.
'I will not open,' replied the porter.
'And wherefore?' asked Kai.
'The knife is in the meat, and the drink is in the horn, and
there is revelry in the hall of Gwrnach the giant, and save for a
craftsman who brings his trade the gate will not be opened to-
'Verily, then, I may enter,' said Kai, 'for there is no better
burnisher of swords than I.'
'This will I tell Gwrnach the giant, and I will bring thee his
'Bid the man come before me,' cried Gwrnach, when the porter had
told his tale, 'for my sword stands much in need of polishing,'
so Kai passed in and saluted Gwrnach the giant.
'Is it true what I hear of thee, that thou canst burnish swords?'
'It is true,' answered Kai. Then was the sword of Gwrnach brought
'Shall it be burnished white or blue?' said Kai, taking a
whetstone from under his arm.
'As thou wilt,' answered the giant, and speedily did Kai polish
half the sword. The giant marvelled at his skill, and said:
'It is a wonder that such a man as thou shouldst be without a
'I have a companion, noble sir, but he has no skill in this art.'
'What is his name?' asked the giant.
'Let the porter go forth, and I will tell him how he may know
him. The head of his lance will leave its shaft, and draw blood
from the wind, and descend upon its shaft again.' So the porter
opened the gate and Bedwyr entered.
Now there was much talk amongst those who remained without when
the gate closed upon Bedwyr, and Goreu, son of Custennin,
prevailed with the porter, and he and his companions got in also
and hid themselves.
By this time the whole of the sword was polished, and Kai gave it
into the hand of Gwrnach the giant, who felt it and said:
'Thy work is good; I am content.'
Then said Kai:
'It is thy scabbard that hath rusted thy sword; give it to me
that I may take out the wooden sides of it and put in new ones.'
And he took the scabbard in one hand and the sword in the other,
and came and stood behind the giant, as if he would have sheathed
the sword in the scabbard. But with it he struck a blow at the
head of the giant, and it rolled from his body. After that they
despoiled the castle of its gold and jewels, and returned,
bearing the sword of the giant, to Arthur's court.
They told Arthur how they had sped, and they all took counsel
together, and agreed that they must set out on the quest for
Mabon the son of Modron, and Gwrhyr, who knew the languages of
beasts and of birds, went with them. SO they journeyed until they
came to the nest of an ousel, and Gwrhyr spoke to her.
'Tell me if thou knowest aught of Mabon the son of Modron, who
was taken when three nights old from between his mother and the
And the ousel answered:
'When I first came here I was a young bird, and there was a
smith's anvil in this place. But from that time no work has been
done upon it, save that every evening I have pecked at it, till
now there is not so much as the size of a nut remaining thereof.
Yet all that time I have never once heard of the man you name.
Still, there is a race of beasts older than I, and I will guide
you to them.'
So the ousel flew before them, till she reached the stag of
Redynvre; but when they inquired of the stag whether he knew
aught of Mabon he shook his head.
'When first I came hither,' said he, 'the plain was bare save for
one oak sapling, which grew up to be an oak with a hundred
branches. All that is left of that oak is a withered stump, but
never once have I heard of the man you name. Nevertheless, as you
are Arthur's men, I will guide you to the place where there is an
animal older than I'; and the stag ran before them till he
reached the owl of Cwm Cawlwyd. But when they inquired of the owl
if he knew aught of Mabon he shook his head.
'When first I came hither,' said he, 'the valley was a wooded
glen; then a race of men came and rooted it up. After that there
grew a second wood, and then a third, which you see. Look at my
wings also--are they not withered stumps? Yet until to-day I have
never heard of the man you name. Still, I will guide you to the
oldest animal in the world, and the one that has travelled most,
the eagle of Gwern Abbey.' And he flew before them, as fast as
his old wings would carry him, till he reached the eagle of Gwern
Abbey, but when they inquired of the eagle whether he knew aught
of Mabon he shook his head.
'When I first came hither,' said the eagle, 'there was a rock
here, and every evening I pecked at the stars from the top of it.
Now, behold, it is not even a span high! But only once have I
heard of the man you name, and that was when I went in search of
food as far as Llyn Llyw. I swooped down upon a salmon, and
struck my claws into him, but he drew me down under water till
scarcely could I escape him. Then I summoned all my kindred to
destroy him, but he made peace with me, and I took fifty fish
spears from his back. Unless he may know something of the man
whom you seek I cannot tell who may. But I will guide you to the
place where he is.'
So they followed the eagle, who flew before them, though so high
was he in the sky, it was often hard to mark his flight. At
length he stopped above a deep pool in a river.
'Salmon of Llyn Llyw,' he called, 'I have come to thee with an
embassy from Arthur to inquire if thou knowest aught concerning
Mabon the son of Modron.' And the salmon answered:
'As much as I know I will tell thee. With every tide I go up the
river, till I reach the walls of Gloucester, and there have I
found such wrong as I never found elsewhere. And that you may see
that what I say is true let two of you go thither on my
shoulders.' So Kai and Gwrhyr went upon the shoulders of the
salmon, and were carried under the walls of the prison, from
which proceeded the sound of great weeping.
'Who is it that thus laments in this house of stone?'
'It is I, Mabon the son of Modron.'
'Will silver or gold bring thy freedom, or only battle and
fighting?' asked Gwrhyr again.
'By fighting alone shall I be set free,' said Mabon.
Then they sent a messenger to Arthur to tell him that Mabon was
found, and he brought all his warriors to the castle of
Gloucester and fell fiercely upon it; while Kai and Bedwyr went
on the shoulders of the salmon to the gate of the dungeon, and
broke it down and carried away Mabon. And he now being free
returned home with Arthur.
After this, on a certain day, as Gwythyr was walking across a
mountain he heard a grievous cry, and he hastened towards it. In
a little valley he saw the heather burning and the fire spreading
fast towards the anthill, and all the ants were hurrying to and
fro, not knowing whither to go. Gwythyr had pity on them, and put
out the fire, and in gratitude the ants brought him the nine
bushels of flax seed which Yspaddaden Penkawr required of Kilweh.
And many of the other marvels were done likewise by Arthur and
his knights, and at last it came to the fight with Trwyth the
board, to obtain the comb and the scissors and the razor that lay
between his ears. But hard was the boar to catch, and fiercely
did he fight when Arthur's men gave him battle, so that many of
them were slain.
Up and down the country went Trwyth the boar, and Arthur followed
after him, till they came to the Severn sea. There three knights
caught his feet unawares and plunged him into the water, while
one snatched the razor from him, and another seized the scissors.
But before they laid hold of the comb he had shaken them all off,
and neither man nor horse nor dog could reach him till he came to
Cornwall, whither Arthur had sworn he should not go. Thither
Arthur followed after him with his knights, and if it had been
hard to win the razor and the scissors, the struggle for the comb
was fiercer still, but at length Arthur prevailed, and the boar
was driven into the sea. And whether he was drowned or where he
went no man knows to this day.
In the end all the marvels were done, and Kilweh set forward, and
with him Goreu, the son of Custennin, to Yspaddaden Penkawr,
bearing in their hands the razor, the scissors and the comb, and
Yspaddaden Penkawr was shaved by Kaw.
'Is thy daughter mine now?' asked Kilweh.
'She is thine,' answered Yspaddaden, 'but it is Arthur and none
other who has won her for thee. Of my own free will thou shouldst
never have had her, for now I must lose my life.' And as he spake
Goreu the son of Custennin cut off his head, as if had been ordained,
and Arthur's hosts returned each man to his own country.
From the 'Mabinogion.'