4.1 The Taking of Goewin

Math the son of Mathonwy was lord over Gwynedd, and Pryderi the son of Pwyll was lord over the one-and-twenty Cantrevs of the South; and these were the seven Cantrevs of Dyved, and the seven Cantrevs of Morganwc, the four Cantrevs of Ceredigiawn, and the three of Ystrad Tywi.

At that time, Math the son of Mathonwy could not exist unless his feet were in the lap of a maiden, except only when he was prevented by the tumult of war. Now the maiden who was with him was Goewin, the daughter of Pebin of Dôl Pebin, in Arvon, and she was the fairest maiden of her time who was known there.

And Math dwelt always at Caer Dathyl in Arvon, and was not able to go the circuit of the land, but Gilvaethwy the son of Don, and Eneyd the son of Don, his nephews, the sons of his sisters, with his household, went the circuit of the land in his stead.

Now the maiden was with Math continually, and Gilvaethwy the son of Don, set his affections upon her and loved her so that he knew not what he should do because of her, and therefrom behold his hue, and his aspect, and his spirits changed for love of her, so that it was not easy to know him.

One day his brother Gwydion gazed steadfastly upon him. “Youth,” said he, “what aileth thee?”

“Why,” replied he, “what seest thou in me?”

“I see,” said he, “that thou hast lost thy aspect and thy hue; what, therefore, aileth thee?”

“My lord brother,” he answered, “that which aileth me, it will not profit me that I should own to any.”

“What may it be, my soul?” said he.

“Thou knowest,” he said, “that Math the son of Mathonwy has this property, that if men whisper together, in a tone how low soever, if the wind meet it, it becomes known unto him.”

“Yes,” said Gwydion, “hold now thy peace, I know thy intent, thou lovest Goewin.”

When he found that his brother knew his intent, he gave the heaviest sigh in the world.

“Be silent, my soul, and sigh not,” he said. “It is not thereby that thou wilt succeed. I will cause,” said he, “if it cannot be otherwise, the rising of Gwynedd, and Powys, and Deheubarth, to seek the maiden. Be thou of glad cheer therefore, and I will compass it.”

So they went unto Math the son of Mathonwy. “Lord,” said Gwydion, “I have heard that there have come to the South some beasts, such as were never known in this island before.”

“What are they called?” he asked.

“Pigs, lord.”

“And what kind of animals are they?”

“They are small animals, and their flesh is better than the flesh of oxen.”

“They are small, then?”

“And they change their names. Swine are they now called.”

“Who owneth them?”

“Pryderi the son of Pwyll; they were sent him from Annwvyn, by Arawn the king of Annwvyn, and still they keep that name, half hog, half pig.”

“Verily,” asked he, “and by what means may they be obtained from him?”

“I will go, lord, as one of twelve, in the guise of bards, to seek the swine.”

“But it may be that he will refuse you,” said he.

“My journey will not be evil, lord,” said he; “I will not come back without the swine.”

“Gladly,” said he, “go thou forward.”

So he and Gilvaethwy went, and ten other men with them. And they came into Ceredigiawn, to the place that is now called Rhuddlan Teivi, where the palace of Pryderi was. In the guise of bards they came in, and they were received joyfully, and Gwydion was placed beside Pryderi that night.

“Of a truth,” said Pryderi, “gladly would I have a tale from some of your men yonder.”

“Lord,” said Gwydion, “we have a custom that the first night that we come to the Court of a great man, the chief of song recites. Gladly will I relate a tale.” Now Gwydion was the best teller of tales in the world, and he diverted all the Court that night with pleasant discourse and with tales, so that he charmed every one in the Court, and it pleased Pryderi to talk with him.

And after this, “Lord,” said he unto Pryderi, “were it more pleasing to thee, that another should discharge my errand unto thee, than that I should tell thee myself what it is?”

“No,” he answered, “ample speech hast thou.”

“Behold then, lord,” said he, “my errand. It is to crave from thee the animals that were sent thee from Annwvyn.”

“Verily,” he replied, “that were the easiest thing in the world to grant, were there not a covenant between me and my land concerning them. And the covenant is that they shall not go from me, until they have produced double their number in the land.”

“Lord,” said he, “I can set thee free from those words, and this is the way I can do so; give me not the swine to-night, neither refuse them unto me, and to-morrow I will show thee an exchange for them.”

And that night he and his fellows went unto their lodging, and they took counsel. “Ah, my men,” said he, “we shall not have the swine for the asking.”

“Well,” said they, “how may they be obtained?”

“I will cause them to be obtained,” said Gwydion.

Then he betook himself to his arts, and began to work a charm. And he caused twelve chargers to appear, and twelve black greyhounds, each of them white-breasted, and having upon them twelve collars and twelve leashes, such as no one that saw them could know to be other than gold. And upon the horses twelve saddles, and every part which should have been of iron was entirely of gold, and the bridles were of the same workmanship. And with the horses and the dogs he came to Pryderi.

“Good day unto thee, lord,” said he.

“Heaven prosper thee,” said the other, “and greetings be unto thee.”

“Lord,” said he, “behold here is a release for thee from the word which thou spakest last evening concerning the swine; that thou wouldst neither give nor sell them. Thou mayest exchange them for that which is better. And I will give these twelve horses, all caparisoned as they are, with their saddles and their bridles, and these twelve greyhounds, with their collars and their leashes as thou seest, and the twelve gilded shields that thou beholdest yonder.” Now these he had formed of fungus.

“Well,” said he, “we will take counsel.” And they consulted together, and determined to give the swine to Gwydion, and to take his horses and his dogs and his shields.

Then Gwydion and his men took their leave, and began to journey forth with the pigs. “Ah, my comrades,” said Gwydion, “it is needful that we journey with speed. The illusion will not last but from the one hour to the same to-morrow.”

And that night they journeyed as far as the upper part of Ceredigiawn, to the place which, from that cause, is called Mochdrev still. And the next day they took their course through Melenydd, and came that night to the town which is likewise for that reason called Mochdrev between Keri and Arwystli. And thence they journeyed forward; and that night they came as far as that Commot in Powys, which also upon
account thereof is called Mochnant, and there tarried they that night. And they journeyed thence to the Cantrev of Rhos, and the place where they were that night is still called Mochdrev.

“My men,” said Gwydion, “we must push forward to the fastnesses of Gwynedd with these animals, for there is a gathering of hosts in pursuit of us.” So they journeyed on to the highest town of Arllechwedd, and there they made a sty for the swine, and therefore was the name of Creuwyryon given to that town. And after they had made the sty for the swine, they proceeded to Math the son of Mathonwy, at Caer Dathyl. And when they came there, the country was rising. “What news is there here?” asked Gwydion.

“Pryderi is assembling one-and-twenty Cantrevs to pursue after you,” answered they. “It is marvellous that you should have journeyed so slowly.”

“Where are the animals whereof you went in quest?” said Math.

“They have had a sty made for them in the other Cantrev below,” said Gwydion.

Thereupon, lo, they heard the trumpets and the host in the land, and they arrayed themselves and set forward and came to Penardd in Arvon.

And at night Gwydion the son of Don, and Gilvaethwy his brother, returned to Caer Dathyl; and Gilvaethwy took Math the son of Mathonwy’s couch. And while he turned out the other damsels from the room discourteously, he made Goewin unwillingly remain.

And when they saw the day on the morrow, they went back unto the place where Math the son of Mathonwy was with his host; and when they came there, the warriors were taking counsel in what district they should await the coming of Pryderi, and the men of the South. So they went in to the council. And it was resolved to wait in the strongholds of Gwynedd, in Arvon. So within the two Maenors they took their stand, Maenor Penardd and Maenor Coed Alun. And there Pryderi attacked them, and there the combat took place. And great was the slaughter on both sides; but the men of the South were forced to flee. And they fled unto the place which is still called Nantcall. And thither did they follow them, and they made a vast slaughter of them there, so that they fled again as far as the place called Dol Pen Maen, and there they halted and sought to make peace.

And that he might have peace, Pryderi gave hostages, Gwrgi Gwastra gave he and three-and-twenty others, sons of nobles. And after this they journeyed in peace even unto Traeth Mawr; but as they went on together towards Melenryd, the men on foot could not be restrained from shooting. Pryderi dispatched unto Math an embassy to pray him to forbid his people, and to leave it between him and Gwydion the son of Don, for that he had caused all this. And the messengers came to Math. “Of a truth,” said Math, “I call Heaven to witness, if it be pleasing unto Gwydion the son of Don, I will so leave it gladly. Never will I compel any to go to fight, but that we ourselves should do our utmost.”

“Verily,” said the messengers, “Pryderi saith that it were more fair that the man who did him this wrong should oppose his own body to his, and let his people remain unscathed.”

“I declare to Heaven, I will not ask the men of Gwynedd to fight because of me. If I am allowed to fight Pryderi myself, gladly will I oppose my body to his.” And this answer they took back to Pryderi.

“Truly,” said Pryderi, “I shall require no one to demand my rights but myself.”

Then these two came forth and armed themselves, and they fought. And by force of strength, and fierceness, and by the magic and charms of Gwydion, Pryderi was slain. And at Maen Tyriawc, above Melenryd, was he buried, and there is his grave.

And the men of the South set forth in sorrow towards their own land; nor is it a marvel that they should grieve, seeing that they had lost their lord, and many of their best warriors, and for the most part their horses and their arms.

The men of Gwynedd went back joyful and in triumph. “Lord,” said Gwydion unto Math, “would it not be right for us to release the hostages of the men of the South, which they pledged unto us for peace? for we ought not to put them in prison.”

“Let them then be set free,” saith Math. So that youth, and the other hostages that were with him, were set free to follow the men of the South.

Math himself went forward to Caer Dathyl. Gilvaethwy the son of Don, and they of the household that were with him, went to make the circuit of Gwynedd as they were wont, without coming to the Court. Math went into his chamber, and caused a place to be prepared for him whereon to recline, so that he might put his feet in the maiden’s lap.

“Lord,” said Goewin, “seek now another to hold thy feet, for I am now a wife.”

“What meaneth this?” said he.

“An attack, lord, was made unawares upon me; but I held not my peace, and there was no one in the Court who knew not of it. Now the attack was made by thy nephews, lord, the sons of thy sister, Gwydion the son of Don, and Gilvaethwy the son of Don; unto me they did wrong, and unto thee dishonour.”

“Verily,” he exclaimed, “I will do to the utmost of my power concerning this matter. But first I will cause thee to have compensation, and then will I have amends made unto myself. As for thee, I will take thee to be my wife, and the possession of my dominions will I give unto thy hands.”

And Gwydion and Gilvaethwy came not near the Court, but stayed in the confines of the land until it was forbidden to give them meat and drink. At first they came not near unto Math, but at the last they came. “Lord,” said they, “good day to thee.”

“Well,” said he, “is it to make me compensation that ye are come?”

“Lord,” they said, “we are at thy will.”

“By my will I would not have lost my warriors, and so many arms as I have done. You cannot compensate me my shame, setting aside the death of Pryderi. But since ye come hither to be at my will, I shall begin your punishment forthwith.”

Then he took his magic wand, and struck Gilvaethwy, so that he became a deer, and he seized upon the other hastily lest he should escape from him. And he struck him with the same magic wand, and he became a deer also. “Since now ye are in bonds, I will that ye go forth together and be companions, and possess the nature of the animals whose form ye bear. And this day twelvemonth come hither unto me.”

At the end of a year from that day, lo there was a loud noise under the chamber wall, and the barking of the dogs of the palace together with the noise. “Look,” said he, “what is without.”

“Lord,” said one, “I have looked; there are there two deer, and a fawn with them.”

Then he arose and went out. And when he came he beheld the three animals. And he lifted up his wand. “As ye were deer last year, be ye wild hogs each and either of you, for the year that is to come.” And thereupon he struck them with the magic wand. “The young one will I take and cause to be baptized.” Now the name that he gave him was Hydwn. “Go ye and be wild swine, each and either of you, and be ye of the nature of wild swine. And this day twelvemonth be ye here under the wall.”

At the end of the year the barking of dogs was heard under the wall of the chamber. And the Court assembled, and thereupon he arose and went forth, and when he came forth he beheld three beasts. Now these were the beasts that he saw; two wild hogs of the woods, and a well-grown young one with them. And he was very large for his age. “Truly,” said Math, “this one will I take and cause to be baptized.” And he struck him with his magic wand, and he become a fine fair auburn-haired youth, and the name that he gave him was Hychdwn. “Now as for you, as ye were wild hogs last year, be ye wolves each and either of you for the year that is to come.” Thereupon he struck them with his magic wand, and they became wolves. “And be ye of like nature with the animals whose semblance ye bear, and return here this day twelvemonth beneath this wall.”

And at the same day at the end of the year, he heard a clamour and a barking of dogs under the wall of the chamber. And he rose and went forth. And when he came, behold, he saw two wolves, and a strong cub with them. “This one will I take,” said Math, “and I will cause him to be baptized; there is a name prepared for him, and that is Bleiddwn. Now these three, such are they:–

The three sons of Gilvaethwy the false,
The three faithful combatants,
Bleiddwn, Hydwn, and Hychdwn the Tall.”

Then he struck the two with his magic wand, and they resumed their own nature. “Oh men,” said he, “for the wrong that ye did unto me sufficient has been your punishment and your dishonour. Prepare now precious ointment for these men, and wash their heads, and equip them.” And this was done.