Thursday, January 14, 2021

Pwyll Prince of Dyved — Culture/History

 The Mabinogion, as it is titled, or more properly, Mabinogi, is a collection of eleven Welsh Medieval tales that some scholars separate into four branches, with Pwyll Prince of Dyved being the first branch. Other scholars see the tales as independent creations, though some characters are found in more than one text. One or two translators added to the number of tales. The spelling of names is taken from Lady Charlotte Guest, the 19th century translator of the Mabinogion.

Dyved is in southwest Wales. Arawn, who confronts Pwyll over his dogs, is Lord of Annwvyn. Charlotte Guest identifies Annwvyn with Hades. This leads to a misreading of the tale. Annwvyn, as others have identified it, is the Otherworld. In this tale, as others, there is an interaction between humans and gods or spirits. Individuals and events approach a fine line between the two. Rhiannon on horseback outstripping her pursuers though her horse ambles; and Pryderi, who grows up far faster than any child could, are two examples here.

Pwyll Prince of Dyved appears to me to be a text for young aristocrats to learn by. For example, at the first feast Pwyll tells Gwawl, who seeks to have Rhiannon, "What boon soever thou mayest ask of me, as far as I am able, thou shalt have." Pwyll quickly learns that this is an improper answer. At another time, Gwawl, has the correct response: "Welcome be thine errand, and if thou ask of me that which is just, thou shalt have it gladly." More of this will be included in the criticism, next posting.

The horse is a constant feature in the tale: Arawn and Rhiannon ride one; the colt that was going to be snatched is to be broken in for Prydrei; even Rhiannon's punishment makes her horse-like, as she to carry people into the castle on her back. The colt's relationship with the newborn Prydei is part of the otherworldly connection in the tale. The horse seems to have no structural significance in the tale; it likely reflects the value people placed on it.

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