Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Math, the Son of Mathonwy — Part 2

Blodeuwedd is fashioned out of plants to be the wife of Llew Llaw Gyffes, who is also given the Cantrev of Dinodig to rule. One day when he goes to visit Math, Blodeuwedd, who remains behind, hears the sound of a horn. She learns he is Gronw Pebyr, Lord of Penllyn. As night approaches, he goes to the gate; and after discussion, she allows him in, as this would be fitting for a lord. On first sight, she is in love with him; and she manages to keep him with her for two days. Having spoken on how they might be always together, she tells him, on the third day as he departs, she will ask Llew under the cover of caring for his safety how he could be killed.

Llew takes lightly her concern. It is in the most impossible way someone could kill him. The spear with which he could be slain must take a year to fashion, and only on a Sunday. He cannot be slain in a house or outside, nor on horseback or on foot: "By making a bath for me by the side of a river, and by putting a roof over a cauldron, and thatching it well and tightly, and bringing a buck, and putting it beside the cauldron. Then if I place one foot on the buck's back, and the other on the edge of the cauldron, whosoever strikes me thus will cause my death."

Blodeuwedd soon sends word to Gronw instruction on how to make the spear. Then a year later, she tells Llew she has been thinking of what he said, and wishes he show how his death could come about. She sends word to Gronw to prepare for the ambush, and does other preparation. Once Llew stood one foot on the buck, the other on the edge of the cauldron, Gronw throws a poison spear. Llew in a scream flies off in the form of an eagle, and vanishes.

Gronw takes over the territory. News reach Math and Gwydion. After a long search, Gwydion is at a vassal's home, and hears about a sow that in daytime goes off somewhere. The next day Gwydion dressed as a swineherd follows the sow, and discovers it ate putrid flesh dropped by is an eagle. Gwydion recognizes the eagle as LLew, and as he signs to it, the eagle comes closer to him, finally dropping to Gwydion's knee. The latter then strikes the eagle with a wand, and Llew returns to his form. He was skin and bones. A year later Llew is restored to health.

When Blodeuwedd hears that Gwydion with men are coming, she flees to the mountains with her women. The women go to a court in the mountains, but fear makes them approach it looking backward. They all fall into a lake, and are drowned except for Blodeuwedd. Gwydion catches up to her; and for punishment, turns her into an owl, hateful to all birds. Gronw sends an embassy to Llew. For punishment, Gronw is to stand at the spot Llew did earlier. When this is done, Gronw as if he might stand behind a slab or rock on the other side of the river. This is granted, and Llew throws the spear that goes through the rock and kills Gwonw. Llew retakes his domain.


It appears that the major characters are, or were, gods. When the tales were set down, they act as men, but there is always the sense of their godhood behind their deeds. One god might have been able to transform into an eagle. Much also appears lost in this complicated tale. The three boys turned from animals (in the first summary) are named, but nothing more is said of them. 

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