Saturday, June 12, 2021

LLudd and LLevelys

 Belli the Great has three sons, Lludd, Caswallawn, and Nynyaw. Afterward he is said to have a fourth son, Llevelys. After Belli death, Lludd becomes ruler, and rebuilds the fortification of London. London, according to this legend, got its name first by Lludd: Caer Lludd, later Lwndrys, before London.

Lludd's favorite brother, Llevelys, asks him if he might seek the hand of the daughter and heir of the deceased French king, to which Lludd agrees. The French nobles agree, and Llevelys marries the daughter, and rules the land.

To England come three plagues or difficulties. The first is the Coranians, who seem to be an untrustworthy group, at least in speech. The second is a "shriek" on May-eve that leaves people and animal scared and weaken. The third is a sharp decrease in food.

Lludd asks his counsels' advice, but they have no answer. Lludd then goes to his brother in France secretly so that the Coranian might not know the mission. The brothers meet near the coast of France, and speak on other matter, then both speak through a horn only the other can hear and avoid the Coranians hearing through the wind; but all the two brothers hear are hostile words. Understanding what is happening, Llevelys has the horn rinsed with wine, thus driving out the demon within the horn.

For the first plague, the Coranians, Llevelys gives Lludd insects with the instruction to crush some in water; call all the people together, including the Coranians; and sprinkle the charmed water on everyone. The Coranians would die, his people left unaffected.

The second plague, the shriek, Llevelys says is their dragon; and it is fighting another dragon. When Lludd returns, he needs to measure the land, find the midpoint, and have a cauldron filled with mead placed in a pit, covered with satin. Lludd is to stand there, watch the dragons fight on the ground, then in the air until they tire and fall and turn into pigs as they land in the mead, drink it, and fall asleep. Lludd needs then bury the pigs in the strongest place in his dominion. That will be the end of this plague.

The third plague is caused by a mighty man who consumes the kingdom's food. He causes people to sleep, as he steals the food; but Lludd is to have a cauldron of cold water by his side; and when oppressed with sleep, to plunge into the cauldron.

Upon returning, Lludd does as his brother advised; and gets rid of the Coranians and the dragons. Then he has a feast prepared, and then a giant appears, and puts the food into a large hamper. The king tells him to stop. A fierce fighting ensues with Lludd overcoming the giant. Fearing death, the giant says he will make a restoration equal to all he has taken. The king accepts this. From this time forward peace reigns in the land during Lludd's lifetime.



Belli or Beli Mawr is a Welsh ancestral figure. Llevelys is added, it seems, belatedly. Lludd and Llevelys might be brothers as in the honorific "Brother King", showing good relations between Lludd, king of Wales or England combined and Llevelys, a Celtic king on the Continent, such as in Brittany.

The Coranians are described as the Corieltauvi or Coritani, a group of tribes in East Midland, rather far from Wales. They are also described as "dwarf" from Asia, that is Romans. In my ignorance, I suppose they could be the Cornovii, another group of tribes bordering Wales.

The dragons, it is said, could represent the Brythons and the Anglo-Saxons.

The original poem appears to have been corrupted or the its meaning understood by the first listeners lost. The number three is significant in Celtic writing. A good poet would have combined elements that are associable, especially to the listeners. If in the third or forth century the poet said Romans and Anglo-Saxons, the people would have scratched their head. It would seem strange for the poet to lump the historically insignificant Corieltauvi, who were easily overwhelmed by the Roman — and possibly forgotten, with the Anglo-Saxons in the same tale no matter the time of composition. If this is a largely local tale (Welsh, with a Brittany connection), the foes might also be local. The giant could be a neighboring and hostile group of tribes that finally submitted to a Welsh king. The Picts suggested for one foe seems proper.

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