Pwyll and Rhiannon, West Wales
The story of Pwyll and Rhiannon is one of the best known tales in the collection of Welsh legends called the Mabinogion.
Pwyll was the Prince of Dyfed, a lover of adventure and feasting, the model of noble youth. When he was at his palace of Narberth, in what is now Pembrokeshire , he was told that whoever sat on the mound near the palace, a hillock called Gorseth Arberth, always ended up either wounded or bewitched by seeing some wonder.
Of course the young prince could not resist the temptation. Besides, he had his knightly companions to keep him from the wounds side of the tale, so surely would see a wonder. Thus after feasting Pwyll went and sat on the mound, surrounded by his friends.
Sure enough in next to no time a shapely girl dressed in the finest of gold dresses appeared, riding a huge white horse. This must be the wonder he had been promised. Perhaps because he had feasted too well, or more nobly because he felt pursuit of a woman beneath him, Pwyll sent one of his men to chase after the lady and enquire about her. But the faster this fleet-footed man ran, the further away the lady seemed to become, without changing her speed. Wondrous indeed.
The next day Pwyll and his guard set out for the same hill, hoping for the same beautiful sight. Again, sure enough, the lovely lady came into view riding the giant white horse. This time Pwyll sent a mounted man after her, but though this knight was on a horse of rare speed and stamina, still he could not approach the white horse for all he tried.
So on the third day Pwyll decided that if you want something doing do it yourself. He had a page ready by the road holding the reins of Pwyll’s fastest horse, and with his silver spurs at the ready too. Not long after the prince sat on the mound did the lady appear, riding past without pause. Pwyll sprinted for his horse, the page slipped his spurs on in an instant, and he was off in pursuit. He rode for all he was worth, his spurs prompting the thoroughbred beneath him to ever greater speed, but the great white horse ahead lengthened the distance between them however hard Pwyll rode.
In the end the prince called out to the lady to stop, and begged her to speak with him. She did so, remarking that it would have been better for Pwyll’s horse had the prince asked her earlier.
When Pwyll reached her the girl threw back her veil, and he beheld the most beautiful young woman he had ever seen. Instantly he was in love. He asked where she was bound, and she told him she was escaping from a forced marriage her father wished her to contract. She said she loved only Pwyll, and would have no other. He willingly agreed to marry her, and was told to meet her in a year’s time at her father’s great house, where another story of Pwyll and Rhiannon would take place, defeating the clever suitor to whom she had been promised – in spite of Pwyll’s foolish offer to the suitor to help him in all he could before knowing who the young man was. As with their meeting so with their marriage, it is Rhiannon who shows herself the wise one, and Pwyll the gallant and willing, but not exactly bright, accomplice.
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