Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Here are the Three Branches of the bringing in of it, namely:
The Sovereignty of Annwyn
I. The Council of the Immortals
II. The Hunt in Glyn Cuch
III. The Slaying of Hafgan
I. THE COUNCIL OF THE IMMORTALS
In the old, antique, ancient times it happened to the Immortal Kindred to be taking counsel, and considering among themselves, in the House of Hu Gadarn in the Wyddfa Mountain in Wales. Hu had called them together, on account of a matter that was on his mind at that time. As to who Hu Gadarn was, should any one have heard no tidings about him, and about his power, and fame, and sovereignty over the Gods and the Cymry: he was the one that was supreme over both those races; he had led them out of the Summer Country into the Island of the Mighty, ages before; and tamed Nynnio and Peibio, the Exalted Oxen, and with them accomplished the ploughing of the whole island, and the destruction of the Afangc of the Lake of Floods. Whenever it seemed fitting to Hu Gadarn to be born among men, he would take no name nor title but the name and title of the Emperor Arthur; and from that alone it may be known what dignity he had.
With Hu the Mighty in the council were Math fab Mathonwy the Enchanter, and Tydain Tad Awen the Archdruid of the Gods. Ceridwen Ren ferch Hu was there, the Queen and Mother of the World. There also were the three Disciples of Math: Gofannon and Amaethon and Gwydion, the three magnanimous Sons of Don. (Gofannon was the chief of the smiths, and Amaethon of the husbandman; while as for Gwydion, he was unequaled, even among the Immortals, for laughter, and for narrating stories; and no subtlety of wisdom would ever be concealed from him.) Their sister, Arianrhod of the Silver Wheel, who declares fates and destinies; and Don Ren herself. The three Primitive Bards of the Island of the Mighty, the divine Disciples of Tad Awen: Plenydd Sunbright, and Alawn with the Harp, and Gwron Gawr the Heartener of Heroes. Idris Gawr, the Marshal of the Stars, and Einigan the Giant, and Nefydd Naf Neifion, Prince of the Sea. Menw the Son of the Three Shouts, and Mabon ab Modron, and Modron Ren herself, and Malen Ruddgoch Ren, the War-red War Queen. None of them were absent, so far as is known. They were a peerless tribe, a family to be praised and lauded and honored; flaming-bodied, even the least of them; august and beautiful. It was they who preserved the beauty of Britain, and the valor, and modesty, and truthfulness, and wisdom of the Race and Kindred of the Cymry, in the ancient days.
What they were considering will be made known in the length of the story, should any desire and have patience to seek for it. The end of the council was this conversation taking place between them:
"As far as stags are concerned," said the Son of Mathonwy; "if one were needed for this work, I could put the guise of a stag on any one. The peculiarities of my wand would be enough for that."
"Who is there that would desire to have it put on him?" said Hu the Mighty.
"I know the road from Dyfed into the Underworld," said Gwydion ab Don. "It would be nothing but a day of pleasure to me, to have hounds pursuing me from dawn to dusk."
The Gods laughed. "Let it be so, Lord Brother," said Hu Gadarn.
That evening a splendid, many-antlered stag stood forth in the moonlight on the southern slope of the Wyddfa, and took his way southward, cantering lordlily. Before dawn he had covered the whole length of Wales from the north to the south, so speedy he was; and when the dew was at its brightest on the bracken, he was watching for hounds from a fern-brake in Glyn Cuch, by Llwyn Diarwyd in Dyfed.
II. THE HUNT IN GLYN CUCH
In those days, Pwyll Prince of Dyfed had not his equal in beauty and prowess among the warlike sovereigns of the Island of the Mighty; and he held lordship in a country the most lovely in the world; heaven knows where may be its better, or whether more of excellence and delight could be crowded into it than is there already. As for his people, the Dimetians, there were none more kindly or valorous, either in the three Islands of the Mighty, or in the three islands near thereby, or in the island of Ireland. In the court of the Crowned King in London there was no one, unless it was the Crowned King himself, or Taliesin the Chief of Bards, or the great Druids of Ynys Mon, or Teyrnion Twrf Fliant, King of Gwent, that had more dignity than Pwyll had; indeed, the Princes of Dyfed had always been held to be among the three Supporting Pillars of Sovereignty of the Island of Britain.
Whatever may have happened to Pwyll before the day he went hunting in Glyn Cuch, nothing is known of it; that was the seed and beginning of all that is related concerning him. For that reason, no one would leave the story of that hunt unrelated, if he were for setting forth duly the History of the Fates of the Princes of Dyfed.
In the cold of the dawn and the youth of the day he rode out from Llwyn Diarwyd, and the hundred men of his teulu, and a hundred dogs followed him. Before the drying of the dew, they roused up in Glyn Cuch a splendid, many-antlered stag; as soon as he saw it, the desire of his life came on Pwyll to overtake it. Until dusk he had it in view; by mountain and meadow, by rushy field and ferny forest, it cantered on lordlily before him. It was well known that no four-footed creature in the Island of the Mighty, except Fflamwen Aden-Goleu the mare of Twrf Fliant, was equal in speed to Pwyll's mare Blodwen; indeed, those two were sisters, of the one sire and dam. The men of the teulu were the best riders in the world, so far as was known, and as for his hundred dogs, they were a hundred swift, unrivaled, harrying hunters. But there was no success for any of them against that stag; and that was a cause for great marveling with the chieftain. Dusk came over the trees, and a glow of gold and rose and saffron covered the western heaven; he saw the stag pass behind a shoulder of mountain, barely a bowshot in front of him. Impetuously he rode forward in pursuit; but when he came out into the valley beyond, there was no sign of it to be seen. In a little while he drew rein, finding nothing, and the dogs being at fault. He blew three resounding blasts upon his horn; but got no answer, beyond the shouting of mountain echoes.
It was on the shore of a long, dim lake he was, in a great valley; and the clear water lapping among the reeds, and on the pebbles at the mare's forehoofs. A few birds flew through the twilight, calling with shrill and mournful voices. Around him the dogs were running hither and yonder, confused, and whining uneasily; it was clear to him that neither he nor they knew the place, or had seen it before during their lives, or would know which way to take, if they desired to be returning to Llwyn Diarwyd.
While the echoes from the horn were dying away among the mountains beyond the lake, a sound came down from the hillside behind him, that seemed to be barking, but was unlike any barking he had heard until then. He turned, and suddenly the stag dashed out of the wood there, making towards the water; then, seeing him, it swerved, and ran out before him along the lake edge. He forgot everything but his desire to catch it; away with him, and the dogs in front of him, in a moment. As he rode, he heard the barking of the strange dogs; and once there came to his ears the sound of a horn unlike any hunting-horn in the Island of the Mighty; but with his haste, and his eager desire to come up with the stag, it was the same to him as if he had heard nothing.
He was nearing it now; it seemed to him that a shadowy light was playing about its proud horns and beautiful body. On his left hand was the lake, and the round, lone, boulder-strewn mountains beyond it; on his right the darkening, rushy fields rose up to the rim of the woodland. Suddenly the pack that he had heard barking poured out from among the trees there, and swept down after the stag. In the whole world there was not the like of that pack in those days; much less is there the like of it now. Clearly the dogs shone against the dusk and purple of the edge of the forest. Their bodies were wan and luminous like pearls, but whiter than any pearl in the east or west of the world. Their right ears were redder than deep roses, and sparkled and burned as if made of ruby-stuff with the moon strangely and brilliantly shining through it. As for their barking, there was a wild music and sorrow in it; never had a sound so mournful been heard in the three Islands of the Mighty.
Before they could reach the stag, Pwyll was in the midst of them, driving them back, and setting his own dogs upon it instead. It was standing at bay in the water; the Dimetian dogs not farther from it, the foremost of them, than they might have leaped; and the chieftain himself coming up as swiftly as he might. He saw its two eyes, and perceived clearly that there was no fear nor expectation of danger in them. He raised his hunting-spear, and was in the act of casting it; three of his dogs were in the act of leaping. But before the spear might be loosed from his hand, and before the dogs might leave the ground in their leaping, he heard a sound that suddenly stayed him and them: his own name called thrice from the border of the forest behind him. With that there was a shaking out of somber laughter over the water, and the stag rose up in the air, and ran shining through the dusky air, high above the lake, luminous against the far, wild, purply-darkening mountains beyond — and was lost.
Then Pwyll turned, and saw a man riding down out of the wood, whom even the blind would have known to be a mighty king. Without haste his grand, dun-colored charger bore him, splashing with its hoofs through the pool-starred, rush-grown field. Dark was the mantle blown back from his shoulders, like a storm-cloud trailed across the face of night. Set in his brooch were deeply glowing rubies and sapphires; in his hunting-cap a purple diamond, larger than a hen's egg, that burned and sparkled and twinkled through the gloom. He was stern and tall, slow of speech, and unlike any of the kings of the Island of the Mighty; for they were handsome, proud, bright-eyed, laughter-loving men, but he seemed as if great labor and sorrow were never apart from him. Yet a dignity akin to that of the Immortal Kindred was upon him, and it was to be seen that kings would obey when he commanded.
"Ha, chieftain!" he cried. "What breach of courtesy is this that you have committed?"
"The greeting of heaven and of man to you," said Pwyll. "No breach of courtesy in the world, so far as is known. Hunting my own stag have I been, in my own country."
"Hunting the stag in my country have you been," said the other; "and driving my dogs away from it."
It came into Pwyll's mind again that although he knew every field and mountain, and lake and stream, and vale and woodland within the boundaries of Dyfed, he had never seen the like of those mountains, nor heard so much as a rumor of that lake and valley until then. The place was neither in his own kingdom, nor in any known land beyond its borders.
"Ah, chieftain," said he, "a main breach of courtesy is this indeed. I will ride back quickly into Dyfed, and send what presents you may desire to requite you."
"No one that comes into this land may go out of it without doing service," said the king.
"As to that," said Pwyll, "if it please you, set a hundred well-armed men against me, in all courtesy, that I may make trial whether there is any going out of it or not. Less than fitting would it be to do otherwise. Whatever warfare I may wage against them, I will send the presents when I have come to my own court."
"Not so," said the king. "You have come to no land in the Island of the Mighty, nor in any of the four quarters of the world of men. Wherever the road may lie between this and Llwyn Diarwyd, take it you without hindrance, if there is any finding it for you."
It was clear to Pwyll that there was not; either for him or for his dogs.
"The road is lost," said he. "What land is this into which I have wandered?"
"Annwn it is, in the Underworld. Arawn, King of Annwn am I."
Pwyll knew by that that he had left the world of men, and could not come to it again by any common traveling. He knew, too, that the one he was talking with was of the Race and Kindred of the Immortals.
"I will do the service gladly," said he. "Be it what it will, it will be an honor to me to undertake it."
"It will be the killing of Hafgan the son of Hunan, whose kingdom borders on my own," said the other. "There has been no peace in Annwn since he usurped the throne of it."
"This night I will go against him," said Pwyll. "And I will let no rest come on me until this is accomplished."
"Not so," said Arawn. "Hafgan will never be killed by any one, unless he thinks it is I who am killing him. My aspect you must wear when you go against him, and my sword you must strike with, or there will be no ridding him of life."
"Lord," said Pwyll; "put you the aspect upon me, as it may be in your power to; and give me the sword, to make trial whether I can use it or not." It was known to him without receiving news of it, that few could wield such a sword as Arawn's would be.
The king drew it from its sheath; a great, burning, beautiful brand, huger than any sword in the Island of the Mighty, or in Ireland, or in the whole world, so far as was known. Pwyll took it by the hilt as Arawn held it out to him; he was a strong man, and the best of all the swordsman in Britain. But when he took that sword, it seemed to him that there was an arrogant, fierce, unsubduable spirit in it; it writhed and shook itself in his hand; a great flame and shouting broke from it; fiercely it struggled and tore itself away from him; and in a moment had returned of its own will to its sheath.
"No one could wield it, until he had been reigning in Annwn for at least a year and a day," said the king. "No one would be able to obtain success against Hafgan until after that time. And he would not obtain it either, if, on the field of conflict, he granted any request that Hafgan might make of him after the first blow was struck."
"Nothing will be granted him," said Pwyll. "If it please you to tell me, what will follow the killing of this man?"
"The best advantage in the world to the one that shall have killed him," said Arawn. "Whoever may obtain success in this will become one with the Immortal Kindred; first or last, he will become one with them. He will have a wife from the Country of the Immortals, and the Hill of the Immortals will be revealed for him."
While the king was speaking, a mist and a wild music were rising over the valley; and lake and woods and hills, and even Arawn himself, grew dimmer and dimmer before Pwyll's vision, beyond the dimness of the falling of night. Shadowy, opal-colored multitudes stole forth from the mists and mountains, moving and waving in their vague dances. He dismounted from white Blodwen, and went half dreaming towards the dun-colored charger. The dancers ebbed and flowed around him, filling the valley with the sound of their harps. At first they were faint and dim, far and stately; they might have been the forms of the hills and trees, flowing forth and rippling about the rim of the world. Their motion became faster; they drew nearer to him, taking on luminous, delicate forms, and the colors of all jewels; he could feel the cool, slumber-laden breezes from their waving arms on his face and in his hair; he could feel them drenching him with dews of peace and sleep and oblivion. A quiet rhythm of singing drifted from them; a whirl and wandering of music from their twinkling fingers on the strings. The sound lapped like calm lake water about his mind, until vision and memory faded from him, and he was unaware of the world and the sky.
Then the King of Annwn mounted Blodwen, and called Pwyll's dogs, and rode off to Dyfed by a little secret way across the mountains. There it is said that he reigned for a year and a day in the palace of Arberth, and none of the Dimetians ever so much as dreaming he was not their rightful lord. But as for Pwyll, a marvelous change came upon him. Instead of the blue cloak he had been wearing, it was the dark mantle of Arawn that was on him; for white Blodwen, and her splendid saddle, and her four-cornered saddle-cloth of purple with an apple of gold at each corner, he had the gemless saddle and the great, dun-colored charger. His face changed, and became dark and stern and brown-bearded; and his mien changed, and his carriage and bearing and stature; so that no one would have known it was Pwyll he was, and not Arawn. Then the dream-weaving multitude left him, and he awoke.
III. THE SLAYING OF HAFGAN
The last gleam of the sun had waned out of the west by that time. The moon shone pale yellow, like the primrose, on the lake and in the sky, and the stars were out in their billions; beyond a little splash and rippling from the leaping of fish, there would hardly be a sound in the whole valley. Unfamiliar now, to the chieftain, was the name of Pwyll; unfamiliar was Dyfed, and the whole of his kinghood there. Without hesitancy he rode forward towards the palace of Arawn, and took his place on the throne at the feast, as if he had never dwelt elsewhere during his whole life.
He reigned there for a year and a day without song, without story-telling, without the sound of harping or laughter. They say that Annwn would be a good country enough, if the sun shone there, or if the sea-wind blew in from the southwest, or if rain fell at any time on the hills. But the sunlight reaches no farther than to its borders; beyond them, it is not known if flowers bloom or birds sing. There are light and darkness there; but no blueness in the sky by day, or beauty of starlight at night-time. During the whole year, he was without delight or glory. No one knew that he was not Arawn; least of all did he know it himself. The people were fierce and silent and sullen, without any of the ardor and warlike gaiety natural to the Cymry at that time; small the pleasure or satisfaction of governing them. . . .
When the year and the day had passed, the great chieftains of Annwn came to him. "Lord," said they, "the truce is at an end." "Yes," said he; "we will go forward against Hafgan." The next day he led forth his teulu into the sunshine on the borders of Annwn, and camped by the ford in the river that flowed between Hafgan's kingdom and Arawn's.
The river was broad and shallow at that place, and singing over innumerable stones; and with many alders on either bank, and great oak-trees beyond the alders. The road ran down through the river between the trees; the sunlight dappled the shallow water there, gleaming down on it through the leafage. The two armies were on the plain facing each other, one on this side of the ford, one on that.
It came into the minds of the men of Hafgan's teulu at that time that it would be better for their lord and Arawn to fight alone, body against body; and whoso might be the winner, he should be the king. They had no quarrel, themselves, against Arawn or his men. They sent an embassy to the man that seemed to be Arawn with the message; it appeared to him, too, that there would be no better means for ending the warfare. As for his princes, they were willing to be ruled by him; although it was taking the whole of their pleasure out of the day.
At noon, therefore, he put the golden breastplate of the sovereignty of Annwn on his breast (it was adorned with magical designs, and with inscriptions in the coelbren character, of high potency and significance). He set the shield of Arawn on his left arm (it was of hide that had been steeped, for the sake of strength, in magical waters for a hundred years, and studded over firmly with nails of the burnished bronze of Annwn). He took Arawn's spear in his right hand (it was a keen, swift and peerless piercer). On his head he set Arawn's helmet (its two wings were the wings of an eagle; although dinted and without brightness, no defense could be better where there might be neither boasting nor cowardice). He hung the sheathed sword at his side, and went forward with his princes; they rode into the daylight on the borders of Annwn. The sun gleamed on the gold of the breastplate, and on the purple beauty of the diamond in the helm, and on the sunbright silk of his mantle, that was of the color of the softest moss on the floor of the forest. Never had they seen their king more regal of mien or proud and handsome of aspect than then.
A wonder of strange thinking drifted into his mind as he rode forward. Far and wandering music was made known to him, and a song more marvelous than any one in Annwn could sing; it grew stronger and nearer and sweeter, mingling with the sunlight and triumphing on the wind. It filled him, heart and mind and imagination, with beautiful, mysterious and heroic things: things half forgotten, such as it would be a glory to remember; as if one should know that there were favorable deities considering one from beyond the near mountains, who, waiting for their time, will make no sign now, nor stretch forth any hand; but will yet presently break forth upon the twilight gleaming.
Hafgan and his men were waiting on their side of the river; he and Pwyll would fight in the middle of the ford, with the shallow water playing about their feet. They strode forward into the stream; the one from this side, the other from that. Hafgan lifted his long spear, and hurled it out vigorously at the one that seemed to be Arawn. It flew hissing over Pwyll's shoulder, within a little of his right ear, and was driven into the bank a yard deep, quivering, harming nothing. Then the spear of Arawn leaped forth, trembling through its long length, raising up song, delighting in the free air and the sunlight and the battle. Easily it pierced through the ruby in the helmet of Hafgan, and smote the helmet itself from his head, so that it fell down and rolled in the water, and whatever witchcraft might have been in it, was lost. "Lord," said Pwyll, "reset it in its place, if it please you, before there shall come to be strife and violence between us."
With the whizzing of the two spears, the music he had been hearing — and it all intermingled with the rustling murmur of the young leaves on the alders, and the whisper in the swaying of the oak boughs, and the rippling of the water over the stones — became articulate and crowded with mysterious meanings; clearly he heard vocal song blown in upon him with the wind and drifting down with the water. Here now is the form that it took:
Was there never whisper wandered
through your quiet hours and dreaming
Of a land all lovely seeming
with the wild white rose a-bloom,
And the harebells bending heavy
when the dews of June are gleaming,
In the foxglove fields of Cemais,
where the white waves boom?
Came there ne'er at noon or night-time
any wonder-rumor winging,
How the southwest wind is singing
over woodlands wrapt in dream,
When the moon is o'er the mountains,
and the fairy-folk go flinging
Their wandering incantations
down the dim-foamed stream?
It's from Teifi side to Tywi side
the hills are filled with yearning
For their chieftain's swift returning
from the sun-forgotten strand;
And the light about the High Crown
in the King's town unburning
Till you turn, Pwyll Pen Annwn,
to your own loved land.
There came back into his mind the wild, lone valley and the lake, and the dimly twinkling feet and waving arms of them that wove sleep and oblivion for him with their dancing; and the stag he had pursued since the dawn of morning, a year and a day since, through lands more beautiful than any in Annwn. He remembered the Island of the Mighty, and the proud, heroic race that held it; faintly, indeed, he remembered them as yet; like one who has not wholly shaken himself free from a dream.
Hafgan stooped and picked up the helmet, and reset it on his head; then they met in the midst of the ford. With the first onrush of the one that was against him, there came into Pwyll's memory the Warshout of the Golden Dragon, the regal, loud, menacing, Warshout of the Island of the Mighty; and he raised it so that it could be heard from one end of Annwn to the other. Fierce, resolute and cunning was the attack of Hafgan, but all his blows fell harmless on Arawn's shield. He was not one that could gain success against a king from the Island of the Mighty with the Dragon Shout upon his lips.
Then Pwyll let the sword have its will. Eager it was for the sunlight, and for the conflict, and for the striking of great, griding blows, and for the opposition of strong, well-worn shield and helmet. Not untame, not disobedient it was, to the desires he framed in his heart. High in the air it flashed in his hand; keen and dazzling was its sweeping fall. Whatever weapons Hafgan opposed to it, they were torn and crumpled and withered, they were smitten through and utterly brought to ruin. His shield was no better than a sere leaf; his sword no stronger than an elm twig in autumn; it flew from the hand of Hafgan, this half and that half divided lengthwise, and splashed in two deep pools far below them among the alders. At the same blow the son of Hunan fell. Then Pwyll knew clearly the whole fate that had fallen upon him. He remembered the rain-swept, green, beautiful ways of the Island of the Mighty, and the councils in the palace of the Crowned King in London; most of all he remembered his dear and native town, lime-washed Arberth in Dyfed, and all his state and kinghood there, and his warlike, dear and eager companions the Dimetians.
"Ha, chieftain," said Hafgan, "finish the work that you have begun. It would be ill to leave me between death and life."
But Pwyll remembered the warning of Arawn. "Not so," said he, "the one blow was enough; it would be an insult to the sword to think otherwise. Go you, if it please you, without my troubling your going."
"Strike in the name of heaven and man, unless you desire that I should recover."
"I desire it not; and therefore have I sheathed the sword."
"Evil fall upon the sword and the one that wielded it. Hereafter I shall come by no new body, on account of this." With that it was as if he were changed into a light wisp of cloud above the water; a wind came, and away with the cloud; and it is not known whether there was any new life or being for him from that out.
Never a rumor of him was heard in Annwn, after; much less in the Island of the Mighty.
As for Pwyll, no sooner was Hafgan dead, than his own form and aspect came on him again; and there was Arawn on the bank waiting to greet him, leading Blodwen by the bridle.
"Go forward," said Arawn; "you shall not come to Arberth without meeting the reward of this."
"What reward will it be, if it please you to give me news of it?" said Pwyll.
"The Making Known to you of the Hill of the Immortals, and the Seeing a Marvel from the head of it," said the other.
Therewith Pwyll went forward, and the way was clear for him as far as Llwyn Diarwyd in Dyfed; there he came upon the men of his teulu, hunting, where Arawn had left them in the morning. It was a main marvel to them when he gave them the news of Annwn, and who it was that had been reigning in Dyfed during the year that had passed.
He had the name of Pwyll Pen Annwn from that out, beyond his old one of Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed. It is because it relates how he came by that new title, that this Bringing-in of the Story is called The Sovereignty of Annwn. It ends with his meeting his companions in Llwyn Diarwyd, and his setting forth with them to journey towards Arberth, which was his chief court at that time.
The Story of Pwyll and Rhianon