The Freedom in Education Story Newsletter 5
This is the third instalment of Culhuch and Olwen. At the beginning of the story is a list of all the marvels which the heroes have to obtain.
The Twenty-Two Marvels to be Obtained by Culhuch for Yspathaden, Chief Giant
- Nine hestors of flax seed.
- The cauldron of Diwrnach the Irishman, to boil meat for the guests at Culhuch and Olwen’s wedding.
- The tusk of Ysgithyrwyn Chief Boar, to be given to the Giant to shave himself. It would only be effective if plucked from the boar while alive.
- Odgar, son of Aeth, King of Ireland. None could pluck the horn from the Chief Boar save he.
- Prydein. The tusk had to be entrusted to Prydein, evne though he would not leave his kingdom, nor could he be compelled to do so.
- The blood of the Black Witch. Yspathaden, Chief Giant, had to use this to dress his beard before it was shaved.
- The comb and shears that lay between the ears of Turch Truith. No other comb or shears could be used to dress Yspathaden’s hair, for it was exceedingly stiff.
- The whelp, Druidwyn, for the hunting of Turch Truith.
- The leash of Cors Hunched-Claws, with which to hold the whelp, Drudwyn.
- The chain of Cilyth Hunched-Holds, with which to hold the collar onto the leash.
- Mabon, son of Modred. He alone could act as huntsman for the hound. However, was stolen from his mother at birth, and none knew his whereabouts.
- Eidoel, son of Aer. He was first cousin to Mabon, and had to assist in the search for him.
- Garselit, chief huntsman of Ireland, for the hunting of Turch Truith.
- The two whelps of the bitch Rhymhi.
- A leash made from the beard of Dillus the Bearded, with which to hold the two whelps. It had to be plucked out with wooden tweezers.
- Cynedyn the Wild. No huntsman save he could hold those two whelps.
- Gwyn, son of Nuth, to hunt Turch Truith.
- The steed Du, to be ridden by Gwyn, son of Nuth, in the hunt for Turch Truith.
- Gwilenhin, King of France, to hunt for Turch Truith.
- The son of Alun Dyved. He would assist in the hunt for Turch Truith.
- Arthur and his huntsman, for hunt for Turch Truith.
- The sword of Wrnach the Giant.
Culhuch and his companions left the giant’s fort, and they journeyed on until evening. As darkness began to fall they saw before them a great fort of mortared stone. A man came out from the fort, and he was taller than three of the men of this world.
“Where do you come from, fellow?” they asked him.
“From that fort you see yonder.”
“Whose fort is that?” they asked.
“Why, fools that you are, there is none in the world who does not know that. It belongs to Wrnach the Giant.”
“What welcome will a traveller receive at the fort?”
“Ah, God protect you!” said the man. “No guest has ever left there with his life. None is permitted to enter, save he who brings his craft.”
They made their way to the entrance, and Gwrhyr, Interpreter of Tongues, asked the porter to open the gate.
“Nay, I will not,” said the man. “Knife has gone into meat, and drink into horn in Wrnach’s hall. Unless you are craftsmen bringing your craft, the gate will not be opened again tonight.”
“Porter,” said Cei, “I have a craft. I am the best furbisher of swords in the world.”
The porter bade him wait while he went and carried his answer to Wrnach the Giant. He entered the hall, where Wrnach and his warriors were feasting, and the giant asked him for the news from the gate.
“There is a company at the gate who wish to enter,” said the porter.
“Have they a craft with them?” asked Wrnach the Giant.
“Yes, one of them declared he was a furbisher of swords.”
“I have need of such a man,” said Wrnach the Giant. “For some time I have been seeking one to polish my sword. Let that man in, since he has a craft.”
The porter went and opened the gate, and Cei was admitted into the fort. He greeted Wrnach, and the sword was brought to him.
Cei took a striped whetstone from under his arm, and when the blade had been polished he gave the sword into the hand of Wrnach the Giant.
“The work is good, and I am content with it,” said Wrnach.
“It is your scabbard that damaged the sword,” said Cei. “Give it to me to take out the wooden side pieces and make new ones for it.”
He took the scabbard in one hand, and the sword in the other, and came and stood over the giant, as if to put the sword back in the scabbard. However, he sank the sword into the Giant’s heart, and he and his companions laid waste the fort, and carried away Wrnach the Giant’s sword with them. They journeyed onwards and to the very day at the end of the year, they came to Arthur’s court.
They told Arthur how they had fared, and Arthur asked which of the marvels should be sought first.
“It would be best to seek Mabon, son of Modron,” they said. “However, we will not be able to find him until we find his kinsman, Eidoel son of Aer.”
So Arthur and the warriors of the Island of Britain set forth to seek for Eidoel. They came to the walls of Glini’s fort, where Eiodel was held prisoner and Glini came onto the ramparts to speak with them.
“Arthur, what do you want of me, since you will not leave me alone on this crag?” he called down. “I have no good or pleasure in here, nor have I oats, or wheat, and I have no need of you too, seeking to do me harm.”
“I have not come to harm you,” said Arthur. “I have come to seek out a prisoner that is with you.”
“I will deliver up the prisoner,” said Glini, “although I had not intended to give him up to anyone. Besides this, you shall have my aid and backing.”
After the prisoner was released, the warriors entreated Arthur to return home, and let them continue on alone.
“For it is not seemly for you to concern yourself with matters as petty as these,” they said.
“Gwrhyr, Interpreter of Tongues, it is right for you to go on this quest,” said Arthur. “You can speak all languages, and you can speak with some of the birds and beasts. Eiodel, it is right for you to go along with my men to seek for Mabon, son of Modron, for he is your first cousin. Cei and Bedwyr, I have hope that whatever you go to seek you will obtain. Go then in my place upon this quest.
They journeyed on together until they came to the Ouzel of Cilgwri.
“For God’s sake,” Gwrhyr, Interpreter of Tongues, asked her, “do you know anything of Mabon, son of Modron. He was taken away from his mother when he was only three days old, and none knows his whereabouts.
The Ouzel said: “When first I came here there was a smith’s anvil, and I was a young bird. No work has been done on that anvil save when my beak was upon it every evening. Today it has all worn away, but in all that time I have never heard anything of the man you seek.
“However, I will do whatever is right for me to do for Arthur’s messengers. There is another creature that God made before me, and perhaps he will have heard of the man you seek. I will guide you to where he dwells.”
They came to the place where the Stag of Rhedynvre was.
“Stag of Rhedynvre,” they said. “We are Arthur’s messengers, and we have come to you, as we know no animal older than you. Tell us, do you know anything of Mabon, son of Modron, who was taken away from his mother when he was three nights old?”
“When first I came here, there was but one prong on either side of my head,” said the stag. “There were no trees here save a single oak sapling, and that grew into a tree with a hundred branches. Then the oak fell, and today all that remains is a red stump. From that day to this, I have been here, but I have heard nothing of the man you seek. Nevertheless, I will be your guide, since you are Arthur’s messengers, to the place where there is an animal that God made before me.”
They came to the place where the Owl of Cum Caulwyd was.
“Owl of Cum Caulwyd,” said the Stag, “here are Arthur’s messengers. Do you know anything of Mabon, son of Modron, who was taken away from his mother when three nights old?”
“If I knew it, I would tell it,” said the Owl. “When first I came here, the great valley that you see was a wooded glen, and a race of men came and laid it to waste. A second wood grew up there, and this wood is the third. As for me, why the roots of my wings are mere stumps. From that day to this I have heard nothing of the man you seek. Nevertheless, I will be a guide to Arthur’s messengers until you come to the place where dwells the oldest creature in this world. He has also fared furthest afield, and he is the Eagle of Gwernabwy.”
They travelled onwards until they reached that place, and Gwrhyr said: “Eagle of Gwernabwy, we are Arthur’s messengers, and we have come to you to ask if you know anything of Mabon, son of Modron, who was taken away from his mother when he was three nights old.”
“I came here a long time ago,” said the Eagle. “When I arrived I had a stone and from its top I pecked each evening at the stars. Now it is not a hand-breadth in height. From that day to this I have been here, but I have heard nothing of him you seek. However, once I flew as far as Lyn Llyw to seek my food, and when I came there I sank my claws into a salmon. He drew me down into the depths, and it was with difficulty that I managed to get away from him. My whole kindred and I went after him to destroy him, but he sent messengers to me to make peace, and came to me in person to have fifty tridents taken out of his back.
Unless he knows something of the man of whom you speak, I do not know who will. I will be your guide to the place where he is.”
They came to that place, and the Eagle said: “Salmon of Llyn Llyw, I have come to you with Arthur’s messengers, to ask whether you know anything of Mabon, son of Modron, who was taken away from his mother when three nights old.”
“I will tell all that I know,” said the Salmon. “With every tide I go up the river till I come to the bend of the wall of Caer Loyw. There I have found such distress that in all my life I never found its equal. That you may see it for yourselves, let two of you come here on my shoulders.”
Cei and Gwrhryr, Interpreter of Tongues, stood upon the Salmon’s two shoulders, and they journeyed until they came to the far side of the wall from the prisoner in distress. They could hear wailing and lamenting within, and Gwrhryr, called out “What man laments in this house of stone?”
“Alas, Mabon, son of Modron, is here in prison, and none was ever so cruelly imprisoned as I. Neither the imprisonment of Lludd Silver-Hand, or the imprisonment of Greid, son of Eri, was so cruel.”
“Is it gold, silver, or worldly wealth that shall win your freedom?” they asked, “or is it by battle or fighting?”
“What can be won, must be done by fighting.”
They left that place and came to where Arthur was. They told him where Mabon, son of Modron, was in prison, and Arthur summoned the warriors of this island, and went to Caer Loyw, where Mabon was imprisoned. Cei and Bedwyr went upon the fish’s two shoulders. While Arthur’s warriors assaulted the fort, Cei broke through the wall and took the prisoner on his back. He fought off the men that were attacking him and carried the prisoner out to Arthur and his warriors.
They returned to Arthur’s court, and Mabon went with them, a free man.
“Which of the marvels is it now best for us to seek?” asked Arthur.
“It is best to seek for the two whelps of the bitch called Rhymhi.”
“Is it known where she is?” asked Arthur.
“She is at Aber Den Clethyf,” one replied.
Arthur came to the house of Tringad in Aber Clethyf, and asked him: “Have you heard of the bitch, Rhymhi? In what shape is she?”
“In the shape of a she wolf,” said the man. “And she goes about with two whelps. She has often slain my beasts, and she dwells close to the sea in a cave.”
Arthur went to sea in his ship, and the others went by land to hunt the bitch, and thus they surrounded her and her two whelps. God changed them back into their own form for Arthur, and with these two whelps, they returned homewards.
* * * * * * * * *
One day Gwythyr, son of Greidawl, was journeying over a mountain when he heard a horrible sound of wailing and lamenting. He sprang forward towards the noise, and when he drew near he saw an ant hill, the upper part of which was on fire. He drew his sword and smote it off level with the ground. The ants were thus saved, and they came out to thank the warrior.
“Take God’s blessing and ours,” they said. “You have saved us, and that which no man can recover, we will come and recover for you.”
Later, it was these ants who brought in the nine hesters of flax seed which Yspathaden Chief Giant had named to Culhuch. Not a grain was wanting, save for a single seed, but the lame ant brought that in before nightfall.
Next instalment: The Hunt for the Swine Turch Truith, part 2