The Tale of Culhwch and Olwen
Culhwch and Olwen
The Catalog of Arthur's Companions
The Quest for Olwen
The Expeditions of Arthur's Men: Wrnach's Sword
The Oldest Animals and the Freeing of Mabon
Dillus the Bearded and Other Quests
The Hunting of Twrch Trwyth
The Witch's Blood
The Winning of Olwen

Culhwch and Olwen

    Cilydd son of Lord Celyddon wanted a wife as noble as himself. The wife he chose was Goleuddydd daughter of Lord Anlawdd. After he lodged with her, the country went to prayers that they might have an heir. And through the prayers of the country, they had a son. And from the hour that she became pregnant, she went mad and would not approach any dwelling-place. When her time came, her right mind came to her. It came in a place where a swineherd was keeping a heard of pigs. And from fear of pigs the queen gave birth. And the swineherd took the boy and came to the court. And the boy was baptized, and the name Culhwch was given hi because he was born in a pig-run. But the boy was noble; he was first cousin to Arthur; and he was entrusted to the care of foster parents.

    And after that the boy’s mother, Goleuddydd daughter of Lord Anlawdd, became sick. She called her husband to her and said, "I shall die of this sickness, and you will want another wife. Nowadays wives are the bestowers of gifts. But it is bad for you to deprive your son. So I beg you not to choose a wife until you see a briar with two heads upon my grave.

    He promised her that. She summoned her counselor to her and asked him to strip the grave every year so that nothing would grow on it. The queen died. Then the king sent a servant every morning to see whether anything was growing on the grave. After seven years the counselor forgot to do what he had promised the queen. One day when hunting the king came to the cemetery; he wanted to see the grave that might permit him to marry. And he saw the briar.

    When he saw it, the king went to be advised where he could find a wife. One of his advisers said, "I know a woman well suited for you to marry. She is the wife of King Doged." They agreed to go seek her. And they killed the king and carried his wife home with them, and an only daughter she had with her. And they conquered that king’s land.

    One day the good woman went out for a walk and came to the house of the old hag in the town who had no teeth in her head. The queen said, "Old woman, tell me what I shall ask you for God’s sake. Where are the children of the man who took possession of me by violence?" The hag answered, "He has no children." The queen said, "A sad thing for me, to come to a childless man." The hag said, "There is no need to be said. It is prophesied he will have an heir, and by you, since he has not had one by another woman. Besides, do not be sorrowful, he has one son."

    The good woman went home happy. And she asked her husband, "What reason did you have to hid your children from me?" The kings said, "I will not hide him." They sent messengers for the boy, and he came to the court. His stepmother said to him, "It would be good for you to marry son, and I have a daughter fit for any nobleman in the world." The boy responded, "I am not yet old enough to marry." She said, "I shall lay a destiny on you that your side will not strike a woman until you win Olwen daughter of Ysbaddaden Chief Giant."

    The boy blushed, and love of the girl entered all his limbs, though he had not yet seen her. His father said to him, "Ho, my son, why are you reddening? What’s the matter with you?"

    "My stepmother has sworn that I shall not have a wife until I take Olwen daughter of Ysbaddaden Chief Giant."

    "It is easy for you to do that son," his father said to him. "Arthur is your first cousin. Go to Arthur so that he can trim your hair, and ask that of him as a gift for you."

        The boy went off on a steed with a dapple-gray head. It was four winters old, firm-jointed and shell-hoofed, with a bridle of tubular gold in its mouth. A costly gold saddle was under the boy, and two sharpened silver spurs in his hand. A battle-ax was in his hand, from ridge to edge as long as a grown man’s forearm. It would draw blood from the wind; it would be swifter than the swiftest dew from the stalk to the ground, when the dew is heaviest in June. A sword with a golden hilt was on his thigh, and its blade was gold. And on him a shield of braided gold having the color of the lightening of heaven in it and an ivory boss. And two greyhounds white of breast dappled, were in front of him, with a collar of red gold about the neck of each one, from the swell of the shoulder to the ear. The one that was on the left side would be on the right, and the one that was on the right side would be on the left, like two sea-swallows playing around him. The four hooves of the steed cut four divots, like four swallows in the air over him, now above him, now under him. A four-cornered purple mantle was on him, with an apple of red gold at each corner, each apple was worth a hundred cattle. There was precious gold worth three hundred cattle in his footgear of shoes and stirrups, from the top of his thigh to the end of his toe. Not a strand of hair on him out of place, so light was the steed’s pace under him, heading for the gate of Arthur’s court.

        The youth said, "Is there a gatekeeper?"

        "There is. And for you, you may lose your head because you ask. I am gatekeeper for Arthur every first day of January. But my deputies for the rest of the year are none other than Huandaw and Gogigwr and Llaesgymyn and Penpingion, who goes on his head to spare his feet, neither heavenward nor earthward, but like rolling stone on the floor of the court.

        "Open the gate."

        "I will not."

        "Why won’t you open it?"

        "Knife has gone into meat and drink into the drinking horn, and there is a thronging in Arthur’s hall. No one may enter but the son of a king of legitimate rule or a craftsman who brings his craft. There is mash for your dogs and grain for your horse and hot hearty chops for you, with wine overflowing and delightful songs before you. Food for fifty men awaits you in the guest house; men from afar eat there, and the sons of foreign lands who offer no craft in Arthur’s court. A woman to sleep with you and delightful songs before your two knees. Tomorrow at midmorning, when the gate is opened for the throng that came here today, the gate will be opened for you first, and you will sit in Arthur’s hall wherever you choose, from its upper end to its lower end."

        The youth said, "I will do none of that. If you open the door, it is well. If you do not open it, I will bring shame on your lord and slander on you. And I shall raise three shouts at the door of this gate that will be as loud at the top of Pengwaedd in Cornwall as in the depths Dinsol in the North and in Esgeir Oerfel in Ireland. And every pregnant woman in this court will miscarry, and for those who are not pregnant, their wombs will become an affliction so that they will never be pregnant from this day on."

        "Glewlwyd Mighty-grip answered, "Whatever you may shout regarding the laws of Arthur’s court, you will not be let in till I speak to Arthur first."

        And Glewlwyd came into the hall. Arthur said to him, "Have you news from the gate?"

        "I do. Two-thirds of my life are past, and two-thirds of yours. I was once in Fort Se and Asse, in Sach and Salach, in Lotor and Ffotor. I was once in India the Great and India the Less. I was once in the battle of the two Ynyrs, when the twelve hostages were brought from Llychlyn. And I was once in Europe. I was in Africa, and in the islands of Corsica, and Fort Brythwch and Brythach and Nerthach. I was there when you slew the band of Gleis son of Merin, when you slew Black Mil son of Dugum. I was there when you conquered Greece in the East. I was once in Fort Oeth and Anoeth and Fort Nefenhyr. Nine fair generous rulers we saw there. But I never saw a man so handsome as the one who is now at the door of the gate."

        Arthur said, "If you came in walking, go out running. And whoever looks at the light and shuts his eyes, an injunction on him. Let some serve with golden drinking horns and some with hot hearty chops, till there is enough food and drink for him. It’s a disgrace to leave in wing and rain such a man as you speak of."

        Kei said, "By the hand of my friend, if my counsel were taken, the laws of the court would not be broken for him."

        "Not so, good Kei. We are noblemen so long as we are sought after. The greater the reward we give, the greater will be our nobility and our praise and our glory."

        And Glewlwyd came to the gate and opened the gate to Culhwch. And Culhwch did not dismount at the gate on the mounting block, as everyone did, but came inside on his steed. Culhwch said, "Hail, chief prince of this island! Greetings to the lower end of this house no less than on the upper! Greetings equally to your lords and your men and your warriors. May none be without share of the greeting I give you. May your grace be as full as my greeting, and your faith, and your glory in this island!"

        "By God’s truth, so be it, chieftain! Greetings to you as well! Sit between two of the warriors, with delightful song before you, and the privilege of an heir upon you, a successor to a kingdom, as long as you are here. And when I distribute my goods to guests and men from afar it shall be with our hand that I shall begin in this court."

        The youth said, "Id did not come here to seek food and drink. But if I get my gift, I shall recompense for it and praise it. If I do not get it, I shall deprive you of your renown as far as your fame has reached to the four quarters of the world."

        Arthur said, "Though you do not dwell here, chieftain, you shall have the gift your mouth and tongue may name, as far as the wind dries, as far as the rain wets, as far as the sun runs, as far as the sea spreads, as far as there is earth—except for my ship and my mantle, and Caledfwlch [Hard Breach] my sword, and Rhongomyniad [Lance Hewer] my spear, and Wynebgwrthucher [Face of Evening] my shield, and Carwennan [Bright Hilt] my knife, and Gwenhwyfar [Guinevere] my wife."

        "God’s truth in that?"

        "You shall have it gladly. Name what you will."

        "I will. I want my hair trimmed."

        "You shall have that." Arthur took a golden comb and scissors with silver handles and he combed his hair. And he asked who he was; Arthur said, "My heart grows tender towards you. I know you come of my blood. Say who you are."

        "I shall: Culwch son of Cilydd son of Lord Celyddon, by Goleuddydd daughter of Lord Anlawdd, my mother."

        Arthur said, "It is true: you are a first cousin to me. Name what you will and you shall have it, whatever your mouth and tongue may name."

        "God’s truth to me on that? And the truth of your kingdom?"
"You shall have it gladly."

        "I ask you to get me Olwen daughter of Ysbaddaden Chief Giant. And I call upon your warriors to confirm this."

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