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Welsh Fairy Tales

Not far from the castle where King Powell had his court, there was a
hillock called the Mount of Macbeth. It was the common belief that
some strange adventure would befall anyone who should sit upon that

He would receive blows, or wounds, or else he would see something

Thus it came to pass, that none but peaceful bards had ever sat upon
the mound. Never a warrior or a common man had risked sitting there.
The general fear felt, and the awe inspired by the place, was too

But after his adventure of being King of Fairy Land for a whole year,
everything else to Powell seemed dull and commonplace. So, to test his
own courage, and worthiness of kingship, Powell assembled all his
lords at Narberth.

After the night's feasting, revelry and story telling, Powell declared
that, next day, he would sit upon the enchanted mound.

So when the sun was fully risen, Powell took his seat upon the mound,
expecting that, all of a sudden, something unusual would happen.

For some minutes nothing, whether event or vision, took place. Then he
lifted up his eyes and saw approaching him a white horse on which rode
a lady. She was dressed in shining garments, as if made of gold.
Evidently she was a princess. Yet she came not very near.

"Does anyone among you know who this lady is?" asked Powell of his

"Not one of us," was the answer.

Thereupon Powell ordered his vassals to ride forward. They were to
greet her courteously, and inquire who she was.

But now the predicted wonder took place. She moved away from them, yet
at a quiet pace that suited her. Though the knights spurred their
horses, and rode fast and furiously, they could not come any nearer to

They galloped back, and reported their failure to reach the lady.

Then Powell picked out others and sent them riding after the lady, but
each time, one and all returned, chagrined with failure. A woman had
beaten them.

So the day closed with silence in the castle hall. There was no merry
making or story telling that night.

The next day, Powell sat again on the mound and once more the golden
lady came near.

This time, Powell himself left his seat on the mound, leaped on his
fleetest horse, and pursued the maiden, robed in gold, on the white

But she flitted away, as she had done before from the knights. Again
and again, though he could get nearer and nearer to her, he failed.

Then the baffled king cried out, in despair, "O maiden fair, for the
sake of him whom thou lovest, stay for me."

Evidently the lady, who lived in the time of castles and courts, did
not care to be wooed in the style of the cave men. Such manners did
not suit her, but with a change of method of making love, her heart
melted. Besides, she was a kind woman. She took pity on horses, as
well as on men.

Sweet was her voice, as she answered most graciously:

"I will stay gladly, and it were better for thy horses, hadst thou
asked me properly, long ago."

To his questions, as to how and why she came to him, she told her
story, as follows:

"I am Rhiannon, descended from the August and Venerable One of old. My
aunts and uncles tried to make me marry against my will a chieftain
named Gwawl, an auburn-haired youth, son of Clud, but, because of my
love to thee, would I have no husband, and if you reject me, I will
never marry any man."

"As Heaven is my witness, were I to choose among all the damsels and
ladies of the world, thee would I choose," cried Powell.

After that, it was agreed that, when a year had sped, Powell should go
to the Palace of the August and Venerable One of old, and claim her
for his bride.

So, when twelve months had passed, Powell with his retinue of a
hundred knights, all splendidly horsed and finely appareled, presented
himself before the castle. There he found his fair lady and a feast
already prepared at which he sat with her. On the other side of the
table, were her father and mother.

In the midst of this joyous occasion, when all was gayety, and they
talked together, in strode a youth clad in sheeny satin. He was of
noble bearing and had auburn hair. He saluted Powell and his knights

At once Powell, the lord of Narberth, invited the stranger to come and
sit down as guest beside him.

"Not so," replied the youth. "I am a suitor, and have come to crave a
boon of thee."

Without guile or suspicion, Powell replied innocently.

"Ask what you will. If in my power, it shall be yours."

But Rhiannon chided Powell. She asked, "Oh, why did you give him such
an answer?"

"But he did give it," cried the auburn haired youth. Then turning to
the whole company of nobles, he appealed to them:

"Did he not pledge his word, before you all, to give me what I asked?"

Then, turning to Powell, he said:

"The boon I ask is this, to have thy bride, Rhiannon. Further, I want
this feast and banquet to celebrate, in this place, our wedding."

At this demand, Powell seemed to have been struck dumb. He did not
speak, but Rhiannon did.

"Be silent, as long as thou wilt," she cried, "but surely no man ever
made worse use of his wits than thou hast done; for this man, to whom
thou gavest thy oath of promise, is none other than Gwawl, the son of
Clud. He is the suitor, from whom I fled to come to you, while you sat
on the Narberth mound."

Now, out of such trouble, how should the maiden, promised to two men,
be delivered?

Her wit saved her for the nonce. Powell was bound to keep his word;
but Rhiannon explained to Gwawl, that it was not his castle or hall.
So, he could not give the banquet; but, in a year from that date, if
Gwawl would come for her, she would be his bride. Then, a new bridal
feast would be set for the wedding.

In the meantime, Rhiannon planned with Powell to get out of the
trouble. For this purpose, she gave him a magical bag, which he was to
use when the right time should come.

Quickly the twelve months passed and then Gwawl appeared again, to
claim his bride, and a great feast was spread in his honor.

All were having a good time, when in the midst of their merriment, a
beggar appeared in the hall. He was in rags, and carried the usual
beggar's wallet for food or alms. He asked only that, out of the
abundance on the table, his bag might be filled.

Gwawl agreed, and ordered his servants to attend to the matter.

But the bag never got full. What they put into it, or how much made no
difference. Dish after dish was emptied. By degrees, most of the food
on the table was in the beggar's bag.

"My soul alive! Will that bag never get full?" asked Gwawl.

"No, by Heaven! Not unless some rich man shall get into it, stamp it
down with his feet, and call out 'enough.'"

Then Rhiannon, who sat beside Gwawl, urged him to attempt the task, by
putting his two feet in the bag to stamp it down.

No sooner had Gwawl done this, than the supposed beggar pushed him
down inside the bag. Then drawing the mouth shut, he tied it tight
over Gwawl's head.

Then the beggar's rags dropped, and there stood forth the handsome
leader, Powell. He blew his horn, and in rushed his knights who
overcame and bound the followers of Gwawl.

Then they proceeded to play a merry game of football, using the bag,
in which Gwawl was tied, as men in our day kick pigskin. One called to
his mate, or rival, "What's in the bag?" and others answered, "a
badger." So they played the game of "Badger in the Bag," kicking it
around the hall.

They did not let the prisoner out of the bag, until he had promised to
pay the pipers, the harpers, and the singers, who should come to the
wedding of Powell and Rhiannon. He must give up all his claims, and
register a vow never to take revenge. This oath given, and promises
made, the bag was opened and the agreements solemnly confirmed in
presence of all.

Then Gwawl, and every one of his men, knights and servants, were let
go, and they went back to their own country.

A few evenings later, in the large banqueting hall, Powell and
Rhiannon were married. Besides the great feast, presents were given to
all present, high and low. Then the happy pair made their wedding
journey to Gwawl's palace at Narberth. There the lovely bride gave a
ring, or a gem, to every lord and lady in her new realm, and everybody
was happy.