THE THIRD BRANCH

Manawydan Son of Llyr

'The Journey' by Amanda Reid

After burying Bran’s head at the White Mount, Pryderi suggests to Manawydan, Bran’s brother, that they go to Dyfed together.

 

He suggests that Manawydan marry his mother, Rhiannon, who is now widowed from Pwyll. This is decided, and Pryderi is reunited with his own wife, Cigfa.

 

The four of them spend time hunting and enjoying the beautiful lands of Dyfed.  One day, they arrive at the mound at Arberth where Pwyll first saw Rhiannon, and there they sit.

 

There is a peal of thunder, a mist and a bright light.  They notice that all signs of life are gone, no animals, dwellings or people are to be seen anywhere, only the four of them remain.  As they wander Dyfed looking for others, they find wild beasts to hunt, but no domestic animals or people.  

 

For two years they live like this, then leave Dyfed for Hereford, where Manawydan earns a living making saddles.  Manawydan’s saddles are beautifully embellished, so the other saddle-makers lose their customers and plan to slay him.  

 

The four leave the town and travel elsewhere.  They make shields next, but once again, their shields are so well decorated that the shield-makers of the town plan to slay them.  They move on and Manawydan takes to making shoes.  Once again, the shoemakers of the town plan to slay him, so the four return to Dyfed, to hunt as before.

 

One day, when Pyrderi and Manawydan are out hunting, their dogs are frightened by a shining white wild boar in a copse. They pursue the boar until it enters a fort, the dogs following.

 

After a while, seeing the dogs do not return, Pryderi suggests he goes into the fort to find the dogs. Manawydan counsels him against it, but Pryderi goes anyway.

 

Pryderi sees a fountain inside the fort, with a golden bowl held with four chains.  Pryderi touches the bowl, but his two hands are stuck fast upon it, and his feet are stuck likewise on the slab beneath him.  He finds himself unable to speak and all his strength is drained from him.

 

Manawydan waits for Pryderi and the dogs to re-appear, but at the end of the day he returns home without them.  Rhiannon asks after Pryderi, so Manawydan tells her all that happened.  Rhiannon reproaches Manawydan for leaving her son, and goes out to find him.

 

When she sees Pryderi, she also lays her hands on the golden bowl, and likewise is stuck fast.  At midnight, there is a peal of thunder and a mist descends and the fort vanishes, Pryderi and Rhiannon with it.

 

Finding themselves alone, Manawydan and Cigfa travel out of Dyfed where Manawydan takes up shoemaking again to give them a living.  For a year he does this, but then he is under threat of death from the other shoemakers once again.

 

So the pair return to Dyfed where Manawydan takes to hunting, but then begins to till and sow seeds and raise crops.  As the year turns, his wheat is ready to be harvested.  He looks upon the first of his three fields, and plans to reap it the next day, but when he arrives to do so, there is nothing left in the field but stalks, and all the ears of wheat are gone.

 

So it happens with his second field.  When it comes to the third field, he decides to watch it all night.  About midnight, a huge crowd of mice arrive, breaking off the ears on every wheat stalk until not one stalk remains.

 

In his rage, Manawydan tries to catch a mouse, but he can only catch one, a fat one that cannot run as fast as the others.

 

The next day, Manawydan takes the mouse to the mound of Arberth and erects a wooden fork upon which to hang it. 

 

He sees a clerk coming towards him, the first person other than himself and his three companions that he has encountered in Dyfed for seven years.  The clerk offers Manawydan a sum of money to prevent him from hanging the mouse, but Manawydan will not accept it. The clerk leaves.

 

As Manawydan fixes the crossbeam for the hanging, he sees a priest arriving.  The priest offers even more money to convince him to let the mouse go, but Manawydan still refuses, and the priest leaves.

 

As Manawydan ties the noose to the beam, a bishop approaches him and offers the greatest sum for him to release it.  Manawydan refuses and the bishop increases the offer to no avail.  He offers a third time, and then asks Manawydan to name his price.

 

Manawydan says he will only release the mouse if Rhiannon and Pryderi are set free and the enchantment on the Land of Dyfed is removed, which is agreed. 

 

The man tells Manawydan that he has cast the enchantment to avenge Pwyll’s insult upon Gwawl when he was put in the bag and beaten.  He explains that the mice are his war band transformed to destroy the wheat, and the fat mouse is his pregnant wife. 

 

Thus, Pryderi and Rhiannon are restored, the enchantment on the land is lifted, and the mouse is set free.