This was when Pierced Thighs said, “hey you Irish jerks, I’ma take you all out!” I don’t know who Pierced Thighs was, maybe it was a nickname for Bran who gets his thighs pierced in a bit? Regardless, that battle-cry started a huge dust-up between Mallolwch’s people on one side and Bran’s people on the other.
Though the Irish spent the last couple entries quaking in their green-tinted buckle leprechaun-shoes, they actually had a substantial advantage over the Welsh in this fight. I mean, yes, the Welsh were a band of heroes led by an actual giant, and this is a Welsh story so we’ve to suspect the narrator has picked a side. But! The Irish had the Black Cauldron. All the Irish dead got tossed into the cauldron and lickety-boom they were up and raring to go again, good as new except for being mute. The Mabinogion reminds us that for the Black Cauldron to resurrect somebody they had to cook in it overnight, and that rule remained in place here, so I guess this was a battle that went on for days and days.
Evnissyen, the psychotic jackass who started this whole conflict by mutilating a bunch of Irish horses for no reason, and who later murdered his own nephew the newly-coronated king of Ireland, saw this happening. He realized that with an effectively limitless supply of soldiers, the Irish were eventually going to win the day.
“I can’t help but feel partially responsible,” he observed, and embarked on a secret mission.
Secret mission task one: disguise himself as an Irishman.
Secret mission task two: sneak across the no man’s land to the Irish back ranks.
Secret mission task three: climb aboard the big pile of corpses that the Irish were loading into the Black Cauldron.
“What the hell? I mean, uh, ‘faith and begorrah!'” Evnissyen boomed in an unconvincing brogue.
The Irishmen tasked with loading the cauldron were, for some reason, not wearing pants. Bare bottoms! No pants! Breech-free! I don’t get it either.
Regardless, they assumed that Evnissyen was an Irish corpse, one of many, and loaded him in the cauldron along with a bunch of other bodies. Once inside the cauldron, which did not magically shatter as soon as a living body was placed within it (thanks for nothing, Chronicles of Prydain), Evinessyen stretched and flexed and pressed against the cauldron’s iron walls! And he broke that cauldron open! Cracked it like an egg! Died in the process, too. I guess that makes him a hero, but man, what a murderous jackass of a regicide.
With the cauldron broken, so too was broken the Irish fighting spirit, and the Welsh won the field. It was a marginal victory on points, though, because the Welsh were down to seven guys by the end of the fight. Eight, counting Bran, but he was dying.
THE SEVEN WHO ESCAPED:
Pryderi, aka Gweri, the son of Rhiannon and Pwyll who was shoehorned in at the end of the previous tale
Manawydan, Bran’s brother and heir apparent
Glinyeu, Taran’s son (different Taran, I assume)
Talyessin who has a whole other story that I don’t even know if it’s in the Mabinogion
Ynawg, whose name looks like a typographical error
Gruddyeu son of Muryel about whom there is nothing interesting at all
Heilyn the Not-So-Old, son of Gwynn the Old
I’ve got to give the Mabinogion credit: that is in fact seven guys. We were told seven, we got seven. Sir Thomas Malory could take a lesson or two from the Mabinogion, plainly. Oh, except Branwen was also there, but maybe she doesn’t count because she’s a woman.
NEXT: THE STARTLING CONCLUSION!