As I intimated, “Manawydan Son of Llyr” begins where “Branwen Daughter of Llyr” left off. Manawydan and his six friends stood over the grave they’d dug for Bran’s severed head, and stared out across the city of London.

“Man, this sucks,” said Manawydan after a moment. “I don’t even know anybody in London. You guys all have ancestral manses or friends or things like that. In a few minutes we’ll break up for the night, and I’m going to have to sleep in a ditch or something.”

Pryderi (son of Pwyll and Rhiannon, as described in the first story of the Mabinogion) slapped his friend on the back in reassurance. “No way, pal! I mean, is the current king of England, your cousin or uncle, technically a usurper? Yes. But are you the rightful king, what with your brother Bran having been king before you? Again, yes. But! Does any of this matter since we spent eighty-seven years at a pizza party listening to my mother’s magic birds? Maybe not!”

This is as good a time as any, apparently, to note that Manawydan was one of the Three Ungrasping Chieftans, guys renowned at the time for their disinterest in making war to seize land. The Mabinogion is full of Three Adjective Nouns. Bran’s head being buried in London and secretly protecting the island from plague: one of the Three Happy Concealments. Bran’s head later being discovered and thus the magical plague-protection being broken: one of the Three Unhappy Disclosures. Branwen’s Irish husband Mallolwch striking her, and thus inciting Bran’s invasion of Ireland: one of the Three Unhappy Blows.

“It’s true; I’m known as a peacemaker and a friend to all; I have no enemies,” Manawydan agreed. “But what am I going to do, go to Uncle Caswallawn, or maybe he’s my cousin, I don’t know, but what am I going to do, go to him hat in hand and ask for a bed for the night and a bottle of wine? I may not have a kingdom, but I have my dignity!”

Pryderi nodded. “Fair enough. Listen, you know how I inherited my father’s lands, right? My mother Rhiannon lives there still, and my wife Kigva.”

“Are you sure they’re still there? It’s been eighty-seven years.”

“I’m sure. I’m not using my father’s seven cantrevs; why don’t you become king of them? You can marry my mother!”

Manawydan shifted in his seat. “It’s not that I’m not flattered…” he began.

“What’s the problem?”

“Well, you know how you’re over a hundred years old? I have to assume your mother is past childbearing years…”

I do not imagine you have ever heard a lady talk better than she does; moreover when she was in her prime there was no lovelier woman, and even now her appearance wil not disappoint you,” insisted Pryderi. “Don’t diss my mother, man! You’re eighty-seven years older than you were at the start of the last story, too; you’re no spring chicken yourself!”

Manawydan acceded to Pryderi’s demand, and the two of them traveled to Pwyll’s old palace in Dyved. There Rhiannon and Kigva greeted them, and despite everyone being over a hundred years old (I refuse to let that plot point go) Rhiannon and Manawydan hit it off. Rhiannon was overjoyed to learn that her son had given her to Manawydan to marry (which is great, because that could have been awkward) and there was feasting and merrymaking and slightly creaky sex.


Primary Sources: the Mabinogion 13 (Manawydan, Son of Llyr) — No Comments

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