Primary Sources: the Mabinogion 20 (Math son of Mathonwy)
New story! This is the tale of Math, son of Mathonwy, and it is kind of nuts. Plus there’s some sexual assault, so, that’ll be fun I’m sure. Our story opens during Pryderi’s reign in Dyved, which I’m not sure how that fits into the timeline. As the previous tale so exhaustively described, Pryderi ceded rule of Dyved to Manawydan, as a way to make up for all the terrible stuff that had happened. But this is a new story and a different continuity maybe. Math was another minor lord, ruler of a place called Gwynedd (pronounced Gwyneth as in Paltrow) and funny story, he never went anywhere unless he could put his feet up. Specifically he had to rest his feet in the lap of a girl named Goewin, because this meant he would keep an eye on Goewin and confirm that she remained a virgin.
Look, I didn’t make this up. There was an exception for time of war, but otherwise, Math was obliged to stay on full-time virgin-watching foot duty. It interfered with his rulership of Gwynedd; he couldn’t go out and meet people. Instead he stayed home with Goewin while his two nephews Gilvaethwy and Gwydyon rode circuit on his behalf.
Gilvaethwy (whose name is pronounced just like it sounds) really wanted to sleep with Goewin, but he couldn’t chat her up on account of her uncle was always there, with his feet. This drove him to no end of distraction, and like your standard medieval romantic hero, he couldn’t eat or sleep and he began to waste away to nothing. One day after this had been going on for a while, his brother Gwydyon took him aside.
“Brother, what’s with the wan looks and the simpering and the delicate coughing up of blood and what have you?”
“Alas!” Gil pressed the back of his hand against his forehead and sighed dramatically. “I cannot tell anyone the awful truth!”
“What?” Gwydyon asked, perplexed. “Awful truth?”
“Indeed yes,” Gil said solemnly. “As you know, our uncle Math has the magical ability to hear secrets when people say them.” (For serious there’s an as-you-know-Bob piece of exposition at this point.)
Gwydyon nodded, for he knew all too well about their uncle’s magical ability to hear secrets. “I can guess your secret, if it’s one you need to keep from Math.” He traced an hourglass shape with his hands and let out a wolf-whistle. “Rhymes with Boewin, am I right?”
Gil tapped his nose in the affirmative, then let out another theatrical sigh.
“Okay, enough with the sighing. Sighing isn’t going to get her. The solution is obvious: war! I have a plan!”
Gwydon’s plan is complicated and also successful, so let’s go over it stepwise.
Step one: the brothers go to their uncle Math and describe how Pryderi, their neighbor to the south, has recently obtained a herd of magic pigs from his late father’s good friend Arawn the king of the dead and/or fairies.
Step two: obtain their uncle’s permission to go fetch some of the magic pigs, which surely Pryderi will happily surrender.
Step three: disguises! The two brothers and ten of their friends disguise themselves as bards.
Step four: visit Pryderi’s court, incognito as bards. Gwydyon demonstrates his incredible prowess at talespinning to convince everyone of the ruse.
Step five: once Gwydyon has obtained Pryderi’s trust, spring the trap and request the herd of magic pigs.
Step six: listen as Pryderi hems and haws and explains that his plan is to breed the herd of magic pigs into two herds of magic pigs, and then there’ll be plenty of pigs to give away to bards, but it’ll take a few years.
Step seven: do magic to create twelve illusory stallions, twelve illusory hunting dogs, twelve illusory saddles, twelve illusory collars, and also twelve illusory leashes. The saddes and leashes are made out of gold. Also twelve illusory golden bridles, and twelve shiny shields for good measure.
Step eight: return to Pryderi with this enchanted bounty and offer to trade it all for the pigs.
Step nine: book it the hell out of Dyved before the magic wears off and the illusory treasures and animals go back to being bits of leaves and toadstools.
Step ten: dither a bit on the way back, to give Pryderi plenty of time to pursue.
Step eleven: return to Math’s court and discover, to their chagrin, that Pryderi feels he got the raw end of the deal and is mounting a force to invade Math’s lands.
Step twelve: wave good-bye to Math as he rides off to war, promising him you’ll take good care of Goewin while he’s gone.
Step thirteen: rape Goewin.
Did I not mention that Gwydyon and Gil are villains? They’re villains.
Primary Sources: the Mabinogion 20 (Math son of Mathonwy) — No Comments
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