Sunday, 27 January 2019

Visions of Badon

Plotting Camlann: Letters from the Dead 

Part I

Rhonabwy's Dream
Mid-12th century Powys. Madog son of Maredudd the last prince to rule the whole of the kingdom (1132-1160 AD), has sent out a hundred men in every three commots to search for his rebellious brother Iorwerth who has been raiding into England. In these days Powys stretched from Montgomeryshire to Flint, including parts of Merioneth and Denbigh.

One of Madog’s retainers on the quest was a man named Rhonabwy, who along with Cynwig Frychgoch of Mawddwy and Cadwgan Fras from Moelfre in Cynllaith come across the house of Heilyn Goch whilst seeking somewhere to stay for the night. Rhonabwy and his two companions are put up in a blackhouse, a building shared with cattle in which the floor is covered in dung. Cynwig and Cadwgan sleep on a blanket spread across flea-infested straw and twigs. Rhonabwy settled down on a yellow ox-skin on a dias. As soon as Rhonabwy fell asleep he was granted a vision.

Rhonabwy dreamt he was journeying with his companions across the plain of Argyngroeg and his intent was towards Rhyd y Groes on the Severn. As they travelled they came across a rider who said he was Iddawc the son of Mynyo but better known through his nickname Iddog Cordd Prydain (Agitator of Britain).

Arthur plays gwyddbywll with Owain - Alan Lee
Iddog tells Rhonabwy that was one of the messengers between Arthur and Medrawd his nephew, at the battle of Camlan and kindled strife between them because he was young and eager for battle. When he was sent by Arthur to seek for peace with Medrawd, charged with the fairest sayings he could think of, yet Iddog would say to Medrawd the most offensive words he could. And that, he says, is how the battle of Camlan was contrived. But three nights before the end of the battle of Camlan he left them, and went to Y Llech Las in Prydain (The Grey Rock in North Britain) to do penance, where he remained for seven years until he gained pardon.

They continued across the great plain of Argyngroeg to Rhyd y Groes on the Severn. A mile from the ford, on each side of the road, they see the mustering of a great host. When they came to the edge of the ford they saw Arthur sitting on a flat meadow. Troops of men are joining the host at the ford in preparation for a great battle.

A man identified by Iddog as Caradog Freichfras, son of Llyr Marini, said to Arthur that it was strange to see such a large host accommodated in such a confined space, and that it is even stranger that those who had promised to be at the battle of Badon by noon to fight Osla Gyllellfawr (Big-Knife) should still be at the ford. Arthur agrees with him and decides that they should go together and they set off toward Cefn Digoll.

Rhonabwy looks down the valley of the Severn to see two troops of men approaching the ford of the Severn. Iddog tells him these are the men of Norway and the men of Denmark. By the time they have caught up with the host, Arthur and his warriors have dismounted below Caer Faddon. Arthur now indulges in a game of gwyddbywll with Owain. As they play Arthur’s men and Owain’s Ravens began squabbling. As they play on it escalates to fighting with Owain’s Ravens killing the sons of the noblemen of the island of Britain. Arthur asks Owain to call off his ravens but he plays on. The game comes to an end when Arthur crushes the gwyddbywll pieces into dust. Owain lowered his banner and the ravens stop fighting.

Then twenty-four horsemen from Osla Gyllellfawr come to Arthur to ask for a truce for a month and a fortnight. Arthur takes counsel and asks an auburn haired man for advice. Iddog tells Rhonabwy that this auburn haired man is Rhun, son of Maelgwn Gwynedd, because no man gave more solid advice than him. Then 24 mules arrived loaded with gold and silver in payment for the truce.

Cai then got up and said that those wishing to follow Arthur should join him tonight in Cornwall, and with the great commotion Rhonabwy awoke having slept for nights and three days.

Next >> Rhonabwy's Dream: A Time Reversal

Sioned Davies, The Mabinogion, OUP, 2007.

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