The Fates of the Princes of Dyfed

Cenydd Morus (Kenneth Morris)

Illustrations by Reginald Machell

Copyright © 1914 by Katherine Tingley; originally published at Point Loma, California. Electronic edition 2000 by Theosophical University Press ISBN 1-55700-157-x. This edition may be downloaded for off-line viewing without charge. For ease of searching, no diacritical marks appear in the electronic version of the text.

To Katherine Tingley: Leader and Official Head of the Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society, whose whole life has been devoted to the cause of Peace and Universal Brotherhood, this book is respectfully dedicated



The Three Branches of the Bringing-in of it, namely:

The Sovereignty of Annwn

The Story of Pwyll and Rhianon, or The Book of the Three Trials

The First Branch of it, called:

The Coming of Rhianon Ren Ferch Hefeydd

The Second Branch of it, namely:

The Basket of Gwaeddfyd Newynog, and Gwaeddfyd Newynog Himself

The Third Branch of it; and the Name of this Branch:

The Coming of Ab Cilcoed, and the Three Trials of Pwyll Pen Annwn

The Story of Rhianon and Pryderi, or The Book of the Three Unusual Arts of Pryderi fab Pwyll

The Mare and the Foal of Teyrnion Twrf Fliant

The Story of Dienw'r Anffodion

The Second Branch of it, called:

The Three Unusual Arts of Teyrnion and Gwri Gwallt Euryn and the Freeing of the Birds of Rhianon

Second Branch, part 2

The Third Branch of it, that is to say:

The Return of Pryderi

Key to Pronunciation and Glossary

harp, sword, crown, eye, dragon


Ac y mae bodau sydd gymaint yn fwy na dyn ag y mae dyn yn fwy na'r bacillyn lleiaf welir drwy y chwyddwydr cryfaf. Mae y galluogrwydd i ymddadblygu hefyd yn anfeidrol. Mae y meddwl dynol ar y ffordd mawr i ymddadblygu yn dduw. Dyma ffordd Duw o greu duwiau, sef drwy ymddadblygiad. Mae Duw erioed yn eu creu. — Index

How far the story is taken from the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, and to what degree it has elected to go its own way, need not be enlarged on here; now that that great old Welsh book has become a popular classic, with cheap editions both in Welsh and in English. Suffice it to say that from that source come the main framework of the plot, and, I hope, the whole spirit and atmosphere; and that there is a mint of phrases recurring through the chapters, which have been boldly lifted from Lady Guest's translation, and set in here without quotation marks, footnotes, or other acknowledgement. Why not? Such phrases were probably a part of the stock in trade of all the old story-tellers: "Names of Adornment," such as we find listed in the Triads; and belonged rather to Wales and bardism than to any one author. Other phrases, again, have been taken from Llywarch Hen and Taliesin, and from the druidical writings of the School of Glamorgan. Further, if Morgan Llwyd o Wynedd had not called his book Llyfr y Tri Aderyn, "The Book of the Three Birds," it is doubtful whether the various parts of this story would have found subtitles with so native a flavor as the ones that have been given to them. As to how much of it may be borrowed from Irish sources: it would be difficult for the writer to say; since it is rather a long time since he had access to books of Irish mythology, and the latter presents itself to his memory rather as a rainbow-hued and beautiful illumination, than in any detail. To read the Mabinogi aright, one must read it in the light of that ancient, proud and beautiful civilization which the Irish stories reveal so much more fully, and with so much less admixture of foreign and medieval elements; just as, to reconstruct the Celtic pantheon at all, one must work by the light of all Aryan mythology. In the days of Pwyll Pen Annwn there was little distinction between Cymro and Gwyddel, or between the Clan of Hu Gadarn in the Island of the Mighty, and the Family of Dana in Ireland.

The Mabinogi, as it comes down to us, and as it appears in Lady Guest's wonderful translation, remains such a classic, such a masterpiece of style, such a storehouse of ancient treasure, that it may be asked: What right has any one to imply that such and such an incident goes unrecorded in it, or is recorded incorrectly? But one must remember that the Mabinogi was very old before it was written down; that bards had told and retold these stories a thousand times between the days of their prechristian origin and the twelfth or thirteenth century when they were written in the form in which we have them. Would they have suffered no change during those ages? It is certain that they would; from being the record and exposition of a mythology, they would have become mainly a source of entertainment; their pristine purpose would have become obscured; their day star would have dwindled to a rushlight. Supposing we knew nothing of the Greek mythology, but what might have remained as a tradition with the troubadours?

The deepest truths of religion and philosophy had their first recording for the instruction of the peoples, not in the form of treatise, essay, or disquisition, but as epics, sagas, and stories. I do not know what better form could be found for them. It is the soul of man that is the hero of the eternal drama of the world; "the Universe exists for the purposes of the soul." From the beginning of time, events, circumstances, and adventures are unfolding themselves about the human soul; it is weaving them about itself. Man enmeshes himself as in a web in the results of his own thought and action; and by his own action and thought he must make himself free. The Great Ones of old time knew well that there is a "small old path that leads to freedom": a path of action, of thought, of wisdom. They related the Story of the Soul; leading it from the first freedom of Gwynfyd, down into the depths of Abred and incarnation, to the gates of that path of freedom, and then onward to the heights. They that had ears to hear, heard; and found in the great stories the indication of the path for themselves; as for the multitude, there was entertainment for them; and the mere outward teaching of the sagas would be their incitement to virtue, to courage, to a sound, generous, and magnanimous life.

The stories long survived the time when their real meaning had been forgotten. Druidism, as a state religion, might not withstand the legions and proscription of the Caesars; if it lived on, it was in secret. But the druid-born stories that had been the amusement of the chieftains in the evenings of winter; that were for inculcating the traditional virtues in the young men and maidens — there would not cease to be a need for them. The winter evenings were no shorter than of old; the virtues taught by the new religion were of another order; the feast times would still be incomplete without bards and story-tellers; and these must have their old capital to draw upon: they must have the outward and visible sign, if not the inward and spiritual grace. Perhaps all the ancient stories we have, Celtic or Scandinavian, Greek or Persian or Indian, are but the retelling of the sacred Mystery tales, by bards who had forgotten their meaning: forgotten something of it, or most of it, or all of it. For nothing dies until it has lost its first virtue; if the religions of antiquity had been true to themselves, had remained uncorrupted, they would not have passed away. Does not history prove to us — this little fragment of history that we possess — that the history of religion is always the story of the waning of a Light, and its rekindling elsewhere when too dim for further utility?

The generations of story-tellers, then, would add a little to their traditional material here, or leave out some detail there; they would modify this or that incident to suit their own ideas or the views of their audience. In general they would tend to introduce personality where before there had been merely the vast and impersonal; sex in particular would offer them a wide field for "improving" upon the ancient models. Do but contrast the Irish, or the purely Welsh tales, with those Welsh tales that have come to us in a Normanized and be-troubadoured form. Contrast the story of Pwyll and Rhianon with that of Tristan and Esyllt. In the former, which is far the older, there is no "love interest"; in the latter, there is nothing else. Some one has claimed that "romantic love" is altogether a growth of Christian times; not true in one sense, for men have experienced youth at a certain stage of their lives for quite a number of ages; but the claim is true to a certain extent, of romantic love considered as a theme for fiction. It came in, at any rate, whenever fiction ceased to be a method of teaching by symbology the sacred truths of the Mysteries, and became a mere minister to entertainment.

So too the ancient masters of fiction — their names are lost to us — had little concern with character-painting. The story of the human soul unfolds itself in action, and again action: actions, events, sufferings, deeds and deaths and sacrifice; battle and ruin and victory: these are the language in which the thoughts, experiences, and growth of the soul express themselves. What character-painting there was, was done in sweeping lines and prismatic colors: "he was a man from whom no one ever got any good"; "noble and excellent are the men of whom this is spoken." Naturally; since the characters were but symbols of characteristics: of virtues or vices; of subtle powers within that may aid, or subtle lures and weaknesses that may overthrow us.

That is to say, they did not seek to tell you things about the soul — which is the method of philosophy; but to present in great pictures that soul itself — which is the true method of art. So the love story of Pwyll and Rhianon is simplicity itself: man comes in contact with that inward and divine light which is to make a god of him at last; how should you enlarge upon "love" in such a connection? She will take queenhood in the Island of the Mighty, in Dyfed, sharing the throne of the man who has made conquests in the Underworld; he will share his throne with her, will become as it were her disciple; since she is the brightest and most beautiful vision of his days. It is the revelation of the divine to the personal principle in man; it is not, and does not pretend nor desire to be a love story. Not the husks and externalities of life are recorded; but symbols are given of the inward and eternal things. And if in certain of the ancient mythologies — not in the Mabinogi — there are incidents which offend our sense of decency, we should still remember that these were never intended as the record of physical fact and action; they were symbols of inward happenings, which perhaps could only find their recording in that way.

The Red Book of Hergest, in which the Mabinogi appears, was written in the twelfth century or thereabouts; but the stories themselves are admittedly prechristian in origin. Would they not have lost much of their pristine significance during that time, and gathered accretions from the troublous and uncertain ages? It is certain that the Gods would have appeared in them originally; as the Gods appear in the Greek and Irish stories, or in the sagas of the North. It is certain that some of the characters in them, who appear now as mere men, were Gods when the stories were first told; the Children of Don, Gwydion and his brothers, are cognate with the children of Dana in Ireland, and were Gods as surely as were the latter. Gods figure in all the old mythological tales: Gods, men, and demons; because in the battle of the world, the eternal warfare of the Gwynfydolion, good is perpetually at war with evil: man is the battlefield whereon the divine and the devilish are at conflict; and we, our conscious selves, stand between the two hosts, and ally ourselves now with one, now with the other. Is not that, almost, or quite, a truism? Will any one quarrel with it?

So in this attempt to retell the Mabinogi, the Gods had to be restored. For the endeavor has not been to bring the stories up to date, as down through the centuries so many have done with that other Welsh saga, the Arthurian legend; the endeavor has not been to make an acceptable modern novel of them, or to charge them with any criticism of life — twentieth century life; as Tennyson charged the Arthurian legend with criticism of nineteenth century life; or as Malory charged it with criticism of the life of the Middle Ages. Malory and Tennyson both attained wonderful results, no doubt, from the literary standpoint; but I think that from the standpoint of a lover of ancient Wales and ancient Welsh traditions and ideals, they both made a failure of it, on the whole. The atmosphere of our mountains calls for some older glamor, some magic more gigantic and august: you must have Gods and Warriors and great Druids, not curled and groomed knightlings at their jousts and amours. Those treasure-laden pages in Culhwch and Olwen, in which the list is given of Arthur's men — there you have an indication of the great things that were in the ancient Celtic or preceltic mind: voices call there from peaks which have since been wrapped in silence; in all Welsh and Welsh-inspired literature, I find nothing so Welsh as that. Tennyson indeed, occasionally forgetting the nineteenth century and his purpose, which assuredly he had a right to work out in his own way, did speak now and again in a kindred language, or in one as truly echoing the ancient world.

But his purpose and standpoint were other than those of the old bards who first told these stories; whose purpose and standpoint, be the result what it may, it has been sought to use here. The life that those old bards criticized belongs to no age, has not changed since they wrote or sang: since it is the inner life of the soul struggling towards freedom. It is proper to the days of prehistory, the age of the Italo-Celtic unity and the flowering splendor of the Celtic empire; it is proper to the time when our ancestors were defending their hills against the Norman invaders; it is proper to our own time, and to tomorrow. For to any of us, today, tomorrow, next year, it may happen to behold from the heights of our own inward Gorsedd Arberth, Rhianon mystically riding through the twilight and beauty of the valley; we may hear at any time the music of the Three Singers of Peace. We may at the moment of attainment lose through rashness or fear the Goddess we have so nearly won; we may be compelled to go forth seeking such another basket as Pwyll Pen Annwn sought and found; to us, as we watch upon the sacred hill, the Gods will come with their lures and wiles and machinations, striving against their own will as it were to draw us away: to defeat their own immediate, for the sake of their own ultimate ends; who would make us, too, divine; who would prepare us to wage their warfare with them, where they are camped out against chaos on the borders of space. For the ancients did not posit omniscience or omnipotence as qualities of those whom they called the Gods: they saw evil in the world, and were logical. I think the truest idea they had about them was, that the Gods were the great generals and battle-captains in the eternal war against evil: wiser and stronger a thousand times than we are, they yet stood in need of us as a general stands in need of his private soldiers. (Only the difference would be far wider than that between general and privates.) So the effort would have been, not to obtain help from the Gods, but to give help to them.

The Gods had to be introduced then; but our Welsh Gods have not been remembered as the Greek, Irish, or Scandinavian Gods have been. So one might have either taken the God-names that appear in Gaulish or Brythonic inscriptions of Roman and perhaps preroman days; or sought what was required in the great mass that exists of Welsh tradition, bardic verse, triads, and the writings collected by the ever-to-be-honored Iolo Morganwg and the bards of the School of Glamorgan. This latter is the course that has been followed. The names from the inscriptions lack that Welsh ring, that strange combination of the familiar and the infinite, the homely and the poetically wonderful, the intimate with the far and marvelous, which I think will mark our Welsh contribution to art and literature, when we shall have attained self-consciousness as a nation. Teutates, Tarannis, and the like, though they sound scholarly, and no doubt meant something at one time, if only to Romanized Gauls and Brythons — bring no pictures with them, breathe no subtle music, seem to represent no spiritual reality, as do the names of Apollo, or Angus Oge, or Balder the Beautiful. But turning to the triads, one found something different. Hu Gadarn, sniffed at by the scholars and critics, has credentials of his own for the intuition and imagination; Plenydd, Alawn and Gwron — the Light-bringer, the Lord of Harmonies, the Heartener of Heroes — they form so perfect a symbol of powers that lie latent in ourselves and in the universe, that if they were invented by Iolo Morganwg, or by Meurig Dafydd, or by Llewelyn Sion, one would say that the invention was rather a discovery: that they were Gods and Welsh Gods before those men were born; just as the blood circulated before Harvey's time, and America was in the west of the world before Columbus sailed. No matter whether such names are ancient, medieval, or comparatively modern; one would have been put to it to invent them oneself, if one had not found them ready to hand.

There is Tybie of the Fountain, for example. What? — make a pagan nymph or Goddess of Saint Tybie ferch Brychan Brycheiniog, canonized by the Celtic Church! But why invent a new name, when the scent of the mint-beds of Llandybie, the brightness of the kingcups and the sweet music of the waters have been clustering round the old one during all these centuries? And one might well suspect that she has but been restored to her rights. Once a sacred well, you may say, always a sacred well; the church, recognizing the sweet influences of such places, adopted them from its druid predecessors; you had but to make a saint of the old-time Goddess guardian, and the sweet influences needed not to be wasted because the religion had changed. Whether you call her Tybie ferch Brychan, or Tybie of the Family of Hu, she is there, she is there!

So with all the God-names used in this story. None of them is the invention of the present writer (though the epithets attached to them often are); they all occur somewhere in the tangle of traditional literature that has come down in Wales. Of this it may be said, that if any part of it first appeared in the thirteenth, or in the sixteenth, or in the nineteenth century, it does not follow, as the critics appear to think, that it originated then; it may have flowed on beneath the surface of written literature since Druid and even predruid days; and indeed, much of it carries a stronger and sweeter odor of antiquity than any of the data served to us as strictly historical by the great scholars and archaeologists of modern times.

There are two methods of criticism: the analytical and the synthetic. The former is all the rage these days, at least in Wales. Its end would seem to be a barren scholarship: one analyses the Good, the Beautiful, and the True into the dust-heap; one disproves everything, laying the axe of a merely intellectual research to the roots of the creative imagination. There is no finality in this tendency: the last word has not been spoken. Modern modes of thought, and our modern civilization, are not, as we too often suppose, the fruit and perfection of the ages, up to which all past human activity has led, as to a supreme goal. We shall react from it, and turn to synthetic methods. We shall take what material comes down to us, and make use of whatever in it is beautiful, appeals to the imagination, or shadows forth some spiritual truth; and of this we shall build that great imaginative literature which we are longing for and feeling after even now. The Irish, using the materials they have to hand, have laid the foundations of a great Irish drama, and have made the peculiar Irish note heard in the symphony of the literature of civilization. Our materials, somewhat more shadowy and disorganized it is true, we are at present mainly engaged in trying to analyze off the face of the earth. But to produce an imaginative literature we must fortify the imagination, not starve or stultify it; we must put our paints on the canvas, not perpetually submit them to the test tube and the crucible until there is no health nor color left in them.

This analytical rage is the reaction, natural enough, from old methods of syntheticism that lacked all discipline, were wholly uncritical and directed toward no goal; and which therefore spent themselves without ever producing anything in art or literature capable of passing the boundaries of our small nationality, and becoming a part of the art or literature of civilization. If the reaction from our present analyticism is not to carry us back to the old condition, some new element, some new knowledge, some new discipline, must come in. Wales has given just one work to world-literature; has produced just one work which by its innate vitality was bound to be translated sooner or later: the Mabinogion — we use the word as including the twelfth century romances translated by Lady Charlotte Guest. We have had many fine writers of the second rank: Dafydd ab Gwilym and Rhys Goch Tir Iarll; Morgan Llwyd o Wynedd; Goronwy and Ceiriog and Islwyn, to name a very few of them. Of these, Islwyn and Morgan Llwyd did indeed make some original contributions to thought, for which perhaps the literature of civilization may find a certain place. The others, I think, will inspire Welsh poets to come who will speak directly to the world; will teach them their art, provide them with a treasure of music and color. But they wrote nothing that must inevitably be translated into other languages; they wrote nothing that will influence the world at first hand. It is just the music and color, which they used so well, that must be lost in translation, unless the translator is himself a poet equal to those whose work he may be translating.

Why then do the Romances stand in a class by themselves? Why are they for the world and all time; while the poetry of that age was, mainly, only for that age; and only for Wales — or indeed, only for Gwynedd, or Powys, or the South?

The answer is, because the Romances came down from a much older time; because when they were first written, they were still near enough in spirit to that older time to carry with them some of its force; and because in that older time there did exist such a discipline, such a knowledge, such a purpose as we stand in need of now. The knowledge is the knowledge of the spiritual laws of life; the purpose is the purpose of the human soul on its evolutionary journey; the discipline is that discipline which tends to subject the brain-mind and animal man to the domination of the divine part of man, the deathless and birthless soul.

So-called Realism concerns itself with but the froth and spume on the surface of life, the sordid play of the passions, the externalities that pass. Such Dead Sea Fruit has a great vogue in this age of slums and materialism; but we and civilization will evolve; the world will be cleaned up a little; men and nations will forgo their predatory habits; and we shall forsake this making of mud pies. Above all I would urge that there is no message for Wales in it; realism will never call forth the genius of a race that has always been nearest greatness when most leaning towards spiritual and imaginative ideals.

The true function of Romance, on the other hand — we need not say how sadly it has fallen away from it — is to proclaim indestructible truth in terms of the imagination: to use the symbols provided by the poetic or creative imagination for showing forth those truths which are permanent, because they lie at the heart of life, not on its surface; and which belong to no one age, but to all ages, because all eternity is the birthday of the soul.

Traces, shadows of these truths are to be found in the traditions of almost every race under the sun; Welsh traditional literature is peculiarly rich in them. Indeed, if Iolo Morganwg and his compeers and predecessors really invented all that they claimed merely to have collected and handed down, then let their names be written far above any other names in our literary annals; for what they gave to the world contains that which is original, permanent, and splendid: as Welsh as Snowdon or the Cymraeg, it yet achieves being universal; if we but understood it, it ranks with, or outranks the Mabinogi itself in value. But this, not until we have applied to it a certain criterion; not until we have fitted it into its place among the traditions of the whole world; pruning and restoring it in the light of such traditions.

We owe it to Madame H. P. Blavatsky, the Foundress of the Theosophical Movement of modern times, and to William Q. Judge and Katherine Tingley, her successors in the Leadership of that Movement, that the criterion exists effective for this work: that there is accessible a compendium, an explanation, a correlation and explicit setting forth of those inward laws: the knowledge, the purpose, and the discipline out of which all religions drew their origin, and which are the heart of all true religion; which proclaim this to be the end of all existence: that that which is now human should be made more than human, divine. We may call this Druidism, we may call it Theosophy; it is also Christian and Buddhist; whatever name may be applied to it, it is a trumpet-call to the Divine in each of us, the Grand Hai Atton of the Immortals; it is the Dragon Warshout of the ages: "Y Ddraig Goch a Ddyry — Gychwyn!" — The Flamebright Dragon has arisen — the Dragon that of old was the symbol of spiritual wisdom, spiritual courage, of mastery of the forces of the lower world — Go forward!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

I take this opportunity of acknowledging most gratefully the help so kindly given by Mr. R. Machell, my fellow student of Theosophy here at Point Loma, in making the splendid drawings with which the book is illustrated.

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