Better for the Horse: A Medieval Welsh Meet-Cute
I’ve always been a little bit obsessed with the story of Rhiannon, who is one of my favorite figures in Welsh lore. The following is a retelling of a small section of The Mabinogi (part of the core of the ancient Welsh mythological cycle) and is a retelling of how Rhiannon first encounters her husband Pwyll.
The lord of Dyfed was Pwyll.
Who one time in Arberth,
Climbed atop its Mound.
‘twas such a place as none could leave
without suffering injuries grave
or witnessing a marvel great.
Pwyll’s fortune that day was the vision of a lady.
She rode astride the most beautiful of mares,
majestic, with a gait slow and steady,
the woman brilliant in a gold silk brocade.
A surge of curiosity rose in Pwyll,
Who commanded his man to ask after her –
and yet pursuit on foot was to no avail.
Pwyll returned to the mound day next,
with the swiftest horse of the court.
As Pwyll sat on the mound, the lady reappeared.
His rider took off, putting spurs in the horse,
faster and faster he went, as she continued languidly.
No matter how he spurred the horse after her,
She never wavered. His horse balked; she was gone.
The same group went back for a third day,
the swiftest horse from the fields in tow.
Ambling slowly to match her pace,
an attempt to break her spell.
Alas, she went beyond them.
After a night of feasting,
Pwyll himself saddled a horse.
Before she was beyond him forever
He begged her to stop in desperation,
a plea in the honor of the man
she loved above all others.
Her horse came to a gentle stop.
She smiled as she turned. “I will wait gladly.”
“And it would have been better for the horse
if you had asked me long ago.”