Celtic Myth 11, the Story of Pryderi, a Mother Falsely Accused

Celtic Myth 11, the Story of Pryderi, a Mother Falsely Accused

A tale from the Mabinogion, described how Pwyll, Lord of Dyfed in Southwestern Wales, won the hand of the fairy princess Rhiannon. Yet the marriage was to prove no idyll, as the tale of their first born child, Pryderi, showed.

Pryderi was abducted shortly after his birth. Fearing for their lives, the nurses charged with looking after him killed a puppy and smeared its blood on the face of the baby’s sleeping mother. When the loss was discovered the next morning, the nurses accused Rhiannon of having eaten her own child.

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News of this heinous accusation quickly reached Pwyll, who could hardly contain his fury. He condemned his wife to sit outside his castle and greet every visitor with the story of her supposed crime. To complete her humiliation, she was then obliged to carry callers into the castle on her back like a horse.

Meanwhile, near the English border a hundred miles or so to the east, a vassal Lord named Teyrnon was having trouble with his mare. It foaled annually on the night of the 1st of May. But, come morning, the foals were always gone. One year Teyrnon decided to solve the mystery of their disappearance by staying up overnight in the stable. No sooner had the mare given birth than, to his amazement, he saw a gigantic, clawed arm reaching through the window to grab the newborn foal. Teyrnon drew his sword and severed the arm at the elbow. There was a howl from outside, but when he went to investigate, he could see nothing unusual. On his return, however, he found a baby boy wrapped in silk.

He took the child home and reared him as his own. As the boy grew up, however, Teyrnon noticed that he looked just like Pwyll. Having heard the tale of Rhiannon, he put two and two together and took the child to the castle. There he told Pwyll his story and presented the king with his son. Rhiannon was at once absolved of guilt and at the ensuing feast she declared that her newly found son would henceforth be named Pryderi, or “Care”, since she had suffered so much for his conception.