Kindness in the Dark

In this term of Blog about Britain, we are returning to Wales, to pick up the story of Manawyddan and Pryderi where we left off before Christmas. Welcome to the third branch of the Mabinogi.

We left Manawyddan sad at having no direction in life, and Pryderi trying to help.

“Can I help you at all?”

Manawyddan smiled at the young lad, even if his smile was but a shadow of what it used to be. “Thank you, lord, but I doubt it.”

“Try me.”

It would be like refusing to play fetch with a puppy if he didn’t speak. “Well, lord, it is only because I have no home, unlike all you others. You will all fan out from London back home, but I have no idea which direction to go in.”

“Perhaps I can help with that, actually,” said Pryderi, his eyes lighting up. “My lord, attend to me.”

Manawyddan sighed internally, willing to hear any plan. “Well, my lord?”

“Lord, you know I have recently added the seven cantrefs of Seissyllwch to my domains in Dyfed. Now they are in need of a good overlord. I will give them to you, along with the hand of Rhiannon my mother, for as long as you live. What do you say?”

Manawyddan’s thoughts tumbled round his head, and he suddenly felt no higher than Pryderi’s knees. He had surely never been as generous to anyone in his life before.

“Lord,” he replied, stammering slightly. “You are most extraordinarily generous. I can never accept such an offer. Keep the cantrefs for yourself, advance your kingdom.”

“Do you think my pride is more important than you, a man in distress and my friend?” retorted Pryderi, his eyes flashing.

He was right. Manawyddan nodded slowly, “I understand, my friend.”

What should he do? It would certainly give him a role and responsibility. But he couldn’t marry Rhiannon just like that. He smiled a little to himself. How times must have changed in the south, if a son could give his mother in marriage. And how little Pryderi must know of his own mother, if he could just give her away like a parcel!

He could not imagine Rhiannon accepting him, he was so different from her last husband.

He didn’t have to decide now. It would be something to do in the meantime if he went to Dyfed, and he could decide when he actually saw the cantrefs Pryderi was talking about.

“Very well,” he said out loud. “I will go with you to see your possessions. And may heaven reward you, time and time again, for the friendship you have shown me.”