The Story of Lludd and Llefelys -- three mysterious plagues on the Island of Britain
The Dream of Rhonabwy -- a hilarious satire on the 'real' world and Arthur's glory
Cwm Cerwyn, where Twrch Trwyth twice stood at bay and killed eight of Arthur's warriors.
The Story of Lludd and Llefelys is also mentioned in earlier Welsh poetry, but there is no way of knowing what version of the tale is meant by these brief references. The surviving tale has clearly been influenced by Geoffrey of Monmouth's early-12th-century Latin Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain). Indeed the earliest texts of Lludd and Llefelys are embedded in medieval Welsh translations of Geoffrey's book, and even the copies in the White Book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hergest open with a prelude adapted from Geoffrey's original. * The story was undoubtedly incorporated into the Historia because it explains the burial of the red and white dragons whose exhumation occasions the first prophecies of the young Merlinus (Welsh Myrddin, English Merlin), which form an important later section of Geoffrey's work. But in the Story of Lludd and Llefelys these dragons are only one of three oppressions over the Island of Britain, and the ways in which the brothers deal with these mysteries further elucidate the traditional history of Britain as it was understood by the Welsh in the later Middle Ages.
Partly because of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia, Arthurian literature became popular throughout Europe, and tales of Arthur and his court spread rapidly. Especially influential were the Arthurian romances of Chretien de Troyes, though it is still an open question which came first, the Welsh versions of these tales or the French. But one Welsh tale, not known in other traditions, stands out as unique not so much because it preserves Arthurian lore, but because it satirizes the very style in which such tales were told. The Dream of Rhonabwy cannot be older than the mid 12th century, for its opening is set during the reign of Madog ap Maredudd, the last prince of a united Powys in mid-Wales, who died in 1160. There is some debate as to whether it might have been written before the death of Madog or after. This tale draws material directly from How Culhwch Got Olwen and perhaps from the story of Geraint, the Welsh analogue to Chretien's Erec, but its primary intent seems to be to parody the digressive and descriptive styles of the newly popular narrative genres and the proliferating histories of Arthur, and perhaps also to raise questions about the heroic and romantic ideals exemplified in them. It is a remarkably skilful parody that captures the nature of dreams more realistically perhaps than do other medieval dream visions, not excepting even Geoffrey Chaucer's highly polished Parliament of the Birds or The Dream of the Duchess.
Each of these tales is rooted in the landscape of Wales and in the medieval conception of the origins of Wales and the claim of the Welsh to be the rightful inheritors of British rule. In Companion Tales to The Mabinogi: Legend and Landscape of Wales, the specifics of that narrative landscape are captured once again in sixty photographs by Anthony Griffiths, who endured cold and heat, rain and snow, to capture the light of dawn and dusk when Wales appears at its magical best.
Click here to read a translation of the amusing