The Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion

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Manawydan uab Llŷr

Byron Huws

Thursday 2 June, 2011

As they were sitting there they heard a tumultuous noise, and with the intensity of the noise there fell a blanket of mist so that they could not see each other. And after the mist, everywhere became bright. When they looked to where they had once seen the flocks and herds and dwelling-places, they could now see nothing at all, neither building nor beast, neither smoke nor fire, neither man nor dwelling- place, only the court buildings empty, desolate, uninhabited, without people, without animals in them; their own companions had disappeared, with nothing known of their whereabouts – only the four of them remained.1

With these words the storyteller introduces the matter of the Manawydan tale. This ‘enchantment’ is the catastrophe Manawydan and his companions have to deal with. In this article, I will argue that the author has drawn the enchantment from a real event, and, as the tale unfolds, draws on a historical narrative and identifiable characters from Deheubarth (south Wales) in the first half of the twelfth century. Though the tale is not a history nor even historical fiction, I want to suggest that its author has drawn the central event and its outcome from the aftermath of the insurgence of land-grabbing Norman armies into his beloved Dyfed in this period. This paper does not seek to explain the whole tale in historical terms, only that of the struggle of the two main protagonists, Manawydan and the enchanter.

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