Monday, 22 September 2008

The Tale of Blodeuwedd - part II

Lord Goronwy worked for a whole year on the spear that would be able to kill Llew. Long and wickedly sharp it was and heavy, made of iron and packed full of incantations to make the man whom death would not touch mortal to its blade.

Llew and Blodeuwedd were at the sheep folds this fine spring morning. They were good fat sheep and Llew was pleased with his good fortune. Playfully, he wanted to show off to his beautiful wife and took to showing her how he well he could balance. This gave Goronwy his chance.
Llew was between boundaries, not on earth, not in air but balanced. One foot on the back of an animal, the other on a fence and there (being neither one thing or the other) he was vulnerable.

The spear flew straight towards his heart but at last minute the animal bucked and Llew was thrown enough for the spear to catch him between his ribs. As he fell to earth, he did not die but was instead transformed into an eagle. With a heart broken cry to his false bride, Llew flapped wounded into the shelter of the mountains. Blodeuwedd did not care but ran to the arms of her lover who carried her away to his lands where they lived happy, heedless of the sorrow and pain that they had left behind them.

Long and bitter was Gwydion's search for his student and friend. The eagle hid himself so well that it took a full year of searching the mountains to find him. But at last Gwydion heard news of a poor bedraggled, heartsick and bloodied eagle that was seen to roost in the tallest of the pines in the forest. Nothing but skin, bone and feathers was left of Llew the Archer. He would not listen to any words spoken to him but instead scanned the horizon to the south where lived Blodeuwedd. Every so often a shudder would run through the bird's wretched frame and the wound would re open and bleed afresh.

Weeping so hard that he could not form words, Gwydion sat himself under the pine tree and let the touch of his hands upon the harp speak of heart break and loss so potent that even the breeze on the mountainside could not move for sorrow. And the eagle flew down to the middle branches of the pine.

Encouraged, the bard lifted his voice to make song of love and betrayal and a wound so deep that even an immortal could die of it. The trees around creaked and groaned in sympathy. And the eagle flew down to the lowest branches of the pine.

Gwydion then whispered the name of Blodeuwedd and at the sound of her name, the eagle fell from the tree into the arms of his friend. Gwydion staggered but held tight and the eagle became a man once more, terribly wounded, but alive. Sorrowful still but now hopeful too Gwydion carried Llew back to Math ap Mathonwy who would heal his body at least and nurse him back to health.

Another year passed. Blodeuwedd and Goronwy lived far away but at last even they heard of Llew's recovery and a terrible fear came upon them. It was the Law that Llew had a right to challenge Goronyw to battle and who can best an immortal on the field of combat? The spear that Goronwy had laboured a year to forge was thrown against him and Llew of the Fair Hand threw true. Goronwy died with the name of another man's wife upon his lips.
When the news of her lover's death was brought to Blodeuwedd she fled, mad with grief and terror, into the rocks behind her home. Llew gave chase, wanting only to make peace but she could only hear his shouting not the words of forgiveness that he uttered. Panic struck she struggled up the near vertical face of rock until one crumbled under her foot and, her arms spread wide as wings, she fell toward the valley floor.
Llew screamed in helpless loss and at that note of horrible pain, Mathonyw cast one last spell for Llew and Blodeuwedd and turned her into an owl.

She fled, this pale and lovely creature who fears to come out in the brightness of day and shuns the haunts of men, but hides her sorrow and shame in dappled moonlight. Calling -Who?- at the steps that follow her still - is it her Lord or is it her lover? I do not think she knows.
We remember her tale and remember her name - Blodeuwedd, flower face, the ghost of a faithless wife.

The end.

The first part of the story can be found here Part One

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