Blodeuwedd

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Blodeuwedd by Christopher Williams (1930)

Blodeuwedd or Blodeuedd, (Middle Welsh composite name from blodeu 'flowers, blossoms' + gwedd 'face, aspect, appearance': "flower face"), is the wife of Lleu Llaw Gyffes in Welsh mythology, made from the flowers of broom, meadowsweet and the oak by the magicians Math and Gwydion, and is a central figure in the fourth branch of the Mabinogi.

Role in Welsh tradition[edit]

The hero Lleu Llaw Gyffes has been placed under a tynged by his mother Arianrhod that he may never have a human wife. So as to counteract this curse, the magicians Math and Gwydion:

[take] the flowers of the oak, and the flowers of the broom, and the flowers of the meadowsweet, and from those they conjured up the fairest and most beautiful maiden anyone had ever seen. And they baptized her in the way that they did at that time, and named her Blodeuwedd.

Some time later, while Lleu is away on business, Blodeuwedd has an affair with Gronw Pebr, the lord of Penllyn, and the two conspire to murder Lleu. Blodeuwedd tricks Lleu into revealing how he may be killed, since he can not be killed during the day or night, nor indoors or outdoors, neither riding nor walking, not clothed and not naked, nor by any weapon lawfully made. He reveals to her that he can only be killed at dusk, wrapped in a net with one foot on a cauldron and one on a goat and with a spear forged for a year during the hours when everyone is at mass. With this information she arranges his death.

Blodeuwedd meets Gronw.

Struck by the spear thrown by Gronw's hand, Lleu transforms into an eagle and flies away. Gwydion tracks him down and finds him perched high on an oak tree. Through the singing of an englyn (known as englyn Gwydion) he lures him down from the oak tree and switches him back to his human form. Gwydion and Math nurse Lleu back to health before mustering Gwynedd and reclaiming his lands from Gronw and Blodeuwedd.

Gwydion overtakes a fleeing Blodeuwedd and turns her into an owl (in Welsh 'tylluan' or 'gwdihŵ'), the creature hated by all other birds, proclaiming:

You will not dare to show your face ever again in the light of day ever again, and that will be because of enmity between you and all other birds. It will be in their nature to harass you and despise you wherever they find you. And you will not lose your name - that will always be "Bloddeuwedd (Flower-face)."[1]

The narrative adds:

Blodeuwedd" means "owl" in the language of today. And it is because of that there is hostility between birds and owls, and the owl is still known as Blodeuwedd."[2]

Meanwhile, Gronw escapes to Penllyn and sends emissaries to Lleu to beg of his forgiveness. Lleu refuses, demanding that Gronw must stand on the bank of the River Cynfael and receive a blow from his spear. Gronw desperately asks if anyone from his warband will take the spear in his place, but his men refuse his plea. Eventually, Gronw agrees to receive the blow on the condition that he may place a large stone between himself and Lleu, who allows him to do so before throwing the spear with such strength that it pierces the stone, killing his rival. A holed stone in Ardudwy is still known as Llech Ronw (Gronw's Stone).

Robert Graves and others consider one section of the poem Cad Goddeu to be a "Song of Blodeuwedd".

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Parker, Will. The Four Branches of the Mabinogi".
  2. ^ Parker, Will. The Four Branches of the Mabinogi".