The Tale of Mabon, Son of Modron

(Taken largely from "The Mabinogion", trans. by Jeffrey Gantz)
by Skip Ellison © 2001
Archdruid Emeritus- Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF)
(used with permission)

www.celticartstudio.com
Mabon, Son of Modron - by Jen Delyth ©1990-2012 www.celticartstudio.com (used with permission)

This tale is found in one of the younger tales of the Mabinogi, the great tales of Wales. The tale takes place during the time of Arthur and is called "How Culthwch won Olwen." The tale itself is long but to summarize it, Culthwch fell in love with Olwen who was the daughter of the giant, Ysbaddaden. Ysbaddaden didn't want her to marry for it had been foretold that on the day she was wed, he would die.

To prevent Culthwch from wedding her, Ysbaddadengave Culthwch a long list of deeds to be done before the wedding could take place. One of the deeds was to get the comb and shears that lie between the ears of the giant boar, Twrch Trwyth). Twrch Trwyth could only be brought to ground by Drudwyn , the pup of Greid, son of Eri. But there is no leash that will hold Drudwyn, save for the leash of Cors Hundred Claws, so Culthwch must get that as well. And there was no collar save that of Canhastry Hundred Hands that would hold the leash, so Culthwch must get that as well. And to attach the leash to the collar, only the chain of Kilydd Hundred Holds would do. And the only houndsman that could control Drudwyn was Mabon, son of Modron, who was abducted from his mother when he was three days old. And so begins our tale of Mabon.

After Arthur and the warriors of Britain had found some of the other things that Ysbaddaden required, they went looking for Mabon. The party looking for Mabon consisted of Gwrhyr , who could speak the languages of all people, birds and animals, Eiddoel, cousin of Mabon, Kei and Bedwyr.

They went first to the Ousel Of Kilgwri (an ousel is a mountain blackbird) and Gwrhyr, asked the Ousel, "Do you know anything of Mabon, son of Modron, who was stolen away from between him mother and the wall when he was three days old?" The Ousel answered, "When I first came here, there was a smith's anvil over there. No work has been done on that anvil save by me sharpening my beak on it every night. There is not so much as a nut of that anvil left and in all that time I have never heard of the man you seek. But I do know of one older that I and I will take you to him."

The Ousel then took them to the Stag of Rhedenvre. Gwrhyr asked the Stag, "Do you know anything of Mabon, son of Modron, who was stolen away from his mother when he was three days old?" The Stag answered, "When I first came here there was only a single antler on either side of my head and no tree grew here save a single oak tree. That oak tree grew into a large tree with a hundred branches. Long ago that tree fell and now nothing of it is left except for that stump. In all that time I have never heard of the man you seek. But I do know of one older that I and I will take you to him."

The Stag took them to Owl of glen Cawlwyd. Gwrhyr asked the Owl, "Do you know anything of Mabon, son of Modron, who was stolen away from his mother when he was three days old?" The Owl answered, "When I first came here, this great valley you see before you was just a wooded glen. Then the race of man came and destroyed it. Then a second forest grew up. This forest you see today is the third such forest. As for me, my wings have worn down to nothing but stumps. In all that time I have never heard of the man you seek. But I do know of the oldest creature in the world and the one who has traveled the most and I will take you to him."

The Owl then took them to the Eagle of Gwernabwy. Gwrhyr asked the Eagle, "Do you know anything of Mabon, son of Modron, who was stolen away from his mother when he was three days old?" The Eagle answered, "I came here long ago and when I first came I had a stone that I would stand on and peck at the starts. Today that stone is less than a hand's-breath in height. In all that time I haven't heard of the man you seek, except when I went hunting for food in lake Llyw. There I sank my claws into a large salmon, expecting it would feed me for several days. Instead, it dragged me down into the water and I just barely escaped. I went back with all my relatives to destroy it, but it asked for peace and came to us to have fifty tridents pulled out of it's back. Unless that salmon knows something of the man you seek, I know of none that can help you."

The Eagle then took them to the Salmon of Lake Llyw. Gwrhyr asked the Eagle, "Do you know anything of Mabon, son of Modron, who was stolen away from his mother when he was three days old?" The Salmon answered, "I swim upstream on every tide to feed near Gloucester, where I found such evil as I never heard before. If you would not believe me, let one of you ride on my shoulders up there."

So Kei and Gwrhyr, both rode on the salmon's shoulders until they came to an enclosure. There they heard a terrible moaning and lament coming from inside the walls. Gwrhyr, asked, "Who is doing this terrible moaning?" He was answered, "Alas, there is reason for this terrible lament. Mabon, son of Modron is here and no man has every been so horribly imprisoned." Gwrhyr, asked, "Is there any hope of ransoming you from there?" and was answered, "No, only by force shall I escape."

Kei and Gwrhyr went back to Arthur and told him of this. Arthur gathered his men and went back and freed Mabon. Thus ends this part of the tale of "How Culthwch won Olwen."