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Three Celtic Tales

Three Celtic Tales

by Moyra Caldecott

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Three Celtic Tales is a compilation of three traditional Welsh folk tales, drawn from the Mabinogion and retold by Moyra Caldecott.

The Twins of the Tylwyth Teg is based on a well known story in Welsh folklore about a herd boy who marries a faery from under the lake. Before her father will allow her to marry him however, he has to choose between her and her


Three Celtic Tales is a compilation of three traditional Welsh folk tales, drawn from the Mabinogion and retold by Moyra Caldecott.

The Twins of the Tylwyth Teg is based on a well known story in Welsh folklore about a herd boy who marries a faery from under the lake. Before her father will allow her to marry him however, he has to choose between her and her identical twin sister.

Taliesin and Avagddu is based on the tale from the Welsh Mabinogion. Ceridwen brews up a cauldron of magic to give her misshapen son Avagddu extraordinary wisdom, but the village boy who is employed to stir the cauldron sips it instead and becomes the greatest prophet and bard Wales has ever known -- Taliesin.

Bran, Branwen and Evnissyen is based on a story from the Welsh Mabinogion about the war between mainland Britain and Ireland in mythic times. Evnissyen, the bitter and disgruntled half-brother of Bran, the Blessed, stirs up trouble in which both nations are almost destroyed.

Editorial Reviews

Glasgow Herald
[Moyra Caldecott] is so immersed in her subject that no trace of fantasizing or contrivance is apparent...she lives her work. Because it is so well done it is believable.
[Moyra Caldecott] uses the vehicle of fiction and the imagination...as a means of perceiving another reality and view of life...what might be called a mythological consciousness.
Times Educational Supplement
She uses the substance of legends, the ancient symbolism of religion and folklore...combining an unsentimental mysticism with a compassionate understanding of human relations..

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Bran, Branwen and Evnissyen

Over the sea came the long boats from Ireland, satin flags flying, warriors with shields upside down to show that this was a peaceful mission: their king, Matholwch, was seeking the daughter of Llyr, the beautiful Branwen, to share his throne and his bed.

The High King of Britain, Bendigeidfran, Bran the Blessed, the giant son of Llyr, brother of Branwen, greeted them graciously.

"Two such kingdoms," he said, "should be at peace with one another. Come sister, see what you think of this man, this king of Ireland."

Branwen, dark hair bound with river pearls, gown of sapphire blue... Llyr's daughter, as beautiful as the sea at dawn, stood behind the broad shoulder of her brother and peeped out at the man from across the sea.

She saw that he was shorter than her brother – but then, who was not? For no man on earth could match Bran's height. Matholwch was auburn haired. There was gold at his shoulder holding the green folds of his cloak. There were golden torcs at his throat and on his arms. His boots were laced with silk. He looked at her steadily: his eyes grey and smiling, curious, but admiring. There was a rustle among the ladies of the court... a whisper... a smile... Matholwch of Ireland was a handsome man. Old women who are wiser than young ones might say he was too handsome. "There is a prettiness to him," one whispered to another. "A weakness... He will be easily led." "No bad thing for the Princess then," was the reply, "for she will be able to rule the land through him." The first shook her head. "Not good," she said. "Too vain. Look at the embroidery on his shirt... His hands are too white... his hair istoo curled and perfumed..." "Look at those thighs," the young women whispered, "that chest... that smile..."

Branwen was caught in the net of his smile and touched her brother shyly on the arm.

Bran looked fondly down at her. Almost imperceptibly she nodded and smiled, and then ducked behind him to hide her blushes.

"Let my sister be the seal on the peace between us," Bran said smiling, holding out his arms to his new brother. Every man in the hall beat palm upon leather arm-guard or stamped his foot; every woman clapped and laughed. Branwen's friends hugged her close. Not one but wished the handsome Prince was theirs.

Then began the feasting and the celebration. A mighty auroch horn of mead was passed from King to King, and then to brother, noble, kinsman and companion.

Branwen's women took her away and decked her in jewels and flowers.

When she returned, she sat at the feet of her new lord and played upon the harp. Her voice was as clear as the silver water that falls from mountain top to secret forest pool, as joyful as a bird at dawn, as fine as the gold thread of a goldsmith...

All listened enraptured to the song of a young girl in love.

Bran watched and listened benignly, and when she was done he himself took the harp and played a stronger lay. He sang of love between peoples, not just between a man and a woman. He sang of differences between peoples that could be used for peace and not for war. He sang of life and strength and joy and there was no mention in all his song of killing or of hate. He finished with a song specially for Branwen and honoured her as a golden bridge between two great lands.

* * * *

But the mischief maker, the shadow spinner, the knave of darkness is never far away.

Bran had two half-brothers, Nissyen and Evnissyen: light and dark, the peace-maker and the strife-maker. In Bran's heart these two each had a place.

Evnissyen, returning from a hunting expedition, found that the Princess, his half sister, was wed, and without his consent.

Since childhood Evnissyen had brooded: bitter that Bran, his half-brother, was loved by all. When Bran walked into a room the faces of all those present lit up. When he spoke everyone listened, nodded and smiled. When Evnissyen entered a room a shadow fell, people turned shoulders to him, and murmured among themselves. He was a warrior, but Bran always outran him, threw spear further, flashed sword faster. Nissyen, his twin, did not bother him as much as Bran did. For Nissyen offered no competition. He was a gentle poet, a weaver of garlands for ladies, a singer of songs. But Bran was everything Evnissyen wanted to be – powerful and mighty – much honoured and loved.

Bran, seeing how Evnissyen resented him, tried to allay the boy's antagonism, spoke fait to him, assured him that he was valued in every way within the family of Llyr. As Evnissyen grew to manhood he was included in family consultations, family decisions, though more often than not his wishes were overridden by the rest. But this time he was not even consulted. Branwen, his beautiful half-sister, the light of his life, who always smiled at him when others frowned, who rocked him in her arms when he was ill, and played fidchell with him when he was well, was being sent away across the sea, married to a stranger without even a word to him.

A black storm gathered in his heart. He would put a stop to this! No stranger would violate his sister. No man would take her away from him without his agreement. He would show them who was the real power in the family!

Copyright © 1999, Moyra Caldecott.

Meet the Author

Moyra Caldecott was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1927, and moved to London in 1951. She has degrees in English and Philosophy and an M.A. in English Literature, and has written more than 20 books. She has earned a reputation as a novelist who writes as vividly about the adventures and experiences to be encountered in the inner realms of the human consciousness as she does about those in the outer physical world. To Moyra, reality is multidimensional.

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