Gwyn ab Nudd
Gwyn ab Nudd in the Welsh romances is
the King of Faerie. Lady Guest states that as King of the Faerie, he was 'the sovereign of those beneficent and joyous
beings, the Tylwyth Teg, or Family of Beauty (sometimes also called Bendith i Mammau, or Blessing of Mothers), who dance
in the moonlight on the velvet sward, in their airy and flowing robes of blue or green, or white or scarlet, and who delight in
showering benefits on the more favoured of the human race; and equally does his authority extend over the fantastic, though
no less picturesque class of Elves, who in Welsh bear the name of Ellyllon, and who, on the other hand, enjoy nothing so much
as to mislead and torment the inhabitants of earth.'
Recorded in the Myvyrian Archaiology, one of the supporting sources used by Lady Guest in her translation of
the Mabinogion, is a dialogue between Gwyn ab Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir, in which Gwyn is represented as a victorious
states, "Gwyn, son of Nudd, the hope of armies, legions fall before thy conquering arm, swifter than broken rushes to the
ground." In the same composition, Gwyn ab Nudd styles himself the lover of Cordelia the daughter of Ludd, or Lear, for
whom his contest with Gwythyr mab Greidawl, on every first of May till the day of doom.
The Welsh Triads commemorate Gwyn ab Nudd, as one of the three distinguished astronomers of the Island of
Britain, who by their knowledge of the nature and qualities of the stars, could predict whatever was wished to be known to the
end of the world.
According to some stories, the Owl was more particularly considered as the bird of Gwyn ab Nudd. Karngrwn
was the name of his horse.
From Lady Guest's notes on the Mabinogion it seems that even personages such as Gwyn can not escape
the power of a saint. One of the legends in which Gwynn ab Nudd bears a conspicuous part is contained in the Life of St. Collen
(Buchedd Collen), which is printed in a collection of Welsh remains, entitled the Greal. Collen was the son of
Gwynawc ab Caledawc ab Cawrdav ab Caradawc Vreichvras, and having distinguished himself greatly in foreign countries by
his zeal and piety, he returned to Britain and became Abbot of Glastonbury. After a time, Collen desired to lead a life of greater
austerity than his high office at Glastonbury permitted; so he departed to preach to the people. The sins of the people distressed
him so he withdrew to a mountain, "where he made himself a cell under the shelter of a rock, in a remote and secluded spot.
"And as he was one day in his cell, he heard two men conversing about Gwyn ab Nudd, and saying that he
was king of Annwn and of the Fairies. And Collen put his head out of his cell, and said to them, 'Hold your tongues quickly,
those are but Devils.' 'Hold thou thy tongue,' said they, 'thou shalt receive a reproof from him.'
And Collen shut his cell as before.
"And, soon after, he heard a knocking at the door of his cell, and some one inquired if he were within.
Then said Collen, 'I am; who is it that asks?' 'It is I, a messenger from Gwyn ab Nudd, the king of Annwn, to
command thee to come and speak with him on the top of the hill at noon.'
"But Collen did not go. And the next day behold the same messenger came, ordering Collen to go and speak
with the king on the top of the hill at noon.
"But Collen did not go. And the third day behold the same messenger came, ordering Collen to go and
speak with the king on the top of the hill at noon. 'And if thou dost not go, Collen, thou wilt be the worse for it.'
"Then Collen, being afraid, arose, and prepared some holy water, and put it in a flask at his side, and went
to the top of the hill. And when be came there, he saw the fairest castle he had ever beheld, and around it the best appointed
troops, and numbers of minstrels, and every kind of music of voice and string, and steeds with youths upon them the
comeliest in the world, and maidens of elegant aspect, sprightly, light of foot, of graceful apparel, and in the bloom of youth;
and every magnificence becoming the court of a puissant sovereign. And be beheld a courteous man on the top of the castle,
who bade him enter, saying that the king was waiting for him to come to meat. And Collen went into the castle, and when he
came there, the king was sitting in a golden chair. And he welcomed Collen honourably and desired him to eat, assuring him
that, besides what he saw, he should have the most luxurious of every dainty and delicacy that the mind could desire, and
should be supplied with every, drink and liquor that his heart could wish; and that there should be in readiness for him every
luxury of courtesy and service, of banquet and of honourable entertainment, of rank and of presents : and every respect and
welcome due to a man of his wisdom.
"'I will not eat the leaves of the trees,' said Collen. 'Didst thou ever see men of better
equipment than those in red and blue?' asked the king.
"'Their equipment is good enough,' said Collen, 'for such equipment as it is.'
"'What kind of equipment is that?' said the king.
"Then said Collen, 'The red on the one part signifies burning, and the blue on the other signifies
coldness.' And with that Collen drew out his flask, and threw the holy water on their heads, whereupon they vanished
from his sight, so that there was neither castle, nor troops, nor men, nor maidens, nor music, nor song, nor steeds, nor youths,
nor banquet, nor the appearance of any thing whatever, but the green hillocks."