Blodeuben is my exploration of an ancient Welsh myth, that of Blodeuwedd. Lleu llaw Gyffes was outcast by his mother, the enchantress Arianrhod, and cursed so that he may never marry a mortal wife. His uncle Gwydion, and Gwydion's own uncle Math Mathonwy (two great magicians) make a girl out of flowers for Lleu to marry - Blodeuwedd means 'flower face'.

In my version, Gwydion is lonely after making Blodeuwedd and seeing how happy his nephew is, so he makes a boy of flowers for himself - Blodeuben is a name of my own invention, which translated as 'head of flowers'.


 

There came a time when Math needed a new foot-servant, and Arianrhod was sent to be tested that her maidenhood was still intact. Math laid his magic wand on the floor of the throne room and bade Arianrhod step across, and in that step she dropped a golden-haired child; he grew up to be Dylan, Prince of the Waves. In her shame, Arianrhod ran for the door, and in doing so, dropped something else, a small dark thing. Gwydion whisked it away before any could have a chance to question him. The thing in the chest woke Gwydion the next morning; it was a small dark-haired child. Gwydion, being Arianrhod's cousin, thought of the child as his nephew and brought him up as such.

The child grew and became Lleu Llaw Gyffes, and his uncle Gwydion helped him overcome two of the three geasa placed on him by his Mother Arianrhod; that he would never be named and that he would never hold arms, but the third was the most difficult - that he would never marry a mortal woman. Gwydion knew that this would take great power, so he took Lleu to see his own uncle, Math Mathonwy.

Math wasted no time at all and sent Gwydion and Lleu out to the fields to collect flowers, they soon returned laden with flowers of oak, flowers of broom and flowers of meadowsweet. Math and Gwydion laid the flowers out on the ground in a shallow pit, taking great care to put them in the correct place. The two magicians stood over the mound of flowers and petals and began to chant, and as they chanted they walked in a clockwise circle, and once in a widdershins circle. The flowers began to glow, and out of the flowers walked the most beautiful woman Lleu had ever seen. She walked over to him and took his hand. Math shouted with joy, and named her Blodeuwedd, then took the young pair into his house to begin arranging the marriage.

Gwydion sat down next to the flower-strewn pit, feeling melancholic. He was glad he had found love for his young charge, but this only served to deepen his loneliness. He looked down at the flowers and saw how many were left; Blodeuwedd was a mere slip of a girl, it had taken barely half of the flowers to make her. Gwydion wondered if he could make another person.

He lifted his arms and circled the remaining flowers, chanting under his breath. As he circled widdershins, the flowers began to glow again. He watched as the flowers melted together and formed the body and limbs of a beautiful young man, who sprung out of the pit into Gwydion's waiting arms.



Blodeuben is the first tale from the Mabinogion that I have adapted. I am currently making a short film called Genedigaeth Blodeuben (which means The Birth of Blodeuben) for entry into the Iris Prize.

I have also adapted another story about Gwydion, The Three Sons of Gwydion and Gilfaethwy. Being from the Mabinogion it's full of incest, rape and shapechanging, but my version is about gay parenting.

***

Math Mathonwy had a geasa upon him, that he could not be alive unless he had his feet in a maiden's lap - unless war prevented him. His foot-servant was Goewin, the most beautiful woman in the land, and daughter of Pebin of Dol Pebin in Arfon. The maiden was with Math all of the time in Caer Dathyl, and he was unable to patrol the borders of the land - so he set his nephews Gwydion and Gilfaethwy, two brothers, to patrol on his behalf.

Gilfaethwy fell in love with Goewin, and could do nothing at all for love of her, and he soon started wasting away. Gwydion saw that all was not well with his brother, and guessed what ailed him. Gwydion told Gilfaethwy to be patient; he would devise a way for his brother to lie with Goewin - and began a war with Pryderi of Dyfed by stealing his pigs.

During the war, which saw Math Mathonwy lead his army, Gwydion and Gilfaethwy returned to Caer Dathyl. Gilfaethwy took Goewin to Math's bed, where she was forced to sleep with him against her will.

Math returned from war, and made preparations to retire to his bedchamber. He called for Goewin so that he may rest his feet on her lap and sleep safely, but Goewin told him that she could no longer be his foot-servant as she was not a maiden any longer. Math demanded an explanation, and finally Goewin told him that his nephews were to blame: Gilfaethwy raped her, and had been helped by Gwydion.

Math was furious, he promised to find justice, and promised to marry Goewin and give her the power of his lands. He decided to wait for Gilfaethwy and Gwydion to show their faces in his court and he had to wait a long time, for they stayed away as long as they could.

When they eventually arrived at court, Math was quick to punish them. He raised his wand and struck Gilfaethwy and turned him into a hind; then he struck Gwydion and turned him into a stag. He banished them to the greenwoods for a year, and told them they would live as the animals lived; and mate as the animals mated. This was their punishment.

After a year had passed, there was a commotion at the castle gates and a messenger ran to Math to tell him that a great stag was waiting, with a hind and a sturdy fawn. Math arrived at the gate and raised his wand. He shouted that the stag that was Gwydion would become a wild sow, and the hind that was Gilfaethwy would become a wild boar; and he struck them both with the wand. Math kept the fawn, and called him Hydwn; with a strike from his wand the fawn became a young boy. Then he banished his punished nephews to the greenwoods for another year.

A year passed quickly enough, and again there was a disturbance at the gates when a full year had passed. A messenger came to Math and told him there was a wild boar, a wild sow and a fine piglet waiting. Math arrived at the gate and raised his wand. He shouted that the sow that was Gwydion would become a wolf, and the boar that was Gilfaethwy would become a she-wolf; and he struck them both with the wand. Math kept the piglet, and called him Hychdwn; with a strike from his wand, the piglet became a handsome red-haired young boy. Then he banished the wolves to the greenwoods for yet another year.

When a year had fully passed, there came a barking and snarling at the castle gates. A messenger was sent to Math to tell him that a great wolf was waiting, with a she-wolf and a sturdy wolf-cub. Math arrived at the gate and raised his wand. Math kept the cub, and called him Bleidwn; with a strike from his wand, the wolf-cub became a young boy. Math called the three boys; the three sons of Gilfaethwy the false, three warriors true. Bleidwn, Hydwn and Hychdwn the Tall.

Math then called the wolf and she-wolf, struck them both with his wand and they returned to their own flesh.


 

A piece of soundart that is has been exhibited in RNIB Cymru's head office in Cardiff, Wales, UK (Royal Nation Institute of Blind People) as it's partly to celebrate Louis Braille's bicentenary and his brilliant invention of braille (which makes such a difference to blind and partially sighted people's lives).

Blodeuwedd's Song is my response to how to turn braille into music. I allocated each dot of the braille cell a different note of the pentatonic scale, and used a poem I had written about Blodeuwedd as the base. I then transcribed the poem into braille, and spent about three days placing each note. So one letter in my transcribed version can be up to five notes played together: for variation I spaced them out a little, and lowered the octave of a few, when I felt the poem intensified emotion - so this is a mixture of aleatoric and chosen notes. The soundart is set against a backdrop of a busy woodland and a lone owl.


 
Blodeuwedd's Song
Blodeuben
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Blodeuben

A multimedia project based on tales from The Mabinogion, an ancient Welsh text.
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Published:

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