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Celtic Folk and Fairy Tales

Est aliud miraculum in regione quae dicitur Buelt Builth


XII. KING O'TOOLE AND HIS GOOSE.

_Source._--S. Lover's _Stories and Legends of the Irish Peasantry_.

_Remarks._--This is a moral apologue on the benefits of keeping your word. Yet it is told with such humour and vigour, that the moral glides insensibly into the heart.

XIII. THE WOOING OF OLWEN.

_Source._--The _Mabinogi_ of Kilhwch and Olwen from the translation of Lady Guest, abridged.

_Parallels._--Prof. Rhys, _Hibbert Lectures_, p. 486, considers that our tale is paralleled by Cuchulain's "Wooing of Emer," a translation of which by Prof. K. Meyer appeared in the _Archaeological Review_, vol. i. I fail to see much analogy. On the other hand in his _Arthurian Legend_, p. 41, he rightly compares the tasks set by Yspythadon to those set to Jason. They are indeed of the familiar type of the Bride Wager (on which see Grimm-Hunt, i., 399). The incident of the three animals, old, older, and oldest, has a remarkable resemblance to the _Tettira Jataka_ (ed. Fausboll, No. 37, transl. Rhys-Davids, i., p. 310 _seq._) in which the partridge, monkey, and elephant dispute as to their relative age, and the partridge turns out to have voided the seed of the Banyan-tree under which they were sheltered, whereas the elephant only knew it when a mere bush, and the monkey had nibbled the topmost shoots. This apologue got to

England at the end of the twelfth century as the sixty-ninth fable, "Wolf, Fox, and Dove," of a rhymed prose collection of "Fox Fables" (_Mishle Shu'alim_), of an Oxford Jew, Berachyah Nakdan, known in the Records as "Benedict le Puncteur" (see my _Fables of AEsop_, i., p. 170). Similar incidents occur in "Jack and his Snuff-box" in my _English Fairy Tales_, and in Dr. Hyde's "Well of D'Yerree-in-Dowan." The skilled companions of Kulhwych are common in European folk-tales (_Cf._ Cosquin, i., 123-5), and especially among the Celts (see Mr. Nutt's note in MacInnes's _Tales_, 445-8), among whom they occur very early, but not so early as Lynceus and the other skilled comrades of the Argonauts.

_Remarks._--The hunting of the boar Trwyth can be traced back in Welsh tradition at least as early as the ninth century. For it is referred to in the following passage of Nennius's _Historia Britonum_, ed. Stevenson, p. 60, "Est aliud miraculum in regione quae dicitur Buelt [Builth, co. Brecon] Est ibi cumulus lapidum et unus lapis super-positus super congestum cum vestigia canis in eo. Quando venatus est porcum Troynt [_var. lec._ Troit] impressit Cabal, qui erat canis Arthuri militis, vestigium in lapide et Arthur postea congregavit congestum lapidum sub lapide in quo erat vestigium canis sui et vocatur Carn Cabal." Curiously enough there is still a mountain called Carn Cabal in the district of Builth, south of Rhayader Gwy in Breconshire. Still more curiously a friend of Lady Guest's found on this a cairn with a stone two feet long by one foot wide in which there was an indentation 4 in. x 3 in. x 2 in. which could easily have been mistaken for a paw-print of a dog, as may be seen from the engraving given of it on opposite page (_Mabinogion_, ed. 1874, p. 269).

The stone and the legend are thus at least one thousand years old. "There stands the stone to tell if I lie." According to Prof. Rhys (_Hibbert Lect._ 486-97) the whole story is a mythological one, Kulhwych's mother being the dawn, the clover blossoms that grow under Olwen's feet being comparable to the roses that sprang up where Aphrodite had trod, and Yspyddadon being the incarnation of the sacred hawthorn. Mabon, again (_l. c._ pp. 21, 28-9), is the Apollo Maponus discovered in Latin inscriptions at Ainstable in Cumberland and elsewhere (Hubner, _Corp. Insc. Lat. Brit._ Nos. 218, 332, 1345). Granting all this, there is nothing to show any mythological significance in the tale, though there may have been in the names of the _dramatis personae_. I observe from the proceedings of the recent Eisteddfod that the bardic name of Mr. W. Abraham, M.P., is "Mabon." It scarcely follows that Mr. Abraham is in receipt of divine honours nowadays.


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