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The Lady of the Fountain: part 3

Updated on May 20, 2013

In this part of the legend of Owein and the Lady of the Fountain, Arthur takes an active part. A couple of points worth noting: first is that Arthur has been present in the background throughout the story. It begins in his court and the fact that Owein is a member of that court, makes him all the more valuable. Secondly is how Arthur moves through the world without effort. I have skipped over the difficulties experienced by Cynon and Owein in reaching the fountain. Arthur has none of those difficulties he brushes aside all obstacles with ease. Also, he only has to ask and his request is treated as a command.

In part 1 of this story, Arthur suggests that his men regale each other until he returns. It is presented as a suggestion, but Cei says “Let us do as our Lord commands” Similarly in this part of the legend, Arthur appears to speak gently, no harsh commands, yet he is obeyed without question. This is typical of the oldest of the Arthurian cycle of tales.

A brief word about the translation: The first paragraph has Arthur using the phrase “A longing upon me” In this context I don’t know a better way to translate “Hiraeth” The word means much more than that. In Welsh Hiraeth is a concept rather than an adjective. The old Brythonic language, surviving today as Welsh, Cornish and Breton, seems to be filled with words that are more than just words. Another example would be “Cartref” This is the Welsh word for “Home” It is derived from two words “Caru” is the verb “To Love” and “Tref” means “Village” so the Welsh word for “Home” literally means “A village of Love”

These legends, told as tales of adventure and derring-do, are filled with concepts that go far beyond the simple translation from one language to another.


Arthur the PenDragon

One day Arthur and Gwalchmai were walking together. Arthur appeared sad and thoughtful, this mood affected Gwalchmai also and he asked;

“What troubles you my Lord”

“Then between us” replied Arthur, “There is a longing upon me for Owein. For three years he has been gone without word. I will not go for a fourth year without knowing what has happened to him. I know it was because of the tale of Cynon ap Clydno that he left.”

“Then gather the men of your household Lord,” Counseled Gwalchmai, “And we will avenge him if he is killed, free him if he is a prisoner or bring him back if he is alive.” This counsel was agreed upon.

The next day Arthur was equipped with horse and weapons and three thousand of his men accompanied him with Cynon ap Clydno as their guide.

Cynon led them to the great castle where he and Owein had stayed. There the lord of those lands greeted them all most courteously and though their host was great, all were fed and housed as though they were in Arthur’s court.

The next day they set out and Cynon guided them to where the Moor stood. Arthur was astonished for he had never seen a man so tall, his size even greater than had been told them. Then they arrived at the top of the hill and looked down into the vale. There stood the Fountain. Cei rode up to Arthur and said;

“I know the meaning of this, let me go down and face whatever adventure may come my way”

Arthur agreed and Cei went down to the Fountain, drew water in a bowl and dashed the water against the Fountain stone. Then it happened as before, a great peal of thunder and a shower of hailstones the like of which none of them had experienced. When the shower ended the trees were stripped bare of leaves. Then the sky cleared and birds landed on the branches of the trees and their song was the sweetest that any man had heard. Then there appeared a man on horseback, clad in Black armor. Cei met him but before long Cei was thrown from his horse. The Black Knight pitched his tent and Arthur and his host pitched theirs and settled for the night.

The next morning Cei approached Arthur; “Lord, yesterday I was unfairly thrown, give me leave to try again.” Arthur agreed but Cei was once again beaten. Then others of the host attempted battle with the Black Knight but all were beaten.

Gwalchmai and the Black Knight

Arthur decided to prepare himself for battle but Gwalchmai said;

“I have not yet contested this man; allow me to try him first.” Arthur consented and Gwalchmai went to meet the Black Knight.

For the rest of that day they fought. By evening, neither had got the better of the other. They retired for the night and the next day they fought again. All day they contested but again they were evenly matched and neither could gain the superiority over the other. On the third day, at noon, they charged each other with such ferocity they both were unhorsed. They immediately rose to their feet and with their swords attacked each other. Such was their battle that those who saw it were sure that were it the middle of the night, the sky would be bright from the clash of their swords. The Black Knight dealt Owein such a blow to his head that his helm came loose. At that he recognized him and threw off his own helm.

“Gwalchmai!” He cried, “I did not know you. Take my sword and my armor.”

“No Owein,” replied Gwalchmai “You are the master and yours is the victory, take you my sword.”

Arthur saw them arguing and rode down. “Both of you give me your swords, then neither of you is the victor.”

Then Owein embraced Arthur and the host came down and great was the rejoicing that day and into the evening.

The next day Arthur was preparing to leave when Owein said to him;

“Lord that would not be right of you. Three years ago I left and these lands are mine. For all this time I have been preparing a feast for you, for I knew you would come looking for me. Please let us retire to my castle and enjoy my hospitality for a while.”

The shaming of Owein

So Arthur and his host accompanied Owein to his castle where they met the Lady of the Fountain. The feast that had been three years in the making was consumed in three months. Never had a feast been better or the company so pleasant. Then Arthur made ready to depart. Before leaving he asked the Lady of the Fountain if she would give her permission for Owein to accompany them back to Arthur’s court at Caer Llion so that he may be shown to the Nobles of the island of Britain. Owein declared to his Lady that he would be gone for three months. To this the Lady consented though she found it hard to do. So Owein returned to the Island of Britain and saw again his kinfolk and his old friends and companions. Instead of staying three months, he was there for three years.

One day as he was sitting down to a meal at Caer Llion a woman on a crisp bay mare rode up. Her cloak was of brocaded silk and the bridle was solid gold. She strode up to Owein and took the wedding ring from off his finger saying;

“This does one do to a false and treacherous deceiver. Shame there be on your beard.” Then she turned her horses head and rode away.

Then Owein remembered his adventure and became sorrowful. He returned to his lodging, filled with remorse, he could not sleep that night. The next morning he arose but he did not return to Arthur’s court. Instead he made for the bounds of the Earth and the desolate mountains.

To be Continued

So ends the third part of this legend. In the next episode a mysterious Lion enters the tale, more adventure and Luned returns, once again playing a pivotal part in the legend.


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