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Main > Celtic folktales > Fairy tale "The wooing of Olwen"

The wooing of Olwen

Brighter were her glances than those of a falcon; her bosom was more snowy than the breast of the white swan, her cheek redder than the reddest roses. Whoso beheld was filled with her love. Four white trefoils sprang up wherever she trod, and therefore was she called Olwen.

Then Kilhuch, sitting beside her on a bench, told her his love, and she said that he would win her as his bride if he granted whatever her father asked.

Accordingly they went up to the castle and laid their request before him.

"Raise up the forks beneath my two eyebrows which have fallen over my eyes," said Yspathaden Penkawr, "that I may see the fashion of my son-in-law."

They did so, and he promised, them an answer on the morrow. But as they were going forth, Yspathaden seized one of the three poisoned darts that lay beside him and threw it back after them.

And Bedwyr caught it and flung it back, wounding Yspathaden in the knee.

Then said he, "A cursed ungentle son-in-law, truly. I shall ever walk the worse for his rudeness. This poisoned iron pains me like the bite of a gad-fly. Cursed be the smith who forged it, and the anvil whereon it was wrought."

The knights rested in the house of Custennin the herdsman, but the next day at dawn they returned to the castle and renewed their request.

Yspathaden said it was necessary that he should consult Olwen's four great-grandmothers and her four great-grand-sires.

The knights again withdrew, and as they were going he took the second dart and cast it after them.

But Menw caught it and flung it back, piercing Yspathaden's breast with it, so that it came out at the small of his back.

"A cursed ungentle son-in-law, truly," says he, "the hard iron pains me like the bite of a horse-leech. Cursed be the hearth whereon it was heated! Henceforth whenever I go up a hill, I shall have a scant in my breath and a pain in my chest."

On the third day the knights returned once more to the palace, and

Yspathaden took the third dart and cast it at them.

But Kilhuch caught it and threw it vigorously, and wounded him through the eyeball, so that the dart came out at the back of his head.

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