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Main > Welsh folktales > Fairy tale "A King Arthur Story: "The Half-Man""

A King Arthur Story: "The Half-Man"

As often as Arthur had tried the art, he never had been so matched before. The competitors swayed this way and that, writhed, struggled, half lost their footing and regained it, yet neither yielded. All the boatmen gathered breathlessly around, King Arthur's men refusing to believe their eyes, even when they knew their king was in danger. The sullen farm-laborers left their ploughs and spades and, congregating on a rising ground, watched without any expression of sympathy the contest that was going on. An old wrestler from Cornwall, whom Arthur had brought with him, was the judge. According to the habit of the time, the contest was for the best two bouts in three. By the utmost skill and strength, Arthur compelled Hanner Dyn to lose his hold for one instant in the first trial, and the King was pronounced the victor.

The second test was far more difficult; the boy, now grown to a man, and seeming to grow older and stronger before their very eyes, twice forced Arthur to the ground either with hip or shoulder, but never with both, while the crowd closed in breathlessly around; and the half-blind old Druid, who had himself been a wrestler in his youth, called warningly aloud, "Save thyself, O king!"

At this, Arthur roused his failing strength to one final effort. Gripping his rival round the waist with a mighty grasp, the king raised him bodily from the ground and threw him backward till he fell flat, like a log, on both shoulders and both hips; while Arthur himself fell fainting a moment later. Nor did he recover until he found himself in the boat, his head resting on the knees of the aged Druid.

The old man said to him, "Never again, O king! must you encounter the danger you have barely escaped. Had you failed, you would have become the slave to your opponent, whose strength has been maturing for years to overpower you. If you had yielded, although you are a king, you would have become just another one of those dark-browned men who till his fields and do his bidding.

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