The Celtic Literature Collective

The Story of Myrddin Wyllt
Elis Gruffudd, 16th C

According to the narrative of some authors there was about this time within one which is called Nanconwy a man who was called Morfryn. But others show this was Morfryn Frych, prince of Gwynedd, - which he could not be according to the tenor of his songs. Nevertheless the writing shows that a man of this name had a son who was called Mryddin son of Morfryn, and a daughter who was called Gwenddydd as the story shows, the son was unstable in his senses; for at one time he would be witless and out of mind and reason, and at another time he would be in his mind at which time he would be wise and discreet and prompt in his answers and good counsels concerning everything that would be asked of him. To him God had given the of prophecy, which prophecies he would declare in poetry in metre, when he wool in his mind, and especially to Gwenddydd his sister, who, as my copy shows, was wise and learned [and] who wrote a great book of his utterances, especially about prophecies as related to this island. Some of these follow hereafter in this vein although there is hardly any profitable meaning to be gathered from any of them. nevertheless, in order to ward off sloth, with God's help I will write down all that I have been able to see in writing.

The books show that this Myrddin was so unstable in mind and senses that he would not live within dwelling houses, especially during the three months of summer, but in caves in the rocks and in harbours of his own work in the glens and the woods on either side of the river Conway. To these parts and places Gwenddydd his sister would come many a time with his food, which she would set in a place so that he could take his nourishment when he came to his senses.

And at a certain time, as the narrative shows, it happened that Gwenddydd saw certain rare dreams on various nights. All these she carefully retained in her memory until she should find a place and time to relate them to Myrddin her brother. Against that time Gwenddydd prepared bread and butter on a herb cake of wheaten bread with various drinks in various vessels, every drink in its grade as its nature demanded, as wine in silver, and mead in a horn, and the beer in sycamore, and the milk in a white jug, and the water in an earthen jug. All these she placed in order besides the bread and butter inside the harbour to which Myrddin was wont to come, when he was in his senses, to take his nourishment.

To this part and place he came soon thereafter, as the writing shows. At which time Gwenddydd hid herself within the harbour or cell to listen to his declamations. At which time, as Gwenddydd shows at length, Myrddin took the finely wrought cake and the bread and butter upon it, to which he composed many songs. Of it he said:

And after he had eaten a portion of his bread and butter he complained to himself about drink. Thereupon Gwenddydd revealed herself to her brother, to whom she showed the drinks in order, as she had placed them in order. At which time, as [the story] shows, Myrddin asked his sister what kind of drink stood in the bright shining vessel. To which Gwenddydd answered saying, 'This drink, which is called wine, has been made from the fruit of the trees of the earth.' 'Aha!' said Myrddin, 'verily this drink is not suitable for me or for my people, for it is the nature of this drink to make such as are wont to drink it in these regions poor from being rich'. And after this he asked Gwenddydd what kind of drink was in the horn. To which answered Gwenddydd, who spoke thus: 'This drink, which is called mead amongst our people, has been made from water and honey.' 'Aha!' said Myrddin, 'much of this drink is not healthy for me or for anyone, for its nature is to make ill the healthy'. And afterwards he asked his sister what kind of drink was in the many coloured wood, to which Gwenddydd answered saying, 'This drink, which is called beer, has been made from water and from grains of barley.' Aha!' said Myrddin, 'this drink is not at all good for me, for its nature is to deprive the prudent of their senses.' And then Myrddin asked Gwenddydd what kind of drink was in the white jug. To which she answered saying, 'This drink is made from the produce of animals and is called milk.' Then Myrddin said thus: 'Verily this drink is good for me and my people, for this is natural to nurture the weak and to help the feeble and to strengthen the wretched and to increase energy for the strong.' And after this he asked what kind of drink stood in the earthen vessel. To which Gwenddydd answered saying, 'This is one of the four elements and it is called water, which God from Heaven has sent for the benefit of mankind.' Then Myrddin said thus, 'All thou hast said is true, and verily this is the one best drink till the Day of judgement. Of this I will drink my fill to slake my thirst.'

And after this she begged of him to listen to her relating to him certain dreams which she had seen certain times previously, begging him to interpret them and to show clearly to her what they represented. Upon which Myrddin asked her to them, and she spoke as follows written in this work.

The First Dream
'My true brother and friend, of a night in my sleep I thought for certain within myself that I was standing on a great wide field which I saw full of stone cairns small in and a few big cairns amongst the small ones. And I could see great numbers of pee" gathering the stones from the small cairns and casting them into the big ones with a pause. And yet in spite of this I could not see either the small cairns becoming smaller, however much I could see the peoples gathering from them, or the big one becoming bigger, however great the assiduity with which I could see the peoples collecting the stones from the small cairns and casting them into the big cairns. And the marvel of the dream I awoke; but verily I cannot let the marvel of the dream out of my memory.

How Myrddin interpreted the dream to his sister
'Gwenddydd and my dearest sister, do not marvel too much at thy vision, for no harm will come to thee from it. And be it known to thee that the field thou sawest represents this island. And the small cairns represent the husbandmen of the kingdom and it's labourers of each and every grade who live lawfully and win their livelihood by labour of their bodies, and who place their trust in God alone. And the big cairns represent the chiefs of the kingdom of each and every grade. And the peoples whom thou sawest gathering the stones from the small cairns and casting them into the big ones represent the servants of noblemen who are and always will be ready to keep their servants to take the wealth of the labourers and the husbandmen without ceasing for ever, sometimes under pretence or semblance of the offices of the law, sometimes by force sometimes by stealth. And in as much as thou sawest not the big cairns increasing however much the load thou sawest the peoples carrying from the small cairns to the big ones, that shows God's wrath and displeasure, for God does not allow the wealth that is wrongfully amassed to multiply with the gatherers and their descendants. And in as much as thou sawest not the small cairns smaller however much thou sawest people taking away from them, that represents the grace of God, for it is certain the noblemen of each and every grade oppress the common husbanding people their worldly goods. And yet in spite of this, however much goods the noblemen; their peoples take from the husbandmen by oppression, the latter will not be the worse or the poorer; for as much as they may lose the one way God will send them twice as much another way, especially if they will take such oppression forbearingly with patience and restraint and by entrusting the punishment and vengeance to the Fat of Heaven to Whom it is meet and rightful to punish all iniquity; for He ordained weak and the strong. And verily, however much an innocent man may lose in world, God will not allow him to want any wordly thing in this world, and an abundance of all goodness in the world that is to come. And verily this is what thy dream represents.'

And after this she showed him the second dream, beginning in this wise:
'Myrddin the wise and my true brother, I saw the second dream, that is, in my sleep thought that I was standing in an alder grove of the straightest and fairest trees which the heart of man could think of or imagine. Whither I saw great hosts of men coming with axes in their hands, and with these they were cutting the alder grove and felling them all to the ground from their trunks. And forthwith I saw the straightest and fairest yew trees which man could imagine, growing on the trunks of the alders. And with the marvel of the vision I awoke from my sleep, and from that to this day I cannot let it out of my memory.'

How Myrddin interpreted the second dream, speaking thus:
'Gwenddydd, my counsel to thee is that thou marvel not at the dream, for no harm or hurt will come to thee from it, for the alder grove thou sawest represents this island and its ancestral peoples, which [island] will be greatly impoverished, especially of its noblemen, whom the alder trees represent. All of them will be destroyed even as thou sawest the alders destroyed. Yet in spite of this, in the same way as thou sawest the yews growing forthwith on the trunks of the alders, so noblemen will again grow from the remnants of their lineage. At which time no wealth will remain in the hands of the noblemen, who will betroth their children to men of low rank, from whom there will grow mighty noblemen who will continue in that mode and state for a long time thereafter. And verily this is what thy dream represents.'

After this she showed him the third dream, speaking thus:
My true brother, I saw the third dream, for as I was sound asleep I could see myself standing on a level circular strand upon which I could see a great number of high green hills or mounds. And to my mind and thought I could see the earth quaking so that the mounds subsided into level land. In place of these, to my mind and thought, there forthwith arose heaps of dung. And on these dunghills I could see various kinds of flowering scented herbs growing. There is a great marvel in my heart at the- dream from that to this day.'

How Myrddin interpreted the third dream, speaking thus:
Fair Gwenddydd, feel no worry in the matter, for the vision will do thee no harm; for the strand represents this island, and the mounds represent the chiefs of the island. And the quaking of the earth denotes that there will come war by which all the nobles will be destroyed in the same way as thou sawest the mounds destroyed. And the heaps thou sawest arising forthwith in their place denote that their dominions will be given to ignoble men. And the flowers denote that from these churls there will grow mighty noblemen. And yet it will be rare for the fifth descendant from the stock of these to possess the hearth of his father and grandfather and great-grandfather, for they will disappear like dung shoots. And this is the meaning of this dream.

And after this she declared to him how she saw the fourth dream, speaking in this wise:
'Myrddin my brother, I thought at night in my sleep that I was standing in a park of the fairest wheat which a man could see with the sight of his eyes. The ears of the wheat I could see drily ripe and the stalks quite green. And I could see a mighty plague of swine coming and breaking down the hedge and coming into the park, where they caused grievous damage and destruction to the wheat so that the corn was level with the ground. At which time I saw coming into the wheat field a troop of white greyhounds, which forthwith ran at the swine and killed them nearly all. Because of the sight there is still a great marvel in my heart.'

How Myrddin interpreted the fourth dream, saying:
'Fair Gwenddydd, feel no worry in the matter, for the wheat field represents this kingdom, and the wheat represents the people. And the ripe ears and the sappy stalks denote that men young in age will be whiteheaded at this time, which verily will h rare a sight as seeing an ear of wheat quite ripe and the stalk quite green. And the swine thou sawest breaking into the wheat field denote that there will come to this kingdom a plague of foreigners who will destroy the people in the same way as sawest the swine destroying the wheat. And the greyhounds denote that then come men who will avenge the whiteheaded people upon the swine; such of these as will have been left their lives the greyhounds will drive to flight out of the kingdom. And this is thy dream in full.'

And after this she declared to him the fifth dream, saying:
My brother, I saw the fifth dream, that is, I thought that I was standing in the middle of a grave-yard of exceeding size, which I could see full of girls or maidens of the age. All these I could see pregnant and near the time of their delivery. And I though myself that the children were conversing with one another from their mothers' won which is a great marvel in my heart when I think of this vision.'

Then Myrddin said:
'Let there be no worry upon thee because of the dream. For this graveyard represents this island. And the girls or maidens denote that there will come a world and time when betrothals and marriage will be made between children under their snoods. Aye, and verily almost everyone of that age and generation will be married very young; the children and offspring which will be begotten between them will be full of evil cunning. And inasmuch as thou wert imagining that the children were speaking from their mothers' wombs, that denotes that a fifteen years old youth of this age will wiser in that age than a man of sixty years at this time.'

Thus end the dreams.

Gruffudd, Elis.  The Chronicle of Elis Gruffudd, National Library of Wales MS 5276D. Edited and translated by Thomas Jones in Etude Celtique, 1947.

Back to Welsh Texts
Back to CLC