Son of Beli, usurper of Caradawg ap Bran and Manawydan ap Llyr, he is said to have killed the companions of Caradawg by doning a cloak of invisability. Caradawg died of a broken heart, and Caswallawn stole the throne from Caradawg's uncle Manawyddan, rightful heir to the throne of Prydein (Britain).
Caswallawn is also the Welsh name for the British chieftain Cassivellaunus, leader of the Catuvellauni, who fought off the second Roman invasion by Julius Caesar (54 BCE), but with such heavly losses that he sued for peace.
If one follows the triads closely, we can see a lost romance about Caswallawn and Fflur, who was the most beautiful woman in Britain. Julius Caesar apparently abducted her, and Caswallawn pursued, as alluded to in Triad 35, and a poem by Prydydd y Moch:
Rybu Ull Kessar, keissyassei Flur
Y gan ut Prydein, prid y hesgur
There has been Julius Casear, he had sought out Fflur
From the lord of Britain, costly her care.
Triad 71 also mentions Fflur as his lover; triad 67 calls Caswallawn one of the Three Golden Shoemakers, his disguises when he went to Rome to rescue Fflur.
Triad 94 attributes to him one of the Three Immense Feasts, celebrated in London after he drove Caesar from the island.
Triad 38 mentions his horse Meinlas "Slender Grey"
According to Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia and the Triads in the Red Book of Hergest, Caesar first came to Britain as backing for Afarwy son of Lludd, nephew of Caswallawn, and that doing so caused the (historical) paying of tribute to Rome. In the triads it is also indicated that Caesar took the woman Fflur back to Rome with him; Caswallawn is then said to have gone to Rome, disguised as a shoemaker, to steal her back. As to Afarwy, this has its origin in Caesar's De Bello Gallico, where Cassivellaunus is forced by Caesar to give the kingship of the Trinobantes back to Mandubracius after userption by Cassivellaunus.
This connection between Afarwy/Mandubracius and Caswallawn/Cassivellaunus is then tied by John Koch to the story of Manawydan, whose name Koch derives from Mandubracius' father Manuetis. He demonstraited that a number of elements regarding Caswallawn in the Mabinogi has its origins in a native memory of the events described by Caesar: for instance, Caswallawn's cloak of invisibility is tied to Cassivellaunus' guerilla tactics; the disappearance of grain in "Manawydan" reflects a similar event in history; and obviously the usurption of Manawydan by Casswallawn.
The idea of Britain being lost by the sons of Beli is also seen in The Dream of Maxen Wledig, wherein Maxen invades in order to find Elen (who he saw in his dream), and in doing so pushes the sons of Beli from the rule of the island, all the way to Arvon. Interestingly enough, in doing so, he institutes the sons of Eudaf son of Caradawc on the throne. In some genealoties, this Caradawc is the same as Caradawg ap Bran, who was deposed by Caswallawn, and so according to the medieval storytellers, the rightful dynasty regains the throne through the force of Rome. This again echoes the historical dispute between Cassivellaunus and Mandubracius. At any rate, if the text can be read as such, it would indicate the hypothesis that the Mabinogi in part represents a struggle between the Plant Dôn and Plant Llyr.
In one triad, his sister is given as Arianrhod, and so it is possible to assume that he is a son of Dôn, though no other text specifically documents this. However, this is entirely possible, even probable, as outlined in the entry on Dôn
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Mary Jones © 2009