Being the fifth part of the tale of Culhwch ac Olwen; in which the sword of Gwrnach the Giant is obtained and Mabon ap Modron is released from his imprisonment. It should be noted that Culhwch himself seems to take no part in these adventures, nor indeed in the business of achieving any of the other of the objectives set by Yspaddaden Pencawr. He relies entirely on the efforts of Arthur and his warriors
All that day they journeyed until the evening, and then they saw a vast castle, which was the largest in the world. And a black man, larger than three of the men of this world, came out from the castle. And they spoke to him, "Where do you come from?"
"From the castle which you see over there."
"Whose castle is that?" asked they.
"Men, you are truly stupid. There is no one in the world that does not know to whom this castle belongs. It is the castle of Gwrnach the Giant."
"What treatment is there for guests and strangers that visit that castle?" "Chieftain, heaven protect you. No guest ever returned from there alive, and no one may enter therein unless he brings with him his craft."
Then they proceeded towards the gate. Said Gwrhyr Gwalstawd Ieithoedd, "Is there a porter?"
"There is. And you, if your tongue be not mute in your head, why do you call?"
"Open the gate."
"I will not open it."
"Why will you not?"
"The knife is in the meat, and the drink is in the horn, and there is revelry in the hall of Gwrnach the Giant, and except for a craftsman who brings his craft, the gate will not be opened to-night."
"Truthfully, porter," then said Cai, "my craft I bring with me."
"What is your craft?"
"I am the best burnisher of swords in the world."
"I will go and tell this to Gwrnach the Giant, and I will bring you an answer."
So the porter went in, and Gwrnach said to him, "have you any news from the gate?"
"I have. There is a party at the door of the gate who desire to come in."
"Did you inquire of them if they possessed any art?"
"I did inquire," said he, "and one told me that he was well skilled in the burnishing of swords."
We have need of him then. For some time have I sought for some one to polish my sword, and could find no one. Let this man enter, since he brings with him his craft."
The porter thereupon returned and opened the gate. And Cai went in by himself, and he saluted Gwrnach the Giant. And a chair was placed for him opposite to Gwrnach. And Gwrnach said to him, "Is it true that you know how to burnish swords?"
"I know full well how to do so," answered Cai. Then was the sword of Gwrnach brought to him. And Cai took a blue whetstone from under his arm, and asked him whether he would have it burnished white or blue.
"Do with it as it seems good to you, and as you would if it were your own."
Then Cai polished one half of the blade and put it in his hand. "Will this please you?" asked he.
"I would rather than all that is in my dominions that the whole of it were like this. It is a marvel to me that such a man as thou should be without a companion."
"Noble sir, I have a companion, albeit he is not skilled in this art."
"Who may he be?."
"Let the porter go forth and I will tell him how he may know him. The head of his lance will leave its shaft, and draw blood from the wind, and will descend upon its shaft again." Then the gate was opened, and Bedwyr entered. And Cai said, "Bedwyr is very skilful, although he knows not this art."
And there was much discussion amongst those who were outside, because Cai and Bedwyr had gone in. And a young man who was with them, the only son of Custennin the herdsman, got in also. And he caused all his companions to keep close to him as he passed the three wards, and until he came into the middle of the castle. And his companions said to the son of Custennin, "You have done this, you are the best of all men." And from then on he was called Goreu, the son of Custennin. Then they dispersed to their lodgings, that they might slay those who lodged there, unknown to the Giant.
The sword was now polished, and Cai placed it in the hand of Gwrnach the Giant, to see if he were pleased with his work. And the Giant said, "The work is good, I am content with it."
Said Cai, "It is your scabbard that has rusted your sword, give it to me that I may take out the wooden sides of it and put in new ones." And he took the scabbard from him, and the sword in the other hand. And he came and stood over against the Giant, as if he would have put the sword into the scabbard; and with it he struck at the head of the Giant, and cut off his head at one blow. Then they despoiled the castle, and took from it what goods and jewels they would. And again on the same day, at the beginning of the year, they came to Arthur's Court, bearing with them the sword of Gwrnach the Giant.
Now, when they told Arthur how they had fared, Arthur said, "Which of these marvels will it be best for us to seek first?"
"It will be best," they said, "to seek Mabon ap Modron; and he will not be found unless we first find Eidoel, the son of Aer, his kinsman."
Then Arthur rose up, and the warriors of the Islands of Britain with him, to seek for Eidoel; and they proceeded until they came before the Castle of Glifi, where Eidoel was imprisoned. Glifi stood on the summit of his castle, and he said, "Arthur, what do you require of me, since nothing remains to me in this fortress, and I have neither joy nor pleasure in it; neither wheat nor oats? Do not seek therefore to do me harm."
Said Arthur, "I did not come here to injure you, but to seek for the prisoner that is with you."
"I will give you my prisoner, though I had not thought to give him up to any one; and you shall have my support and my aid."
His followers said to Arthur, "Lord, go home, you cannot proceed with your host in quest of such small adventures as these."
Then said Arthur, "It were well for you, Gwrhyr Gwalstawd Ieithoedd, to go upon this quest, for you know all languages, and are familiar with those of the birds and the beasts. You, Eidoel, should likewise go with my men in search of your cousin. And as for you, Cai and Bedwyr, I have hope of whatever you are seeking, that you will find it. Achieve this adventure for me."
They went forward until they came to the Ousel of Cilgwri. And Gwrhyr commanded her in the name of heaven, saying, "Tell me if you know anything of Mabon ap Modron, who was taken when three nights old from between his mother and the wall."
And the Ousel answered, "When I first came here, there was a smith's anvil in this place, and I was then a young bird; and from that time no work has been done upon it, save the pecking of my beak every evening, and now there is not so much as the size of a nut remaining there; yet the vengeance of heaven be upon me, if during all that time I have ever heard of the man for whom you inquire. Nevertheless I will do that which is right, and that which it is fitting that I should do for an embassy from Arthur. There is a race of animals who were formed before me, and I will be your guide to them."
So they proceeded to the place where was the Stag of Redynfre. "Stag of Redynfre, we have come to you as an embassy from Arthur, for we have not heard of any animal older than you. Do you know anything of Mabon ap Modron, who was taken from his mother when three nights old?"
The Stag said, "When I first came here, there was a plain all around me, without any trees except for one oak sapling, which grew up to be an oak with a hundred branches. And that oak has since perished, so that now nothing remains of it but the withered stump; and from that day to this I have been here, yet have I never heard of the man for whom you inquire. Nevertheless, being an embassy from Arthur, I will be your guide to the place where there is an animal which was formed before I was."
So they proceeded to the place where was the Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd. "Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd, here is an embassy from Arthur; do you know anything of Mabon ap Modron, who was taken after three nights from his mother?"
"If I knew I would tell you. When first I came here, the wide valley you see was a wooded glen. And a race of men came and rooted it up. And there grew there a second wood; and this wood is the third. My wings, are they not withered stumps? Yet all this time, even until to-day, I have never heard of the man for whom you inquire. Nevertheless, I will be the guide of Arthur's embassy until you come to the place where is the oldest animal in this world, and the one that has travelled most, the Eagle of Gwern Abwy."
Gwrhyr said, "Eagle of Gwern Abwy, we have come to you an embassy from Arthur, to ask you if you know anything of Mabon ap Modron, who was taken from his mother when he was three nights old."
The Eagle said, "I have been here for a great space of time, and when I first came here there was a rock here, from the top of which I pecked at the stars every evening; and now it is not so much as a span high. From that day to this I have been here, and I have never heard of the man for whom you inquire, except once when I went in search of food as far as Llyn Llyw. And when I came there, I struck my talons into a salmon, thinking he would serve me as food for a long time. But he drew me into the deep, and I was scarcely able to escape from him. After that I went with my whole kindred to attack him, and to try to destroy him, but he sent messengers, and made peace with me; and came and asked me to take fifty fish spears out of his back. Unless he knows something of him whom you seek, I cannot tell who may. However, I will guide you to the place where he is.
So they went there; and the Eagle said, "Salmon of Llyn Llyw, I have come to you with an embassy from Arthur, to ask you if you know anything concerning Mabon ap Modron, who was taken away at three nights old from his mother."
"As much as I know I will tell you. With every tide I go along the river upwards, until I come near to the walls of Gloucester, and there have I found such wrong as I never found elsewhere; and so that you may give credence to this, let one of you go there on each of my two shoulders."
So Cai and Gwrhyr Gwalstawd Ieithoedd went upon the two shoulders of the salmon, and they proceeded until they came unto the wall of the prison, and they heard a great wailing and lamenting from the dungeon.
Said Gwrhyr, "Who is it that laments in this house of stone?"
"Alas, there is reason enough for whoever is here to lament. It is Mabon ap Modron who is here imprisoned; and no imprisonment was ever so grievous as mine, neither that of Lludd Llaw Ereint, nor that of Greid ab Eri." "Have you hope of being released for gold or for silver, or for any gifts of wealth, or through battle and fighting?"
"Only by fighting will whatever I may gain be obtained."
Then they returned to Arthur, and they told him where Mabon ap Modron was imprisoned. And Arthur summoned the warriors of the Island, and they journeyed as far as Gloucester, to the place where Mabon was in prison. Cai and Bedwyr went upon the shoulders of the fish, whilst the warriors of Arthur attacked the castle. And Cai broke through the wall into the dungeon, and brought away the prisoner upon his back, whilst the fight was going on between the warriors. And Arthur returned home, and Mabon with him at liberty.
To the sixth part of Culhwch ac Olwen