Culwch and Olwen

Culhwch’s father, King Cilydd son of Celyddon, loses his wife Goleuddydd after a difficult childbirth. When he remarries, the young Culhwch rejects his stepmother’s attempt to pair him with his new stepsister. Offended, the new queen puts a curse on him so that he can marry no one besides the beautiful Olwen, daughter of the giant Ysbaddaden Pencawr. Though he has never seen her, Culhwch becomes infatuated with her, but his father warns him that he will never find her without the aid of his famous cousin Arthur. The young man immediately sets off to seek his kinsman. (Wikipedia)

Culhwch and Olwen is a Welsh tale from the 11th century. It survived in a book from around 1325 and one from 1400. As the synopsis of Wikipedia says, Culhwch sets out to the castle of King Arthur to find Olwen. There are some interesting elements in that story.

When he arrives at the castle, Culhwch asks: “Is there a porter?” Indeed there is, Cai (sometimes Kai or Cei), who says to him: “There is; and if thou holdest not thy peace, small will be thy welcome.” Culwch aks Cai to open the gate. He does not and when Culwch asks why not, Cai answers that “none may enter therein but the son of a king of a privileged country, or a craftsman bringing his craft”.
Culwch insists, so does Cai and Culwch makes a threat: “I will set up three shouts at this very gate, than which none were ever more deadly, from the top of Pengwaed in Cornwall to the bottom of Dinsol, in the North, and to Esgair Oervel, in Ireland. And all the women in this Palace that are pregnant shall lose their offspring; and such as are not pregnant, their hearts shall be turned by illness, so that they shall never bear children from this day forward.”
“What clamour soever thou mayest make,” said Glewlwyd Gavaelvawr, “against the laws of Arthur’s Palace shalt thou not enter therein, until I first go and speak with Arthur.”
“Then Glewlwyd went into the Hall. And Arthur said to him, “Hast thou news from the gate?” ”
Inspite of the treat, Kai names Culwch “a man of […] dignity”
“Then said Arthur, “If walking thou didst enter in here, return thou running. And every one that beholds the light, and every one that opens and shuts the eye, let them shew him respect, and serve him, some with gold-mounted drinking-horns, others with collops cooked and peppered, until food and drink can be prepared for him. It is unbecoming to keep such a man as thou sayest he is, in the wind and the rain.” Said Kai, “By the hand of my friend, if thou wouldest follow my counsel, thou wouldest not break through the laws of the Court because of him.” “Not so, blessed Kai. It is an honour to us to be resorted to, and the greater our courtesy the greater will be our renown, and our fame, and our glory.”

And the story continues. There are some amusing manners as you can see above.

Read the who story here.

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