Monday, 18 April 2011

The Thirteen Treasures of Britain

The Treasures of Britain
From the Drawing by E. Wallcousins

It is in keeping with the mythological character of Arthur that the early Welsh tales recorded of him are of a different nature from those which swell the pseudo-histories of Nennius 1 and of Geoffrey of Monmouth. We hear nothing of that subjugation of the countries of Western Europe which fills so large a part in the two books of the Historia Britonum which Geoffrey has devoted to him. Conqueror he is, but his conquests are not in any land known to geographers. It is against Hades, and not against Rome, that he achieves his highest triumphs. This is the true history of King Arthur, and we may read more fragments and snatches of it in two prose-tales preserved in the Red Book of Hergest. Both these tales date, in the actual form in which they have come down to us, from the twelfth century. But, in each of them, the writer seems to be stretching out his hands to gather in the dying traditions of a very remote past.

Tri Thlws ar Ddeg Ynys Prydain

1. Dyrnwyn the sword of Rhydderch Hael; if any man drew it except himself, it burst into a flame from the cross to the point, and all who asked it received it; but because of this property all shunned it. and therefore was he called Rhydderch Hael.

2. The basket of Gwyddno Garanhir; if food for one man were put into it, when opened it would be found to contain food for one hundred.

3. The horn of Bran Galed; what liquor soever was desired was found therein.

4. The chariot of Morgan Mwynvawr; whoever sat in it would be immediately wheresoever he wished.

5. The halter of Clydno Eiddyn, which was in a staple below the feet of his bed; and whatever horse he wished for in it, he would find it there.

6. The knife of Llawfrodded Farchawg; which would serve four and-twenty men at meat all at once.

7. The cauldron of Tyrnog; if meat were put in it to boil for a coward it would never be boiled, but if meat were put in it for a brave man it would be boiled forthwith.

8. The whetstone of Tudwal Tudelud; if the sword of a brave man were sharpened thereon, and any one were wounded therewith, he would be sure to die, but if it were that of a coward that was sharpened on it, he would be none the worse.

9. The garment of Padarn Beisrudd; if a man of gentle birth put it on, it suited him well, but if a churl it would not fit him.

10, 11. The pan and the platter of Rhegynydd Ysgolhaig; whatever food was required was found therein.

12. The chessboard of Gwenddolen; when the men were placed upon it, they would play of themselves. The chessboard was of gold, and the men of silver.

13. The mantle of Arthur; whosoever was beneath it could see everything, while no one could see him.

This version is slightly different from that given by another sources (Jones' Welsh Bards) which omits the halter of Clydno Eiddyn, but adds the mantle of Tegau Eurvron, which would only fit such ladies as were perfectly correct in their conduct. Jones' version also included the ring of Luned (whoever concealed the stone of this ring became invisible), by which she effected the release of Owain the son of Urien, as has already been seen in the story of the Lady of the Fountain.



Simon Andrew Stirling said...

I've done quite a bit of work on the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain for my forthcoming book ('ARTHUR'). You'd be surprised how many of the treasures belonged to contemporaries, near-neighbours and relations of Arthur of Dalriada. I believe they were originally the grave-goods which were buried with him.