rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
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So! It's the [community profile] three_weeks_for_dw fest here, and there's some interesting stuff going on in turns of writing about Welshness (there's a FAQ here all about Wales). It's been a while since I posted anything, and a while since I wrote anything for myself. And it's a beautiful day, and as I was sat out in the sun, I was thinking about Blodeuwedd. Now, before I go on I'd better tell you her story, briefly. It comes from the Mabinogion. Lleu Llaw Gyffes is the son of Arianhrod, but she curses him because he is the result of a failed test about her virginity. (Welsh myth has lots and lots of issues about women, yes.) One of the curses is that he cannot have a human wife. So, out of flowers, Math and Gwydion make a woman for him. Her name is Blodeuwedd.

The problem is, she turns out to be unfaithful, plots his death with her lover, and when they carry out their plan, he is turned into an eagle. Gwydion rescues him and turns him back, and he takes vengeance. He turns Blodeuwedd into an owl, and kills her lover.

This story takes place after that.

I was thinking about Blodeuwedd, and about how women are always blamed and considered inconstant, and I was also thinking about a prose-poem I wrote, in which Blodeuwedd pleads her case, citing Lleu's hardness and unkindness, and the fact that she is made from flowers and is by her very nature inconstant (since flowers typically grow, bloom and die in one season). I wanted to answer that, in a sense, or augment it, by writing something in which a man is similarly unfaithful.

It didn't quite turn out that way, but the message is still there -- with an added environmental one I didn't intend. I see it as an LGBT retelling, but all that happens is men holding hands and sleeping beside each other, which just meant friendship between men in medieval times (or so I'm told).

The Man of Oak and Stone

Blodeuwedd wings away into the forest, and the mournful cry hangs in the air. Lleu hears it still, that night, and the next; he prowls around looking for her, remembering the wind beneath his wings, and knowing not how he should feel. The cry haunts him, and when Gwydion comes upon him one moonlit night, he is watching the mice run in the fields, and the shadows behind him look like wings.

"You need a more faithful companion," Gwydion says to him. Lleu makes no reply.

Gwydion goes to Math again, and they take the leaves of a green, green tree, and a root and a seed from an ancient oak, and then for constancy, they add chips of granite. Weaving them together, they call forth a young man with the greenest eyes the world has ever seen, who is as pliant as a young tree and as grounded as the deeply-rooted oak, and they baptise him with the same baptism they gave Blodeuwedd, naming him after the tree.

"You are to be a companion to Lleu Llaw Gyffes," Gwydion says, and the young man bows.

When the moon watches Blodeuwedd's flight that night, the man of leaves goes out into the forest and takes Lleu by the hand, and draws him under the shelter of a large tree. They sleep side by side, and Blodeuwedd's lonely call goes unheard. When they wake, they go hunting, and Lleu eats while his companion watches, and he watches still while Lleu orders the cantref and arbitrates their quarrels, and in the evening he sings a little, softly, like the wind through the trees, until Lleu sleeps once more.

And so it goes on for some little time, until one night Lleu wakes, and the man of oak is no longer beside him. He hears the cry of the owl, in anger or pain, and the chill goes through him again. He rises and walks through the forest, until he comes to a clearing. The moonlight silvers the leaves of the trees, and the rush of the stream, and the warm brown of the oak.

The young man with eyes greener than should be in this world turns to Lleu, the owl on his arm. Her claws dig into his bare arm, but he shows no pain. It is just as though she had landed on the branch of a tree.

Lleu is not a giving man, cannot even give them the question he needs answered. Everything he has was taken, not given. The owl looks on him without pity, but the young man's eyes still have something of the sun on the leaves, though in early autumn.

"She was not faithless because she was a woman," says he, in his light voice, "but because she was made from flowers, and she is one of the wild things, and you cannot take that from her. She needed the sunlight and the air, and a gentle hand. She is as she was made. And I am not more faithful because I am a man, but because that is how I was made."

"And will you leave me, too?" Lleu asks -- not pleading, but still hard and cold.

"I was made of oak, and stone, and I was here before you came, and shall be here when you are gone -- if you do not drive me out." He moves his arm, just a little, and Blodeuwedd takes flight. "You may build a life around me, if you wish, and live with me. Or you may build your life upon me, and crush me, and bend nature to your will. But then you will be alone."

Lleu makes no promise, but he takes the man of leaves and stone by the hand, and leads him to his home.

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The Man of Oak and Stone by Rhian Crockett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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rhian_crockett: A painting of a castle; there is a red flag flying. (Default)
Rhian Crockett

August 2013


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