Welsh Mythology
and Old Welsh Literature

The Romance of Taliesin

16th century and 14th century or earlier Old Welsh poetry and prose, National Library of Wales

Gwion plunges into a river and becomes a fish. Cerridwen becomes an otter and the pursuit goes on.

Young Gwion is set by Cerridwen to stir a cauldron whose broth will endow her son with universal wisdom. By accident, however, young Gwion receives this wisdom himself and, by so doing, knows that when she finds out, Cerridwen will kill him! So he flees, and Cerridwen pursues him like a mad witch! By the wisdom he has gained, Gwion knows that he can exist in any form that he wishes, so he turns himself into a hare. Cerridwen turns herself into a hunting dog and the chase continues furiously. He plunges into a river and becomes a fish. She becomes an otter and the pursuit goes on. He changes himself into a bird and she becomes a hawk. And at last, he turns himself into a grain of wheat and tries to conceal himself on a threshing floor. But Cerridwen turns herself into a hen and, pecking about amongst the grains, she finds him and eats him. But when she resumes her own shape again, she finds herself to be pregnant, and when her time comes, she gives birth to Gwion, who grows up to become the poet Taliesin.

The Romance of Taliesin. Story of Cerridwen and Gwion retold from: Graves, Robert, 1961. The White Goddess: A Historical Grammer of Poetic Myth. Faber and Faber, London. Chapter II. The Battle of the Trees, pp 27–8 in the 1961 edition, reprinted 1990.

See for yourself

Taliesin – Wikipedia

Hanes Taliesin – Wikipedia

Book of Taliesin – Wikipedia

The Peniarth Manuscripts – Peniardd MS 2: The Book of Taliesin. National Library of Wales

Ceridwen – Wikipedia

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