At the launch event for our film funding campaign I told this story, as an illustration of the galvanising power of the tales in the Mabinogion once you start interacting with them.
Years ago I had come to Wales with a group of friends, also researchers into our native tradition. We were staying in North Wales, near the sites where many of the events of the fourth branch tale ‘Math’ are set, and this day we were acting out the moment when Lleu Llaw Gyffes is slain by his rival Gronw, having been betrayed by his wife, Blodeuwedd, the ‘woman of flowers’. It was December, around the winter solstice, and we’d gone to the actual river Cynfael where, it’s said Lleu stood on the back of a goat, under a makeshift thatch,with one foot on a cauldron and naked as the dawn, to demonstrate to his wife the obscure conditions under which he could be killed.
Mark, a young actor of daredevil temperament, was playing Lleu and he jumped across the fast-flowing river to a stone in the middle to act out his part. Mike stood on the bank, as Gronw, with a pretend spear ready to throw. He threw it and Mark made the required shriek which presages Lleu’s change into an eagle, then threw his arms in the air and was swallowed by the swollen river. As he was swept downstream I was visualising the newspaper headlines and the ruin of our fascinating project, never mind the drowning of our reckless friend.
A hundred yards downstream, we fished him out and made a fire to dry his clothes. He was cocky as ever and none the worse for wear. But the lesson was, and I have never forgotten it: these tales are about the Children of Don, the Plant Don, the Tuatha de Danaan, the race who are said to have ‘brought magic to these islands’. Don’t mess with their tales, they are powerful stuff and they can sweep you away to shores you never dreamed of.
The tale mentioned above is the fourth story in the Mabinogion and is the inspiration behind the Dancing Floor Film. Have a look at our crowdfunding site and support us if you can. We want to spread the magic of the Plant Don around the world!