by Mary Tidbury – with gratitude to the Mabinogion

For long ages past the bards have sung and recited the story of Blodeuwedd, little Flowerface. What a poor job they have made of it – here is the real version.

Lleu, the so-called hero, was put under a tynged – a curse – by his mother Arianrhod, that he might never wed a mortal woman. And this was done for a good and sufficient reason – he had a cruel nature and delighted in tormenting small things when he thought no one was watching him. But Math and Gwydion, those troublemakers, decided to attempt to curry favour with their master by getting him a wife. So they took flower of oak from the high forest, flower of broom from the forest edge, and meadowsweet from the forest clearing and with them they made me, and they named me Blodeuwedd.

As easily as they had broken stalks to make me they handed me over to Lleu, who bruised and tore me in his turn – poor Arianrhod would have wept to see her curse defeated. He made me spin and weave every hour the sun was in the sky and assaulted my ears with curses and threats. When he went away to fight the men of Dyfed it was a relief and a blessing to me until another such as he came by. Gronw was his name and he was worse than the first. When Math and Gwydion - the unprincipled spies – saw what was happening they sought to turn it to their own advantage and flew to spit out their poison to Lleu, claiming it was I who had seduced Gronw and not he who had attacked me.

At the eve of the day I was brought before them to answer their charges.  I looked from the calculating eyes of the magicians to the hungry eyes of Lleu and Gronw and was sickened by their fights for possession. ‘I beg of you that you will allow me to show my remorse for the mischief I have created,’ I lied. ‘My sister the moon has shown me in vision a powerful secret that lies waiting at the top of the oak tree you took me from. If you would be so gracious as to help me get to the top of the tree I will fetch it for you. Alas I do not know how this is to be done.’

‘Ha,’ cried the self-satisfied magician, Gwydion, ‘Do you not know, ignorant girl, that I can make you any creature I like?’ and so saying he turned me into a tawny owl.

With a beat of my wonderful wings I glided into the dark of the wood where they could no longer see me. Furiously, they shouted after me but I sat in my tree well pleased: the beauty of the moon, the velvet skies and the silence of the midnight hunt were mine!