Impossible tasks (was Re: [DWJ] Catching up)

Minnow minnow at
Wed Aug 30 16:42:50 EDT 2006

I asked rather plaintively:

>> This story doesn't seem to be in the two or three collections of Arthur I
>> have around the place at the moment.  Help?  A magic pig being involved,
>> plus the name Olwen, makes me suspect it may be another refugee from the
>> Nab-a-moggy.

and Ania came to my rescue:
>It's 'Kilhwch ac Olwen' and the pig is (IIRC) Twrch Trwyth. It's the
>earliest extant story with Arthur in it. I read it in the original middle
>Welsh during the Celtic Studies degree course (some years ago now). It's not
>one of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi but it's usually included in
>combined editions.

Thank you!  That's fixed it, then.

I think the collection of Arthur I had as a young child was slightly
unusual in the stories it included: it had a wonderful early-life-of-Merlin
opening, in which he was the son of an innocent princess and a "wicked
fairy" -- I remember that the wicked fairies said things backwards, so when
they said "good" the echoes said "bad" -- saved from being utterly wicked
by being baptised in the nick of time, or some such, and then he grew up in
a magical forest all on his own with stags for company, before he got
involved in the story of the Wicked King building the tower that kept on
falling down because of the two dragons fighting in a lake underneath it.
I think that whole bit of early childhood usually gets covered in about
three sentences rather than a chapter.

Mary Stewart picked that up like anything in her The Hollow Hills/The
Crystal Cave/The Last Enchantment trilogy (and then *The Wicked Day*, which
very nearly made me *like* Mordred!) and I was delighted when I read those
and found Merlin's early boyhood being given a bit of attention again for
the first time since the book I have now lost.


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