December 30, 2021

#08-172: Lludd and Llefelys

Lludd confronts the mighty magician.

Note: A classic tale of three problems (and three solutions) played out against a backdrop of Celtic magic: unbeatable!

Get Ready: Some parts of this story may reflect mythic tellings of real events. Can you try to trace some examples besides the ones given?

Like many good stories, the tale of the brothers Lludd and Llevelys--sons of the ancient (and mythical) British King Beli or Heli--divides neatly into three parts.

Lludd is known by many names. The early historian Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed he was King Lud; that London's Ludgate was named for him; and that London itself was founded by him, and given a version of his name. This is all less likely when you realize he is also called the Celtic god Nodens.

Anyway, after Beli died, his oldest son Lludd became King of Britain. Lludd helped the youngest of his three brothers, Llevelys, woo and win the daughter of the King of Gaul (France) after that king died, so the two brothers ruled the two kingdoms in harmony.

As Lludd was dwelling at Caer Lludd, later called Caer London, three plagues beset him and his people.

In the first, a race of people called Coranians came to the island, with such great knowledge that nothing could be discussed in the land but that the Coranians knew "anything the wind touches," and turned it to their advantage. (Some folklorists speculate these were the Romans, "Coran" being a corruption of an adjective for "Caesar.")

Second, on every May eve, a shriek was heard throughout the island, in every home, that caused men to tremble in fear, caused pregnant women to miscarry children, caused young people to lose their senses, and left animals barren.

The third plague caused all of the king's stores, even a year's worth, over and again to disappear in a night when everyone was asleep.

Unsure what to do, Lludd sailed to France to consult with his wise brother. Llevelys had fashioned a long brass horn, so that one brother spoke into one end and the other put his ear to the other, and they could speak to each other without the Coranians hearing.

The solutions Llevelys gave were these: Crush a certain insect and make a mixture with it. Call together the Britons and the Coranians for a "peace conference" and spread it over all. The Coranians will die; the Britons will be immune. (Germ warfare?)

The second plague came from a red dragon and a white one (representing the two factions) fighting at the exact center of the island (Oxford). Get them drunk, capture them, and bury them in a stone box and all will be well. (This reflects another such story from the early life of Merlin.)

Finally, a "mighty magician" had cast a spell on the court to carry away their stores in a magic hamper that could carry however much he put in. Lludd must prevent himself from sleeping by dipping his head in a vat of cold water, then confront and fight the magician.

All went well: the Coranians died, and the dragons were vanquished, and the defeated magician became a servant to the king.


Read more:

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. barren
  2. beset
  3. dipping
  4. hamper
  5. immune (to)
  6. miscarry
  7. shriek
  8. vanquished
  9. vat
  10. woo

  1. a large basket, usually with a cover
  2. attacked; surrounded by
  3. beaten
  4. placing briefly
  5. a large pot or cauldron
  6. unaffected (by)
  7. court; try to marry
  8. lose (a baby)
  9. unable to have children
  10. a piercing scream

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for December 30, 2021

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. b; 3. d; 4. a; 5. f; 6. h; 7. j; 8. c; 9. e; 10. g