Adar Rhiannon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

In Welsh mythology, the Adar Rhiannon; "birds of Rhiannon", are supernatural creatures whose song can "wake the dead and lull the living to sleep".[1] They belong to the euhemerized horse goddess Rhiannon and were coveted by the giant Ysbaddaden Bencawr.

Role in Welsh tradition[edit]

In the early Arthurian tale, Culhwch and Olwen, the hero Culhwch ap Cilydd seeks the beautiful Olwen, daughter of the giant chief, Ysbaddaden Bencawr. The giant gives Culhwch and his companions a number of impossible tasks to be completed before parting with his daughter. One of these tasks is to retrieve the birds of Rhiannon, so as to entertain Ysbaddaden on the night before his death. The birds are retrieved, but the tale does not explain as to how. An earlier and fuller version of the tale may have elaborated on this.[2]

They are also mentioned in the second branch of the Mabinogi, the tale of Branwen ferch Llŷr. Following a catyclasmic war against the Irish, the British king Bendigeidfran orders his seven surviving men to decapitate him, and to return his head to London. Before doing so, they feast at Harlech for seven years, and are regaled by the three birds of Rhiannon:

"As soon as they began to eat and drink, three birds came and sang them a song, and all the songs they had heard before were harsh compared to that one. They had to gaze far out over the sea to catch sight of the birds, yet their song was as clear as if the birds were there with them. And they feasted for seven years.[3]


  1. ^ Davies, Sioned. The Mabinogion. Oxford University Press, 2005.
  2. ^ Davies, Sioned. The Mabinogion. Oxford University Press, 2005.
  3. ^ Davies, Sioned. The Mabinogion. Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 32.