Pwyll Pen Annwn is a prominent figure in Welsh mythology and literature, the lord of Dyfed, husband of Rhiannon and father of the hero Pryderi. He is the eponymous hero of Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed, the first branch of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, and also appears briefly as a member of Arthur's court in the medieval tale Culhwch ac Olwen.
Role in Welsh mythology 
Whilst hunting in Glyn Cuch, Pwyll, prince of Dyfed becomes separated from his companions and stumbles across a pack of hounds feeding on a slain stag. Pwyll drives the hounds away and sets his own hounds to feast, earning the anger of Arawn, lord of the otherworldly kingdom of Annwn. In recompense, Pwyll agrees to trade places with Arawn for a year and a day, taking on the lord's appearance and takes his place at Arawn's court. At the end of the year, Pwyll engages in single combat against Hafgan, Arawn's rival, and mortally wounds him with one blow and earns Arawn overlordship of all of Annwn. After Hafgan's death, Pwyll and Arawn meet once again, revert to their old appearance and return to their respective courts. They become lasting friends because Pwyll slept chastely with Arawn's wife for the duration of the year. As a result of Pwyll's successful ruling of Annwn, he earns the title Pwyll Pen Annwfn; "Pwyll, head of Annwn."
Some time later, Pwyll and his noblemen ascend the mound of Gorsedd Arberth and witness the arrival of Rhiannon, appearing to them as a beautiful woman dressed in gold silk brocade and riding a shining white horse. Pwyll sends his best horsemen after her, but she always remains ahead of them, though her horse never does more than amble. After three days, he finally calls out to her, and Rhiannon tells him she has come seeking him because she would rather marry him than her fiance, Gwawl ap Clud. A year after their meeting, Pwyll accidentally and foolishly promises Rhiannon to Gwawl, before managing to win her back through outwitting, bloodying and dishonouring his rival.
Under the advice of his noblemen, Pwyll and Rhiannon attempt to supply an heir to the kingdom and eventually a boy is born. However, on the night of his birth, he disappears while in the care of six of Rhiannon's ladies-in-waiting. To avoid the king's wrath, the ladies smear dog's blood onto a sleeping Rhiannon, claiming that she had committed infanticide and cannibalism through eating and "destroying" her child. Rhiannon is forced to do penance for her crime.
The child is discovered outside a stable by an ex-vassal of Pwyll's, Teyrnon, the lord of Gwent Is Coed. He and his wife claim the boy as their own and name him Gwri Wallt Euryn (English: Gwri of the Golden hair), for "all the hair on his head was as yellow as gold." The child grows to adulthood at a superhuman pace and, as he matures, his likeness to Pwyll grows more obvious and, eventually, Teyrnon realises Gwri's true identity. The boy is eventually reunited with Pwyll and Rhiannon and is renamed Pryderi, meaning "loss".
The tale ends with Pwyll's death and Pryderi's ascension to the throne.
- The Mabinogion. Davies, Sioned. 2005.
- Original Middle Welsh text
- Powel, Prince of Dyfed as collected by Joseph Jacobs in More Celtic Fairy Tales
|Mythological Lord of Dyfed
Pryderi fab Pwyll