Welsh mythology in popular culture

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Elements of Welsh mythology have appeared many times in popular culture.

Afanc[edit]

Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence features an afanc which inhabits Llyn Barfog. It is driven away by the son of King Arthur.

China Miéville's The Scar features a large afanc (spelled as avanc), bound by chains to tow the city of Armada across the oceans. The afanc in The Scar is of phenomenal size, so vast that to observers one vein on the creature's surface looks like a 20-foot (6.1 m) high ridge.

The Afanc plays a leading role in episode three of Merlin - it's a creature made of earth and water which can be destroyed by fire and wind. It poisons Camelot's water supply, causing a supernatural plague.

The Lord of the Rings Online features the afanc (here spelled as avanc) as a species of salamander-like beasts that dwell in and around bodies of water in Dunland. A tribe of swamp-dwelling Dunlendings subsist in part off the beasts, and call themselves the Avanc-luth.

Arawn[edit]

  • In Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of fantasy novels inspired by Welsh mythology, Arawn is the series' unseen central villain. He was once a mortal man with magical powers, until he became the consort of Achren, the Queen of Annuvin. After learning of her powers he betrayed her, usurping the iron crown of Annuvin and the title of Death-Lord for himself. He would have conquered all of Prydain had the Sons of Don not intervened.
  • Arawn and the Cwn Annwn appear in Diana Wynne Jones's 1975 fantasy novel Dogsbody.
  • Arawn plays an important role in Mythic Entertainment's Dark Age of Camelot, in which he is a patron god to the Inconnu race, as well as the Reaver, Heretic and Necromancer classes.
  • Arawn is the protagonist of the Leaf game Tears to Tiara. In it, he is first born as the thirteenth of the twelve holy spirits serving the absolute god Vatos, under the name of Lucifer. However, certain events cause him to turn against the twelve spirits and side with the mortals (including the king of elves, Pwyll) in a war against heaven, taking on the name "Arawn" in the process.
  • Arawn is also a character from the video game Beyond the Beyond, in which he is an omnipotent god who lives atop a tower in the middle of a desert. Halfway through the game, he cures Samson of a powerful and deadly curse.
  • Arawn is a character in Mythic Entertainment's Warhammer Online fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game.
  • Arawn is the title of a first-person narrative poem by Jay Linnell, published in 1994 in '100 Words', a publication of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa
  • Arawn is alluded to in Junot Diaz's Pulitzer-Prize winning novel "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao." The reference is used in comparison with Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo.
  • Arawn is the main antagonist in the Xbox Live Arcade hack and slash game Bloodforge.

Blodeuwedd[edit]

  • Welsh dramatist Saunders Lewis wrote the play Blodeuwedd based on the original Mabinogi tale. The play, in eloquent verse, has frequently been acclaimed as one of the finest of Welsh language dramas.
  • The story of Blodeuwedd figures largely in the 1967 young adult novel by Alan Garner, The Owl Service.
  • Irish language poet Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill composed "Blodewedd"; in her bilingual collection "Pharaoh's Daughter" it is translated by John Montague.
  • Iowan playwright Mark Hunter wrote the play Blodeuwedd as a solo story play, loosely based on the Welsh legend. It was performed by Erin Daly in the 2010 Iowa and Twin Cities Fringe Festivals.
  • In The Return: Shadow Souls by L.J. Smith, Blodeuwedd is a woman said to be made of flowers who lives in the Dark Dimensions. She can transform into a huge owl, and was killed in this form thanks to several of the main characters.
  • In the short lived television show MythQuest, Alex and Cleo Bellows find a way to go into the land of myth in order to look for their father. (He has been trapped there by the trickster god, Gorgos.) In episode 13, "Blodeuwedd", Cleo goes into the Welsh myth, leaping into the title character seconds after Gwydion is killed. During her trial, her lawyer (secretly Gorgos) manages to change the story so she is found innocent. This causes the myth to start to disappear. To stop this from happening, Alex confesses that Blodeuwedd did, in fact, kill Gwydion, restoring the myth to the way it was. When she is transformed into an owl, her wing tip touches Gronw's Stone as she flies away, taking her out of the myth.
  • Blodeuwedd appears indirectly in the novel The Owl Service by Alan Garner. Alison, a teenaged girl, finds an old set of plates decorated with a floral pattern. But when she traces them onto paper, the patterns disappear from the plates and appear as owls on the paper. Gwyn, a young man of the neighborhood, has been courting Alison but finds himself caught up in this strange reenactment. The old handyman, Huw, keeps making strange pronouncements like, "She wants to be flowers, but they makes her owls. Don't be surprised, then, if she goes hunting." One of the characters eventually convinces the girl who has been channeling Blodeuwedd that she is flowers, not owls, and everything becomes peaceful again.

Cantre'r Gwaelod[edit]

Although not as famous as Atlantis, with which it has been compared by some modern authors, Cantre'r Gwaelod has featured in fiction with a Welsh flavour, notably the alternate universe Louie Knight series. In the satirical parody Aberystwyth Mon Amour, a group of Druids plan to launch an ark and reclaim the land of Cantre'r Gwaelod.

Cantre'r Gwaelod is also a major location in Susan Cooper's Silver On The Tree, the fifth and final book in her series The Dark is Rising.

The British musical group The Lowland Hundred take its name from the English translation of Cantre'r Gwaelod.

It features in the young adult book series of Welsh author Jenny Sullivan.

Culhwch and Olwen[edit]

The tale of Culhwch and Olwen appears on Gems of Celtic Story One, by Robin Williamson.

Culhwch and Olwen also appear as the characters Kilhwch and Ulla [1] in the Final Fantasy XI MMORPG.

Cŵn Annwn[edit]

Diana Wynne Jones' children's novel Dogsbody includes both Cŵn Annwn and hybrids of Cŵn Annwn and Labrador retrievers.

In Michael Scott's The Sorceress: Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel the Wild Hunt is a dominant antagonist to Nicholas Flamel and Josh and Sophie Newman.

In Final Fantasy XI, NPC enemies named Cwm Annwn show up, resembling emaciated hounds.

In The Lord of the Rings Online, the Cwn Annwn (here spelled Cun Annun) appear in the Welsh-themed lands of Dunland as a species of ghostly hounds with glowing red eyes.

Gwydion[edit]

Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, a series of fantasy novels inspired by Welsh myths, features a character named Gwydion, based somewhat on the Gwydion of myth, but markedly different in terms of moral character. (The character is not included in the Disney animated film based on the novels.)

Patricia Kennealy-Morrison's Keltiad series - Irish, Welsh and Scottish legends translated to an interstellar, Star Wars style context — has a character named Gwydion Prince of Don as its co-protagonist. Like Alexander, Kennealy-Morrison bases her character on the mythological Gwydion, but humanizes him through her own creative process.

He also appears in Phillip Mann's alternate history series A Land Fit for Heroes. Judith Tarr's fantasy series, The Hound and the Falcon and the Alamut series, features Gwydion as the immortal elf king of Rhiyana, a side character in both series. Robert Carter's "The Language of Stones" series, has a short appearance in American Gods by Neil Gaiman and is the ancestor to the main character in Jenny Nimmo's Snow Spider Trilogy. In The Mists of Avalon, Gwydion is the birth name of both King Arthur and Mordred. The name Gwydion also appears in the Sierra game King's Quest III, where a Prince Alexander of Daventry has been kidnapped by an evil wizard named Manannan who renames him Gwydion.

Gwydion is also one of the main protagonists in the books of the Welsh author Jenny Sullivan.

Llŷr[edit]

Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain includes a "House of Llŷr", a royal family whose female members are often enchantresses. The Princess Eilonwy, the heroine in the series, is the daughter of Angharad, daughter of Regat of the House of Llŷr.

Jenny Nimmo's "The Magician Trilogy" (also known as "The Snow Spider Trilogy") draws on the stories of the Llŷrs, especially The Chestnut Soldier, in which the descendants of the Llŷr line find the legends repeating themselves.

Olwen[edit]

Andrew Lang retold the tale in "The Winning of Olwen" for The Lilac Fairy Book.

This name was also used by Monica Hughes in the young adult novel Keeper of the Isis Light.

Pryderi[edit]

Pryderi appears as a powerful king in The High King, the fifth and final novel of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. Pryderi also appears in the "Goddess of Partholon" series, by "House of Night" author P.C. Cast. In Book 3 - Divine by Choice, the daughter of Rhiannon MacCallan from Books 1 and 2 must face a choice of whether to give in to the evil that controlled her mother, which turns out to be Pryderi, or help destroy it - she chooses the latter by embracing Pyderi and then throwing herself on a funeral pyre.

Rhiannon[edit]

The Rhiannon myth was the inspiration for the song Rhiannon by Stevie Nicks, who read the name in a novel by Mary Leader called Triad during a flight, liked the name, and wrote the song in 10 minutes. She later learned of the Welsh myth and was shocked to learn that her song fit the myth, though it is likely that the novel, Triad, is loosely based on the Welsh Triads, medieval mnemonic lists of people and places in Welsh tradition. "Angel" by Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and "The Birds of Rhiannon" by Faith and the Muse are based on this myth, as well as the song "Rhiannon" from German folk band, Faun.

Leigh Brackett wrote the science-fiction novel, The Sword Of Rhiannon, first published in 1949 as Sea-Kings of Mars, although the story has no direct relation to the myth.

In T.A. Barron's series of novels The Lost Years of Merlin, Rhiannon is the full name of Rhia, a forest girl whom Merlin meets on the island of Fincayra and who turns out to be his lost twin sister.

The Song of Rhiannon is an operatic treatment of the myth, composed by Mark Bowden with a libretto by Helen Cooper, first performed by W11 Opera in 2008.

One passage in Stephen King's fantasy novel, The Eyes of the Dragon (1984, then 1987) reads: "Outside, the wind screamed and gobbled - old wives cringed in their beds and slept poorly and told their husbands that Rihannon, the Dark Witch of the Coos, was riding her hateful broom this night, and wicked work was afoot."