Blodeuwedd (Flower Face) from The Mabinogion

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Flower Face

And then they took the flowers of the oak, and the flowers of the broom, and the flowers of the meadowsweet, and from those they called forth the fairest maiden that mortal ever saw, and baptised her with the baptism of that time, and named her Blodeuwedd.

Blodeuwedd was made thus for Lleu, ‘a man in stature and the handsomest youth that mortal ever saw’ and they marry. But Blodeuwedd betrays Lleu and takes a neighbouring lord, Gronw, as her lover. They plan to kill Lleu.

Even though he is protected, with guile Blodeuwedd finds his weakness – to be slain with a spear which has been crafted only when folks are at Mass on Sundays. Lleu is killed and turns into an eagle, and flies away.

Lleu is rescued and restored to human form and health, and with an army marches on Gronw and Blodeuwedd to seek redress. As Blodeuwedd flees, Lleu catches up with her and turns her into an owl:

I will not slay thee. I will do thee that which is worse; that is,’ said he, ‘I will let thee go in the form of a bird… thou shalt not lose thy name, but that thou be for ever called Blodeuwedd (Flower Face).

The text continues to say ‘Blodeuwedd is ‘owl’ in the language of the present day’; and owls are shunned and mobbed by other birds today because this was the fate of Blodeuwedd.

Gronw is then slain by a spear which breaks through the stone he uses to shield himself and breaks his back.

It is the core of this story from fourth branch of The Mabinogi which Alan Garner uses in his book The Owl Service. The background photo in the image of Blodeuwedd was taken in Wales, at the location used for the television adaptation in 1969. Directly behind Blodeuwedd is the iconic hilltop…

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