Taliesin, from The Mabinogion

(c) The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
CERIDWEN (c) The Glynn Vivian Art Gallery; The Public Catalogue Foundation


And Caridwen put Gwion Bach, the son of Gwreang of Llanfair in Caereinion, Powys, to stir the cauldron, and a blind man named Morda to kindle the fire beneath it, and she charged them that they should not suffer it to cease boiling for the space of a year and a day. And she herself, according to the books of the astronomers, and in planetary hours, gathered every day of all charm-bearing herbs.

And one day, towards the end of the year, as Caridwen was culling plants and making incantations, it chanced that three drops of the charmed liquor flew out of the cauldron and fell upon the finger of Gwion Bach. And by reason of their great heat he put his finger to his mouth, and the instant he put those marvel-working drops into his mouth, he foresaw everything that was to come, and perceived that his chief care must be to guard against the wiles of Caridwen, for vast was her skill.

And in very great fear he fled towards his own land. And the cauldron burst in two, because all the liquor within it except the three charm-bearing drops was poisonous, so that the horses of Gwyddno Garanhir were poisoned by the water of the stream into which the liquor of the cauldron ran, and the confluence of that stream was called the Poison of the Horses of Gwyddno from that time forth.

Thereupon came in Caridwen and saw all the toil of the whole year lost. And she seized a billet of wood and struck the blind Morda on the head until one of his eyes fell out upon his cheek. And he said, ‘Wrongfully hast thou disfigured me, for I am innocent. Thy loss was not because of me.’ ‘Thou speakest truth,” said Caridwen, ‘it was Gwion Bach who robbed me.’

And she went forth after him, running.

And he saw her, and changed himself into a hare and fled.

But she changed herself into a greyhound and turned him.

And he ran towards a river, and became a fish.

And she in the form of an otter-bitch chased him under the water, until he was fain to turn himself into a bird of the air.

She, as a hawk, followed him and gave him no rest in the sky.

And just as she was about to stoop upon him, and he was in fear of death, he espied a heap of winnowed wheat on the floor of a barn, and he dropped among the wheat, and turned himself into one of the grains.

Then she transformed herself into a high-crested black hen, and went to the wheat and scratched it with her feet, and found him out and swallowed him.

And, as the story says, she bore him nine months, and when she was delivered of him, she could not find it in her heart to kill him, by reason of his beauty. So she wrapped him in a leathern bag, and cast him into the sea to the mercy of God, on the twenty-ninth day of April.



The Hanes Taliesin (Historia Taliesin, The Tale of Taliesin) is a legendary account of the life of the poet Taliesin recorded in the mid-16th century by Elis Gruffydd. The tale was also recorded in a slightly different version by John Jones of Gellilyfdy (c. 1607). This story agrees in many respects with fragmentary accounts in The Book of Taliesin and resembles the story of the boyhood of the Irish hero Fionn mac Cumhail and the salmon of wisdom in some respects. It was included in Lady Charlotte Guest’s Mabinogion, although it has been omitted from subsequent publications, as it is now considered a later addition to the collection of much older tales

Taliesin was an early Celtic poet of the Dark Ages, whose work has possibly survived in a Middle Welsh manuscript, the Book of Taliesin. Taliesin was a renowned bard who is believed to have sung at the courts of at least three Celtic kings.


According to these texts Taliesin, born Gwion Bach, was a foundling, raised by  Elffin ap Gwyddno, who found him in leathern bag tossed into a river by the witch Ceridwen. Elffin  gave him the name Taliesin, meaning ‘radiant brow’ and raised him at the court of his father,  Gwyddno Garanhir,  in Aberdyfi. At the age of 13, Taliesin visited King Maelgwn Gwynedd, Elffin’s uncle, and correctly prophesied the manner and imminence of Maelgwn’s death. More…

Image: CERIDWEN by Welsh artist Christopher Williams.

Mabinginoon hare.jpg

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