The Role Of Rhiannon From The First Branch Of The Mabinogi

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Today the character of Rhiannon from the First Branch of the Mabinogi is considered to be a strong female lead in the Celtic Literature. However, her role within the story is not so clear-cut and much of her power and influence within the text is determined by her ethereal nature. In order to examine the important of Rhiannon’s divinity, it is necessary to understand how the concept of a sovereignty goddess and Otherworld ruler combine to create a position whereby Rhiannon both improves upon and secure Pwyll’s realm. Rhiannon is undeniably a divine figure with a layered history. Her divinity directly contributes to her role as sovereignty goddess. While not fulfilling the most traditional use for her role, Rhiannon is still representative …show more content…
And yet, her Otherworldliness cannot be dismissed. Rhiannon is a strong leader who rule with the skill of a síd, actively improving both Pwyll’s land and his leadership, working against the more traditional passive role of sovereignty goddesses. Before any of this can be established however, it is essential to look at how Rhiannon’s divinity is created and shaped by remnants of Pre-Christian deities.

Rhiannon’s divine origins are far from superficial. From her first introduction in the First Branch of the Mabinogi, Rhiannon is heavily associated with supernatural and godlike qualities. She appears riding a horse outpacing Pwyll’s men easily and without tire. This image of her relates neatly to that of the Gaulish horse goddess Epona, who is frequently depicted riding sidesaddle on a horse. In fact, Rhiannon
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While this strengthens her position as a sovereignty goddess, remaining beautiful with the land even after her husband is dead, it is also symptomatic of the Otherworld. These characteristics do not always further her role– it confuses her purposes and intentions in the First Branch of the Mabinogi, especially during her introduction. Otherworld people are notorious for playing both benevolent and malevolent roles in Celtic stories, and this off puts Pwyll’s men from her during their hunt for her when she first appears. Her horse moves faster than any in the realm and it is futile for Pwyll’s riders to attempt to catch her, a clear indicator of magic. Her stubbornness appears malevolent to the men, but it is actually a result of her nature as a sovereignty goddess necessitating a certain level of reciprocation. Rhiannon cannot stop for anyone because she is waiting for Pwyll to take action, and so she appears malevolent as she waits for Pwyll to call for her. Ultimately, Rhiannon is a positive presence and she utilizes her Otherworldly abilities repeatedly to benefit Pwyll’s

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