The Love of Gwladus and Einion
Photograph by kind permission of djangostan
Brychan of Brycheiniog was a 5th century King. He had 24 daughters. All of them were beautiful but the most beautiful of his daughters was Gwladus. Her hair shimmered in the sunlight, her skin glowed with health and her innocent smile melted the hearts of all who saw her.
Each day Gwladus and her sisters would walk to the river where they would bathe. As they walked they would talk of love and romance, of brave knights in shining armour and noble deeds of chivalry. They laughed and teased each other as they washed.
“I will marry a handsome prince with delicate hands and fine manners,” cried one.
“You will marry a blacksmith with huge black hands who eats like a peasant,” answered another.
“My husband will be rich and I will live in a grand palace,” laughed the next.
“Your husband will be fat and bald and you will live in a cave,” taunted another.
As her sisters chatted and giggled, Gwladus sat quietly by the river.
“Gwladus, what kind of husband do you want to marry?” asked a sister.
Gwladus stroked the water. It felt cold and clean, refreshing and thrilling. She felt awake and happy.
“What kind of husband you ask? He may be fat or thin, tall of short, rich or poor. It doesn’t matter to me,” she answered and smiled at her sisters.
“But what if he is bald? Would you marry him then?” asked a sister.
“Possibly,” replied Gwladus.
“Would you marry him if he was ugly,” asked another.
“Probably,” replied Gwladus.
“If he only had one leg, one arm and one ear, would you marry him then?” asked another.
“Perhaps,” replied Gwladus.
The sisters crowded around Gwladus.
“Tell us,” they cried, “What kind of man would you refuse to wed?”
“There is one kind of man that I would never marry,” answered Gwladus.
“One kind. What kind is that? asked the sisters together.
“The kind of man I will not wed is any man without true love in his heart,” said Gwladus.
At hearing her answer the sisters fell quiet, each considered her answer.
One by one the sisters left their father’s home. One married a prince with fine hands, another a blacksmith with horny black hands, one a rich merchant and another a farmer. One, named Dwynwen, went to live the pious life of a nun. (Her story is told in ‘Walking with Welsh Legends, north Wales’.) Like her other sisters, Gwladus had many suitors. Some were wealthy, others great warriors. A King travelled from a distant land to win the beautiful Gwladus.
“They would all make good husbands and every one asks me for your hand. Which of these fine suitors do you chose?” demanded her Father, King Brychan.
“None, father. They are the wrong kind,” replied Gwladus.
“The wrong kind. What nonsense is this?” said her Father.
“These are men that just want me for my beauty, to possess me. Not one has true love in his heart,” said the princess.
Brychan pleaded with his daughter but she was resolute and refused all offers of marriage.
Alone now, Gwladus still went to the river each day to bathe. One day, as she sat watching the water cascade over the rocks, a man appeared. He was walking through the wood collecting kindling. A large bundle of twigs was tied to his back. The man saw Gwladus and smiled. He walked towards her.
“Good day, my Lady. My load is heavy. May I sit with you and rest a while?” asked the man.
Without waiting for her reply the man untied his bundle and sat down beside Gwladus.
“I am Einion. I live in a cottage further down the valley. What is you name?” said the man.
“I am Gwladus. I live with my Father Brychan,” replied Gwladus.
She felt strange, somehow excited but not afraid.
The princess, Gwladus and the peasant, Einion sat and talked as if they were old friends. The hours passed and the sun began to sink behind the mountain.
“It will be dark soon. I must go,” said Gwladus.
“Will you come again tomorrow?” asked Einion.
“I come to the river every day,” replied Gwladus.
Each day Gwladus returned to the river and each day Einion would meet her. The young couple would talk for hours. Gwladus enjoyed Einion’s company. They were kindred spirits with no secrets and there was no pretence between them. Talking was easy and as the days passed affection grew between the happy pair. Gwladus was in love. She had found the right man to share her life, a man with true love in his heart.
“I will ask your Father for your hand,” said Einion.
Einion approached the King to ask for his permission to marry Gwladus.
“Will you consent and bless our union?” he asked.
“I will not. You will never marry my daughter,” replied the King.
“But my lord, we are in love,” pleaded Einion.
“Love! What use is love? Love will not keep my daughter. You have no land. You have no position and you have no prospects. I will never permit such a foolish marriage,” said the King.
The King would not listen to the forlorn lovers as they begged him to change his mind. He would not be swayed. The decision was final. Gwladus ran from the palace with tears in her eyes. Einion stayed behind to try once more and change the King’s mind.
“My lord. If I can earn wealth and position would you then reconsider?” he asked.
“Einion. You are an honest boy but you have nothing. If an Einion of status and property came to woo my daughter things would be very different. But that will never be,” replied the King.
“Thank you my lord. Now, I understand what I must do to win your daughter’s hand,” said Einion.
He left the palace to find Gwladus and tell her the good news.
Gwladus was sat by the river, weeping. She felt as if her heart had been stabbed with a shard of ice. Suddenly, she jumped up and threw herself into the fast running water, unwilling to live without her one true love by her side. Einion ran to the river but he was too late. The ground shook and the trees swayed. The river roared and swept the princess away. When she was gone, the water calmed and Einion saw that a beautiful waterfall had appeared where Gwladus had entered the river.
The love struck youth was distraught with anguish. He paced the riverbank calling her name but there was no answer except the sound of the water cascading across the rocks. Gwladus had vanished into the river, forever. Einion’s heart broke. He could stand the grief no longer and, in a final act of love, he threw himself into the icy water. Once more, the earth shuddered and the trees shook and then all was calm. Einion was gone but now there was a second waterfall above the first.
The two lovers were never seen again but, to this day, their spirits have been together in the magical water of the Afon Pyrddin and can never be parted. Today the waterfalls created by their sad deaths are known as Sgwd Gwladus and Sgwd Einion Gam. The waterfalls are beautiful features of the landscape and a fitting monument to the couples’ young, impetuous love.