Sunday, 4 March 2012
The Lleu in the Hay
I am at present merely surviving until the end of term, eight days hence. Addled with tiredness, I keep coming out with non-sequiturs and randomised riffs. Yesterday began with my graduate Math uab Mathonwy class, in which we had the passage where Lleu Llaw Gyffes describes to his wife the elaborate, folktale circumstances necessary for him to be killed:
'It is not easy to kill me with a blow. It would be necessary to spend a year making the spear with which I would be struck, working on it only during Sunday Mass....I cannot be killed indoors, nor out of doors; I cannot be killed on horseback nor on foot.'
'Well', she said, 'how can you be killed?'
...'By making a bath for me on a riverbank, and constructing an arched roof above the tub, and then thatching that well and watertight. And bringing a billy-goat, and standing it beside the tub; and I place one foot on the back of the billy-goat and the other on the edge of the tub. And whoever would strike me in that position would bring about my death.'
I began my usual brand of rambling commentary. (In order to follow what happened, you have to understand that I had recently seen this video of the lunatic lisper Tim Tebow reading Dr Seuss.)
'So, we have an elaborate, deliberately bizarre series of unfulfillable stipulations here. Lleu can't be killed on horseback, nor on foot, and he has to be in an environment which is doubly liminal between land and water (on the tub's edge and on the riverbank). With a bit of thought we can reconstruct the 'destiny' about his death which we have never in fact seen sworn upon him in the text itself---presumably with Math or Gwydion as the source of the magical conditions: neither inside nor outside; neither on water or land; neither on horseback nor on foot. The version we have in the text has clearly drawn more matter to it at some point in transmission, with the 'addition' of tub, thatched structure, and those puzzling goats, which as we have seen Patrick Ford has elucidated for us. Not that that makes much difference to poor Lleu: after all, he does not like it with a goat, he does not like it in a coat; he does not like it in a bath, he does not like it on a path; he does not like it in a box, he does not like it with a fox; he does not like a killing spear, he does not like it there or here, he does not like it in a tree, he does not like it in the sea; not in the sea, not in a tree, not with a spear, not there or here, not with a fox, not in a box, not on a path, not in a bath, not in a coat, not with a goat---he DOES NOT LIKE IT, Sam I Am!!'
[Tumbleweed. Bo is taken away by some nice people for a long lie down and some special pills.]