Pair Dadeni

The Cauldron of Rebirth

The Destruction of the Cauldron of Rebirth, by T. Prytherch
Plot element from Welsh mythology
First appearance Branwen ferch Llŷr
Genre Fantasy
In-story information
Type Magical cauldron
Element of stories featuring Bendigeidfran
Affiliation Bendigeidfran, Efnisien, Matholwch

In Welsh mythology and literature, the Pair Dadeni (The Cauldron of Rebirth) is a magical cauldron able to revive the dead. It plays a key role in the second branch of the Mabinogi. It has parallels with a number of other magic cauldrons in Welsh legend and folklore, including cauldron of Diwrnach the Irishman in Culhwch and Olwen, the cauldron of the Head of Annwn in Preiddeu Annwfn and the cauldron of Cerridwen in the tale of Taliesin.

Role in Welsh mythology

The cauldron belonged initially to the giant Llasar Llaes Gyfnewid and his wife Cymydei Cymeinfoll, who lived within the Lake of the Cauldron, in Ireland. Discovered by the Irish king Matholwch, they were given a place at his court, but soon earned the contempt of the Irish for their behaviour. Ultimately, the Irish attempted to burn them to death within their Iron House, forcing the giant and giantess to flee to the Island of the Mighty, where they are received by King Bendigeidfran. In response to his hospitality, the giants give the cauldron to Bendigeidfran as a gift.

Some time later Matholwch sails to Harlech to speak with Bendigeidfran and to ask for the hand of his sister Branwen in marriage, thus forging an alliance between the two islands. Bendigeidfran agrees to Matholwch's request, but the celebrations are cut short when Efnysien, a half-brother to the children of Llŷr, brutally mutilates Matholwch's horses, angry that his permission was not sought in regards to the marriage. Matholwch is deeply offended until Bran offers him compensation in the form of the Pair Dadeni that can restore the dead to life. Pleased with the gift, Matholwch and Branwen sail back to Ireland to reign.

Once in Matholwch's kingdom, Branwen gives birth to a son, Gwern, but Efnysien's insult continues to rankle among the Irish and, eventually, Branwen is mistreated, kept in the palace kitchen and beaten every day. She tames a starling and sends it across the Irish Sea with a message to her brother Bendigeidfran, who sails from Wales to Ireland to rescue her with his brother, Manawydan and a huge host of warriors, mustered from the 154 cantrefs of Britain. The Irish offer to make peace and build a house big enough to entertain Bendigeidfrân but hang a hundred bags inside, supposedly containing flour but actually containing armed warriors. Efnisien, suspecting treachery, reconnoitres the hall and kills the warriors by crushing their skulls. Later, at the feast, Efnisien, again feeling insulted, murders Gwern by burning him alive, and, as a result, a vicious battle breaks out. Seeing that the Irish are using the cauldron to revive their dead, Efnisien hides among the Irish corpses and is thrown into the cauldron by the unwitting enemy. He destroys the cauldron from within, sacrificing himself in the process.

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