Before beginning the Research and Development workshop for my play Trailing Rhiannon at Chapter Arts Centre, I was able to speak about the research behind the project at Cardiff University’s School of Welsh Research Symposium.
Why study Rhiannon? Because she is the Mabinogi‘s only female storyteller – weaving her narrative at a time when men controlled the magical act of storytelling. More importantly, her act of storytelling helps her to prove her innocence in the face of false accusations.
When falsely accused of destroying her child, Rhiannon is forced to stand outside the gates of her husband’s court. When strangers pass by, she tells them the story of what she has supposedly done and offers to carry them on her back to the court.
In this moment, Rhiannon’s humorous, clever and sometimes subversive voice becomes the instrument of her punishment. But crucially, unlike so many of the female characters in mythology and folklore traditions, Rhiannon is never silenced.
Instead, she becomes a reluctant storyteller, narrating a crime she did not commit.