Dyfed is the South West region of Wales,which included modern Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire, and at times, Cardiganshire. Its chief court was at Arberth.
Dyfed is the pivotal location of the First and Third Branch tales. In the First Branch its prince is Pwyll, who forges a powerful alliance with Arawn, King of Annwfn. In the Third Branch Pryderi, son of Rhiannon and Pwyll, becomes prince of Dyfed. He generously makes his great friend Manawyddan who lost his kingdom to an usurper, its ruler, though Pwyll retains the sovereignty.
Dyfed contains the mystical Gorssedd Arberth as the fulcrum of its Mabinogi magical feud. The feud begins in the First Branch with Rhiannon’s ride to court Pwyll as her chosen husband. He awaits her advent on the Gorsedd Arberth, though he does not know what he will encounter there.
In the Third Branch the Gorsedd Arberth is again the pivot of the tale, when Dyfed is subjected to a devastation leaving it bare of humanity or domesticated animals, except for Rhiannon, Manawyddan, Pryderi, and Pryderi’s wife Cigfa. The enchantment begins as they sit on Gorssedd Arberth. They try to live a primitive hunting life but find it unsatisfying.
Later Manawyddan tries to sow seed and harvest wheat. He sits vigil to guard his harvest from theft and uses a small thief he catches, a pregnant mouse, to bargain with a vengeful magician to restore normality.
Dyfed is described as having seven cantrefs. The word derives from the Latin centrum, a hundred. This may have meant a region required to supply a hundred fighters to the prince. Rulership was conducted by the prince making a circuit around Dyfed, visiting each of the cantrefs in turn, where he (or his delegated representative) sat in judgement and collected taxes.
Pron. DUV -ad. As in ‘dug’ and then just add the D sound.
(First published 28/07/2014: Shan Morgain)