Queen of Annwfn

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The Queen of Annwfn appears in the first episode of the first Branch as the wife of Arawn, the king of Annwfn; but she remains anonymous. She is famous for outstanding beauty, and for living with Pwyll as her shapechanged husband, for a year, without knowing who he is.

The Queen of Annwfn is evidently a capable governor as she is in charge during Arawn’s absence. She is described as an eloquent and graceful lady who provides an abundant feasting hall.

Pwyll is shapechanged to appear as her husband so he shares her bed. But, famously, he turns his back on her every night for a year. Various theories suggest why, from the obvious chaste Friend motif, to a canny strategy to ensure he returns to Dyfed safely.
A third interpretation compares this sexual ‘temptation’ to Gawain and the Green Knight.’ This makes Pwyll focused on his duel with Hafgan, so he remains in strict training condition.

The anonymity of the Queen of Annwfn may arise from a frequent anonymising of women in literature as ‘wife.’ or ‘mother’ of a named man. It may also play into the interlacing structures of the Mabinogi, or identity games.

(First published 20/08/2014: Shan Morgain)

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