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Triads are a uniquely Welsh tradition of sayings which list a set of three important examples of a type e.g. the Three High Matriarchs of Britain, the Three Humble Chieftains. Occasionally a fourth is sneaked in!

Triads are often gnomic, like haiku, or aphorisms, and some of their references are lost to us because of the partial way that manuscripts survive the centuries. Many however cross reference with people, events and places in the Mabinogi.

Three was a strongly chosen number in the Mabinogi.
– 3 qualities of good lordship cited on Pwyll’s return from Annwfn, see Lordship.
Rhiannon appears as ‘marvel’ on 3 successive days.
– She gives 3 rebukes, two to Pwyll, one to Manawydan.
Lady of Gwent cites 3 social advantages to returning the lost child Pryderi/ Gwri to Dyfed.
– 3 riders accompany Gwri home to Dyfed.
– There are 3 Adar Rhiannon, the Birds of Rhiannon.
– There are 3 Mabinogi babies, see Baby.
– There are 3 cantrefs of Ystrad Twyi.

(First published 28/12/2014: Shan Morgain)

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