03 Jun Britain’s 13: Merlin’s Hidden Treasures
In almost every human culture, tradition holds that our planet’s ancient lands were once the abode of Gods and Heroes. Tragically, the world has suffered great deterioration over the ages, (the ancient Greeks considered that we have five ages, while the ancient Indians considered that we have four—both agreed that this age we are in is the final and most unpleasant age) the Gods have fled and the Heroes are likewise gone away.
Still, we have legends to remind us of the previous times, of who these Gods and Heroes were, what they did and what they stood for…as well as, perhaps, to let us know who and what to look out for, when this final age passes and the world resets. As it surely must.
The British Isles had their share of Gods and Heroes—most people are familiar with Arthur and Merlin, but relatively fewer have heard of the treasures these figures left behind. In the Welsh Arthurian tale, “Culhwch and Olwen’ (15th-16th century), a group of items is told about, items originating not in Wales but further North, towards Scotland. (As a matter of fact, the manuscript that pinpoints the locale is titled ‘Tri Thlws ar Ddeg Ynys Prydain’, or ‘The Names of the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain’, which were in the North’.) These treasures have magical properties that defy human manufacturing ability, even given the superior age in which they were manufactured. Putting their names in modern English, they are:
White Hilt is a sword whose blade bursts into flames when a nobleman wields it. It is useful both for inflicting damage and for telling whether or not a man is noble.
The Basket of Plenty has the ability to duplicate any food placed inside it, a hundred times over.
Despite its odd name, the Horn of Bran the Niggard from the North once belonged to the Greek Demigod Hercules, it can supply any drink its holder wishes.
The Chariot of Morgan the Wealthy is able to rapidly transport a person to any destination they so wish to go to. Similarly, the Halter of Clyno of Edinburgh is able to give any horse wished for, so long as you staple the halter to the foot of your bed like Clyno did.
The knife belonging to the great Welsh hero and member of Arthur’s Court, Llawfronedd the Horseman, can not only serve 2 dozen men at a feast but is also extremely lethal when wielded in battle.
Once owned by the giant Welsh god, Dyrnwch, his Cauldron has the ability to discriminate between brave men and cowards. It quickly boils meat of the brave, but will not so much as heat a coward’s food. In the same vein, the Whetstone of Tudwal Tudglyd can sharpen a brave man’s sword so that anyone cut by the sword will die while The Red Coat of Padarn will fit any nobleman who puts it on, but will never fit any commoner at all (regardless of bravery).
Less elitist are the generous Crock and Dish of Rhyrenydd, which will cook and serve any food their user likes, as well as the golden Chess board of Gwenddolau, which has silver pieces and will play any one, or by itself when set up. Finally, there is the Cornish Mantle of Arthur which will turn whoever wears it invisible, whether they are brave, cowardly, noble or common.
It was the Magician Merlin who collected the thirteen treasures, and he has kept them with him on Bardsey Island (which the Welsh maintain is the true Avalon, where King Arthur is). They stay with him until Arthur wakes and brings the treasures back into use. Look for them, as Arthur surely must come back soon.