The Story of Taliesin


Below is a retelling of one of the most famous Welsh stories, often known as The Birth of Taliesin, by professional storyteller Daniel Morden, who has previously visited Elysium Hospitals to tell stories to our service users and staff, which have always been very well received.


There once lived a witch who had a silent son. She resolved to brew a potion of inspiration for him, which would transform him into the most famous bard- poet, singer, storyteller- in the world. She gathered mysterious ingredients, and then stole a local lad named Gwion to tend to the potion.  After a year and a day the potion would be ready. The first three drops would be pure inspiration, the rest of the potion poison. It was her intention to kill Gwion once the potion was ready, to prevent him from revealing the secrets he had seen while in her home.


She was out when the great moment arrived.  Beside the cauldron, Gwion saw a bubble, like an eye, rise to the surface of the liquid, and sliding on the surface of the bubble were three shining drops of pure inspiration. The bubble burst, and the three shining drops spattered onto the back of Gwion’s hand. Before he knew what he had done, he had licked off the liquid.


And so it was that Gwion swallowed the potion intended for the son of the witch, and the moment he did so, his perception changed. The shadows were darker than ever they had been before, the flames were brighter, the smells subtler. He heard and understood the many languages of humanity, but also the languages of the birds, the beasts- every living thing. He could see into the future as you and I remember the past. And he knew the moment she discovered what he had done, Ceridwen would kill him. He fled. Ceridwen returned to her home, and set off after him. He became a hare- she became a hound and pursued him. He became a salmon and leapt into a lake- she became an otter. He leapt from the lake as a bird- she became an eagle. He flew over a farmyard, changed himself into a seed, fell and hid in a heap of seeds- she became a hen and swallowed him. Ceridwen took human form and returned to her home, content.


But in the months that followed her belly began to swell. She gave birth to a son, and it was Gwion! the moment she looked upon him Ceridwen understood he had outwitted her. He had become the only living creature she could not kill: her own flesh and blood. She felt the same love for him as she felt for her silent son who sat by the fire. Gwion went on to become a great bard, whose poems are still enjoyed to this day. He was known as Taliesin, which means ‘Shining Brow’


Who really was Taliesin? No-one knows. The composer of his poems lived in the Medieval era. The story I have told you seems to have come from the 16th century.  Some say Taliesin lives on even now. Some say he is buried in a grave near Aberystwyth. Some say it is the spirit of Taliesin that inspires the welsh people to be such accomplished singers, actors and poets.


To learn more about Daniel Morden, visit his website here.