THE WINNING OF OLWEN 365
and jewels, and returned, bearing the sword of the giant, to Arthur's court.
They told Arthur how they had sped, and they all took counsel together, and agreed that they must set out on the quest for Mabon the son of Modron, and Gwrhyr, who knew the languages of beasts and of birds, went with them. So they journeyed until they came to the nest of an ousel, and Gwrhyr spoke to her.
' Tell me if thou knowest aught of Mabon the son of Modron, who was taken when three nights old from between his mother and the wall.'
And the ousel answered :
' When I first came here I was a young bird, and there was a smith's anvil in this place. But from that time no work has been done upon it, save that every evening I have pecked at it, till now there is not so much as the size of a nut remaining thereof. Yet all that time I have never once heard of the man you name. Still, there is a race of beasts older than I, and I will guide you to them.'
So the ousel flew before them, till she reached the stag of Redynvre ; but when they inquired of the stag whether he knew aught of Mabon he shook Ins head.
' When first I came hither,' said he, ' the plain was bare save for one oak sapling, which grew up to be an oak with a hundred branches. All that is left of that oak is a withered stump, but never once have I heard of the man you name. Nevertheless, as you are Arthur's men, I will guide you to the place where there is an animal older than I'; and the stag ran before them till he reached the owl of Cwm Cawlwyd. But when they inquired of the owl if he knew aught of Mabon he shook his head.
' When first I came hither,' said he, ' the valley was a wooded glen ; then a race of men came and rooted it up. After that there grew a second wood, and then a third, which you see. Look at my wings also—are they