Am I the only one who wonders why the H is in a different position in the names of pop singer Rihanna and Welsh mythological character Rhiannon? Perhaps Rihanna’s name isn’t derived from Welsh, but what fun is that? Anyway, Rhiannon was a major character in the Mabinogion, which treats her as an ordinary mortal. Since other human characters in the work are considered gods elsewhere, however, Rhiannon might also have been one at some point. Her name can be translated to mean “Great Queen,” and her association with horses has led to her being considered a goddess of horses like Epona. In fact, we first see her in the Mabinogion riding on a white horse.
She meets with Pwyll of Dyfed, who proceeds to chase her with his best horsemen, but she won’t stop until he directly tells her to do so. She decided to marry him instead of her fiancé, Gwawl ap Clud. When Pwyll and Rhiannon attempt to provide an heir to the kingdom, they give birth to a son, but he disappears while Rhiannon’s maids-in-waiting are supposed to be keeping watch. It seems that Gwawl, who had cursed Pwyll’s household upon losing Rhiannon, had a hand in the disappearance. The maids decide to do the only logical thing (that is, the only logical thing if you’re severely mentally ill) and smear Rhiannon with dog blood and claim she ate her own baby, as penance for which she is forced to give rides like a horse to anyone who asks. I wouldn’t be too surprised if Chris Brown had done this to Rihanna at some point. Anyway, they later find the baby, and I hope those totally sick maids get what’s coming to them, but I don’t know that this is specified.
After Pwyll’s death, Rhiannon marries the landless chieftain Manawyddan. Gwawl is still not out of the picture, however, and has his friend Llwyd ap Cil Coed cast an enchantment over Rhiannon and her son Pryderi.
I believe the Mabinogion simply says they vanish along with their castle, but this page gives a more fanciful story, with Rhiannon turned into a donkey and her son a gate-hammer. Manawydan does eventually rescue them with the help of a bishop, but it’s really more than any one woman should have to go through. I guess Gwawl would say that’s what she gets for making her own decisions instead of just sticking with her arranged marriage.