Ravens figure heavily in Celtic mythology and legend. They were linked to darkness and death – especially the death of warriors in battle. Celtic war goddesses often took the form of a raven. In “The Dream of Rhonabwy”, the knight Owein battles King Arthur in a dream world assisted by ravens. Some tales suggest that the great King Arthur himself was turned in to a raven upon his death.
Rhonabwy is the most literary of the medieval Welsh prose tales. It may have also been the last written. A colophon at the end declares that no one is able to recite the work in full without a book, the level of detail being too much for the memory to handle. The comment suggests it was not popular with storytellers, though this was more likely due to its position as a literary tale rather than a traditional one.
The frame story tells that Madog sends Rhonabwy and two companions to find the prince’s rebellious brother Iorwerth. One night during the pursuit they seek shelter with Heilyn the Red, but find his house filthy and his beds full of fleas. Lying down on a yellow ox-skin, Rhonabwy experiences a vision of Arthur and his time.