One of the most startling moments in The Mabinogion, the Welsh medieval prose epic, comes midway through the tale of ‘Peredur son of Efrawg’. Peredur, an aspirant knight errant, takes shelter in a hermit’s cell for the evening. ‘The next morning’, we read:
he rose … to find that snow had fallen during the night. A wild hawk had killed a duck in front of the cell, and with the noise of the horses the hawk rose and a raven alighted on the duck. Peredur stood there, comparing the blackness of the raven and the whiteness of the snow and redness of the blood to the appearance of the woman he loved best.
This stark tricolour alters the tempo of Peredur’s bloody progress with a flicker of the transcendent; here, nature’s violence and beauty fall in perfect alignment. When Cynan Jones published his version of ‘Peredur’ in 2012 he called his retelling Bird, Blood, Snow and left the passage intact, perhaps because the