Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night And wouldn't you love to love her Takes to the sky like a bird in flight And who will be her lover? All your life you've never seen Woman taken by the wind Would you stay if she promised you Heaven? Will you ever win? She is like a cat in the dark And then she is the darkness She rules her life like a fine skylark And when the sky is starless All your life you've never seen Woman taken by the wind Would you stay if she promised you Heaven? Will you ever win? Will you ever win? Rhiannon Rhiannon Rhiannon Rhiannon She rings like a bell through the night And wouldn't you love to love her She rules her life like a bird in flight And who will be her lover? All your life you've never seen Woman taken by the wind Would you stay if she promised you Heaven? Will you ever win? Will you ever win? Rhiannon Rhiannon Rhiannon Taken by, taken by the sky Taken by, taken by the sky Taken by, taken by the sky Dreams unwind Love's a state of mind Dreams unwind Love's a state of mind...
Live versions appears on "Live" (1980), "The Dance" (1997), Live in Boston (2004), and "Crystal Visions" (2007)
Alternate version appears on "Enchanted" (1998)
Single version appears on the White Album Reissue with Bonus Material (2004)
Who is Rhiannon? Stevie claims on Live that "this is the story of a Welsh witch" but I've heard she got the name from a book and only later found out about the witch who shared it. "Rhiannon" seems to be someone fabulous and mysterious, but someone who is unable to stay anyplace for long. She's always "gone" and taking "to the sky," leaving her lovers alone and unable to replace her - their "life knows no answer" once she's left. Her lovers will never "win." And it's this last line that makes me wonder if Stevie doesn't see herself in this "Rhiannon." How many times have Lindsey and Stevie used "winning" and "losing" to talk about their relationship? Races Are Run, Long Distance Winner, Never Going Back Again... the list goes on and on. And, indeed, like Rhiannon, Stevie took off.
Her subconscious and "seeing" ability can also be seen in the song "Rhiannon." How it was intentionally written about the evil little girl; and then years later to find out how much it ironically resembled the original story without knowing about it beforehand.
Rhiannon was a Welsh goddess, who gave her immortality to be with a mortal named Pwyll (pronounced slightly like "Pool"). Prior to leaving her side of "The Bridge of Rainbows" into the mortal lands of Dyved, Rhiannon was tended by a small flock of birds, and she has been forever associated with birds.
I believe Rhiannon was someone with extraordinary sight and insight. If it is ever speculated that she was evil, by leaving all her lovers behind after exposing her Spirit to these, I must differ, and say, that none of her lovers were ever worthy of "who" she inherently was. Perhaps she'd sensed in each of her lovers a similar splendidness, as truly hers was, only to discover they were beneath her in a spiritual and enigmatic way.
I can not accept that a "witch", an enchantress of no artifice, of superior otherworldly natural gifts, a seer, an immortal, would ever be satisfied FOREVER with anyone lesser than herself.
Perhaps her flights to earth-ground were motivated by a powerful loneliness, which she'd allow herself to succumb to, when she'd notice with her bird's eye view, someone far below her sky realm, who seemed promising to be her lover. After all, what bird, what witch will stay aloft of the others for lifetimes? It is an incomparable ALONENESS up there; an Eternity's worth . . . Everyone earthly or otherworldly will seek out companionship, even if it is bound to fail.
The difference between mere mortals and some"one" as Rhiannon is that She being a witch can lift herself high above the muck of worthless and futile attachments and go back to the safety of the night, the sky : her natural Realms. Would you blame her? After all, Rhiannon is not the betrayer to her lovers, they are! And Rhiannon can tolerate NO betrayals!!!
Rhiannon's name translates as "Great Queen". She has been linked with Epona, a Goddess of the Moon, fertility, horses, and birds, and they are very similar. Her myth is quite tragic: she leaves the Otherworld to wed a mortal, Pwyll prince of Dyved. They fall in love and he becomes King of Annwn after serving the Lord of the Underworld. She bears him a child who mysteriously disapears, and she is blamed of infanticide. Her punishment is to act the role of a horse, since she is Goddess of Steeds, to any who will be carried throughout the kingdom. Eventually she is cleared and restored to Sovreignty when their son returns, and they call him Pryderi (Worry). She is a Moon Goddess that is often seen three-fold (like the moon itself). She is Maker of Birds, and as such she has Three Birds that can wake the dead or put the living into a trance.
Ironically, Stevie knew nothing of this myth when she wrote the song. So many of the lyrics refer back to the myth, but Stevie merely knew the name from a book called "Triad" I believe. It is really quite fascinating to hear her describe the story of Rhiannon. Check out the demos Stevie recorded called "The Three Birds of Rhiannon" and "Stay Away".