An early 70's demo by Stevie called either 3 Birds of Rhiannon or Maker of Birds. This is of those songs Stevie wrote based on Rhiannon to be used for ther Rhiannon movie project she had planned. Stevie has said several things over the years about her RHIANNON film project. In 1983, she said she had 20 songs written and recorded for the album. Then, in 1989, she said that 11 songs were "fully-recorded, mixed and mastered", and that she hoped to maybe tour with those songs one day.
It is said this is Stevie's way of taking the myth of the Goddess Rhiannon, and sort of weaving it in a more romantic fashion, this song and the myth itself are something that Stevie relates to very highly, especially since she wrote the original Rhiannon without knowing the myth, but still alluding strongly to it.
The Source of the Songs
~Stevie Nicks, interview video clip, circa 1970s
I read the name [Rhiannon] of it in a ~ in a ~ just a novel and really liked it and thought, 'that's really a beautiful name." Sat down, tap, tap, tap...about 10 minutes later wrote Rhiannon. We think that she was, in fact, Queen and that her memory became the myth. I definitely feel that there's a presence...
~Stevie Nicks, Jim Ladd, "Innerview" with Fleetwood Mac, 1976 or '77/radio
And, um, so I wrote this song and made her into what I thought was an old Welsh witch. And then I had just, just found out ~ because somebody from Phoenix found a whole trilogy of books written in 1972 on Welsh mythology ~ that Rhiannon was a Welsh witch.There's a whole ~ there's a trilogy of books written about her called the song of Rhiannon.Which is pretty weird because I never saw that. And yet the song is exactly about that.
So it is ~ it's just about, it's just about a very mystical woman that is finds it very, very hard to be tied down in any kind of way ~ and she's uplifting all through the song. That's ~ that's what I wanted to get and that's what the band got really well was that uplifting of wings kind of a feel, you know ~ when you feel like you see a seagull and she's, she's like lifting up. Well, that's, that's Rhiannon. Rhiannon ~ yeah ~ she's moving up.
In fact, the person who wove this fairy tale was Evangeline Walton. Not only the plot but much of the phrasing of this song comes directly from Walton's book "Prince of Annwn".
In that book, Pwyll, Prince of Annwn, is enlisted by Death to fight the other Lord of Death (the evil one). On his way to do so, he meets the Goddess Rhiannon, Maker of Birds, in an enchanted grove. She pledges to be his wife if he is successful. He eagerly declares he will fight anyone for her.
She warns him that it will be difficult, and that she will try to help him with her wisdom. While he is with her, he sees white mares dance; then the birds sing and he goes into a dream-like state. He wakes up thinking he imagined her, but he is to reunite with her later. As for the phrasing, here is one example of Stevie's "borrowing" of certain images:
"A woman sat there, and it was from her that the light in that place came. Her body shone like the sun; her one thin garment hid it no more than water would. Her hair shone, it streamed red gold to her noble, high-arched feet, which were tender and rosy white as the apple blossoms. [...] Three birds flew round Her head, and their song was sweet. One was as tenderly green as the leaves, one shone white as snow, and the third flashed like a sunbeam" (37).
Another: "He tried to answer, but the birds were still singing, their song was sweeping him away like the shimmering, many-hued floods of a rainbow river" (40).
"Three Birds of Rhiannon" on Stevie Nicks own words
Rhiannon is the story of a lady that is from another world ~ called the Bright world ~ and she leaves her kingdom to become the wife of a king ~ a mortal king ~ but goddesses really can't marry mortal kings, if they do they lose their powers ~ their magic powers. And they don't lose the knowledge of them they just ~they know everything that's going to happen they just can'tdo anything about it. Which is a much more difficult way to live than not having magic powers is to not be able to use them and know exactly what's coming and to not be able to tell anybody. So she comes down and does her whole trip, and it's just a whole story ~ it's a wonderful story.
And she has these birds that sing and that is the legend of the song of the birds of Rhiannon. And they sing this song that is uh, said takes away pain and suffering and if you hear the song you just sort of blank out and go away and then when you wake up everthing's all right. And it is a wonderful, wonderful story which I use a lot, because there's a lot of ~ there seems to be a lot of need for the story of Rhiannon around lately, because if people are sad or have lost anybody or something the story really makes a lot of sense.
~Stevie Nicks, Starsound Special RKO Radio, December 21, 1981
I didn't want them to release Rhiannon as a single [in 1975] because I thought, 'What if she doesn't make it? What if my Rhiannon falls flat on her face? Then, it's not my choice to release her as a single, she is a mythological goddess of horses and steeds and maker of birds and she's a brilliant, brilliant character...what if she falls flat on her face?'
I didn't write Rhiannon for commerciality. I wrote Rhiannon because I loved her name and I loved her story. I didn't write her to be sold, she simply is not for sale and has never been.
~Stevie Nicks, BBC One to One, 1989
That song [Rhiannon (Will You Ever Win)] is really straight out of the old Welsh mythology. Rhiannon is the Goddess of Steeds and the Maker of Birds, and her song is a song that takes away pain. When you hear her song, you close your eyes and fall asleep, and when you wake up the pain is gone or the danger is gone and you'll see her three birds flying away. That's the legend. So, whenever I sing the song, I always think of that...
~Stevie Nicks, Music Connection, 1994
I got the name from a novel, I think I bought in an airport just before a long flight; it was called Triad, and it was about a girl named Rhiannon and her sister and mother, or something like that. I just thought the name was so pretty that I wanted to write something about a girl named Rhiannon. I wrote it about three months before I joined Fleetwood Mac, in about 1974. And then to find out that Rhiannon was a real mythical character! I went and read the four books of Rhiannon, and visited the lady who'd translated them.
Rhiannon is the maker of birds, and the goddess of steeds; she's the protector of horses. Her music is like a pain pill. When you wake up and hear her birds singing her little song, the danger will have passed. I realized that somehow I had managed to pen a song that went very much along with the mythical tale of Rhiannon. That's when everybody started saying Stevie must be a black witch or something.
~Stevie Nicks, Songs in the Rough by Stephen Bishop, 1996
There is one more thing I can send you [the Gulf War troops], and that is the story of a Welsh mythological goddess, named RHIANNON. I once, a very long time ago, wrote a song about her. It is called 'the legend of the song of the birds of Rhiannon.'
Rhiannon was a queen in a world far above us called the bright world, where all the colors were brighter, and everyone had a special sort of glow around them. It was a beautiful world, and she loved her world, but she fell in love with a mortal king from OUR world...and she left her world to come to ours to be with him. Rhiannon had three birds, one white, one emerald green, and one golden. It is said that in time of war, or strife, or pain, that her song can be heard.
"And down the glorious pathway, came the three singing birds, straight into the middle of the trouble and hardship ..." but that when you heard her song, your eyes would softly close and you would slip away. When you awoke the trouble would be gone, the sky would be the most wondrous blue, and far in the back of your mind you would hear that little song,, like a delicate little music box. If you were lucky, you might even see the three beautiful birds slowly flying away from you, and if you were very very lucky, you might even see Rhiannon .... slowly turning around to you to say, everything is fine,- She is smiling, and you see her disappear into the fine white clouds.
It is said that the legend is true...so I send you the energy from my golden cross and the three singing birds of Rhiannon to comfort you and to keep you safe. .
~Stevie Nicks, in a letter to the Gulf War Troops, Stars & Stripes, 1991