Of the surviving pre-Geoffrey examples of "native" medieval Welsh Arthurian tales—of which there is a relative paucity—Culhwch and Olwen
is the longest and most complete. The text itself is extant in two manuscripts: The White Book of Rhydderch (1300-1325) and the Red Book of Hergest (1375-1425) and is significant in its peculiar amalgamation of social and legal custom with historical and mythological traditions.1
As has been extensively noted elsewhere, the tale combines distinct medieval Welsh literary forms (triads, englynion
) and traditional Celtic narrative patterns (recalcitrant porters, invocation of the war band, otherworldly plunder, wooing trials), with more general medieval folk motifs. These disparate literary modes are united, tenuously perhaps, but still functionally, by the popular figure of Arthur.
In the context of Arthurian and Celtic literatures—and the entwined relationship between the two—perhaps the most notable of Culhwch and Olwen
's many features is Culhwch's invocation of the warband and community of the llys Arthur
(Arthur's Court)—as the later Triads term it—in the form of an extensive court list. The list itself is an interesting compilation of nearly three hundred names and corresponding fragmentary narrative glosses which, while conventional in form, are genre-defying in substance. Drawing on the names of British personages both historical and mythological—as artificial as such a distinction may be in early Arthurian literature—as well as clearly invented farcical characters and perhaps previously recorded (now lost) lists of Irish characters, the list evokes a colorfully amalgamated pantheon of Celtic literary figures and features that is unique to Culhwch
. As stylistically different as it is, in some senses Culhwch
's court list with its extolations of heroic grandeur, elegiac remembrances, and farcical sarcasm serves as a microcosm of the themes and motifs of the wide range of differing Arthurian depictions in the medieval Welsh materials.
In terms of composition the list is, in many ways, carefully structured; and particular attention is paid to alliteration as a method of linking both characters with no obvious connection (Henwas
), and those whose connection is either familial (Gwalchmai son of Gwyar
, Gwalhaved son of Gwyar
) or possibly triadic (the three Gwyns
in lines 181-82).2
In other areas names are linked in accordance with rhyme (Gweirs
) or in relation to their relative positions in other texts and historical traditions. Names from the Mabinogi
, for instance, are often placed together as are those from Pa Gur
(see below), The Goddodin
, the Welsh hagiographies, and the lineages of the North. Indeed, as has been suggested above, the list serves as a complexly related tapestry of names both historical and mythological woven into a unified whole in the context of the llys Arthur
Although in its extant form the court list is carefully structured and intricately composed, the nature and relative dating of its composition are uncertain. Bromwich and Evans have noted that the list's position in Culhwch
appears in some ways inorganic to the tale's overall narrative structure. They claim that if "the whole series of names between lines 175-373 is excised, the sense of the tale runs on with greater clarity and smoothness: line 174 being followed immediately by 373" (CaO, p. xlv). They suggest, then, that "the whole of the Arthurian Court List is an accretion to Culhwch ac Olwen
" (CaO, p. xliv). This is a compelling interpretation and although in a tale as sprawling and convoluted as Culhwch
, argument by narrative "smoothness" must be treated with careful reservation, there is certainly no dearth of evidence that the list represents a progressive accretion. For instance, in the list Cei is described as having perpetually cold hands, while his description in the tale proper goes to some length to depict his ability to generate heat. These two descriptions no doubt derive from some shared tradition concerning Cei's supernatural body chemistry, but not, one can assume given their contradictions, from the same scribe's hand. Similarly, Gwyn ap Nudd's
dispute with Gwythyr ap Greidawl
is discussed in detail in the court list and then somewhat redundantly in the following narrative. Further, although somewhat less conclusive, evidence of accretion is the presence of the five transliterated Irish names which do not to appear in any of the later lists derived from Culhwch,
as well as those names that are clearly farcical for which there is no previously or subsequently distinct tradition.3
It is safe, then, to accept Bromwich and Evans's assertion that the court-list represents a compilation "based partly on some pre-existing list of heroic names" that grew over time, perhaps receiving, "progressive accretions at the hands of successive copyists of the tale" (CaO, pp. xliv, xlv). It should still be remembered, though, that court lists are traditional features of heroic literature4
and in that sense organic to a text such as Culhwch
, a text so fraught with mythological, historical and hagiographical lore that the idea of an original, more coherent proto-text, although compelling, must still be viewed cautiously.
As I have suggested, the court list is characterized by a wide variety of Celtic literary forms and mythological motifs. Although this is not the forum for a complete examination of those characteristics, I would like to pay several of them the kind of attention that the composers of the tale perhaps intended. That is, I will in some sense use them as glosses to the examination of Culhwch and Olwen
and its larger relationship to Celtic Arthurian lore.
Ireland, Pa Gur, and The Spoils of Annwn in the Court List
There is considerable influence of Irish tradition in the court list in terms of both outright borrowing of names and the less easy to define amalgamation of Welsh and Irish myth. There are five names early in the court list (Cynchwr son of Ness
et al.) that seem to be almost direct transliterations of names from the Irish literary cycles which have no corresponding tradition in Welsh literature. For others, though, such as Lloch Llawwynnyawc
, it is harder to ascertain the point or nature of the transference from Hiberno-Celtic to Brittonic literature. Lloch derives originally from the Irish god Lug
and yet appears as a Welsh character in both Pa Gur
and Preiddeu Annwn
Indeed, the connection between the matter of Ireland, these two poems—Pa Gur
and Preiddeu Annwn
is difficult to discern. It is clear that the three—more Culhwch
and Pa Gur
—share a number of common traditions. Whether Culhwch
, in those areas that it clearly derives from those poems, draws on more complete texts or oral tales which are now lost or exclusively on the two poems as we know them is uncertain.
It is well accepted that the composers of the court list had specific knowledge of Pa Gur
—although it does seem that perhaps their rememberance of it was not particularly keen (AOW, p. 39). Nonetheless, the appearance of Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr
, Lloch Llawwynnyawc, Aunwas Adeiniawc
and then later of Gwynn Gotyuron
, Keli and Kueli
in the court list is indicative of direct drawing on a remembered Pa Gur
at the very least. In his consideration of this topic, Patrick Sims-Williams notes that while the placement of Glewlwyd, Lloch, and Aunwas in the court list does indeed seem to refer to lines 25-26 of Pa Gur
"Llwch and Anwas may, however, have been linked in some lost story...to which both texts refer independently" (AOW, p. 39). Although this assertion may well be valid, the mention of Glewlwyd directly preceding Lloch and Aunwas in the court list suggests a derivation from Pa Gur
rather than from any lost tale.
As there are no other surviving references to Gwynn Gotyuron, the mention of him in the court list reaffirms the list's remembrance of Pa Gur
. Although Gwynn is not grouped in the way of lines 192-93 with other characters from Pa Gur
, it is tempting to make some inferences from his placement directly above the list of Gweirs
and only one name removed from Lluydeu son of Kelcoed
. In Pa Gur
Gwynn (Guin) is associated with Mabon son of Modron and is placed in close conjunction with Manawydan son of Llyr
. Mabon is not listed in the court list, although his rescue by Arthur's men from an otherworldly imprisonment is a primary incident within Culhwch.
Mabon is the euhemerization of the continental Celtic deity Maponos son of Matrona
around whom there grew in Britain a legend of his early abduction and imprisonment. In his later euhemerized form as Mabon son of Modron he was primarily a northern British figure appearing in Kynverching dynasty poetry5
as an otherworldly protector and/or raider of cattle. He is eventually placed in a Welsh context via
Pryderi/Gwri in the Mabinogi
where his role as both the divine son of Modron and the abducted prisoner is discernibly expressed in several different forms—a process that has been rigorously discussed elsewhere.6
By the medieval period, then, the mythology pertaining to Mabon and his abduction/imprisonment had undergone a long series of conflations, confusions, and various euhemerizations. Preiddeu Annwn
refers to a voyage to the otherworld perhaps to free Gweir from an enchanted prison according—so the poem suggests—to the story of Pryderi. Triad 52 makes reference to a similar tradition, identifying Gweir son of Geiryoed as well as Mabon son of Modron as two of "The Three Unfortunate Prisoners of the Island of Britain." Nonetheless Preiddeu Annwn
's reference to Gweir via
the story of Pryderi's imprisonment as well as Gruffydd's assertion7
that Gweir can be equated with Gwri/Pryderi—who if we take the derived lineage one step further is synonymous with Mabon—suggests some equation, albeit a confused one, between Gweir and Mabon.
Returning, then, to Gwynn Goturyon's position in the court list, it is plausible that his placement separate from his Pa Gur
companions such as Mabon does not reflect a lack of Pa Gur's
influence on the list, but an attempt to conform to two varying traditions. Mabon's name could not be invoked in conjunction with Gwynn's because Mabon is still incarcerated during the time of the invocation. Gweir, however, about whom, as we have seen, there are similar, if not originally identical, traditions was invoked in his stead. The placement of Lluydeu son of Kelcoed the enchanter who imprisons Pryderi and Rhiannon in Manawydan
—presumably a conflation with the imprisonment referred to in Preiddeu Annwn
—reinforces this interpretation.
As has been suggested, although there is direct evidence for Pa Gur
's influence on the court list, it is difficult to ascertain whether the list draws directly on Preiddeu Annwn
or simply on some similar tradition. I have already noted the possible effect of that poem on the placement of the names Gweir and Lluydeu in the list, and certainly the rescue of Mabon and journey to Ireland in Culhwch
reflect a tradition similar to that found in Preiddeu Annwn
. This otherworldly abduction and voyage narrative is hardly unique to these two texts though. The same motif is found in a more mythological context in Branwen
as well as in the ninth century Historia Brittonum
; and it is clear that it existed as a Celtic mythological motif long before it was fit into an Arthurian context. As Sims-Williams notes:
while it is likely enough that the four versions influenced each other, it is more convincing to think of them as reworkings of a common story pattern for different purposes than as texts to be related by a stemma (AOW, p. 56).
The depiction, then, of the elements of the otherworldly abduction/raid in Culhwch
's court list and narrative serves as a distinct example of the way the tale exemplifies the process by which "between the ninth and eleventh centuries Arthur's name was becoming the great matrix to which the names of mythical and legendary figures were being drawn" (CaO, p. xxxiv).
Gwyn ap Nudd, Creiddylad, and the abduction of Gwenhwyvawr
Abduction narratives are a popular genre in Celtic legend, and as with the hunt sequences and cattle raids found so ubiquitously throughout British and Irish literature, they no doubt reflect some level of social reality. Not including the material concerning Mabon, in Culhwch
there are still several such narratives. When Culhwch's father Cilydd wishes to take a second wife he seeks council from his advisors:
"I know a marriage that would suit you well," said one of his councilors, "the wife of King Doged."
They decided to seek her.
They killed the king and carried his wife back home with them, and her daughter with her. Then they took possession of the king's land (Ford, p. 122).
The dry, unremarkable nature of this depiction—more befitting the style of The Mabinogi
—suggests just how common a literary event such abductions were. Nonetheless, the composer of the court list takes time to recount the abduction of Creiddylad by Gwyn son of Nudd, noting that "it is for her that Gwythyr son of Greidawl and Gwyn son of Nudd fight every May-day and shall do so until doomsday" (Ford, p. 131). Gwyn son of Nudd is, in Welsh tradition, a barely euhemerized god of Annwyvn (the Welsh otherworld) and this tale, with its focus on the realm of seasonal and temporal liminality, reflects a romantic narrative pattern that is common of Welsh and English fairy lore. Indeed, it is not surprising to note that in later times Gwyn ap Nudd is the name given to the king of the Twyleth Teg
—the Welsh fairy folk.
Although it is not mentioned in Culhwch
, the abduction of Gwenhwyvar
by Melwas is similar to Creiddylad's abduction. Gwenhwyvar is, in fact, Creiddylad's sister-in-law and Melwas—as king of Glastonbury, or the Isle of Glass—is certainly reminiscent of the otherworldly Gwyn. This is not to say that the abduction of Gwenhwyvar derives directly from that of Creiddylad, but simply suggests that the common Celtic literary motifs expressed in Culhwch
's court list do in time become important within the Arthurian tradition.
Farce and Satire in the Court List
Perhaps the most difficult to interpret of the court lists' features is the inclusion of a series of absurd or farcical names which are clearly devoid of historical or mythological origin or resonance. Bromwich and Evans see these names as later accretions to the court list (see above) which is otherwise derived from a largely textual tradition. Ford interprets them as fabrication "for the sake of maintaining rhythmic monotony" which eventually leads to "downright silli[ness]" (Ford, p. 120). "It is as if," he adds, "the redactor took a perverse delight in sneaking in a perfectly ridiculous unit every now and then, so apt in rhythm that it was virtually indistinct from the authentic lore conveyed in the section" (Ford, p. 120). Bromwich and Evans seem to agree, arguing that these names "bring the long incantatory sequence down to earth" (CaO, p. xxxviii). These interpretations may well be valid since much of medieval Welsh and Irish literature is characterized by absurd humor and hyperbole. And yet the sheer number of farcical names—far beyond what would be needed to "maintain rhythmic monotony" or bring the sequence "down to earth"—seems to indicate a larger redactorial agenda.
In a large part of the medieval Welsh tradition the Arthurian legend was a signifier not only of a former golden age, but of a failure of valor and loss of cultural and political autonomy. Arthur symbolized both the culture's idealized past and its increasingly marginalized present. Such frustrations are seen in the "little men" of Rhonabwy
, the pack of howling monks and "weak men" of Preiddeu Annwn
, and perhaps, as Sims-Williams has noted, in the wistful use of the imperfect tense in Pa Gur
(AOW, p. 38). Although they are indeed amusing if not at times "downright silly" (Ford, p. 120), these farcical names function in much the same way. The extensive family of Cleddyf Kyuwlch
is a clever subversion of the aristocratic lineages of Powys, Dyved, Devon and the North found throughout the list, while the subtle mockery via
exaggeration (Sugyn son of Sugnedydd
) of the heroic attributes of Arthur's court reflect a similar wistfulness and cynicism.
Despite the similarity of these farcical additions to those mentioned in Rhonabwy
, Preiddeu Annwn
, etc. given the uncertainty of definitively dating the composition or authorship of the court list, it is difficult to pinpoint their specific intent. It would be reductive, for instance, to view the subversion of the list's dynastic lineages by the addition of the farcical family of Cleddyf Kyuwlch as a general critique of the medieval Welsh aristocracy. Rather the list's farce should be viewed as a subversion of the heroic literary form that in problematizing structure of the genre presents an uncertainty about its values. This ambivalence towards Culhwch's
heroic values should not be seen as contradictory. If anything, such a device exemplifies the mutability and versatility of the traditional heroic structure in medieval Welsh hands. As with other such lists in heroic literature, with its invocation of a pantheon of euhemerized or remembered heroes it links Culhwch
to a larger historical and mythological tradition. Simultaneously, though, the extensive number of farcical characters serve to problematize the Arthurian heroic tale by subverting its literary conventions and satirizing its implicit values, thereby perhaps giving voice to the ambivalence of an increasingly marginalized society.
of later Arthurian romance, Bedwyr is one of the first warriors invoked by Culhwch and is ubiquitous in early Welsh Arthurian tradition where he and Cai
are Arthur's chief companions. This tradition is reflected in Culhwch
where Bedwyr is made one of Culhwch's Six Helpers because:
Bedwyr...never stood in awe of any mission Cei went on. There was this about him: none was so fair as he in the island except Arthur and Drych son of Cibddar. And this too: though he were one handed, three armed men in the same field as he would not draw blood before him. Another gift of his was that his spear held one wound and nine counter thrusts (Ford, p. 132).
Bedwyr's prowess is equally recognized in Pa Gur yv y Porthaur?
(Who is the Gatekeeper?
) where he is credited with slaying a hundred men at a time (BBC, p. 95) and is described as "ferocious/ as regards sword and shield" (CSAL, p. 131). Similarly, in the Triads (21, 26) he is recognized as the "Battle-Diademed" warrior of Britain who is "diademed" even above Cei and Drystan (21).
Bedwyr's position as Arthur's chief companion is repeatedly referenced in the early Arthurian materials. In The Life of St. Cadoc
he and Cei serve as Arthur's companions and chief warriors (VSB p. 70-71) and in both the Brut
and HRB he is recognized as Arthur's primary warrior and cup-bearer. The Englynion y Beddau
(Stanzas of the Graves
) identify his burial place as Tryfan Hill (BBC 64, 6-7, translation CSAL, p. 101).
In later Arthurian lore Bedwyr/Bedivere becomes associated with Normandy and is, in some accounts (namely the Vulgate Mort Artu
), the knight to eventually return Excalibur to the lake and witness Arthur's disappearance into Avalon.
The Sir Kay of later romance, Cai (or Cei) is, along with Bedwyr
, one of Arthur's chief warriors in the medieval Welsh poetic, narrative, and hagiographic traditions where, although he retains his sharp tongue and quick temper, is depicted as a warrior of exceptional, if not supernatural, ability. In Culhwch
Cei's father Cynyr prophecies that Cei's:
heart shall ever be cold; nor shall there be any warmth in his hands. If he's my son, he shall have another characteristic, he shall be unyielding. Another peculiarity shall be that when he carries a load either big or small, it shall never be seen, either from the front or the back. And no one shall endure water and fire as well as he (Ford, pp. 128-129).
Cei does seem to have some of these abilities in Culhwch
. For instance, it is mentioned that he can hold his breath for nine days and nine nights under water, although the narrator also notes that "when the rain was heaviest a hand's span about what was in his hand would be dry by reason of the heat he generated, and when his companions were coldest that would be kindling for the lighting of a fire" (Gantz, p. 149). There seems, then, to be some discordance in the two depictions of Cei's body chemistry, although either way his powers are certainly superhuman. Additionally, in Culhwch
, Cei can go nine days and nine nights without sleep, deliver unhealable wounds and "be as tall as the tallest tree in the forest when he pleased" (Gantz, p. 149). In the tale he is one of Arthur's most proficient warriors—slaying Wrnach the Giant and Dillus the Bearded, as well as helping to rescue Mabon. Cei is eventually offended by an apparently insulting englyn
(short poem) composed by Arthur which causes a rift between the two that perhaps helped influence later negative romance depictions of Kay. Cei is eventually slain by Gwyddawg, who in turn is slain by Arthur.
Cai appears also in the 90 line fragment of the poem Pa Gur
where he is portrayed as a great warrior, the slayer of witches, lions, and the dangerous Cat of Palug—a man against whom "the host was vain against...in battle" (Pa Gur
lines 52-53, BBC, p. 95.11-12). The poem continues: "When he drank from a horn/ he would drink like four./ In battle, when he would come,/ he would slay like a hundred"(CSAL, p. 131, BBC, p. 95).
Cai is similarly portrayed in the Triads (21, 42) where he is identified as on of the "Three Battle-Diademed Men of the Island of Britain" and in The Dream of Rhonabwy
where he is called "the handsomest man in Arthur's kingdom" (Gantz, p. 184).
In the French-derived Mabinogion
romances Cai's depiction is more akin to that of the later continental tradition where he is presented as a foil to the Arthurian chivalric model.
Greidawl is most frequently referenced in relation to his son Gwythyr mab Greidawl
—the lover of Creiddylad
and opponent of Gwyn ap Nudd
. Greidawl appears also in a list of Arthur's advisors in Rhonabwy
and is cited as one of the Three "Enemy Subduers of the Island of Britain" in Triad 19.
Gwythyr son of Greidawl:
Although he is usually associated with the north Britons (see also Gwyn ap Nudd
), Gwythyr plays a significant part in Culhwch
where his rescue of a burning ant hill helps fulfill one of the tasks Ysbaddaden places on Culhwch. Gwythyr accompanies Arthur in the campaign against the Black Hag and his struggle with Gwyn ap Nudd for the hand of Creiddylad is depicted in some detail. Arthur intervenes after Gwynn abducts Creiddylad and takes several of Gwythyr's men prisoner (Greid son of Eri
, Glinyeu son of Taran, Dyvynarth son of Gwrgwst Half Naked, Gwrgwst himself, Penn son of Nethawg and Nwwython and his son Kyledyr). With Arthur's intervention the two make peace and decide that they shall fight for Creiddylad every May Day until Judgment day.
This episode is similarly depicted in the twelfth century dialogues within the Black Book of Carmarthen and Gwythyr is listed as well as the father of one of "Arthur's Three Great Queens" (all named Gwenhwyfar) in the enigmatic Triad 56.
Greid son of Eri:
Greid mab Eri is identified as one of the prisoners taken by Gwyn son of Nudd
as well as the owner of the pup Drudwyn who is (according to Ysbaddaden) necessary in the hunt for the boar Twrch Trwyth. Perhaps most interesting, though, is the way the Salmon of Llyn Luch's describes Greid as one of the three most unfortunate prisoners (Mabon son of Modron and Llud Silver Hand are the other two). Since Greid is later imprisoned by Gwyn in Culhwch
, this categorization makes sense in the context of the tale, but it differs from the triadic tradition in which the "Three Exalted Prisoners of the Island of Britain" are Mabon, Llud, and Gwair. Bromwich posits that this suggests a redactorial decision on the part of the editor who had, for some reason "apparently not heard of the imprisonment of Gwair" (CaO, p. 68). I think it is possible, however, that rather than represent an editorial decision, Gwair's absence from Culhwch
indicates a Mabon/Gwair confusion in the triads as well as in the enigmatic Preiddeu Annwn
(The Spoils of Annwn
). For further discussion see Introduction
One of the Six Helpers who help search for Olwen, Cyndelic is characterized by Arthur as "as good a guide in lands he had never seen as he was in his own country" (Ford, p. 132).
Tathal Twyll Goleu:
Elsewhere unknown, Tathal's name is related, perhaps, to Caer Dathal-Math's stronghold in Math son of Mathonwy
(CaO, p. 69).
Maelwys son of Baeddan:
There is some debate as to the origin of this name. E. K. Chambers has suggested in Arthur of Britain
that the name represents a variant spelling of Melwas—the abductor of Guinevere in later romances (AOB, pp. 84-85). This theory has been more recently rejected most notably by Proinsias Mac Canna, Rachel Bromwich, and D. Simon Evans in favor of John Rhys's 1891 assertion that the name derives from the Irish Mael Umai mac Baitan
—an early seventh century king who fought with the Scottish king of Dal Riata Aedan mac Gabrain (d. 608) against the English invader Aethelfrith at the battle of Degsastan (SAL, pp. 51, 344, CaO, p.69, DAB, p. xxxiv). This interpretation is lent some plausibility by the following list of Irish heroes. See also: Gwenhwyvar
Cynchwr son of Nes:
Cynchwr is a Welsh appropriation of the Irish king Conchobor mac Nessa who frequently appears in the Irish Ulster cycle—most notably in the Tain Bo Cualinge
(The Cattle Raid of Cooley
). Bromwich and Evans suggest that while Cynchwr "may represent a relatively late oral borrowing," the additional list of borrowed Irish names probably reflects "corruption at the hand of a series of scribes who are unlikely to have understood the names they were copying, and very little—if anything—of the tales to which they belonged" (CaO, p. 70).
Cubert son of Daere:
Cubert is one of the five or six names borrowed directly from an Irish tradition. Compare with Irish Curoi mac Dairi
(CaO, p. 70). See also: Cynchwr the son of Nes
, Percos the son of Poch
, Luber Beuthach
, Corvil Bervach
Percos the son of Poch:
Percos is one of the five or six names borrowed directly from an Irish tradition. Compare with Irish Fercos mac Poch
(CaO, p. 70). See also: Cynchwr the son of Nes
, Cubert son of Daere
, Lluber Beuthach
, Corvil Bervach
Lluber is one of the five or six names borrowed directly from an Irish tradition. Compare with Irish Laegaire Buddach
(CaO, p. 70). See also: Cynchwr the son of Nes
, Percos the son of Poch
, Cubert son of Daere
, Corvil Bervach
Corvil is one of the five or six names borrowed directly from an Irish tradition. Compare with Irish Conall Kernach
(CaO, p. 70). See also: Cynchwr son of Nes
, Percos son of Poch
, Cubert son of Daere
, Lluber Beuthach
Gwyn son of Esni:
The first in a triad of men called Gwyn
. There are no further references to this character but Bromwich and Evans suggests that he is a variant of Gwyn son of Nudd
(CaO, p. xxxviii).
Gwyn son of Nwyfre:
The second in the triad of men called Gwyn
. There are no further references to this character but Bromwich and Evans suggest that he too is a variant of Gwyn son of Nudd
(CaO, p. xxxviii).
Gwyn son of Nudd:
, Gwyn ap Nudd appears as a euhemerized lord of the Welsh otherworld (Annwn). He is part of the retinue invoked by Culhwch in Arthur's hall where he is presented as one of Arthur's warriors. His traditional role as an otherworldly deity, however, is reflected in Ysbaddaden's insistence that Gwyn participate in the hunting of the boar Twrch Trwyth since in Gwyn "God has set the energy of the demons of Annwvyn" (Gantz, p. 159). This role is further suggested later in Culhwch
where Arthur must intervene between Gwyn and Gwythyr whose bride (Creiddylad) Gwyn has abducted. When Arthur and his retinue reach Gwyn's castle to ask him to participate in the hunt for Twrch Trwyth he is in the process of laying waste to Gwythyr's lands and warriors. Arthur intervenes and decides that Gwyn and Gwythyr will fight for Creiddylad every May Day until Doomsday—an episode that appears in later Welsh folklore. Indeed, with its references to female abduction and its placement in the realm of temporal and seasonal liminality (May Day) it seems to reflect a general Welsh fairy/abduction motif that is reproduced in both Welsh folk and Arthurian lore. See Gwenhwyvar
References to the same incident can also be found in the twelfth century Black Book of Carmarthen which places Gwyn in northern Wales and seems, then, to portray him, as does Culhwch
, as a northern deity. Interestingly, the BBC lists one of Gwyn's castles as "Caer Vandwy" (BBC, p. 99.2) which is one of the otherworldy fortresses of Annwn which Arthur plunders in the enigmatic poem attributed to Taliesin, Preiddeu Annwn
(Spoils of Annwn
Gwyn's father Nudd is probably cognate with the early Romano-British deity Nodons, who is, interestingly, also euhemerized in the character of Llud-the father of Gwyn's abducted bride Creiddylad.
Edeyrn son of Nudd:
Edeyrn is brother to Gwyn ap Nudd. Like his brother, he is a euhemerization of a Romano-British deity—Aeternus son of Nodons—although he appears far more frequently within the Continental tradition than the British in which his primary appearances occur in The Dream of Rhonabwy
where he leads a sable troop of Danes through Rhonabwy's dream vision and serves as an advisor to Arthur. He appears also in Geraint and Enid
where he is overcome by Geraint in much the same way as he is in Chrétien's Erec and Enide
where he is referred to as Yder fiz Nut. Ederyrn is also found as Isedernus
in the Modena archivolt (CaO, p. 70).
Cadwy son of Geraint:
In the Arthurian hagiographical tradition Cadwy appears as Cato in The Life of St. Cadoc
, and can be found as Caovius King of the Britons in The Life of St. Winwaloeus
. See CaO, p. 70. See also Gereint son of Erbin
Fflewdwr Fflam Wledic
translates as "flame" and Wledic
is a title roughly translating as "lord." Gantz freely translates the name then as "Fflewdwr Fflam the flaming lord" (Gantz, p. 149). Fflewdwr Fflam appears also in Triad no. 9 where he is identified as one of the "Three Chieftains of Arthur's Court" and in Rhonabwy
where he is one of Arthur's advisors. More recently he has appeared as a bard in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain
Ruawn Pebyr the son of Dorath
: Ruawn Pebyr possibly refers to a northern British hero or prince whose grave is referenced in Hywel ab Owain's Gorhoffedd
. He appears also in Triad no. 3 as one of the "Three Fair Princes of the Island of Britain" and in Rhonabwy
as a brilliantly clad horseman and an advisor to Arthur. There are several other northern mentions of the name Ruawn in conjunction with a prince who died young, but whether they refer to the same person is impossible to verify (see especially Englynion y Beddau
—Stanzas of the Graves
BBC, p. 67.9, .11).
Bratwen son of Moren Mynawc
: The name Bratwen
appears in the Englynion y Beddau
—The Stanzas of the Graves
(BBC, p. 69.3) and in The Gododdin
(CA, 468) where he is killed at the Battle of Catraeth (c.600).
As with Bratwen
, the name Moren
appears in the Englynion y Beddau
(The Stanzas of the Graves
) and in and in The Gododdin
(CA, 465 etc). For further references see CaO, p. 72.
Dalldav the son of Kimin Côv:
Dalldav appears in the Triads (41, 70) where he is listed as one of the "Three Peers of Arthur's Court."
the son of Alun Dyved:
Unnamed in Culhwch, he is invoked in both Rhonabwy
as Dyvyr son of Alun Dyved.
the son of Saidi:
Saidi's son appears in Triad no.9 along with Fflewdwr Flam
as one of the "Three Chieftains of Arthur's Court." See also Cas son of Saidi
the son of Gwryon:
See Hunabwy son of Gwryon
Uchtryd Ardywad Kad:
There are no other direct references to this character, although Ucthrit
does appear as a personal name several times in the court-list.
Cynwas's cattle are slain by Twrch Trwyth. Bromwich and Evans translate the name as "Cynwas Pointed Staff" (CaO, P. 73).
Gwrhyr's name roughly translates as Gwrhyr "Stout-Cattle."
Bromwich and Evans translate the name as Isperyr "Cat's Claw." See CaO, p. 73 for further references.
There is some uncertainty as to the proper translation of this name, the spelling of which is commonly taken as an example of scribal error. See CaO, p. 73 for further discussion.
Duach, Brathach, and Nerthach:
These names translate as "Black," "Crafty," and "Strong." Bromwich and evans suggest that the "-ach
termination...is likely to have a perjorative nuance" (CaO, p. 73).
Gwawrddur is the father of Duach, Brathach, and Nerthach
. Both Gantz and Ford translate the epithet as "hunchback" (Ford, p.126, Gantz, p. 141) although Bromwich and Evans suggest "wizened" as another possibility (CaO, p. 73).
Kilydd is not found as a character in other sources but Bromwich and Evans suggests that the epithet Canhastyr
is related to the term for thief from The Law of Hywel Dda
(CaO, p. 73).
Like Kilydd Canhastyr
, this name seems to be derogatory. Bromwich suggests that the title Canhastyr denotes a thief while Kanllaw roughly translates as "Hundred-hands"—an epithet that would appear to support her claim.
: Bromwich and Evans translate the name as "Cors Hundred-Claws" (CaO, p. 74).
Esgeir Gulhwch Govynkawn:
Esgeir is identified as a member of Arthur's retinue though there do not seem to be any further references to this character.
Drustwrn is considered a scribal corruption of the more common name Drystan
. Drystan derives from the early Celtic Drustanos
, and despite several early inscriptions from Brittany, Cornwall, and Gwynedd the name seems to have survived primarily in the Pictish language where it appears in Pictish regnal lists (see Pictish Regnal Table in DAB, p. xxxii. See also CaO, p. 73, TYP, p. 329, AOW, p. 210).
does not seem to have prospered as a Welsh proper name, it did gain increasing popularity in reference to the Welsh/Northern hero Drystan mab Tallwch (the Tristan of Arthurian tradition) to whom numerous references are made in Welsh Arthuriana as well as in the Triads (19, 21, 26, 41, 71, 72, 73, 80). See AOW Chapter 10 for further discussion.
Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr serves as Arthur's gatekeeper in Culhwch
where he (in typical gatekeeper fashion) protects convention by denying Culhwch entry into Arthur's hall until Arthur requests to see him. He also accompanies Arthur in the hunt for the boar Twrch Trwyth where he loses all of his servants save Llaesgymyn.
Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr appears in Pa Gur
the eleventh century text from The Black Book of Carmarthen in which he refuses Arthur and his retinue entry into a castle, thereby compelling Arthur to provide a list of his companions and their exploits. Although the poem is cut off after 90 lines it contains many of the same characters invoked in Culhwch's list and many have argued that Culhwch
derives from Pa Gur
. This is possible although the gatekeeper/retinue motif is relatively common in Celtic literature (cf. The Battle of Mag Tuired
from the Ulster cycle and Preiddeu Annwn
Glewlwyd appears also in the Triads (88) as one of the "Three Irresistible Knights" of Arthur's court, and in the Gereint
where he serves once again as Arthur's gatekeeper—an office which, according to this text, he fills only during three festivals per year. Not surprisingly, Glewlwyd functions similarly in Owein: Chwedl Iarlles y Ffynnon
(Owein: the Tale of The Countess at the Fountain
) where he is the gatekeeper at Arthur's court in Caerleon. Here, his role as an upholder of courtly convention remains, although he is not portrayed in opposition to the heroes entrance to the fort as he was in both Pa Gur
. The text reads: "Glewlwyd Strong Grip was there acting as gatekeeper, greeting guests and foreigners, beginning to honor them, telling them habits and customs of the court, and informing those who had a right to go to the hall or the chamber, or who merited lodging" (Gantz, p. 193).
A warrior of Arthur's court, Lloch is cognate with the Irish God Lug
from whom Lleu Llaw Gyffes also probably derives. Lloch is referenced enigmatically in Pa Gur
and in The Spoils of Annwn
The early twentieth-century Arthurian scholar Roger Sherman Loomis posited a theory (now no longer widely accepted) in which he traced the Lancelot of continental Arthurian tradition back all the way to Lug via Lloch Llawwynnyawc (Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance
, p. 357). See also PCB, pp. 321, 324 and Index.
Aunwas appears—as he does here—in conjunction with Lloch Llawwynnyawc
in Pa Gur
—further suggesting a link between the two works. See Introduction
Sinnoch son of Seithved:
Sinoch is one of five brothers invoked as Arthur's warriors by Culhwch. Bromwich and Evans suggest that there may originally have been seven brothers, two of whom have since been omitted (CaO, p. 74).
Wadu son of Seithved:
Wadu is one of is one of five brothers invoked as Arthur's warriors by Culhwch. Bromwich and Evans suggest that there may originally have been seven brothers, two of whom have since been omitted (CaO, p. 74).
Naw son of Seithved:
Naw is one of is one of five brothers invoked as Arthur's warriors by Culhwch. Bromwich and Evans suggests that there may originally have been seven brothers, two of whom have since been omitted (CaO, p. 74).
Gwennwynwyn son of Naw:
Identified as "Arthur's foremost champion." Gwennwynwyn appears also as one of Arthur's advisors in Rhonabwy
and as one of the three "Seafarers of the Island of Britain" in Triad 14.
Bedyw son of Seithved:
Bedyw is one of five brothers invoked as Arthur's warriors by Culhwch. Bromwich and Evans suggest that there may originally have been seven brothers, two of whom have since been omitted (CaO, p. 74).
Gobrwy son of Echel Morddwyd Twll:
Gobrwy appears in the list of Arthur's advisors in Rhonabwy
. For the etymology of this name see TYP, p. 363.
Echel Morddwyd Twll:
Echel Morddwyd Twll ("Mighty-Thigh") may be a combination of two initially separate traditions. Welsh legends contextualize him as a insular British hero, and yet the name Echel also appears as a Welsh transliteration of Achilles. Which character—if the two can by this point be separated—is intended here is uncertain. See CaO, p. 75.
Mael son of Roycol:
The name Mael
appears in the Bonedd y Sant
—Descent of the Saints
(Kenon a Dochtwy a Mael
...VSB, 321. 20).
Datweir appears in Triad 26 (as Dallwyr
) where he is identified as the owner of the magical sow Henwen. In recent years he has appeared in Lloyd Alexander's children's series The Prydain Chronicles
as the wizard Dallben.
Garwyli son of Gwythawg Gwyr:
One of the retinue helping Culhwch accomplish Ysbaddaden's tasks, Garwyli is killed in the boar-hunt by Twrch Trwyth.
Gantz translates the epithet as either "crooked" or "Gower" (Gantz, p. 141).
Gormant son of Ricca:
Invoked twice by Culhwch (line 198, line 221), Bromwich and Evans suggest that the name Gormant can be equated with the Cornish Gorlois
—the husband of Arthur's mother. The reference to Gormant as "Arthur's brother by his mother's side; the Penhynev of Cornwall was his father" supports this theory in that it connects Gormant with a Cornish aristocracy.
Menw son of Teirgwaedd:
Menw is one of the Six Helpers appointed by Arthur to help Culhwch in his search for Olwen. In Culhwch
, he is both a warrior and a powerful magician/shapeshifter. Arthur asks him to accompany his war-band on the quest for Olwen since "should they come to a pagan land, [Menw] could create an illusion so that none could see them, but they could see everyone" (Ford, p. 133). Later, Menw casts a poisoned spear at Ysbaddaden and shape-shifts into a bird during the hunt of Twrch Trwyth.
Menw appears frequently in the Triads (27, 28, 26) where he is identified as an enchanter and a shapeshifter—a skill which (according to Triad 28) he learned from Uthyr Pendragon—the father, in many traditions, of Arthur. This identification is particularly interesting in that it suggests that there is possibly a pre-Geoffrey tradition in which Uthyr Pendragon acts as a shapeshifter.
Digon son of Alar:
Digon seems, as do several of the names in this list to be the additions of a playful redactor. Bromwich and Evans translate the name as "Enough son of Surfeit."
Selyf son of Smoit:
There is no further record of Selyf mab Smoit, although it is possible that the name refers to the seventh-century king of Powys Selyf mab Cynan whose reign is referenced by numerous genealogies as well as in the triads where he is titled one of the "Three Battle Defenders of the Island of Britain. For further references and discussion see TYP, p. 507.
Gusc son of Achen:
A warrior of Arthur's retinue, there are no further references to Gusc.
Nerth son of Kedarn:
The name translates as "Force/Might son of Strong."
Drudwas son of Tryffin:
He is found in one of the alternate Triad collections (46a) where his horse is listed as one of the "Three Bestowed Horses of the Island of Britain." In her notes to the Triads, Bromwich excerpts an "anecdote" from a seventeenth-century manuscript which identifies Drudwas son of Treffin
as the son of the king of Denmark. In the tale, Drudwas's wife gives him a gift of three griffins who would loyally obey any of Drudwas's commands. A day comes when Arthur and Drudwas are set to battle and Drudwas orders his griffins to slay the first man onto the battlefield. He is, it seems, betrayed by his sister who (being Arthur's mistress) detains Arthur and consequently Drudwas is killed by his own griffins. Bromwich cites an englyn
attributed to Llywarch Hen on the subject:
Drudwas son of Tryffin, heavy his day
through mischance and oppression
—it was a misfortune to all—
the griffins slew him.
See TYP, pp. 327-328.
Twrch the son of Perif, and Twrch the son of Annwas:
A bizarre addition to Culhwch's list, these are names of boars rather than humans (though the lines do tend to blur in this tale) and perhaps, having some forgotten relationship to the boar hunting episode, are mistakenly placed in this list.
Iona king of France:
An undocumented king of France, Iona is not the only French king in Arthur's retinue. Paris king of France
, William I (Gwyllennhin
) and his son-in-law the Breton Duke Alan Fyrgant (Ysperni son of Fflergant
) also appear in the list.
Sel son of Selgi:
Bromwich and Evans translate as "Watch son of Watchdog" (CaO.p. 76). This name is yet another possible farcical insertion.
Sulyen son of Iaen:
Although Sulyen son of Iaen does not seem to appear anywhere other than in his invocation by Culhwch, the name Sulyen/Sulien did belong to the eleventh-century abbot of Llanbadarn and appears several times in other hagiographical documents (CaO p. 76).
Bradwen son of Iaen:
Since this name precedes Moren mab Iaen, it is possible that it may be a corruption of Bratwen mab Moren Mynawc found early in the list or of Moren the son of Iaen
(CaO, p. 76).
Moren son of Iaen:
Otherwise unmentioned. Cf. Moren Mynawc
Siawn son of Iaen, Cradawc son of Iaen:
Both Siawn and Cradawc appear in the Welsh genealogical text Bonedd y Arwyr
where they are related through their sister's marriage to Arthur. This identification seems to vary slightly from the emendation after Cradawc's name which states that the sons of Iaen were "Arthur's kindred on his father's side." Indeed their identification as "gwyr Kaer Tathal" (men of Caer Dathal) further supports the theory that Arthur's earliest role was a northern hero, but renders their relation to a later southern House of Arthur unlikely. See also Tathal Twyll Goleu
: Culhwch invokes Caw and his 20 sons in his list of Arthur's company. In Culhwch
, Caw accompanies Arthur on the quest for the blood of the black witch and serves as Ysbaddaden's barber—shaving his hair, flesh, and skin down to the bone when it is time for the giant to die.
Caw is referred to in the Triads (21, 81, 96) where he is identified as the father of a line of Pictish saints and in The Life of St. Caradog
where he is a pillaging giant. There are numerous references, though, to Caw as the progenitor of saints and some aspect of this tradition appears to have been retained in Culhwch
where several of his sons' names (Gildas, Meilic, Huiel) are those of saints. See VSB p. 84, 323. See Bromwich, TYP pp. 302-03 for further references.
Dirmyg the son of Kaw:
Dirmyc translates as "Slander."
Sons of Caw:
The extensive family of Caw is common in early Welsh genealogical and hagiographical tradition. There are upwards of twenty sons listed in EWGT although not all of them correspond to the nineteen found in Culhwch
's court-list. Some—namely Gildas, Meilic, and Hueil
—appear in the Vita
I (TYP, p. 302, VSB, Index) while others, according to Bromwich, are "obviously farcical" (CaO, p.77). Of these Dirmyg
(slander), Etmic (fame) and Mabsant (son of a saint) are perhaps the most obvious.
Hueil son of Caw:
Hueil is one of Caw's more ubiquitous sons. He is identified as Caw's successor in the Vita Gildae
where he is called Cuillus
and is described as valde strenuum in armis virum
(a man strong in war) MGH Vita I, p. 91.19. Similarly he is one of the "Three-Battle Diademed Men of the Island of Britain" in Triad 21.
The court-list alludes to a dispute between Hueil and Arthur in which Hueil wounds his nephew Llwydeu
"and because of that injury there was enmity between Arthur and Hueil (Ford, p. 128). This reference reflects, its seems, a varying tradition of hostility between Arthur and Hueil. Caradog of Llancarfan's Vita Gildae
recounts a legend in which Arthur kills Hueil (who in many genealogies is the brother of Gildas) after the former continued to raid and plunder his lands. Gerald of Wales is also aware of this tradition and he recounts a legend in which Gildas throws all his books praising Arthur into the sea following Arthur's murder of his brother, Hueil.
Samson Finsych: Samson
appears extensively in the Welsh hagiographical tradition (VSB, pp. 126, 132, 214-216 et al) and is listed in one genealogy as a son of Caw
Taliesin the chief of the bards:
Taliesin is among the most ubiquitous of the Welsh Cynfeirdd
(early poets)—although many of the poems attributed to him are certainly of a later date. He appears as a character in a number of early Welsh works—several of which place him in an Arthurian context (although tradition puts him in the second half of the sixth century—probably after any "historical" Arthur). In the Cad Goddeu
(Battle of the Trees) he refers to Arthur ("Druids, wise one, prophesy to Arthur" Ford, p. 187) and he appears as one of the seven of Arthur's companions who return alive from the journey to Annwn in Preiddeu Annwn
(The Spoils of Annwn
). See also Bromwich, TYP pp. 509-511 and Ford pp. 186.
Manawydan son of Llyr:
Manawydan (a euhemerized Romano-British god of the sea) appears extensively in the Welsh Mabinogi
and triads as well as in Irish tradition as Manannan mac Lir
. He is listed as a companion of Arthur in Culhwch
and Pa Gur
but these are merely passing references to a character who derives predominately from a tradition independent of the Arthurian material. His father Llyr/Lir is the Celtic god of the sea, who in Welsh tradition conceived Manawydan with Penardun daughter of Don (the mother goddess) thereby linking Manawydan to the houses of both Don and Llyr. In some genealogies Arthur is a descendant of these houses. Manawydan's placement directly after Taliesin
in the court-list is perhaps not accidental since Manawydan and Taliesin are two of the seven survivors of the expedition to Ireland in Branwen
as well as possibly—although Manawydan is unnamed—in Preiddeu Annwn
(The Spoils of Annwn
Llary son of Casnar Wledic:
Llary son of Casnar Wledic is also listed as one of Arthur's advisors in Rhonabwy
"Wledic" as an epithet translates as "the ruler" or "the lord." In Culhwch
he is named as the father of the warrior Llary
, though in Pwyll
he is named as "one of the nobles of this island" and is identified as the great-grandfather of Pryderi's wife, Kigva.
Ysperni son of Fflergant king of Armorica:
Loth, Tatlock, and others equate Fflergant with the eleventh- and twelfth-century Duke of Brittany Alan Fyrgan or Alan IV who married the daughter of William the conqueror (who also appears in Culhwch's list; see Gwyllennhin
) and died in 1119. Alan Fyrgan was probably an important figure in the eleventh century Celtic world. He bore a Breton epithet, fought against and then with William I, and appears in the Triads (30). LHB, p. 195, TYP, p. 270, CaO, pp. 79-80.
Saranhon, the son of Glythwyr:
One of the mebers of the retinue invoked by Culhwch, Saranhon mab Glythwyr does not appear elsewhere.
Llawr eil Erw:
Bromwich and Evans suggest that Llawr eil Erw can perhaps be linked to Llawr mab Eiryf who is listed in the Triads (15) as possessor of one of the "Three Roving Fleets of the Island of Britain" (CaO, p. 80).
Annyanniawc son of Menw the son of Teirgwaedd:
Annyanniawc does not appear anywhere else and one is left to wonder if he is not another redactorial addition. His name may derive from the word for "nature" (CaO, p. 80) and since his father Menw is a shapeshifter who frequents the form of a bird, it is tempting to equate the etymology of his name with some contrived onomastics.
Fflam son of Nwyvre:
"Fflam" translates as flame and is more common as an epithet. See Fflewdwr Fflam Wledic
Gereint son of Erbin:
Gereint mab Erbin is one of the most prolific characters in Welsh Arthurianna. Perhaps for this reason, of the characters who seem to have some basis in history, he is also one of the most difficult to identify clearly.
There are several early appearances of the name Gerontios/Gerontius
in southern Britain and on the continent—most notably in reference to the early fifth-century British general who led British troops under, and later betrayed, the emperor Constantine. There is also a sixth-century reference to a southern warrior/nobleman named Gereint in The Goddoddin
that represents the first mention of the name in an—albeit tenuous—Arthurian context (TYP, pp. 355-360, AoB, p. 66, LHB, p. 165).
Gereint mab Erbin first appears in the poem of that name from the BBC in which Gereint fights and dies at the battle of Llongborth. Although the dating is uncertain, Bromwich contends that it was recorded absolutely no later than the eleventh-century, and very possibly two centuries earlier. Arthur appears in the poem under the title of emperor (ameraudur
) and it is interesting to note that whatever his actual history, from an early point Gereint is placed in an Arthurian context.
Tracing Gereint mab Erbin's supposed lineage is even more difficult. In the BBC
poem he hails from Devon, and the Bonedd y Arwyr
seems to link him via his grandfather Custennin to the southern Dummonian regnal line. As Bromwich notes, Custennin can probably be identified as Constantinus of Dummonia who appears in Gildas's invective (De Excidio Britonum
—Concerning the Ruin of Britain
, 28.1) and would, then, have lived in the early sixth century—a chronology that supports the assertion that the Gereint of Y Gododdin
is the Geraint of the BBC.
Arthur is later falsely linked by Geoffrey to this same Dummonian line and consequently he is identified as Gereint's cousin in the later Welsh romance Gereint and Enid
which follows the same narrative line as Chrétien's Erec and Enide
. For a more complete examination of the possible south-western appearances of the name/character see Bromwich TYP, pp. 355-360. See also VSB, p. 321.26, BBC, pp. 71.12-73.10.
Ermid son of Erbin:
Otherwise unmentioned Ermid, as invoked by Culhwch, appears to be the brother of the famous southern hero Gereint son of Erbin
Dywel son of Erbin:
Dywel appears twice in the Black Book of Carmarthen (BBC, pp. 4.1, 65.16, Guest, p. 273). There is some question whether the Erbin
in Dywel's patronymic is the same as the one in the patronymics of Gereint son of Erbin
, but Bromwich and Evans rightly note that any such distinction "was clearly unknown to the author of Culhwch
, who presents the three sons of Erbin in l. 219 as though they were brothers" (CaO, p. 81).
Gwynn son of Ermid:
The otherwise unmentioned son of Gereint's
. There are no further references to Gwynn.
Cyndrwyn son of Erbin:
There are no further direct references to this character although Bromwich and Evans cite Rowland's assertion that he may be linked to a Powysian regnal line (CaO, pp. 81-82, EWSP, pp. 125-126).
The name translates as "Hyfaidd One-Cloak." He appears also in Rhonabwy
as one of Arthur's advisers.
The epithet translates as "Great Mind." There are no further references to Eiddon.
Rheiddwn's epithet translates as "coarse" or "hairy." Compare with Rheiddwn son of Beli
A variant of this name appears as Llauurodet Uaruuc
("Llauurodet the Bearded") in the Bonedd y Sant—The Descent of the Saints
(VSB, p. 323.54), and under a different epithet (Farchog
: Horseman) in Tri Thlws ar Ddeg Ynys Brydain—The Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain
(TYP, p. 240). For more on the relationship of the "Thirteen Treasures" to Culhwch
and the anoethau
(wonders, tasks) see AOW, pp. 85-88.
Noddawl Farf Twrch:
The epithet translates as "Boar-Beard" but Bromwich and Evans argue that, based on earlier forms of the epithet, trwch
(thick, dense, or "cut" as they translate it) should be substituted for twrch
(boar). Given the context of Culhwch
, though, I think it is possible that the transition was intentional rather than accidental. See CaO, p. 83.
Berth son of Cado:
Invoked in the court list by Culhwch. There are no other references to this character.
Rheiddwn son of Beli:
There are no further references to Rheiddwn, although his patronymoc derives from the Celtic deity Belinus
for whom there are many references both in the archeological record (PCB, pp. 83, 472) and in the genealogies under his euhemerized name, Beli
There are no further references to this character, although the epithet hael
(generous) is a common one (cf. Morgant Hael
, and Triad no. 2).
Yscawin son of Banon:
Bromwich and Evans compare the name with Kysceint mab Banon
who is listed with Mabon and Guin
in Pa Gur
15, BBC, p. 94.7). See CaO, p. 84.
Morvran son of Tegid:
Morvran is said to be so ugly that he was one of the very few survivors of the battle of Camlan since no one dared to strike him. The mention of the battle of Camlan is interesting since some scholars have argued that this reference suggests that by this chronology (opposed to that of Nennius) Arthur survives the battle. This is an unsupported interpretation, though, since these parenthetical commentaries are not contemporaneous with the narrative time-frame, but are the products of an omniscient narrator. For another such parenthetical see the reference to the battle over Creiddyllad
between Gwyn ap Nudd
—an event that, in terms of chronology, takes place later on in the tale.
Morvran appears also in the Hanes Taliesin
where his mother, trying to compensate for his ugliness, prepares him three drops of wisdom which are stolen by Gwion Bach who is later transformed into the bard Taliesin
. See also Sandde Bryd Angel
and Cynwyl Sant
Sandde Bryd Angel:
in some spellings) is said to be so beautiful that "no one wounded him at the battle of Camlan because of his beauty. Everyone supposed he was an attendant angel" (Ford, p. 128).
Although there are other references to the name Sandef
none contain the epithet Bryd Angel
(Angel Body). See also Morvran son of Tegid
and Cynwyl Sant
Cynwyl Sant is the third warrior in the in-text triad of survivors of the battle of Camlan where he is said to be "the last who parted from Arthur on Hengroen his horse." See also Morvran son of Tegid
and Sandde Bryd Angel
Uchtryd the son of Erim:
See Uchtryd Ardywad Kad
Eus son of Erim:
There are no further allusions to Eus or to his father Erim. One of his brothers, Scilti Yscawntroet
, derives from the Irish hero Caoilte
, so it is possible that the character has an Irish origin (CaO, p.86), although this is hardly certain since there is no discernible Irish root for either his father or his brothers Henwas
There are no further references to this name which translates as Hen Was
: Old Attendant.
The second of a series of characters whose names or epithets derive from the word "Hen" (old). Bromwich and Evans translate the name as "Old Walker" (CaO, p. 86).
Bromwich et al. have linked the name to the Irish Cailte
et al) who figures predominately in the Irish Fenian cycle, most notably perhaps in Acallam na Senorach (Colloquy of the Elders)
where he shares Fenian lore with St. Patrick. Bromwich argues that his epithet derives from the Irish tale "Finn and Grainne" (CaO, p. 86). See Gwenhwyvar
for further similarities between Culhwch
and Fenian lore. See also: Ann Dooley and Harry Roe trans. and ed. Tales of the Elders of Ireland
: Acallam na Senborach
The court-list notes that his "kingdom, the sea inundated; he barely escaped and came to Arthur" (Ford, p. 128). There is a remarkably similar reference to low-land flooding in Branwen
("the sea expanded when it inundated the lands," Ford, p. 66) and Bromwich and Evans note that there seem to be several such "allusions to the inundation of low-lying parts of the coastal areas, from the Conwy estuary to Cardigan bay" (CaO, p. 87).
Carnedyr son of Gofynion Hen:
Invoked by Culhwch. Although the word Carnedaur
appears in the genealogies (VSB, 321. 29) there are no further references to this character.
A warrior invoked by Culhwch. Bromwich and Evans suggest that the name which translates as "red-Eyed Stallion" may be intended as farcical.
AlthoughGwrbothu is identified as an uncle of Arthur, the name probably refers to the early seventh-century king Gwrfoddw (610-615 CE) CaO, p. 88, EWGT p. 226). As is the case with many of the characters in Culhwch's list who appear to have historical reality, Gwrfoddw lived far too late to have been the uncle of any "historical" Arthur.
Kulvanawyd son of Goryon:
Other than Culhwch's invocation, there are no other exact references for Kulvanawyd, although he perhaps appears as Kulvanawyt of Britain in Triad 80 where he is identified as the father of four daughters including Essyllt
(Isolde of continental tradition) and Gwenhwyvar
Llenlleawg Wyddel from the headland of Ganion:
The meaning and intended spelling of this name is uncertain although, as Marged Haycock (Studia Celtica xviii-xix
, 70) and Sarah Higley (Camelot Project: Online Translation and Interpretation of Preiddeu Annwn
, a Middle Welsh Poem) have suggested, it may refer to the enigmatic lluch lleawc
of the Spoils of Annwn
. The epithet "Wyddel" (which may translate as Irishman) as well as the reference to the headland of Gamion (located in S. Ireland) support this identification since the Spoils of Annwn
may reflect an assault on Ireland similar to those found in Culhwch
and the Branwen
appears in a number of early Welsh genealogies where he is predominately placed in the North. He appears in Geoffrey as the Cornish king Dunuallo Molmutius
who eventually becomes king of all Britain and is credited with establishing the Molmutine laws (HRB, p. 89).
Dunart brenhin y Gogled:
"Dunart king of the North" appears in Nennius's annals (558: Gabran filius Dungart moritur
Kenneth Jackson (cited in CaO, p. 90) equates him with the King of Dal Riata of the Cenel Gabhrain Dynasty, Domangart (d. 507). His son Gabhrain (d. 558) and grandson Aedan (d. 608) appear in Triad 29. See CaO p. 90, and DAB, p. xxxiv.
Teyrnon Twryf Bliant:
Teyrnon is a euhemerization of the Romano-British deity Tigernonos
. He appears predominately in the first branch of the Mabinogi
) where he is Pryderi/Gwri's foster father—although his role seems to suggest a larger (now lost) tradition. W.J. Gruffyd suggests that Teyrnon was originally Gwri's father—a tradition that Pwyll
tries to reconcile with the story of Pryderi as the son of Pendaran Dyved. See Gruffydd RH, p. 19 and Triad 26. In any case it is not surprising to find Teyrnon in a tale that involves a strong element of Mabon/Maponos
-related folklore since the stories of Pryderi/Gwri/Mabon all appear to derive from common origins and suffer conflation in the Medieval Welsh canon.
There are no other apparent references to Tegvan.
Tegyr is the third in an alliterative sequence of names. Gantz translates as Tegyr Cup-Bearer
(Gantz, p. 144).
Gwrdinal the son of Ebrei:
There are no other direct references to Gwrdinal. See: Bromwich and Evans CaO, p. 90 for the possible etymology of his patronymic.
There are no other direct references to Morgant Hael, although in Triad no. 2, Hael
(generous) appears as an epithet for Rhydderch, Nudd, and more promisingly considering the similarities between the two names, Mordaf (CaO, p. 90).
Gwystyl son of Nwython:
I feel this name reflects either an editorial contrivance or confusion. Gwystyl
translates as "hostage" and it appears as a patronymic in Triad 21W which refers to "Gweir mab Gwystyl" or Gweir son of Hostage." This patronymic is of uncertain credibility not only because it appears in a variant Triad but also because it seems to be some kind of qualification or inverted epithet for Gwair ap Geirioed who appears in Preiddeu Annwn
and Triad 52 as one of the "Three Exalted Prisoners of the Island of Britain." It should also be noted that while there are other genealogical references to the other sons of Nwython/Neithon, Gwystyl does not appear again.
Rhun son of Nwython:
Rhun appears as Run mab Neton
in Geoffrey (HRB, p. 45) and Bromwich and Evans note that the name also corresponds to a name from the Harleian Genealogies—"the only instance in which one of these names corresponds to a name in the Arthurian Court-List in Culhwch
(CaO, p. 91).
Llwydeu son of Nwython:
Although his brothers Gwystl
derive from previously established characters there do not seem to be any further references to Llwydeu.
Gwydre son of Llwydeu by Gwenabwy daughter of Caw:
There are no further references to Gwydre mab Llywydeu
, but Arthur's son Gwydre
appears in Culhwch
where he is killed by the boar Twrch Trwyth.
Drem son of Dremidyd:
Bromwich and Evans translate as "Sight Son of Seer" and suggests a farcical reading. Drem appears also in Gereint
as an assitant to Arthur's gatekeeper Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr
Eidyol the son of Ner:
, Eidyol is identified by Ysbaddadden as Mabon's cousin. Eidoyl, however, is also a prisoner whom Arthur and his retinue must free from Glini's fortress before they seek Mabon. Bromwich and Evans find Eidyol's presence in the court-list "hardly consistent with the fact that [he] appears among the anoethau
as a prisoner yet to be released" (CaO, p. 92). The form of the court list, however, does not agree with its temporal place in the narrative. After all, from a linear temporal standpoint there are many events that should not appear in the list: Mabon is also still a prisoner, the battle of Camlan has not yet been fought, and the feud between Gwyn ap Nudd
is yet to be resolved, just to name a few. See: CaO p.92.
Gluydyn is credited in Culhwch
with building Arthur's hall Ehangren
: "wide and spacious" (Gantz, p.144). It is uncertain, though, whether this hall, previously unnamed, is supposed to coincide with Arthur's Cornish fortress at Celliwig.
The father of Cei, in Culhwch
Cynyr/Kynyr prophecies at Cei's birth that his son will be born with both a stubborn disposition and supernatural powers. Cynyr also appears as Cei's father in Triad 21. See TYP, pp. 307-08.
Invoked by Culhwch, perhaps for the purpose of alliteration, Henwyneb (hen vyneb
: old face) is identified as "another companion of Arthur" although he makes no subsequent appearances.
Yet another name in the series of hen-
based words. The name translates as "Old Companion."
credits Gallogic with this trait: "[when] he came to a town of three hundred houses in it, if he needed anything, he would let no one sleep while he was there" (Ford, p. 129).
Berwyn, the son of Gerenhir:
This name does not appear elsewhere.
Paris king of France:
Paris is not the only French king in Arthur's retinue. William I appears as Gwyllennhin
and his son-in-law the Breton Duke Alan Fyrgant (Ysperni son of Fflergant king of Armorica
) is also found in the list. The addition of Paris king of France may be a confused attempt to include Paris of Troy, although it is more likely that the reference is included farcically.
Osla "Great-Knife" is invoked by Culhwch and serves as one of Arthur's primary companions. As his epithet suggests, his dagger was supposedly so long that "When Arthur and his hosts came before a torrent, they would seek for a narrow place where they might pass the water, and would lay the sheathed dagger across the torrent, and it would form a bridge sufficient for the armies of the three Islands of Britain, and of the three islands adjacent, with their spoil." Osla takes part in the hunt for the boar Twrch Trwyth where he drowns when, crossing a river, he loses his dagger and the sheath fills with water.
he appears as Arthur's Saxon enemy at the battle of Badon. Bromwich and Evans cite Richard's assertion that this change reflects a confusion between the name Osla and Offa—the 8th century Mercian king who built Offa's dyke on the border of England and Wales. Welsh genealogical references to Offa Kyllellvawr urenhin Lloegr
(Offa Great-Knife, king of England) support this theory. See EWGT p. 64 and CaO, p. 94.
Gwyddawg the son of Menestyr:
Gwyddawg appears in the court list where a parenthetical comment notes that Gwyddawg slew Cei
and was in turn slain by Arthur in vengance.
Garanwyn the son of Cei:
There do not appear to be any subsequent references to Garanwyn as Cei's
Amren the son of Bedwyr:
Amren mab Bedwyr is invoked as one of Arthur's retinue in Culhwch
. In Gereint
he is identified as one of Arthur's four chamberlains who guard Arthur's bed as he sleeps and attend on him in the mornings.
Ely Amyr and Eli Thracmyr:
These two names probably represent the same person. Bromwich and Evans find mention of the name Ellinus
in Vita Sancti Codoci
(VSB, p. 56) but there are no further direct references to this character.
Rheu Rhwyd Dyrys:
Rheu's name translates "Rheu Simple-Strenuous" and may then be another farcical addition to the court-list.
There are no other references to Rhun, and his appearances here may primarily serve alliterative purposes.
Lluydeu son of Kelcoed:
Lluydeu appears in Manawydan
where, as an act of vengeance, he imprisons Pryderi and Rhiannon before Manawydan compels him to free them. This story is possibly related to the tale of imprisonment in Culhwch
and Preiddeu Annwn
. See Gruffydd RH, pp. 96-97. See also Manawydan
Hunabwy son of Gwryon:
Hunabwy appears among Arthur's retinue in Culhwch
and is one of the warriors (Cadwry uab Gwryon
) who accompanies Geraint on his quest in Gereint
Gwynn Gotyuron is probably akin to Guin Godybrion
who appears, along with Mabon and Kysteint mab Banon (see Yscawin son of Banon
) as a "sage" and warrior of Arthur's retinue in Pa Gur
(line 16, BBC, p. 94.8).
Gweir Dathar Wenidawc, Gweir the son of Cadell the son of Talaryant, Gweir Gwrhyd Ennwir, Gweir Paladyr Hir:
Culhwch invokes these four Gweirs in succession and identifies them as "the uncles of Arthur, the brothers of his mother" as well as the sons of Llwch Llawwynnyawc "from beyond the surging/Tyrrhene sea." This is a bizarre genealogy for Arthur in that it differs from the one usually produced (including in Culhwch
) which identifies Arthur's mother as Eigyr the daughter Anlawdd Wledig.
Given the references to Mabon's imprisonment in Culhwch
, it is interesting to speculate if any of these "Gweirs" could perhaps refer to Gweir ap Geirioed
—the prisoner of Triad 52 and (most likely) Preiddeu Annwn
. Considering the conflation of the Gweir/ Mabon/Pryderi materials, one wonders if the placement of the name at this point in the court list—directly after Gwynn Gotyuron
(who is identified as a companion of Mabon in Pa Gur
) and only two names away from Lluydeu of Kelcoed
(who imprisoned Pryderi in The Third Branch
) is not entirely coincidental.
For Gweir Gwrhyd Ennweir see Triad 19.
Gweir Dathar Wenidawc appears in Rhonabwy
This name translates literally as "Famous of Britain." Bromwich and Evans propose that perhaps it represents the epithet of a name that has inadvertently been excluded from the list. See: CaO, p. 98.
Cas son of Saidi:
There are no further references to Cas mab Saidi, although Chadreith mab Saidi appears with Fflewdur Fflam as one of Chieftains of Arthur's court in Triad 9.
Gwrvan Gwallt Avwyn:
This name can most likely be equated with that of Gware Gwallt Eurin
, which appears later in the list. Both names most likely refer to Gwri Gwallt Euryn of the First Branch
who Gruffydd associates with Gweir— the prisoner of Preiddeu Annwn
and Triad 52. RH, p. 91. See also Gweir
Gwyllennhin the king of France:
Gwyllennhin probably represents William I. See also the representation of his son-in-law, the Breton Duke Alan Fyrgant (Ysperni the son of Fflergant king of Armorica
Gwittart son of Oedd king of Ireland:
There is no direct Irish equivalent for this character.
Garselit is identified as "the chief huntsman of Ireland" before being slain by the boar Twrch Trwyth.
Panawr Pen Bagad:
Invoked by Culhwch. There are no subsequent references to Panwr Pen Bagad.
Ffleudor the son of Naf:
There are no direct references to this character, and the intended form of his name is somewhat uncertain. Given the numerous instances of repetition of names or their variants in the list, though, it is possible that this is the same character as Fflewdur Fflam Wledic. See: CaO, p. 99.
Gwynnhyvar maer of Cornwall:
Bromwich and Evans translate as "Gwynn the Irascible" (CaO, p. 99). Maer
derives from the latin maior
and was a position usually pertaining to local administration of land. See: (CaO, p. 99).
Devon is identified as "the ninth man that rallied the battle of Camlan." For other Camlann references within the court-list see Morvran the son of Tegid
, Sandde Bryd Angel
, and Cynwyl Sant
Keli and Kueli:
A strange and possibly misplaced addition to the Culhwch's court-list, Keli and Kueli derive from the place names in Pa Gur
(lines 33-34, BBC, p. 95). There is no discernable reason for them to be included here as personal names, although Bromwich and Evans find it "tempting" to equate Keli with Arthur's Cornish court, Celliwig (CaO, p. 99).
Gilla Coes Hydd:
Gilla is another Irish addition to the court-list. He is described as "the chief leaper of Ireland."
Sol, and Gwadyn Ossol, and Gawdyn Odyeith:
Culhwch includes details concerning these brothers that may represent some form of onomastic contrivance. Sol whose name translates as "heel" is said to be able to stand all day on one foot. Gwadyn translates as "sole" which is fitting given his ability to level mountains with his step. Bromwich identifies Gwadyn Odeith with goddaith
or "bonfire"—another equally convenient etymology given Gwadyn Odeith's ability to emit flames from the soles of his feet.
Hirerwm and Hiratrwm:
these characters are distinguished by their ravenous appetites. "When they went to a feast they left neither fat nor lean, hot nor the cold, neither sour nor the sweet, fresh nor the salt, neither boiled nor raw" (Ford, p. 130).
Huarwor the son of Halwn:
Huarwar is credited with asking Arthur so great a boon that Cornwall is decimated once it has been granted.
Moses Williams—an early editor of the Triads—used Huarwor in a triad of his own contrivance (Triad 93) that he believed was embedded in the Culhwch
Gware Gwallt Euryn:
This is the name give to Pryderi by Teyrnon in Pwyll
. It is probably cognate with Gwrvan Gwallt Avwyn
See also: Gweir
Rhymi and her pups Gwyddrud and Gwydden Astrus:
Apparently Rhymi and her "pups" are humans who have taken the shape of, or have been enchanted into, dogs. The placement of these dogs in the court-list, rather than the anoethau
(tasks, wonders) is strange though probably not "illogical" (CaO, p. 100) as Bromwich and Evans have termed it since other members of the court-list (c.f. Kynedyr Wyllt
, Cors Cant Ewin
, et al) are mentioned in the anoethau
. Rather, they were mistakenly omitted from Ysbaddaden's list of aneothau
(wonders, tasks). The name Rhymi
also refers to a river in the Vita Sancti Cadoci
(VSB, p. 62.18).
Sugyn the son of Sugnedydd:
Sugyn (whose name Bromwich and Evans translate as Suck son of Sucker) is said to be able to "suck up the sea on which were three hundred ships, so as to leave nothing but a dry strand." The absence of any further references invites a farcical reading.
An attendant of Arthur's invoked in the court list. His brother Hygwyd appears later in the tale as another one of Arthur's attendants.
An attendant of Arthur, Bromwich and Evans translate as "gullet" (CaO, p. 100).
Another attendant invoked by Culhwch. There are no further references to Dygflwng and the etymology of the name is uncertain.
The name roughly translates as "Foolish Courage."
Hir Eiddyl and Hir Amreu:
Attendants of Arthur invoked by Culhwch. Hir
translates as "long."
Gwevyl son of Gwestad:
Gwevyl appears, perhaps, to conclude a particularly strange or jocular portion of the court-list. He is said to "let one of his lips drop below his waist, while he turned upon the other like a cap upon his head."
Uchtryd Varyf Draws:
The third character named Uchtryd invoked by Culhwch in the court-list. His epithet ("cross-beard") matches his description though, so he may represent a separate character.
Invoked by Culhwch. Cyndelic
shares the same epithet.
Yskyrdav and Yscudydd:
Otherwise unmentioned, in Culhwch
Yskyrdav and Yscudydd are identified as attendants of Gwenhwyvar.
Brys son of Bryssethach:
Brys's placement in the court list probably derives from the VSB where he appears as Brusc
the son of Briscethach
(VSB p. 118). It is possible, as well, to equate this figure with the Vita'
—an Irish leader (CaO, p. 101). Given the number of other characters from the VSB, Bromwich and Evans are right to conclude that Bryn's appearance in Culhwch's
court-list derives more-or-less directly from the VSB rather than some prototypical text concerning the Irish colonization of Wales, as Patrick Sims-Williams has speculated. See CaO p. 101.
Grudlywyn appears in the court-list and is one of three similarly named dwarves in Culhwch
. Compare with TYP no. 28 where Gwythelin/Rudlwm Gorr teaches enchantment to Coll son of Collurery. The names agree fairly closely, and Triad 28's appearance as a possible source of several other names in the court-list suggests that the character is the same.
is the first in a series of similar sounding names which seem to be derived specifically for Culhwch's
court-list rather than from any earlier textual tradition. Bromwich and Evans translate Bwlch
as "gap, breach" (CaO, p. 102). See also: Kyuwlch
, Cleddyf Kyuwlch
This name continues a list of similar sounding names which seem to be derived specifically for Culhwch's
court-list rather than from any earlier textual tradition. The name translates as "perfect." See also: Bwlch
, Cleddyf Kyuwlch
This name continues a list of similar sounding names which seem to be derived specifically for Culhwch's
court-list rather than from any earlier textual tradition. See also: Bwlch
, Cleddyf Kyuwlch
, et al.
Cleddyf Kyuwlch ("perfect sword") is the father of Bwlch, Kyuwlch, and Sefwlch—all of whose names, notes Bromwich and Evans, seem "more appropriate...for swords than for men" (CaO, p. 102). See also: Bwlch
, Cleddyf Difwlch
This name continues a list of similar sounding names which seem to be derived specifically for Culhwch's
court list rather than from any earlier textual tradition. The name translates as "Continuous Sword." See also: Bwlch
, Cleddyf Kyuwlch
, and Introduction
Glas, Glessic, and Gleisad:
The three hounds of Bwlch
, and Sefwlch
. Bromwich and Evans translate as "Grey, (?), Salmon" (CaO, p. 102).
Call, Cuall, and Cavall:
The three horses of Bwlch
, and Sefwlch
is also listed as Arthur's hound.
Hwyr Ddyddwg, Drwg Ddyddwg, Llwyr Ddyddwg:
These are the three wives of of Bwlch
, and Sefwlch
. Their names ("late-bearer," "poor bearer," and "full-bearer") as well as those of their grandchildren Och, Garm, Dispad
("Woe!," "Shout," "Cry"), their daughters Lluched, Neued,
("Plague," "Want" "Need"), and their servants Dwrg, Gwaeth, Gwaethaf Oll
("Bad," "Worse," "Worst of all") seem particularly farcical.
Eheubryt daughter(?) of Cyfwlch:
Some texts read mab
(son) rather than daughter, although this is universally interpreted as a scribal error.
Kynuelyn Keudawc, Pwyll Hanner Dyn:
It is difficult to discern whether this represents one or two characters. There are two plausible possibilities. The first is that, as the Jones brothers suggest, Kynuelyn
is the principal character and keudawc pwyll hanner dyn
is his epithet which they, inferring a play on pwyll
(sense), interpret as "half-wit" (Jones, Mab p. 106). Equally plausible, though, is that pwyll
refers to the lord of Dyfed/Annwfyn in Pwyll
. The considerable number of characters appearing from The Mabinogi
in Culhwch's court list lends credence to this interpretation. Bromwich and Evans translate the hanner dyn
epithet as "half-man" and see it as a possible "ironic allusion to Pwyll's lack of sense and foresight which incurred Rhiannon's taunt at the wedding feast" (CaO, p. 103). In this vein, the epithet seems to fit well from a thematic perspective since Pwyll is a distinctly liminal character. Known as both Pendeuic Dyuet
and Penn Annwn
he is a character defined by marginality—he is both man and god, ruler of this world and the other.
Dwnn Diessic Unbenn:
The epithet Diessic Unben
("Tenacious Chieftain") appears frequently in the BBC.
Eiladyr the son of Pen Llarcau:
Invoked by Culhwch. There are no further references to this character.
Kynedyr Wyllt the son of Hettwn Talaryant:
Kynedyr Wyllt (gwyllt
, wild) later appears in the anoethau
(wonders, tasks) where Ysbaddaden identifies him as the only man in the world who can hold the leashes of the pups in the hunt for Twrch Trwyth. "He is nine times wilder than the wildest beast on the mountain," says Ysbadadden. The wild-man motif in which a person lives in near insanity outside of the realm of civil/social order is popular in Celtic literature. As Bromwich notes, Myrddin Wyllt—the inspiration for later legends of Merlin—is perhaps the most noteworthy of the medieval Welsh wild men (TYP, p. 469). See also: CaO, p. 104. For Myrddin see BBC Index.
Sawyl Penn Uchel:
In The Life of St. Cadoc
Sawyl is portrayed as a tyrant who is engulfed by the earth for his mistreatment of a saint (VSB, p. 58). He appears also in numerous genealogies and in Triad 23 where he is identified as one of the "Three Arrogant Men of the Island of Britain." See also TYP, p. 506.
Gwalchmei son of Gwyar:
The Sir Gawain of later literature, in post-Geoffrey Welsh tradition, along with Cei and Bedwyr, Gwalchmei ("Hawk of the Plain") is one of Arthur's chief knights. Although he does not play a large role in Culhwch
he is invoked in the court-list, is identified as one of Arthur's most formidable warriors ("he never returned home without his quest completed; he was the best on foot and on horse"), and occupies a preeminent position as "Arthur's nephew—his sister's son and his cousin."
This relationship to Arthur, while generally consistent in the Welsh materials, is difficult to delineate clearly. Gwalchmei's name appears without the patronymic/matronymic in the Triads of Horses
and Stanzas of the Graves
from the Black Book of Carmarthen (BBC, pp. 28.10, 63.15). As Gwalchmei mab Gwyar
, though, he first appears in Triad 4 as one of the "Three Well-Endowed Men of the Island of Britain" and then later in the Brut
as Gwalchmei uab Gwyar
(BD, p. 183). As with Urien, Drustan, et al., tradition appears to place Gwalchmei in the north (TYP, p. 372). For this reason perhaps, Geoffrey gives his Gwalchmei (Gualguanus
) a northern father—Lot of Lothian (Lleu ap Kynuarch in the Brut
). This seems to derive from a native tradition, although it brings Gwalchmei's traditional patronymic (mab Gwyar) into question. Although matronymics are rare in the Triads and in Culhwch
, Gwyar could certainly be Gwalchmei's mother—although Geoffrey assigns his parentage to Lot and Anna. This leads to confusion in the Welsh sources—especially in the Brut
where the redactor attempts somewhat haphazardly to reconcile both pre- and post-Geoffrey traditions by retaining Gualguanus's
lineage while later insisting on referring to him in the "native" way as Gwalchmei mab Gwyar.
Returning, then, to Gwlachmei's native lineage, as suggested above, Gwyar could be Gwalchmei's mother—though the citation in Culhwch makes no such suggestion. Although the name's gender is ambiguous, in one genealogy it does belong to the daughter of Amlawdd Wledic. According to the House of Arthur presented in Culhwch
(and several potentially pre-Geoffrey Arthurian texts), though, this would make Gwyar Arthur's great aunt rather than his sister. The later Welsh texts simplify this conundrum by reconciling the disparate native traditions. They take Gwyar
as a matronymic, but imagine her not as Amlawdd Wledic's daughter, but the daughter of Eigyr and Gwrleis of Cornwall. In such cases Gwalchmei's father and Gwyar's husband is still Lleu ap Kynuarch—thereby retaining Gwalchmei's probable origins as one of the Gwyr y Gogledd
Gwalhaved the son of Gwyar:
Invoked by Culhwch and otherwise almost unknown in Welsh tradition, Bromwich and Evans suggest that Llygad Gwr's thirteenth-century reference to him (without the patronymic) suggests that "he may be a traditional rather than an invented character" (CaO, p. 105). Be this as it may, I feel that the nearly complete absence of any other reference to this name suggests that the Gwyar
patronymic—for which there are no other references—is contrived either for alliterative purposes or given the common gwal
(hawk) root, through false onomastic/etymological connection with Gwalchmei
Gwrhyr Gwastawd Ieithoedd:
Gwrhyr is Arthur's "interpreter of languages." Arthur makes him one of Culhwch's Six Helpers in his quest for Olwen, where Gwrhyr serves as the interpreter for both the sequence of Oldest Animals and the retinue of the boar-king Twrch Trwyth.
Gwrhyr appears also in the lists of Arthur's advisor's in Rhonabwy
, and is mentioned as well in the similarly derived list in the Englynion y Clyweit
Invoked by Culhwch, the name translates as Kethcrwm the "Priest." He is one of two ecclesiastics who appear in the otherwise distinctly mythological court-list.
Clust son of Clustveinad:
Invoked by Culhwch, the name translates as "Ear son of Hearer." It begins a section of similarly imagined names which, as Bromwich notes, do not play any further part in the text (CaO, p. 106). These names, like Drem son of Dremhidyadd
and Sugyn son of Sucneydydd
perhaps reflect a farcical addition to the court-list. Clust appears also in Gereint
as an assitant to Arthur's gatekeeper Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr
Medyr the son of Methredydd:
Bromwich and Evans translate as "Aim son of Aimer" and notes that "[t]he feat ascribed to him is similar to that ascribed to Lleu Llaw Gyffes" in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi
(CaO, p. 106). See also Clust son of Clustveinad
Gwiawn Llygad Cath:
Gwiawn is said to be able to "cut the haw from a gnat's eye without harming the eye." There are no other references to a Gwiawn
with this epithet. See also Clust son of Clustveinad
Ol the son of Olwydd:
Bromwich translates as "Track son of Tracker." The name seems to continue the potentially farcical section that began with Clust son of Clustveinad, although the explanatory story that accompanies his name is far less hyperbolic than those of his companions, reflecting a common Celtic literary motif. Indeed, the tale of a swine tracker, although invented rather than traditional, seems to serve a purpose that is more thematically related to the overall text than it is farcical.
Gwenhwyvar Chief of Queens:
The Guinevere of later tradition, Gwenhwyvar (Gwenhwyfar) is invoked in Culhwch
as Arthur's wife and "Chief Queen." Most scholars translate her name as "White Phantom" or "White Fairy" and, therefore, see it as cognate with Finnabair
from the Irish Cattle Raid of Cooley
. The appearance, however, of her sister Gwenhwyvach
("Gwen the Small") in several Triads (53, 84) has led some scholars to conclude that Gwenhwyvar should in fact be translated as Gwenhy-Mawr
—"Gwen the Great"—which could perhaps mutate to Gwenhwyvawr
. There is no direct proof to discredit this theory, although I feel that it is probably inaccurate. The native lore surrounding Gwenhwyvar's abduction and perhaps otherwordly imprisonment (which I discuss in the Introduction
and below) as well as the etymological and narrative similarities with the Irish material lend support to the "White Phantom/Fairy" translation. The name of her sister in the Triads, Gwenhwyvach
, reflects a scribal or redactorial tradition where, ignorant of the name's proper etymology, the scribe created Gwenhwyvach based on his assumption that Gwenhwy-Mawr
was Gwehwyvar's proper etymology. There are numerous such cases in early Welsh letters. Cf. Carmarthen as Caer Myrddin
Gwenhwyvar plays very little part in Culhwch
, although there is a substantial potentially pre-Geoffrey Welsh tradition surrounding her. She appears numerous times in the Triads (nos. 53, 54, 56, 80, 84) where, more than with any other native Welsh Arthurian character, the traditions concerning her are similar to those of the later continental depictions. Triad 54 refers perhaps to her abduction by Melwas/Medrawd (later Mordred):
The first of [the Unrestrained Ravagings of the Island of Britain] (occurred) when Medrawd came to Arthur's Court at Celliwig in Cornwall; he left neither food nor drink at the court that he did not consume. And he dragged Gwenhwyvar from her chair, and then he struck a blow upon her;
The second Unrestrained Ravaging (occurred) when Arthur came to Medrawd's court. He left neither food nor drink in the court; (Triad 54, TYP, p. 147).
Gwenhwyvar's ravishmentby or infidelity with Medrawd is further suggested by Triad 80 where she is identified as the most faithless wife in the Island of Britain.
In this vein, although there is significant debate as to the relationship between Medrawd and Melvas, it seems likely that the Vita Gildae
's pre-Geoffrey account (Tatlock, p. 139) of the abduction of Gwenhwyvar (Guennuvar
) by Melwas derives from the same tradition to which the Triads refer:
Glastonbury, that is the City of Glass, which derived its name from glass, is a city that had its name originally in the British language. It was besieged by the tyranno Arthur with an innumerable multitude because of his wife Guennuvar (Gwenhwyvar) whom the aforementioned wicked king [Melvas] had brought there for protection, owing to the refuge granted by the invulnerable position due to the thickets of reeds, of river, and of weir. The rebellious king [Arthur] had searched for the course of a year until at last he heard that she remained there. Then he raised the armies of all of Cornwall and Devon and war was prepared between the two hosts (Vita Gildae from Monumenta Germaniae historica. Auctorum antiquissimorum vol 13, p. 109.
The fourteenth-century poet Dafydd ap Gwilym is also aware of a legend of an abduction by Melwas, though the reference to Gwenhwyvar is only implied. His poem makes mention of Melwas seizing the daughter of Gogfran the Giant from Caerllion. The setting at Caerllion certainly implies an Arthurian context and although there are several suggested lineages for Gwenhwyvar in the Welsh sources, Triad 56 names Gogfran the Giant as one of her possible fathers.
Indeed, as Bromwich notes (TYP, p. 383), there may be written evidence of a Melwas/Gwenhwyvar legend that pre-dates Dafydd ap Gwilym. It appears in the form of an englynion
in which a man (maybe Arthur) comes to the court of Melwas at Ynys Widrin
(lit. "Isle of Glass"—Glastonbury) where he addresses Gwenhwyvar and insists that she knows him (Ymddiddan Gwenhwyfar ac Arthur
: The Dialogue of Gwenhwyfar and Arthur
CSAL, pp. 108-115). The text is corrupt and incomplete, but its depiction of Melwas and Gwenhwyvar at Glastonbury is reminiscent of the Vita Gildae
perhaps of The Spoils of Annwn
where Arthur raids chaer wydyr
—"the Fortress of Glass" in search, it seems, of a prisoner.
Whatever the source of the legend, Gwenhwyvar appears as Guanhumara
in Geoffrey's History of the Kings of Britain
where she is abducted from Arthur by Modred/Medrawt and henceforth the episode became a fundamental feature of Arthurian lore in both Britain and the continent.
Gwenhwyvach, sister of Gwenhwyvar:
Gwenhwyvach is identified as the sister of Gwenhwyvar
and one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain. Gwenhwyvach appears also in the Triads (53, 84) where she is blamed for striking Gwenhwyvar and bringing about the Battle of Camlan. For other Camlan references within the court-list see Devon
, Morvran the son of Tegid
, Sandde Bryd Angel
, and Cynwyl Sant
. For discussion of the etymology and possible origin of the name Gwenhwyvach see Gwenhwyvar
Rathtyeu the only daughter of Clemenhill:
Identified in Culhwch
as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain. There are no further references to this character.
Kelemon the daughter of Cei:
Although Kelemon's father Cei
is ubiquitous in Welsh Arthuriana, there are no subsequent references to his daughter.
Tannwen the daughter of Gweir Dathar Wenîdawc
: There are no further references to Tannwen. See also Gweir
Gwenn Alarch the daughter of Kynwyl Canbwch:
This name translates as "White Swan the daughter of Kynwyl Hundred-Boars."
Eurneit the daughter of Clydno Eiddin:
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain. Eurneit appears in the Bonedd Y Saint
—The Descent of the Saints
—as Euronwy uerch Glytno Eidin
(VSB, p. 321, 15). Her father, Clydno Eiddin was a northern ruler in the late sixth century whose son Cynon was a primary figure at the battle of Catraeth (600 C. E.) and in Y Gododdin
. Cynon mab Clydno Eiddin
appears in Triad 71 as the lover of Morfudd daughter of Urien. For further discussion see Bromwich TYP, pp. 309-310, 323-324).
Eneuawc daughter of Bedwyr:
Invoked by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain. There are no further references to Eneuawc. See also Bedwyr
Enrydrec daughter of Tutuathar:
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain. There are no further references to this charcater, although Bromwich and Evans associate her patronymic with the root tud
: tribe (CaO, p. 108). As in several other portions of the court-list perhaps there is a connection here to the Irish mythological cycles and the Tuatha de Danaan
: the people of [the goddess] Danaan.
Gwennwledyr daughter of Gwaledyr Kyrvach:
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain, her name does not seem to have the same negative connotations as those of her siblings. See Gwawrdur Kyruach
Erdudyl daughter of Tryffin gwynn dorliud:
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain, the name Erdudyl appears in the Ach Kynauc Sant
genealogy where she is referred to as Erdudyl gwynn dorliud
(VSB, 318, 3). See also Triad 70 and CaO, p. 108.
Eurolvyn daughter of Gwdolwyn Gorr:
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain. Bromwich suggests that one compare Eurolvyn with Goroluyn
(Triad 66). See also: Grudlwyn Gorr
and Triad 28 for: Gwythelin/Rudlwm Gorr.
Teleri daughter of Peul:
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain. There are no further references to Teleri.
Indeg the daughter of Garwy Hir:
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain, Triad 57 identifies Indeg as one of Arthur's "Three Mistresses."
Morvudd daughter of Urien Rheged:
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain. Morvudd apears in Triads 70 and 71 where she is identified as the twin of Owein (later Yvain/Ywain of Arthurian romance) and the lover of Cynon ap Clydno. Cynon was a hero of the Battle of Catraeth which would place Morvudd around the turn of the seventh century, although her historicity is not documented as clearly as that of her brother or father. See also: Eurneit daughter of Clydno Eiddin
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain. The name translates as "Gwenllian the Fair" and Bromwich and Evans note that Gwenllian was a popular name for medieval Welsh women (CaO, p. 109).
Creiddylad daughter of Lludd Llaw Ereint:
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain. There are numerous references in both Culhwch
and The Black Book of Carmarthen to the battle which Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwythyr uab Greidawl wage over her hand. See also: Gwyn son of Nudd
, Gwythyr son of Greidawl
, and Llud Llaw Ereint
Llud Llaw Ereint:
The father of Creiddyladd, Llud Llaw Ereint ("Llud Silver Hand") appears only in Culhwch
. It has been argued that Llud represents a euhemerized version of the Romano-British Nodons
who is cognate with the Irish Nuadu
. Interestingly, then, he derives from the same deity as does his daughter's abductor—euhemerized lord of the otherworld Gwyn ap Nudd
. See PCB, pp. 230-233.
Ellylw daughter of Neol Kynn-Crog:
Identified by Culhwch as one of the "gold-torqued women" of Britain, it is said in the court-list that "she lived three ages."
Essyllt Vinwen and Essyllt Vingul:
Translated by Bromwich as "Essyllt White Neck" and "Essyllt Slender Neck" most scholars assume that these are two references to the native Welsh character Essyllt—the Isolde of later Arthurian tradition. Culhwch invoked them in the category of "gold-torqued women" of Britain, but Bromwich and Evans suggest that their lack of patronymics coupled with the fact that they do not appear in any of the subsequent lists derived from this text suggets that they are a later addition to the court list (CaO, p. 110).
Either way, as with her lover Drystan/ Trystan (see Drustwrn Hayarn
) who most likely derived predominately from a Northern Pictish tradition, Essylt appears in numerous geneaologies (EWGT, pp. 90. 27, 47.22 etc.) and Triads (26, 71, 80) that reflect a native variant of the traditiion later seen on the continent involving the love triangle between Tristan, Isolde, and Mark. See also TYP, pp. 349-50 and AOW pp. 219-23.
This website was designed for an undergraduate Research Internship at the University of Rochester under the guidance of Alan Lupack, director of the Robbins Library. Additional assistance was received from John Sutton. Morris Collins ('04) graduated with a degree in English where he concentrated in Medieval Studies and Creative Writing. The purpose of this project was to further his knowledge of Celtic and Arthurian literature and Middle Welsh.