Kestrel's Nest

Culhwch ac Olwen

The oldest Arthurian tale

Part Two
From the White Book of Rhydderch
and the Red Book of Hergest



The Arthurian court list -
Culhwch invokes his sureties.32

He invoked his surety on Kei33 and Bedwyr, and Greidawl Galldofyd, and Gwythyr son of Greiddawl, and Greid son of Eri, and Cynddelig the Guide, and Tathal Twyll Goleu, and Mailwys son of Baeddan, and Cnychwr son of Nes,34 and Cubert son of Daere,35 and Fercos son of Poch, and Lluber Beuthach,36 and Conul Bernach.37 And Gwyn son of Esni, and Gwyn son of Nwyfre, and Gwyn son of Nudd,38 and Edern39 son of Nudd, and Cadwy son of Gereint, and Fflewdwr Fflam Wledig, and Ruawn Pebyr son of Dorath, and Bradwen son of Moren Mynawg, and Moren Mynawg himself, and Dalldaf son of Cunin Cof, and the son of Alun Dyfed, and the son of Saidi, and the son of Gwryon,40 and Uchdryd Host-sustainer, and Cynwas Cwrfagl,41 and Gwrhyr Gwarthegfras,42 and Ysperir Ewingath,43 and Gallcoid Gofyniad, and Duach and Brathach and Nerthach,44 sons of Gwawrdur the Hunchback - these men were from the uplands of Hell.

And Cilydd Hundred-holds, and Canastyr Hundred-hands, and Cors Hundred-claws, and Esgeir Gulhwch Gofyn Cawn, and Drust Iron-Fist, and Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr, and Lloch of the Striking Hand, and Anwas the Winged, and Sinnoch son of Seithfedd, and Wadu son of Seithfedd, and Naw son of Seithfedd, and Gwenwynwyn son of Naw son of Seithfedd,45 and Bedyw son of Seithfedd, and Gobrwy son of Echel Mighty-Thigh, and Echel Mighty-Thigh himself, and Mael son of Roigol, and Dadweir Blind-Head, and Garwyli son of Gwythawg Gwyr, and Gwythawg Gwyr himself, and Gormand son of Ricca, and Menw son of Teirgwaed,46 and Digon son of Alar,47 and Selyf son of Sinoid, and Gusc son of Achen, and Nerth son of Cadarn,48 and Drudwas son of Tryffin, and Twrch son of Perif, and Twrch son of Anwas,49 and Iona king of France, and Sel son of Selgi,50 and Teregud son of Iaen, and Sulien son of Iaen, and Bradwen son of Iaen, and Moren son of Iaen, and Siawn son of Iaen, and Cradawg son of Iaen - they were men of Caer Dathal,51 kinsmen to Arthur on their father's side.

Dirmyg son of Caw, and Iustig son of Caw, and Edmig son of Caw, and Angawdd son of Caw, and Gofan son of Caw, and Celin son of Caw, and Connyn son of Caw, and Mabsant son of Caw, and Gwyngad son of Caw, and Llwybyr son of Caw, and Coch son of Caw, and Meilig son of Caw, and Cynwal son of Caw, and Ardwyad son of Caw, and Ergyriad son of Caw, and Neb son of Caw, and Gildas son of Caw,52 and Calcas son of Caw, and Hueil son of Caw - he never sought the hand of a lord.

And Samson Dry-lip, and Taliesin Chief of Bards, and Manawydan son of Llyr, and Llary son of Casnar Wledig, and Brian son of Fergant king of Brittany, and Saranhon son of Glythwyr, and Llawr son of Erw, and Anynnawg son of Menw son of Teirgwaed, and Gwyn son of Nwyfre,53 and Fflam son of Nwyfre,54 and Gereint son of Erbin, and Ermid son of Erbin, and Dyfel son of Erbin, and Gwyn son of Ermid, and Cyndrwyn son of Ermid, and Hyfeid One-mantle, and Eiddon the Magnanimous, and Reidwn Arwy, and Gormand son of Ricca55 - brother to Arthur on his mother's side; his father was the Chief Lord of Cornwall.56

And Llawfrodedd the Bearded, and Noddawl Cut-beard, and Berth son of Cado, and Reidwn son of Beli, and Iscofan the Generous, and Yscawin son of Panon, and Morfran son of Tegid - no man placed his weapon in him at Camlan because he was so ugly everyone thought he was a helping devil. And Sandde Angel's Form - no one placed his spear in him at Camlan because he was so fair everyone thought he was a helping angel. And Cynwyl the Saint - one of the three men who escaped from Camlan; he was the last to leave Arthur on Hengroen57 his horse.

And Uchdryd son of Erim, and Eus son of Erim, and Henwas the Winged son of Erim, and Henbeddestyr son of Erim, and Scilti Yscafntroed son of Erim.58 Three qualities had these three men: no man was ever able to keep up with Henbeddestyr neither on horse nor on foot; no four-footed animal was ever able to keep up with Henwas the Winged the length of one acre, much less what was further than that; Scilti Yscafntroed, when the urge was in him to travel on a quest for his lord, he never sought a road that might have been to what place he went; except while there were woods, he journeyed on top of the trees, and while there were mountains, he journeyed on top of the reeds, and throughout his life he did not bend a reed under his feet, much less broke because he was so light.

Teithi the Old son of Gwynhan, the sea overran his dominion59 and he himself escaped with difficulty and came to Arthur - and his knife had a peculiarity: from when he came here a haft never stayed on it, and from that a disease and a languor grew in him while he was living, and from that he died.

And Carneddyr son of Gofynion the Old, and Gwenwynwyn son of Naf, foremost champions of Arthur, and Llygadrudd Emys and Gwrfoddw the Old - they were uncles of Arthur, his mother's brothers.

Culfanawyd son of Goryon, and Llenlleawg the Irishman from Bentir Gamon,60 and Dyfynwal the Bald, and Dunart king of the North. Teyrnon Twrf Liant,61 and Tegfan the Lame, and Tegyr Talgellawg. Gwrddyfal son of Ebrei, and Morgant the Generous, Gwystyl son of Nwython, and Rhun son of Nwython, and Llwydeu son of Nwython, and Gwyddre son of Llwydeu, by Gwenabwy daughter of Caw, his mother - Hueil his uncle stabbed him, and because of that wound there was enmity between Arthur and Hueil.

Drem son of Dremidydd,62 who saw from Celli Wig in Cornwall as far as Blathaon Head63 in Pictland when the fly rose in the morning with the sun. And Eiddoel son of Ynyr, and Glwyddyn the Craftsman, who built Ehangwen,64 Arthur's hall.

Cynyr the Fair-bearded - Kei was said to be his son. He said to his wife, 'If there is any part of me in your son, maiden, his heart will always be cold, and there will not be warmth in his two hands. He will have another quality: if he is my son, he will be resolute. He will have another quality: when he might carry a burden, however great or small it was, it will never be seen either from the front or from behind. He will have another quality: no one will suffer water and fire as well as he. He will have another quality: there will not be a serving man or an officer like him.'

Henwas and Hen Wyneb and Hen Cydymdaith,65 Gallgoig another - whatever town he might come to, though there were three hundred houses in it, if he were in need of anything from it, he would not allow sleep ever on the eye of man whilst he was in it. Berwyn son of Cyrenyr, and Paris king of France - and for that it was called Caer Paris. Osla Big-Knife, who carried Bronllafn Ferllydan;66 when Arthur and his hosts might come to the edge of a torrent, a narrow place would be sought on the water, and the knife in its sheath placed across the torrent - it would be enough of a bridge for the host of the Three Isles of Britain and their Three Adjacent Islands and their booty.67 Gwyddawg son of Menester, who slew Kei, and Arthur slew him and his brothers in revenge for Kei. Garanwyn son of Kei, and Amren son of Bedwyr, and Eli and Trachmyr, chief huntsmen of Arthur. And Llwydau son of Cilcoed,68 and Hunabwy son of Gwryon, and Gwyn Godyfron, and Gweir Dathar Wenidawg, and Gweir son of Kadellin Silver Brow, and Gweir Gwrhyd Enwir, and Gweir White Spear - uncles to Arthur, brothers of his mother; the sons of Llwch Llawynnyawg from across the Tyrrhene Sea.69

Llenlleawg the Irishman and the eminent Briton, Cas son of Saidi, Gwrfan Golden Hair, Gwilenhen King of France,70 Gwittard son of Aedd king of Ireland, Garselid the Irishman, Panawr Head of the Host, Atleudor son of Naf, Gwyn the Irascible overseer of Cornwall and Devon - one of the nine who plotted the Battle of Camlan. Celli and Cuel, and Gilla Stag-leg - three hundred acres he would cross in a single leap, the chief leaper of Ireland.71

Sol and Gwaddyn Ossol and Gwaddyn Oddeith - Sol, he was able to stay a whole day on the one foot, Gwaddyn Ossol, if he stood on the top of the highest mountain in the world it would be a level plain under his foot; Gwaddyn Oddeith, as much as the hot metal when it was drawn from the forge so was the bright fire of his foot soles when he might come against battle; he would clear the road for Arthur in his host. Long Erwm and Long Atrwm, the day they came to a feast, they seized three cantrefs in their need; feasting until noon and drinking until night. When they went to sleep, they devoured the heads of insects from hunger as if they had not devoured food ever. When they went to feast they left neither fat nor lean, neither hot nor cold, neither sour nor sweet, neither fresh nor salt.

Huarwar son of Halwyn, he named his fill as his boon from Arthur; he was one of the three mighty plagues of Cornwall and Devon when his fill was got to him; a smile never came on him except when he was full. Gwarae Golden Hair,72 the two whelps of the bitch Rymhi,73 Gwyddrud and Gwydden Astrus, Sugyn son of Sugneddyd,74 and he sucked up the sea where there were three hundred ships on it until there was nothing but dry beach; a red breast-fever was in him. Cacamwri Arthur's servant - if a barn were shown to him, though there be a course of thirty ploughs in it, he would beat it with an iron flail so that it would not be better for the boards and the rafters and the side beams than for the small oats in the lower part of the barn. Llwng and Dygyflwng and Anoeth the Bold and Long Eiddyl and Long Amren - they were two servants of Arthur, and Gwefyl son of Gwastad - the day that he was sad he dropped one lip as far as his navel and the other would be as a cowl on his head.

Uchdryd Cross-Beard, he threw the red bristling beard that was on him across the fifty rafters of Arthur's hall. Elidir the Guide, Yscyrdaf and Ysgudydd - they were two servants to Gwenhwyfar; as swift were their feet on their errand as their thoughts.

Brys son of Brysethach from the top of the Black Fern-country in Britain,75 and Gruddlwyn the Dwarf; Bwlch and Cyfwlch and Sefwlch, sons of Cleddyf Cyfwlch, grandsons of Cleddyf Difwlch. Three shining whites their three shields, three pointed stabs their three spears, three keen carvers their three swords; Glas, Glesig, Gleissad their three dogs; Call, Cuall, Cafall their three horses; Hwyr Dyddwg and Drwg Dyddwg and Llwyr Dyddwg their three wives; Och and Garym and Diaspad their three grandchildren; Lluched and Neued and Eisseywed their three daughters; Drwg and Gwaeth and Gwaethaf Oll their three maid-servants76

Eheubryd son of Cyfwlch, Gorasgwrn son of Nerth, Gwaeddan son of Cynfelyn Ceudawg, Pwyll Half-Man, Dwn the Vigorous Chieftain, Eiladar son of Pen Llarcan, Cyneddyr the Wild son of Hetwn Silver Brow, Sawyl High-Head, Gwalchmei son of Gwyar, Gwalhafed son of Gwyar, Gwrhyr Interpreter of Tongues - he knew all languages - and Cethtrwm the Priest. Clust son of Clustfeinad77 - if he were buried seven fathoms in the earth, fifty miles off he would hear an ant in the morning when it rose from its couch. Medyr son of Methredydd78 - who, from Celli Wig, would hit a wren in Esgeir Oerfel in Ireland exactly through its two legs. Gwiawn Cat Eyes - who would strike the corner of a gnat's eye without harming the eye. Ol son of Olwydd79 - seven years before he was born pigs were taken from his father, and when he grew to a man he tracked the pigs and came home with them in seven herds. Bitwini the Bishop, who blessed meat and drink for the golden-torqued daughters of this Island.

Apart from Gwenhwyfar, Chief of Queens of this Island, and Gwenhwyach her sister, and Rathtyen the only daughter of Clememeyl, Celemon daughter of Kei, and Tangwen daughter of Gweir Dathar Wenidawg, Gwen Alarch80 daughter of Cynwal Hundred-pigs, Eurneid daughter of Clyddno Eidin, Eneuawg daughter of Bedwyr, Enrhyddreg daughter of Tudathar, Gwenwledyr daughter of Gwaredur Cyrfach, Erdudfyl daughter of Tryffin, Eurolwyn daughter of Gwdolwyn the Dwarf, Teleri daughter of Peul, Indeg daughter of Garwy the Tall, Morfydd daughter of Urien Rheged, Gwenlliant the Fair, the magnanimous maiden, Creiddylad daughter of Lludd Silver Hand,81 the best maiden of nobility that was in the Three Isles of Britain and its Three Adjacent Islands - and from that cause Gwythyr son of Greiddawl and Gwyn son of Nudd fight each First day of May for ever until doomsday; Ellylw daughter of Neol Hang-Cock - and she lived three generations; Essyllt White Neck and Essyllt Slender Neck. Upon all these did Culhwch son of Cilydd invoke his gift.

The Search for Olwen

Arthur said, 'Chieftain, I have never heard of the maiden of whom you speak nor of her parents. I will gladly send messengers to seek her.' From that night until the same night at the end of a year were the messengers wandering. At the end of the year Arthur's messengers had got nothing. The chieftain said, 'Everyone has obtained his boon and I am still in need. I will go, and I will take your honour with me.' Kei said, 'Chieftain, you shame Arthur too much. You come with us. Until you may say she is not in the world, or we find her, we will not be separated from you.'

Kei then arose. Kei had a special talent: nine nights and nine days his breath lasted under water; nine nights and nine days he could be without sleeping. A wound from Kei's sword no doctor could heal. Kei was clever.82 When he wished he could be as tall as the highest tree in the wood. He had another special quality: when the rain was hardest, a hand's breadth before his hand and another behind his hand what was in his hand was dry because of the extent of his passion; and when the cold was greatest with his companions, that was kindling to them to kindle a fire.

Arthur called on Bedwyr, who did not fear an expedition that Kei might go on. This was with Bedwyr, that no one was as handsome as he in this Island except Arthur and Drych son of Cibdar. And this also, though he was one-handed no three warriors drew blood before him in the same field as him. He had another special quality: one thrust would there be with his spear and nine counter thrusts.

Arthur called on Cynddylig the Guide. 'Go on this expedition with the chieftain for me.' No worse a guide was he in a land he did not know than in his own land.

He called on Gwrhyr Interpreter of Tongues: he knew all languages.

He called on Gwalchmei son of Gwyar, since he never came home without the quest he might have sought. He was the best walker and the best horseman. Nephew to Arthur, he was his sister's son and his first cousin.

Arthur called on Menw son of Teirgwaed, since they might come to a pagan land and he would be able to cast a spell on them, so that no one could see them and they might see everyone.

They went until they came to a great open country, where they could see a fort, the greatest of forts in the world. They journeyed on that day. When they thought they were nearly at the fort they were no nearer than before. As they came nevertheless in the same field as it, there was a great flock of sheep that they saw was without limit and without end to it, and a shepherd tending the sheep on top of a mound with a jerkin of skins on him, and a shaggy mastiff beside him that was bigger than a horse of nine winters. It was his custom never to lose a lamb, much less a full-grown animal. No company had ever gone past without he had done either harm or hurt to it. Many dead trees and bushes were on the field which his breath had burned as far as the very soil.

Kei said, 'Gwrhyr Interpreter of Tongues, go speak to the man over yonder.' 'Kei, I only promised to go as far as you were able to go yourself.' 'Let us go there together.' Menw son of Teirgwaed said, 'Do not have anxiety to go there. I will cast a spell on the dog so that he will do harm to no one.'

They came to the place where the shepherd was. They said, 'It is prosperous that you may be, shepherd.' 'May it never be better with you than with me.' 'By God, since you are chief.' 'No harm afflicts me except my wife.' 'Who owns the sheep you are tending, and who owns the fort?' 'Fools of men you are. Across the world it is known that it is Ysbaddaden Chief Giant who owns the fort.' 'And you, who are you?' 'I am Custennin son of Mynwyedig, and because of my wife Ysbaddaden Chief Giant has wrought my ruin. And yourselves, who are you?' 'We are messengers of Arthur here seeking Olwen.' 'Oh men! The protection of God on you. Do not do that for the world. No one who has come on that quest has left with his life with him.' The shepherd rose up. As he arose, Culhwch gave a gold ring to him. He sought to put the ring on him, and he was not able to, and he placed it in the finger of his glove, and he journeyed home and gave the glove to his spouse. And she took the ring from the glove. 'Husband, whence came this ring to you? It was not frequent to get such a find.' 'I went to the sea to get sea-food. Lo, I saw a body coming in with the tide. There was never a body as beautiful as his, and on his finger I found this ring.' 'Alas husband, since the sea will not have the jewel of a dead man in it, show me that body.' 'Ah wife, the one who owns that body you will see here soon.' 'Who is that?' said his wife. 'Culhwch son of Cilydd son of Celyddon Wledig, by Goleuddyd daughter of Anlawdd Wledig, his mother, and he comes to seek Olwen,' Two feelings she had: happiness that her nephew, her sister's son, should come to her, and sadness since she had never seen anyone leave with their life who came to request that.

They made for the gate of the shepherd Custennin's court. She heard the sound of their coming. She ran from joy to meet them. Kei snatched a piece of wood from the wood-pile, and she came to meet them to seek to embrace them. Kei put the stake between her two hands. She squeezed the stake until it was a twisted withy. Kei said, 'Ah woman, if it were me you had squeezed thus, no one else would ever have to make love to me. An evil love that!'

They came into the house and they were served. After a while, when all allowed themselves to be busied, the woman opened a coffer at the end of the hearth, and a yellow curly haired boy rose up from it. Gwrhyr said, 'It was shameful to conceal such a lad as this. I know it is not his fault that he is punished for.' The woman said, 'This is the last of twenty-three sons of mine that Ysbaddaden Chief Giant has slain.' I have no more hope to me from this one than from the others.' Kei said, 'Let him come in company with me, and we will not be slain unless together.'

They ate. The woman said, 'On what errand have you come here?' 'We have come to seek Olwen.' 'For God's sake, since no one from the fort has yet seen you, turn back.' 'God knows we will not turn back until we see the maiden. Will she come to a place she can be seen?' 'She comes here every Saturday to wash her hair, and that she might wash herself she leaves all her rings in the bowl. Neither she nor her messenger ever comes for them.' 'Will she come if she is sent for?' 'God knows I will not harm my soul. I will not betray she who trusts me. But if you will give your pledge you will not harm her, I will send for her.' 'We give it.'

She was sent for. And she came with a flame-red silk robe around her, and a red-gold torque around the maiden's neck with pearls of great worth on it, and red gems. Her hair was more yellow than the flowers of the broom. Her flesh was fairer than the wave's foam. Her palms and fingers were whiter than shoots of marsh trefoil from among the fine gravel of a welling spring. There was not an eye fairer than hers, neither the eye of a mewed hawk, nor the eye of a thrice-mewed falcon. Her two breasts were whiter than the breast of a white swan. Her two cheeks were redder than the foxglove. Those that would see her would be full of love for her. Four white trefoils rose up in her track wherever she went. And from that she was called Olwen.83

She made for the house and sat between Culhwch and the high seat. And as he saw he recognised her. Culhwch said to her, 'Maiden I have loved you. And will you come with me?' 'Lest you and I be charged with sin, I am not able to do that. My father sought a pledge of me that I may not go without his counsel, since he will only live until I go with a husband. There is, however, counsel I will give you, if you will take it. Go to my father to ask for me, and however much he asks of you, declare you will get it, and you will obtain me. And if he doubts anything, you will not get me, and it will be good for you if you escape with your life.' 'I promise all that, and I will obtain it.'

She went to her chamber. They rose in her track to the fort, and slew nine porters that were on nine gates without a man crying out, and nine mastiffs without one squealing. And they journeyed to the hall. They said, 'Greetings, Ysbaddaden Chief Giant, from God and from man.' 'And you, where are you going?' 'We come to seek Olwen your daughter for Culhwch son of Cilydd.' 'Where are my evil and villainous servants?' said he. 'Raise up the forks under my two eyelids that I may see my future son-in-law.'84 That was done. 'Come here tomorrow. I will give some answer to you.'

They rose up, and Ysbaddaden Chief Giant seized one of three poisoned stone spears that were at hand and threw it in their track. And Bedwyr caught it and threw it at him, and pierced Ysbaddaden Chief Giant exactly through the knee-cap. Said he, 'Cursed undutiful son-in-law, I will go the worse on a slope. Like the sting of a gadfly is to me the sting of the poisoned iron. Cursed be the smith who made it and the anvil on which it was made, it is so painful.'

They stayed that night in Custennin's house. And the second day with dignity and with fine combs set in their hair they came to the hall. They said, 'Ysbaddaden Chief Giant, give us your daughter in return for her dowry and her maiden fee to you and her two kinsmen.85 And if you will not give her, you will get your death because of it.' 'She and her four great-grandmothers and her four great-grandfathers are still alive - I need to take counsel with them.' 'Let that be with you,' they said. 'Let us go to our meat.' As they rose up, he took the second stone spear that was at hand and threw it in their track. And Menw son of Teirgwaed caught it and threw it at him and it pierced him in the middle of his breast, so that it came out in the small of his back. 'Cursed undutiful son-in-law, like the sting of a big-headed leech is to me the sting of the hard iron. Cursed be the forge in which it was heated. When I go uphill I will have a contraction of my chest, and stomach-ache, and frequent nausea.' They went to their meat.

And the third day they came to the court. They said, 'Ysbaddaden Chief Giant, don't shoot at us any more. Don't wish harm and hurt and your death on you.' 'Where are my servants? Raise up the forks - my eyelids have fallen over my eyeballs - so that I might obtain sight of my future son-in-law.' They rose up, and as they rose up he hurled the third poisoned stone spear in their track. And Culhwch caught it and threw it at him as he might wish and pierced him in his eyeball so that it went out of the nape of his neck. 'Cursed undutiful son-in-law, so long as I am alive the worse will be the sight of my eyes. When I go against the wind they will water; and I will have a headache and giddiness on each new moon. Cursed be the forge in which it was heated. As the bite of a mad dog will be to me my piercing with the poisoned iron.' They went to their meat.

The next day they came to the court. They said, 'Don't shoot at us. Don't wish the hurt and harm and martyrdom which is facing you, and there will be more if you want. Give us your daughter.' 'Where is he who is told to ask for my daughter?' 'I am the one who asks for her, Culhwch son of Cilydd.' 'Come here to where I might see you.' A chair was placed under him, face to face with him.



(32) Modern readers may be puzzled why this long list is in the tale. Medieval Welsh stories, although in literary form, were based on an oral tradition. Memorising such long lists were part of the storyteller's stock in trade. As Sioned Davies says the list needs to be read out loud to get the full effect. She says 'it is highly alliterative and descends into farce at times, with the rhetorical effect taking on more importance than the personalities themselves. Inserted in the list, too, are tantalizing fragments of narrative - the triad of the three men who escaped from the Battle of Camlan, for example, or Teithi the Old whose lands were submerged by the sea - challenging the listeners' knowledge of traditional narrative'. (See The Mabinogion, transl. Sioned Davies (Oxford, 2007), pp. xvi-xvii) (back)

(33) Where possible I've tried to modernise the spelling of names from the Middle Welsh originals to something near the Modern Welsh letter values. So 'k' > 'c', 't' > 'd' and 'd' to 'dd'. However, I've left Kei in the original form as I felt it might be confusing to modernise his name as many will be used to modern spellings such as 'Kay'. I ask those who disagree with this decision to forgive me this small sin.(back)

(34) Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster in the Ulster Cycle of Irish tales. For this and the following Irish names see Patrick Sims-Williams, 'The Significance of the Irish Personal Names in Culhwch and Olwen' in the Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, vol. 29 (1982), pp. 607-10. (back)

(35) Curoi mac Dairi. See the poem Marwnad Corroi m. Dayry in the Book of Taliesin, 66-7. (back)

(36) Laegaire Buadach. (back)

(37) Conall Bernach. (back)

(38) Gwyn ap Nudd is a somewhat complex figure in Celtic mythology. He is a lord of the Otherworld and an archetypal hunter who leads the Hounds of Annwn. He appears a number of times in this tale. Nudd is connected with Irish Nuada and the Romano-Celtic god Nodons. He has also been equated with Lugh. (See Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, ed. J. MacKillop (Oxford, 1998), p. 233 for further references.) (back)

(39) From Latin Eternus. (back)

(40) Curiously no first names are given in the text for these three. (back)

(41) Cwr + bagl - pointed staff? (back)

(42) Gwartheg + bras - fat cattle. (back)

(43) Ewin + cath - cat's claw. (back)

(44) Black, Wily and Strong. The -ach suffix tends to be pejorative. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p. 73) (back)

(45) 'Nine son of Seventh'. (back)

(46) 'Threeblood'. (back)

(47) 'Enough son of Surfeit'. (back)

(48) 'Strength son of Strong'. (back)

(49) Twrch means 'Boar'. (back)

(50) 'Watch son of Watchdog'. (back)

(51) This is the Caer of Math son of Mathonwy in the Fourth Branch. (back)

(52) Is this Gildas author of the De Excidio Britanniae? (back)

(53) Already mentioned once along with Gwyn son of Nudd. (back)

(54) 'Flame son of Firmament' - Lightning? (back)

(55) Another repeated name. (back)

(56) This is puzzling. It makes Gormand half-brother to Arthur with Eigr (Igerne) as mother to both. The romances give the Lord of Cornwall's name as Gorlois not Ricca. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., pp. 82-3) (back)

(57) Hen + croen - 'Old Skin'. (back)

(58) This is Caílte of the Irish tales Acallamh na Senórach the Colloquy of the Elders. (back)

(59) This is one of a number of stories of inundations of coastal lands. Others are those of Cantre'r Gwaelod (the Lowland Hundred) in Cardigan Bay and Llys Helig near the Conwy estuary. There are also the stories of Lyonesse (Cornwall) and the city of Ys (Britanny). (back)

(60) Probably Loch Garman in Co. Wexford is intended. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p. 89) (back)

(61) Mentioned in the First Branch as Pryderi's rescuer. (back)

(62) 'Sight son of Seer'. (back)

(63) Uncertain. Possibly either John o'Groats or Dunnet Head in Caithness. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p. 92) (back)

(64) 'Spacious and Fair'. (back)

(65) 'Old lad', and 'Old Face', and 'Old Companion'. (back)

(66) 'Breast-blade Short-wide'. (back)

(67) It is not entirely clear what is meant by this phrase, which has origins in the Historia Brittonum. Only the Peniarth 50 version of Enwau Ynys Prydein is specific in saying: Teir ynys Prydein: Lloegyr a Chymry a'r Alban 'England and Wales and Scotland'. Robert Vaughan's version of EYP gives the adjacent isles as: Mon a Manaw ac Ynys Weith 'Anglesey and the Isle of Man and the Isle of Wight'. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., pp. 94-5) (back)

(68) This is presumably the same Llwyd son of Cil Coed, the enchanter of the Third Branch of the Mabinogi. (back)

(69) This is the usual translation for Uor Terwyn, although John Koch has advanced the suggestion that it is the Mersey estuary. (See Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 30 (1983), p.299 and Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p. 97) (back)

(70) It has been suggested that William the Conqueror is intended. (back)

(71) Gilla simply means 'lad, warrior' from Irish gille. (back)

(72) Gwri Golden Hair was the name Teyrnon and his wife gave to Pryderi whilst he was under their care in the First Branch of the Mabinogi. (back)

(73) These seem out of place here. They also appear in the list of anoethau or wonders that Culhwch has to seek later in the story. (back)

(74) 'Suck son of Sucker'. (back)

(75) Prydein is used ambiguously in the text; sometimes it means 'Britain' and sometimes 'Pictland'. Strictly Prydyn is Pictland and Prydain/ein is Britain. Britain appears to be meant here. (back)

(76) 'Late-bearer and Ill-bearer and Full-bearer their three wives; Alas and Scream and Shriek their three grandchildren; Sickness and Want and Need their three daughters; Bad and Worse and Worst of All their three maid-servants.' (back)

(77) 'Ear son of Hearer'. (back)

(78) 'Aim son of Aimer'. (back)

(79) 'Track son of Tracker'. (back)

(80) 'White Swan'. (back)

(81) Lludd is also linked with Nudd and with Lugh. See note 7 above. (back)

(82) The word used here is budugawl, which also has the sense of 'victorious'. (back)

(83) This passage parallels the passage describing the journey of Culhwch to Arthur's hall, even to the extent of the four white trefoils mimicking the four clods thrown up by Culhwch's horse's hooves. The nameOlwen means 'white track'.(back)

(84) Literally 'the substance of my son-in-law', that is 'one fit to be my son-in-law'. (back)

(85) Under Welsh law the dowry was the bride's property paid by her father to the bridegroom but recoverable should she be separated from her husband within seven years of her marriage. The maiden fee was the sum payable by her father to his overlord on her marriage. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., pp. 119-120) (back)


Translation and notes © Angela Grant 2008