Kestrel's Nest

Culhwch ac Olwen

The oldest Arthurian tale

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

 

 

The Freeing of Eiddoel son of Aer.

They told to Arthur what had happened to them. Arthur said, 'Which of those anoethau would it be best to seek first?' 'It is best,' said they, 'to seek Mabon son of Modron, and he will not be got until Eiddoel son of Aer, his kinsman, is got first.' Arthur and the soldiers of the Island of Britain with him rose up to seek Eiddoel, and they came before the fort of Glivi117 in the place where Eiddoel was imprisoned. Glivi stood on the top of his fort, and he said, 'What is your claim on me, since you will not leave me on this crag? There is no good to me in it and no pleasure, no wheat, no oats to me, that you might not seek to do harm to me.' Arthur said, 'it is not to do harm to you that we come here but to seek the prisoner that you have.' 'I will give the prisoner to you even though I had not intended to give him to anyone. And together with that you will get my strength and my support.'

The Oldest Animals and the freeing of Mabon son of Modron.

The men said to Arthur, 'Lord, you go home. We will not let you go with your host to seek a thing so small as these.' Arthur said, 'Gwrhyr Interpreter of Tongues, it is right for you to go on this quest. All languages are yours, and you are of the same language with some of the birds and the beasts. Eiddoel, it is well for you to go to seek him, he is your first cousin, together with my men. Kei and Bedwyr, I am hopeful that the mission on which you go can be accomplished. Go for me on this quest.'

They journeyed onwards as far as the Blackbird of Cilgwri.118 Gwrhyr asked her, 'By God, do you know anything of Mabon son of Modron, who was taken after three nights from between his mother and the wall?' The Blackbird said, 'When we first came here, a smith's anvil was here, and I was a young bird. No work was done on it, except whilst my beak was on it every evening. Today there is not as much as a nut from it not worn away. The vengeance of God on me if I have heard anything of the man of whom you ask. The thing that is right, however, and an obligation to me to do for the messengers of Arthur, that I will do. There is a kind of animal that God previously formed before me. I will go as a guide before you there.'

They came to the place where was the Stag of Redynfre.119 'Stag of Redynfre, we have come here to you, messengers of Arthur, since we do not know an animal older than you. Tell us, do you know anything of Mabon son of Modron, who was taken after three nights from his mother?' The Stag said, 'When first I came here, there was not but one tine each side of my head, and no wood was here save one oak sapling, and that grew into an oak of one hundred branches, and the oak fell after that, and today there is nought but a red stump from it. From that until today I have been here. I have not heard anything of the one of whom you ask. I will however be a guide to you, since you are messengers of Arthur, to where there is an animal God formed earlier than me.'

They came to where was the Owl120 of Cwm Cawlwyd. 121 'Owl of Cwm Cawlwyd, here are messengers of Arthur. And do you know anything of Mabon son of Modron, who was taken after three nights from his mother?' 'If I might have known, I would have said it. When I first came here, the great valley that you see was a wooded glen, and a race of men came to it, and it was laid waste, and the second wood grew in it. And this is the third wood. And myself, the roots of my wings are stumps. From that until today I have not heard anything of the man of whom you ask. I will however be a guide to messengers of Arthur, until we may come to where is the oldest animal that is in this world, and who has travelled most, the Eagle of Gwern Abwy.'122

Gwrhyr said, 'Eagle of Gwern Abwy, we have come, messengers of Arthur, to you to ask you do you know anything of Mabon son of Modron, who was taken after three nights from his mother?' The Eagle said, 'I came here a long time ago, and when I first came here I had a stone, and on the top of it I pecked at the stars every evening. Now it is not a hand's breadth in height. From that until today I have been here, and I have not heard anything of the man of whom you ask. But on one journey I went to seek my food at Llyn Llyw,123 and when I came there I struck my claws into a salmon, from thinking there would be food in it a great while, and it drew me to the depths, so that it was with difficulty I escaped from him. This is what we did, me and my whole kindred, we came to attack him seeking to destroy him. He sent messengers to make peace with me, and he himself came to me, to take fifty tridents from his back. Unless he knows something of what you seek, I know not anyone who may know it. I however will be a guide to you to where he is.'

They came to where he was. The Eagle said, 'Salmon of Llyn Llyw, I have come to you with messengers of Arthur to ask if you know anything of Mabon son of Modron, who was taken after three nights from his mother?' 'As much as I know, I will tell it. With every flood-tide I go up the river yonder so that I may come up to a bend of the wall of Caer Loyw,124 and I never obtained in my life as much harm as I obtained there. And so you may believe, let one of you come here on my two shoulders.' And Kei and Gwrhyr Interpreter of Tongues went on the two shoulders of the Salmon. And they journeyed until they came to the other side of the wall from the prisoner, and they heard lamentation and mourning from the other side of the wall from them. Gwrhyr said, 'What man laments in this stone house?' 'Alas man, there is cause for him who laments here. Mabon son of Modron is imprisoned here, and no one was imprisoned as painfully in the course of prison as I, not the imprisonment of Lludd Silver-hand,125 nor the imprisonment of Greid son of Eri.'126 'Do you have hope that you may be freed in return for gold or silver or worldly wealth, or by battle and fighting?' 'As much of me as may be got will be got through fighting.'

They returned from there and came to where Arthur was. They told of where Mabon son of Modron was imprisoned. Arthur summoned warriors of this Island, and went to Caer Loyw where Mabon was imprisoned. Kei and Bedwyr went on the two shoulders of the fish. While warriors of Arthur were assaulting the fort, Kei broke through the wall and took the prisoner on his back, still fighting the men. Arthur came home and Mabon with him as a free man.

The Bitch Rhymhi and her Pups

Arthur said, 'Which of the anoethau is it best now to seek first?' 'It is best to seek the whelps of the Bitch Rhymhi.' 'Is it known,' said Arthur, 'where she is?' 'She is,' said one, 'at Aber Deu Gleddyf.'127 Arthur came to the house of Tringad128 in Aber Cleddyf, and asked of him, 'Have you heard of her here? What shape is she?' 'In the shape of a she-wolf,' said the other, 'and she goes around with her two whelps. She has often killed my stock and she is down in Aber Cleddyf in a cave.'

Arthur sailed on the sea in his ship Prydwen,129 and others on the land, to hunt the bitch, and thus they encircled her and her two whelps. And God transformed them into their own shape for Arthur. Arthur's host dispersed one by one and two by two.

The Lame Ant

And as Gwythyr son of Greiddawl was journeying one day across a mountain, he heard a wailing and a grievous groaning, and a dreadful noise it was to hear. He rushed forward towards there and as he came there he drew his sword, and he struck the anthill from the ground, and thus defended them from the fire. And they said to him, 'Take the blessings of God and ours with you, and that that man may not be able to recover, we will come to recover it for you.' It was they it was who after that came with the nine hectors of flax seed that Ysbaddaden Chief Giant named to Culhwch in full measure, without anything wanting from it except a single flax seed, and the lame ant came with that before night.

The Beard of Dillus the Bearded

When Kei and Bedwyr were sitting on top of Pumlumon130 on Carn Gwylathyr,131 in the greatest wind in the world, they looked around them and they saw much smoke towards the south, far from them without any being turned by the wind. And then Kei said, 'By the hand of my friend,132 see yonder fire of a warrior.' They hastened towards the smoke, and approached the place while watching from afar, as Dillus the Bearded was singeing a wild boar. That was, however, the greatest warrior that ever fled from Arthur. Then Bedwyr said to Kei, 'Do you know him?' 'I know him,' said Kei, 'That is Dillus the Bearded. There is not a leash in the world that will hold Drudwyn the whelp of Greid son of Eri except a leash from the beard of the man that you see yonder.133 And neither will it be of use unless it is plucked from his beard in life with wooden tweezers, since it will be brittle in death.' 'What is our counsel over that?' said Bedwyr. 'Let us allow him,' said Kei, 'to consume his fill of the meat, and after that he will sleep.' Whilst he was doing that, they were making tweezers. When Kei knew for certain he was sleeping, he made a pit under his feet, the greatest in the world, he struck him a blow of immeasurable force, and they pressed him in the pit so that they completed entirely the plucking of his beard with the tweezers. And after that they slew him totally.

And then the two of them went to Celli Wig in Cornwall, and the leash from the beard of Dillus the Bearded with them and Kei gave it into the hand of Arthur. And then Arthur sang this englyn:

Kei made a leash
From the beard of Dillus son of Eri.
If he were well your death he would be.134

Because of that Kei grew angry so that it was with difficulty the warriors of this Island made peace between Kei and Arthur. And despite neither the weakness of Arthur nor the slaying of his men, Kei did not concern himself in his need from that time forward.135

And then Arthur said, 'Which of the anoethau is it best now to seek now?' 'It is best to seek Drudwyn the whelp of Greid son of Eri.'136

Creiddylad daughter of Lludd Silver-Hand

A little before that Creiddylad daughter of Lludd Silver-Hand went with Gwythyr son of Greidawl, and before he slept with her Gwyn son of Nudd came and took her by force. Gwythyr son of Greidawl gathered a host, and he came to fight with Gwyn son of Nudd, Gwy overcame and captured Greid son of Eri, and Glinneu son of Taran, and Gwrgwst Half-naked, and Dyfnarth his son. And he captured Penn son of Nethawg, and Nwython, and Cyledyr the Wild his son, and slew Nwython and took out his heart, and forced Cyledyr to consume his father's heart, and because of that Cyledyr went mad. Arthur heard of that, and he came to the north, and summoned Gwyn son of Nudd to him, and set free his noblemen from his prison, and made peace between Gwyn son of Nudd and Gwythyr son of Greidawl. This is the peace that was made, to leave the maiden in the house of her father untouched by the two sides, and Gwyn and Gwyrthyr to fight each first of May from that day forward until doomsday, and that one that might be victorious on doomsday will take the maiden.

After reconciling those nobles thus, Arthur got Brown-Mane the horse of Gwedw, and the leash of Cors Hundred-Claws.

Ysgithrwyn Chief of Boars

After that Arthur went to Brittany, and Mabon son of Mellt137 with him, and Gware Golden-Hair, to seek the two dogs of Glythmyr the Breton.138 And after they were got Arthur went to the west of Ireland to seek Gwrgi Seferi,139 and Odgar son of Aedd king of Ireland together with him. And then Arthur went to the North, and captured Cyledyr the Wild, and went to seek Ysgithrwyn Chief of Boars. And Mabon son of Mellt went with the two dogs of Glythmyr the Breton in his hand, and Drudwyn whelp of Greid son of Eri. And Arthur himself went to the hunt, and Cafall hound of Arthur in his hand. And Caw of Pictland mounted on Arthur's mare Llamrei,140 and made for the baying. And then Caw of Pictland took the help of a hatchet, and fiercely and brilliantly he came to the boar, and split his head in two halves. And Caw took the tusk. It was not the dogs that Ysbaddaden had named to Culhwch that slew the boar, but Cafall Arthur's own hound.

Menw son of Teirgwaedd searches in bird form

After he slew Ysgithrwyn Chief of Boars, Arthur went with his army to Celli Wig in Cornwall. And then he sent Menw son of Teirgwaedd to see if the treasures were between the two ears of Twrch Trwyth, because it were mean to go to fight with him unless the treasures were with him. It was certain, however that he was there. He had already laid waste a third part of Ireland. Menw went to seek them. He saw them in Esgeir Oerfel in Ireland. And Menw transformed himself into the form of a bird and descended on the top of his lair, and sought to snatch one of the treasures from him. He did not get anything, however, except one of his bristles. The other arose in full fury, and shook himself so that some of the poison caught up with him. And Menw suffered permanent hurt from then.

The cauldron of Diwrnach the Irishman

After that Arthur sent a messenger to Odgar son of Aedd king of Ireland, to ask for the cauldron of Diwrnach the Irishman, his overseer. Odgar asked him to give it. Diwrnach said, 'God knows, if it would be better he did not get one glimpse of it.' And the messenger of Arthur came with a denial from Ireland. Arthur set forth and a light force with him in Prydwen his ship, and they came to Ireland and made for the house of Diwrnach the Irishman. The hosts of Odgar saw their strength, and after they had eaten and drunk their fill, Arthur asked for the cauldron. The other said if he were to give it to anyone he would have given it at the word of Odgar king of Ireland. After they were denied that, Bedwyr rose up and laid hold of the cauldron and he put it on the back of Hygwydd, Arthur's servant (that was brother of the same mother to Cacamwri servant of Arthur). This was his office in service continuously to carry the cauldron of Arthur and place fire under it. Llenlleawg the Irishman seized Kaledfwlch and swung it round, and slew Diwrnach the Irishman and his whole host entirely. The hosts of Ireland came and fought with them. And after the hosts fled entirely, Arthur and his men went into the ship in their presence, and the cauldron full from the treasures141 of Ireland with them. And they landed at the house of Llwydeu son of Cil Coed in Porth Cerddin142 in Dyfed. And Messur-y-Peir is there.143

Hunting the Twrch Trwyth

And then Arthur gathered what warriors there were in the Three Islands of Britain and its Three Adjacent Islands, and what were in France, and Brittany, and Normandy, and the Summer Land,144 and what there were of picked dogs and renowned horses. And he went with all those hosts to Ireland, and there was great fear and trembling in Ireland with his presence. And after Arthur landed, the saints of Ireland came to him to ask his protection. And he for his part gave his protection, and they gave their blessing to him. The men of Ireland came to Arthur and gave a tribute of food to him. Arthur came to Esgeir Oerfel in Ireland, to the place where Twrch Trwyth was, and his seven young pigs with him. Dogs were unleashed on him from every side. That day until evening the Irish fought with him. Nevertheless he did lay waste to a province145 of Ireland. And the next day the warband of Arthur fought with him; except what they got of evil from him, they got nothing of good. On the third day Arthur himself fought with him, nine nights and nine days. Nought was slain but one pigling from his pigs. His men asked Arthur what the history of that pig was. He said for his part, 'He was a king, and for his sins God transformed him into a pig.'

Arthur sent Gwrhyr Interpreter of Tongues to seek discourse with him. Gwrhyr went in the form of a bird and descended above the top of the lair of him and his seven young pigs. And Gwrhyr Intepreter of Tongues asked him, 'By the One who made you in this shape, if you are able to speak, I ask one to come from you to converse with Arthur.' Grugyn Silver Bristle replied - all his bristles were like silver wire - the way he went in wood and in field was seen by the way his bristles glittered. This was the answer Grugyn gave, 'By the One who made us in this shape, we will not do, and we will not say anything to Arthur. It was enough harm that God did to us, to make us in this shape, without you coming to fight with us.' 'I tell you that Arthur will fight for the comb and the razor and the shears that are between the two ears of Twrch Trwyth.' Grugyn said, 'Until his life is taken first, those treasures will not be got. And tomorrow morning we will set out from here, and go to the land of Arthur, and the greatest amount of harm we might be able to do, we will do there.'

They set out on the sea towards Wales, and Arthur and his hosts and his horses and his dogs went in Prydwen, and in the blink of an eye they saw them. Twrch Trwyth landed in Porth Cleis146 in Dyfed. Arthur came to Menevia147 that night. The next day Arthur was told they had gone before him, and he overtook him slaying the cattle of Cynwas Cwryfagyl,148 after slaying the men and beasts that were in Deu Cleddyf before the coming of Arthur.

When Arthur came Twrch Trwyth set out from there to Presseleu.149 Arthur came there with the hosts of the world. Arthur sent his men to the hunt, Eli, and Trachmyr and Drudwyn the whelp of Greid son of Eri in his own hand, and Gwarthegydd son of Caw in another quarter, and the two dogs of Glythmyr the Breton in his hand, and Bedwyr with Cafall the hound of Arthur in his hand. And all the warriors assembled on the two banks of the Nyfer.150 The three sons of Cleddyf Difwlch came, men who gained great fame in the slaying of Ysgithrwyn Chief of Boars. And then he set out from Llyn Nyfer, and came to Cwm Cerwyn,151 and he stood at bay there. And then he slew four of Arthur's champions - Gwarthegydd son of Caw, and Tarawg of Alclud,152 Reidwn son of Eli Adfer, and Iscofan the Generous. And after he slew those men, he again stood at bay against them in the place, and he slew Gwydre son of Arthur, and Garselid the Irishman, and Glew son of Yscawd, and Iscawyn son of Banon. And he was then wounded himself.

In the morning at the dawning of the next day some of the men caught up with him. And then he slew Huandaw, and Gogigwr, and Pen Pingon, three servants of Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr, so God knows there was no servant left to him in the world on the hunt, except Laesgemyn himself, a man because of whom no one was the better. And along with those he slew many men of the land, and Gwlydyn Saer, Arthur's chief craftsman. And then Arthur caught up with him in Peuliniog,153 and then he slew Madog son of Teithion, and Gwyn son of Tringad son of Nefed, and Eirion Penlloran. And then he went to Aber Tywi. And there he stood at bay against them, and there he slew Cynlas son of Cynan, and Gwilenhin154 king of France. Then he went to Glyn Ystun,155 and then he was lost to the sight of the men and the dogs.

Arthur summoned Gwyn son of Nudd to him, and asked him if he knew anything of Twrch Trwyth. He said he knew nothing. All the huntsmen then went hunting the pig in Dyffryn Llychwr. And Grugyn Silver Hair and Llwydog Gofiniad rushed to them, and then slew the huntsmen so that no one escaped from them with their life except one man. Arthur came with his hosts to where Grugyn and Llwydog were, and there let loose on them all the dogs that had been named in total. And in response to the clamour raised there and to the baying, Twrch Trwyth came to defend them. And from the time they had come across the sea from Ireland, he had not seen them until then. He was then attacked by men and dogs. He did his best to journey as far as Mynydd Amanw,156 and there a pigling of his pigs was slain. And then they went life for life with him, and they then slew Twrch Llawin. And then another of his pigs was slain, Gwys was his name. And then he went to Dyffryn Amanw, and there were slain Banw and Benwig. None of his pigs went with him from there alive except Grugyn Silver Hair and Llwydog Gofiniad.

From that place they went to Llwch Ewin,157 and Arthur caught up with him there. He stood at bay then. And then he slew Echin Mighty-Thigh, and Arwyli son of Gwyddog Gwyr, and many men and dogs also. And they went from there to Llwch Tawe.158 Grugyn Silver Bristle separated from them there, and Grugyn went then to Din Tywi.159 And after that he went to Ceredigion, and Eli son of Trachmyr with him, and a multitude together with them also. And he came to Garth Grugyn,160 and then he was slain in their midst, and he slew Ruddfyw Rys, and many together with him. And then Llwydog went to Ystrad Yw161 and there he came up against the men of Britanny, and there he killed Hir Peissawg king of Britanny, and Llygatrud Emys, and Gwrbothu, uncles of Arthur, brothers of his mother. And then he was slain himself.

Twrch Trwyth then went between Tawe and Ewias.162 Arthur summoned Cornwall and Devon to him at the mouth of the Severn, and Arthur said to the warriors of this Island, 'Twrch Trwyth has slain many of my men. By the valour of men, not while I am living will he go to Cornwall. I will not pursue him further, save to go life against life with him. Do you what you will do.' This is what passed from counsel with him, a band of horsemen, and dogs of the Island with them, were sent to Ewias. And they turned back from there to the Severn, to ambush him there and these were of tried soldiers of this Island, and they drove him by sheer force into the Severn. And Mabon son of Modron went with him into the Severn on Gwyn Dun-mane the horse of Gwedw, and Goreu son of Custennin, and Menw son of Teirgwaedd, between Llyn Lliwan163 and Aber Gwy. And Arthur attacked him, and the champions of Britain together with him. Osla Great-knife approached, and Manawydan son of Llyr, and Cacamwri Arthur's servant and Gwyngelli, and closed in on him. And at first they laid hold of his feet and immersed him in the Severn until it was flooding around him. Mabon son of Modron spurred his horse on the one side, and got the razor from him, and on the other side Cyledyr the Wild on another horse made for him in the Severn, and he brought the shears with him. Before the comb could be taken, he found earth with his feet, and from when he got to land neither dog nor man nor horse was well able to keep up with him so that he went to Cornwall. Than all the ill that was got in seeking those treasures from him, worse was coming in seeking to defend the two men from their drowning. Cacamwri, as he was dragged up, two quern stones were dragged with him to the depths. Osla Great-knife, in running after the boar, his knife fell from his sheath and he lost it; after that his sheath itself being full of water, as he was dragged up he was dragged to the depths.

Thereafter Arthur went with his hosts until he caught up with him in Cornwall. All the ill that was got from him before that was play compared to what was then got from him in seeking the comb. From one evil to another the comb was got from him. And then he was chased from Cornwall, and driven into the sea in his need. It was never known from that onwards to what place he went, and Aned and Aethlem164 with him. And from there Arthur went to Celli Wig in Cornwall to bathe himself and to cast his weariness from him.

The Very Black Witch

Arthur said, 'Is there any now of the wonders not yet got?' One of the men said, 'There is the blood of the Very Black Witch, daughter of the Very White Witch from the Head of the Valley of Grief in the Uplands of Hell.' Arthur set out towards the North, and came to the place where was the cave of the witch. And Gwyn son of Nudd and Gwythyr son of Greiddawl advised sending Cacamwri and Hygwydd his brother to fight with the hag. And as they came within the cave the hag seized them, and laid hold of Hygwydd by the hair of his head, and beat him to the floor beneath her. And Cacamwri laid hold of her by the hair of her head, and dragged her from Hygwydd to the ground, and she turned on Cacamwri, and beat all two of them soundly and disarmed them, and drove them out squealing and squalling. And Arthur grew angry from seeing his two servants after hey were almost slain, and sought to seize the cave. And then Gwyn and Gwythyr said to him, 'It is not fair and not pleasant for us to see you wrestling with a hag. Send Long Amren and Long Eiddil to the cave.' And if the difficulty was bad for the first two, worse was the difficulty of those two, so that God knows not one of the four were able to go from the place, except as all four were placed on Llamrei Arthur's mare. And then Arthur seized the entrance of the cave, and from the entrance he aimed at the hag with Carnwennan his knife, and it struck her on the middle until she was as two tubs. And Caw of Pictland took the blood of the witch and kept it with him.

Ysbaddaden is slain and Culhwch gains Olwen

And then Culhwch set out, and Goreu son of Custennin together with him, and those who desired harm to Ysbaddaden Chief Giant, and the anoethau with them to his court. And Caw of Pictland came and shaved his beard, flesh and skin to the bone, and the two ears completely. And Culhwch said, 'Have you been shaved, man?' 'I have been shaved,' said the other. 'Is your daughter mine now?' 'Yours,' said he. 'And you need not thank me for that, but thank Arthur the man who has brought her to you. From my will you would never have had her. And it is high time to take my life away.' And then Goreu son of Custennin laid hold of him by the hair of his head, and dragged him after him to the mound, and struck off his head and placed it on a stake on the battlements. And he subdued the fort and his dominions.

And that night Culhwch slept with Olwen. And she was the only wife to him throughout his life. And the hosts of Arthur dispersed, everyone to his land.

And thus Culhwch gained Olwen daughter of Ysbaddaden Chief Giant.

 

Notes:

(117) Gwenogvryn Evans and others read Glini. However, u and n are very similar in the script used. Lady Charlotte Guest, using a transcript by Rev. John Jones (Tegid), reads Glivi. Glevi is the genitive of Glevum, the Latin name for Gloucester. Idris Foster concluded that Gliui was intended and most authorities now agree with his analysis. (See Rachel Bromwich and D. Simon Evans, Culhwch and Olwen (Cardiff, 1992), pp. 141-2) (back)

(118) The Wirral is most likely meant as Killgury is attested as a name for it in Camden's Britannia (1587). However there is another Cilgwri in the parish of Llangar near Corwen. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., pp. 142-3) (back)

(119) Redynfre means 'Fernhill' or 'Brackenhill' and has been placed by Sir John Rhys (Hibbert Lectures 1886 (London 1888), p.555n) in Aberdaron parish at the tip of the Llyn peninsula but it might also be an earlier name for Farndon in Cheshire (OE fearn-dun). (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p. 143) (back)

(120) The word used for 'owl' here is cuan (Old Breton couann, Latin cavannus). This is the only attestation of this word before the eighteenth century. (See Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (Cardiff, 1950-2002) Vol. I, p.626) (back)

(121) Thought to be Llyn Cowlyd, a small lake between Capel Curig and Llanrwst, Gwynedd. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p. 143) (back)

(122) Identified by Sir John Rhys as a farm called Bodernabwy near Aberdaron, which places it close to his Redynfre (see note 119 above). (back)

(123) The 'shining lake'. Thought to be a widening in the Severn estuary just before it enters the Bristol Channel. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.144) (back)

(124) Gloucester. It is referred to by that name in the Historia Brittonum 49: 'quae vocatur brittannico sermone Cair Gloiu, saxonice autem Gloecester', 'that is called in the British LANGUAGE Caer Gloiu, in English Gloucester.' John Morris (ed.), Nennius: British History and The Welsh Annals (Chichester, Phillimore, 1980), pp. 33 & 74. (back)

(125) Lludd Llaw Ereint would appear to be the Welsh equivalent of the Irish Nuadu Argatlám where Argatlám also means Silver-hand. Nuadu was a king of the Tuatha Dé Danann who lost his arm at the first battle of Mag Tuired and had it replaced by a silver one. Sir John Rhys saw an equivalence between Nuadu, the Celtic god Nodens and the Welsh Nudd. He felt Nudd had become Lludd through the 'influence of the analogy of personal names with alliterative epithets'. See Peter C. Bartrum, A Welsh Classical Dictionary (Aberystwyth, 1993), p.418. (back)

(126) Greid is mentioned earlier in the tale in the Arthurian court list, and later in the story is the prisoner of Gwyn ap Nudd. (back)

(127) Literally 'the estuary of the two swords'. The two rivers Cleddau meet near Milford Haven. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.146-7) (back)

(128) Tren 'strong' + cad 'battle'. (back)

(129) Arthur's ship Prydwen, 'fair form', is named in the poem Preiddeu Annwn in the Book of Taliesin. (See Marged Haycock, Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin (Aberystwyth 2007), pp.433-451). (back)

(130) Literally 'Five Peaks'. A high mountain in northern Ceredigion behind Aberystwyth. (back)

(131) Unknown. The cairn at the top of Drum Peithnant has been suggested as a possibility. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.148) (back)

(132) A common oath in Middle Welsh. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.148) (back)

(133) There is confusion here. Earlier in the tale it is the leash of Cors Cant Ewin that is needed to hold Drudwyn and the leash of the beard of Dillus the Bearded to hold the two whelps of the bitch Rymhi. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.148) (back)

(134) The verse is an englyn milwr with seven-syllable lines and end-rhyme. Sir Ifor Williams was of the opinion that the appearance of these englynion in the various tales for speech passages reflected the technique of the oral storyteller. In the Triads Arthur writes an englyn in honour of his three 'Battle-Horsemen' and in another is stated to be one of the three 'Frivolous Bards'. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.149 and Rachel Bromwich (ed.,) Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Cardiff, 2006) pp. 22 & 35) (back)

(135) This passage illustrates Kei's stubbornness as illustrated in the court list previously in the tale. It is also the germ of the ill-nature that appears later in the French romances. (See Peter C Bartrum, A Welsh Classical Dictionary (Aberystwyth, 1993) pp. 91-93) (back)

(136) The ensuing tale of Creiddylad seems to have replaced the seeking of two of the anoethau, the obtaining of Drudwyn and of Gwyn son of Nudd. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.149) (back)

(137) Mabon son of Lightning is mentioned in the poem Pa Gur but is otherwise unknown. He may be a doublet for Mabon son of Modron but O'Rahilly, in Early Irish History and Mythology (Dublin, 1946) p.52 & note, considers he is descended from a lightning god *Meldos. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.152) (back)

(138) Neither dogs nor owner are in the list of anoethau so have presumably been dropped from it at some point. (back)

(139) Gwrgi Seferi (Seueri in the text) is only known from this reference as he is not in the list of anoethau. Gwr + ci 'man hound' is not uncommon as a name and Seferi may derive from the Roman emperor Severus. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.153) (back)

(140) Llam 'leap' + grei 'grey', so 'Grey leaper', or possibly + re 'swift', so Swift-paced. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.154) (back)

(141) The word here is swllt from Latin solidus, a gold coin. In the old pre-decimal coinage system it was the word for 'shilling' but here simply means 'treasure'. (back)

(142) Unknown. Lady Charlotte Guest suggested it is Porth Mawr. (Jones and Jones, The Mabinogion (London, Everyman, 1932), 133) (back)

(143) 'Measure of the cauldron', presumably referring to a feature in the landscape matching its size. The location is unknown but Pwll Crochan, 'The Pool of the Cauldron', is possible. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.156) (back)

(144) Gwlad yr Haf usually means Somerset but originally meant the whole of the south-west peninsula. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.156) (back)

(145) The word used is pymhet 'fifth' and this is equivalent to the Irish use of coiced 'fifth' for each of the five provinces of Ireland, Ulster, Munster, Leinster, Connacht and Meath. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.157) (back)

(146) The harbour at the mouth of the Alun river, south-west of St David's. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.159) (back)

(147) The old name for St David's. (back)

(148) He is mentioned earlier in the court list. (back)

(149) Mynydd Preseli in Pembrokeshire, where the Stonehenge bluestones came from. (back)

(150) The River Nyfer divided the cantref of Cemais into two commotes. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.160) (back)

(151) Foel Cwm Cerwyn is the highest point of Mynydd Preseli. (back)

(152) The text reads Allt Clwyt. This is Dumbarton, the stronghold of the kingdom of Strathclyde. (back)

(153) The easternmost commote of Cantref Gwarthaf, between Narberth and Carmarthen. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.161) (back)

(154) William? (back)

(155) A wooded area in the commote of Carnwyllion. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.162) (back)

(156) There is an Aman stream that runs into the Llychwr. It is possible the mountain may be the source of the stream. There is an onomastic link with banw, a pigling. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.164) (back)

(157) Uncertain location. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.165) (back)

(158) An old name for Llyn y Fan Fawr, Brecon. The source of the Tawe river. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.165) (back)

(159) Uncertain location. (back)

(160) Castle Hill, Llanilar where Castell Garth Grugyn was built in 1242. (See Culhwch and Olwen, op. cit., p.166) (back)

(161) A commote in the south-east of Brecheiniog. (back)

(162) A cantref between Talgarth and Erging, north-east of Ystrad Yw. (back)

(163) Presumably the same place as Llyn Llyw, the home of the Salmon. (back)

(164) Two hounds who were specified in the anoethau. (back)

 

Translation and notes © Angela Grant 2008