Culhwch

'Pig pen'
Cilhwch, Kilhugh, Kilhwch, Kulhwch


Hero of Culhwch and Olwen, a Welsh tale from the eleventh century or earlier and is the longest of the surviving Welsh prose tales. In the Red Book of Hergest, about 1400, has a complete version of the story. The White Book of Rhydderch from about 1325 has a fragmented version. The title didn't exist in the early manuscripts and is thus a later invention.

Culhwch was the son of Kilwydd (Cilydd) and Goleuddydd, sister of Eigyr, and Arthur's aunt. During the course of her pregnancy Goleuddydd went insane and wandered aimlessly around the countryside. The pains of labour restored her sanity just as she was in the middle of a herd of swine, the shock of her returning senses causing her to give birth immediately. She named the child Culhwch ('pig pen') to reflect the fact that he had been born in a pig run, for hwch means 'pig'.

After Goleuddydd died, Kilwydd remarried, although the name of his second wife remains unknown. She told Culhwch that he would only love Olwen, the daughter of the chief giant Ysbaddaden. Culhwch fell in love with her at the mere mention of her name. Culhwch traveled to Arthur's court at the height of its glory, and demanded his cousin's assistance in finding Olwen. Arthur assigned Cei, Bedwyr, Cynddylig the Guide, Gwrhyr the Interpreter of Languages, Gwalchmai fab Gwyar, and Menw fab Teirgwaedd - the greatest of his warriors - to go with Culhwch to the fortress of Ysbaddaden.

At length the party came to a shepherd whose wife proved to be the aunt of Culhwch. Although she had lost twenty-three of her twenty-four sons to Yspaddaden, she vowed to help Culhwch meet Olwen, who came to wash her hair at the woman's cottage every Saturday. The companions learned that Ysbaddaden was fated to die upon his daughterís marriage, and that Olwen would not marry without her fatherís permission.

Olwen came as the woman had said that Saturday, and when she met Culhwch she agreed to become his wife on condition that he ask her father for her hand, warning him not to flinch from any condition he might set. On three successive days Culhwch and his companions went to Yspaddaden's castle. On each occasion the giant told them to come back the following morning and, as they returned their backs on the castle, hurled a poisoned stone at them. Culhwch and his friends were always too quick and caught the stone and threw it back. On the fourth day, as the poisoned stones had taken effect on the giant, Yspaddaden agreed to Culhwch's suit, provided he complete a list of forty tasks.

The tasks involved obtaining magic artifacts from a plethora of fearsome monsters, obtaining the assistance of certain renowned warriors, tending to vast parcels of Ysbaddadenís land in a short period of time (the felling and burning of a thicket, plughing its ashes into a field, and sowing the new field with flax) and a number of other impossible deeds. The second part of the tasks infolved the collection of a variety of provisions for the wedding feast, like retrieving a set of shears and a comb from between the ears of Twrch Trwyth, an enchanted boar (with which to barber Yspaddaden). Ysbaddaden placed numerous conditions on the hunt for Twrch Trwyth: certain warriors had to accompany the party, certain hounds had to be employed, certain leashes were needed to hold the hounds, certain warriors were needed to hold the leashes, and so on.

The giant imposed innumberable conditions, and, as Yspaddaden mentioned each, he added that it would be impossible to fulfil. Culhwch, remembering the advice of Olwen, simply replied that he could accomplish any task with ease. He returned to Arthurís court, invoked Arthurís promise to help him, and sat back while Arthur and his men scrambled to meet all of Ysbaddadenís requirements. Among the more interesting of the subsequent adventures are Arthurís trip to Ireland to obtain a cauldron from Diwrnach, the slaying of the boar Ysgithyrwyn, the assault on the cave of the Black Hag, and the epic hunt for Twrch Trwyth. Finally, unable to stand the continual opposition of the giant, even though he had completed all the tasks set him, Culhwch gathered together all the giant's enemies, returned to the castle and killed Yspaddaden. Culhwch married Olwen, and the two remained faithful to each other throughout their lives.


The Arthurian version
Arthurian legend sticks fairly closely to the Welsh roots, though, as is always the way, the story was enhanced to fit the theme the writers sought to follow. The principal facts of Culhwch's birth remain the same as in the original Welsh version, though now he is said to be the cousin of King Arthur, his mother now being made the sister to Igraine.

After Goleuddydd had died, Culhwch's father remarried, though the name of Culhwch's stepmother remains unknown. She put Culhwch under an obligation to marry none other than Olwen, the daughter of the chief giant Yspaddaden (or Thornogre Thistlehair). Realising the enormity of his task, Culhwch went to the court of his cousin, Arthur, to ask for his help in winning the hand of Olwen. When Culhwch arrived at Arthur's court, he was met by Glewlwyd, the gatekeeper, who declared that Culhwch was the most handsome youth he had ever laid eyes on.

Arthur agreed to help his cousin, though he confessed that he had never heard of Olwen or her father. He sent messengers to seek them out, but, after a year, they all returned unsuccessful. A new party was formed to help Culhwch in his quest, this party being made up of exactly the same participants of the original Welsh quest, though now Cei becomes Sir Kay, and Bedwyr becomes Sir Bedivere. Each was chosen for his own particular skill.

Kay could stay for nine days without either sleeping or breathing. He could alter his height at will and had a body temperature that was so high that during he storm he never got wet, and in cold weather his companions could kindle their fires from him. Bedivere, though he had only one arm, was faster with his sword than three others fighting together. Gwalchmai fab Gwyar never gave up on any quest he had started, and Menw fab Teirgwaedd was a master of spells that would preserve the company in heathen lands. The final two, Cynddylig and Gwrhyr, were chosen for the talents their titles imply.

After some time the party came across a shepherd whose wife turned out to be an aunt of Culhwch. Even though she had already lost twenty-three of her twenty-four sons to the giant Yspaddaden, she agreed to help Culhwch meet Olwen, who came to the woman's cottage every Saturday to wash her hair.

When they met, Olwen asked Culhwch to come to their castle and request her hand. However, she warned him not to flinch from any conditions her father might set. For three days Culhwch and his companions went to Yspaddaden's castle. On each occasion the giant told them to return the following morning and then, as they turned their backs, threw a poisoned stone at them. The party, however, were always too quick and, catching it, threw it back, which greatly concerned the giant. On the fourth day he agreed to Culhwch's suit, but imposed on him three monumental tasks. The first of these involved felling and burning a thicket, ploughing its ashes into a field and sowing it with flax. The second was to obtain a variety of items for the wedding feast, and the third was to obtain various items and preparations necessary to barber the giant, among which was a razor and comb from between the ears of the great boar Twrch Trwyth.

Innumerable other conditions were imposed, each of which Yspaddaden told Culhwch was impossiple to fulfil. Each time Culhwch simply replied that could complete the task with ease. Finally, with the help of King Arthur, who was most notably present in the hunt for Twrch Trwyth, he completed all the tasks set him and returned to the giant's castle in the company of all the giant's enemies. There the giant was killed and Olwen became Culhwch's wife, the couple remaining faithful for the rest of their lives.

As can be seen, the later Arthurian version closely follows the Welsh origins, the most notable differences being the relationship to King Arthur and that monarch's participation in some, if not all, of the tasks set by the giant Yspaddaden.


See also
Alan Fyrgant | The Legend of King Arthur
Alar | The Legend of King Arthur
Achen | The Legend of King Arthur
Amren | The Legend of King Arthur
Annwas | The Legend of King Arthur
Annyanniawc | The Legend of King Arthur
Anoeth Veidawg | The Legend of King Arthur
Ardderchawg Prydain | The Legend of King Arthur
Aunwas Adeiniawc | The Legend of King Arthur

Bedwyr | The Legend of King Arthur
Bedyw | The Legend of King Arthur
Berth | The Legend of King Arthur
Berwyn | The Legend of King Arthur
Bradwen | The Legend of King Arthur
Bratach | The Legend of King Arthur
Bratwen | The Legend of King Arthur
Brys | The Legend of King Arthur
Bwlch | The Legend of King Arthur

Cadwy | The Legend of King Arthur
Cei | The Legend of King Arthur
Call | The Legend of King Arthur
Canastyr Kanllaw | The Legend of King Arthur
Carnedyr | The Legend of King Arthur
Cas | The Legend of King Arthur
Casnar Wledic | The Legend of King Arthur
Cavall | The Legend of King Arthur
Caw/Kaw | The Legend of King Arthur
Cethtrwm Offeirad | The Legend of King Arthur
Cigfa | The Legend of King Arthur
Cleddyf Difwlch | The Legend of King Arthur
Clust | The Legend of King Arthur
Cors Cant-Ewin | The Legend of King Arthur
Corvil Bervach | The Legend of King Arthur
Cradawc | The Legend of King Arthur
Creiddylad (Creiddyledd) | The Legend of King Arthur
Cuall | The Legend of King Arthur
Cubert | The Legend of King Arthur
Cyndelic Kyuarwyd | The Legend of King Arthur
Cynchwr | The Legend of King Arthur
Cyndrwyn | The Legend of King Arthur
Cynwas Curvagyl | The Legend of King Arthur
Cynwyl Sant | The Legend of King Arthur

Datweir Dallpenn | The Legend of King Arthur
Dalldav | The Legend of King Arthur
Devon | The Legend of King Arthur
Digon | The Legend of King Arthur
Dirmyg | The Legend of King Arthur
Dorath | The Legend of King Arthur
Drem | The Legend of King Arthur
Drudwas | The Legend of King Arthur
Drustwrn Hayarn | The Legend of King Arthur
Drwg Ddyddwg | The Legend of King Arthur
Duach | The Legend of King Arthur
Dunart | The Legend of King Arthur
Dwnn Diessic Unbenn | The Legend of King Arthur
Dygyflwng | The Legend of King Arthur
Dyvynwal Moel (Dunwallo Molmutius) | The Legend of King Arthur
Dywel | The Legend of King Arthur

Echel Morddwyd Twll | The Legend of King Arthur
Edeyrn (Edern) | The Legend of King Arthur
Eheubryt | The Legend of King Arthur
Eiddon Fawrfrydig | The Legend of King Arthur
Eidyol (Eiddoel) | The Legend of King Arthur
Eiladyr | The Legend of King Arthur
Eiryf | The Legend of King Arthur
Eli Thracmyr | The Legend of King Arthur
Elidyr Gyvarwydd | The Legend of King Arthur
Ellylw | The Legend of King Arthur
Ely Amyr | The Legend of King Arthur
Eneuawc | The Legend of King Arthur
Enrydrec (Enrydreg) | The Legend of King Arthur
Erdudfyl | The Legend of King Arthur
Ermid | The Legend of King Arthur
Esgeir Gulhwch Govynkawn (Ysgeir) | The Legend of King Arthur
Essyllt Vinwen | The Legend of King Arthur
Eurneit | The Legend of King Arthur
Eurolvyn (Eurolwyn) | The Legend of King Arthur
Eus | The Legend of King Arthur

Fflam | The Legend of King Arthur
Ffleudor (Fflewdwr Fflam Wledic) | The Legend of King Arthur
Fflergant | The Legend of King Arthur
Fflewdwr Fflam Wledic | The Legend of King Arthur

Gallcoyt Govynynat | The Legend of King Arthur
Gallgoic (Gallgoig) | The Legend of King ArthurGaranwyn | The Legend of King Arthur
Garselit Vydel (Garselid) | The Legend of King Arthur
Garwyli | The Legend of King Arthur
Gawdyn Odyeith (Gwadyn Odyeith) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gereint | The Legend of King Arthur
Gilla Coes Hydd | The Legend of King Arthur
Glas | The Legend of King Arthur
Gleisad (Gleisyad) | The Legend of King Arthur
Glessic (Glessig) | The Legend of King Arthur
Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr | The Legend of King Arthur
Gluydyn Saer (Gwlyddyn the Carpenter) | The Legend of King Arthur
Glythwyr | The Legend of King Arthur
Gobrwy | The Legend of King Arthur
Gormant | The Legend of King Arthur
Greidawl Galldonyd | The Legend of King Arthur
Greid | The Legend of King Arthur
Grudlwyn Gorr | The Legend of King Arthur
Gusc | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwadyn Ossol | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwalchmei (Gwalchmai) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwalhaved (Gwalhafed) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gware Gwallt Euryn (Gwri Golden Hair) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwawrddur Kyruach | The Legend of King Arthur
Gweir Dathar Wenidawc | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwenhwyvach (Gwenhwyach) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwenhwyvar (Gwenhwyfar) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwenllian Teg | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwenn Alarch | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwennwledyr (Gwenwledyr) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwennwynwyn | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwewyl (Gwevyl) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwiawn Llygad Cath | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwittart (Gwitart) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwrbothu HÍn (Gwrfoddu HÍn) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwrdinal (Gwrddywal) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwrhyr Gwarthegvras | The Legend of King Arthur x2
Gwrvan Gwallt Avwyn | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwyddawg | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwydden Astrus | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwyddrud | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwydre | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwyllennhin (Gwilenhin) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwyn | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwynn | The Legend of King Arthur x 2 st
Gwynnhyvar | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwystyl | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwythawg Gwyr (Gwyddawg Gwyr) | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwythyr | The Legend of King Arthur

Henbedestyr (Hen Beddestyr) | The Legend of King Arthur Hengydymdeith (Hen Gedymeddeith) | The Legend of King Arthur
Henwas (Hen Was the Swift) | The Legend of King Arthur
Henwyneb (Hen Wyneb) | The Legend of King Arthur
Hir | The Legend of King Arthur
Hiratrwm (Hir Atrym) | The Legend of King Arthur
Hirerwm (Hir Erwn) | The Legend of King Arthur
Hueil | The Legend of King Arthur
Hunabwy (Huabwy) | The Legend of King Arthur
Hwyr Ddyddwg (Hwyrddyddwg) | The Legend of King Arthur
Hyfaidd Unllen (Hefeydd) | The Legend of King Arthur

Indeg | The Legend of King Arthur
Iona | The Legend of King Arthur Isgofan Hael | The Legend of King Arthur Isperyr Ewingath | The Legend of King Arthur

Kedarn (Cadarn) | The Legend of King Arthur
Kelemon | The Legend of King Arthur
Kilydd Canhastyr | The Legend of King Arthur
Kueli and Keli | The Legend of King Arthur
Kulvanawyd (Culfanawyd) | The Legend of King Arthur
Kynedyr Wyllt (Cynedyr Wyllt) | The Legend of King Arthur
Kynuelyn Kaudawg | The Legend of King Arthur
Kynyr Keinvarvawc (Cynyr Fair Beard) | The Legend of King Arthur
Kyuwlch | The Legend of King Arthur

Llary | The Legend of King Arthur
Llawnrodded Farfawg (Llawfrodedd the Horseman) | The Legend of King Arthur
Llawr eil Erw | The Legend of King Arthur
Llenlleawg Wyddel (Llenlleawc Wyddel) | The Legend of King Arthur
Lluber Beuthach | The Legend of King Arthur
Lloch Llawwynnyawc (Llwch) | The Legend of King Arthur
Llud Llaw Ereint | The Legend of King Arthur
Lluydeu (Llwyd) | The Legend of King Arthur
Llwng | The Legend of King Arthur
Llwydeu | The Legend of King Arthur
Llwyr Ddyddwg | The Legend of King Arthur
Llyr | The Legend of King Arthur
Llysgadrudd Emys (Llygadnudd Emys) | The Legend of King Arthur

Mael | The Legend of King Arthur
Maelwys (Melwas) | The Legend of King Arthur
Manawydan | The Legend of King Arthur
Medyr | The Legend of King Arthur
Menw | The Legend of King Arthur
Moren Mynawc | The Legend of King Arthur
Morgan Hael | The Legend of King Arthur
Morvran (Morfran) | The Legend of King Arthur
Morvudd (Morfudd) | The Legend of King Arthur

Naw | The Legend of King Arthur
Nerth | The Legend of King Arthur
Nerthach | The Legend of King Arthur
Noddawl Farf Twrch (Nodawl Trimmed Beard) | The Legend of King Arthur
Nwyvre | The Legend of King Arthur

Ol | The Legend of King Arthur
Osla Gyllellvawr | The Legend of King Arthur

Panawr Pen Bagad | The Legend of King Arthur
Paris | The Legend of King Arthur
Perif (Peryf) | The Legend of King Arthur
Percos | The Legend of King Arthur

Rathtyeu (Rathtyen) | The Legend of King Arthur
Rhacymwri (Cacamwri) | The Legend of King Arthur
Rheiddwn Arwy | The Legend of King Arthur x 2 st
Rheu Rhwyd Dyrys | The Legend of King Arthur
Rhun | The Legend of King Arthur x 2 st
Rhymi (Rhymhi) | The Legend of King Arthur
Ruawn Pebyr | The Legend of King Arthur

Samson Finsych | The Legend of King Arthur
Sandde Bryd Angel | The Legend of King Arthur
Saranhon | The Legend of King Arthur
Sawyl Penn Uchel | The Legend of King Arthur
Scilti Yscawntroet (Sgilti Light Foot) | The Legend of King Arthur
Sefwlch (Syfwlch) | The Legend of King Arthur
Sel | The Legend of King Arthur
Selyf | The Legend of King Arthur
Siawn | The Legend of King Arthur
Sinnoch | The Legend of King Arthur
Smoit | The Legend of King Arthur
Sol | The Legend of King Arthur
Sugyn | The Legend of King Arthur
Sulyen | The Legend of King Arthur

Taliesin | The Legend of King Arthur
Tannwen (Tangwen) | The Legend of King Arthur
Tathal Twyll Goleu | The Legend of King Arthur
Tegvan Gloff (Tegfan the Lame) | The Legend of King Arthur
Tegyr Talgellawg | The Legend of King Arthur
Teithi Hen | The Legend of King Arthur
Teirgwaedd | The Legend of King Arthur
Teleri | The Legend of King Arthur
Teyrnon Twryf Bliant | The Legend of King Arthur
Twrch | The Legend of King Arthur

Uchtryd Ardywad Kad | The Legend of King Arthur

Wadu | The Legend of King Arthur

Yscawin | The Legend of King Arthur
Yscudydd (Ysgudydd) | The Legend of King Arthur
Yskyrdav (Ysgardaf) | The Legend of King Arthur
Ysperni | The Legend of King Arthur