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Twrch Trwyth

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Title: Twrch Trwyth  
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Subject: Culhwch and Olwen, Sir Kay, Welsh mythology, King Arthur, Ysbaddaden
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Twrch Trwyth

Twrch Trwyth
Twrch Trwyth sculpture by Tony Woodman
Died the Severn
Ethnicity wild boar
Children 7
  • Grugyn Gwrych Ereint (~Silver-bristle)
  • Llwydawg Govynnyad (~the Hewer)
  • Twrch Lllawin
  • Gwys
  • Banw
  • Bennwig
  • one unnamed boar
Parent(s) Taredd Wledig

Twrch Trwyth (Welsh pronunciation: ; also Latin: Troynt (MSS.HK); Troit (MSS.C1 D G Q); or Terit (MSS. C2 L)[1]) is an enchanted wild boar in Arthurian legend, which King Arthur or his men pursued with the aid of Arthur's dog Cavall or Cafall (Latin: Cabal).

The names of the hound and boar are glimpsed in a piece of geographical onomasticon composed in Latin in the 9th century (Historia Brittonum). But a richly elaborate account of the great hunt appears in the Welsh prose romance Culhwch and Olwen, probably written around 1100 AD. A passing reference to Twrch Trwyth also occurs in the elegy Gwarchan Cynfelyn preserved in the Book of Aneirin.[2][3]

The name in Welsh can be construed to mean "the boar Trwyth", and may have its analogue in the boar Triath of Irish mythology (see #Etymology and Irish cognate below).


  • Historia Brittonum 1
  • Culhwch and Olwen 2
  • Etymology and Irish cognate 3
  • Popular culture 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Historia Brittonum

The earliest reference to the boar Trwyth occurs in a tract called De Mirabilibus Britanniae (or Mirabilia in shorthand), variously titled in English as "Wonders of Britain," etc. The Mirabilia is believed to be near-contemporaneous to the 9th-century Historia Britonum[4][5] and is found appended to it in many extant manuscripts. It gives a list of marvels around Britain, one of them being the footprint left in rock by Arthur's dog Cavall (here Latinized as Cabal), made while chasing the great boar (here called Troynt):

Culhwch and Olwen

Twrch is named as the son of Prince Tared (or Taredd Wledig[8]), cursed into the form of a wild creature; he has poisonous bristles, and carries a pair of scissors, a comb and a razor on his head, between his ears. In French romances (Tristan en prose, Chretien de Troyes..) Ares is the father of a knight called Tor. Some scholars consider that Tor son of Ares is the Twrch son of Tared of Culhwch and Olwen and that the authentic name is probably Ares.[9]

Culhwch is given the task by Ysbaddaden Pencawr, the giant whose daughter Olwen Culhwch seeks, of obtaining the comb and scissors from Twrch's head. Later in the story it transpires there is also a razor secreted there. These implements are then to be used to cut and treat Ysbaddaden's hair (most of the tasks on the giant's long list are ultimately to do with this ceremony of hair-cutting). Further, Ysbaddaden states that the only hound who can hunt Twrch is Drudwyn, the whelp of Greid, and then goes on to list the requirements of the leash to hold Drudwyn, the only man strong enough to hold the leash. Ultimately Ysbaddaden calls on Culhwch to seek out Arthur, Culhwch's cousin, to help him hunt Twrch.

Prior to the hunt, Menw son of Teirgwaedd is sent to verify that the comb and scissors are between Twrch's ears. He takes the form of a bird and flies to Twrch's lair, encountering the boar with seven piglets. Menw then tries to swoop down and snatch one of the implements from Twrch's scalp, but only manages to take one silver bristle; Twrch is agitated and shakes himself, scattering venom onto Menw, wounding him.

The hunt for Twrch takes up the greater portion of the latter half of Culhwch and Olwen, and it is described in great detail the geographical route of the pursuit, and those who take active part in it. Although it is Culhwch who is given the task, it is Arthur and his men who take the most prominent role in the chase, Culhwch having successfully enlisted his aid.

After causing the death of several of Arthur's troop, the boar surrenders the razor, scissors, and later the comb by force, and he is driven into the sea off Cornwall and drowned.

It should also be noted that yet another boar, the Ysgithyrwyn Chief Boar had to be captured for its tusk to complete the grooming of Ysbadadden Chief-giant, the bride's father.

Etymology and Irish cognate

As previously noted, the term "twrch" in Welsh, denotes "wild boar, hog, mole". So Twrch Trwyth means "the boar Trwyth". Its Irish cognate may be "Triath, king of the Swine" (Old Irish: Triath ri torcraide) or the Torc Triath mentioned in the Lebor Gabála,[10] also recorded as Old Irish Orc tréith "Triath's boar" in Cormac's Irish Glossary.[11] Rachel Bromwich regards the form Trwyth as a late corruption. In the early text Historia Brittonum, the boar is called Troynt or Troit, a Latinisation likely from the Welsh Trwyd. Further evidence that Trwyd was the correct form appears in a reference in a later poem.

Popular culture

  • The Twrch Trwyth was the name of a motorcycle club in the Aman valley area of Wales. They became the Hells Angels South Wales in 1999.[needs ref]
  • Twrch Trwth is the name of a Welsh Traditional Dance group based in Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff.[12]

See also

  • Henwen, a boar from Cornwall that made a run from the south end to the north tip of Wales, and bore Cath Palug.
  • Ysgithyrwyn Chief Boar (Ysgithrwyn Pen Beidd, Yskithyrwynn Pennbeidd, "White-tusk chief of Boars" .


  1. ^ Mommsen 1898 p.217, note to line 18
  2. ^ Rhys 1901, p. 537 hints that Trwyth is mentioned in an obscure poem in the Book of Aneirin
  3. ^ The Lay of Cynfelyn, at the Celtic Literature Collective of the Mary Jones website
  4. ^ Stevenson 1838, p.56, note 3 "De mirabilibus Britanniæ. Although this apparently froms no part of the original work of Nennius.."
  5. ^ Geoffrey Ashe, under entry "Nennius", in: Lacy, Norris J., ed., The Arthurian Encyclopedia", Peter Bedrick Books, 1986
  6. ^ Robert Huntington Fletcher, The Arthurian material in the chronicles, p.320, "Two names in the Mirabilia should be replaced by better variant readings, Troynt by Troit, and Anir by Amr". preview
  7. ^ Schreiber 1877 edition (Lady Guest's Mabinogion), notes to Kilhwch and Olwen, p.289, translated from Stevenson 1838, §73
  8. ^ Jones & Jones 1993, p.98
  9. ^ Goulven Peron, Un géant nommé Spézet, pages 48 à 52, Cahier du Poher, n°26, octobre 2009, in french
  10. ^ Macalister ed., tr., LGE 1st Red. ¶ 317, LGE 2nd Red. ¶344, 3rd Red. ¶369)
  11. ^ Rhys 1901, pp. 520–2
  12. ^ Folk Wales Retrieved October 2012


(Texts of Culhwch)
  • (ed.,tr.) Schreiber, Lady Charlotte (Lady Guest) (1849), The Mabinogion: From the Llyfr Coch o Hergest (google) 2, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans 

(Geraint ab Erbin (W).. p. 4 (E)..p. 67; Kilhwch ac Olwen (W).. p. 195 (E)..p. 249)

(Texts of the Mirabilia of Historia Brittonum)
  • (ed.) Mommsen, Theodore, ed. (1898), "Historia Brittonvm cvm additamentis Nennii" (Internet Archive), Chronica Minora, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Auctorum Antiquissimi xiii (Berlin) 3: 111–222 
  • (ed.) Stevenson, Joseph, ed. (1838), "Nennii Historia Britonum ad fidem codicum manuscriptorum" (google), Publications of the English Historical Society (sumptibus Societatis) 4  (Latin text of the "De Mirabilibus Britanniae", §73)
  • (ed., tr.) Todd, James Henthorn, ed. (1848), Leabhar Breathnach annso sis (The Irish version of the Historia Britonum of Nennius) (google), Dublin: Irish Archaeological Society 
  • R (1830), "The Wonders of the Island of Britain" (google), Cambrian quarterly magazine and Celtic repertory 2: 60–  (unable to identity author by his monogaram "R")
(Critical studies)
  • Rhys, John (1901), Celtic folklore: Welsh and Manx (google) 2, Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 520–2; 537–9 

External links

  • Reference to Historia Britonum and notes on the Hunt
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