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Gwyn ap Nudd

  • Gender – Male
  • Race –
  • Occupation – Gwyn ap Nudd
  • Religion – 
  • Allies – 
  • Enemies – 
  • Abode/ Base of operations –
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Gwyn ap Nudd, the king of the Tylwyth Teg or “fair folk” and ruler of the Welsh Otherworld, Annwn. Described as a great warrior with a “blackened face”, Gwyn is intimately associated with The Otherworld and the Wild Hunt.

Family

Gwyn is the son of Nudd and is consequently grandson to Beli Mawr. His siblings include Edern a warrior, Owain ap Nudd and sister Creiddylad. Through his father, Gwyn’s uncles and aunts include Arianrhod, Llefelys, Penarddun, Afallach and Caswallawn. As a result, he is related both to the House of Lly^r (through his paternal aunt Penarddun) and to the House of Dôn, through his grandfather Beli.

Legends

The Abduction of Creiddylad

Gwyn abducted his sister Creiddylad from her betrothed, Gwythyr ap Greidawl. In retalliation, Gwythyr raised a great host against Gwyn, leading to a vicious battle between the two. Gwyn was victorious and, following the conflict, captured a number of Gwythyr’s noblemen including Nwython and his son Cyledr. Gwyn would later murder Nwython, and force Cyledr to eat his father’s heart. As a result of his torture at Gwyn’s hands, Cyledr went mad, earning the epithet Wyllt.

After the intervention of Arthur, Gwyn and Gwythr agreed to fight for Creiddylad every May Day until Judgement Day. The warrior who was victorious on this final day
would at last take the maiden. According to Culhwch and Olwen, Gwyn was “placed over the brood of devils in Annwn, lest they
should destroy the present race”.

As part of Arthur’s retinue

Before he can win Olwen’s hand, Culhwch ap Cilydd must complete a number of seemingly impossible tasks given to him by Olwen’s father, the giant Ysbaddaden. One of
these tasks is to retrieve the comb and scissors from the head of the vicious boar, Twrch Trwyth. As it is impossible to hunt the boar without Gwyn’s aid, he
is called upon to join Arthur and his retinue against Twrch Trwyth. During the
hunt, he is mounted on Du y Moroedd, the only horse that can carry him. Both Gwyn
and Gwythyr set out with Arthur to retrieve the blood of Orddu, witch of the uplands
of hell.

Other
Exploits

Gwyn
appears prominently in the medieval poem The Dialogue of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno
Garanhir, found in the Black Book of Carmarthen. In this narrative, Gwyn, returning
from battle, chances upon Gwyddno, king of Cantre’r Gwaelod, and grants him his
protection. Gwyn then relates his exploits on the battlefield and his role as
a psychopomp, a mysterious figure who gathers the souls of fallen British warriors,
such as Bran the Blessed, Meurig ap Carreian, Gwendoleu ap Ceidaw and Llacheu
ab Arthur. His skill in combat is extolled in this poem; he is described as “the
hope of armies” and “hero of hosts” and, when asked from which
region he comes, he simply replies: “I come from battle and conflict.

“The
poem ends with Gwyn’s proclamation:

“
I have been I have been where the soldiers of Britain were slain

From
the east to the north

I
am the escort of the grave.

I
have been where the soldiers of Britain were slain.

From
the east to the south

I
am alive, they in death!”

His
role as a psychopomp is paralelled in his later tradition as leader of the Wild
Hunt, in which he leads a pack of supernatural hounds known as the Cw^n Annwn
to harvest human souls. In Welsh folklore, to hear the baying of Gwyn’s hounds
was a portent of imminent death in the family. In The Dialogue, Gwyn is also accompanied
by a hound, namely as Dormarth of the ruddy nose.

Gwyn
apparently witnessed a “conflict” before Caer Vandwy, an otherworldy
fortress mentioned in Preiddeu Annwfn.

Later
Tradition

Over
time, Gwyn’s role would diminish and, in later folklore, he was regarded as the
king of the Tylwyth Teg, the fairies of Welsh lore. He appears as a simpler figure
in Buchedd Collen (The Life of Saint Collen), in which he and his retinue are
vanquished from Glastonbury Tor with the use of Holy Water. As late as the fourteenth
century, Welsh soothsayers would invoke Gwyn’s name before entering woodlands,
naming him as “king of spirits” and “overlord of the woodland”.

The
celebrated fourteenth-century bard, Dafydd ap Gwilym refers to Gwyn in a number
of texts, suggesting that the character was widely-known in Wales during the medieval
period. He refers to the fox as the “fowl of Gwyn ap Nudd”, while Gwyn’s
talaith (family or tribe, presumably the Tylwyth Teg) is described as talaith
y gwynt, “the family of the wind.”

Gwyn
is often associated with the Wild Hunt, in a role akin to Woden or Herne the Hunter.
Some traditions name Gwyn’s chief huntsman as Iolo ap Huw, who, every Halloween,
“may be found cheering Cw^n Annwn over Cader Idris”.

References


1. ^ Davies, Sioned, The Mabinogion. 2007, p. 207
2. ^ The White Goddess:
A Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth. Robert Graves. Octagon Books. 1978. ISBN
0374932395, 9780374932398
3. ^ Culhwch ac Olwen, translated by Lady Charlotte
Guest and sub-edited by Mary Jones.
4. ^ Culhwch ac Olwen, translated by Lady
Charlotte Guest and sub-edited by Mary Jones.
5. ^ Dialogue of Gwyn ap Nudd
and Gwyddno Garanhir
6. ^ Dialogue of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir

7. ^ Dialogue of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir
8. ^ Rhys, John. Celtic
folklore: Welsh and Manx. p. 180-181
9. ^ Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic
Studies, University of Wales. “Proto-Celtic—English lexicon.”

10. ^ J. R. R. Tolkien. 1932. “Reports of the Research Committee of the Society
of Antiquaries of London”

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