Thursday, October 25, 2012

Twrch Trwyth - The Boar of the Hunt

Twrch Trwyth
(originally Trwyd), the supernatural boar, is best known as the climactic 'anoeth' (difficult task) set for Arthur and his heroes (including Mabon fab Modron) in ‘Culhwch and Olwen’, and the chase across south Wales (Cymru) and over the Severn estuary to Cernyw (Kernow) is used as a framework for inserting many accounts of remarkable localities and place-names. The hunt of Yskithyrwyn Penn Beidd (‘White-tusk Chief Boar’) can be understood as a narrative doublet, artfully building the mood for the mightier boar hunt to follow. Twrch Trwyth itself has a band of seven lethal offspring: Banw (young pig), Bennwic, Grugyn Gwrych Ereint (Grugyn silver bristles), Llwydawc Gouynnyat (Llwydawc the hewer), Twrch Llawin, Gwys, and one unnamed boar. As well as being remarkable for his size and destructiveness and carrying between his ears the comb, razor, and shears demanded by Ysbaddaden the giant, Twrch Trwyth is said to be the son of the king Taredd Wledic; according to Arthur, he was ‘a king transformed by God into a hog (hwch) for his sins’ (cf. reincarnation; Math fab Mathonwy). The fact that Trwyth is not killed in the story but driven back out to sea may mean that the storyteller and his audience knew of the boar’s presence in subsequent adventures, now lost.

Like Arthur’s wife Gwenhwyfar, corresponding to Irish Findabair, and his sword Caledfwlch, Irish Caladbolg, Twrch Trwyth is equivalent to orc tréith, explained as ‘a king’s son’ in Sanas Chormaic (‘Cormac’s Glossary’). Old Irish orc means ‘young pig’ and tríath (gen. tréith) can mean either ‘king’ or ‘boar’. In the Middle Irish tract ‘The Tuath Dé Miscellany’, edited by Carey (BBCS 39.24–45), we find Triath rí torcraide (Triath king of the boars). The Welsh spelling trwyt (Modern trwyd), which does occur, could be the exact cognate of triath, implying Common Celtic *tritos. Therefore, although a common inheritance of loan from Welsh to Irish is not easily disproved, the Irish Torc Triath is pivotal to the theory of a kernel of Irish material near the starting-point of the Arthurian tradition.

Arthur’s hunt of Porcum Troit and other places and episodes found in Culhwch are mentioned in south Walian contexts in the mirabilia (marvels) of the 9th century Historia Brittonum. Therefore, some version of this part of the story was already well known and localized that early. This evidence is consistent with Padel’s theory of an originally unhistorical character who began as a figure in local folklore (cf. Arthurian sites). The allusion to Trychdrwyt (attacked in a river for his valuables) in Gwarchan Cynfelyn in Llyfr Aneirin, as well as other occurrences in poetry, show that the correct original name was Trwyd, Trwyth originating as a scribal error.


 I plan to take this story, in its fragments and make an adventure module based around this hunt. The players will be not only involved in it along with Arthur and his warriors, but also have their own side adventures and story-lines on the side. In my recent Arthurian campaign I integrated this into the main story and it was a memorable series of adventures that gave many brilliant moments and memories. Look for this at module #7 in the next few months, after the next few come out! 

No comments:

Post a Comment