Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
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Sunday, 28 August 2016

Cerrig Marchogion and the Giant Boar

King Arthur and the Giant Boar

One of the ancient stories related in The Mabinogion concerns a heroic running battle between King Arthur and his knights and a Monstrous Boar called Twrch Trwyth. The unwitting cause of a the trouble was a young prince called Kilhwch or Culhwch, who was madly in love with a young lady called Olwen, whom he had never met. The girl’s father was a wicked giant called Yspaddaden Penkawr, who set all suitors an assortment of seemingly impossible tasks in order to win her hand in marriage. Anyway, to cut a very long story short, King Arthur had agreed to help this young prince in the performance of a number of terrible tasks, which they achieved by means of guile and not a little magic. At last only one task remained - that of stealing a comb, razor and scissors from between the ears of the great boar, a bad-tempered beast who had once been a wicked Irish King. (This task was all down to the fact that Culhwch was a scruffy young man, who needed to tidy himself up a bit if he was to deserve the hand of the fair princess.)

When King Arthur travelled to Ireland to ask politely for the comb, razor and scissors Twrch Trwyth refused to speak to him, let alone make him a present of the desired objects, and instead he swam across to Wales, accompanied by seven young ferocious boars, to ravage Arthur's territory.

The boars landed at Porthclais near St David’s and laid waste the districts around Milford Haven before Arthur and his knights caught up with them and pursued them to the Presely Hills. They fought one battle in the Nevern Valley and then another great and bloody battle in Cwm Cerwyn, the deep depression beneath the summit of Preseli. Here four of Arthur’s knights were killed. Turning at bay a second time the beast slew four more knights and was wounded himself, while several of the young boars were also killed. The chase continued to Llandissilio, then into Cardiganshire, then all over South Wales, with many local people falling victim to the boars and with four more knights slain.

At last only Twrch was left. He was forced to swim out into the Severn estuary, where Arthur managed to grab the razor and scissors from between his ears. The comb was not obtained until the chase reached Cornwall, and then the great boar leaped into the sea and was never seen again.

Armed with the razor, scissors and comb, Arthur cut and combed Culhwch’s hair and gave him a shave. Then he helped him to kill the savage giant called Yspaddaden Penkawr (who was, you may recall, Olwen’s dad), thereby enabling the handsome prince and the beautiful girl to get married and to live happily ever after.

According to the legend, the scattered rocky crags of Cerrig Marchogion (the rocks of the knights), up on the crest of the Preseli ridge, are the petrified remains of the knights who fell in battle. These rocks are made of spotted dolerite, and it is possible that some of the spotted dolerite debris at Stonehenge has come from these crags.


This is from my book of "Pembrokeshire Folk Tales."  More here, via Dropbox:

Pembrokeshire Folk Tales


TonyH said...

Have theorists Tim Darvill and GeoFf Wainwright (and possibly even Rob Ixer, whose surname makes one think of the scissors in this story) cottoned onto the fact that the Tale of the Retreat of Twrch Trwyth sound uncannily, and especially with one 's eyes closed, familiar? Could there be a Folk Memory here, of the wandering movement of certain bluestones into Cardiganshire and then "all over South Wales", before they were taken ACROSS THE SEVERN ESTUARY??

And, you've guessed it, the tidal surge takes its name, the Severn Bore, from this legend of a boar from Ireland???

BRIAN JOHN said...

If you really want to have fun by mixing up all these quarrying fantasies with local folk "memories" you can refer to the Arthurian associations with Preseli, you can talk about the Brynberian afanc, you can talk about the legend that the 4 Carnedd Meibion Owen tors are the petrified remains of the last giants who lived in this district, and even about the fairies at Pentre Ifan. Lots more -- all the stories are in my 4 volumes of folk tales, all available on Dropbox for free viewing!

TonyH said...

Well, I'll drop an email to Tim Darvill, c/o Bournemouth University. However, we really need a HEALING element to our Mega - folk tales to really grab his attention.