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Twrch Trwyth is a particularly potent wild boar in the Arthurian legend. The hunt for Twrch Trwyth by King Arthur was the subject of a popular stock narrative in medieval Welsh literature. The fullest account of this great hunt appears in the prose tale Culhwch and Olwen, probably written around 1100, but other references demonstrate that this was a popular subject in Wales for hundreds of years. Both the boar and the hunt have parallels in earlier Welsh and Irish mythology.

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Name and etymology

"Twrch" means "wild boar" in Welsh (other meanings include "hog" and "mole"), and Twrch Trwyth may be cognate with Old Irish Orc tréith "Triath's boar", which is found in Cormac's Irish Glossary. British scholar Rachel Bromwich regards the form Trwyth as a late corruption. In his earliest appearance in the Historia Brittonum, the boar is called Troynt, a Latinization likely from the Welsh Trwyd. Further evidence that Trwyd was the correct form appears in a reference in a later poem.

Historia Brittonum

The earliest reference to Twrch Trwyth appears in the 9th-century Historia Britonum. The section, de mirabilibus britanniae, is a collection of marvels from around Britain. The passage describes a marvel created by Arthur's dog Cabal as he was chasing the boar, here called Troynt:

There is another wonder in the region called Buelt. There is a heap of stones, and one stone laid on the heap having upon it the footmark of a dog. When he hunted the swine Troynt, Cabal, which was a dog of the warrior Arthur, impressed the stone with the print of his foot, and Arthur afterwards collected a heap of stones beneath the stone in which was the print of his dog's foot, and it is called Carn Cabal. And people come and take away the stone in their hands for the space of a day and a night, and on the next day it is found on its heap.

Culhwch and Olwen

Twrch is named as the son of Prince Tared, 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[1].

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, &c. 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 razor, scissors and later the comb are obtained from him through force, and he is driven into the sea off Cornwall and drowned.

Motorcycle Gang

The Twrch Twryth was the name of a motorcycle gang in the Aman valley area of wales, they became the Hells Angels South Wales in 1999

Note

  1. ^ Goulven Peron, Un géant nommé Spézet, pages 48 à 52, Cahier du Poher, n°26, octobre 2009, in french

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