return to main page

Triads of Ynys Prydein

The Triads may be considered amongst the most valuable and curious productions; preserved in the Welsh language. They contain a great number of memorials of the remarkable events which took place among the Ancient Britons. Unfortunately, they are entirely deficient with respect to dates; and, considered by themselves, are not well adapted to preserve the connection of history. Yet the collection of Triads, combined together, as they are, contain more information into a small compass than is to be accomplished perhaps by any other method. ConsequentIy such a mode of composition is superior to all others for the formation of a system of tradition. This is a system which was matured to the highest state of perfection under the bardic institution. It was applied to the purpose of transmitting every kind of knowledge and science.

These historical triads are not to be considered as the productions of any one individual, or of any one period of time; but an accumulation, formed successively, by national concurrence, as the various events appeared and became recognized in public observation. Therefore, some of them are extremely ancient; others record many things that happened within the scope of the ordinary track of history; and some even reach to as late a period as the twelfth century. Copies of these generally varying in the extent of the collections, abound in a great number of our old manuscripts; and, represent a variety of the readings, altered over time as one hero or location became more important, such as the case with King Arthur.

The most ancient of the Cambrian bards taught in verse, and preserved the records through the medium of rhyme and measure. Their verses consisted of stanzas of three lines, called, Englyn Miliar, or the Warrior's Triplet, each containing seven syllables. The following stanza composed by a poet and a prince in the beginning of the sixth century, will serve as a specimen:

Yr ystwfwl, a'r hwn draw,
Mwy gorddyvnaeal amdanaw
Elwch llu, a llwybyr anaw !

The buttress here, and not that one there,
More congenial round them would have been
The clamor of an army, and the paths of melody !

This shows the origin of triads for when laws were to be enacted and historic facts preserved, they were thrown into the triadic form. This was done to aid the memory in recitation, because in those times writing was but little practiced, and, as far as the peculiarities of the bardic system were concerned, it was absolutely forbidden.

After the triads, the Genealogies of the British Saints are to he considered as next in antiquity and worthy of attention, on account of the use they may be towards the elucidation of history.

The most reliable version of the Triads is in Myvyrian Archaiology volume 2 (1870) (pdf)
which contains a compilation of Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt, John Jones Peniarth 267, and Moses Williams in Llanstephan 65

Other references are:

The Drioedd Ynys Prydien - Richards version translated by William Probert listed above is show below:

(I have indicated in parentheses the assigned numbers of the late Rachel Bromwich in "Trioedd Ynys Prydein", University of Wales Press. These 96 Triads are shown after for comparison. The order of the triads is also hers. There are some in her book that have no counterpart with Drioedd Ynys Prydien and shown without a first number. Those not matched to the book at shown at the end without a number in parenthesis.

The abbreviations used by her are:

The following triads are those of Drioedd Ynys Prydien that do not match those of Bromwich and with the possibility that some were constructed in the 18th-19th century by Iolo Morganwg, I have been deleted ones that appear to be gibberish:

Suggested ways on the use of the Triads to establish the identities of Arthur and Merlyn.
return to main page