The Welsh Triads
Llyfr Coch Hergest
The following are the Welsh Triads as recorded in the Red Book of Hergest, ca. 1425. It is a fairly complete version, though differing in order (and much expanded) from the earlier Peniarth 45 version. Unlike Rachel Bromwich's book, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, I am presenting them in the order in which they appear in the manuscript (Jesus MS 111), as I am no focusing on several collections, but only one. My resource in this is John Rhys' and J. Gwenogyrvan Evan's facimilie of the Red Book's Romances, The Text of the Mabinogion and Other Welsh Tales (1887), which has the triads in an appendix. The red initials are indicated in the text, and I have not deviated, even when it seems to be a laps on the part of the scribe.
Three Men Who Received The Might Of Adam:
Hercules the Strong, and Hector the Strong, and Samson the Strong. They were, all three, as strong as Adam himself.
Three Men Who Received the Beauty of Adam:
Absalom son of David; Jason son of Aeson; Paris son of Priam. They were, all three, as comely as Adam himself.
Three Men Who Received the Wisdom of Adam:
Cato the Old, and Bede, and Siblo the Wise. They were, all three, as wise as Adam himself.
Three Women Who Received The Beauty Of Eve in three third-shares:
Diadema, mistress of Aeneas White-Shield, and Elen the Magnificent, the woman on whose account was the destruction of Troy, and Polixena, daughter of Priam the Old, king of Troy.
When a Host went to Llychlyn.
An army (of assistance) went with Yrp of the Hosts to Llychlyn. And that man came here in the time of Cadyal of the Blows(?) to ask for a levy from this Island. And nobody came with him but Mathuthavar his servant. This is what he asked from the ten-and-twenty Chief Fortresses that there are in this Island: that twice as many men as went with him to each of them should come away with him (from it). And to the first Fortress there came only himself and his servant. (And that proved grievous to the men of this Island.) And they granted it to him. And that was the most complete levy that ever departed from this Island. And with those men he conquered the way he went. Those men remained in the two islands close to the Greek sea: namely, Clas and Avena. And the second (army) went with Elen of the Hosts and Maxen Wledig to Llychlyn: and they never returned to this Island. And the third (army) went with Caswallawn son of Beli, and Gwennwynwyn and Gwanar, sons of Lliaw son of Nwyfre, and Arianrhod daughter of Beli their mother. And (it was) from Erch and Heledd that those men came. And they went with Caswallawn their uncle in pursuit of the men of Caesar from this Island. The place where those men are is in Gascony. The number that went with each of (those armies) was twenty-one thousand men. And those were the Three Silver Hosts of the Island of Britain. Three Dishonoured Men who were in the Island of Britain: One of them: Afarwy son of Lludd son of Beli. He first summoned Julius Caesar and the men of Rome to this Island, and he caused the payment of three thousand pounds in money as tribute from this Island every year, because of a quarrel with Caswallawn his uncle. And the second is Gwrtheyrn [Vortigern] the Thin, who first gave land to the Saxons in this Island, and was the first to enter into an alliance with them. He caused the death of Custennin the Younger, son of Custennin the Blessed, by his treachery, and exiled the two brothers Emrys Wledig and Uthur Penndragon from this Island to Armorica, and deceitfully took the crown and the kingdom into his own possession. And in the end Uthur and Emrys burned Gwrtheyrn in Castell Gwerthrynyawn beside the Wye, in a single conflagration to avenge their brother. The third and worst was Medrawd, when Arthur left with him the government of the Island of Britain, at the same time when he himself went across the sea to oppose Lles [Lucius], emperor of Rome, who had dispatched messengers to Arthur in Caerleon to demand (payment of) tribute to him and to the men of Rome, from this Island, in the measure that it had been paid (from the time of) Caswallawn son of Beli until the time of Custennin the Blessed, Arthur's grandfather. This is the answer that Arthur gave to the emperor's messengers: that the men of Rome had no greater claim to tribute from the men of this Island, than the men of the Island of Britain had from them. For Bran son of Dyfnwal and Custennin son of Elen had been emperors in Rome, and they were two men of this Island. And they Arthur mustered the most select warriors of his kingdom (and led them) across the sea against the emperor. And they met beyond the mountain of Mynneu [the Alps], and an untold number was slain on each side that day. And in the end Arthur encountered the emperor, and Arthur slew him. And Arthur's best men were slain there. When Medrawd heard that Arthur's host was dispersed, he turned against Arthur, and the Saxons and the Picts and the Scots united with him to hold this Island against Arthur. And when Arthur heard that, he turned back with all that had survived of his army, and succeeded by violence in landing on this Island in opposition to Medrawd. And then there took place the Battle of Camlan between Arthur and Medrawd, and was himself wounded to death. And from that (wound) he died, and was buried in a hall on the Island of Afallach.
Here Begin the Noble Triads
Three Exalted Prisoners of the Island of Britain:
Llyr Half-Speech, who was imprisoned by Euroswydd, and the second, Mabon son of Modron, and third, Gwair son of Geirioedd. And one (Prisoner), who was more exalted than the three of them. This Exalted Prisoner was Arthur. And it was the same lad who released him from each of these three prisons- Goreu, son of Custennin, his cousin.
Three Fair Princes of the Island of Britain:
Owain son of Urien, Rhun son of Maelgwn, Rhufawn the Radiant son of Dewrarth Wledig.
Three Frivolous Bards of the Island of Britain:
Arthur, and Cadwallawn son of Cadfan, and Rahawd son of Morgant.
Three Fortunate Concealments of the Island of Britain:
The Head of Bran the Blessed, son of Llyr, which was concealed in the White Hill in London, with its face towards France. And as long as it was in the position in which it was put there, no Saxon Oppression would ever come to this Island; The second Fortunate Concealment: The Dragons in Dinas Emrys, which Lludd son of Beli concealed; And the third: the Bones of Gwerthefyr the Blessed, in the Chief Ports of this Island. And as long as they remained in that concealment, no Saxon Oppression would ever come to this Island. And they were the Three Unfortunate Disclosures when these were disclosed. And Gwrtheyrn the Thin disclosed the bones of Gwerthefyr the Blessed for the love of a woman. That was Ronnwen the pagan woman; And it was he who disclosed the Dragons; And Arthur disclosed the Head of Bran the Blessed from the White Hill, because it did not seem right to him that this Island should be defended by the strength of anyone, but by his own.
Three Horses who carried the Three Horse-Burdens:
Black Moro, horse of Elidir Mwynfawr, who carried on his back seven and a half people from Penllech in the North to Penllech in Môn. These were the seven people: Elidir Mwynfawr, and Eurgain his wife, daughter of Maelgwn Gwynedd, and Gwyn Good Companion, and Gwyn Good Distributor, and Mynach Naomon his counsellor, and Prydelaw the Cupbearer, his butler, and Silver Staff his servant, and Gelbeinevin his cook, who swam with his two hands to the horse's crupper - and that was the half-person. Corvan, horse of the sons of Eliffer, bore the second Horse-Burden: he carried on his back Gwrgi and Peredur and Dunawd the Stout and Cynfelyn the Leprous(?), to look upon the battle-fog of (the host of) Gwenddolau (in) Ar(f)derydd. And no one overtook him but Dinogad son of Cynan Garwyn, (riding) upon Swift Roan, and he won censure and dishonour from then till this day. Heith, horse of the sons of Gwerthmwl Wledig, bore the third Horse-Burden: he carried Gweir and Gleis and Archanad up the hill of Maelawr in Ceredigion to avenge their father.
Three Roving Fleets of the Island of Britain:
The Fleet of Llawr son of Eiryf, and the Fleet of Divwng son of Alan, and the Fleet of Solor son of Murthach.
Three Harmful Blows of the Island of Britain:
The first of them Matholwch the Irishman struck upon Branwen daughter of Llyr; The second Gwenhwyfach struck upon Gwenhwyfar: and for that cause there took place afterwards the Action of the Battle of Camlan; And the third Golydan the Poet struck upon Cadwaladr the Blessed.
Three Unrestrained Ravagings of the Island of Britain:
The first of them when Medrawd came to Arthur's Court at Celliwig in Cornwall; he left neither food nor drink in the court that he did not consume. And he dragged Gwenhwyfar from her royal chair, and then he struck a blow upon her; The second Unrestrained Ravaging when Arthur came to Medrawd's court. He left neither food nor drink in the court; And the third Unrestrained Ravaging when Aeddan the Wily came to the court of Rhydderch the Generous at Alclud [Dumbarton]; he left neither food nor drink nor beast alive.
Three Quests that were obtained from Powys:
The first of them is the fetching of Myngan from Meigen to Llansilin, by nine the next morning, to receive privileges from Cadwallawn the Blessed, after the slaying of Ieuaf and Griffri; The second is the fetching of Griffri to Bryn Griffri before the following morning, to attack Edwin; The third is the fetching of Hywel son of Ieuaf to Ceredigiawn from the Rock of Gwynedd to fight with (on the side of?) Ieuaf and Iago in that battle.
These Are the Noble Triads:
Three Great Queens of Arthur:
Gwennhwyfar daughter of Cywryd Gwent, and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwythyr son of Greidiawl, and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gogfran the Giant.
Three Amazons of the Island of Britain:
The first of them, Llewei daughter of Seitwed, and Rore(i) daughter of Usber, and Mederei Badellfawr.
Three Noble Retinues of the Island of Britain:
The Retinue of Mynyddawg at Catraeth, and the Retinue of Dreon the Brave at the Dyke of Ar(f)dery(dd), and the third, the Retinue of Belyn of Llyn (in) Erethlyn in Rhos.
Three Great Enchantments of the Island of Britain:
The Enchantment of Math son of Mathonwy which he taught to Gwydion son of Dôn, and the Enchantment of Uthyr Pendragon which he taught to Menw son of Teirgwaedd, and the Enchantment of Rudlwm the Dwarf which he taught to Coll son of Collfrewy his nephew.
Three Chief Officers of the Island of Britain:
Gwydar son of Rhun song of Beli; and Cawrdaf son of Caradawg; and Owain son of Maxen Wledig.
Three Well-Endowed Men of the Island of Britain:
Rhiwallawn Broom-hair, and Gwal(chmai) son of Gwyar, and Llachau son of Arthur.
Three Unfortunate Counsels of the Island of Britain:
To give place for their horses' fore-feet on the land to Julius Caesar and the men of Rome, in requital for Meinlas; and the second: to allow Horsa and Hengist and Rhonwen into this Island; and the third: the three-fold dividing by Arthur of his men with Medrawd at Camlan.
Three Diademed Men of the Island of Britain:
Gweir son of Gwystyl, and Cei son of Cynyr, and Drystan son of Tallwch.
Three Red Ravagers of the Island of Britain:
Rhun son of Beli, and Lleu Skilful Hand, and Morgant the Wealthy. But there was one who was a Red Ravager greater than all three: Arthur was his name. For a year neither grass nor plants used to spring up where one of the three would walk; but where Arthur went, not for seven years.
Three Seafarers of the Island of Britain:
Geraint son of Erbin, and Gwenwynwyn son of Naf, and March son of Meirchiawn.
Three Chieftains of Arthur's Court:
Gobrwy son of Echel Mighty-Thigh, and Ffleudur Fflam son of Godo, and Caedrieith son of Seidi.
Three Bull-Chieftains of the Island of Britain:
Adaon son of Taliesin, and Cynhafal son of Argad, and Elinwy son of Cadegr.
Three Chieftains of Deira and Bernicia, and the Three were Sons of a Bard:
Gall son of Disgyfdawd, and Ysgafnell son of Disgyfdawd, and Diffydell son of Disgyfdawd.
These Three performed the Three Fortunate Assassinations:
Gall son of Dysgyfdawd who slew the Two Birds of Gwenddolau. And they had a yoke of gold on them. Two corpses of the Cymry they ate for their dinner, and two for their supper; And Ysgafnell son of Dysgyfdawd, who slew Edelfled king of Lloegr; And Diffydell son of Dysgyfdawd who slew Gwrgi Garwlwyd ('Rough Grey'). That Gwrgi used to make a corpse of one of the Cymry every day, and two on each Saturday so as not to slay on Sunday.
Three Savage Men of the Island of Britain, who performed the Three Unfortunate Assassinations:
Llofan Llaw Ddifro who slew Urien son of Cynfarch; Llongad Grwm Fargod Eidyn who slew Afaon son of Taliesin; and Heiden son of Efengad who slew Aneirin of Flowing Verse, daughter of Teyrnbeirdd--the man who used to give a hundred kine every Saturday in a bath-tub to Talhaearn. And he struck her with a woodhatchet on the head. And that was one of the Three Hatchet-Blows. The second (was) a woodcutter of Aberffraw who struck Golydan with a hatchet, on the head. And the third, one of his own men struck upon Iago, son of Beli, with a hatchet, on the head.
Three Battle-Leaders of the Island of Britain:
Selyf son of Cynan Garrwyn, and Urien son of Cynfarch, and Afaon son of Taliesin. This is why they were called battle-leaders: because they avenged their wrongs from their graves. [?]
Three Pillars of Battle of the Island of Britain:
Dunawd son of Pabo Pillar of Britain, and Gwallawg son of Lleenawg, and Cynfelyn the Leprous.
Three Generous men of the Island of Britain:
Nudd the Generous, son of Senyllt, Mordaf the Generous, son of Serwan, and Rhydderch the Generous, son of Tudwal Tudglyd.
Three Brave Men of the Island of Britain:
Gruddnei, and Henben, and Edenawg. They would not return from battle except on their biers. And those were three sons of Gleissiar of the North, by Haearnwedd the Wily their mother.
Three Arrogant Men of the Isle of Britain:
Gwibei the Arrogant, and Sawyl High-Chief, and Arnuawn Penyr the Arrogant.
Three Prostrate Chieftains of the Island of Britain:
Llywarch the Old son of Elidir Llydanwyn, and Manawydan son of Llyr Half-Speech, and Gwgon Gwron son of Peredur son of Eliffer of the Great Retinue. And this is why those were called 'Prostrate Chieftains': because they would not seek a dominion, which nobody could deny to them.
Three Enemy-Subduers of the Island of Britain:
Greidiawl Enemy-Subduer son of Envael Adrann, and Gweir of Great Valour, and Drystan son of Tallwch.
Three Slaughter-Blocks of the Island of Britain:
Gilbert son of Cadgyffro, and Morfran son of Tegid, and Gwgawn Red-Sword.
Three Gate-Keepers at the Action of Bangor Orchard:
Gwgon Red Sword, and Madawg son of Rhun, and Gwiawn son of Cyndrwyn. And three others on the side of Lloegr:
Hawystyl the Arrogant, and Gwaetcym Herwuden, and Gwiner.
Three Golden Corpses of the Island of Britain:
Madawg son of Brwyn, and Cengan Peilliawg, and Rhu(f)awn the Radiant son of Gwyddno.
Three Fettered War-Bands of the Islands of Britain:
The War-Band of Cadwallawn Long-Arm, who each one put the fetters of their horses on their (own) feet, when fighting with Serygei the Irishman at the Irishmens' Rocks in Môn; And the second, the War-Band of Rhiwallawn son of Urien when fighting with the Saxons; And the third, the War-Band of Belyn of Llyn when fighting with Edwin at Bryn Edwin in Rhos.
Three Faithful War-Bands of the Island of Britain:
The War-Band of Cadwallawn, when they were fettered; and the War-Band of Gafran son of Aeddan, at the time of his complete disappearance; and the War-Band of Gwenddolau son of Ceidiaw at Ar(f)derydd, who continued the battle for a fortnight and a month after their lord was slain. The number of each one of the War-Bands was twenty-one hundred men.
Three Faithless War-Bands of the Islands of Britain:
The War-Band of Goronwy the Radiant of (Penllyn), who refused to receive the poisoned spear from Lleu Skilful-Hand on behalf of their lord, at the Stone of Goronwy at the head of the Cynfal; and the War-Band of Gwrgi and Peredur, who abandoned their lord at Caer Greu, when they had an appointment to fight the next day with Eda Great-Knee; and there they were both slain; And the War-Band of Alan Fyrgan, who turned away from him by night, and let him go with his servants to Camlan. And there he was slain.
Three Fettered Men of the Island of Britain:
Cadwaladr the Blessed, and Rhun son of Maelgwn, and Rhiwallawn Broom-Hair. And this is why those men were called Fettered: because horses could not be obtained that were suited to them, owing to their size; so they put fetters of gold around the small of their legs, on the cruppers of their horses, behind their backs; and two golden plates under their knees, and because of this the knee is called 'knee-pan'.)
Three Bull-Spectres of the Island of Britain:
Three Spectre of Gwidawl, and the Spectre of Llyr Marini, and the Spectre of Gyrthmwl Wledig.
Three Wild Spectres of the Island of Britain:
The Spectre of Banawg, and the Spectre of Ednyfedawg the Sprightly, and the Spectre of Melen.
Three Unrestricted Guests of Arthur's Court, and Three Wanderers:
Llywarch the Old, and Llemenig, and Heledd.
Three Faithful Women of the Island of Britain:
Arddun wife of Cadgor son of Gorolwyn, and Efeilian wife of Gwydyr the Heavy, and Emerchred wife of Mabon son of Dewengan.
Three Red-Speared Bards of the Island of Britain:
Dygynnelw, bard of Owain son of Urien, and Arouan Bard Selen son of Cynan, and Afan Ferddig, bard of Cadwallawn son of Cadfan.
Three Exalted Prisoners of the Island of Britain:
Llyr Half-Speech, who was imprisoned by Euroswydd, and the second, Mabon son of Modron, and third, Gwair son of Geirioedd. And one (Prisoner), who was more exalted than the three of them, was three nights in prison in Caer Oeth and Anoeth, and three nights imprisoned by Gwen Pendragon, and three nights in an enchanted prison under the Stone of Echymeint. This Exalted Prisoner was Arthur. And it was the same lad who released him from each of these three prisons- Goreu, son of Custennin, his cousin.
For some reason, the scribe repeats this triad, which was the first after the account of the Host of Llychlyn. Here, though, the triad is expanded to include the locations of Arthur's imprisonment. Goreu also appears in Culhwch and Olwen as the killer of Yspaddaden Penkawr.
These Are the Triads of the Horses:
Three Bestowed Horses of the Island of Britain:
Meinlas [Slender Grey], horse of Caswallawn son of Beli, Melyngan Gamre [Pale Yellow of the Stud], horse of Lleu Skilful-Hand, and Lluagor [Host-Splitter], horse of Caradawg Strong-Arm.
Three Chief Steeds of the Island of Britain:
Tall Black-Tinted, horse of Cynan Garrwyn, and Eager Long Fore-Legs, horse of Cyhored son of Cynan, and Red... Wolf-Tread, horse of Gilbert son of Cadgyffro.
Three Plundered Horses of the Island of Britain:
Karnaflawc [Cloven-Hoof], horse of Owain son of Urien, and Long Tongue, horse of Cadwallawn son of Cadfan, and Bucheslom, horse of Gwgawn of the Red Sword
Three Lively Steeds of the Island of Britain:
Gwineu Gwdwc Hir [Chestnut Long-neck] horse of Cei, and Grei hourse of Edwin, and Llwyd [Grey] horse of Alfer son of Maelgwn.
Three Adulterers' Horses of the Island of Britain:
Fferlas [Grey Fetlock] horse of Dalldaf son of Cunin, and Gwelwgan Gohoewgein horse of Caradawg son of Gwallawc, and Gwrbrith [Spotted Dun] horse of Rahawd.
Tri penn uarch ynys brydein dugant y tri marchlwyth y mae eu henwen dracheuyn.
Is this a mistake of the scribe, leaving the triad incomplete?
Three Powerful Swineherds of the Island of Britain:
Pryderi son of Pwyll, Lord of Annwfn, tending the swine of Penndaran Dyfed his foster-father. These swine were the seven animals which Pwyll Lord of Annwfn brought, and gave them to Penndaran Dyfed his foster-father. And the place where he used to keep them was in Glyn Cuch in Emlyn. And this is why he was called a Powerful Swineherd: because no one was able either to deceive or to force him; and the second, Drystan son of Tallwch, tending the swine of March son of Meirchyawn, while the swineherd went with a message to Essyllt. Arthur and March and Cai and Bedwyr were (there) all four, but they did not succeed in getting so much as one pigling - neither by force, nor by deception, nor by stealth; And the third, Coll son of Collfrewy, tending the swine of Dallwyr Dallben in Glyn Dallwyr in Cornwall. And one of the swine was pregnant, Henwen was her name. And it was prophecied that the Island of Britain would be the worse for the womb-burden. Then Arthur assembled the army of the Island of Britain, and set out to seek to destroy her. And then she set off, about to bring forth (?), and at Penrhyn Awstin in Cornwall she entered the sea, and the Powerful Swineherd after her. And in the Wheat Field in Gwent she brought forth a grain of wheat and a bee. And therefore from that day to this the Wheat Field in Gwent is the best place for wheat and for bees. And at Llonion in Pembroke she brought forth a grain of barley and a grain of wheat. Therefore, the barley of Llonion is proverbial. At the Hill of Cyferthwch in Arfon she brought forth a (wolf-cub) and a young eagle. The wolf was given to (M)ergaed and the eagle to Breat, a prince of the North: and they were both the worse for them. And at Llanfair in Arfon under the Black Rock she brought forth a kitten, and the Powerful Swineherd threw it from the Rock into the sea. And the sons of Palug fostered it in Môn, to their own harm: and that was Palug's Cat, and it was one of the Three Great Oppressions of Môn, nurtured therein. The second was Daronwy, and the third was Edwin, king of Lloegr.
It is worth noting that this triad is likely the inspiration of Lloyd Alexander's series The Chronicles of Prydein, an award-winning fantasy series that retells elements of Welsh legend and myth contained in the Red Book, particularly the Mabinogi and the triads. Henwen the pig, Coll, Dallben, Gwydion, and Pryderi all play prominent rolls in the series.
Three Favourites of Arthur's Court, and Three Battle-Horsemen: they would never endure a PENTEULU over them. And Arthur sang an ENGLYN:
These are my Three Battle-Horsemen:
and Lludd Llurugawc [of the Breastplate],
and the Pillar of the Cymry, Caradawg.
Three Golden Shoemakers of the Island of Britain:
Caswallawn son of Beli, when he went to Rome to seek Fflur; and Manawydan son of Llyr, when the Enchantment was on Dyfed; and Lleu Skilful-Hand, when he and Gwydion were seeking a name and arms from his mother Ar(i)anrhod.
Three Kings who were (sprung) from Villeins:
Gwriad son of Gwrian in the North, and Cadafel son of Cynfeddw in Gwynedd, and Hyfaidd son of Bleiddig in Deheubarth.
Three Defilements of the Severn:
Cadwallawn when he went to the Action of Digoll, and the forces of Cymry with him; and Edwin on the other side, and the forces of Lloegr with him. And then the Severn was defiled from its source to its mouth; The second, the gift of Golydan from Einiawn son of Bedd, king of Cornwall; And the third, Calam the horse of Iddon son of Ner from Maelgwn...
Here the triads end, according to Rhys and Evans.