Wales has a rich tapestry of legends and folklore that weaves its way through poetry and literature from pre- medieval times through into the modern day, where the stories, so fantastic and magical, are kept alive by passionate storytellers, filmmakers and television portrayals. Many of these creatures take the form of an ordinary animal that has morphed and shape shifted into something grotesque or monstrous in proportion. I have selected just five of these mythical creatures for this article to give you a taste of the legends that our green valleys hold dear. No ordinary animals, these creatures would be quite at home in a Harry Potter movie and are all from Welsh mythology.
Cath Palug, according to Welsh legend was a cat of monstrous proportions, born in Gwynedd by Henwen the pig of Cornwall. The cat went on to haunt the Isle of Anglesey and was said to have slaughtered 180 warriors when Sir Kay went hunting it down.
Other variations of a name for the cat are Cath Paluc, Cath Balug, Cath Balwg. Its name has a variety of possible meanings, but one most likely is “scratching cat.” The Cat was always seen near water, as it had an aquatic nature, like another monstrous cat – that of the devil cat of the Lake of Lausanne which had a legendary fight with Arthur.
Henwen The Pig
Henwen is a sow, a female pig who in Welsh legend, gave birth to Cath Palug the monstrous cat. The word Henwen means “Old White.” According to the triad “Three Powerful Swineherds of the Isle of Britain” the pig was kept by Coll, who was the son of Collfrewy, a pigkeeper for Dallwyr Dallben. When the sow was ready to give birth, she was chased until she plunged into the sea in Cornwall and re-emerged onto land at Aber Tarogi in Gwent. She was portrayed to be a clairvoyant pig in The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. She went on to give birth to other weird offspring too such as a grain of wheat crossed with a bee in a wheat field in Gwent, and at the Hill of Cyferthwch in Eryri, she bore a wolf cub and eaglet.
Adar Llwch Gwin
In Welsh legend, these were giant griffin type birds that were given to a warrior named Drudwas ap Tryffin by his fairy wife. The name is a derivative from the Welsh word for wine (llwch “dust” and gwin “wine”) These mythical birds were said to understand human language and obey every command from their masters. On one occasion, however, when Drudwas was about to go into battle with Arthur, he ordered the birds to kill the first man to enter the battleground. Arthur was delayed, and so the birds turned onto their master and tore him to pieces. In medieval Welsh poetry, the term Adar Llwch Gwim was used to describe raptors, hawks, falcons and heroic men.