April 02, 2021
Y Ddraig Goch ("The Red Dragon") and the Red Dragon of Cadwallader - is a dragon that appears in Celtic Mythology/Welsh Folklore. The dragon itself is named Dewi (modernly Welsh for "David" - after the patron saint of Wales). This is derived from the Great Red Serpent that once represented the old Welsh dragon god Dewi.
Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae, written between 1120 and 1129, links the dragon with the Arthurian legends, including Uther Pendragon the father of Arthur whose name translates as Dragon Head. Geoffrey’s account also tells of the prophecy of Myrddin (or Merlin) of a long fight between a red dragon and a white dragon, symbolising the historical struggle between the Welsh (red dragon) and the English (white dragon).
Interesting fact that King Arthur was one of the first leaders to use the red dragon. It was prominently shown on his helmet.
Few legendary superheroes like Peredur, King Arthur and even more ancient Hu Gadarn (Hugh the Mighty’) are all credited with destruction of a water monster called the Afanc.
Although it is generally referred to as the Afanc singular, each story may refer to a different creature. They are of indeterminate appearance and inhabited more than one lake. One thing they had in common: they were enormously powerful. Sometimes described as taking the form of a crocodile, giant beaver or dwarf, it is also said to be a demonic creature. The Afanc was said to attack and devour anyone who entered its waters.
According to Welsh tradition the Adar Llwch Gwin were giant birds similar in kind to the griffin, which were given to a warrior named Drudwas ap Tryffin by his fairy wife.
The name derives from the Welsh words llwch ("dust") and gwyn (white). These birds were said to understand human speech and to obey whatever command was given to them by their master. However, on one occasion, when Drudwas was about to do battle with the hero Arthur he commanded them to kill the first man to enter the battle. Arthur himself was delayed and the birds immediately turned on Drudwas and tore him to pieces. Later, in medieval Welsh poetry, the phrase Adar Llwch Gwin came to describe all kinds of raptors including hawks, falcons, and sometimes brave men.
Tylwyth Teg is the most usual term in Wales for the mythological creatures corresponding to the fairy folk. Sometimes, "fairy" refers to the diminutive woman with butterfly wings that is well-established in pop culture. In Wales, fairies are called the Tylwyth Teg, which means something along the lines of the "Fair Family." Perhaps unsurprisingly, they share a lot of similarities with their cousins throughout the British Isles, with the result that they show up in a lot of similar stories. For example, there are stories of human men getting married to fairy maidens, who were still required to abide by the taboos of their kind.
Similarly, there are stories of human women choosing to live in the world of fairies, which meant great wonder at the cost of abandoning their human ties. Other stories range from fairies riding out in great processions to clever parents having to recover human children that have been switched out for changelings.
Coblynau are mythical gnome-like creatures that are said to haunt the mines and quarries of Wales and areas of Welsh settlement in America. These mine spirits were relatively good humoured, and helped the miners by knocking in places with rich lodes of mineral, or metal. The Coblynau dressed in miners’ attire, and stood at around 18 inches in height.
Belief in these mine spirits was once widespread especially in Celtic areas which were heavily mined, for example Wales and Cornwall. It is easy to surmise that the dark, cramped, dangerous conditions of a mine, would be conducive to creating belief in supernatural creatures, and other superstitions.
Llamhigyn Y Dwr, also known as Water Leaper is a malicious creature from Welsh mythology and folklore that lived in swamps, ponds, rivers, and lakes. It was said to be a giant, limbless frog or toad with a bat's membranous wings (sometimes even a bird's feathery wings) and a long, reptilian tail with a large stinger at the tip. Its favorite prey were fish, poor sheep who wandered too close to the water's edge, or even fishermen.
The cyhyraeth, also spelled cyoeraeth or cyheuraeth, is a ghostly spirit in Welsh mythology, a disembodied moaning voice that sounds before a person's death. Often compared to an Irish banshee, the Gwrach y Rhibyn takes on a hideous appearance. She often appears as quite ugly with long, black, knotted hair, black teeth, bone-thin arms and legs, a pallid complexion, and, in some cases, leather wings.
The gwyllgi is a mythical dog from Wales that appears as a frightful apparition of a mastiff or Black Wolf with baleful breath and blazing red eyes. Its glowing red eyes and a fiery gaze renders victims paralysed.
There have been many reported sightings of this beast in the North of Wales, including Nant y Garth pass near Denbighshire, Marchwiel in Wrexham and on the Isle of Anglesey; to this day there are still many reported sightings of this fearsome creature.
The Morgen, water spirits, like sirens which lure men to their death by using their own beauty. In particular, accounts exist where Morgens would be adopted by fishermen as infants, only to grow up and leave their adoptive foster-parent behind for their true home under the sea. Not to mention, some women are even recorded as having turned into Morgens.
Detail of Twrch Trwyth sculpture. Tony Woodman's sculpture of three wild boars © Nigel Davies
Twrch Trwyth is a massive, enchanted boar hunted by King Arthur, who wants to retrieve a razor and shears from between the animal's ears, in How Culhwch Won Olwen.
The boar, accompanied by seven piglets, runs amok after landing in Porthclais, near Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, before destroying vast swathes of Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire and killing many of Arthur's pursuing champions.
It is so powerful, even Arthur cannot kill it, although he does manage to fulfil his quest.
Welsh Monsters & Mythical Beasts by C. C. J. Ellis
The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends by Peter Berresford Ellis
Welsh Legends and Myths by Graham Watkins
The Mabinogion: Wales' monsters and mythical beasts by Max Evans. BBC News
August 28, 2023