Twrch Trwyth

Twrch Trwyth is the name of a particularly potent wild boar Culhwch is instructed to hunt in the Middle Welsh prose tale 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.

"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.

The tasks of Ysbaddaden the giant

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.

Hunting Twrch Trwyth

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.

Slaying Twrch Trwyth

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.

Other references

Twrch Trwyth is referred to in the 9th century Historia Britonum:

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 [=Twrch Trwyth], Cabal [Welsh Cafall], 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.

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