The Three Powerful Swineherds of the Island of Britain:

Drystan or Drysdan is the same Sir Tristram or Tristan of romance, who was a historical Pictish prince; March is then King Mark, and Essyllt is Isolde. Arthur's attempted deceit is reminicent of Gwydion's same actions towards Pryderi.

Pryderi ap Pwyll is the subject of the Four Brances of the Mabinogi, the first four stories of the Mabinogion, equivalent to the figure of Mabon ap Modron; his father became Lord of the Otherworld for one year, and was the one to introduce swine to Britain. He was forbidden to give the swine away, and was tricked out of them by Gwydion, who was greedy. When Pryderi realized what had happened, he challened Gwydion to a duel; Gwydion killed him using magic.

Coll ap Collfrewy's tale is given above. What's worth noting is that Henwen (or Hen Wen), is the animal form of Cerridwen, goddess of poetic inspiration and keeper of a magic cauldron.

To be a swineherd is actually to be a magician, which Coll is called in other triads. Swine were an otherworldly creature, a gift of the gods, and it is thought that "swineherd" or "pig-keeper" was a way of saying "magician" or druid. This is conjecture, though if one reads Branwen uerch Llyr, it is to his swineherds that Matholwch goes for advice.


Back to the Welsh Triads.

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