Hu Gadarn
Welsh: "Hu the Mighty"

Welsh Pseudo-Deity

In Iolo Morgannwg's forged third series of Triads in the Myvyrian Archaiology, much is made of a figure called Hu Gadarn, who, is said to have brought the Cymry from the Summer Country (called Deffrobani) to Britain. This "legend" also says that, after Hu had become king of the first Britons, there were a great many floods, caused by an afanc (a monster). He drew the afanc out of Llyn Llion by use of his oxen. Hu and the oxen dragged the afanc to Llyn y Ffynnon Las, where it is magically imprisoned.

There's only one problem with this: there's no evidence that this was ever an authentic tradition.

Now, in the Red Book of Hergest, there is a romance titled "The Expedition of Charlemagne to Jerusalem and Constantinople, and his adventures with Hu Gadarn" and though I have not read it, I have seen descriptions which say that Hu Gadarn is said to be "Emperor of Constantinople." This is not a strange designation, for in "Peredur" we have an "Empress of Constantinople" who makes the title character her lover for fourteen years. Constantinople (or really the Byzantine Empire) was often incorporated into Arthurian legend, and so it was also incorporated into this Charlemagne romance.

The comparison with Peredur is significant, as Peredur is also said to have drawn an afanc out of a lake, this time with the help of a stone that rendered him invisible. The stone was given to him by the Empress of Constantinople. It is likely that Iolo borrowed elements of the Peredur story, perhaps remembering the story of Charlemagne and Hu Gadarn in Constantinople.

Also, the the Book of Taliesin's poem "The Elegy of Aeddon" there is mention of a Hu:

Disturbed is the isle of the praise of Hu,
the isle of the severe recompenser;
Mona of the good bowls, of active manliness.

However, it is uncertain just who this Hu is.

At any rate, when Robert Graves wrote The White Goddess, he based much of his "information" on Iolo Morgannwg's forgeries, as well has his own imagination. Graves proceeded to identify Hu with the horned god Cernunnos by way of a Saint Derfel Gadarn, a historical Welsh saint of the fifth or sixth century who may or may not have fought at Camlann. Supposedly, like there was some sort of deer tradition connected to Derfel, who is usually depicted in armor with a red stag at his feet. Graves works in references (true or not) to sun worship, horned gods, the usual suspects.

Hu was also rather creatively identified with Esus, and thus was sometimes called "Hu Hesus"--and identified by Romantics with Jesus as a savior and bringer of light. It has gotten to the point that many books on Celtic mythology and neopaganism usually claim that Hu Gadarn was a Welsh horned god. This, of course, is as faulty as the Celtic tree calendar and it's supposed zodiac, which Hu shows up in as the Sun.

I've even seem some sites calling him "Hugh Guairy." This is laughable, as Hugh Guairy was an Irish criminal ca. 600 who sought sanctuary with his brother, a bishop. King Dermot MacKerval found him and slew him in the church, invoking the wrath of the Church.


"Hu the Mighty" The Welsh Fairy Book. ed. W. Jenkyn Thomas. 1907. Available as a Dover edition, or on the web at:

"The Elegy of Aeddon" The Four Ancient Books of Wales. ed. W.F. Skene.

"Dermot MacKerval" The Encyclopedia of the Celts.

"The Triads of the Britons" AKA the Iolo version of the Welsh Triads at "Y Tylwyth Teg" NOTE: this site is pretty bizzare--they're a "Welsh Fairy" coven which claims to be 700 years old, and who seems to have gotten into some plagarism scandal with other Wiccan/neopagan groups. At any rate, they posted the Iolo triads at this site, but changed all references to God into Goddess and bishops to druids, and so on. It's flakey as hell, but the only version on the web at this time. For more on the plagarism scandal, read:

The Hu Gadarn Triads

In some cases, namely those where Hu is mentioned first, I have truncated the rest of the triad.

4. There are Three Pillars of the Nation of the Isle of Prydein. The first was HU the Mighty, who brought the nation of the Cymry first to the Isle of Prydein; and they came from the Summer Country, which is also called Defrobani, the Summerland or Atlantia; and they came over the hazy sea to the Isle of Prydein where they settled.

5. There were three social tribes on the Isle of Prydein. The first was the tribe of Cymry, who came to the Isle of Prydein with HU the Mighty, because he would not possess a country and lands by fighting and pursuit, but by justice and tranquility.

54. The three over-ruling counter energies of the Isle of Prydein: Hu the Mighty, who brought the Cymry Nation from the Summerland, called Defrobani, unto the Isle of Prydein

56. The three benefactors of the Cymry nation. First, Hu the Mighty, who first taught the Cymry to plough, when they were i Gwlad yr Hav, before they came to the Isle of Prydein.

57. The three primary inventors of the Cymry. Hu the Mighty, who formed the first mote and retinue over the nation of Cymry

94. The three inventors of song and record of the Cymry nation: Gwyddon Ganhebon, who was the first in the world that composed vocal song; Hu the Mighty, who first applied vocal song to strengthen memory and record; and Tydain the father of poetic genius, who first conferred art on poetic song and made it the medium of record.

99. The three primary and extraordinary works of the Isle of Prydein: the ship of Nwydd Nav Neivion, which brought in it a male and female of all living things when the lake of floods burst forth; the large horned oxen of Hu the Mighty, that drew the crocodile from the lake to the land, so that the lake did not burst any more; and the stone of Gwyddon Ganhebon, upon which all the arts and sciences in the world are engraved.

These are (I assume) the Iolo triads. Several things are worth noting:

  1. That the Summer Country and Nwydd Nav Neivion were later used in Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles
  2. An afanc is not a crocodile, but is translated as "beaver"

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