From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

In Welsh mythology, Gilfaethwy (Welsh pronunciation: [ɡɪlˈvɛɨθʊɨ]) was a son of the goddess Dôn and brother of Gwydion and Arianrhod in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi.

His uncle Math ap Mathonwy, king of Gwynedd, must keep his feet in the lap of a young virgin at all times unless he is going to war. Gilfaethwy lusts after Math's current foot holder, Goewin, so to get her alone he and Gwydion steal pigs from Pryderi, king of Dyfed, sparking a conflict between the neighboring kingdoms. While his uncle is off fighting, Gilfaethwy sneaks back to Gwynedd and rapes Goewin. Math is furious when he discovers this, and punishes his nephews by transforming them into a series of paired animals using his great skill in magic, thus impressing vividly upon them the brutish ( and brutal ) nature of their transgressions. For a year Gilfaethwy becomes a hind deer and Gwydion a stag; they mate and produce an offspring which is delivered to Math. Next Math makes Gilfaethwy a boar and Gwydion a sow; when they return a year later with a son he makes them wolves. After the third year he relieves them of their punishment and makes them human again.[1]

Gilfaethwy is a minor character in Welsh legend, and may have been used in the Fourth Branch simply to advance the story of his more illustrious brother Gwydion.

In Arthurian Romance[edit]

Like many another character in the Mabinogion, Gilfaethwy has given rise to a character or characters in Arthurian romance - in this instance Sir Griflet, who first appears as Girflet ( or Giflet ) fils Do [2] in the romance Erec et Enide [3] by the twelfth century Champénois master Chrétien de Troyes [4] and appears later as the eponymous hero of the romance Jaufre, the only surviving romance written in the Occitan language.[5]

As Loomis points out, Dôn, goddess mother of Gilfaethwy, has been misconstrued to be a male character by at least as early as the time of composition of Chretien's Erec et Enide :

The Arthurian Do or Don, father of Giflet and Lore, has undergone a strange metamorphosis, from an ancient Brythonic goddess into the castellan of Carlisle and the chief forester of Uterpandragon.


The Lore in the above-quoted passage concerning Don is an abbreviated form of Florée, the Flower Bride, an Arthurian cognate of the Irish Blathnat and Welsh Blodeuwedd.[6]


  1. ^ Jeffrey Gantz (translator, introduction), The Mabinogion, Penguin Books, London, 1976.
  2. ^ MacKillop, James, A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology pub. Oxford University Press, 1998, p.223.
  3. ^ Chrétien de Troyes, 'Erec et Enide' in Chrétien de Troyes - Arthurian Romances, translated from the Old French with an introduction and notes by William W. Kibler, pub. Penguin books in series Penguin Classics, 1991, pps. 37-122.
  4. ^ a b Loomis, Roger Sherman, Arthurian Tradition And Chrétien de Troyes pub. Columbia University Press, New York 1948, page 162.
  5. ^ Arthur, Ross G., ed. (2014) [1992]. Jaufre: an Occitan Arthurian romance. New York: Routledge (Garland). ISBN 9781317693642.
  6. ^ Loomis, Roger Sherman, Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance first pub. Columbia University Press 1926 and reprinted by Constable and Company Limited 1993 ISBN 0 09 472800 3