Ceri Shaw



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Brenin Llwyd: The Enigmatic Grey King of Welsh Folklore

user image 2023-11-12
By: Ceri Shaw
Posted in: Folklore


Jason.nlw , CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

We were all amazed and/or amused to hear that 'bigfoot tracks', together with a crude shelter have been discovered in a wood outside Caerphilly in south Wales. To read more about this story and the humorous expanation which followed read the article linked here: Welsh Bigfoot revealed as Monster hunter lifts lid on tracks from 6ft7 'Sasquatch'.

But tales of hairy monsters in the mist are not new in Welsh mythology. Indeed Welsh folklore is rich with tales of mystical beings and otherworldly entities, and among them stands the enigmatic figure known as Brenin Llwyd, the Grey King. Nestled in the mist-shrouded mountains of Snowdonia, Brenin Llwyd's presence looms large, captivating the imagination of locals and inspiring both awe and fear. This mythical character, often associated with nature's capriciousness, has left an indelible mark on Welsh storytelling, and echoes of the Grey King's reign continue to resonate through both ancient legends and modern literature.

The Mystique of the Grey King: A Presence in the Mist

Described as the Monarch of the Mists, Brenin Llwyd is a solitary figure, haunting the mountainous regions, particularly in Snowdonia. The name itself, Brenin Llwyd, translates to Grey King in Welsh, reflecting the figure's association with the color grey, often veiled in clouds and mist. While some accounts merely describe the Brenin Llwyd as a presence, others paint a more vivid picture, portraying it as a large, hairy, man-like creature.

Local tales depict the Brenin Llwyd as a brooding and silent figure, lying in wait for unsuspecting travelers who dare to venture into its domain. The disposition attributed to this Grey King is decidedly gruesome; those who disappeared in the mountains were said to have fallen victim to the Brenin Llwyd's clutches. In this narrative, the figure embodies the capricious nature of nature itself, a force to be respected and feared.

Mountainous Haunts and Regional Variations

The Brenin Llwyd is intimately connected to specific mountain ranges, with Snowdonia being the primary locale. The misty peaks of Cader Idris and Plinlimmon are frequently cited as the Grey King's favored haunts. In the North, the Brenin Llwyd is described as mighty and powerful, sitting among the mountains, robed in grey clouds and mist. Conversely, in the South, the figure is portrayed as hungering for victims, and children are warned not to ascend too high into the mountains, lest they fall prey to the Brenin Llwyd.

The regional variations in these stories add depth to the mythology, providing different perspectives on the nature and motivations of the Grey King. As with many folklore tales, these variations contribute to the cultural tapestry of Wales, where each locality weaves its unique narrative around the Brenin Llwyd.

Connections to Welsh Mythology and Otherworldly Realms

While the Brenin Llwyd is a singular entity in Welsh folklore, its tales draw connections to broader Welsh mythology. Marie Trevelyan, a folklorist from the early 20th century, notes associations between the Brenin Llwyd and the Welsh version of the Celtic Otherworld, Annwn. The figure's link to the Cŵn Annwn, or hunting hounds, suggests a deeper connection to the supernatural realms.

In certain accounts, the Brenin Llwyd is likened to Gwyn ap Nudd, the king of the Tylwyth Teg, another supernatural being associated with haunting mountain tops. The overlap with the Wild Hunt, a pan-European motif, draws parallels between the Grey King's pursuit of lost hikers and similar spectral hunts found in folklo re across different cultures.

Literary Echoes: Brenin Llwyd in Modern Fiction

61ugO6ZdPRL._SY466_.jpg The influence of Brenin Llwyd extends beyond oral traditions into modern literature. Susan Cooper's fantasy series, The Dark is Rising , features the Brenin Llwyd prominently in the fourth book titled The Grey King . Cooper's rendition of the Grey King as a lord of the Dark, an oppressive force around Cadair Idris, showcases the adap tability of folklore in contemporary storytelling. The novel, winning the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1976, cements the Brenin Llwyd's place in the realm of children's literature.

The novel weaves the Grey King into a dark and moody narrative, capturing the essence of the Brenin Llwyd's mysterious and foreboding nature. The spectral foxes, known as "milgwn," serve as agents of the Grey King, adding an otherworldly and supernatural layer to the story. Through this adaptation, the Brenin Llwyd continues to captivate audiences, proving the enduring power of folklore to inspire and shape imaginative worlds.

Comparisons with Global Folklore: The Big Grey Man and Beyond

The Brenin Llwyd's tales find intriguing parallels with other folklore figures worldwide. In Scotland, the Big Grey Man, or Am Fear Liath Mòr, shares similarities with the Welsh Grey King. Both are associated with misty mountainous regions, and legends attribute their presence to both corporeal and incorporeal interpretations. The melding of natural landscapes with supernatural entities is a common motif, demonstrating the universal human tendency to personify and mythologize the unknown.

Conclusion: Brenin Llwyd, A Timeless Enigma

Brenin Llwyd, the Grey King of Welsh folklore, stands as a timeless enigma, a figure whose presence echoes through misty mountain ranges and weaves its way into the fabric of Welsh storytelling. Whether a brooding earth spirit, a leader of the Wild Hunt, or a lord of the Dark, the Brenin Llwyd's adaptability across regional variations and literary adaptations showcases its enduring appeal. As long as the mists enshroud the peaks of Snowdonia, the tales of the Brenin Llwyd will continue to capture the imagination and curiosity of those drawn to the mystique of Welsh folklore.