The Welsh Triad

The Welsh Triads are otherwise known as the Triads of the Island of Britain (Britain is also referred to as Prydain).

The word Triads is gotten from the word “Tri” which means three. In literature the Triad is a rhetorical form whereby Items/ objects are grouped together in threes, with a heading or title that shows the point of similarity. For instance “Three things cannot be controlled; the speed of light; the flow of a torrent; and the tongue of a fool.”

triads in art

The Triads of the Island of Prydain/ Britain are a group of similar texts in Medieval Manuscript which protect and preserve pieces of Welsh folklore, mythology and traditional history in groups of three. Some triads simply give a number of three characters with something connected. An example is “the three frivolous bards of the Island of Britain.

Some of Welsh Triads are variants of the manuscripts such as the Red Book of Hergest, but others are original series. The earliest collection is found in National Library of Wales Ms Peniarth 16, dating to the third quarter of the 13th century. There are other compiled collections in the White Book of Rhydderch.

Rachel Bromich whose edition and study remains the standard reference, argues that while none of the Triads in their current form are much older than the ninth century, it is clear that some of them give a medieval Welsh view of Pre-Saxon history, characters and events of the British heroic time of sixth to seventh centuries.

Many of the Triads refer to King Arthur or to the Arthurian characters like Drystan, who came to be associated with him.

trioedd ynys prydein or the Triads of the Island of BritainBelow are most of the triads arranged below in the numbering system for easy reference.

  1. The three primary divisions of the Isle of Britain
  2. The three pillars of the nation of the Isle of Britain
  3. The three social fibers on the Isle of Britain
  4. The three refuge-seeking tribes that came to the island of Britain
  5. The three Invading tribes of the Island of Britain.
  6. The treacherous invasions of the Island of Britain
  7. The three disappearances by loss in the Isle of Britain
  8. The three oppressions that came upon the isle of Britain
  9. The three frightful plagues in the Island of Britain
  10. The three awful events in the Island of Britain
  11. The three combined expeditions that went from the Island of Britain
  12. The mighty invasions of the Isle of Britain.
  13. The three primary tribes of the Cambrians
  14. The three monarchs by the verdict of the Island of Britain
  15. The three holy families in the Island of Britain
  16. The three benignant guests of the Isle of Britain.
  17. The three compeers of the court of Arthur; Dalldav son of Cynin Cov; Trystan son of MAarch son of Meirchion; and Rhyhawd son of Morgant son of Adras.
  18. The three princes of the court of Arthur were Goronwy son of Echel of Vorddwydtwll; Cadraith, son of Porthor Godo; Vleidur Vlam son of Godo.
  19. The three Kingly Knights of King Arthur’s court; Morgan the Greatlt Courteous son of Adras; Medrawd son of Llew son of Cynvarch; and Howel son of Emyr of Amorica.
  20. The three continual Knights of Arthurs’ court-Cadawg son of Gwynlliw, Illtud the Knight; and Bwrt son of Bwrt King of Llychn.
  21. The three Knights of Arthur’s court who guarded the grail- Cadawg son of Gwynlliw; Illtud the sainted Knighr; and Perdur son of Evrawg.
  22. The three privileged Knights of court- Eithew son of Gwrgawn; Colledawg son of Gwyn; and Geraint the Tall son of Cynnamon the Aged.
  23. The three just dispensing Knights of Arthurs court- Blas son of the Prince of Llychlyn; Cadawg son of Gwynlliw and Padrogyl son of the King of India
  24. The three wise counselling Knights of Arthurs court- Cynon son of Clydno Eiddin; Arawn son of Cynvarch; and Llwarch Hen son of Elidir Lydanywn.
  25. The three golden-tongued knights of Arthur’s court- Gwalchmai son of Gwyar; Drud son of Tryphin; and Eliwold son of Madog son of Uthur.
  26. The three free guests having origin in the court of Arthur- Llywarch Hen son of Elidir Lydanwyn; Lemonening; and Heiddyn the Tall.
  27. The three chief courts of Arthur- Caeerllion upon Usk in Cambria; Cellwig in Cornwall; and Edinburgh in the North.
  28. The three chief mistresses of Arthur- Garwen daughter of Henyn of Tegyrn; Gwyr daughter of Eutaw of Caerworgorn; and Indeg daughter of Avarwy the Tall of Radnoshire.
  29. The three wives of Arthur also three chief ladies; Gwenhwyvar daughter of Gwythyr, Gwenyhwyvar daughter of Gawrwd Ceint; and Gwenhwyvar daughter of Ogyrvan Gawr.
  30. The three beautiful ladies of the court of Arthur; Dyvir with the golden coloured hair; Enid daughter of Yniwl, the earl; and Tegau Euvron.
  31. The three Compeers of the court of Arthur; Dalldav son of Cynin Cov; Trystan son of March son of Meirchion; and Rhyhawd son of Morgant son of Adras.
  32. The three lovely knights of King Arthur’s court; Gwalchmai son of Gwya; Garwy son of Erbin; and Cadeir the adopted son of Seithin Saidai.
  33. The three fettered ones of the Island of Britain.
  34. The three hostile ovates of the Island of Britain
  35. The Three red spotted ones of the Island of Britain
  36. The Three front leaders of the battle of Britain.
  37. The Three ruddy speared bards of the Island of Britain
  38. Three princes of Deira and Bernicia
  39. The three pillars of battle of the Island of Britain
  40. The three generous ones of the Island of Britain.
  41. The three harmful blows of the Island of Britain
  42. The three treacherous meetings on the Island of Britain
  43. The three unchaste wives of the Isle of Britain
  44. The three unchaste wives of the Island of Britain.
  45. The three chaste maids of the Isle of Britain.
  46. The three amorous ones of the Isle of Britain.
  47. The three wild monsters of the Isle of Britain.

It’s relevant to note that the eighteenth century Welsh antiquarian Lolo Morganwg compiled a collection of Triads, which he claimed to have taken from his personal manuscript. Some of the Triads are also similar to those found in the medieval manuscripts.

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