Bullherd of Broceliande


On their way from the Vavasour of Broceliande to the storm-making spring (Balanton), the knights met a gigantic and hideous churl herding wild bulls in a clearing. The giant was seventeen feet tall, dark-skinned and black-bearded, with a bald forehead more than two spans wide. Hair grew in tufts on the rest of his head; his ears were mossy and elephantine, his brows heavy, his face flat, his chin running into his chest, his eyes owl-like, his nose catlike, his mouth wolf-like, his teeth boar-like, his mustache tangled, his spine humped and twisted, and his clothing the recently flayed hides of two bulls.

Despite his fierce appearance and great club, he seemed ready to answer questions. If not politely, at least fully and peaceably. He showed himself quite ready to explain how he handled his animals by teaching them to fear his superior strength, and to provide directions to the spring, which he described to the best of his uneducated ability: he called the bubbling of the spring “boiling” although the water was colder than marble; characterized the pine simply as a tree that kept its leaves all year; called the gold basin iron; and did not recognize the material (emerald) from which the slab was made.

D.D.R Owen surmises that this giant was originally a denizen of the Celtic Otherworld; his description of the spring seems to provide a study in how lack of sophistication can magnify the merely marvelous into the totally inexplicable.