Ysbaddaden and His Castle

Ysbaddaden was the Chief Giant of all Britain in the time of King Arthur, and the owner of a castle in Wales. Culhwch, the Celtic hero was a cousin of King Arthur and was reputed to be the most handsome man in Britain, was obliged to seek the hand of Ysbaddaden's daughter Olwen, because he was under a spell cast by his stepmother which prevented him from falling in love with any other woman. It was a difficult quest because he had never met Olwen and did not even know where she and her father lived.

He sought Arthur's assistance, and although the king had never heard of Ysbaddaden and Olwen he responded generously to his kinsman's request. He sent out a party of his gifted knights to find the Chief Gian'ts residence, but when they discovered the castle they found that, however closely they approached to the building, the great stone walls always remained just beyond their reach.

They solved this frustating problem when they met a shepherd's wife, who told them that Olwen came to her cottage on Saturdays to wash her hair. This presented an opportunity for Culhwch to meet Olwen, who was no doubt relieved to find she was a beautiful mortal maiden. She took him into the castle and introduced him and his friends to Ysbaddaden, who responded most ungraciously by driving them away with a shower of poisoned rocks.

But Culhwch persisted in his wooing, and the Chief Giant eventually agreed that he should have Olwen in marriage if he succeded in performing a number of impossible tasks. With the help of King Arthur, Culhwch performed all the tasks but it seems he did not trust the word of the Chief Giant. He assembled all of Ysbaddadens enemies and returned to the castle, where they killed the giant and Culhwch lost no time in consummating his marriage to Olwen.

See also
Ysbadadden | The Legend of King Arthur