Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Cath Palug

Capalu, Capalus, Cath Balug, Cath Balwg, Cath Paluc, Chapalu, Kapalu

This was a cat in Welsh and French legend on the Isle of Anglesey. It is said to have eaten nine warriors. This fearsome monster were fought, and perhaps slain, by Cei on the Isle of Anglesey, according to an early Welsh poem known as Pa Gur yv y Portaur. Cei visited the island specifically to “destroy lions”, and was especially prepared for an encounter with Cath Palug. Palug is Welsh meaning ‘clawing’, but it seems to have been interpreted as a personal name: “Palug’s Cat” rather than “Clawing Cat”. The poem is incomplete, but it may have told how Kay slew the beast.

According to a late Welsh Triad, Cath Palug was born to the enchanted pig Hen Wen, sometimes offspring of Ceridwen, who was also sometimes known as Hên Wen. Coll, the pig’s keeper, cast it into the sea at Menai Strait, from which it apparently found its way to Anglesey and was raised by the sons of Palug, on whom the monster turned. It grew to an enormous size and proceeded to devour at least 180 warriors. (Geoffrey Ashe suggests that a captive leopard, kept by a Welsh king, may have given rise to the tale.)

The story of the Cath Palug was apparently carried to France, where it was called ‘Chapalu’. The author of the Vulgate Merlin recalls the tale of Chapalu when he tells of Arthur’s battle with a hellish feline on the Hill of the Cat, near Lake Bourget in the French Alps. This combat is commemorated in the local names Col du Chat (Cat’s Neck), Dent du Chat (Cat’s Tooth) and Mont du Chat (Cat’s Mountain).

In one version of the French Chapalu tale (the medieval romance Romanz des Franceis), Arthur fought the cat in a swamp and was said to have been slain by the creature, which then invaded England and became king. It has been suggested that we may have here an alternative tradition of Arthur’s death. In Bataille Loquifer (medieval romance with limited Arthurian content) there is a youth called Kapalu, a servant of Morgan.

The Stanzas of the Graves” | 10th century or 11th century
Triads of the Island of Britain (Welsh ”Triads”) | 11th century to 14th century
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
La Bataille de Loquifer | c. 1230