Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Glewlwyd Gafaelfawr

‘Glewlwyd Great Grasp’
Glewlwyd Mighty Grip, Glewlwyd Strong Grip, Glewlyd, Glwelwyd

An obstructive gatekeeper (porter) in the early Welsh poem Pa Gur yv y Portaur and in Culhwch and Olwen. In the former, he refuses Arthur entry into some keep, which prompts Arthur and his companions to recount the various adventures of Arthur’s warriors (a theme also found in Irish tales), and he declared that he never in all his long and varied career had he seen so handsome a man as the youthful Culhwch.

In the latter (Culhwch and Olwen), he had the epithet gafaelfawr, ‘great grasp’ applied, which is a logical epithet for a porter, though he is also referred to as one of the Twenty-Four Knights of Arthur’s Court. In the Triads he is one of the Three Irresistible Knights of Arthur’s Court.

In Culhwch, he becomes Arthur’s chief gatekeeper, blocking Culhwch’s admission to Arthur’s court during a feast until Arthur requests to see him. We learn from Culhwch that he was served by Gryn, Gogyfwlch, Gwrddnei Cat EyeDremClustLlaesgymynHuandawGogigwr, and Penpingyon.

Gereint tells us Glewlwyd serves as Arthur’s gatekeeper during three festivals per year. In Owein: Chwedl Iarlles y Ffynnon (‘Owein: the Tale of the Countess at the Fountain’), he is the gatekeeper at Caerleon where Arthur held court. He greeted guests and foreigners, honoring them, telling them habits and customs of the court. He informed those who had a right to go to the hall or the chamber and who merited lodging.

Glewlwyd participated in the hunt for Twrch Trwyth, where he lost all of his servants except for Llaesgymyn. A Welsh Triad names him as one of the three “Offensive Knights” of Arthur’s court, for he was so large, strong, and savage that no one dared refuse him anything he asked for.

Pa gur yv y porthaur | Poem 31 of the Black Book of Carmarthen, probably c. 1100
Culhwch and Olwen | Late 11th century
Triads of the Island of Britain (Welsh ”Triads”) | 11th century to 14th century
Geraint and Enid | 13th century
Owain | 13th century