Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Ysbadadden Bencawr

‘Ysbadadden, Chief of Giants’
Ysbadaden, Yspadadden, Yspaddaden, Yspaddadden

“Chief giant” (penkawr) of all Britain in the time of Arthur in Culhwch and Olwen.

He was the father of Olwen, and he owned a fortress in Cornwall. His eyelids were so heavy that they had to be propped up with spears or forks.

The warrior Culhwch, who was destined to marry Olwen, came to Ysbaddaden’s fortress with Arthur’s warriors to ask for the maiden. As Ysbaddaden was fated to die as soon as Olwen was married, the giant refused to relinquish her. After failing to slay the warriors with poisoned spears, which they kept catching and throwing back at the giant, Ysbaddaden laid out a list of about forty nigh impossible tasks for Culhwch to perform as a condition of the marriage.

Arthur, who had promised to assist Culhwch, completed all the necessary tasks. Ysbaddaden, as he had promised, bitterly turned over Olwen, and Goreu, (either his nephew or) the son of one of Ysbaddaden’s servants, killed the giant.

In origin, he is possibly a figure from Celtic mythology, analogous to Balor (Balar) in Irish lore.

See also
Black Hag | The Legend of King Arthur
Gwydion fab Dôn | The Legend of King Arthur
Ysbadadden’s Castle | Myths and Legends

Culhwch and Olwen | Late 11th century