Gwyddbwyll

‘Wood sense’

An early Celtic board game that is, in essence, the same as the Irish Fidchell, meaning ‘wood sense’. The board was seen as the world in miniature, and games played, particularly in the legends, may have been a ritualistic combat with the sole purpose of deciding an argument or quarrel without having to resort to bloodshed. In the game, one player’s king attempts to escape from the board, while the other player attempts to capture the king.

It’s analogous to chess, played by a number of characters in Welsh legend, including Arthur and Owain (Ywaine) in The Dream of Rhonabwy. This was possibly a ritual match, but the outcome remains unclear.

Peredur encounters an enchanted gwyddbwyll set in Peredur which parallels Perceval’s adventures at Chessboard Castle in Chrétien’s Perceval.

The Gwyddbwyll board of Gwenddolau numbers among the Thirteen Treasures of Britain.


Notes
Gwydd, is a Welsh word which signifies wood, from which the word gwyddel comes from (meaning a brake or bush). Tir gwyddelawg means land overrun with brambles. Gwyddel is the Welsh for Irishman, which is not certain that is the meaning of the word in the name of places – like Gwyddelwern.


Sources
Breudwyt Rhonabwy | 13th century
Peredur | 13th century