The Thirteen Legendary Treasures of Britain

The Thirteen Legendary Treasures of Britain

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The ancient Greek writer Hesiod once wrote that there were five ages of mankind – the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, the Heroic Age, and the Iron Age. Similarly, in Hinduism, there are four different epochs – the Satya Yuga , Treta Yuga , Dwapar Yuga and Kali Yuga . In both Greek mythology and Hinduism, the ages preceding our present age is described as much more pleasant, with humanity experiencing deterioration over the ages. Likewise, in early British legends, it is said that the British Isles were, in a bygone age, the home of gods and heroes. Although these figures no longer dwell on the British Isles, legends sprung up about the magical objects these beings left behind.

The ‘Thirteen Treasures of Britain’ are a group of magical items found in late medieval Welsh tradition. These precious relics are mentioned in 15 th and 16 th century manuscripts, such as the Welsh Arthurian tale of ‘Culhwch and Olwen’. The Thirteen Treasures are said to have been located in the north of the British Isles, i.e. northern England and Scotland. One of the Welsh manuscript is in fact entitled ‘Tri Thlws ar Ddeg Ynys Prydain’, which has been translated into English as ‘The Names of the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain, which were in the North’.

The thirteen legendary treasures of Britain are as follows:

1. Dyrnwyn, gleddyf Rhydderch Hael (White-Hilt, the Sword of Rhydderch the Generous)

This peculiar sword belonged to Rhydderch Hael, a 7 th century ruler of Alt Clut, a Brittonic kingdom in what is now Strathclyde, Scotland. When the sword was drawn by a worthy man, it would burst into flames from its hilt to its tip. Although Rhydderch was willing to lend his sword to anyone who asked for it, the recipients would reject it after learning of the sword’s strange quality.

The first legendary treasure is a sword that burst into flames.

The first legendary treasure is a sword that burst into flames. ( Wikimedia Commons )

2. Mwys Gwyddno Garanir (The Hamper of Gwyddno Long-Shank)

Gwyddno Long-Shank was the ruler of Canolbarth, a legendary sunken land off the coast of Wales (now Cardigan Bay), who possessed a magical hamper, a wicker basket that could multiply food. Known as the ‘basket of plenty’, food for one man would be placed into the hamper and then closed. When the basket was opened again, there would be enough food for a hundred men.

The Basket of Plenty would multiply its contents, providing food for one hundred men. ‘Apfelernte’ by Karl Vikas

The Basket of Plenty would multiply its contents, providing food for one hundred men. ‘Apfelernte’ by Karl Vikas ( Wikimedia Commons )

3. Korn Bran Galed o'r Gogledd (The Horn of Bran the Niggard from the North)

According to Welsh legend, this horn once belonged to Hercules, who acquired the object from the head of the centaur Nessus after he was slain by the hero. The horn was able to grant whatever drink a user wished to find within it.

The Horn of Bran was said to provide its owner with whichever drink they wished. Bearded Pictish warrior from the Bullion Stone, Angus, now in the National Museum of Scotland.

The Horn of Bran was said to provide its owner with whichever drink they wished. Bearded Pictish warrior from the Bullion Stone, Angus, now in the National Museum of Scotland. ( Wikimedia Commons )

4. Kar Morgan Mwynfawr (The Chariot of Morgan the Wealthy)

Morgan, the king of Glamorgan, was the grandson and probable successor of King Meurig, who ruled over the early Welsh kingdoms of Gwent and Glywysing sometime between 400 and 600 AD. Morgan was said to have possessed a chariot that could travel quickly to any destination desired by its user.

The Chariot of Morgan could travel to any destination.

The Chariot of Morgan could travel to any destination. ( wallpaperup.com)

5. Kebystr Klydno Eiddin (The Halter of Clydno Eiddyn)

The fifth treasure was a halter fixed to a staple at the foot of the bed Clydno Eiddin, a ruler in the Hen Ogledd, the Brythonic-speaking area in what is now Northern England and southern Scotland during the Early Middle Ages. "Eiddyn" is the Brythonic name for Edinburgh, implying a connection to that territory. According to legend, whatever horse Clydno wished for, it would appear in the halter.

The magical horse halter of Clydno Eiddyn would grant Clydno with any horse he wished for

The magical horse halter of Clydno Eiddyn would grant Clydno with any horse he wished for ( Wikimedia Commons )

6. Kyllell Llawfrodedd Farchog (The Knife of Llawfrodedd the Horseman)

Llawfrodedd Farchog was a hero of Welsh tradition and a legendary figure in Arthur’s court in the tales of Culhwch and Olwen and Breuddwyd Rhonabwy.  He is mentioned in Trioedd Tnys Prydein as the owner of a knife that would serve a company of 24 men at a dinner table, named as one of the Thirteen Treasures. The knife was great for a feast, but was also said to be a deadly weapon on the battlefield.

Comments

Interesting. The "Warlord Chronicles", Bernard Cornwell's King Arthur series (The Winter King, Enemy of God, Excalibur) deals with the quest for some of these items. It's an excellent series.

I agree! I'm reading them now. Amazing books!!

So interesting! I can see from this that Rowling was deeply inspired by early british myths and literature when writing Harry Potter

Please! Next time can you give us a Pronouncing Glossary for those names?

Justbod's picture

Really interesting – thank you! I’d never heard of these before. Makes me wonder what the original inspiration or ‘backstory’ of each ‘treasure’ was that evolved into the above stories…..

 

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature: www.justbod.co.uk

 

 

 

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