Henwen, meaning "Old White", is in Welsh legend a sow (female pig) which according to the Welsh Triads gave birth to Cath Palug, a monstrous cat depicted as combating with either Cai (Sir Kay) or King Arthur of Arthurian Legends. According to the triad "Three Powerful Swineherds of the Isle of Britain", the sow was kept by one Coll, son of Collfrewy, a pigkeeper for Dallwyr Dallben (also spelt Dallweir). The variant Red Book of Hergest (RBH) and White Book of Rhydderch (WBR) texts add that the Dallwyr held a valley named after him, the Glen of Dallwyr in Cornwall. The sow was ready to give birth, but this boded ill for the Isle of Britain, according to prophecy, so she was chased until she plunged into the sea at Penrhyn Awstin in Cornwall. The sow eventually re-emerges on land at Aber Tarogi in Gwent Is-coed (a subdivision of Gwent).
Don Carleton suggests that the tale of Henwen is an allegorical account of the harrying of a female religious leader across south-west Britain by Arthur.
Subsequently at various locales, the sow engenders various creatures as offspring, some bountiful, some baneful.
- At Wheat Field (Maes Gwenith) in Gwent, a grain of wheat and a bee
- At Llonion in Pembroke/Dyfed, a grain of barley and a bee (26)/ wheat (26W) / piglet (R=Guest)
- At Lleyn in Arfon, a grain o rye (RBH)
- At the Hill of Cyferthwch in Eryri; a wolf-cub and eaglet
- At Llanfair in Arfon under the Black Rock (Maen Du), a kitten.
The wolf and eagle were adopted by eminent men but "they were both the worse for them". The swineherd took the kitten and cast in into the Menai Strait. Then on the isle of Môn (or Mona, i.e. Anglesey), which is across the strait, the sons of Palug reared the cat which became the Cath Palug.
In popular culture
In The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander a, Hen Wen is depicted as a clairvoyant pig kept by Dallben and Coll and looked after by Taran, the young protagonist of the series. Hen Wen also appears in The Black Cauldron, the Walt Disney adaptation of the first two books in Alexander's series.
- Skene 1868, pp. 456–465, Vol.2, Triads from Hengwrt 536, Triad XXIII; similar to Bromwich 1961, Triad 26
- Guest 1849, pp. 330–332,Guest 1877, p. 268. She takes this from Myvr. Arch. triads, second series, which is the Red Book of Hergest version, quite similar to Bromwich's #26W (WBR version)
- Bromwich 1961, Triad 26W
- Not in #26W/Guest's variant, but in #26/Skene's base text
- Carleton, Don (2018), Arthur:Warrior and King, Amberley Publishing, Stroud, pp. 153-155
- accord. to Bromwich's 26W
- accord. to Bromwich's 26W
- Skene 1868, pp. 175–7, Vol.2
- Bromwich 1961, pp. xcix-
- Bromwich, Rachel (1961), Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Welsh Triads (snippet), Cardiff: University of Wales Press
- Guest, Charlotte, Lady (1849), The Mabinogion : from the Llyfr coch o Hergest (Google), 2, London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans
- Guest, Charlotte, Lady (1877), "The Mabinogion : from the Welsh of the Llyfr coch o Hergest (The red book of Hergest) in the Library of Jesus College, Oxford" (Google), _, London: Quaritch
- Skene, William Forbes (1868), The Four Ancient Books of Wales (Google), 2, Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas Triads re Arthur p. 457-,Canu y Meirch (Book of Taliesin XXV) p. 175-7 (text) and Vol. 1, p.307- (translation)