Glewlwyd, in full Glewlwyd Mighty-grasp or Glewlwyd Gafaelvawr) holds the position of porter (gatekeeper) in medieval Welsh Arthurian tales.
The Name GlewlwydEdit
The name Glewlwyd means ‘Hero-grey’. His surname Gafaelvawr is translated into English as ‘Mighty-grasp’ or ‘Strong Grip’.
Glewlwyd Outside of Arthur’s CourtEdit
In the medieval Welsh poem Pa Gur, Arthur and his men are seeking entrance to a fortress guarded by Glewlwyd Mighty-grasp. Glewlwyd will not allow Arthur to enter with his men unless Arthur discloses who they are. Arthur does so.
... the man who lifted the cauldron down from the fire with one hand in the court of Toron of the three islands of Britain, with the sliced meat of seven oxen boiling in it.
Nothing else is known of this story of Toron.
Glewlwyd as Arthur’s Porter (Gatekeeper)Edit
In Culhwch and OlwenEdit
I am gatekeeper to Arthur every first of January, while for the rest of the year my lieutenants are Huandaw and Gogigwr and Llaesgymyn and Penpingyon, who travels on his head to save his feet, neither skyward nor earthward but like a rolling stone on the floor of the court.
In the medieval Welsh tale of Culhwch and Olwen, Glewlwyd at first prevents Culhwch from entering the hall for it is not the custom to admit newcomers when the banquet has begun. Culhwch threatens to give three terrifying shouts if he is not admitted, shouts which will be heard all over Britain and in Ireland and will cause any pregnant woman in the court to miscarry and the wombs of those who are not pregnant to fail so that they will never bear a child.
Glewlwyd brings word of this to Arthur (in Jeffrey Gantz’s translation):<blockqute> Two-thirds of my life have gone by and two-thirds of yours as well. I have been in Caer Se and Asse, Sach and Salach, in Lotor and Fotor, in Greater India and Lesser India, and in the battle between the two Ynyrs when the twelve hostages were brought from Norway. I have been in Europe and Africa, in the islands of Corsica, in Caer Brythwch and Brythach, and in Nerthach. I was there when you over came the troops of Gleis son of Merin, when you killed Mil the Black son of Dugum; I was there in the eastern part of the world when you conquered Greece, in Caer Oeth and Anoeth, and in Caer Nevenhyr Nineteeth. We have seen handsome noble-looking men, but I have never seen a man like the one who stands at the entrance to the gate.</blockquote> Arthur tells Glewlwyd to run back and allow Culhwch admittance to his hall.
The medieval Welsh romance of Gereint introduces Glewlwyd near the beginning to the story. In Jeffrey Gantz’s translation:
Glewlwyd Strong Grip was Chief Gatekeeper, but he did not trouble himself over this service except on one of the three important festivals; during the rest of the year the duties were shared by his seven assistants: Gryn, Penpingyon, Llaesgymyn, Gogyvwlch, Gwrddnei Cat Eye, who could see by night as well as by day, Drem son of Dremidydd and Clust son of Clustveinydd, all of them Arthur’s warriors.
Note that of the seven assistants listed here, only three are the same as the four assistants listed in Culhwch and Olwen: Penpingyon, Llaesgymyn, and Gogyvwlch, assuming that Ggogywlch is identical to Gogigwr.
In The Lady of the FountainEdit
The medieval Welsh romance of The Lady of the Fountain introduces Glewlwyd near the beginning to the story. In Jeffrey Gantz’s translation:
Now though it is said that there was a gate-keeper at Arthur’s court, there was not; however, Glewlwyd Strong Grip was there acting as gatekeeper, greeting guests and foreigners, beginning to honour them, telling them the customs and habits of the court, and informing those who had the right to go to the hall or the chamber or who merited lodging.
The point here appears to be that Arthur is too hospitable a ruler to have a porter (gatekeeper) to forbid anyone access to his court.
In The Twenty-four Knights of Arthur’s CourtEdit
Glewlwyd is listed as the third of the Three Irresistible Knights along with Morfran son of Tegid and Sanddef Angel-face in The Twenty-four Knights of Arthur’s Court. It is Glewlwyd’s size, strength, and ferocity that makes him irresistible.
Comparison to Mador of the GateEdit
In the continental prose Arthurian romances, a Knight of the Round Table named Mador of the Gate appears. It is never said that this knight is Arthur’s gatekeeper but his surname ‘of the Gate’ suggests this. If so, Mador would correspond to the Welsh Glewlwyd, although such a correspondence is probably coincidental.