An enormous claw is glimpsed in the First Branch, as a threat to both a special newborn foal, and to a lost, newborn baby found close by.
The lord of Gwent -Is -Coed, Teyrnon, slashes the monstrous creature with his sword to stop it stealing his prize newborn foal. He rushes outside but can see no signs of the monstrous abductor in the darkness, a strange thing for a lord well accustomed to hunting, as Mabinogi lords are. Instead he discovers the lost child.
The threatening Claw is srongly associated with May Eve, Calan haf, or Gaelic Beltaine. This Pagan festival is about conflict, traditionally enacted as a duel between two males, or a man and a monster.
The word cryfanc, claw, evokes the monstrous afanc, a water monster of the deeps which appears in Welsh folk tradition as a shapechanger which drags humans to their death under a lake.
An afanc also means a beaver. As a nocturnal animal it fits the night monster role. It lives in water as well as on land, as the afanc of legend does; a dual nature giving it a magical ‘between’ status. A beaver’s strong claws used for building dams, and its powerful teeth, make it a plausible monster if giantised by nightmare.
(First published 28/12/2014: Shan Morgain)