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In the First Branch there is a graphic but cryptic description of a hero’s encounter with a monster, specifically a ‘monstroud claw.’ Teyrnon Twryf Liant, ruler of Gwent-Ys-Coed, rescues the Dyfed baby prince from the grasp of this enormous clawed person or beast.

Unlike so many accounts of monstrous foes, this one is not described beyond this one detail of the enormous claw. The author skilfully abdicates more detail, allowing imagination to build an indistinct aggressor in the darkness of the night.

Nor is there an elaborate description of Teyrnon’s valour as found in praise poems of the period, and heroic sagas of many cultures. There is a quiet, night vigil, broken by commotion, then a precise but brief statement of our hero slashing off the intruding arm with its monstrous claw.
The scene lends itself to cartoon images, pow! zap! and is close to the parody of Jabberwocky’s vorpel sword going snicker snack. The lack of elaborate violence allies with a frequent theme in the Four Branches which speaks against violence and does not glorify it.

(First published 28/12/2014: Shan Morgain)

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