Fantastic Beasts are something we are used to seeing on film and television with massive special effect budgets to create out of this world creatures. However, some may not be as fantastic of those who really existed in the long distant past. Paul Andruss explores the myth of Palug’s Cat that was recorded in ancient Welsh manuscripts between 1200 and 1400 and relating to the time of King Arthur’s reign long before
Palug’s Cat (from adapted sources: Andruss)
The North Wales holiday island of Anglesey seems a funny place for an ABC to roam.
ABC: Alien Big Cat.
Not one that came down in a flying saucer; although believe me people claim to see all sorts. And it must be said, Anglesey does have a nuclear power plant so I suppose anything is possible. No, the cat is alien in the sense it shouldn’t be there in the first place… like a leopard or a lion
The story of Cath Palug or Palug’s cat is known from fragments of ancient British myth found in the earliest Welsh manuscripts, written between 1200 and 1400. Called after the colour of their bindings, and where they were kept, they are: the Black Book of Carmarthen, White book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hergest.
The story starts when King Arthur hears the magical sow Hen Wen’s three offspring will each cause a calamity and goes to hunt her down. Hen Wen, who may be the sow aspect of the ancient White Goddess, was under the care of one of the three powerful Swineherds of Britain named Coll: meaning hazel and wisdom.
In Celtic myth swineherds are powerful magicians. When Hen Wen gives birth to a kitten under a black rock, Coll throws it into the sea. The creature survived and was found by the sons of Palug, washed up in Anglesey where it grew to a great size and ravaged the island, killing and devouring nine score warriors.
It was killed by Arthur’s foster-brother Sir Kay, using Arthur’s mirrored shield. Seeing its reflection in the mirrored surface the cat attacked the shield with such ferocity its claws stuck fast, allowing Kay to kill the trapped beast. This late story, dating to the 1200s, may actually retain an original Celtic myth.
The early Welsh poem ‘What Man is the Porter’ says Kay went to Anglesey to destroy lions with his polished shield. Sir Kay (or Cai in Welsh) originally might have been a solar hero like Heracles- who killed the Nemean Lion in the first of his twelve labours.
It was claimed Cai had the ability to go nine days and nine nights without the need to breathe or sleep, and if he chose could grow as tall as the tallest tree in the forest. He could radiate such heat that even in a thunderstorm his companions would stay warm and dry.
Head over and read the rest of this article on the possible explanations for the Big Cat of Anglesey and the links to the previous posts on other fantastic beasts: http://www.paul-andruss.com/fantastic-beasts-where-to-3/
Read all of Paul’s posts in his official capacity of Writer in Residence and find out more about this talented writer: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/writer-in-residence-writer-paul-andruss/