Physical Description and Persona
Coll was bald and stocky, and his head glowed when he was happy. He was good-natured and generally cheerful, and while he disliked fighting he would serve in battle if the cause were right. His passion was gardening, but he was also handy at the forge, and had once been a warrior.
BiographyHen Wen. Some fifteen years prior to the birth of Taran, Arawn Death-Lord captured Hen Wen, and Coll -- with the help of some magical hazelnuts and various animals -- went into Annuvin and rescued her. On his return home, Coll found that Dallben had taken up residence on his farm... which thenceforward became Caer Dallben.
Coll was one of Taran's guardians. He tried to teach Taran to make horseshoes, but the lesson deteriorated to swordplay with pokers. After Taran left Caer Dallben, Gwydion told him of Coll's heroic exploits in Annuvin, which Taran did not initially believe because "he's so bald!"Cauldron-Born to the Red Fallows, Coll spoke often of his need to return to his farm to tend his fields. Coll was killed in battle trying to stop the deathless warriors from breaching the Ruined Wall on the long trek to Annuvin. Taran hollowed out Coll's grave from the dark red earth of the Fallows, and erected a cairn of stones gathered by the Companions.
Coll appears in the Welsh Triads, specifically in the Red Book of Hergest (Welsh: Llyfr Coch Hergest), a large vellum manuscript written shortly after 1382. Under the section titled "These Are the Triads of the Horses" is a subsection:
Three Powerful Swineherds of the Island of Britain:
- And the third, Coll son of Collfrewy, tending the swine of Dallwyr Dallben in Glyn Dallwyr in Cornwall. And one of the swine was pregnant, Henwen was her name. And it was prophecied that the Island of Britain would be the worse for the womb-burden. Then Arthur assembled the army of the Island of Britain, and set out to seek to destroy her. And then she set off, about to bring forth (?), and at Penrhyn Awstin in Cornwall she entered the sea, and the Powerful Swineherd after her. And in the Wheat Field in Gwent she brought forth a grain of wheat and a bee. And therefore from that day to this the Wheat Field in Gwent is the best place for wheat and for bees. And at Llonion in Pembroke she brought forth a grain of barley and a grain of wheat. Therefore, the barley of Llonion is proverbial. At the Hill of Cyferthwch in Arfon she brought forth a (wolf-cub) and a young eagle. The wolf was given to (M)ergaed and the eagle to Breat, a prince of the North: and they were both the worse for them. And at Llanfair in Arfon under the Black Rock she brought forth a kitten, and the Powerful Swineherd threw it from the Rock into the sea. And the sons of Palug fostered it in Môn, to their own harm: and that was Palug's Cat, and it was one of the Three Great Oppressions of Môn, nurtured therein.
The Triads in Peniarth MS 54 offer a slightly different account, wherein "the ancient sow" is not named:
- 23. Three powerful swineherds of the Isla[n]d of Prydain. [The first two are listed.] And Coll son of Collfrewy, who kept the ancient sow of Dallweir Dalben, who went burrowing as far as Penryn Awstin in Cornwall, and there going to the sea, landed at Abertorogi in Gwent Iscoed, and Coll son of Collfrewy having his hand on her bristles, wherever she went on the sea or on the land, and at Maes Gwenith in Gwent she dropped wheat and bees, and from henceforth there is the best wheat there, and from thence she went to Lonwen in Penbro, and there she dropped barley and bees, and from thence there is the best barley in Lonwen, and from thence she proceeded to the Riw Cyferthwch in Eryri, and there she dropped a wolf-cub and an eagle, and Coll son of Collfreuy gave the eagle to Brynach Gwyddel of the north, and the wolf he gave to Menwaed fo Arllechwedd, and these are the wolf of Menwaed and the eagle of Brynach, and thence going to Maendu in Llanfare, in Arvon, and there she dropped a kitten, and Coll son of Collfrewy threw the kitten in the Menai, and she became afterwards the Paluc cat.