Cai Hir, Lord of Caer Gai
(Born c.AD 468)
(Latin: Caius; English: Kay)
The eldest son of Cynyr Ceinfarfog, Lord of Caer Goch, Cai, is frequently alluded to as being a very tall man, as shown by his epithet, the Tall. He appears in the Mabinogion tale of "Culhwch and Olwen" as the foremost warrior at the Court of the High-King Arthur and legend says they grew up together as foster-brothers. Cai apparently had mystical powers and was called one of the "Three Enchanter Knights of Britain" for
"nine nights and nine days his breath lasted under water, nine nights and nine days would he be without sleep. A wound from Cai's sword no physician might heal. When it pleased him, he would be as tall as the tallest tree in the forest. When the rain was heaviest, whatever he held in his hand would be dry for a handbreadth before and behind, because of the greatness of his heat, and, when his companions were coldest, he would be as fuel for them to light a fire".
In the Mabinogion, Cai was the constant companion of Bedwyr Bedrydant (of the Perfect Sinews) and a slayer of giants, presumably because of his height. However, he fell out with King Arthur, who poked fun at his feats of bravery, and the stubbornness, that became the bad-nature of the Sir Kay of later Arthurian romance, here shows through.
Cai appears in the ancient Welsh poem, Pa Gur, as the main participant in the Battle of Tryfrwyd fought against a foe named Garwlwyd. It's location is highly controversial. He is also found in the Dream of Rhonabwy and the Life of St.Cadog and was one of the warriors who helped rescue Queen Gwenhwyfar from the clutches of King Melwas of Glastening, as depicted on the Modena Archivolt. Geoffrey of Monmouth implies Cai was King Arthur's steward and also makes him Count of Anjou. Here too he is a slayer of giants and an important participant in the Roman Wars. Despite his late literary gloss, Cai appears to have been a real person who made his home at Caer-Gynyr near Bala in Penllyn which he renamed as Caer-Gai in the early 6th century.
Breton legend associates Cai with St. Ké: In later life, Cai was revered as a holyman and became known as Cai Gwyn (the Holy). He left the service of King Arthur and was elected a Bishop of Ynys Witrin (Glastonbury). He only returned to court at the time of Prince Medrod's rebellion to try and intercede between him and his uncle, the King. Cai's efforts were unsuccessful, though he did manage to persuade Queen Gwenhwyfar to retire from the World and enter a monastery.
Cai soon left public life, however, in favour of becoming a hermit in Cerniw. It was revealed to him in a dream that he should build a chapel where his trusty bell first sounded. This occurred at Ros Ynys (Roseland) and here Cai settled. His life was, however, not as peaceful as he had hoped, for he was continually persecuted by the local King, Teudar. Cai once hid a mighty stag which Teudar was hunting in Ros Ynys. When the King took away the saint's oxen in revenge, Cai used deer instead! Later, Cai fled to Brittany from Landegu (Old Kea) and established a monastery at Cleder.
Cai died at Cainum (Chinon) and was
buried at Cleder where his shrine was housed for many centuries (though
the Welsh claim he rests near Lligwy on Ynys Mon (Anglesey)).
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