In Welsh mythology, Olwen (or Olwyn) is the daughter of the giant Ysbaddaden and cousin of Goreu. She is the heroine of the story Culhwch and Olwen in the Mabinogion. Her father is fated to die if she ever marries, so when Culhwch (sometimes spelled as Kilhwch) comes to court her, he is given a series of immensely difficult tasks which he must complete before he can win her hand. With the help of his cousin King Arthur, Culhwch succeeds and the giant dies, allowing Olwen to marry her suitor.
The name "Olwen" reappears in the non-Arthurian folktale Einion and Olwen, about a sheep herder who travels to the Otherworld to marry Olwen; they later have a son named Taliesin. The tale was collected at the turn of the 20th century but is related to Culhwch and Olwen.
The meaning of the name Olwen is "white footprint". According to legend, she was so gentle and fragile that white trefoils would grow in her footprints. Some authorities consider her to have been originally a solar goddess, based on the etymology of her name and light-related attributes.
Notable persons with this name
- Olwen Brogan, British archaeologist
- Lady Olwen Carey Evans, DBE, daughter of British Prime Minister David Lloyd George
- Olwen Fouéré, Breton-Irish actress on stage and in film
- Dame Olwen Hufton, British historian of early modern Europe, women's history and social history
- Olwen Wymark, American playwright and author
- Bruce, Christopher W. (21 August 2013). "The Arthurian Name Dictionary". Routledge – via Google Books.
- "The Fairy-Faith in Celtic Countries: Section I: The Living Fairy-Faith: Chapter II. Taking of Evidence: V. In Wales". www.sacred-texts.com.
- "Welsh ol "footprint, track" and gwen "white, fair, blessed"", cited from http://www.behindthename.com/name/olwen
- Simon Andrew Stirling, The Grail: Relic of an Ancient Religion, 2015
- Patricia Monaghan, The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore, page 433.
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