Monday 30 May 2011

White Phantom

The Abduction of Guinevere Part IV
Throughout Arthurian Romance  Guinevere is commonly portrayed with two weaknesses; her love affairs with Arthur's best knight, and very susceptible to being abducted.

Arthur's Otherworld Possessions

As we have seen above the abduction of Gwenhwyfar receives a first literary mention in Caradoc of Llancarfan's Vita Gildae, written c.1130. Caradoc's tale is probably following a traditional account as we find a similar abduction motif in the earlier Culhwch ac Olwen,  c.1100 with Gwyn ap Nudd duelling with Gwythyr son of Greidiawl for the maiden Creiddylad.

It is in Culhwch that Gwenhwyfar is first named as Arthur's queen  but this is merely a passing mention in the court list as chief lady along with her sister Gwennhwyach and earlier in the tale in a list of Arthur's possessions that Culhwch is not granted by Arthur. It is significant that here she appears amongst Arthur's companion Kei and Bedwyr, characters from the earliest stratum of the Arthurian legend. From this we can hold with reasonable confidence that Gwenhwyfar is not an invention of the later continental writers of Arthurian romance but has her origins in Welsh vernacular tradition.

On arriving at Arthur's court Culhwch seeks the sovereign’s assistance in obtaining Olwen, daughter of the giant Ysbaddaden Bencawr. Arthur tells him, "Though you do not reside here, chieftain, you shall have the gift your mouth and tongue shall name, as far as the wind dries, as far as the rain soaks, as far as the sun reaches, as far as the sea stretches, as far as the earth extends, except my ship; and my mantle; and Caledfwlch, my sword; and Rhongomyniad, my spear; and Wynebgwrthucher, my shield; and Carnwennan, my dagger; and Gwenhwyvar, my wife.[1]

All Arthur's possessions listed above appear to have originated in the Otherworld as most contain the element (G)wen or Gwyn which can mean 'white, sacred, pure, holy'. The Otherworldly connotations continue with Arthur's mantle of invisibility which is not named in Culhwch but is listed in the later Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain and in Rhonabwy's Dream where it is named 'Gwen'.

In Culhwch Arthur's ship is also named as Prydwen as in the earlier Taliesin poem Preiddeu Annwn (The Spoils of Annwn) in which he carries out a raid on the Otherworld to retrieve a magic cauldron. This tale is echoed in Culhwch, although in the later tale the Otherworld Island is replaced by a raid on Ireland.

The Irish influence on the Arthurian legend is undeniable and many similarities between the cycles have been presented. [2] There is the possibility of an an early tradition of the abduction of Gwenhwyfar reflected in Geoffrey of Monmouth's account of Mordred which is closely paralleled by the abduction of Fionn's wife Grainne by his nephew Diarmaid. However, this is dependant upon acceptance of Mordred as Arthur's nephew, a relationship which seems to be the creation of Geoffrey.

Caledfwlch, Arthur's  sword, is rendered into the Latin Cailburnus by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain). According to Geoffrey, Arthur's sword was forged in the Isle of Avalon. Geoffrey only mentions Avalon twice in his Historia and not all in his later Vita Merlini, but on both occasions he clearly means an Otherworld Island. Contrary to popular belief Geoffrey does not equate Avalon with Glastonbury, in fact he makes no effort to identify its location.

We find an episode of Arthur's sword in the Otherworld in Culhwch in which Arthur's sword is used to slay Diwrnach the Irishman: “Llenlleog seized Caledfwlch and swung it in a circle, and slew Diwrnach the Irishman and all his host.”

This one sentence describes Llenlleawc's (Llenlleog) only action in Culhwch, an obscure character mentioned twice in the list of people invoked by Culhwch. In the first instance he is referred to as Llenlleawc “from the headland of Gamon”, which has been suggested as Garmon as in Llwch Garmon the Welsh name for Wexford harbour in southern-east Ireland, attested in the 10th century prophetic poem Armes Prydein. [3]

There is considerable debate amongst scholars to Llenlleawc's identity. He has been identified as a manifestation of the Irish deity Lug but it has been argued that any connection with Lug that may be drawn from Llenlleawc is possibly a misreading of Lleu lleawc, “Lleu, the death-dealing”, where Lleu is the Welsh cognate of Irish Lug, but derived from Celtic Lugus and not a borrowing of Lug. Llenlleawc could therefore be seen as a ghost persona who arose from misinterpretation of a problematic line in the Taliesin poem The Spoils of Annwn, [4] where we find  a very similar episode involving the theft of a cauldron from the Otherworld: [5]

“...Neu peir pen annwfyn pwy y vynut
gwrym am yoror amererit     
Ny beirw bwyt llwfyr ny rytyghit
cledyf lluch lleawc idaw rydyrchit    
Ac yn llaw leminawc yd edewit...”

“..The cauldron of the chief of Annwfyn: what is its fashion?
A dark ridge around its border and pearls
It does not boil the food of a coward; it has not been destined.
The flashing sword of Lleawch has been lifted to it
And in the hand of Lleminawc it was left...”

Lluch Lleawc has been seen as a variant of the name of Llwch Llawwynnawc (Lloch Llawwynnyawc) who is also invoked by Culhwch. Llawwynnyawc of Culhwch is often seen as synonymous with Lleminawc of  Preiddeu Annwn, adding further confirmation that the theft of the cauldron from the Otherworld is the same episode.  Llwch Llawwynnawc has been interpreted as 'Lug of the Striking-Hand', or 'Lug of the Windy-Hand', common epithets for the Irish deity.

There is clearly much confusion here and the lines in question in Preiddeu Annwn may contain a garbled version of the name of the weapon, the “sword of Lleawch” (cledyf lluch lleawc); 'lluch lleawc' may be taken to be separate adjectives meaning "flashing" and "death-dealing." Further, the mention of 'llaw leminawc' in the next line of Preiddeu Annwn may derive from a misinterpretation of 'cledyf lluch....llaw leminawc' which could have given rise to the persona of Llwch Llaw Leminawc/Llawwynnawc who became associated with Llwch Garmon, who became confused with the similar character of Llenlleawc emerging from a variant interpretation of the same lines of the poem. [7]

Perhaps it is is possible to untangle this confusion when we consider that the word 'leminawc' is an adjective meaning 'leaper' or 'leaping one' used in reference to an attacker and very aptly may be an epithet for Arthur in this instance. In prophetic poems it can refer to the deliverer. [8] We can offer an alternative interpretation of this passage without the need for the Irish divinity Lug, this is not to say that Arthur was not accompanied on his Otherworld journeys with deities from the Celtic pantheon, but there is no reason not to see this slaying as being executed by Arthur himself with Caledfwlch his own sword: “The flashing sword of death-dealing was thrust into it, and it was left in the hand of the leaping one...” [i.e. the attacker, Arthur].

The literary evidence indicates that Caledfwlch is most likely an Otherworldy weapon and cognate with the Irish sword Caladbolg, probably both derived independently from the generic name for a mythical sacred, death-dealing sword, capable of consuming everything. [9] It was said to be a two-handed sword that made a circle like an arc of rainbow when swung, which is exactly how it is described in Culhwch, “Llenlleog seized Caledfwlch and swung it in a circle, and slew Diwrnach the Irishman and all his host.”  In in the Irish epic Táin Bó Cuailnge, Caladbolg is the name of the sword that Fergus mac Róig inherited from the Ulster King Fergus mac Leite who had brought it from the land of the Sidhe, or Otherworld.

Caledfwlch is  a compound word constructed from the elements 'caled' which can have the adjective meaning 'hard' or the noun 'battle'. The second element 'bwlch' means 'breach, gap, notch', and may mean 'hard-notch' or 'battle-notch' suggesting such a sword strong enough make notches or break through enemy lines. It could also mean it is notched through prolonged use in battle, or even deliberately serrated. However, the meaning 'battle-breach' or 'breach of battle' is seen as preferable. [10] The early occurrence of Arthur's ship, Prydwen in Preiddeu Annwn, dated to the 8th century, [11] and its pairing with Arthur's sword Caledfwlch in the later Culwhch attests the weapon's antiquity.

Interestingly, if listed in order of merit Arthur's material possessions appear to take precedence over his wife. Gwenhwyfar's name is generally agreed to mean 'white phantom', indicating her Otherworldly origins, from the first element Gwen or Gwyn meaning 'white, pure, sacred, holy', with the second element meaning 'phantom, spirit, fairy or enchantress', cognate with the Irish 'siabair'. Indeed, Gwenhwyfar corresponds with Findabair daughter of King Ailill and Queen Medb in the Irish epic Táin Bó Cuailnge, The Cattle Raid of Cooley, from the Ulster Cycle.

From the evidence of the earliest Arthurian literature we have it is reasonable to suggest that Arthur brought these possessions, his sword, shield, dagger, mantle, back from a raid on the Otherworld, including his wife, Gwenhwyfar. Indeed it would not seem unreasonable to suggest that Arthur himself has an Otherworld origin; he is often associated with deities who travel with him and seems to be able to journey to the Otherworld and return at will, whereas for his mortal companions it is fraught with danger and but few return.

Yet the retrieval of Gwenhwyfar from the Otherworld is completely compatible with the central motif of the abduction stories of the flower maiden, in which we see the likes of Persephone and Creiddylad carried off to the Otherworld by a supernatural figure such as Haides, or Gwyn ap Nudd.

Where was this Otherworld Island that Caradoc of Llancarfan identified as Ynys Wydrin, the Isle of Glass?

>> Part IV: The Isle of Glass


1. Sioned Davies, The Mabinogion, Oxford University Press, 2007, p. 183 “How Culhwch won Olwen”.
2. A. G. Van Hamel, Aspects of Celtic Mythology, Proceedings of the British Academy, 20, 1934.
3. Patrick Sims-Williams, Irish Influence of Medieval Welsh Literature, Oxford University Press, 2011, p.160.
4. Ibid. pp. 160-161.
5. A similar account is told in the Second Branch of the Mabinogi.
6.  Sarah Higley, Text and Translation, Preiddeu Annwn: "The Spoils of Annwn", online at The Camelot Project, University of Rochester, General Editors: Alan Lupack and Barbara Tepa Lupack,
7.  Sims-Williams, op.cit. pp.162-163.
8.  Marged Haycock, Legendary Poems from the Book of Taliesin, CMCS, 2007, p.444. See note p.384.
9. Thomas Green, Concepts of Arthur, Tempus, 2007, p.156.
10.  Rachel Bromwich and D Simon Evans, Culhwch and Olwen: An edition and Study of the Oldest Arthurian Tale, University of Wales, 1992, pp.64-5.
11.  Kenneth H Jackson, Language and History in Early Britain, 1953,  endorsed by John T Koch.

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Tuesday 24 May 2011

White, the Winter King

The Abduction of Guinevere Part III

Throughout Arthurian Romance Guinevere is commonly portrayed with two weaknesses; her love affairs with Arthur's best knight, and very susceptible to being abducted.

Goddess of the Underworld
In Part II: The Modena Archivolt we saw that by permitting a little speculation, it is possible to make a conjectured proposal to the origin of the Abduction of Guinevere story, with the coming together of tales from the cultures from east and west, meeting at the heel of southern Italy at the point of the departure for the First Crusade. The British form of the Persephone story in its Arthurian context, first appears in written form in the Vita Giladae (Life of Gildas)  by Caradoc of Llancarvan, c.1130, roughly contemporary with the sculpture of the Modena Archivolt.

In Caradoc of Llancarvan's Life of Gildas the story goes that after being harassed by pirates from the islands of the Orcades, Gildas embarked on board a small ship and put in to Glastonia, at the time when king Melwas was reigning in the summer country:

“Glastonia, that is, the glassy city, which took its name from glass, is a city that had its name originally in the British tongue. It was besieged by the tyrant Arthur with a countless multitude on account of his wife Gwenhwyfar, whom the aforesaid wicked king had violated and carried off, and brought there for protection, owing to the asylum afforded by the invulnerable position due to the fortifications of thickets of reed, river, and marsh. The rebellious king had searched for the queen throughout the course of one year, and at last heard that she remained there. Thereupon he roused the armies of the whole of Cornubia and Dibneria; war was prepared between the enemies. [1

Gildas, accompanied by the Abbot of Glastonbury, negotiates her release, Melwas restores the ravished Queen to Arthur and a major conflict is avoided. After, the two kings gave the Abbot a gift of many domains, they prayed at the temple of St. Mary and returned reconciled, promising reverently to obey the most venerable Abbot of Glastonia, and never to violate this most sacred of landscapes again.

Caradoc's story is ultimately a Celtic form of the Persephone myth, placed in an Arthurian context; the similarity between Melwas' abduction of Guinevere while she was in the forest 'a-maying', and the ravishing of Persephone by Plouton (Haides), while she was collecting flowers in the fields, is strikingly obvious. Persephone is the daughter of Demeter and before she becomes the goddess of the Underworld and Haides’ wife, she bears the name 'Core', the corn maiden. In the 'Orphic Hymn 29 to Persephone'  (3rd century BC to 2nd century AD) she is heralded as a venerable Goddess, the vernal queen, source of life  and mother of the Erinyes (Eumenides, or Furiae), three netherworld goddesses, servants of Haides and Persephone.

In Statius' Thebaid, the Erinyes are referred to as maidens born of cursed Acheron;

“.... and the sad priest bids there be three altar-fires for Hecate and three for the maidens born of cursed Acheron [i.e. the Erinyes]; for thee, lord of Avernus [Haides], a heap of pinewood though sunk into the ground yet towers high into the air; next to this an altar of lesser bulk is raised to Ceres of the Underworld [Persephone]” [2]

In Greek mythology Acheron is known as the river of pain, the stream and swampy lake of the underworld and its god. In the Homeric poems the Acheron is described as the river of Hades, synonymous with the River Styx, in which the ferryman Charon carried the souls of the dead across its dark waters in his boat. The Styx circles Hades nine times and formed the boundary between the mortal domain and the Underworld. The rivers Styx, Phlegethon, Acheron and Cocytus all converge at the center of Hades on a great marsh. In later tradition the Underworld river is named after the river god Acheron, a son of Helios and either Gaia or Demeter, after he had refreshed the Titans with drink during their contest with Zeus changed into the river bearing his name.

Haides abducts Persephone with the consent of Demeter, but Demeter is so heartbroken that Zeus lets Persephone spend six months of the year with Demeter and six months with Haides. The theme of the abduction of the maiden to the Otherworld is common throughout the cultures around the World. In the Roman version it is Proserpine that is abducted by Pluto, the god of Hades. 

Guinevere, by the Welsh rendering of her name Gwenhwyfar, first appears in Arthurian literature in the 11th century tale of Culhwch and Olwen. However, in this tale she gets merely a passing mention as Arthur's consort. But it is also in  Culhwch and Olwen that we find the ancient Celtic myth of abduction, yet again with parallels to the Persephone myth.

King of Annwn
In Culwhch and Olwen, Gwynn son of Nudd was in love with the maiden Creiddylad. Gwynn became enraged when he learned that Gwythyr son of Greidiawl (Victor son of Scorching) had ran away with her from the home of her father, Lludd Silver Hand. Before Gwythyr had slept with her Gwynn carried her off by force. When Arthur heard of this he went north and intervened, returning Creiddylad to her father making a treaty between Gwythyr and Gwynn. Thereafter, Gwynn and Gwythyr were destined to fight every May Day until Judgment Day and whoever was the victor on that day would have Creiddylad.

As in the abduction myths of Melwas and Persephone, it is significant that the duel between  Gwythyr and Gwynn will take place every May Day, the first day of the Celtic summer. The seasonal symbolism is unmistakeable. The conflict apparently occurs in the north, as this is the direction Arthur must go to prevent the conflict, representing the cold of winter. Gwythyr and Gwynn representing the light and dark halves of the year, the dormant, barren season and the season of growth. Creiddylad represents another version of the flower maiden, symbolising the fertility of the land and crops; the sovereignty of nature.

Persephone's release, by agreement, determines she must spend six months of the year in the underground abode of Hades, symbolising the cold part of the year, the turning wheel of the year, the alternating seasons of fertility and sterility, death and regrowth.

This is  a common concept in Celtic mythology; we see a similar tale in the First Branch of the Mabinogi. While Pwyll Lord of Dyfed is out hunting at Arberth (identified with Narbeth in southern Pembrokeshire, south west Wales) he foolishly tries to bring down another huntsman's quarry who has a pack of dogs of a dazzling bright white with red ears, undoubtedly this is the Cwn Annwn. The owner of the dogs introduced himself to Pwyll as “Arawn, king of Annwn am I.” [3]

To make amends for offending the Lord of Annwn, Arawn has Pwyll switch places and fight his enemy Hafgan who has been troubling his kingdom. They exchange places for a year in each others form; Pwyll becomes Lord of the Otherworld, and Arawn becomes the Lord of Dyfed. During this time Pwyll slays Hafgan and he and Arawn become good friends as neither of them slept with the others wife during their exchange. In return, Arawn gave Pwyll magic swine from the Otherworld, which were later passed down to Pryderi and stolen by Gwydion in the Fourth Branch, an act that ultimately leads to battle between Pryderi and Gwydion.

A short poem found in a late manuscript [4 confirms the fact that the Battle of the Trees (Cad Goddeu), sometimes referred to as The Battle of Achren, was fought over animals that had been stolen from the Otherworld by the Children of Don. The account describes how Amathaon ab Don brought a white roebuck and a whelp from Annwn and fought with Arawn, King of Annwn.

The meaning of the name Arawn is unclear, suggestions range from “silver-tongue” to “silver-grey”, [5 the first part "ar" meaning "silver" may be correct and may indicate links with Lludd Llaw Ereint, Ludd Silver-hand, father of Creiddylad in Culwhch and Olwen, and cognate with the Irish Nuada Airgetlam, Nuada of the Silver Arm. Nuada appears to possess a relationship with the Irish deity Lugh, similiar to that of the Welsh figures of Lludd and Lleuelys found in the Mabinogion collection of tales and Welsh editions of the Brut. Nudd, also known as the Romano-British god Nodens, a river god associated in particular with the River Severn, as attested by the late Roman temple at Lydney Park, Gloucestershire. John Rhys has demonstrated that Nudd is cognate with the Irish god Ludd. [6  

Arawn shares many similarities with Gwynn, indeed the exchange of places with Hafgan, appears to be of a similar motif to the duel between Gwynn and Gwythyr son of Greidiawl every May day, until  the end of time. As stated above this is undoubtedly symbolic of the seasonal change taking place every year, with summer commencing from the calends of May. This is confirmed by the name Hafgan from the First Branch of the Mabinogi, meaning "Summer White”; by no coincidence Gwynn ap Nudd means “White, son of Mist”.

Gwynn and Gwythyr are representations of the Winter and Summer Kings, lords of the waxing and waning year, seen in the northern hemisphere night sky as the constellations of Orion and Scorpius. Gwynn, as Orion, dominates the winter sky from Samhain to Beltane, May day. From May to November Scorpius and Ophiuchus dominate the summer sky. Like the Summer and Winter kings, these constellations on opposite sides of the Zodiac, divide the light and dark halves of the year. [7]

Creiddylad, as with Persephone, is destined to spend half of the year with each; the growing season with the Summer King Gwythyr and the dormant season with Gwynn, the Winter King, where, as the flower maiden, the goddess of fertility, she notably absent from the Earth.

These are very clearly ancient motifs. At some stage Guinevere replaces the flower maiden, the sovereignty of nature, but the first mention of Arthur's Queen is the 11th century tale  Culhwch and Olwen.

>> Part IV: White Phantom



1. Hugh Williams, trans., Two Lives of Gildas by a monk of Ruys and Caradoc of Llancarfan.  First published in the Cymmrodorion Record Series, 1899.
2.  Persephone Goddess at Theoi Greek Mythology.
3.  Will Parker, The Four Branches of the Mabinogi, suggests that the name of Arawn may conceivably relate to the River Aeron - which rises in uplands of Ceredigion. We might in turn relate this to the River Arun in Southern England. Likewise, there are various Eirean- Aran- place names throughout the Gaelic world, the similarities to the river god Acheron of Greek mythology is obvious.
4. Peniarth MS 98B, 16th century.
5. Mary Jones, Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia.
6.  John Rhys, Lectures on the Origin and Growth of Religion as Illustrated by Celtic Heathendom, 1888, from the Hibbert Lectures 1886, pp 125 – 129. See: Lud's Church, Part V: Lludd's Silver Hand.
Mary Jones is of the opinion that Lludd is a confusion of the gods Nudd and Llyr. Her reasoning is that the roles of the gods of the Children of Don and of the Children of Llyr overlap, and that a certain amount of confluence may have occurred. For instance, in some legends, Creiddylad is said to be the daughter of Lludd Llaw Ereint, and in some the daughter of Llyr/Lear; Jeffrey Gantz in his translation of Culhwch and Olwen believes her name to be the origin of Cordelia in King Lear.  Jones argues that Lludd is a confluence of the gods Nudd and Llyr, because of two figures who are said to be the son and daughter of Lludd; first Creiddylad/Cordelia, said sometimes to be the daughter of Lludd, sometimes of Llyr/Lear; the second is Manannan/Manawyddan, in Irish called both the son of Lir/Llyr and of Alloid/Lludd. Gwyn ap Nudd is said to be the son of Nudd and the son of Lludd. Mary Jones, Jones' Celtic Encyclopedia.
7. Nicholas Mann & Philippa Glasson, The Star Temple of Avalon, The Temple Publications, 2007.

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Sunday 8 May 2011

The Modena Archivolt

The Abduction of Guinevere Part II
Throughout Arthurian Romance Guinevere is commonly portrayed with two weaknesses; her love affairs with Arthur's best knight, and very susceptible to being abducted.

An Arthurian Sculpture
As discussed in an earlier post, the Abduction of Guinevere  is a very popular element of the Arthurian legend, first appearing in written form in Caradoc of Llancarvan's early 12th century Vita Gildae (Life of Gildas), throughout the Arthurian Romances of the late 12th century, through Ulrich von Zatzikhoven’s Lanzelet , Chrétien de Troyes’ The Knight of the Cart, up to Malory's definitive account in Morte d'Arthur.

Caradoc of Llancarvan's account, c.1130, appears to be the earliest written account of the Abduction of Guinevere, a tale he wrote for the Monks of Glastonbury Abbey and interpreted as the first to connect Arthur with the Somerset town, although, as we will see later, this is based on a false etymology of 'Ynys Witrin'. Caradoc's sources have been the cause of much debate between Arthurian scholars, however, evidence indicates there was an oral tradition of the Abduction motif current in Europe prior to Caradoc.

We find evidence of this tradition in an early 12th sculpture at a cathedral in Italy. Nestling in the Po Valley and just north of Bologna, is Modena with its famous cathedral, on which in 1099 a group of sculptors began work. The north portal of Modena Cathedral, known as the Porta della Pescheria, features a seemingly related account, a high relief carving in the marble archivolt depicts a scene from the tale of the abduction of Arthur's Queen. The Arthurian sculpture on the Modena archivolt is seen as evidence that an independent oral account of the tale of the Abduction of Guinevere was known in Europe prior to the writings of Caradoc of Llancarvan and Geoffrey of Monmouth. [1]

The Modena Archivolt
The Modena archivolt shows an assault on a castle by a number of mounted knights with names recognisable from the Arthurian mythos, albeit in a Bretonised form. At the apex of the archivolt is a stone castle surrounded by water. Within the castle are a woman, Winlogee and a man, Mardoc, who is holding her prisoner. To the right, three knights attack the castle. The unnamed knight at the front is engaged in combat with one of the castle’s inhabitants, wielding an axe. The other two are named Isdernus and Artus de Bretania (Arthur). On the left-hand side of the castle are two knights in combat, one named Galvagin (Gawain) appears to be attacking Carrado who defends the castle. On the extreme right of the archivolt are two knights approach, named Galvariun and Che (Kay) who carry their lances over their shoulders and do not seem directly engaged in the action. [2]

This sculpture was first brought to the attention of students of medieval romance by Foerster in 1898 in Zeitschrift fur Romanische Philologie, XXII. Foerster noted a curious resemblance between the Modena sculpture and the tale of Carado of the Dolorous Tower in the 13th century Vulgate Lancelot. In this tale Gawain is abducted by a gigantic knight, Carado, and imprisoned in a castle with two perilous entrances, at one stood a churl. Carado is pursued by Galeschin, Ivain, Arthur and Keu. Gawain is rescued by Lancelot who slays Carado with his own magic sword which a maiden, who had been abducted by the gigantic knight, placed within Lancelot's reach. Foerster pointed out that all the details in the Modena archivolt correspond to this tale. But he failed to identify the maiden of the sculpture, named as Winlogee, with Guinevere probably because the account of the Dolorous Tower is an abduction of Gawain, not Arthur's Queen. Yet Chretien de Troyes account of Guinevere's abduction in Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart, incorporates many of the same elements and was no doubt a source for the Vulgate version.

Other elements of the Modena archivolt scene are found in the abduction story on the late 13th century Durmart le Gallois, in which the castle of the abductor is surrounded by a wide marsh, shields of vanquished knights are hung on the walls of the keep, the queen is found with her lover in the castle, Ydier, as with Isdernus, is not wearing any armour.

By reversing the author's accounts and making Gawain the hero of the the Dolorous Tower episode and Guinevere the victim,  Roger Loomis reconstructs the tale depicted on the Modena archivolt of the Vulgate Lancelot and Durmart le Gallois:

“Artus' queen, Winlogee, is out in the meadow, escorted only by one knight, Isdern. A giant knight, Carado, gallops out from a wood and seizes the queen, riding off with her to his castle. Isdern raises the alarm, taking spear and shield in pursuit. Fully armed Galvarium, Galvagin, Artus and Che set out after him. They arrive at a castle surrounded by a marsh and approached by two opposite barbicans. Before on of which stands the huge churl, named Burmalt, swinging a baston cornu. Burmalt appears to resist the onslaught of artus, Isdern and an unnamed knight. At the other entrance Galvarium, Galvagin and Che are met by the giant Carado. Galvagin pursues Caado into the castle. When he breaks his sword, a maiden who Carado has abducted places the giant's own sword, with which alone he could be killed, within Galvagin's reach who accordingly kills Carado with it. Galvagin then sees the shields of knights whom Carado has slain hanging on the walls of the keep. At last he finds Winlogee with Mardoc who has long loved the queen. The fate of Mardoc is uncertain, but Galvagin brings the queen back to Artus. [3]

Dating the Sculpture
Construction of the cathedral began in 1099 and the Porta della Pescheria Arthurian sculpture is generally dated 1120-1140.  However, Loomis has argued persistently for an early date for the sculpture.

Loomis recalls how in 1096 a group of Breton nobles led by the Alan IV, Duke of Brittany, known as Alan Fergant ('The Strong' in Breton) and his vassals stopped off at Bari on route to Apulia (Puglia) in southern Italy for the  first Crusade. Here they stayed for four months awaiting for a crossing to Greece. Loomis conjectures that while they passed the winter nights at Bari, a Breton conteur (minstrel) would have told them tales of Great Arthur and his knights.

Loomis argues that the existence  of the Arthurian scene on the north portal archivolt of the Modena cathedral is the story told by the  Breton conteur to the Crusaders and craftsmen gathered at Bari during the winter of 1096-97.  [4]
We can be certain that the Modena archivolt sculpture belongs to the early years of the 12th century as work on the modern Modena Cathedral began in 1099, under the direction of the master builder Lanfranco, over the site of the sepulchre of Saint Geminianus, Modena's patron saint. The cathedral  contains many masterpieces of Romanesque sculpture and notable reliefs by Wiligelmo. The architect Lanfranco and the sculptor Wiligelmus perfected a fusion of ancient culture and new Lombard art, creating a fundamental model for Romanesque civilisation.

Wiligelmo (also known as Wiligelmus or Guglielmo), said to be an Italian sculptor, is known to have been active between c.1099 and 1120. He is often considered the first great Italian sculptor. Wiligelmo's reliefs on the facade of Modena cathedral are considered an important first step in the early development of Romanesque sculpture. His identity as the creator is known from an inscription held by the figures of the prophets Enoch and Elijah. Wiligelmus’s principal work is the sculptural assemblage on the west facade of the cathedral at Modena, thought to have been completed c. 1106–1110.

The side gates at Modena are noteworthy for their work by a pupil of Wiligelmus. The Piazza Grande, the Porta Regia ("Royal Gate"), and the shorter Porta dei Principi ("Princes' Gate"), are decorated with a relief depicting episodes of the life of Saint Geminianus. On the northern side is the Porta della Pescheria ("Fish-Market Gate"), with reliefs on the doorposts inspired by the cycle of the years' twelve months and the arch features the tale from the Breton Cycle of King Arthur. The Modena archivolt is considered the earliest monumental sculpture to feature the Arthurian legend. The sculptor, a pupil of Wiligelmus, has been dubbed the "Arthur Master"; critics  tend to note that while his inspiration outshines his skill he faithfully captures realistic details in architecture and dress.

Wiligelmus directed a large workshop that trained numerous sculptors who continued his work at Modena and carried his style elsewhere. The sculptures of Modena cathedral share a close relationship with those of the church at Bari. Both churches contain many masterpieces of Romanesque sculpture and notable reliefs. The Modena archivolt was imitated in the Porta dei Leoni at the Basilica di San Nicola  in Bari, founded in 1089 to shelter the stolen relics of St. Nicolas of Myra. The St. Nicholas Basilica in Bari is a majestic edifice that became the model for later Puglian Romanesque churches. Work on the basilica was completed around 1105. On the north and south sides, deep arcades link the west towers to the transepts, giving the basilica a squarish appearance. The third arch on the north side houses the Porta dei Leoni (Lion Portal), named after the Lions supporting the columns flanking the door. Above the door the arch is decorated with chivalric scenes, although apparently not of an Arthurian context, it is of a similar style to the archivolt at Modena.

The archivolt of the cathedral of Angoulême, Charente in France, constructed between 1110 and 1128 compares favourably with the two archivolts of Bari and Modena in that it depicts warriors in combat before a walled town, but as with Bari it is not considered to be of an Arthurian context. The horses at Angoulême are essentially the same type of those Bari or Modena, but more poorly drawn and the saddles sometimes possess a tail strap as at Bari, but at Modena and Bari the saddles have only one girth, whereas at Angoulême they have two, indicating that Angoulême is the later. The harness straps at Angoulême are ornamented.

At Angoulême we find the shields are round, instead of pointed and the lances are without pennants. At Angoulême three of the knights have conical helmets, like those of Bari and Modena, but a peculiarity is that from one of these helmets and from the crown of King Arthur at Modena, there seems to flutter a sort of veil. At Angoulême the mail falls in a skirt to the knees, as at both Modena and Bari. [5]

In addition, the style of dress depicted on the Modena archivolt is correct for the period. The armour  of the warriors depicted on the Porta della Pescheria at Modena holds much similarity to the Bayeux tapestry recalling the Norman conquest of 1066; the one essential difference  being the armour  of the Modena warriors  is a skirted mail coat, while those of the tapestry are wearing trousers. As the tapestry has been dated from the years immediately after 1066, we can deduce that the armour resembles Modena more closely than depictions at Bari or Angoulême; thus, the chronological order appears to be Bayeux, Modena, Bari, and finally Angoulême.

Transmission of the Tale

Loomis has noted that the name 'Wiligelmus' signed on the Modena facade appears in a similar form on the Bayeux embroidery as 'Wilgelmus', from which he suggests that the sculptor of Modena could have been Norman. Angoulême distinctly appears to be the latest of the three archivolts, and closer to Bari than with the earlier Modena sculpture. Assuming the sculpture at Modena was started soon after work was begun on the cathedral in 1099, it is possible that it was imitated at Bari before 1105, and in turn Bari may have been copied at Angoulême c.1120, indicating transmission of the sculpture style from East to West.

It is as such that we find the influence of Lombardic architecture appearing in Normandy at precisely the time when the Normans began to pass through Lombardy on their frequent journeys to Apulia in southern Italy, the port of departure of the Crusaders. The connection between the Bayeux tapestry, the relief at Angoulême, the Porta della Pescheria at Modena, and the Porta dei Leoni at S. Niccola of Bari is compatible with this direction of transmission. The occupation of Apulia by the Normans must have caused much travelling back and forth from Normandy through Lombardy to Apulia. Journeys undertaken for many different reasons led travellers along the same routes even by those who were not pilgrims.

William of Apulia, a chronicler of the Normans, writing in the late 11th century, who's works include the Gesta Roberti Wiscardi (The Deeds of Robert Guiscard, Duke of Apulia, 1059–1085), is one of the principal contemporary sources for the Norman conquest of southern Italy. William tells us that in 1016 pilgrims arriving at the shrine of the Archangel Michael at Monte Gargano were met by Melus of Bari, a Lombard freedom-fighter, who persuaded them to return with more warriors to help throw off the Byzantine rule, which they did without any great resistance. Appropriately, in the Gesta Roberti Wiscardi William refers to the Normans as "the Gallic race [who] wanted to open the roads to the Holy Sepulchre" .

The evidence discussed above would appear to indicate the transmission of the 'Abduction' motif, Arthurian or not, as depicted in the sculptures on these three Romanesque Cathedrals, from east to west. However, we are forced to consider if it is possible that the tale could have passed across Europe in the opposite direction, taken to Italy by the crusader knights from northern France led by Alan IV, 'The Strong', Duke of Brittany?

Alan's father was Hoel II of Cornwall who became Duke of Brittany, by marriage, in 1066 and started the Cornwall dynasty of Brittany, which ruled the duchy for nearly a hundred years. Little is known of Hoel but it is significant that he has ancestral roots in south west Britain, the veritable home of Arthurian legends. At this point we can justifiably speculate that it is possible that Alan IV of Brittany may have took the tale of Guinevere's abduction to Italy on route to the Holy Land, perhaps a Cornish tale he had heard from his father, a precursor that developed into the tale recalled by Caradoc of Llancarvan in the 12th century.

Route of the First Crusade
Yet, from Bari, the Norman knights of the First Crusade were bound for Constantinople through Greece, just across the Strait of Otranto in the southern Adriatic Sea, the nearest port being the ancient Greek colony of Aulon (modern Vlorë, Albania) which played a central role in the conflicts between the Norman Kingdom of southern Italy and the Byzantine Empire during the 11th  and 12th centuries. It is within Greek mythology that we find the archetype of the abducted flower maiden. It is inconceivable that the Norman knights were not exposed to the myth of the abduction of Persephone.

Indeed, the Arthurian sculpture on the archivolt at Modena cathedral appears independently of any known literary source. [6] More likely the tale of Guinevere's abduction originates from a meeting of east and west; the tales of Arthur and his knights taken to Italy by the Breton contingent of the First Crusade, becoming entwined with the Greek mythology of the abduction of Persephone by the Breton story tellers stopping off in southern Italy. In turn this abduction story, presented with an Arthurian twist, spread back across Europe along the pilgrim routes to Brittany and finally to Britain and the quill of Caradoc of Llancarvan who adapted the tale for the monks of Glastonbury.

Part III: White, The Winter King

1.  Norris Lacey and Geoffrey Ashe, with Debbra Mancoff, The Arthurian Handbook, Garland, 1997, p.205.
2.  Marilyn Stokstad, "Modena Archivolt", in Norris J. Lacy, The Arthurian Encyclopedia., Garland, 1986, pp.390-91.
3.  R S Loomis, Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance, 1927, Academy Chicago Publishers edition 1997, p.10.
4. Ibid. pp. 5-11.
5.  Arthur Kingsley Porter, Romanesque sculpture of the Pilgrimage Roads, 1923.
6. Norris Lacey and Geoffrey Ashe, with Debbra Mancoff, op.cit. p.199.

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Sunday 1 May 2011

The Abduction of Guinevere

 Throughout Arthurian Romance Guinevere is commonly portrayed with two weaknesses; her love affairs with Arthur's best knight, and very susceptible to being abducted.

Part I:
The Abduction of Guinevere in Medieval Romance

"So it befell in the month of May, Queen Guenever called unto her knights of the Table Round; and she gave them warning that early upon the morrow she would ride a-Maying into woods and fields beside Westminster. And I warn you that there be none of you but that he be well horsed, and that ye all be clothed in green. [1]
 Few people are unfamiliar with the tales of King Arthur presented as a knight in shining armour,  tales of Grail quests, courtly love and chivalry, the product of the medieval continental romancers. Featured throughout Arthurian Romance is Guinevere, legendary consort of the King, portrayed as the archetypal feminine figure of the medieval court, a multifaceted character, the epitome of carnal desire and spiritual aspirations.

However, throughout Arthurian Romance  Guinevere is commonly portrayed with two weaknesses; the medieval tales consistently reveal that Guinevere had a love affair with Arthur's best knight, and she was very susceptible to being abducted. More often than not her rescuer is her lover, but this is not always so.

Along with the quest for the Holy Grail, the love affair of Guinevere and Lancelot, regarded as the first and greatest of King Arthur's legendary knights, dominates Arthurian Romance. The betrayal ultimately leads to the King's death and downfall of the kingdom. The account generally accepted as being introduced by Chrétien de Troyes in the 12th century, Lancelot as Guinevere's lover appears as a common motif in numerous Arthurian cyclical literature through to Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur in the 15th century.

Sir Thomas Malory of Newbold Revel, Warwickshire, while in London's Newgate Prison during the 15th century, drawing heavily on Welsh and French sources such as the Vulgate Cycle, wrote what is undoubtedly the last definitive interpretation of the Arthurian myth, which he appropriately  titled "The Whole Book of King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table". However, on publishing Malory's opus magnum as 21 books in 1485 William Caxton renamed it simply as "Morte d'Arthur" after the last book, The Death of Arthur, which is the title commonly used today.

By Book VI 'The Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake' Malory has Lancelot declare his love for Guinevere, who he reveres above all others in response to her admiration of his proficiency as a knight. In Book XVIII  Guinevere is accused of murder and Lancelot saves her from being burned at the stake for the first time. Guinevere is kidnapped in Book XIX by Sir Meliagrance while she is a-Maying:

“But this knight, Sir Meliagrance, had espied the queen well and her purpose, and how Sir Launcelot was not with her, and how she had no men of arms with her but the ten noble knights all arrayed in green for Maying. Then he purveyed him a twenty men of arms and an hundred archers for to destroy the queen and her knights, for he thought that time was best season to take the queen."

Sir Meliagrance declares his intentions toward the queen:

“So as the queen had Mayed and all her knights, all were bedashed with herbs, mosses and flowers, in the best manner and freshest. Right so came out of a wood Sir Meliagrance with an eight score men well harnessed, as they should fight in a battle of arrest, and bade the queen and her knights abide, for maugre their heads they should abide. Traitor knight, said Queen Guenever, what cast thou for to do?”

“Wilt thou shame thyself? Bethink thee how thou art a king’s son, and knight of the Table Round, and thou to be about to dishonour the noble king that made thee knight; thou shamest all knighthood and thyself, and me, I let thee wit, shalt thou never shame, for I had liefer cut mine own throat in twain rather than thou shouldest dishonour me. As for all this language, said Sir Meliagrance, be it as it be may, for wit you well, madam, I have loved you many a year, and never or now could I get you at such an advantage as I do now, and therefore I will take you as I find you.”

Coming to her rescue Lancelot kills Meliagrance, saving her from being burned at the stake for a second time. In the penultimate Book XX - The adulterous Lancelot and Guinevere are finally caught by Agravaine, Arthur's nephew and Knight of the Round Table. Arthur sentences her for treason, but Lancelot rescues her from being burnt at the stake for the third time. Arthur then lays siege to his castle until the Pope intervenes who negotiates a solution. Guinevere returns to Arthur and Lancelot returns to France where he is pursued by Arthur, but the king receives news that Mordred has claimed the realm and returns to England. Finally in the closing episode of Malory's work, Book XXI, on Arthur's return he defeats Mordred at Dover. Arthur finally battles with Mordred near Salisbury, proving to be fatal for both men.


Chrétien de Troyes, the originator of the Arthurian Romance tradition, famous for introducing the Grail in his most intriguing and final work Le Conte du Graal, or Perceval, first introduced the world to Lancelot as both Guinevere's lover and rescuer in the late 12th century tale Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart, (Lancelot, ou Le Chevalier à la Charrette). And as we have seen with Malory, Guinevere and Lancelot's betrayal of Arthur is often portrayed as being fundamental in the downfall of the kingdom.

It has been suggested that Chrétien may have invented their affair to supply Guinevere with a courtly lover or could have been following a model inspired by the Tristan and Isolde legend based on much older Celtic material. Chrétien composed 'Le Chevalier de la Charrette' at the request of the Countess Marie de Champagne, daughter of Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and wife of Henry I of Champagne. The Countess may well have supplied Chrétien with the essence of the  Guinevere – Lancelot love triangle as the author claimed that she supplied the subject matter as the tale is certainly in stark contrast to the earlier, and first Arthurian romance, Erec et Enide or the later Cligés which extol the virtues of marital fidelity. Chrétien abandoned his Lancelot tale, leaving “the clerk Godefroy de Lagny to put the final touches to it”, possibly because he had grown dissatisfied with the subject matter that had been imposed upon him by his patron. [2]

Lancelot has the hallmark of being a purely French creation who Chrétien substitutes for Gawain as Guinevere's saviour in his tale. Gawain, the best of knights in English accounts, appears to have fallen from grace with the writers of continental romance who give him no more than a supporting role. However, an alternative tradition in which Gawain was the lover of Guinevere is evidenced in the 13th century texts De ortu Walwanii, Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival, Gerard d’Amien’s Der Roman von Escanor and the Prose or Vulgate Merlin. However, in German romance accounts featuring the abduction of Guinevere such as Hartmann von Aue’s Iwein, Ulrich von Zatzikhoven’s Lanzelet and Heinrich von der Turlin’s Diu Krone, Gawain is frequently cast as Guinevere’s rescuer, not as her lover.

The sources of the writers of the continental Arthurian romances are complex and beyond the scope of this brief work. [3] However, suffice to say that the continental writers of Arthurian Romance evidently followed much older oral accounts and although maintaining the original motif varied the detail. As such we see the persistence of the tale of the abduction of Guinevere throughout the Romances, yet her lover and rescuer's identity changes persistently with Chrétien de Troyes taking the greatest departure from tradition and introducing Lancelot. Whether Lancelot was purely the invention of  Chrétien or if he was following a French oral tradition supplied by the Countess of Champagne seems likely although we will probably never know for certain.

However, we find the theme of the abduction of the King's consort in native British tales prior to
Chrétien's tale. The abduction episode in the The Knight of the Cart appears to be largely a reworking of an earlier account by Caradoc of Llancarvan from the early 12th century, but Chrétien substitutes Meleagant (Malory's Sir Meliagrance) for Melwas as her abductor and the queen's rescuer is of course her lover Lancelot.

Caradoc of Llancarvan, wrote his Life of Gildas (Vita Gildae) around 1120, [4] in which he recounts how Gwenhwyfar was kidnapped by Melwas, king of the "Summer Country" (Aestiva Regio, generally agreed as meaning Somerset), and held prisoner at his stronghold at Glastonbury, protected by thicketed fortifications of reeds, rivers and marshes. The story recalls how Arthur, the war-like king, spent a year searching for her, then on finding her assembled a mass army made up from the whole forces of Devon and Cornwall and prepared for war. The Abbot of Glastonbury, attended by Gildas the Wise, intervened and negotiated a peaceful resolution and reunited Gwenhwyfar with Arthur.

This is the earliest written account of Gwenhwyfar's abduction and the inspiration for the many abduction tales that followed throughout the Romances. As we have seen above the account is followed closely from Chrétien to Malory, a tale that has generally remained true by the writers of medieval romance from the 12th to 15th century. Although Caradoc was a contemporary of Geoffrey of Monmouth the Life of Gildas was published several years before Geoffrey's chronicle pseudo-history and can be considered free of his influence.

Geoffrey of Monmouth
Writing for an Anglo-Norman audience almost half a century before Chrétien penned Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, the cleric Geoffey of Monmouth provides a different account of the Queen's abduction in his Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain c.1136) adding that she was descended from a noble Roman family and educated under Cador, Duke of Cornwall. When Arthur crosses the Channel to go to war with the Roman Procurator Lucius Hiberius he leaves Guanhumara (Geoffrey's rendering of Guinevere's name in Latin) in the care of his nephew, Mordred. While Arthur is absent, Mordred seduces Guanhumara, declares himself king and takes her as his own queen. On hearing this Arthur returns to Britain and enters into combat with Mordred at the final and catastrophic Battle  of Camlann. Again the essence of the story is essentially the same.

As with Chrétien, determining the sources of the writer's of Arthurian Romance can be challenging to say the least, yet in Geoffrey's case it is even more complex and arduous. [5] However, we find a clue to Geoffrey's source material contained in the epilogue of some versions of the 'Historia'. Geoffrey bids William of Malmesbury and Henry of Huntingdon to “be silent as to the kings of the Britons,” and commits the task of writing their further history to “Caradoc of Llanacarvan, my contemporary.”  Geoffrey's Historia was continued from the death of Cadwaladr in 682 up to 1282 (with a further continuation to 1332) in the Brut y Tywysogion (the Chronicle of the Princes). Caradoc is known to have ventured into hagiography authoring a Life of Gildas and a Life of Saint Cadog, both pre-dating Geoffrey's Historia, but none of the extant copies of the Brut y Tywysogion positively identify him as author.

The Abductor's Dialogue
From the evidence of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Caradoc of Llancarvan there would appear to have been an abduction story in circulation in Britain before the writers  of continental romance included the theme in their tales. Two dialogue poems exists in two versions from two manuscripts, from the 16th and 17th century respectively, but have been dated on linguistic evidence to the 12th century. [6] The first namely “The Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhyfer” but also known as “The Dialogue of Arthur and Gwenhyfar” (Llanstephan 122) [7] containing the conversation between the queen and her abductor. Gwenhyfer refers to her steed being green, the tint of leaves, which would appear to be reflected in Malory's  account “So as the queen had Mayed and all her knights, all were bedashed with herbs, mosses and flowers”. Her abductor reveals himself as “Melwas from the Isle of Glass”. This version has the added implication that Cei (Kay) is Gwenhyfar's lover as she continually praises him. Indeed, in the second version of “The Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhyfer” (Wynnstay I) [8] Cei is included in the dialogue and Gwenhyfer appears to be mocking Melwas for his lack of stature.

It is clearly the same abduction episode of Caradoc of Llancarvan's “The Life of Gildas”; the two poems recalling a tale from a lost Welsh original. However, evidence exists that the abduction story was in circulation before the 11th century.

The Cathedral Door
A seemingly related account appears in a sculpture carved into the archivolt of the The Porta della Pescheria of Modena Cathedral, Italy, dated to between 1099 – 1120 roughly contemporary with Caradoc of Llancarvan's Life of Gildas. The sculpture depicts Artus de Bretania (Arthur) and Isdernus approaching a tower in which Mardoc is holding Winlogee (Guinevere). On the other side Carrado (probably Carados) fights Galvagin (Gawain) while the knights Galvariun and Che (Kay) approach. Roger Sherman Loomis has demonstrated that these names are Breton versions of characters from Arthurian Romance; 'Isdernus' is most certainly an incarnation of 'Yder' (Edern), a Celtic hero whose name appears in Culhwch and Olwen, and who was Guinevere's lover in an all but forgotten tradition mentioned in Beroul's Tristan [9] and reflected in the later Roman de Yder.

Loomis strongly argued for an early date for the sculpture, even if he is not correct it demonstrates an early oral account of the abduction story was in circulation in northern France at the time of Caradoc and before Geoffrey of Monmouth or Chrétien wrote their accounts. [10]

 The earliest mention of Gwenhwyfar is in the 11th century Welsh tale Culhwch and Olwen, where she appears as Arthur's queen, but little more is said about her. Rachel Bromwich argues that there is little evidence for the existence of Gwenhwyfar (Guinevere) before Geoffrey of Monmouth as she is notably absent from the earlier versions of the Triads of the Island of Britain. [11]

As we have seen above the betrayal of Arthur by his queen was considered fundamental in the downfall of the kingdom. Indeed, although the Triads do not allude to the abduction, they do confirm that an event concerning Gwenhwyfar led to the battle of Camlan and therefore ultimately Arthur's demise.

The event is recalled in Triad 53 Three Harmful Blows of the Island of Britain: “The second Gwenhwyfach struck upon Gwenhwyfar: and for that cause there took place afterwards the Action of the Battle of Camlan”. The same occurrence appears to be confirmed as the cause of one of the  Three Futile Battles of the Island of Britain in Triad 84 which states “And the third was the worst: that was Camlan, which was brought about because of a quarrel between Gwenhwyfar and Gwennhwyfac.”

The Triads also list Gwenhwyfar as one of the most faithless of Three Faithless Wives of the Island of Britain “since she shamed a better man than any (of the others)”. [12]

Thus, the abduction of Gwenhwyfar according to the medieval romances.

Copyright © 2011 Edward Watson

Part II: The Modena Archivolt


1.  Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, the Whole Book of King Arthur and His Noble Knights of the Round Table, c. 1469, Book XIX, Chapter I, How Queen Guenever rode a-Maying with certain knights of the Round Table and clad all in green.
2. William W Kibler, (trans.), Chrétien de Troyes Arthurian Romances, Penguin, 1991.
3. Roger Sherman Loomis has done as much as anyone to demonstrate their Celtic sources and, although perhaps a little dated by modern scholarship, anyone wishing to pursue this subject matter further could do worse than use his works as a point of departure:
Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance, Columbia University Press, 1927.
The Development of Arthurian Romance, Hutchinson, 1963.
The Grail: From Celtic Myth to Christian Symbol, University of Wales Press, 1963.
Arthurian Tradition and Chretien de Troyes, Columbia University Press, 1949
Wales and the Arthurian Legend, University of Wales Press, 1956
Arthurian Literature in Middle Ages (Editor), Oxford University Press, 1959.
4. There is some significant Arthurian material in Celtic hagiography, in which Arthur is typically portrayed in a negative light, a tyrant warlord often at odds with the church, unruly and unpredictable.
5. In his Prologue to the Historia Regum Britanniae, Geoffrey states that his work is a translation of a "librum vetustissimum" (a most ancient book), written in the British language and given to him by Walter, Archdeacon of Oxford. Many doubt this book ever existed and Geoffrey is accused of manufacturing much of his 'history'. William of Newburgh declared that "it is quite clear that everything this man wrote about Arthur ….. was made up, partly by himself and partly by others, either from an inordinate love of lying, or for the sake of pleasing the Britons."
However, Geoffrey's rendering of the Welsh name 'Gwenhwyfar' in Latin as 'Guanhumara' cannot be from an oral source and suggests he was following a written vernacular source. This could be a lost manuscript or alternatively, as the Welsh name fails to appear in any manuscript prior to Caradoc of Llancarfan’s Vita Gildae, we could speculate on this being one of Geoffrey's sources.
6. Patrick Sims-Williams, The Earliest Welsh Arthurian Poems in  Arthur of the Welsh, Ed. R Bromwich et al, Cardiff University Press, pp. 58 – 61.
7. Mary Williams, “An Early Ritual Poem in Welsh.” Speculum vol. 13 no. 1. January 1938. pp 38-51. Available online at Mary Jones Celtic Literature Collective, The Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhyfer.
8. Ibid. The Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhyfer (version 2).
9. Beroul, The Romance of Tristan, Penguin, 1970, p.156.
10. R S Loomis, Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance, Academy Chicago Publishers 1997.
11. Rachel Bromwch, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, University of Wales Press, 3rd Edition, 2006 pp.376 -380.
12. All Triads quoted from Rachel Bromwch, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, University of Wales Press, 3rd Edition, 2006.

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