Sunday 10 July 2011

Isle of Glass (2)

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

Conclusion: City of Glass?
In a gloss at the end of  Caradoc of Llancarfan's Vita Gildae, the author attempts to explain the etymology of the British name for Glastonbury, Ynisgutrin as the City of Glass:

“Glastonia was of old called Ynisgutrin, and is still called so by the British inhabitants. Ynis in the British language is insula in Latin, and gutrin (made of glass). But after the coming of the English and the expulsion of the Britons, that is, the Welsh, it received a fresh name, Glastigberi, according to the formation of the first name, that is English glass, Latin vitrum, and beria a city; then Glastinberia, that is, the City of Glass.”

We find a similar reference in the Welsh poem the Spoils of Annwn which describes a raid on an Otherworld Isle, citing various names for the Otherworld as a supernatural stronghold, described as a poem providing an opportunity for Taliesin to provide a "glittering kaleidoscope view of the Otherworld." [8] In this poem we find the third name listed for the Celtic Otherworld as 'Caer Wydyr', the 'Fortress of Glass'. This is compatible with the accounts of Chrétien de Troyes and the Historia Brittonum we have seen above (Isle of Glass Part I) which refer to a glass tower on an island.

The association of Glastonbury with the Isle of Glass is based on a false etymology of  the name Ynisgutrin which looks suspiciously like an attempt to explain the English name in the British tongue. In fact there is very little evidence for a pre-Saxon presence at Glastonbury and we must bear in mind that Caradoc of Llancarfan was writing for the monks of Glastonbury, his prime objective in this passage is to explain why the Abbey acquired great estates in ancient times. [9] Indeed, the name of the Somerset town defies a satisfactory etymology and it was not until the 12th century that it became associated with the realm of the Celtic Otherworld of Avalon.

Fabulous Voyages
As we seen above (Isle of Glass Part I), all the accounts of a journey to the Otherworld that feature in Preiddeu Annfwn (Spoils of Annwn), the  Second Branch of the Mabinogi (Mabinogi of Branwen), Cuwlwch and Olwen, and the Vita Gildae (Life of Gildas) appear to possess remnants of a now lost common origin of an ancient Celtic voyage myth. This episode, prominent throughout Welsh Celtic mythology is reminiscent of the early Irish Immrama, the fabulous Voyages in which they literally go Island hoping through the Otherworld.  Indeed, many consider the Spoils of Annwn should be grouped in the same category as the Voyage of Bran, the Voyage of Mael Duin and the Christianised The Voyage of Saint Brendan.

The 10th century tale of the Voyage of Saint Brendan (Navigatio Brendani) commences with a Saint Barrind telling of his visit to the Island of Paradise, which prompts Brendan, a 6th century Saint, to set off on his legendary quest for the Isle of the Blessed (St. Brendan's Island). The tale introduces us to St Barrind, the Christian Saint remembered in Ynys y Barri (Barry Island), a peninsula in the Vale of Glamorgan, South Wales. St Barri, is the 6th century disciple of Saint Cadoc who forgot to bring the Saint's reading matter with him on a journey from the island of Flat Holm in the Bristol Channel. He was sent back to retrieve it but he drowned on the return journey. He was buried on Ynys y Barri, the ruins of the chapel in Friars Road is dedicated to him.

This Saint Barrind is no less than the prototype of Barinthus, the pilot of Arthur's death barge who guides Myrddin and Taliesin on their voyage to 'The Fortunate Isle', introduced to the Arthurian cycle by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his Vita Merlini, c.1150:

Julia Margaret Cameron
from Tennyson's Idylls of the King 1875
“The island of apples which men call 'The Fortunate Isle' gets its name from the fact that it produces all things of itself; the fields there have no need of the ploughs of the farmers and all cultivation is lacking except what nature provides. Of its own accord it produces grain and grapes, and apple trees grow in its woods from the close-clipped grass. The ground of its own accord produces everything instead of merely grass, and people live there a hundred years or more. 

There nine sisters rule by a pleasing set of laws those who come to them from our country. She who is first of them is more skilled in the healing art, and excels her sisters in the beauty of her person. Morgen is her name, and she has learned what useful properties all the herbs contain, so that she can cure sick bodies. ….......... And men say that she has taught mathematics to her sisters, Moronoe, Mazoe, Gliten, Glitonea, Gliton, Tyronoe, Thitis; Thitis best known for her cither.

“Thither after the battle of Camlan we took the wounded Arthur, guided by Barinthus to whom the waters and the stars of heaven were well known. With him steering the ship we arrived there with the prince.... .. "[10]

It is often assumed that Geoffrey may have obtained his Barinthus from the Voyage of Saint Brendan, with his role that of the ferryman, a Celtic Charon. However, it has been argued that Geoffrey based his Barinthus on an earlier tradition in which he was god of the sea and the Otherworld. [11] The Life of St David reveals a pre-Geoffrey Celtic tradition of St Barri which cannot be a mere adaptation form the Latin legend of Brendan. The tale reveals how one day St Barri borrowed a horse from St David and rode it across the sea from Wales to Ireland, suggesting that Barri must have been riding a sort of fish or sea-horse. Rather an odd thing for a Christian saint to do.

We find similar accounts in Irish mythology in which Manannán mac Lír, is featured riding on a sea-horse across the ocean between Ireland and Wales, although what appears to be the sea to men is to Manannán the flowering plain of Mag Mell. [12Surely the tale reveals that Barri was in all probability originally a Celtic sea god, like Manannán, who became Christianised as a Saint. This is a common trait of the early Saints Lives and other Celtic literature. Barintus may therefore be an epithet, such as the Irish Barrfind, or Finbarr, which means literally 'white-topped'[13] As we have seen previously, the denotation of 'white' implies Otherworldly connotations, usually applied to a deity. [14]

Indeed, a more appropriate name for a god of the sea would be hard to find. It seems highly probable that Barintus, or Barri, was in origin a sea-deity and consequently an early Celtic god of the Land beyond the Waves. The Barintus episode fails to form an integral part of the Voyage of Saint Brendan, as is common in typical Celtic Otherworld voyage tales, he appears briefly at the beginning as an Otherworld messenger who suggests to the Hero the idea of the voyage. [15]

However, while the immrama, the name derived from Middle Irish literally 'rowing out', refer specifically to supernatural sea voyages, they tend to be Christianised accounts, which seems at odds with the accounts discussed above, the Spoils of Annwn, Voyage of Bran and so on, which are overtly pagan. The same must be said of the abduction of Guinevere from the Vita Gildae and the similar episode from the early works of Chrétien de Troyes.  This appears to be mainly due to the misnomer of Immram Brain (The Voyage of Bran).

Essentially the immrama are not strictly concerned with the Otherworld; although they contain supernatural elements, they are firmly set in the Christianised world with a Christian hero. The Voyage of Bran, although named as such, is not an immram but belongs to a group of older tales recounting an excursion to the Otherworld, collectively called 'echtrai'  in Old Irish. The story of Bran's voyage probably became confused with that of Brendan the Navigator (Navigatio Brendani), and the term immram became attached, incorrectly, to Bran's story. [16]

Saint Brendan
The echtrai then are specifically concerned with the adventure of a hero in the Otherworld. As we have seen above with Barrind, a god or goddesses often calls the hero to the voyage, which leads him to one of many Otherworld locations which are not always an island; within hills, beneath lakes or the sea, on islands in lakes or off the coast, or a hall chanced upon during the night but vanished the next day. Evidently they can only be attained by men at particular times. [17] Barrind, Barintus or Barri bears much in common with Manannán mac Lír, who in the echtrae is often the deity of the sea and patron of sea travellers, and the goddess of the tale typically one of his daughters, who are usually bearing a flowering silver branch of apples, as an indicator of their Otherworldy status.

The point of the echtrae is either to lure a hero to the Otherworld  for eternity as a husband for one of the goddesses or to impart some form of wisdom unto the hero. Only the chosen return from the echtrai, and those who return against the will of the gods usually perish, having found that they had been away for hundreds of years. [18] The echtrai are amongst the oldest Celtic tales of supernatural adventures, dating to at least the 8th century, the product of the Celtic imagination at it's most creative. Indeed, the Irish Otherworld adventure tale Baile in Scail (The Ectasy of the Phantom) has been considered a precursor to the episode of the Grail castle. [19] The heroes of the echtrai are typically sovereigns borrowed from other mythological cycles portraying the close relationship between ancient kings and magic; generally the greater the elements of magic, the older the tale.

Caradoc of Llancarfan's account of the abduction of Guinevere as contained in the Vita Gildae betrays traces of an Otherworld adventure, belonging, with the likes of the poem Spoils of Annwn, a Celtic supernatural excursion. As noted above, the Celtic Otherworld location does not necessarily have to lie over the sea, although this is compatible with the belief system of an island society. Indeed, in Middle Welsh, if the location of Annwn is mentioned at all, a place beneath the earth, the abyss, is often favoured, [20but not exclusively so, for it can be over, or under, the sea. Essentially, the Welsh Annwn seems to be a single realm which can be entered from many places on earth and sea. [21] 'Caer Wydyr', the 'Fortress of Glass' is crucially part of that realm.

Whereas, we cannot rule out the possibility of influence from the Greek Persephone myth, in later medieval Arthurian Romance, carried by pilgrims returning into western Europe along the route of the First Crusade in the early 11th century, it is not necessary in the account of the abduction of Guinevere as all the elements were already in existence in the much earlier Celtic Otherworld adventures.



Waters of Wisdom
The supernatural journeys possess the commonality of crossing water to attain the Otherworld, regardless of the location; a motif which we see echoed throughout Indo-European mythologies. On the way to the Otherworld, souls of the dead had to cross a river, the waters of which washed away all of their memories. But these memories were not destroyed, they were carried by the river's waters to a spring where they would bubble up and could be drunk by other, favoured individuals, initiates who would receive inspiration and become infused with supernatural wisdom as a result. [22]

The Isle of the Dead by Arnold Bocklin, 1883
We find the motif of drinking from the well of wisdom throughout North European mythologies, one of the best known is the Norse Mimir's Spring, which interprets as the 'Spring of Memory'. Typically, Mimir's Spring is located in the Otherworld, drinking it's waters imbibes supernatural wisdom, it is connected to a river that flows from the Otherworld. Odin sacrificed his eye to drink from these waters in order to gain wisdom.

There can be little doubt that these many voyages to the Otherworld were in origin a quest for such wisdom:

You will find a spring to the left of the house of Hades,
And standing beside that is a white cypress.
Do not approach close to the spring,
You will find another, flowing cold water
From the pool of Memory, before it there are guards,
Say: “I am a child of Earth and of Starry Heaven;
But my lineage is of Heavenly.
You must see this yourselves.
I perish and am withered with thirst. Give quickly
The cold water flowing from the pool of Memory.” 
And they themselves will give you to drink from the divine spring,
And thereafter you shall reign among the other heroes. [23]

7.  The Life of Gildas by Caradoc of Llancarfan, from Two Lives of Gildas by a monk of Ruys and Caradoc of Llancarfan. Hugh Williams, translator. First published in the Cymmrodorion Record Series, 1899. Mary Jones Celtic Literature Collective.
8.  Marged Haycock, Taliesin: Legendary Poems, CMCS Publications, 2007, p.434.
9. James P Carley, Arthur in English History, in The Arthur of the English, ed. WRJ Barron, University of Wales Press, 2001, pp.47-57.
10. The Vita Merlini, Translated by John Jay Parry, 1925. Parry notes that the description of the Fortunate Isles comes largely from classical tradition such as can be found in Isidore, but adds that Geoffrey also seems to have been influenced by Celtic legends of the Otherworld, as a land of paradise. Parry quotes a significant passage in Pomponius Mela, De Situ Orbis, III, 6, which reflects the ancient Celtic tradition. Parry also notes the similarity to The Gesta Regum Britanniae (Deeds of the Kings of Britain), written at some time between 1235 and 1254, and attributed to a Breton monk, William of Rennes, which, although later in date than the Vita Merlini may represent an independent tradition. The Gesta is fundamentally an adaptation of Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae and retains Geoffrey's overall structure, but expands upon some elements, possibly were William had access to traditional Breton sources that Geoffrey omitted. Significantly, following Wace, in his account William omits the Prophecies of Merlin section of the Historia.
11.  Arthur C L Brown, Barintus, Revue Celtique, XXII, 1901.
12.  Francesco Benozzo, Landscape Perception Early Celtic Literature, Celtic Studies Publications, 2004, pp.3-18.
13.  Arthur C L Brown, op cit.
14.  The Abduction of Guinevere, Part IV: White Phantom, Arthur's Otherworld Possessions.
15.  Arthur C L Brown, op cit.
16. Mary Jones, 'echtrae', Jones Celtic Encyclopedia.
17. John Carey, The location of the Otherworld in Irish tradition, First published in The Otherworld voyage in early Irish literature, ed. J. Wooding, Four Courts, 2000, pp.113-119.
18.  Mary Jones, 'immrama', Jones Celtic Encyclopedia.
19. John Carey, Ireland and the Grail, Celtic Studies Publications, 2007, pp.15-26. Carey notes that the similarity between Baile in Scail and Chrétien de Troyes Story of the Graal was first suggested by Roger Sherman Loomis in Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance in 1926.
20. John Carey, The location of the Otherworld in Irish traditionop cit.
21. Patrick Sims-Williams, Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 56-59.
22.  Bruce Lincoln, Death, War and Sacrifice, University of Chicago Press, 1991.2
23.  Ibid. Instructions for the post mortem journey found on an inscription on a gold plate discovered in a grave in Petelia, southern Italy, third century BC. The thin plate was rolled into a cylinder, inserted in a sheath and hung around the neck of the deceased.

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Sunday 3 July 2011

The Isle of Glass

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

Tales from the Otherworld
In Part I: The Abduction of Guinevere we saw how Chrétien de Troyes introduced Lancelot to the world of Arthurian Romance 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).

Lancelot receives nothing more than a passing mention in Chrétien's earlier and first Arthurian work Erec et Enide in which he appears as Lancelot of the Lake, third in a list of the knights of the Round Table. It is also in Erec et Enide that we first encounter Guinevere's abductor from the Otherworld where we find the figure appearing briefly as“Maheloas, a great baron, lord of the Isle de Voirre. In this island no thunder is heard, no lighting strikes, nor tempests rage, nor do toads or serpents exist there, nor is it ever too hot or too cold.[1]
Lancelot crossing the Sword Bridge
In Lancelot Chrétien expands on the persona of Maheloas, Lord of the Isle of Voirre (glass) and we  encounter the figure of Meleagant, referred to as a huge and mighty knight, evil son of Bademagu the king of the land of Gorre, who has carried Guinevere off into the kingdom from which no one returns. The knights are told that it is only possible to enter this land by two extremely perilous ways; the Underwater Bridge or the Sword Bridge. They chose the latter. On arriving at the Sword Bridge they found it crossed treacherous, black water, roaring, swift and swirling, as horrifying and frightening as if it were the Devil's own stream. The bridge was unlike any other, it was as sharp as a gleaming sword, as long as two lances. On either side the sword was fixed to tree stumps and the knights were convinced that two lions or leopards were tethered to a large rock at the other end of the bridge. On crossing he immediately encountered king Bademagu in his tower. [2]

Chrétien seems to have pulled heavily from Celtic sources, and Meleagant, or Maheloas, is no less than later versions of the prototype Melwas as he appears in the first account of Gwenhwyfar's abduction in the early 12th century Life of Gildas (Vita Gildae c.1120) said to have been penned by Caradoc of Llancarvan (Caradog Llancarfan). Llancarfan is a small rural village near Cowbridge in the Vale of Glamorgan, south Wales, and the site of Saint Cadoc's 6th century Abbey, whose foundation it usually assigned to with Dubricius, (St. Dubric) and the time of St. Germanus's visit to Britain in the mid-5th  century. On Dubricius' elevation to bishop, Cattwg (St Cadoc) succeeded as Abbot. The Abbey became a Celtic 'Clas' a college and monastery where many Welsh holy men studied. [3]

A few miles further along the Vale of Glamorgan is Llantwit Major and the site of “the oldest university in the world", Cor Tewdws, the divinity school.  Cor Tewdws, or Bangor Tewdws (College of Theodosius) was burnt down in the mid-5th century but was refounded by St Illtyd (Illtud) some sixty years later. Ss. Patrick, David, Gildas, Tudwal, Samson, and Maelgwn (later king of Gwynedd), amongst a host of others, including the heretic Pelagius, founder of the doctrine known as Pelagianism, are said to have studied at here.

Vale of Glamorgan
This veritable hotbed of religious schooling in the Vale of Glamorgan was responsible for producing many of the 'Saint's Lives' which contain some of the earliest reference to Arthur. He appears in the Lives of Padarn, Carannog, Illtud, Gildas, Cadog, Goueznou and Euflamm. [4]

Typically, in these Saint's tales Arthur is depicted as somewhat of a tyrant, usually at odds with the church. In this earliest stratum of the legend Arthur is portrayed as:

“....a defender of his country against every kind of danger, both internal and external: a slayer of giants and witches, a hunter of monstrous animals ........ giant boars, a savage cat monster, a winged serpent (or dragon) ….... and also, as it appears from Culhwch and Preiddeu Annwn, a releaser of prisoners. This concept is substantiated from all the early sources: the poems Pa Gur and Prieddeu Annwn, the Triads, the Saint's Lives, and the Miribilia attached to the Historia Brittonum...” [5]

Clearly, in the earliest Arthurian literature we are dealing with mythology rather than history. However, it is the Vita Gildae of Caradoc of Llancarfan, written in the first quarter of the 12th century, that concerns us here. In this tale we find a version of the early Welsh tale of the rescue of Gwenhwyfar from an Otherworld Isle of Glass of Melwas. This account may provide the background to Ymddiddan Melwas ac Gwenhwyfar (The Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhyfer), dated on linguistic evidence to the 12th century, or both may independently refer to a common exemplar.

Caradoc recounts how Gwenhwyfar was kidnapped by Melwas, king of the "Summer Country" (Aestiva Regio), generally agreed as meaning Somerset, but this is based on an incorrect understanding of the term. Whereas we can agree that the Latin 'aestiva' means 'summer', 'regione'  is plural for 'regio' in a geographical sense meaning 'district, region', or 'lands'. Therefore a preferable etymology of 'aestiva regione' would be 'summer lands' or more correctly 'land of summer'. The Celtic Otherworld is often described as being a land of paradise, happiness, and eternal summer and this is exactly how Chrétien describes his Isle de Voirre in Eric et Enide.

Isles of the Dead
This Otherworld was thought to be similar to the Elysium of Greek mythology and believed to be located on an island in the Western Sea in the area of the setting sun. A place where there was no sickness, old age or death, a place of eternal happiness and in Irish mythology variously called Tír na mBeo ("Land of the Living"), Mag Mell ("Delightful Plain"), and Tír na nÓg ("Land of Youth").

Isles of the Blessed
We noted above in Chrétien de Troyes' Lancelot, or the Knight of the Cart, that on immediately crossing the Sword Bridge to the Land of Gorre, the knight immediately encountered king Bademagu in his tower. In the Isle Of Glass this can be no less than the Tower of Glass. One of the earliest literary references we have to a glass tower in the ocean appears in the 9th century Historia Brittonum:

“Long after this, the Scots arrived in Ireland from Spain. The first that came was Partholomus, with a thousand men and women, these increased to four thousand; but a mortality coming suddenly upon them, they all perished in one week. The second was Nimech, the son of …..who, according to report, after having his ships shattered, arrived at a port in Ireland, and continuing there several years, returned at length with his followers to Spain. After these came three sons of a Spanish soldier with thirty ships, each of which contained thirty wives; and having remained there during the space of a year, there appeared to them, in the middle of the sea, a tower of glass, the summit of which seemed covered with men, to whom they often spoke, but received no answer. At length they determined to besiege the tower; and after a year's preparation, advanced towards it, with the whole number of their ships, and all the women, one ship only excepted, which had been wrecked, and in which were thirty men, and as many women; but when all had disembarked on the shore which surrounded the tower, the sea opened and swallowed them up.”

This episode immediately brings to mind the classic Celtic story of a raid on the Otherworld to retrieve the magic cauldron. Remnants of this tale appear in Preiddeu Annfwn (Spoils of Annwn), the  Second Branch of the Mabinogi and Cuwlwch and Olwen. The cauldron is wrested by the deity Bran, the Blessed, in The Second Branch, the Mabinogi of Branwen, substituting Arthur from Preiddeu Annfwn. But there is also a wrested Irish cauldron in Culhwch and Olwen. In the latter of these two accounts of the raid on the Otherworld has became on a raid on Ireland showing its similarity to the story of the glass tower from the Historia Brittonum passage on the peopling of Ireland.

It is possible that Ireland may have been perceived as a kind of "Otherworld" in Welsh lore, an island to the west, which would explain the Irish name given to the first mention of the fortress, Caer Siddi, in the Spoils of Annwn. Indeed, this Arthurian poem shares the episode of the of the difficulty of conversing with three score watchmen on the wall in the Historia Brittonum. These are clearly the souls of the dead; in Celtic mythology the supernatural cauldron has the power to bring the dead back to life but without the power of speech. The indications here seem quite clear; a raid on the Otherworld by Arthur and his retinue to retrieve a supernatural cauldron; the Celtic cauldron of plenty was never empty and supplied great quantities of food and the cauldron of rebirth brought slain warriors to life again. As we in Part IV: White Phantom, many of Arthur's possessions, including his wife Gwenhwyfar, came from the Otherworld.

The Historia Brittonum passage also states that only one ship survived; Spoils of Annwn recalls that none, save seven returned from three full shiploads of Arthur's ship Prydwen and the Mabinogi of Branwen reveals that only seven men survived with Bran. The abduction epsiode in Caradoc's Vita Gildae has the same Otherworldly adventure feel about it; a journey to the Isle of Glass. Indeed, in the Vita Gildae, Saint Gildas has come down to the Land of Summer from the Orcades in the North. Orcades is usually referred to as the Orkney Isles but Orcus is yet another name for the Otherworld.

Ancient geographers on the journey to Thule referred to passing by 'Orc Island,' or 'Innis Orc' to use the old Gaelic name. However, this name may have originated from the tales of superstitious mariners referring to Islands of the Dead at the far ends of the ocean rather than a physical place. Consider the account of the 6th century historian Procopius of Caesarea who recorded that many people had told him that the inhabitants of an island off the coast of Brittia was where the souls of the dead are ferried. Brittia is interpreted by many historians to mean Britain.

It is seemingly not of Celtic origin as 'Orca' is the Latin name for a sea creature, nowadays applied to the killer whale. The Latin  word 'Orc' has the literal meaning of 'the dead, death,' or the 'underworld.' In Roman mythology we find Orcus was a god of the underworld, punisher of broken oaths. The Romans sometimes conflated Orcus with other gods such as Pluto, Hades, and Dis Pater, all deities of the land of the dead. Therefore, Orcus can mean both 'the underworld' or 'the god of the underworld.' Thus, Orcades may refer to the island abode of Orcus, god of the dead.

In some mythologies it is common to find the Otherworld is located in the north. Remnants of this belief seem to have perpetuated into Celtic mythology; in Cuhwhch and Olwen, Arthur went to the North to resolve the issue with Gwyn and Gwrythr; later in Cuhwhch Arthur travels to Uffern, in the north, to obtain the blood of the Very Black Witch. Gwyn is there also. Uffern is used as another name for the Otherworld in Spoils of Annwn.

“Said Arthur, "Is there any one of the marvels yet unobtained?" Said one of his men, "There is--the blood of the witch Orddu, the daughter of the witch Orwen, of Pen Nant Govid, on the confines of Hell." Arthur set forth towards the North, and came to the place where was the witch's cave. And Gwyn ab Nudd, and Gwythyr the son of Greidawl, counselled him to send Kacmwri, and Hygwyd his brother, to fight with the witch”. [6]

Gwyn ap Nudd's association with the Otherworld is beyond doubt. In Part III: White, The Winter King we saw that in abducting Creiddylad, Gwyn takes the place of Hades in the Greek Persephone myth. In the medieval tales this role has been passed on to Melwas, or his later namesakes.

In the poem The Dialogue of Gwyn ap Nudd and Gwyddno Garanhir from the Black Book of Carmarthen, Gwyn is described as “the hope of armies” and boasts how he has been where the soldiers of Britain were slain. This would appear to be  a reference to his role as psychopomp, escort of the souls of the dead. The poem also recalls how he witnessed a conflict before Caer Vandwy, yet another Otherworldy fortress named in the Spoils of Annwn.



1. Chrétien de Troyes: Arthurian Romances, Erec and Enide, trans. Carleton W Carroll, Penguin Books, 1991, pp.37-122.
2. Chrétien de Troyes: Arthurian Romances, The Knight of the Cart (Lancelot), trans. William W Kibler, Penguin Books, 1991, pp.215-246.
3. Constantius' Life of St. Germanus, written about fifty years after the death of the saint, makes no mention of any school founded by him or indeed his presence in Wales. As ever with these early Saints tales we must exercise caution in considering their historical value.
4. For translations see: John B. Coe and Simon Young (ed. and trans.), The Celtic Sources for the Arthurian Legend, Llanerch, 1995. For discussion of the Saints’ Lives see B.F. Roberts, ‘Culhwch ac Olwen, the Triads, Saints’ Lives’, in R. Bromwich et al, The Arthur of the Welsh, Welsh University Press 1991, and Oliver J Padel, Arthur in Medieval Welsh Literature, University of Wales Press, 2000.
5. R. Bromwich and D. Simon Evans, editors, Culhwch and Olwen. An edition and study of the oldest Arthurian tale, Welsh University Press, 1992, pp. Xxviii-xxix.
6. Ibid.

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