Sunday, 28 April 2019

Arthur in the Celtic Languages

There are many books that focus on the Arthurian legend in literature, but three books featuring collections of essays by leading authorities in the field show the development of scholarship over the last seventy years should be held in every enthusiast's collection.

Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages: A Collaborative History (Clarendon Press, 1959)
edited by Roger Sherman Loomis. Includes important essays such as The Arthury of History (KH Jackson), Arthur in Early Welsh Verse (KH Jackson), The Legend of Arthur's Survival (RS Loomis), other chapters,  as the title suggests, concentrated on the development of Arthurian Medieval Literature.

Then in 1991 came The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature, edited by Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman and Brynley F. Roberts published by Wales University Press (UWP) as part of the Series: Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages which includes The Arthur of Medieval Latin Literature, The Arthur of the Italians, The Arthur of the English, The Arthur of the French and so on.

The Arthur of the Welsh presents a collection of essays focusing on the Arthurian literature produced in Wales, in both Welsh and Latin, during the Middle Ages, with chapters on the ‘historical’ Arthur (Thomas Charles-Edwards), Arthur in early Welsh verse (Patrick Sims-Williams), the Merlin legend (A. O. H. Jarman), the tales of Culhwch ac Olwen (Brynley F. Roberts). Other chapters investigate the evidence for the growth of the Arthurian theme in the Triads and in the Historia Regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth, and discuss the Breton connection and the gradual transmission of the legend to the non-Celtic world.

In January 2019 UWP published the latest book in Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages series;

Arthur in the Celtic Languages: The Arthurian Legend in Celtic Literatures and Traditions edited by Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan and Erich Poppe.

This is the first comprehensive authoritative survey of Arthurian literature and traditions in the Celtic languages of Welsh, Cornish, Breton, Irish and Scottish Gaelic. With contributions by leading and emerging specialists in the field, the volume traces the development of the legends that grew up around Arthur and have been constantly reworked and adapted from the Middle Ages to the twentieth century.

It shows how the figure of Arthur evolved from the leader of a warband in early medieval north Britain to a king whose court becomes the starting-point for knightly adventures, and how characters and tales are reimagined, reshaped and reinterpreted according to local circumstances, traditions and preoccupations at different periods.

From the celebrated early Welsh poetry and prose tales to less familiar modern Breton and Cornish fiction, from medieval Irish adaptations of the legend to the Gaelic ballads of Scotland, Arthur in the Celtic Languages provides an indispensable, up-to-date guide of a vast and complex body of Arthurian material, and to recent research and criticism.

Part One: Wales
The Beginnings of Welsh Arthurian Tradition
Native Welsh Arthurian Tales
Medieval Translations and Adaptations into Welsh
Influences and Re-Compositions
Popular and Later Traditions
Part Two: Cornish & Breton Traditions
Part Three: The Gaelic World

‘This long-awaited successor to The Arthur of the Welsh is the first-ever survey of Arthurian material across all the Celtic languages from the Middle Ages to modern times. A significant contribution to the field of Arthurian studies in general, it will prove an indispensable resource for those working with material in the Celtic languages.’ - Professor Sioned Davies, Chair of Welsh, Cardiff University

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  1. Bought this book on your recommendation! A good read so far! I also bought "King Arthur: the Making of a Legend" after reviewing it here.

    Do you have any plans to continue writing your own thoughts down, like with the Lud's Church series?


    1. Hi Tiege, thanks for your comment. Good to hear that you are enjoying 'Arthur in the Celtic Languages'; this is an expensive book, as are all hardcovers in this series (Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages) by the University of Wales Press. There is so much rubbish written about Arthur it is important to get as close to the original sources as possible and that is what these books, written by leading scholars in their fields, provide. Arthur of the Welsh is also an essential read and more affordable in paperback.
      Any Arthurian book by Nicholas Higham should come with a warning as he does not subscribe to a 'historical Arthur', which doesn't go down well with some readers. I tend to agree with Higham; analyse the primary sources and there is very little of substance for Arthur's historicity; take for example the Arthurian battle list which popular author's have reconstructed to have Arthur fighting all over the country and beyond. Maybe he did?
      The Lud's Church series was never finished, I only got about half way through. I have walked the area of Lud's Church in the Staffordshire Moorlands many times and always been intrigued by the number of faces that can be seen in the rocks and the name which local lore suggests was named after the 'Luddites'.
      However, scratch the surface and you'll be surprised how much related stuff comes up; Lud's Church has been identified as the Green Knight's Chapel in Gawain and the Green Knight, which may have been written at the nearby Dieulacres Abbey (now almost totally gone) and the Beheading Game which eventually led me to Lugh/Ludd and Lleu in the Mabinogi. I found much of this linked to Merlin and shamanism and a surprising conclusion. My intention is to finish the Lud's Church series and publish in book format and therefore stopped blogging further posts. This is the same with most series I have written and then stopped posting. I just struggle to find the time, but one day I hope to get this stuff out there.
      best wishes

  2. Hi Ed!

    I know what you mean about having no time to follow passions, I'd like to start a blog on the subject myself someday.

    You should find the time to write that book, and I'll be here to buy it!

    1. If/when it happens I will remember you Tiege!
      Best wishes