The Antiquity of ‘The Romance of Geraint and Enid’ Part 1 – The British Evidence

Chase of the White Stag, Erec et Enide

There has been a significant amount of debate about the origin of the thirteenth or fourteenth century Welsh romance ‘Geraint ac Enid’, and its relation to the French work ‘Erec et Enide’ by Chrétien de Troyes in the later half of the twelfth century. Scholarly opinion generally fall into two camps: that the text of the ‘Geraint’ is based primarily on the ‘Erec’, with perhaps Chrétien adapting his own story from traditional Welsh or Breton material, or that both are derived independently of one another from a common lost Celtic source. (1) With so much ink spilled on the subject, (2) it seems a survey of potentially analogous tales may be helpful in tracing the development of the story as we know it.

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The Monarchs of Beasts – The King of Swine

Dieu d’Euffigneix

The generous Mael Brigde of Brigit’s Sparkling Flame is conducting a presentation on pigs in Celtic Legend. She is open to hearing people’s stories and graciously agreed to look into my suggestions on a few pig related texts as well!(1) This has motivated me to gather what I’ve learned and write down my own thoughts on the matter.

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Twilight and Darkness Mix

On the face of it, King Arthur’s raid on Annwfn in ‘Preiddiau Annwfn’ appears to be a cautionary tale on the dangers of hubris towards the otherworld. The poem’s refrain, “Except seven, none returned…,” haunts the imagination with impressions of human and spectral figures gripped in tremendous slaughter. The treasures of the Deep sparkle in the dark margins like will o’ the wisps in a cavernous netherworld of graying twilight. The poet chooses words with boldness; he has cast his audience down to hell (Uffern) to writhe in the shadow of a menacing foreign fortress (Caer Sidi) and bear witness to the unfortunate who suffers there in chains.

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The Riddles of the Bards

Dr. Morus-Baird points to the poem ‘Kanu Ygwynt’ and hypothesizes that the subject of the poem, wind, conceals a deeper meaning about Awen.

In a previous lecture, Dr. Morus-Baird signals where he translates “dwfn” differently to Haycock in the poem ‘Angar Cyfundawd.’ Haycock renders the word as “profound,” but Morus-Baird clarifies that “dwfn” also means “deep,” and believes that that is a superior interpretation in the context of the poem. He also cites the name for the Welsh underworld, Annwfn, with the intensifier “an” affixed to “dwfn” as literally “very deep” but also potentially “very profound.”***

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Boiling Without Fire

The ancient Celts rarely wrote anything down. Societies that are dependent on oral tradition require a mechanism to safeguard the transmission of knowledge between generations.

In Wales, a bard’s ability to communicate with the dead might have been regarded as a way to vouchsafe the authenticity of the learning and history prior generations hoped to bequeath to their descendants.

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Like a Bird on a Cliff…

The Life of Saint David presents the reader with a dramatic cascade of miraculous events, some of which can be likened to the adventures of the wonder poet Taliesin.

The episodes of Saint Gildas’ sudden inability to speak when in the presence of St. David’s pregnant mother, and the storm that saves the life of the Saint in infancy both recall the incidents in Hanes Taliesin where the poet’s formidable mystic power silences the rival harpers, and the storm he raises to the aid of his foster father Elffin ap Gwyddno Long Shanks (lit. crane-long). Do their similarities extend to the watery associations of their nativities as well?

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Ceridwen’s role

It’s difficult to untangle the mystery of Ceridwen’s identity and her symbolic role in Welsh legend. The safest path is to examine the early references to her in the Welsh poetry of Cuhelyn and Taliesin, where she is invoked somewhat like an inspiring muse. She can be seen as the bestower, or the very source, of the creativity called Awen.

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