So… as I read more and more excellent posts by fellow bloggers I get more ideas for topics here, and it’s become something of a heaping backlog; I still need to write about the Irish blacksmith goddess, water horses, Edern ap Nudd, portrayals of the cyclops in Celtic literature, and a host of others things besides.* But I discovered this topic recently and now that it has my attention I’d like to focus on it straightaway.
(I) Geraldus Cambrensis’ Itinerarium Cambriae– 1191 A.D.
(C) Codex Sancti Pauli- 9th century A.D.
In a blog article by Greg Hill we find a story supplied by Giraldus Cambrensis in chapter V of his work Itinerarium Cambriae,(I) composed in the year 1191.(1) The tale centers on the character Melerius and the origins of his prophetic powers.(2) It states that Melerius:
“…there is an Irish legend as to a priest who came to disbelieve that men had souls. “Who ever saw a soul?” he would say. “If you can show me one I will believe.” All the king’s sons were on his side, but at last a mysterious child comes on the scene and shows him that if we have life though we cannot see it, we may also have a soul though it is invisible.”
Survivals in Belief Among the Celts, by George Henderson, p. 80-81 (1)
(e) Érec et Énide by Chretien de Troyes, 12th century
(g) Geraint ac Enid by anonymous, 14th century
(y) Roman d’Yder by anonymous Anglo-Norman poet of French extraction, 13th century
(f) Tain bo Fraich, by anonymous, 8th century
Starting where we left off in the previous post, “The Antiquity of ‘The Romance of Geraint and Enid’ Part 1 – The British Evidence,” there is reason to ponder if a pre-Christian “original” Welsh myth followed the “hard task” international tale, or something akin to it, wherein a man assigns hard tasks hoping to slay his helper, eventually to gain respect for him. If such a tale type existed in ancient times in Wales as part of a Celtic body of myths, we may then find it attested in other countries sharing Wales’ Celtic heritage. In this light let’s carefully proceed.
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.
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.
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.
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.”***