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Re: Merlin - elements of the original legends

Poster: "Stephanie M. Thorson" <smt2@st-andrews.ac.uk>

Says Dafydd:

> Several of the Arthurian and proto-Arthurian legends appear in the
> Mabinogion.  For those who aren't familiar with it, the Mabinogion is a
> collection of Welsh myths and is 500-700 years pre-Shakespeare.  It is
> also a very interesting read.

The important thing about Arthurian material isn't whether or not it's
pre-Shakespearean, really, it's whether it pre-dates the great French
outburst of Arthurian material which started at the end of the twelfth
century.  Some of the Arthurian material in the Mabinogion is not earlier
than the thirteenth century, and some of it is *definitely* post-Chretien
de Troyes, _Owein_ and _The Dream of Rhonabwy_ in particular. 

Possibly the earliest mention of Arthur is in the only surviving Old Welsh
text, Y Gododdin, which describes a battle that took place somewhere in
the vicinity of what is now Edinburgh during the sixth century.  In it a
character is described as having "glutted ravens on the battlements,
though he was no Arthur."  The date of the poem is hotly debated, and
estimates range from "contemporary to the battle" to "2 centuries later."
That short mention is the only possibly Arthurian material in it, but it
is a great battle lament, and available in translation.

The earliest really securely dateable Arthurian materials are the Old
French romances written by Chretien de Troyes, which are available in a
handy single-volume translation by David Staines (Indiana University
Press, 1990).  Chretien was at work during the last quarter of the 12th
c., and is roughly contemporary with Marie de France (who was probably
really Anglo-Norman), whose _Lais_ are an equally good read, although only
one (Lanval) is Arthurian.  There's a Penguin translation of Marie which
seems to be fairly accurate; the volume on my shelf is a dual language Old
French/Modern French edition. 

Stephanie M. Thorson			|  SCA: Lady Alianora Munro
Dept. of Scottish History		|  Clan White Wing
University of St Andrews		|  Tarkhan, Khanate Red Lion

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