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Family of Arthur

Arthur was the great legendary British king. Arthur was the son of Uther Pendragon and Igraine. Igraine was the wife to Duke Gorlois of Cornwall (or Hoel of Tintagel), at the time she had conceived Arthur. Through Merlin’s magic, Uther was transformed to look exactly like her husband. Uther made love to Igraine, when Gorlois was absence. When Gorlois was killed, Uther immediately married Igraine.

In the Welsh legend, his mother was named Eigr (Igraine), daughter of Anlawdd Wledig, and his father was Uthr Bendragon (Uther Pendragon). Arthur had a sister named Gwyar, who was the mother of Gwalchmai or Gwalchmei, which means the Hawk of May, and of Gwalhaved. Gwalchmai was better known in English and French legend as Gawain or Gauvain. But there is frequent confusion of who were Arthur’s sisters and who was mother of Gawain in the mainstream Arthurian legend.

According to Geoffrey, Wace and Layamon, Uther and Igraine were parents of Arthur and a daughter named Anna, who married King Lot of Orkney. Morgan le Fay was also considered to be Arthur’s sister, but I am not certain that if she was Arthur’s sister or half-sister. Geoffrey never mention Morgan in his History, but in his later work, (Vita Merlini, c. 1151) Morgan was one of the sisters and sorceresses who lived in Avalon. In Gerald of Wales’ work called Tour of Wales (1188), the scholar wrote that Morgan was Arthur’s cousin. Some had identified Morgan with the Welsh mother goddess Modron, the mother of Mabon, the Welsh god of youth. Modron had also being identified as being the wife of Uryen Rheged (Urien) and the mother of Owain (Yvain).

Later legends say that Arthur had three half-sisters: Morgawse, Elaine (Blasine) and Morgan le Fay. Morgawse had married King Lot of Orkney, Elaine (Blasine) was married to King Nentres of Garlot, while Morgan was wife of King Urien of Gorre, brother of Lot.

Arthur said to have no children from his wife Guinevere, except for in Perlesvaus, where Lohot was their son, and Guinevere is his mother. However, Lohot (or Loholt) was said to be Arthur’s son, not by his wife Guinevere, but more frequently by a woman named Lisanor [Chretien de Troyes’ Erec [from Arthurian Romances, translated by William W. Kibler, p. 58]. Lohot was one of the Round Table knights. Lohot was also one of the knights captured by the lord of Dolorous Guard, where he fell ill during the imprisonment.

According to Malory, the son was named Borre (Boarte in Suite du Merlin) and the mother was named Lionors [le Morte d’Arthur, book I ch. 17] (or Lyonors in Suite du Merlin). The similarity between the two women’s names – Lisanor and Lionor, suggested that Lohot and Borre is one and the same person.

According to the ninth century historian, Nennius, Arthur had a son named Amr, as well as a dog, called Cabal. Nennius say that Arthur had killed his own son, but doesn’t state why he had done so. Arthur had set up tomb near the spring called Licat Amr, in the region of Ercing. What was marvelous about this tomb is that it change in length in various days. Amr could be the prototype to Mordred. As for his dog, the mound was called Carn Cabal, located in Buelt. Cabal was killed when they went hunting against the wild boar Troynt (possibly Twrach Trwyth in Culhwch and Olwen?).

In Culhwch and Olwen (c. 1100), Arthur was the father of Gwydre, possibly by Gwenhwyvar (Guinevere). Gwydre was killed by a wild boar known as Twrach Trwyth. At the end of the Dream of Rhonabwy, Arthur had a different son named Llacheu. While in the beginning of the Welsh romance “Gereint and Enid”, the story mentioned that Arthur had a son named Amhar. Amhar could be the same as Nennius’ “Amr”, but I am not certain about this. None of these tales gave any indication that they were the sons of Gwenhwyvar (Guinevere).

Also in the Welsh myth, the Welsh Triad listed three queens of Arthur. All three queens were named Gwenhwyvar. They were called Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwent (Cywryd), and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwythyr son of Greidiawl, and Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gogfran the Giant. This reminded me of the triple war-goddesses Morrigan or triple mother-goddesses Danu in Irish myths. In some cases, Guinevere or Gwenhwyfar was seen as a goddess, just like Morgan le Fay.

The Welsh Triad also listed Arthur of having three mistresses – Indeg daughter of Garwy the Tall, and Garwen (“Fair Leg”) daughter of Henin the Old, and Gwyl (“Modest”) daughter of Gendawd (“Big Chin”).

In Irish literature, Arthur appeared as Artúir (Artuir), the son of Benne Brit (“of the Britons”). In the Acallam na Senórach, the Irish hero, Cailte reminisced how he and nine other Fian warriors recovered the hounds of Finn Mac Cumaill. Artuir had stolen Finn’s hounds, called Bran, Sceolaing and Adnúall.

In Irish myth, Arthur was not a hero at all. He was nothing but a thief.

However, his most famous son was Mordred. Normally, in the early tradition, (by Geoffrey of Monmouth and others), Mordred was Arthur’s nephew, because Mordred was the son of King Lot and Anna or Morgawse, the sister of Arthur. But as early as the Huath Merlin and the prose Merlin (Vulgate version), it was implied that Mordred was his son by Arthur’s half-sister, Morgawse. In the Suite du Merlin (a continuation of the Vulgate Merlin), Arthur had unwittingly slept with Morgawse, because he did not know that she was his half-sister. Some even say that Morgan le Fay was Mordred’s mother.

In the Mort Artu (Vulgate Cycle), Gawain did not know that Mordred was only his half brother until Mordred had seized power during their absence in the wars against Lancelot and the Romans. The only person who knew of Arthur relationship with Mordred was Morgawse and Merlin.

In the tenth century Annale Cambriae, Arthur and Medraut (Mordred) fell in battle at Camlann. The ambiguous statement did they fought against, or if they against each other as enemies, or what their relationship to one another. But in the Dream of Rhonabwy (Mabinogion), Medrawd (Modred) was his nephew and only his foster-son.

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