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“At the end of the 1400s, the world changed. Two key dates can mark the beginning of modern times. In 1485, the Wars of the Roses came to an end, and, following the invention of printing, William Caxton issued the first imaginative book to be published in England – Sir Thomas Malory’s retelling of the Arthurian legends as Le Morte D’Arthur. In 1492, Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the Americas opened European eyes to the existence of the New World. New worlds, both geographical and spiritual, are the key to the Renaissance, the ‘rebirth’ of learning and culture, which reached its peak in Italy in the early sixteenth century and in Britain during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, from 1558 to 1603.”
~Author: Ronald Carter
I was nicely surprised this morning when this amazing article was shared on my Facebook page Arthurian Romances! I’ve asked to post it here so you may enjoy it as well!
The “Thirteen Treasures of Britain” are famous artefacts from Celtic legend. The kings and heroes of Britain possessed these divine hallows during the divine age – a time when Arthur and Merlin protected the realm.
Rulers and chieftains were given these treasures as a sign of their sovereignty. Each treasure had its own way of testing a king’s worthiness: they were designed to be wielded by the righteous and the brave, often failing in the hands of the wicked.
The Thirteen treasures of Britain included:
1. The Flaming Sword (Dyrnwyn) of Rhydderch Hael; Only the king of the north could wield this weapon which was said to burst into a flame from cross to the point.
2. The Chessboard of Gwenddolen was renowned for its ability to play opponents by itself. The board was made of gold, adorned with 32 silver pieces. The knight, Peredur, once played against it and lost. Outraged at his intellectual unworthiness, he threw the chess board into a lake.
3. The Hamper of Gwyddno Garanhir acted like a food replicator. Any goods that was placed inside it was copied ten-fold. Once reopened, it would have a hundred servings to feed a whole army of people.
4. The Carriage of Morgan Mwynvawr was renowned for its speed. It was claimed that its passengers were swiftly transported to wherever their hearts desired. Some said it flew through the sky to its destination, other that it arrived at its target in the blink of an eye.
5. The Horn of Bran Galed was especially sought after by those who liked their drink. It could dispense any beverage its user wished for, including rum, wine, beer and ale. Bran the Blessed, who was the custodian of this artefact, later became a guardian of the Holy Grail.
6. The Halter of Clydno Eiddyn could tame any horse in the kingdom. It was kept at the end of Eiddyn’s bed. Whatever horse he wished for at night, would appear harnessed to the halter in the morning. This was a most prized possession for any horse-loving Celt.
7. The Knife of Llawfrodded Farchawg was so swift that it could serve up a hog-roast for twenty-four men all at once. It was great for a feast, but could also be a deadly weapon on the battlefield.
8. The Cauldron of Dyrnwch (a Celtic giant) could boil a most delicious stew, but it would only feed the most courageous of people. If a coward tried to boil meat in it, the flesh would remain uncooked. However, if a brave champion placed his kill in the pot, it would cook a sumptuous feast for him and his army.
9. The Tunic of Padarn Beisrudd was made to fit the kind and noble hearted. If a wicked person tried to adorn themselves with the armoured tunic, it would shrink in size, prohibiting the unworthy from its magical benefits.
10. The Whetstone of Tudwal Tudelud produced the most finely sharpened swords in the land. However, it would only hone the blade of a brave and fierce warrior. Any enemy struck by its finely polished blade was sure to die. However, if a coward sharpened his sword on its magical edge, it would blunt their weapon, rendering it useless in battle.
11. The Crockery of Rhegynydd Ysgolhaig produced the most wondrous feasts. It would fill itself to the brim with whatever food its master wished for, and was said to feed thousands of people during the harvest festival.
12. The Mantle of Arthur could conceal the user from his enemies. Whoever was robed in this magical cloth would become concealed to the outside world. Rather than a cloak of invisibility, it functioned more like a chameleon, blending in with its surroundings.
13. The Ring of Eluned was perhaps the most powerful artefact of all. Whoever concealed the stone of this ring would become invisible. They would not be able to kill anyone while concealed, for as soon as they took their hand away from the stone, they would become visible once again. This helped to ensure the ring wasn’t used as a deadly weapon in the wrong hands.
According to legend, Merlin the magician spent many years searching for all these divine artefacts. Eventually he procured all thirteen treasures from their owners and took them to his glass abode on Bardsey Island, Wales. When he eventually faded from this world, the divine age of Celts came to an end.
Some say the treasures of Britain can be found in Merlin’s secret tomb, but sadly its location has been lost in the annals of time. Others say the treasures are still with us, buried beneath Britain, waiting for a virtuous and noble soul to reclaim them.
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.
Dear Fellow Arthurians,
Please see below a CFP reminder for our other Kalamazoo 2014 session.
International Arthurian Society―NAB
Call for submissions: 49th International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, 2014; sponsor: International Arthurian Society, North American Branch
Anti-formalist Arthur: Postmodern Perspectives on Medieval Arthurian Texts
For various reasons, the critical treatment of Arthurian literature has not always kept pace with recent developments in literary theory. This session solicits papers with a clear critical perspective that is of recent origin, such as deconstruction, postcolonial theory, queer theory, and others, by which to interrogate medieval accounts of the Arthurian legend.
Submit abstracts by September 15 (with a copy also to organizer Steve Atkinson [email@example.com]
Joan Tasker Grimbert
Catholic Univ. of America
Modern Languages and Literatures
Washington DC 20064
Dear IAS-NAB members,
At the business meeting of the IAS-NAB in May, the members present proposed and approved by vote four sessions for Kalamazoo 2014. Subsequently, the congress organizers of the Medieval Institute approved only three of the four topics and told us we could only offer two panels, leaving to us the choice of those two. After consultation with our Executive Advisory Committee, a consensus emerged that the following two would probably have the widest appeal and attract the most proposals:
1. Anti-formalist Arthur: Postmodern Perspectives on Medieval Arthurian Texts – organized by Steve Atkinson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
2. Lost in Translation: Negotiating Foreign Languages in Arthurian Literature – organized by Michael Twomey (email@example.com) and Bonnie Wheeler (firstname.lastname@example.org)
If you are on the congress mailing list, you will soon receive the official Call for Papers for all the sessions approved for 2014. You may already consult it online at:
http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/files/call-for-papers-2014.pdf. As you know, proposals are due by 15 September. They should be submitted directly to me as the contact person (email@example.com), with a copy to the organizer(s) of the session.
Although we were dismayed that only two of the four sessions we proposed were approved, many other sponsoring organizations suffered a similar fate. I was told by the congress organizers that this across-the-board reduction stemmed from their desire both to offer as diversified a program as possible and to keep the number of sessions at a manageable level. They claim to have received many more proposals than usual for next year. The sponsoring organizations that fared the best proposed a variety of activities, e.g., a session of papers, a round table, and a performance. We may do better next year if we are a little more innovative in the kinds of sessions we propose!
Joan Tasker Grimbert
Professor of French & Medieval Studies
The Catholic University of America