Page 5 of 7 FirstFirst 1234567 LastLast
Results 61 to 75 of 97

Thread: Discussion on Arthur and his knights

  1. #61
    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    grad school in upstate NY
    Posts
    703
    Quote Originally Posted by kasie View Post
    their candidate for Arthur is one Owain Ddantgwyn (Owain White-tooth) - ever come across him? Arthur, they suggest, is an honorific made up of Arth, meaning a Bear in Brythonic and Ursus also meaning a Bear in Latin - Arthur, they propose, is a figure who united the local Brythonic speakers with the last upholders of the declining Roman Empire.
    I have not heard of this particular Owain, though the name suggests he's of Welsh origin. Is he supposed to be a Welshman-turned-Roman-supporter? Or a leader of British resistance? And while Arthur's name does mean "bear", it's hard for me to take Phillips and Keatman's etymology seriously. If the Britons were as opposed to the Romans as history would have us believe, I doubt that they'd allow any Latin influence into their language, especially in their honorifics. I would think that would be a point of pride for them.

    Besides, there are very few texts that actually make an explicit connection between Arthur and a bear. Off the top of my head, I can only think of one, and it's a modern retelling. If people did take the etymology of Arthur's name seriously, you'd think there would be some stories that reflect the popular Bear's Son folktale type, a la Beowulf. But there aren't. Instead, most of the accounts focus much more the on the dragon of the Pendragons.

    Quote Originally Posted by kasie
    They also suggest that Camelot could be the Roman town of Viroconium, modern-day Wroxeter in Shropshire on the England-Wales border because of some fortification the town in the fifth century, post-Roman but pre-Saxon.
    I vaguely remember hearing the name of this town before. The only thing I remember about it is that it had a massive re-fortification in the 6th century, which is too late to be in the historical Arthur's lifetime. But again, I don't know enough about Viroconium to comment. Out of curiosity, is it far enough north to be within the safety net of Hadrian's Wall?

    Quote Originally Posted by kasie
    re: Guinevere/Gwenhwyfar 'White Spirit' - I expect you know there are many local legends in Wales about 'white ladies' that haunt lonely hillsides? I always suspect that these refer back to pre-Christian times and worship of the moon, the White Lady who comes and goes.
    Interesting. I hadn't heard about the White Lady in relation to the moon; thanks for that! I would also add that the Celts believed in white goddess who rode a white horse and could cross between the mortal and immortal world. It wouldn't surprise me if either of these were the basis for the mythical Guinevere.

    Re: lions. I don't think there would have to be lions in the UK for legends to spread about them. Again, I believe early Britain's association with Rome brought stories of lions to the island. What Rome knew, Britain did too. And Rome had direct contact with Africa much earlier than the 5th century of the historical Arthur...remember, Hannibal's Punic Wars against Carthage took place in 1st century BC.

    Besides, the Britons had intimate knowledge of the Aeneid, since they pretty stole their genealogy wholesale from it, and Virgil does make mention of lions in it. As for kasie's Crusades theory, the dates would be consistent with Chretien's Yvain, so it's possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie
    Um... the picture... Just wow. Oh dear, I really can't comment other than yup, that's about what I imagined. Is that a real picture though? It looks photoshopped. Either way... yeah... Well it should be fun to watch! I loved the Hobbit as a kid.
    I'm really bad at catching photoshop...it could very well be. But it was posted on onering.net, if that counts for anything. Still, I'll be glad to see Armitage in an American production, even if he's all covered in hair.
    Ecce quam bonum et jocundum, habitares libros in unum!
    ~Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

  2. #62
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    1,380
    The gist of Phillips and Keatman's theory is that there was a tribe of Picts (ie modern Scots) that were invited to help defend the kingdom of Powys (roughly central east Wales and the bordering eastern stretch of the present day English Midlands). These incomers had been displaced by the warring Scots (present day Irish) Picts and Saxons in the area roughly north of Hadrain's Wall and south of present day Edinburgh. Owain was their dux bellorum. They suggest this explains a decription of Arthur as being a leader who was 'with' the British but not 'of' them. They suggest that not all the Britons were necessarily anti-Roman, there had been extensive intermarriage and association with Roman settlements had given a security and standard of living that the Romano-British families were dismayed to see threatened by the withdrawl of the Legions. A pro-Roman tribe, skilled in fighting the new invaders, with Roman standards and discipline, were welcomed by the Romanised kings of Powys as a much-needed defence force against the beleagured last outpost of Roman civilisation in Briton.

    They suggest that just as the Pendragon was the 'Head Dragon' of the fighting force so Arth-Ursus was the fighting 'Bear' who united the Romanised Brythonics to fight off the destroyers of their beloved and threatened way of life.

    Wroxeter/Viroconium is a tiny place - I had to get the road map out to pinpoint it exactly! - it's roughly west of Birmingham, south-east of Shrewsbury, a long, long way from Hadrian's Wall. It's not far from the Wrekin and Much Wenlock, Houseman's Wenlock Edge, a natural defence as a raised escarpment. There are many earthworks in the vicinity, among them Caer Caradoc, a name to conjure with! It commands a river confluence, the Teme and the Severn, both of which would have been navigable to shallow draught boats. Interestingly, it's not far from Ironbridge, the Cradle of the Industrial Revolution in Britain so I wonder if the Romans had already discovered the sources of iron, etc, in the area - there is apparently evidence of metal-working in the ruins.

  3. #63
    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    grad school in upstate NY
    Posts
    703
    Kasie, this book sounds fascinating. I have a few more general questions about it. Is this Owain White-tooth supposed to be of noble stock, a king at all, or just a dux bellorum?

    They suggest this explains a decription of Arthur as being a leader who was 'with' the British but not 'of' them.
    Are Philips and Keatman suggesting that this Owain was Roman? Because his name sounds Welsh, which would mean he's both "with" the British and "of" them. Do P&K explain how their Arthur came to be associated with the twelve battles? Or explain how his myth spread to the continent once it was established?

    Wow, I was way off about the location of Viroconium! Nowhere near Hadrian's Wall. It's interesting that the name Caradoc comes up, since his name shows up in the Welsh Triads, the Mabinogion, and in Geoffrey of Monmouth, as one of Arthur's followers.

    Also, I looked up some reviews of this book on amazon and they mention that P&K give quite a unique psychoanalytic interpretation of the Dream of Rhonabwy, which makes sense since you mentioned Powys. If you've got the time and inclination, could you summarize their argument for me (here or in a PM)? It's fascinating that they would argue Arthur is a man named Owain when in the Dream, Owain is actually Arthur's foe!

    Sithkittie, here's the reference to big cats in Ashe that stuck in my head. In one of the earliest Arthurian sources, an anonymous Welsh poem called "Pa Gwr" (What man?), Arthur has a dialogue with a gatekeeper in an attempt to be let into a fortress. In his dialogue, he mentions Kay (Cai), who is apparently best known for killing a gigantic "speckled" feline called "Palug's Cat", who has famously killed and eaten 180 men! Ashe speculates that:

    If not a creature of pure fancy, it may have been a leopard which escaped from a ship bringing exotic cargo for a king of Gwynedd [north Wales]. Folk memory would soon have enlarged it.
    So yeah, even really early on (before the 12th century), we have evidence of exotic animals being transported between the Continent and the island.

    I'm reading Chretien's Lancelot this week! I'm so excited, but first I have to finish this long critical book on Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde. That's my assignment for tonight, but I'm hoping to start Chretien tomorrow, assuming I still have brain cells left.

    Anyways, for the Arthur class this week, we (re)read the Arthurian portions of Geoffrey of Monmouth, which I remember HATING as an undergrad. But this time, coming back, I liked it a lot more, since I'm much more able to separate what's fact from fiction. And it's fun to see how Geoffrey weaves the two together, rather imaginatively (or infuriatingly). BUT the one section which EVERYBODY unequivocally hates is the Prophecies of Merlin, which are at once mind-bogglingly uninterpretable and deeply politically allegorical. They turn all the political figures of the day into animals who do really strange things. My professor and I were bonding over how we took diligent marginal notes for all the other sections, and yet both our Merlin sections are BLANK. Haha! At the same time, though, if you're just reading Geoffrey for fun, some of his prophecies are bizarre enough to be hilarious. I'm including some of my favorites below:

    A Hedgehog loaded with apples shall re-build the town and, attracted by the smell of these apples, birds will flock there from many different forests. The Hedgehog shall add a huge palace and then wall it round with six hundred towers...The Hedgehog will hide its apples inside Winchester and will construct hidden passages under the earth.
    On its highest peak the Heron will plant an oak and on the branches of the oak it shall build its nest. Three eggs shall be laid in the nest and from them will emerge a Fox, a Wolf, and a Bear. The Fox will devour its mother and then put on an ***'s head. Once it has assumed this monstrous guise, it will terrify its brothers and drive them away to Normandy. In that country they will in their turn stir up the tusky Boar. Back they will come in a boat and in that way they will meet the Fox once more. As it begins the contest, the Fox will pretend that it is dead and will move the Boar to pity. Soon the Boar will go up to the Fox's corpse, and standing over it, will breathe into its eyes and face. The Fox, not unmindful of its ancient cunning, will bite the Boar's left hoof and sever it completely from the Boar's body. Then the Fox will leap at the Boar and tear off its right ear and its tail, and slink off to hide in the mountain caves...
    How do you even begin to interpret stuff like this? And it goes on for 15 pages! Here's my personal favorite, because it involves a naked giant.

    Then indeed shall come a very Giant of Wickedness, who will terrify everyone with the piercing glance of his eyes. Against him will arise the Dragon of Worcester, which will do its best to destroy him; but when they come to grips the Dragon will be worsted and overwhelmed by its conqueror's wickedness. The Giant will climb on the Dragon, throw off his clothes and then ride upon it naked. The Dragon will rear the Giant up into the air and lash his naked body with its erected tail; but the Giant will recover his strength and cut the Dragon's throat with his sword. Finally the Dragon will become entangled in its own tail and will die of poison.
    Ecce quam bonum et jocundum, habitares libros in unum!
    ~Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

  4. #64
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    1,380
    Sorry to have been a while coming back to you on this, WW - here is the gist of the argument:

    Owain, it is suggested is the son of a Votadini cheiftan, maybe their king; the Votadini were a pro-Roamn tribe living originally in the borderlands between Hadrian's Wall and the Antonine Wall, serving as a policing force for the Romans after they withdrew troops behind Hadrian's Wall. As the area was besieged by the Picts, the Angles and the Scotii, all anti-Roman tribes, after the recall of the Legions, the Votadini, who were living in Britain but were not themselves British (rather Picts, according to the British point of view), were invited by the King of Gwynedd to move to North West Wales to help defend the kingdom. The King at the time was Ambrosius, P & K suggest, whose honorific was Uther Pendragon, 'terrible head dragon'. Owain, as his son, would have been of royal descent. They suggest that the pro-Roman tribes, of which the Votadini and the rulers of Gwynedd were numbered, would have favoured Latinised names while other British tribes would have used Brythonic, hence the combination of the two in Arth-Ursus' name. That's a very, very brief outline of their argument.

    As for their interpretation of the Dream, I can find only a couple of references, one saying it is included in the Llyfr Coch Hengist and mentions the battle of Badon, but as the Red Book dates from 1400 and the king mentioned in it can be identified as one Madog who reigned around the 1150s, they consider this vision of Arthur's court to be mediaeval in origin. They also mention that The Dream forms part of the Mabinogion which is a later collection of early Welsh tales and is not an original source. I can't find any interpretations of the tale in this book.

    As for the Prophesies of Merlin, in what language were they originally written? I ask because the name of Worcester drew my eye (being a native of that city!) Now, the 'cester' bit of the name comes from the same source as the 'xeter' bit of Wroxeter, 'castra', Latin for 'camp' or 'fortified place' (imagine them being voiced as 'custa' or 'susta'). Does it seem too far a stretch of imagination that 'Wor-sustra' might be a mis-spelling for Wro-sustra or vice versa? So - could 'the Dragon of Worcester' actually be the 'Dragon of Wroxeter' - Arth-Ursus himself? The references to Normandy might refer to the bit of the story that suggest Uther and his brother fled to France at one stage. I'm sure someone could unravel the contortions of the extended Arthurian story and fit it to these mysterious sayings - a nice thesis for someone! You have seen pictures of the Long Man of Wilmington and the Cerne Giant - ancient chalk figures - I expect? All sorts of amazing things are said to happen if you sleep on the Cerne Giant at Midsummer.....
    Last edited by kasie; 02-13-2011 at 03:51 PM.

  5. #65
    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    grad school in upstate NY
    Posts
    703
    Kasie, the argument is fascinating. What do you think of it? I've always wondered why scholars think the historical Arthur was pro-Roman. I mean it makes sense that he might be of Roman ancestry, but the romances clearly state that he wants a clean break from the Roman Empire. I can stomach that Arthur might've been a Votadini chieftain because the geography and dates seem to check out, but I find the linguistic "evidence" more sketchy.

    Quote Originally Posted by kasie View Post
    The King at the time was Ambrosius, P & K suggest, whose honorific was Uther Pendragon, 'terrible head dragon'. Owain, as his son, would have been of royal descent. They suggest that the pro-Roman tribes, of which the Votadini and the rulers of Gwynedd were numbered, would have favoured Latinised names while other British tribes would have used Brythonic, hence the combination of the two in Arth-Ursus' name.
    First of all, where did P&K get their etymology for Uther? As far as I know, that name originated with Uther Pendragon. Is it supposed to be Latin? Secondly, though English was definitely influenced by Latin, I've never heard of a word combining in the way P&K describe Arthur...where the superstratum language repeats the semantic meaning of the substratum. Essentially, "Arth-Ursus" would translate as "bear-bear", which just seems unlikely to me. See, I feel like this is where all the historical Arthur theories fall apart. His name is always the problem because none of the historical Arthurs we know about have the traits of the king we're talking about, so scholars have to bend over backwards to try to explain the name. Ashe tries to claim Arthur had two names, and here P&K claim that his name is a combination of two languages. Both claim that it's an honorific rather than a real Christian name...it's one of the most difficult aspects to explain.

    Also, I've always wondered about the Uther/Arthur linguistic similarity. The records show that Aurelius Ambrosius existed, but there's nothing on a historical Uther, besides Geoffrey of Monmouth's claim that they were brothers. So here's my beef with P&K. If there is no known historical Uther or Arthur, why would we need two different honorifics? Why not just either Uther or Arthur? Or is one a corruption of the other? (This is why I asked about the etymology of "Uther" because P&K translate it as "terrible" while they translate "Arthur" more conventionally as "bear".)

    As for the dream, perhaps I'm thinking of the other book you mentioned? I know I read on amazon that one of them does a psychoanalytic reading of it.

    Yes, Geoffrey's prophecies of Merlin are indeed written in Latin! So it wouldn't surprise me if the name of Worcester has a Latin etymology, though I can't comment on the castra > cester bit. I like your theory on the dragon of Worcester being Arthur, but unfortunately scholars have already identified a figure earlier on in the prophecies as the Arthur figure. He's named the "Boar of Cornwall"; the location makes more sense since Cornwall is traditionally in the running as a historical site for Camelot, but I have no idea where the "boar" came from. I know that boars are animals of great importance in the Celtic tradition (think Culhwch and Olwen), but otherwise I've never heard of Arthur being associated with boars. Goodness...it's bears and dragons and boars! No wonder it's hard trying to find the historical Arthur. Not only is his name not helpful, but you can't even use heraldic devices...what would you look for? A dragon? A bear? A boar?

    I'm sure someone could unravel the contortions of the extended Arthurian story and fit it to these mysterious sayings - a nice thesis for someone!
    Yes, but not me! I don't want to touch Merlin's prophecies with a ten foot pole! I think it's been attempted on some level. A quick search of my library's databases brought up 10 articles just on the prophecies in Geoffrey. And this isn't even counting Merlin's prophecies in other texts!

    Ooh, do tell some of the stories of the Cerne Giant! I remember seeing pictures of it in my undergrad Arthurian course, and the whole class had a giggle. Talk about phallic symbols! Speaking of gigantic chalk figures, doesn't the White Horse of Uffington have some Arthurian lore associated with it?

    So, in my Arthur class today we discussed Chretien's Yvain. One thing my professor said which I haven't heard before is that the Moorish herdsman that Calogrenant and then Yvain meet on their way to the magic fountain is possibly a parodic figure of Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa (because the herdsman is specifically mentioned as having a red beard, which in Italian is "Barbarossa"). So the in-joke is that Chretien is making fun of Barbarossa for being a crass "shepherd" of his people who knows nothing of chivalry.

    Another big topic of discussion was why Yvain only ties with Gawain in the final scene with the Blackthorn sisters, instead of defeating him. The typical reading is usually that Gawain is the epitome of worldly knights, and that Yvain - in tying with him - becomes Gawain's peer....basically the best knight (and lover) you can be, without getting into religious ground. And obviously Yvain can't beat up his best friend, Gawain, esp. when Gawain defended him from Kay's insults earlier.

    But my professor also brought up another political point which I hadn't thought of. This is the first instance of Yvain (although not the first instance of Owain, who's originally a Welsh knight) and you cannot have a newcomer defeating an old favorite like Gawain, esp. (and I thought this was brilliant) considering the historical situation. At the time of Chretien's writing, he is being patronized by Marie of Champagne, who is the daughter of Louis VII of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Henry II is king of England but is vassal to Louis VII. Now, here's the interesting part: Eleanor of Aquitaine was married to BOTH men...first Louis, then Henry. So if Chretien is trying to make Yvain the epitome of French knights, he cannot have Yvain defeat the quintessential English knight Gawain without possibly offending the English side of his patroness' family! I thought that was fantastic, and it's so obvious that my professor is coming at this from a historian's PoV, instead of a purely literary one.

    One final discussion point. The topic came up of whether or not Chretien was misogynistic. There were a LOT of girls in our class arguing that he was, but relatively speaking, Chretien is so much more tolerant of women than other contemporary romance writers (like coughMalorycough). I personally think he's quite sympathetic to women (how about Lunette for a strong female character?), though not necessarily to the ideals of courtly love. My professor brought up the feminist theory, which I've heard before, that Laudine was never in love with Yvain and only marries him for political reasons. I kind of buy that theory. Thoughts?

    On the reading front: I'm almost done with Chretien's Lancelot, which is awesome so far. For next week, I'm going to be reading Chretien's Cliges and the Stanzaic Morte Arthure. Middle English, finally! So if anyone wants to read along, feel free and we can discuss!
    Ecce quam bonum et jocundum, habitares libros in unum!
    ~Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

  6. #66
    Registered User sithkittie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
    Posts
    79
    Too tired for a good reply, but I have to comment on this:

    The topic came up of whether or not Chretien was misogynistic.
    Oh dear lord what else have they read?! I'm not all that well read for the period, but um.... compared to any (pre-1950s), no. Female characters in roles other than the damsel in distress or the woman plotting against the hero, counts major points for Chretien in my book.

    I didn't think Laudine loved Yvain at all. She needed someone to defend her land, and who better than the guy who killed the last guy who was defending it for her? I'd buy the argument either way, that she was hurt by his not making it back at the end of the year or that she saw it as simply that he failed as a husband, for reasons why she exiled him.

    Oh, I have to bring this in though. A couple hundred years after the time we're talking about, but I thought that was cool that we have nobles working around politics for a love match. I want copies of those letters!! Can I just say, I about died when I read that yesterday, 1000 letters from the 15th century?! Hunting for ways to find copies of that! /squeeing

    Yes, but not me! I don't want to touch Merlin's prophecies with a ten foot pole!
    And now I have The Grinch song stuck in my head. Thanks...

    *edit* ahaha! I love google!
    Last edited by sithkittie; 02-15-2011 at 03:15 AM.

  7. #67
    Quote Originally Posted by Transmodernism View Post
    Here, here!
    Here's what I don't get: how is it romantic to fall in love with a woman who has been married to your king for decades and then run off with her and bring upon the kingdom a giant war that ends in the ruination of all. If she really loved Launcelot and not Arthur, she should've married Lance to begin with.
    The story of Lancelot’s and Guenevere’s love affair first appears on Chrétien de Troyes’ Lancelot and in surviving texts only appears later in the prose cyclic Arthurian romances.

    It is only the Prose Lancelot and its sequels which provides anything like a full story, and in these Guenevere was already married to King Arthur when Lancelot was still an infant in his cradle. Guenevere was obviously in no position to decide to marry someone who was an infant, and perhaps not yet even born, when she married King Arthur.

    Nor did Guenevere exactly “run off” with Lancelot. Rather, in the French Morte d’Artu, when Lancelot and Guenevere were found together, Guenevere did not run off with Lancelot. But Arthur, against the advice of his counselors, was determined to have his wife burned at the stake. Only then did Lancelot and his kinsmen attack the court to rescue Guenevere.

    Arthur, in the Prose Lancelot, has in various previous cases shown himself to be an unfaithful husband. King Arthur had cast off Guenevere earlier in exchange for Guenevere’s half-sister, who had deceived Arthur into believing that she was the real Guenevere whom Arthur had married and that the half-sisters had been swapped on the marriage night as part of a treacherous plot. For a summary, see http://www.timelessmyths.com/arthuri...html#TwoQueens

    Note too, even in Chrétien’s version, how casually Arthur allows Guenevere to be abducted by Meleagant and, so far as is told, makes no attempt to rescue her. A version of Chrétien’s tale is part of the Prose Lancelot in which Arthur fares no better.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman View Post
    He's named the "Boar of Cornwall"; the location makes more sense since Cornwall is traditionally in the running as a historical site for Camelot, but I have no idea where the "boar" came from.
    Cornwall covers a large territory within Britain while Camelot, in the medieval Arthurian tales, is only a single, inland city somewhere in Britain. Cornwall is hardly “in the running as a historical site for Camelot”. Camelford within Cornwall is sometimes considered, but the only because the names are not unalike.

    Cornwall, at least in part, seems to be Arthur’s home territory in the medieval Welsh Culhwch and Olwen and The Dream of Rhonabwy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman View Post
    So if Chretien is trying to make Yvain the epitome of French knights, he cannot have Yvain defeat the quintessential English knight Gawain without possibly offending the English side of his patroness' family! I thought that was fantastic, and it's so obvious that my professor is coming at this from a historian's PoV, instead of a purely literary one.
    But where is there any evidence that Gawain was a “quintessential English knight”? Within the Arthurian tales, Gawain is a knight of Lothian. And in the French verse romances Gawain remains Arthur’s best knight, only equalled or surpassed by the individual hero of a romances who usually gets married and goes into semi-retirement at the end of the romance, leaving Gawain to be again Arthur’s best knight.

    It is only in the late French prose romances that Gawain becomes a lesser figure and rather a villain. A battle between Gawain and another Arthurian knight that is broken off when their identity is discovered occurs in almost every verse Arthurian romance.

    That almost all English verse romances, except when based on the late French prose romances, make such a hero of Gawain is no more than almost all French verse romances do. Gawain is never pictured as especially English.

    The prophecies that Geoffrey applies to Merlin are quite easy to interpret up to Geoffrey’s own time, whereupon, as one would expect, they don’t appear to have any particular interpretation. The dragon of Worcester only appears among these latter prophecies.

  8. #68
    Registered User sithkittie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
    Posts
    79
    This is slightly off topic, but I just finished reading Mists of Avalon. I'd read it when I was 12 and really really did not get it apparently. A+ for idea on that, I do like the view points she used. I remember thinking it got a little flat toward the end though, and this time through I really felt it. It felt like she was forcing stories together where they really didn't fit all that well and then up and left the whole fight between Arthur and Mordred completely open and ended the book. I enjoyed the religious conflicts (answer to my earlier question of thinking anti-magic was a common theme in Arthur! I probably got that from Mists of Avalon) to a point - I think it worked really well, but it was really over done in some parts. That, and I couldn't help but notice the incredibly blatant Buddhist influence in the religion of Avalon as she made it. That struck me as out of place, but maybe I'm just hyper aware of that. And yes, I hated Guinevere, but I hated her in Chretien too. Mostly I just find her useless and annoying, but fanatic Guinevere I really wanted to push off a cliff. I thought the ending was too neat, too. I liked it a lot pretty until pretty much just after the part with Accolon, then it just felt like it peetered out. I really didn't like Morgaine that much either.

    It was interesting to read after having read some of the older stories. I was able to keep the characters straight better. Poor Tristan barely got any play time haha, not that he fits in very well with the main story anyway. I think my favorite character was Accolon, and I actually liked Lancelot! He actually seemed like a real person for once. I didn't really get his thing with Guinevere, because I hated her, but I liked his relationship with Arthur and how the two conflicted. I also like what she did with Elaine and Lancelot. Gareth was just cute and made me grin.

    Speaking of Gawain, he was a blank slate in this one, I thought. He kind of made me think of a big, trusty dog without much personality, definitely one of the good knights though.

    I should stop slacking off at work now. Three hours of listening to speaking tests ahead of me… yay.

  9. #69
    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    grad school in upstate NY
    Posts
    703
    Welcome Jallan! You seem to be very knowledgeable about Arthuriana. I hope you'll stick around and join us in our discussions.

    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie
    I didn't think Laudine loved Yvain at all. She needed someone to defend her land, and who better than the guy who killed the last guy who was defending it for her?
    See, this is where the feminists have a huge problem with the text. Laudine has just lost her husband, Esclados the Red, yet within a few days she begins accepting Yvain's wooing? And later accepts his marriage proposal despite discovering that he's her husband's murderer?

    I buy the idea as well that Laudine never really loved Yvain romantically. It seems much more one-sided. It's Yvain that falls in love (or lust) with Laudine. I think her motives are pretty much political. Arthur is a threat to her kingdom, so she needs to marry someone who'll become the new Storm Knight and protect her interests. And Lunette is really the agent who makes their union possible, both in the original marriage and at the end when she tricks Laudine into reconciling with Yvain. The last scene is hardly the romantic finale we (or I) want; it seems much more practical than anything.

    Re: Mists of Avalon. I need to go reread it. And I definitely remember being confuzzled by the Buddhist references. I read somewhere that Marion Zimmer Bradley was dabbling in eastern religions at the time.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jallan View Post
    Note too, even in Chrétien’s version, how casually Arthur allows Guenevere to be abducted by Meleagant and, so far as is told, makes no attempt to rescue her. A version of Chrétien’s tale is part of the Prose Lancelot in which Arthur fares no better.
    In one of the earliest Welsh poems, the dialogue between Arthur and Gwenhyvar, the queen has been abducted by Melwas, and Arthur does indeed come to the isle of glass to rescue her. Another knight - Kay, I believe - has also come with Arthur. And there is nothing in that poem to suggest that Arthur has been unfaithful to his wife.

    I would also note that the two sources you cite are both French, a corpus which tends to depict Arthur as a weaker, less sympathetic king than does the English tradition. I would note that particularly the earlier British texts portray Arthur much more sympathetically or tend not to focus on his love life at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jallan
    Cornwall covers a large territory within Britain while Camelot, in the medieval Arthurian tales, is only a single, inland city somewhere in Britain. Cornwall is hardly “in the running as a historical site for Camelot”.
    Excuse me. I only meant Camelot has been historically located within Cornwall somewhere. It was intended as a general statement.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jallan
    But where is there any evidence that Gawain was a “quintessential English knight”? Within the Arthurian tales, Gawain is a knight of Lothian.
    Okay, perhaps I should've said Gawain is the quintessential British knight. His origins are Celtic, as you pointed out. Of all the knights, it seems like Gawain is the one most written about in the English romances. That is all I meant. Because my studies have tended to focus on early Arthurian texts (and very little on the French tradition after Chretien), I tend to see a rather Celtic Gawain - one more concerned with what I consider a more primitive warrior tradition than with courtly love and chivalry, which he does become associated with later.

    Okay, here are a couple things that stuck out for me about Chretien's Lancelot.

    1) To what extent was Chretien critical of or even satirizing the lovesick Lancelot? Since Chretien never finished the romance - and Godfroi's ending was underwhelming - it's hard to know for sure how he felt about Lancelot. I'm of the opinion that he didn't like his task, perhaps only wrote it at the request of his patroness, and thus undercut the supposed honor of his title knight quite a bit.

    2) What were Lancelot's origins? I thought this was one of the most fascinating aspects of the story because Chretien does not address it in depth. His mention of Lancelot's childhood with the Lady of the Lake seems incidental to the plot, and we're never told where Lancelot comes from. Yet, we have him interested in freeing the people of Loegres who are imprisoned in Bademagu's kingdom of Gorre. (Also, what was Bademagu's motivation? I thought he was one of the most intriguing characters because he comes across as a very noble character, yet we are supposed to believe he was dishonorably capturing the people of Loegres. And what of his complicated relationship with his son, Meleagaunt? One of the biggest gaps in Godfroi's last sections IMO is that he completely omits Bademagu's response from the final fight scene, in which Lancelot kills Meleagaunt. What are we supposed to make of that?)

    3) Lancelot vs. Meleagaunt. Was Lancelot convincing as a hero? I found him problematic. Chretien mentions at one point that Meleagaunt had the potential to be a good knight, but was lacking in mercy. If we take mercy to be one of the virtues of a good knight, Lancelot does not exactly measure up. When the damsel on the mule wants a knight's head, Lancelot is put in a conundrum where he ultimately chooses to kill the knight, instead of offering him mercy. And he is adamant about denying Meleagaunt any mercy, which is striking given his friendly relations with Meleagaunt's father. It makes me wonder exactly what Chretien's chivalric ideals were and (for my own particular interests) how courtly love fit into the equation.

    4) Poor Kay! I don't really have a question about him; I just found Chretien's portrayal of him hilarious. Great comic relief! I love how Chretien turns Kay into a petulant little kid. The opening scene is . Speaking of which...I LOVE Chretien's sense of humor. I especially love how he pokes fun at the chanson de geste tradition. There's a section in the Lancelot where he mocks the long catalogues of knights and their genealogies. And I remember a few lines in Yvain where he makes fun of Roland.

    I've got a few more comments to make, but I'll need to consult my notes. Tomorrow. It is now bedtime.
    Ecce quam bonum et jocundum, habitares libros in unum!
    ~Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

  10. #70
    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman View Post
    In one of the earliest Welsh poems, the dialogue between Arthur and Gwenhyvar, the queen has been abducted by Melwas, and Arthur does indeed come to the isle of glass to rescue her. Another knight - Kay, I believe - has also come with Arthur. And there is nothing in that poem to suggest that Arthur has been unfaithful to his wife.
    You are referring to the story near the end of Caradoc of Lancarfan’s Life of Gildas. See http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis...feofGildas.htm, section 10, and a dialog between Gwenhwyfar and another knight, of which two versions can be read at http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/melwas.html and at http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/melwas2.html.

    This is undoubtedly an earlier version of the story of Meleagant which appears in Chrétien’s Lancelot and in the Prose Lancelot. But this may represent two versions of the tale, rather than one—a version in which Arthur is the hero and a version in which Cei is the hero. Neither of these are in any way in the same continuity as the French Lancelot version in which Arthur, so far as is told, does nothing whatsoever to get Guenevere back. The post on which I was commenting only was only concerned with the Lancelot story.

    As to medieval Welsh stories in general, see the Welsh triads, triad lvii (http://www.celtic-twilight.com/camelot/triads/index.htm), in which Arthur is given 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”).

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman View Post
    I would also note that the two sources you cite are both French, a corpus which tends to depict Arthur as a weaker, less sympathetic king than does the En/QWglish tradition. I would note that particularly the earlier British texts portray Arthur much more sympathetically or tend not to focus on his love life at all.
    The English tradition also hardly mentions Lancelot at all, save when providing direct adaptations of French Lancelot material. An exception occurs in the Alliterative Morte d’Arthure where Lancelot appears prominently but the author appears to know nothing of Lancelot as Guenevere’s lover. The discussion was concerned with what is now considered to be the standard Lancelot tradition in which Lancelot was Guenevere’s lover. That some other romances don’t use this tradition is quite true, but also quite irrelevant when the affair between Lancelot and Guenevere is the subject of discussion. Similarly Lancelot is very seldom mentioned at all in French verse romances, save in Chrétien’s Lancelot and in the romance Les Merveilles de Rigomer.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman View Post
    Excuse me. I only meant Camelot has been historically located within Cornwall somewhere. It was intended as a general statement.
    Various writers have tried to identify Camelot with Colchester or Slack in Yorkshire (both which were called Camulodunum by the Romans), with Cadbury Castle in Somerset, with Camelon in Falkirk, with Winchester, with Westminster (which was a royal residence separate from London in the 12th and 13th centuries) and with many other places. It has not been “historically” identified with any of them, if you mean that any of the many identifications have been generally accepted

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman View Post
    Okay, perhaps I should've said Gawain is the quintessential British knight. His origins are Celtic, as you pointed out. Of all the knights, it seems like Gawain is the one most written about in the English romances.
    Gawain is indeed most often written about in later English romances. That his origins are “probably” Celtic seems to me to be irrelevant. Yvain’s origins are provably Celtic for that matter. Neither are particularly indicated to be “French” knights, except insomuch as all knighthood in Chrétien and in other French poems is influenced by his awareness of French chivalry.

    The English romances of Gawain are all much later than Chrétien. Many of the English romances in which Gawain figures are obviously based on surviving French romances in which Gawain figures. If Gawain continued to be popular in English poems in the 14th and 15th century, Gawain was at least almost as popular in French poems of the same period up to John Froissart's Meliador, the last of the medieval French Arthurian romances. Only in the French prose cyclic romances does Gawain degrade. In French verse romances Gawain remains either best knight or best knight save for the hero of the romances, even in French verse romances written after the prose cyclic romances became popular, and in Claris and Laris, Gawain is best knight save arguably for the two heroes of the romance.

    It seems to me dubious that Gawain would be well known to English speakers at all during Chrétien’s lifetime and neither then nor later is Gawain EVER particularly connected to England or to English kings. I don’t see any evidence for your professor’s beliefs that Gawain would have been thought to be especially “English” by Chrétien, or by anyone, or that Yvain would seem to be especially “French”.

    The Plantagenet kings of England are arguably connected to Arthurian tales not through Gawain at all, but through Kay, Perceval, and Lancelot in different accounts.

    Kay is appointed Count of Anjou by Arthur in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae and in Wace’s Romane de Brut, written before Chrétien. Kay’s connection to Anjou also later reappears in the French romance Perlesvaus and in the French romance Livre d’Artus. Gregory of Tours states: “Count Paul with the Romans and Franks made war on the Goths and took booty. When Odoacer came to Angers, king Childeric came on the following day, and slew count Paul, and took the city. In a great fire on that day the house of the bishop was burned.” Jean de Bourdigné, an Angevin priest in his Hystorie agregative des Annales et croniques Daniou, etc., published in 1529, makes this Paul to be the son and heir of Kay and states that Kay was the first count of Anjou. But Chrétien seems to generally ignore the pseudo-history tradition of Geoffrey of Monmouth and Wace. If he were imagining his Kay as an ancestor of the Plantagenets, he would hardly be honoring them by his stories of Kay.

    Perceval is named Parzival in Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival. A knight named Mazadân marries a fay and becomes the father of two sons: Lazaliez and Brickus. Brickus is father of Uther Pendragon, the father of Arthur. Lazaliez is father of Addanz father of Gandîn (King of Anjou), the father of Gahmuret, the father of Parzival (Perceval) who has two sons in this account. Presumably the current house of Anjou, including Henry II and his descendants are imagined to be Parzival's descendants. When Arthur’s line comes to an end in Britain the house of Anjou might then claim a right to the kingship, although Wolfram never goes into this. But Wolfram does very much emphasize Parzival's Angevin heritage.

    In the Prose Lancelot, Lancelot’s father, King Ban, is king of Benwick. Benwick is explicitly identified as lying on the River Loire, bordering on Berry. That is, it is Anjou-Tourraine, or at least the Saumarois portion of Anjou-Tourrraine. See J. Neale Carman’s A Study of the Pseudo-Map Cycle of Arthurian Romance for a complete study of Lancelot geography. Benwick is also clearly identified with Anjou-Tourraine in the Livre d’Artus. According to the Quest of the Holy Grail, the lineages of Lancelot, Lionel, and Bohort ended during the Arthurian period, so they could not be imagined as being ancestors of Henry II. But according to one version of the Post-Vulgate Arthurian Cycle, after the deaths of Lancelot and his cousins, a son of Lionel still lived, named Lancelot, who was made king of Benwick, Gaunes, and Gaul.

    I very much doubt that Chrétien knew anything about any connection between Lancelot and Perceval with the house of Anjou, and I also doubt that he would have known anything about any connection between Gawain and the house of Anjou or between Gawain and an English connection, as such does not appear in any medieval Arthurian text. That Gawain was later popular in English works has no more relation to Chrétien than does Shakespeare’s success with Hamlet show that Saxo Grammaticus’ Amleth was somehow particularly English or that King Lear was particularly English.

    Gawain as neither a particularly “English” nor “Angevin” knight. Arthur is usually pictured as fighting the English.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman View Post
    ... and we're never told where Lancelot comes from.
    In Chrétien’s Lancelot, Lancelot says: “I am a knight, as you may see, and I was born in the kingdom of Logres.” In later tales Lancelot is the son of a king and born outside of Logres. But if Chrétien knew the story that Lancelot was the son of a king, he may have imagined this king’s kingdom to be a sub-kingdom of Logres.

    Quote Originally Posted by Wilde woman View Post
    Lancelot is put in a conundrum where he ultimately chooses to kill the knight, instead of offering him mercy.
    Lancelot allows the defeated knight mercy be permitting him to re-arm and fight him again without Lancelot moving from the spot. Chrétien seems to think this is a reasonable answer to the conundrum. The knight himself claims he will ask no more. Presumably Meleagant, in Chrétien’s opinion, would not have made such an offer.

    Malory applies the story instead to Meleagant (Melliagrance), who also asks mercy in the end. Lancelot, seeing that Guinevere does not wish to gave mercy to Melliagrance, also makes the offer that the combat be refought, which Melliagrance accepts.
    Last edited by Jallan; 02-18-2011 at 10:43 AM.

  11. #71
    All are at the crossroads qimissung's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Lost in the bell's curve
    Posts
    5,123
    Blog Entries
    66
    Quote Originally Posted by sithkittie View Post
    This!! I love that movie. Have you gotten a chance to see any of the new BBC Merlin series yet?

    I found Excalibur at the used DVD store the other day, but I wasn't sure about it so I left it. It sounds like I should go pick it up, huh?

    (*edit*) And now I have the "Knights of the Round Table" song stuck in my head, and it's going to be there all day.
    Have you seen Excalibur yet? Because I would like to recommend it. I saw it when it came out, and loved it. I showed it to my class last week and it was as good as I remembered.
    "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its' own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein
    "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are." Buckaroo Bonzai
    "Some people say I done alright for a girl." Melanie Safka

  12. #72
    Registered User sithkittie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Location
    Tokyo, Japan
    Posts
    79
    Quote Originally Posted by qimissung View Post
    Have you seen Excalibur yet?
    No, I haven't. I haven't seen it at the store since that post, and that's not something they carry at the rental store here.

    Ohohoh! I just read Knight of the Fountain in the Mabinogion two days ago, and the lion was black! I wonder if it's at all related to the big black cat urban legend I heard from Great Britain.

  13. #73
    All are at the crossroads qimissung's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2008
    Location
    Lost in the bell's curve
    Posts
    5,123
    Blog Entries
    66
    I have not heard of the big black cat urban legend from Great Britain. Could anybody fill me in?
    "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its' own reason for existing." ~ Albert Einstein
    "Remember, no matter where you go, there you are." Buckaroo Bonzai
    "Some people say I done alright for a girl." Melanie Safka

  14. #74
    aspiring Arthurianist Wilde woman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    grad school in upstate NY
    Posts
    703
    Oi everyone! Thanks for keeping the thread alive! I'm too tired and ill (2nd round of the flu...boo!) to reply to everything, but I just wanted to post a couple thoughts on Chretien's Cliges. Obviously, SPOILERS follow.

    My first impression was that it was much more playful and artistic than Chretien's other romances. I loved the elaborate metaphors. There was one epic simile comparing Soredamour's lovestruck eyes and heart to a candle in a lantern that simply took my breath away. And the bit with the hair-shirt was just gorgeous. I have to admit I reveled in all the courtly love talk. Though admittedly some of the internal debates (does he love me or not?) were long-winded, they fleshed out the characters well and built up to some truly beautiful effects.

    I love Chretien's eye for detail. Towards the end, when Cliges is prepping to fight at Arthur's tournament, he brings along four horses of different colors and then has his men buy four sets of arms, all of different colors. The rest is pretty predictable, but I just remember loving the way Chretien matched up the arms and the horses by color. On the first day, Cliges fights as a black knight, and though it's not said explicitly that he's riding the black horse, one can figure it out by elimination (though I have a theory that the name of the horse, "Morel", may have Welsh origins that point to a possible black coat color). On the second day, Cliges fights as a green knight mounted on a "fawn colored horse" and defeats Lancelot. (WHAT?! ) As soon as I got the oh-no-he-didn't out of my system, I thought what a shame it was that Chretien didn't have him fight Gawain as the Green Knight. That would've been perfect, though SGGK had yet to be written. But anyways, my point (frivolous as it is) is that green and the fawn go beautifully together. Then for the last two days, he matches the red armor with the chestnut horse, and the white arms with the white Arabian (stolen from the Duke of Saxony). Chretien the couturier! I love it!

    A major theme, I felt, that ran throughout the story was deception vs. truth. There were so many examples of untrue or deceitful men, even some passages of self-deception, that it made the honest characters really stick out. I wonder if Chretien meant to tie this theme in with his role as a poet. Our modern cliche is that "artists use lies to tell the truth" or something like that, so I wonder Chretien deliberately invested this story with such ornate language to play up that aspect of his artistry. Thoughts?

    For all the emphasis on courtly love and aesthetics, there was also quite a lot of fighting. It made for an interesting dynamic to see such different sides of Alexander and Cliges. One minute they're out running their lances through enemies' hearts and the next they're afraid to look their beloved in the eye.

    BUT I didn't like the ending; it felt like a tease. Chretien gets us all hyped up. First, Thessala (b/c she's from Thessaly, get it? ) makes a potion which puts Fenice into a dead-but-not state, but the king's doctors suddenly remember Solomon(?) and decide to "test" if she's dead. And by "test", they mean torture her horribly while she's asleep. (Actually, is she asleep? I wasn't clear on that. My translation didn't clarify. It seems like she physically resembles a sleeping/dead person, but is conscious of what's happening to her body?) Anyways, it's a really creepy semi-pornographic passage that made me sick. What did you guys think?

    Anyways, Chretien gets us all worked up with poor Fenice's torture and then all seems lost when John spills the beans. Cliges goes running to Arthur to help him and Arthur amasses this gigantic international army. Justice will be served, and Cliges will finally get his birthright. And then.....nothing. It's so anticlimactic. And Alis just dies??? (BTW, it's interesting that he dies out of grief because he cannot find Cliges. That, I think, complicates his character quite a bit. We cannot just stereotype Alis as your typical villain if he not only is able to feel sympathy for the man WHO JUST FAKED HIS WIFE'S DEATH TO CUCKOLD HIM, but actually dies from the grief. What are we to make of that?) My point is that the ending seemed too contrived. It was too easy.

    I can see why some scholars think that Cliges is a satire of the Tristan story. The "wet-dream potion" (as I'm calling it) was particularly hilarious. But I'm not sure I agree that this is a critique of Tristan. There are some lines where Chretien blatantly says that Tristan and Isolde's love was dishonorable, but I'm not convinced that Cliges-Fenice provide a better exemplar. More on that later.

    Also, how about Thessala and John for fascinating characters?

    Finally before I forget, does anyone know the etymology of the name Cliges? I'm wondering if the character is at all related to Sir Cleges, the protagonist of a Middle English romance I read last year. There is an Arthurian connection in that Cleges seeks help from Uther Pendragon when he's down on his luck. But other than that, there don't seem to be many parallels. I wouldn't even have made the connection if a passage in Cliges hadn't struck me. One of the first times we see Cliges is when Alexander tells him the importance of largesse to a knight's reputation. He orders Cliges to spend generously to show his largesse. In comparison, Sir Cleges gets into deep debt and loses everything exactly because he's a spendthrift knight. It makes me wonder if the Cleges poet borrowed the name of Chretien's knight in a somewhat parodying manner.

    Quote Originally Posted by qimmisung
    Have you seen Excalibur yet? Because I would like to recommend it. I saw it when it came out, and loved it.
    I did! I downloaded it and watched it a few months ago. It was EPIC! I quite enjoyed the scenes with Merlin. But we can discuss more later. When I've gotten some sleep.
    Ecce quam bonum et jocundum, habitares libros in unum!
    ~Robert Greene, Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay

  15. #75
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Posts
    1,380
    Sorry to have been so long getting back to the thread - I've been away for a few days.

    I have been mulling over the etymology of Uther/Arthur and being a Welsh student, albeit of Modern Welsh rather than Old Welsh, I browsed through my Welsh dictionary in search of possible derivations and found this: urdd pronounced [irth/earth] = an order of monks, which has come from urddo = to ordain and urddedig = ordained and honoured. So I have been wondering if 'Uther' is derived from this and is not a name but an honorific, 'The Ordained One', 'The Honoured One' or 'The King'. 'Arthur' could well have the same derivation, given not only differing pronunciations in different parts of Wales, not to mention changes in pronunciation over time, but also the (long-running) love of the Welsh in confusing the English over the correct pronunciation of Welsh!

    'Pendragon' bothers me a little: Pen certainly means 'Head' and though the word for dragon is ddraig, [thraig] it would mutate to draig [draig] with 'pen' in front of it (don't even begin to ask about mutations, they are the bane of my life) and could easily become anglicised into 'dragon'. But Pen can also mean 'Last' and as no-one seems to have born the name Pendragon after Uther, he would therefore have been the Last Dragon.

    I then looked up Owain: there is some confusion about the origin and meaning of the name, given variously as 'man of yew' or 'youth'. However the word Arwain means 'to lead' or in the sense of an orchestra 'to conduct'. See above for changes in pronunciation! It struck me that this meaning is not far from the meaning of Dux Bellorum. Then I thought of Owain's name 'Ddantgwyn' and wondered if the 'white tooth' in question could have been a tusk, making him the 'Leader who was a Boar'.....

    Then I tried for 'Camelot' and came up with camu [camee] 'to bend' and lloches [lockus] 'a refuge' - would it be too much to stretch this to mean 'a place of safety in the bend of a river'? Modern day Wroxeter/ancient Viroconium is in the angle made by the confluence of the Teme and the Severn though many other fortified places are in a similar strategically strong position, of course.

    Just a few off-topic thoughts!
    Last edited by kasie; 02-23-2011 at 08:40 AM.

Page 5 of 7 FirstFirst 1234567 LastLast

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •