Arthuriana -- all things King Arthur ! discussion

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History And Early Sources...

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message 1: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Thought that starting a new thread for this would stop clutter on others.
Anyone any theories?
Any favorite early sources?
Earliest mention of Arthur?
Was he real?
Did he survive in folk memory and oral tradition for generations before finding his first foothold in the manuscripts?



message 2: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 188 comments Mod
There is one narrated by Richard Harris, which is cool, but there has been another lately. I will check and see if I might have it.


message 3: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Reading a bunch of Hx, both online and as actual books, and I can find no ref to Arthur prior to the 9th cent.
There are refs to him in the 5th/6th but written much later.
I'd always assumed the dark ages refs were contemporary, but I was obviously relying on 3rd hand interpretations etc and not looking closely at sources.
Can anyone shine any light into the dark ages for me? Or is 9th century pretty much the earliest mention?


message 4: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Anna wrote: "Sarah wrote: "There is one narrated by Richard Harris, which is cool, but there has been another lately. I will check and see if I might have it."

It's not the Richard Harris one, I don't think..."


Was this it?
http://www.channel4.com/history/micro...



message 5: by Ron (new)

Ron Some scholars place "Camelot" at South Cadbury Castle in Somerset, UK.


message 6: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Aug 09, 2009 05:17AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Ah, but what is meant by Camelot?
As the word first appears in the French tales of the 12th cent do we look to the Roman remains at Colchester, Malory's inspiration at Winchester, towards Cadbury...or somewhere else.
I think though we just have to use the term to refer to Arthur's base/castle/hill fort, whatever it may have been called by the residents...and wherever it was. A shorthand, like using Ninnius/Nennius instead of "whoever wrote The History of the Britons Nennius's Historia Brittonum".
Having said that, to look for Camelot assumes Arthur was real...and I'd like to think he was, but I'm starting to question that.
To look for a Dark Ages hill fort that was actually used in the wars against the Saxons by a warlord is a different matter.


message 7: by Ron (new)

Ron J. R. R. Tolkien suggested that the Arthur legend may have accreted over a long length of time. Perhaps even the name "Arthur" was added to the exploits of some previous, historical leader. We know that the Round Table, Grail quest, Lancelot, etc. were added later. Possibly so was the place name "Camelot."


message 8: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Aug 08, 2009 06:46AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Worth a look folks: http://www.arthuriana.co.uk/index.html
A very good starting point for web based Arthurian research, good links from here to loads of other stuff.


message 9: by Ron (new)

Ron Cool. Thanks.


message 10: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments I'm now trying to find a way of dropping "pre-Galfridian" into casual conversation...proving difficult so far.
Never heard it before myself, so for everyone else: it refers to the Arthurian texts written prior to Geoffrey of Monmouth's work (Galfridus is latin for Geoffrey).


message 11: by Ron (new)

Ron Yeah, it's a little self-aware--no, a lot--but seems to be good information once you pass that.


message 12: by SarahC (new)

SarahC (sarahcarmack) | 188 comments Mod
Barbarossa wrote: "I'm now trying to find a way of dropping "pre-Galfridian" into casual conversation...proving difficult so far.
Never heard it before myself, so for everyone else: it refers to the Arthurian texts ..."


Yeah, why should we be the only ones not to use interesting and slightly baffling phrases? I had not seen that used before but Arthuriana is so vast, it does seem to need a few categories!


message 13: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments I may have to leave this group for a while and read light fiction...spending too long reading old stuff (sorry, I mean pre-Galfridian obviously) and analysis of it.
Have to say I have gone from thinking Arthur was an actual person to being fairly convinced he wasn't...or if he was he had little relation to any of the stories that developed. I suppose I'm now an Arthur agnostic? Still waiting on some proof.
Starting to think there may be deep links between Arthur and Beowulf through bear myths, adding a human face to a mythical or folkloric figure.


message 14: by Michele (last edited Aug 10, 2009 08:12PM) (new)

Michele Barbarossa wrote: "I'm now trying to find a way of dropping "pre-Galfridian" into casual conversation..."

LOL!! Let us know how that works out for you. If you happen to have a friend named Geoffrey, perhaps you could expand it to refer to things that happened before he was born ;)




message 15: by Ron (new)

Ron Good for you, Anna. You may or may not get back to where it matters. Whatever may be said about Tennyson, his version is the one most modern versions stem from.


message 16: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Just starting The Mabinogion having not read it in many years. What struck me was the sudden realisation that a text I'd always assumed was ancient was in fact not as old as I'd thought: 14th cent., it's post Geoffrey of Monmouth and also more recent than Chrétien de Troyes.


message 17: by Mark (new)

Mark Adderley (markadderley) | 54 comments Barbarossa wrote: "Just starting The Mabinogion having not read it in many years. What struck me was the sudden realisation that a text I'd always assumed was ancient was in fact not as old as I'd thou..."

Most manuscripts of medieval works are considerably newer than the works themselves. Thus, Beowulf was written about 750, but exists in a manuscript copied about 1000. Most of the manuscripts containing the Mabinogion tales are relatively recent; the oldest seems to be "Culhwch and Olwen," which was almost certainly pre-Geoffrey of Monmouth, though not by much more than half a century.

Cheers,
Mark Adderley


message 18: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Nov 14, 2009 10:35AM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments How is C+O dated then? Is it refered to in other texts? If so where?
I've heard the whole boar hunt that is a central feature of it is much older than the Mab mention of it, but don't know if this is mentioned in connection with the C+O tale or as a similar incident in another story.


message 19: by Mark (new)

Mark Adderley (markadderley) | 54 comments The boar hunt motif occurs in the Mirabilia section of Nennius' Historia Brittonum, which means that, at the latest, it's dated at 829.

I think C&O is dated largely on the basis of its language. However, there's absolutely no influence on it from Geoffrey of Monmouth, and that's verging on the impossible if it were written after 1136--Geoffrey's book was one of the most widely known of the Middle Ages.

The usual date given to the tale itself, rather than the manuscript, is c. 1100.

Cheers,
Mark Adderley


message 20: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Thanks Mark.
In your research have you found any convincing evidence for Arthur prior to the 9th cent?
You mentioned Beowulf...As Beowulf and Arthur may share an etymology from "bear" do you think there is a link? I don't mean that they were the same actual person, but possibly the same folk hero/archetype. They both seem to force order into a chaotic environment and go out with a last stand.


message 21: by Mark (new)

Mark Adderley (markadderley) | 54 comments Barbarossa wrote: "Thanks Mark.
In your research have you found any convincing evidence for Arthur prior to the 9th cent?
You mentioned Beowulf...As Beowulf and Arthur may share an etymology from "bear" do you thin..."


There's the Welsh poem "Gododdin," written shortly after 600, I think, which mentions Arthur. The stanza in which Arthur is mentioned might have been written later than that, though, and inserted at a later date. The same can be said of the brief mention of Arthur in the "Annals of Wales." But between them, I think they're really suggestive. Modern historians have a lot of scorn with the "no smoke without a fire" line of reasoning; but when you see smoke, what other inference can you really draw? It's a truism in medieval studies that a given story must necessarily be older than the manuscript in which it's preserved. That probably puts the story of Troit back into the eighth century, at least.

It's an interesting parallel that both Arthur's and Beowulf's name have the "bear" etymology. I haven't read any conclusive evidence that they're connected. The two cultures--Anglo Saxon and Celtic--aren't linked.


message 22: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Nov 16, 2009 10:38PM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Aware of the Gododdin mention, it's only in passing and just in one version of the poem. I can't remember of the top of my head which one, they're both in the same book (A and B text), but one seems to have an older more oral source. I know one authority (again can't remember who...don't have the books in front of me at the minute) claims that the name is unlikely to be a later addition due to it's fitting the rhyme scheme of the stanza.
So maybe 6th cent. But a very slight bit of evidence and it mentions nothing of his deeds, merely compares one warrior to Arthur saying that although he was hard as nails he wasn't exactly Arthur.
"He fed black ravens on the rampart of a fortress
Though he was no Arthur
Among the powerful ones in battle
In the front rank, Gwawrddur was a palisade"

The two cultures would have been in close proximity for a wee while prior to either poem (spear hitting shield close if in no other way). And even if they weren't exactly sitting round the campfire sharing stories I think some cross pollination is possible. Also, it may just be an archetype/hero/god thing...like Tyr and Mars being equivalents.



message 23: by Duntay (new)

Duntay | 22 comments I think the fact that the reference to Arthur in the Gododdin is so slight actually lends credence to an earlier date for Arthur, if it is not a later insertion. There is no need to expand upon him, so the listener/reader is assumed to know who he is. Perhaps he is already legendary though.

Not sure about the Beowulf/ Arthur connection.. Beowulf is an ancestral hero to the Anglo Saxons, while Arthur is meant to be a contemporary of sorts.Beowulf is more the sort of person Arthur would have fought against, if he had ever left the dragon and monster slaying in Sweden and come over to Britain.


message 24: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments OK. Maybe just been reading too much recently.
They're both just local hardmen that got mythologised then? I suppose the "bear" connection isn't too surprising, apart from the use of violent animals as poetic devices when describing warriors in both cultures, you will still hear the local "big man" in a boozer being refered to as a bear...certainly in Glasgow neck of the woods.


message 25: by Mark (new)

Mark Adderley (markadderley) | 54 comments Barbarossa wrote: "OK. Maybe just been reading too much recently.
They're both just local hardmen that got mythologised then? I suppose the "bear" connection isn't too surprising, apart from the use of violent anima..."


Not quite sure how you can read "too much!" But certainly when you read a lot of medieval literature, you begin to suspect that all stories are linked in one way or other. And it's made more complicated by the fact that there don't seem to have been many distinct names in the medieval period. Eight Henries, eight Edwards ... give me a break. At least we can't get King John confused with anyone else!

Cheers,
Mark Adderley


message 26: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Mark wrote: "And it's made more complicated by the fact that there don't seem to have been many distinct names in the medieval period..."

Aye, I recently read a bunch of crusades stuff and all the Normans seemed to have the same names (Roger, Robert, or Raymond). My head was mince, could only go through some bits very slowly to keep track. Then half the time they're know by their titles, which clouds the generations.


message 27: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments On a Hx note there's a doc on the History Channel on Tuesday on the "post Roman war chief" theory. On at 9pm. I'll watch, though I think it will be the usual hoary old chestnuts sprinkled with a dusting of CGI and bad acting.


message 28: by Duntay (last edited Jul 17, 2010 10:31AM) (new)

Duntay | 22 comments Not just a chestnut - it's Chester! Not exactly a new theory.
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknew...

(sorry for the link to the Telegraph, it was either that or the Mail)

This article is being much discussed on the BRITARCH message boards, mainly for the sheer number of mistakes in such a short article. No one has ever heard of this wooden memorial thing.


message 29: by Old-Barbarossa (last edited Jul 17, 2010 11:41PM) (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Hello again Duntay.
Ah, popular Hx...I have found myself shouting at the TV and then switching channels during the "re-enactments" of some of them for blatant anachronisms...a recent crop of crusades related docs were dreadful, folk running around in obviously woolen faux chainmail with swords that looked like sticks wrapped in tinfoil...I fear Tuesday's doc will be similar.


message 30: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Missed it...work got in the way. Anyone see it?


message 31: by Duntay (new)

Duntay | 22 comments Er, no watched the documentary about identifying WW1 remains instead..


message 32: by Duntay (new)

Duntay | 22 comments English Heritage do not approve:
http://www.mandh-online.com/news/cont...


message 33: by Old-Barbarossa (new)

Old-Barbarossa | 301 comments Glad I missed it then.


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