King Arthur & the Matter of Britain

Sources · History & Archaeology · Welsh Bards · Malory · Arthur · Gawain · Guenevere · Percival · Merlin · Tristan & Iseult · Elaine of Astolat
Tile: A Bard Early medieval Wales is a rich source of legendary materials; not only the earliest references to Arthur, Merlin, Peredur, Urien, and Gereint, but also the bard Taliesin (later, like Merlin, transmogrified into a great wizard) and the characters that underlie Lloyd Alexander's beloved Prydain cycle.

The Welsh Bards

Taliesin. The bard Taliesin is associated with the late-sixth century court of Urien of Rheged.

Taliesin at Celtic Twilight has a biography, literary overview, and six poems from Llyfr Taliesin (The Book of Taliesin) in both Welsh and English:

Aneirin. To Aneirin is attributed y Gododdin, the oldest surviving heroic poetry in Welsh. The Gododdin (in Latin, Votadini) of the poem are a warband who failed to retake Catraeth (Catterick) from the Saxons. Y Gododdin may contain the oldest mention of King Arthur.

Aneirin at Celtic Twilight includes an overview and the following texts in Welsh and English:

The Welsh Triads. The Welsh Triads, or Trioedd Ynys Prydein contains triads from the thirteenth century Peniarth manuscript and the fourteenth century Llfyr Gwyn Rhydderch (White Book of Rhydderch) and Llyfr Coch Hergest (Red Book of Hergest), all in English. New source.

Heroic Poetry, Chapter One of Welsh Literature at Britannia.

The Mabinogion

Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi, or The Four Branches of the Mabinogi, is a fourteenth century collection of tales in Welsh, drawing on much older material. The earliest manuscript of the complete Mabinogion is in the Red Book of Hergest, although portions are included in the slightly earlier White Book of Rhydderch. The Four Branches proper are mythological tales. Other tales from the Red Book are usually published with the Four Branches; these include Culhwch And Olwen, Owain, or The Lady of the Fountain, and tales of Peredur son of Evrawc.
Y Mabinogion at Taffnet features these tales in Lady Charlotte Guest's translation of 1849 (updated):

    The Four Branches
   Other Tales from from The Red Book:

The Mabinogion and the Mabinogi features an Introduction and new literal translations from the White Book of Rhydderch by freelance medievalist W.M. Parker, with extensive annotations. New !

    The Four Branches

Mabinogion features three tales from Pwyll Prince of Dyfed, "based in part on" translations by Jeffrey Gantz, from Rhiannon Morgaine James.
The Influence of The Mabinogi on Modern Fantasy Literature by C.W. Sullivan III, at Celtic Cultural Studies: An Interdisciplinary Online Journal, a peer-reviewed online academic journal. New URLs.
The Red Book of Hergest: 600 dpi scanned images of Jesus College MS. 111 of The Red Book of Hergest, part of Early Manuscripts at Oxford University. New !

Other References


A Welsh Course at Brown University (learn Welsh at home in your spare time!) includes a glossary and lexicon.

The History and Status of the Welsh Language by Gereint Jones was originally conceived as a companion to the Welsh language course at Brown, but is now available separately.

On-line Welsh-English English-Welsh Dictionary, developed within the Department of Welsh, University of Wales Lampeter. New !


Wales at Britannia by Peter N. Williams, Ph. D. "supports the resurgence of interest in the Welsh language and culture which has been gaining strength over the last three or four decades." It includes a Brief History of Wales and A Introduction to Welsh Literature.

Early Medieval Wales at the Castles of Wales has an overview, a map, and links to biographies of the key players.

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10 July 2004