Peredur son of Efrawg

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Peredur fab Efrawg
"Peredur son of Efrawg"
Also known as Historia Peredur ab Efrawg
Author(s) anonymous
Language Middle Welsh
Date 12th or 13th century
Manuscript(s) White Book of Rhydderch, MS Peniarth 7, MS Peniarth 14 and the Red Book of Hergest
Genre prose, Three Welsh Romances of the Mabinogion
Personages Peredur son of Effrawg, King Arthur, Gwalchmai, Owain, Cei, dwarf, Etlym Gleddyfcoch ("of the Red Sword"), Angharad Golden-Hand, Countess of Achievement, Empress of Constantinople, nine witches of Gloucester, a lake addanc, etc.

Peredur son of Efrawg is one of the three Welsh Romances associated with the Mabinogion. It tells a story roughly analogous to Chrétien de Troyes' unfinished romance Perceval, the Story of the Grail, but it contains many striking differences from that work, most notably the absence of the French poem's central object, the grail.

Manuscripts[edit]

Versions of the text survive in four manuscripts from the 14th century: (1) the mid-14th century White Book of Rhydderch or Aberystwyth, NLW, MS Peniarth 4; (2) MS Peniarth 7, which dates from the beginning of the century, or earlier, and lacks the beginning of the text; (3) MS Peniarth 14, a fragment from the 2nd quarter of the 14th century, and (4) the Red Book of Hergest, from the end of the same century.[1] The texts found in the White Book of Rhydderch and Red Book of Hergest represent the longest version. They are generally in close agreement and most of their differences are concentrated in the first part of the text, before the love-story of Angharad.[2] MS Peniarth 7, the earliest manuscript, concludes with Peredur's 14-year sojourn with the Empress of Constantinople.[3] This has been taken to indicate that the adventures in the Fortress of Marvels, which follow this episode in the longest version, represent a later addition to the text.[4]

Synopsis[edit]

The central character of the tale is Peredur, son of Efrawg. As in Percival, the hero's father dies when he is young, and his mother takes him into the woods and raises him in isolation. Eventually he meets a group of knights and determines to become like them, so he travels to King Arthur's court. There he is ridiculed by Cei and sets out on further adventures, promising to avenge Cei's insults to himself and those who defended him. While travelling he meets two of his uncles, the first plays the role of Percival's Gornemant and educates him in arms and warns him not to ask the significance of what he sees. The second replaces Chrétien's Fisher King, but instead of showing Peredur a 'grail', he reveals a salver containing a man's severed head. The young knight does not ask about this and proceeds to further adventure, including a stay with the Nine Witches of Gloucester (Caer Loyw) and the encounter with the woman who was to be his true love, Angharad Golden-Hand. Peredur returns to Arthur's court, but soon embarks on another series of adventures that do not correspond to material in Percival (Gawain's exploits take up this section of the French work.) Eventually the hero learns the severed head at his uncle's court belonged to his cousin, who had been killed by the Nine Witches of Gloucester. Peredur avenges his family, and is celebrated as a hero.

Sources and analogues[edit]

Like the other Welsh Romances, scholars debate as to the work's exact relationship to Chrétien's poem. It is possible Peredur preserves some of the material found in Chrétien's source. The sequence of some events are altered in Peredur, and many original episodes appear, including the hero's 14-year sojourn in Constantinople reigning with the Empress, which contains remnants of a sovereignty tale. The grail (Old French graal) is replaced with a severed head on a platter. Despite the differences, however, influence from the French romance cannot be discounted, particularly as its first part hardly matches the second.

The hero of the poem, has a father, Efrawg, whose name has been etymologically associated with York (The modern Welsh name for York is Caerefrog, derived from the Roman Eboracum via the Brythonic Caer Ebrauc mentioned by Nennius). Thus, it can be speculated that Peredur may have been based on a Brythonic prince who ruled in what is now Northern England. There is no clear evidence for a Welsh dynasty in the York area, and legendary sources should always be taken with the proverbial pinch of salt.

Of course, it is hardly necessary to find a source for every detail of the narrative: the narrator whose text we have may have freely indulged in original creativity. A parallel case with traditional stories in Ireland is found in the examples given in J.E.Caerwyn-Williams, Y Storïwr Gwyddeleg a'i Chwedlau (University of Wales Press), where Caerwyn-Williams freely admits that the form of the story given by the storyteller depends on the audience to which it is delivered. It is not necessary therefore always to find literary sources for such tales in their Middle Welsh form: in any case, most written sources will have perished, and there is no way that we can tell if the surviving sources are in any way representative of the whole of what might have been extant.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lacy, "Historia Peredur", pp. 171-2.
  2. ^ Lacy, "Historia Peredur", p. 171.
  3. ^ Vitt, Peredur vab Efrawc, pp. 203-04.
  4. ^ Lacy, "Historia Peredur", p. 172.
  • Gantz, Jeffrey (trans.), The Mabinogion, Penguin, 1987. ISBN 0-14-044322-3
  • Lovecy, Ian. "Historia Peredur ab Efrawg." In The Arthur of the Welsh: the Arthurian legend in medieval Welsh literature, edited by Rachel Bromwich, A.O.H. Jarman and B.F. Roberts. Cardiff, 1991. 171-82.
  • Vitt, Anthony M. (ed. and trans.), Peredur vab Efrawc: Edited Texts and Translations of the MSS Peniarth 7 and 14 Versions, http://cadair.aber.ac.uk/dspace/handle/2160/6118. MPhil thesis, Aberystwyth University, 2011. 203-204.

Further reading[edit]

  • Peredur son of Efrawg, ed. Glenys W. Goetinck, Historia Peredur vab Efrawc. University of Wales, 1976.
  • Aronstein, Susan L. "Becoming Welsh: counter-colonialism and the negotiation of native identity in Peredur vab Efrawc." Exemplaria 17 (2005): 135-68.
  • Bollard, J.K. "Theme and Meaning in Peredur" Arthuriana 10.3 (2000): 73-92. Download available through paid subscription
  • Knight, Stephen. "Resemblance of menace: a post-colonial reading of Peredur." In Canhwyll Marchogyon: Cyd-Destunoli Peredur, edited by Sioned Davies and Peter Wynn Thomas. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000. 128-47.
  • Roberts, Brynley F. "Peredur Son of Efrawg: A Text in Transition". Arthuriana 10.3 (2000): pp. 57–72. Download available through paid subscription
  • Goetinck, Glenys W. "Historia Peredur." Llên Cymru 6 (1960/1): 138–53.
  • Goetinck, Glenys W. Peredur: A Study of Welsh Traditions in the Grail Legends. Cardiff, 1975.
  • Vitt, Anthony M. (ed. and trans.), Peredur vab Efrawc: Edited Texts and Translations of the MSS Peniarth 7 and 14 Versions, http://cadair.aber.ac.uk/dspace/handle/2160/6118. MPhil thesis, Aberystwyth University, 2011.

External links[edit]