Peredur (Welsh pronunciation: [pɛˈrɛdɨr], Old Welsh Peretur) is the name of a number of men from the boundaries of history and legend in sub-Roman Britain. The most well known of them appear in the following literary and historical sources:
Gwrgi and Peredur, sons of Eliffer
Gwrgi and Peredur are listed as sons of Eliffer (Old Welsh: Elidir or Eleuther) "of the great warband" (cascord maur) and as scions of the Coeling dynasty in the Harleian genealogies, making them first cousins of Urien. Likewise, a pedigree from Jesus College MS 20 includes Gwrgi and Peredur as brothers together with one Arthur penuchel. Their principal claim to fame rests on their having fought in the Battle of Arfderydd. The Annales Cambriae report that this battle (bellum Armterid) was fought in 573, but gives no further detail. A later expansion of the entry names Gwrgi and Peredur, both described as sons of Eliffer, as the chieftains on the victorious side and tells that Gwenddoleu ap Ceidio was defeated and slain in the battle. Under the year 580, the Annales Cambriae record the deaths of Gwrgi (Guurci) and his brother Peredur (Peretur). These references give them a place as heroes in the Hen Ogledd of the late 6th century.
Further detail is supplied in later legendary traditions, notably those represented by the Welsh Triads (Trioedd Ynys Prydein). One listing the three "Horse-Burdens" of Britain relates that Gwrgi, Peredur, Dynod Bwr and Cynfelyn Drwsgl were carried by a horse called Corvan, which enabled them to watch the clouds of dust ("battle-fog") coming from Gwenddoleu and his (mounted) forces in the battle of Arfderydd. The circumstances in which Gwrgi and Peredur died are alluded to in a Triad which explains that they had one of "Three Faithless Warbands of the Island of Britain". Their warband abandoned them at Caer Greu on the day before a battle with Eda Glinmaur ("Great-Knee") and so they were slain. The Welsh Triads also refer to family relations. One on the "Three Fair Womb-Burdens" of Britain, preserved incompletely in Peniarth MS 47, suggests that Peredur and Gwrgi had a sister called Arddun, while a variant version in Peniarth MS 50 calls the third sibling Ceindrech Pen Asgell ("Wing-head") and names the mother Efrddyl verch Gynfarch. Peredur is said to have had a son by the name of Gwgon Gwron, called one of the three "Prostrate Chieftains" (Lledyf Vnben) because "they would not seek a dominion, which nobody could deny to them".
Still further allusions are found in early Welsh poetry. The poem Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesi], which assumes the form of a dialogue between Myrddin Wyllt (the prototype of Merlin) and the poet Taliesin, deals out praise to the brave "sons of Eliffer", saying that they did not avoid spears in the heat of battle. The apparent context is the battle of Arfderydd, where Myrddin fought as one of Gwenddoleu's warriors, went mad from terror and in this way, acquired the gift of prophecy (see also Vita Merlini below). For some unknown reason, however, the poem extends the number of sons to seven. A warrior called Peredur is also listed in one of the younger sections of Y Gododdin (awdl A.31), which shows him as one of the heroes to have died fighting in battle as a member of the warband of Mynyddog Mwynfawr, chieftain of the Gododdin in "the Old North". It has been argued that Peredur's appearance here may have been due to a tendency in the growth of the poem to draw personages known from such sources as the Annales Cambriae into the orbit of its subject matter, assuming he is the same Peredur.
Geoffrey of Monmouth's Peredurus
Geoffrey of Monmouth, the author of the Historia Regum Britanniae, mentions a Peredur in his Vita Merlini (The Life of Merlin), an account of Merlin drawing heavily on narrative traditions about Myrddin Wyllt. In an early episode based clearly on the story of the Battle of Arfderydd, Peredur (Peredurus) is joined by his allies Merlin, king of the South Welsh, and Rhydderch Hael, king of the Cumbrians, when he engages Gwenddoleu (Guennolus), king of Scotland, in a battle at an unnamed site. Merlin loses three brothers and driven mad from grief, takes refuge in the woods. Peredur is here presented as prince of the North Welsh (dux Venedotorum) rather than a ruler in the British North.
In his earlier and more famous work, Historia regum Britanniae, Geoffrey of Monmouth also used the name Peredurus for a legendary ruler of Britain who was the fifth and youngest son born to the legendary Morvidus, king of the Britons. He is said to have conspired with his brother Ingenius to capture and oust their brother Elidurus, locking him up in Trinovantum. When the brothers divided the kingdom between them, Peredur became ruler over the part north of the Humber, including 'Albany' (Scotland), and following Elidurus' death, succeeded to the entire kingdom.
Peredur son of Efrawg (Middle Welsh Arthurian romance)
The Peredur who is most familiar to a modern audience is the character of this name who made his entrance as a knight in the Arthurian world of Middle Welsh prose literature. The earliest such Arthurian text, Culhwch and Olwen, does not mention Peredur in any of its extended catalogues of famous and less famous warriors. He is, however, the protagonist of a later Middle Welsh text, Peredur son of Efrawg, which is one of the Three Welsh Romances associated with the Mabinogion and the Matter of Britain, along with Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain and Geraint and Enid. It is generally acknowledged that the text is related to Chrétien de Troyes' unfinished Old French poem Perceval (c. 1181 x 1191), but the nature of this relation has been a topic of lively debate, notably the question if and to what extent the Welsh tale was adapted from Perceval. The earliest four manuscripts in which Peredur is contained are: Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales MS Peniarth 7, MS Peniarth 14, the White Book of Rhydderch (MSS Peniarth 4 and 5), and the Red Book of Hergest (Oxford, Jesus College MS 111). On orthographic grounds, Glenys Goetinck postulates a date in the 12th century, before the composition of Chrétien's poem, suggesting that Peredur is to be understood as an independent creation. Many other scholars, however, have favoured a later date. John Carey argues that "verbal parallels between the two stories are so close as to make it seem undeniable that the former [Peredur] drew upon the latter [Perceval]."
If Peredur corresponds with Chrétien's work in broad outlines, it also significantly diverges from it. In a large series of episodes, Peredur son of Efrawg tells the story of Peredur's education as a knight. It begins with his birth and secluded upbringing as a naive boy by his widowed mother. When he meets a group of knights, he joins them on their way to King Arthur's court. Once 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, who is analogous to the Gornemant of Perceval, trains him in arms and warns him not to ask the significance of what he sees. The second uncle is analogous to Chrétien's Fisher King, but what Peredur sees being carried before him in his uncle's castle is not the Holy Grail (Old French graal), but a salver containing a man's severed head. The text agrees with the French poem in listing a bleeding lance among the items which are carried in procession. The young knight does not ask about significance of these items and proceeds to further adventure, including a stay with the Nine Witches of Gloucester and the encounter with the woman who was to be his true love, Angharad. Peredur returns to Arthur's court, but soon embarks on another series of adventures that do not correspond to material in Perceval. 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. Several elements in the story, such as the severed head on a salver, a hunt for a unicorn, the witches of Gloucester and a magical board of gwyddbwyl, have all been described as identifiably Celtic ingredients which are not otherwise present in Chrétien's story. Goetinck sees in Peredur a variant on the Celtic theme of the sovereignty goddess, who personifies the country and has to be won sexually by the rightful king or heir to secure peace and prosperity for the kingdom. N. Petrovskaia has recently suggested an alternative interpretation, linking the figure of the Empress with Empress Matilda.
This Peredur makes brief cameo appearances elsewhere. The romance Geraint and Enid includes Peredur son of Efrawg in a list of warriors accompanying Geraint, along with many of the greatest nobles of King Arthur's domain. A comparable list in the last pages of The Dream of Rhonabwy refers to a Peredur Paladr Hir ("of the Long Spear-Shaft"), whom Peter Bartrum identifies as the same figure.
Sources and analogues
A great deal of scholarly discussion has focused on the relation of the Arthurian figure called Peredur to (1) the sixth-century Peredur son of Eliffer and (2) to Chrétien's Grail hero Perceval. The Peredur of Welsh romance differs from the Coeling chieftain if only in that his father is here called Efrawg rather than Eliffer and there is no sign of a brother called Gwrgi. Efrawg, on the other hand, is not an ordinary personal name, but the historical Welsh name for the city of York (Latin Eburacum, modern Welsh Efrog). This may represent an epithet which originally denoted his local association, possibly pointing to Eliffer's son as the prototype, but which came to be understood and used as a patronymic in the Welsh Arthurian tales. This background would align him with the characters of the other two Welsh romances, Owain and perhaps Geraint, who have been identified as literary transformations of the historical rulers Owain mab Urien and one of those called Gerontius or Geraint.
The origins of Perceval, called "the Welshman" (li Galois) and already present in Chrétien's first romance Erec as Percevax li Galois, are equally difficult to explain. The names Perceval and Peredur are not alike, but Rachel Bromwich has suggested that Perceval is to be understood as only a "loose approximation" of the Welsh name, in much the same way as Gauvain and Guenievre are literary French garbles of – rather than direct loans from – Gwalchmai and Gwenhwyfar. R.S. Loomis, recently followed by John Carey, proposes that the Welsh forerunner is more likely to have been Pryderi and that the latter was recast as Peredur by the author of Peredur son of Efrawg.
There appears to have been a late tradition about Peredur recorded by William Worcester in the late 15th century. It says that Peredur founded the town of Pickering in the North Riding of Yorkshire (now North Yorkshire). Considering the association of the Mabinogion character with nearby York, he may have ruled a kingdom based on that city (then called Caer Ebrauc).
- Koch, "Peredur fab Efrawg", pp. 1437–8.
- Genealogies from Jesus College MS 20, ed. Phillimore, § 3; Lovecy, "Historia Peredur", p. 175.
- Koch, "Arfderydd", pp. 82–3.
- Lovecy, "Historia Peredur", p. 175.
- Welsh Triads, ed. Bromwich, no. 44.
- Welsh Triads, ed. Bromwich, no. 30.
- Welsh Triads, ed. Bromwich, no. 70.
- Welsh Triads, ed. Bromwich, no. 8.
- Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin, ed. Jarman, lines 29–30.
- Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae, ed. Griscom, III ch. 16-8.
- Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae, ed. Griscom, IX ch. 12.
- Walter, Philippe (2004). Perceval: le pêcheur et le Graal. Paris: Editions Imago. p. 112. ISBN 2-911416-92-9.
- Zenker, Rudolf (1913). "Weiteres zur Mabinogionfrage. I. : Die Gegenargumente Beckers. Laudine-Jokaste". Zeitschrift für französische Sprache und Literatur. 41: 131–165. JSTOR 40614288.
- See the summary in Breeze, "Peredur son of Efrawg and windmills", pp. 59–61. Andrew Breeze interprets the reference to windmills in Peredur as evidence for a later date (pp. 61–4).
- Carey, Ireland and the Grail (2007): pp. 245–6.
- Lovecy, "Historia Peredur", p. 178.
- Petrovskaia, Natalia I. (2009). "Dating Peredur: New Light on Old Problems". Proceedings of the Harvard Celtic Colloquium. 29: 223–243. JSTOR 41219642.
- Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydein, p. 490.
- William Worcester, Itinerarium, ed. and tr. John H. Harvey, William Worcestre: Itineraries. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969.[verification needed] Cf. John Stow in his Annnales or general Chronicle of England (1615).
- Englynion y Beddau, ed. and tr. Jones, pp. 122–3.
- Annales Cambriae (Recension A), ed. Egerton Phillimore (1888). "The Annales Cambriae and Old Welsh Genealogies, from Harleian MS. 3859". Y Cymmrodor. Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. 9: 141–183..
- Harleian genealogies, ed. Egerton Phillimore (1888). "The Annales Cambriae and Old Welsh Genealogies, from Harleian MS. 3859". Y Cymmrodor. Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion. 9: 141–183..
- Welsh Triads, ed. and tr. Rachel Bromwich (1978, revised ed. 1991). Trioedd Ynys Prydein. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1978.
- Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin, ed. A.O.H. Jarman and E.D. Jones, Llyfr du Caerfyrddin. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1982.
- Geoffrey of Monmouth, Vita Merlini, ed. and tr. Basil Clarke, The Life of Merlin. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1973. Translation reproduced online at Celtic Literature Collective.
- Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae, ed. Acton Griscom and J.R. Ellis, The Historia regum Britanniæ of Geoffrey of Monmouth with contributions to the study of its place in early British history. London, 1929; tr. Lewis Thorpe, Geoffrey of Monmouth. The History of the Kings of Britain. London, 1966.
- Peredur son of Efrawg, ed. Glenys W. Goetinck, Historia Peredur vab Efrawc. University of Wales, 1976.
- Englynion y Beddau, ed. and tr. Thomas Jones, "The Black Book of Carmarthen 'Stanzas of the Graves'." Proceedings of the British Academy 53 (1967). pp. 97–137. External link.
- Breeze, Andrew (2003). "Peredur son of Efrawg and windmills" (PDF). Celtica. 24: 58–64.
- Carey, John (2007). Ireland and the Grail. Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications 11.
- Koch, John T. (2006). "Arfderydd". In John T. Koch. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara et al. pp. 82–3.
- Koch, John T. (2006). "Peredur fab Efrawg". In John T. Koch. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara et al. pp. 1437–8.
- Lovecy, Ian (1991). "Historia Peredur ab Efrawg". In Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman and B. F. Roberts. The Arthur of the Welsh: the Arthurian legend in medieval Welsh literature. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. pp. 171–82.
- Foster, Idris Llewelyn (1959). "Peredur". In R. S. Loomis. Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages. Oxford. pp. 199–205.
- Goetinck, Glenys W. (1975). Peredur: A Study of Welsh Traditions in the Grail Legends. Cardiff.
- Loomis, R.S. (1949). Arthurian tradition and Chrétien de Troyes. New York and London.
- Vitt, Anthony M. (2011). Peredur vab Efrawc: Edited Texts and Translations of the MSS Peniarth 7 and 14 Versions. MPhil Thesis, Aberystwyth University.