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Arthurian Literature

Celtic myth and legend

 

Early works

References to Arthur before 1100 CE.

 

On the Ruin and Conquest of BritainDe Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae (Latin, c510-530 CE). A sermon by the British cleric St. Gildas. It makes reference to Ambrosius Aurelianus, who in later works is the brother of Uther Pendragon, and uncle of Arthur. It also refers to the Battle of Mons Badonicus (Mt. Baden, or Bath-hill), the battle where Arthur was the war leader who lead the Britons to victory.

De Excidio et Conquestu Britanniae — Wikipedia

Gildas de excidio et conquestu britanniae — text in Latin, Keith’s history pages

On the Ruin of Britain — Project Gutenberg.

Gildas' "On the Ruin of Britain" — PDF from Camelot On-line.

 

Elegy for CynddylanMarwnad Cynddylan (Middle Welsh, c650-850 CE). Elegy to the 7th century Prince of Powys. The poem includes a very early reference to Arthur.

The line mentioning Arthur is:

I used to have brothers. It was better when they were
the young whelps of great Arthur, the mighty fortress.

Cynddylan — Wikipedia

Marwnad Cynddylan — Text in Welsh and English, Keith’s history pages

 

The GododdinY Gododdin (Welsh, 7th–11th century CE). Ascribed to the bard Aneirin. Appears in the Book of Aneirin. Some source give what is perhaps the first mention of Arthur in literature.

The line mentioning Arthur is:

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.

Y Gododdin — Wikipedia

Y Gododdin — Old and Middle Welsh and Williams' translation, Project Gutenberg

Y Gododdin — Skene's translation, Celtic Literature Collective

Y Gododdin — Clancy's translation, Celtic Literature Collective

 

The Spoils of AnnwfnPreiddeu Annwfn (Middle Welsh, c900 CE). Attributed to Taliesin. A poem telling the tale of an expedition by Arthur and his men to Annwfn (or Annwn), likely the Otherworld, in order to steal a magical cauldron. The story may be related to later Grail stories and the Abduction of Guinevere stories.

Preiddeu Annwfn — Wikipedia

Preiddeu Annwn: The Spoils of Annwn — Sarah Higley translation, the Camelot Project. Includes both Middle Welsh and English, as well as sound files.

Preiddeu Annwn — Welsh text, Celtic Literature Collective

The Raid on the Otherworld — English trans., Celtic Literature Collective

 

Who is the gatekeeper?Pa Gur yv y Porthaur (Middle Welsh, 10th century CE). This poem relates exploits of Arthur's warrior Kay. Though this is recorded in the Black Book of Carmarthen, the poem has been dated to a much earlier source.

Sir Kay, section on Pa Gur yv y Porthaur — Wikipedia

Pa Gur — Middle Welsh, Celtic Literature Collective

Arthur and the Porter — Skene's translation, Celtic Literature Collective

 

Culhwch and OlwenCulhwch ac Olwen (Middle Welsh, c1080-1100 CE). Anonymous. Present in both the White Book of Rhydderch (c1325 CE) and the Red Book of Hergest (c1400 CE). This is one of the only Celtic tales that pre-dates the French romances.

 

Pseudohistorical texts

Early Arthurian literature written in the form of British history.

 

The History of the BritonsHistoria Brittonum (Latin, c828 CE). Ascribed to Nennius. The Wonders of Britain is sometimes attached to the Historia. It is a brief list of geographical wonders, including two with connections to Arthur.

Historia Brittonum — Wikipedia

Historia Brittonum — text in Latin, Keith’s history pages

Historia Brittonum — Gunn translation.

History of the Britons — Giles translation, Project Gutenberg.

Nennius' "Historia Brittonum" — PDF from Camelot On-line.

Nennius' "The Wonders of Britain" — Andy Evans' Wonders of Britain site.

 

The Annals of WalesAnnales Cambriae (Latin, c970 CE). Anonymous. A chronical of events in Wales and in the rest of the British isles and Ireland. Three entries relate to Arthurian legend, referring to the battles of Badon (516 CE), Camlann (537 CE), and Armterid (573 CE).

Annales Cambriae — Wikipedia

Annales Cambriae — Latin text, John Williams ed.

Annales Cambriae — translation, Celtic Literature Collective

 

French medieval works

 

English medieval works

 

Welsh medieval works

 

Romantic poets

 

Arthurian literature in the arts

 

 

Copyright © S. Varner 2006