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Anyway, I've been delving as much as possible into pre-Galfridian Arthur. Which, considering how little is extant, is kind of difficult. I'm really trying to avoid Gildas too. I have ... theoried.

Arthur is not actually all that interesting to me as a figure. He doesn't seem to have much of a defined personality and is totally at the whim of the writer. Same with Gwenhwyfar. The knights of the court, however, are kind of cool. Cei, for example, is a giant who can hold his breath for several days and runs so hot he can boil water with his hand. Bedwyr is the most prominent knight of the court, and has exceptional prowess in spite of having only one hand.

I've always been fond of Gawain. Unfortunately, his Welsh source, Gwalchmei, doesn't show up in a lot of stories. He's mentioned, frequently, in passing ("he was no Gwalchmei"), and he shows up in some of the Triads (golden-tongued, well-endowed, generous to guests, fearless, and has an awesome horse), but there don't seem to be any stories (extant) where he does anything outside of that one time he talked Drustan/Tristram out of a cave. Obviously he was a very prominent figure back when all those manuscripts were written, but nowadays we have to settle for French and Middle English romances.

I tripped across a mention that Gareth's name may have derived from Gwared, meaning "gentle". Like Agravaine and Gaheris, Gareth as a character is a post-Galfridian addition to the mythology, and does nothing beyond be an Orkney brother until Malory1 decided he needed a paragon to kill off. Like Gawain, Gareth is well-known for his courtesy. Until Malory, he's redundant, and it's unclear how many Orkney brothers with G names there are (yay medieval spelling).

I started to think Gwalchmei (hawk of the plain) kind of sounds more like an epithet or title. So I've decided Gawain and Gareth are the same person, named Gwared, and his fierceness and prowess in battle earned him the epithet Gwalchmei, which got elided/muddled into his name as he faded into passing mentions.

This could just be because I truly loathe the phlegm syllable. Gwalchmei is kind of unlovely to say. It just kind of Gollums around in the back of your throat.

1 The Orkneys should sue Malory for slander. Especially Morgause/Anna(/Gwyar?). Srsly. So should Guinevere, come to think of it.


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August 2013

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