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Posts Tagged ‘Guinevere’

No version of the Arthur story would be complete without Guinevere. She was Arthur’s wife, of course. In fact, the Welsh triads actually give Arthur three wives, all named Guinevere (Gwenhwyfar in Welsh).

  • Gwenhwyfar daughter of Cywryd
  • Gwenhwyfar daughter of Gwythyr ap Greidiol
  • Gwenhwyfar daughter of Ogrfan Gawr

Though, Gwenhwyfar means something like “White Enchantress”, so there could be other ways to interpret their roles.

Later traditions make her the daughter of King Leodegrance (a fairly obviously French name, not Welsh), who was possibly a king of Cornwall or of a part of Brittany with a very similar sounding name, Cornouaille.

Guinevere’s first appearance otherwise comes with Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 12th Century and it’s Chretien de Troyes who created the Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle.

There are a few mentions of a younger sister (or half-sister) with a similar name. Sometimes this sister was married to Mordred and the enmity between the sisters was the root cause of the Battle of Camlann in which both Arthur and Mordred are killed. Or the sister was a false Guinevere, who temporarily displaced the true Guinevere through trickery.

There’s another legend concerning Mordred and Guinevere, in which they entered an adulterous relationship with each other while Arthur was across the channel in Gaul or Rome. But that one seems to me to confuse Arthur with the historical figure, Riothamus, who actually did lead troops from Britain across to Gaul in support of one of the late Western Roman Emperors. An expedition from which he never returned, because the Emperor failed to do his part. Of course, there are people who argue that Riothamus was the true Arthur. For myself, since there manifestly still were Saxons (and Angles and Jutes) in Britain, as well as contentious tribal rulers, I just can’t picture an actual Arthur taking his warriors away to fight in Gaul. And, anyway, the ending of that story about Mordred and Guinevere is barbaric and not something I intend to use.

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