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Interesting but not correct.

By F. T. HOWARD, M.A.. F.G.S.
From Reports and transactions by Cardiff Naturalists' Society, Cardiff, Wales; Cardiff Naturalists' Society, Cardiff extracted pdf


Who was King Arthur of the early Romances ? The answer which almost every school child would give without hesitation is that he was a prominent Celt who led the inhabi- tants of this country against the Saxon invaders when the Romans withdrew. And yet, when one probes more deeply to discover the foundations for this behef, there is little of substance upon which to rely. Certainly interest in Arthur was intensified about the middle of last century by the trans- lation by Lady Charlotte Guest of the Arthurian stories in the Welsh Mabinogion. Somewhat later that eminent Welsh scholar. Sir John Rhys, put forward the idea that Arthur was the Roman official known as the Count of Britain, whose business it had been to guard the Scotch frontier and who subsequently took charge of the country when the armies of occupation were withdrawn. This working theory Rhys thought best explained all the facts and his contemporaries accepted it ; from which time it seems to have been taken as established truth, at least by those who profess belief in the historical existence of King Arthur.

It is natural, therefore, to ask " Was the evidence upon which Rhys and others depended sound " ? Evidence derived from an enumeration of the places on mountain tops and in vaUeys throughout the whole of these islands bearing the name of Arthur is, in my view, from their very number and their distribution, necessarily unsound. No man could have been in so many places within the ordinary span of life. Besides, his name is attached to prehistoric monuments and Roman mines — to places which came into existence after Geoffrey's Historia Britonum was written in 1148 A.D., after Caxton published ]\Ialory's Morte d' Arthur in 1485 A.D., and to others which have risen into prominence since the last Arthurian revival of the nineteenth century. Even under the Turk the innumerable relics of the past in Palestine have gained in sanctity and importance through attachment in comparatively modem times to the ancient names of Abraham and Elijah


Now, as Professor Lewis Jones has pointed out, Bede was a careful historian, and if a great Christian prince had fought in England, he should have known of it : Bede makes no reference to Arthur. If the Saxons had been so strenuously opposed and actually defeated, some reference might be looked for in their official historical record : the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle says nothing. Equally there is nothing in early Welsh litera- ture which suggests that the Saxons were always such implacable foes of the Celts as are described in Geoffrey's story of Arthur.

It would seem that we have only three possible references to Arthur in writings belonging to the period before the Norman Conquest. Gildas of the seventh century mentions a battle of Badon : but the name is a common one, and his battle may easil}^ have no connection with Arthur. The Annales Cambria (the oldest edition existing was published in 955 A.D.) give much interesting material : but that record is not reliable. Like other histories of the kind the early part was filled in merely for the sake of completeness. It begins with the year 453 A.D. and for the first century there are only three entries relating to Britain, viz., the death of an un-named Archbishop of York and the battles of Badon and Camlan. There are indeed very few records for the first four centuries, and very meagre as to details. Under 516 one reads " battle of Badon in which Arthur carried the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ for three days and nights on his shoulders and the Britons were \actorious," and again under 537 A.D., " the battle of Camlan in which Arthur and Medraut fell." The third writer is Nennius, whom certain learned German scholars, e.g., Mommsen and Zimmer, regard as an eighth century author of the whole book which bears his name. But English scholars have always looked on it as a compilation with many late interpolations. Even if written in Welsh originally, as supposed, we have no copy beyond Latin translations, all of them dating since the Conquest. In my view the references to Arthur are among the late insertions

We have positive evidence that vivid stories speaking of Arthur as if of recent events, were told about the time of the Norman invasion, especially in the west country and in Brittany ; with the revival of learning they soon found their way into current literature. Geoffrey of Monmouth made free use of them in the construction of his historical romance in the twelfth century. Other writers of approximately the same date, like William of Malmesbury and Henry of Hunting- don, definitely regard Arthur as of the British nation.

All modern Celtic scholars have not followed Rhys. Some, like Dr. Sebastian Evans, hold that Arthur is no particular man, but a creation of Geoffrey's ; others, hke Dr. Gwenogvryn Evans, doubt the antiquity of the writings, and date some of them as late as the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

Arthurian stories have been studied from many points of view, but as far as I know the geographical aspect has not received much attention. It has been customary even to treat the place-names as " shadowy and unreal." And yet the modem geographer who gives proper consideration to the con- trol which natural conditions exercise over the activities of mankind in past ages, when such conditions were dominant, may bring to bear methods of investigation which may help considerably. It is from this standpoint that I have approached the subject. I know that philologists will disagree : but local people have never troubled about philology in framing their fanciful explanations of place-names, an amusement which still lives.

Professor Lewis Jones, in his " King Arthur in History and Legend," 1911, the latest authoritative work on Arthur, accepts the theory of Sir John Rhys that Arthur was the sixth century representative of the third officer of the Roman mihtary organisation, the Comes Britanniae. Jones holds that it explains better than any other theory " Nennius' description of Arthur as dux bcllonMi and the seemingly wide range of country covered by the twelve battles." It is this theory which I propose to challenge.

But let us see what are the facts recorded by Nennius about Arthur. He gives a list of twelve battles fought by Arthur ; in addition, he speaks of a marvel in the shape of a dog's foot- print on a stone lying on a hill near " Builth " made when the dog Caval was pursuing, along with Arthur, the boar Twrch Trwyth.

The twelve battles have been fixed all over the place. Geoffrey was determined to make his hero win battles in the North of Britain, and following his lead the general tendency has been to locate them in Scotland or the North of England. Even the careful Skene fixed them in the Lowlands of Scotland. That their identification was lost quite early is known by the fact that Henry of Huntingdon, in the twelfth century, says the places were unknown in his time. In any case, the commen- tators have challenged us to identify the battles, and thereby to decide who Arthur was.


To commence with, let me point out that 12 is not the traditional complete number of the Celts ; it may be that the author of the story was determined to have a rival to Hercules and his twelve tasks. But of greater interest is a comparison with the recorded battles of Alfred the Great.

It is to him that geographical investigation unmistakably points. I have set out side by side the battles of Arthur as given by Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth, and those of Alfred as given in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and elsewhere. The numbers indicate the succession of the battles as recorded by each.

Where lists are so similar, the balance of evidence is in favour of the man of later date. Besides, we have sound historic evidence for Alfred in this connection, and there are marked differences between the accounts of Arthur given by the two main authorities, Nennius and Geoffrey, which can be ex- plained if we use Alfred's record as the key. Finally, if we study Alfred's life, we see that other details of Arthur are definitely applicable to him. For example, if anyone is asked to name the great rulers of England who stand out as Christian warriors, undoubtedly Alfred's name would come among the first. It is worth mentioning that Caxton, in his Introduction to Malory's Morte d' Arthur, asserts that in the world's history there have been " g worthy and best men to wit 3 paynims, 3 Jews and 3 Xtians." He is going to " write up " the great Christian king of England, he says, and he puts his Arthur just where we should expect to find Alfred, who lived about the time of Caxton's other heroes, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Boulogne.

If anyone will compare the story as told by Geoffrey with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle on Alfred, he will be struck by the . points of similarity.


One battle of Arthur's is of peculiar interest — that of Castell Guinnion, so called by Nennius and Bath by Annales Cambriae and Geoffrey. Had Geoffrey known his geography well he would undoubtedly have used the fact to foster his pet idea of founding or reviving an Archbishopric of Caerleon in order to free Wales from the supremacy of Canterbury'. Throughout history this battle has fastened itself upon the imagination. Here Arthur, as the story goes, " bore the image of the holy Virgin Mary' on his shoulders, and when the pagans were put to flight and a great slaughter made of them through the might of our Lord Jesus Christ and of hoh' Mary His Mother." In old Welsh the word for shield is the same as for shoulder. But Geoffrey avoids the difficulty by writing " upon his shoulder did he bear the shield whereon the inner side was painted the image of holy Mary mother of God that many a time and oft did call her back into his memory." The name Guinnion is suggestively like Gwent (the old name of Chepstow was Castell Gwent or Guinn). Now in the story of Alfred the Great the struggle with Hasten the Dane takes place at Buttington. As the map (I) shows, Buttington Tump is near Chepstow, close to the point where the Wye joins the Severn. But even Plummer, the chief biographer of Alfred, rejects it in favour of Buttington in Montgomery on the Upper Severn. The evidence in favour of Buttington Tump appears to me overwhelming. The record says that the Danes went to " Buttingadun on Severn shore " "up along the Severn " which merely conveys to me the idea of their following the western Roman road and striking the Severn in the Bristol district, perhaps at Uphill, far below the point where they could cross it, consequently they turned up stream to the first point of crossing. I find that the Welsh official record under date A.D. 895 has an entry : " the Norsemen came and laid waste Bricheniauc (Brecknock) et Guent (Gwent) et Guinn Liguiauc (Wentloog) " which certainly brings the Danes to Chepstow. Again we must always remember that the king had no standing army, but used local mihtia. If he was attacking Buttington in Montgomery we should expect the men of Cheshire, Shropshire, and Staffordshire to be engaged. It is just the reverse : they were men from Somerset, Gloucester, and Wiltshire : from regions north of the Thames ; from west of the Severn and from Wales. To quote Alfred's chronicler, " they drew together and beset them about on either side in a fastness." The Danes " broke out against the men encamped on the east side of the river " most of which would not apply to Montgomery. The map (I) shows how well Buttington Tump is situated for a sea force driven to bay and looking for relief from oversea.


Perhaps the most convincing case is the battle of Trat Treuroit or Tribruit. Trat may be an abbreviated form of Streat (road) or Strath (shore), though more likely it is a form of an old French word Tret meaning margin. Tribruit clearly means three courses. Turning to Alfred's story we find the Danes sailing 20 miles up the Lea from London and seizing an island near Ware, from which Alfred drove them by cutting another course. After studying the ground of this fiat-bottomed valley with its many streams, I offer this solution (see map IL), which brings out clearly what Henry of Hunting- don in his old Chronicle, meant when he wrote that Alfred made the Lea to flow in three branches. An old children's rhyme runs —
" London bridge has fallen down, London Bridge has fallen down, Dance on my Lady Lea."
which becomes intelligible when one recalls the old broad sound of ' a ' in Danes and the old word ' lade ' meaning a passage or a stream. As long as the Danes held the Lea and the roads to the north, they threatened seriously the food supplies of London.


Now before I deal with the twelfth battle, let me mention a few other points. Rhys and others make much of the fact that Arthur is never called " King " in Celtic literature, but given various titles which mean " emperor " or " war leader." The very name Arthur is regarded by some as a variant of a well- known Welsh name meaning " Lord of Princes." It is on these titles that Rhys depends when identifying Arthur with the Duke of Britain, the officer who had to face the Picts of the north. But the position of war lord fits Alfred better. One after the other the Welsh princes ranged themselves under Alfred against the Danes. There was a definite agreement : each was to hold the same position as Ethelred of Mercia and Asser the Welshman and friend of Alfred adds that the con- nection " gave more power to him that wished : money to him that wished for money." " Hemeid with all the inhabitants of the region of Demetia, compelled by the violence of the six sons of Rotri, had submitted to the dominion of the king. Howel also, son of Ris king of Gleguising, and Brocmail and Fernmail sons of Mouric king of Gwent, compelled by the violence and tyranny of Earl Ethelred and of the Mercians, of their own accord sought King Alfred that they might enjoy his govern- ment and protection from him against their enemies. Helised also son of Teudyr King of Brecon, compelled by the force of the same sons of Rotri, of his own accord, sought the govern- ment of the aforesaid king ; and Anarawd son of Rotri with his brother, at length abandoned the friendship of the Northum- brians, from which he received no good but harm, came into King Alfred's presence and eagerly sought his friendship." (Asser, History of Alfred.)

Besides, Alfred was a Pendragon — the silver dragon was the standard of Wessex. You will recall that Arthur is stated to have fought at Castell Guinnion wearing " a helm of gold graven with a semblance of a dragon." We can gather from other stories that the old quarrel between the red and white dragons was not easily forgotten. But Christianity made even this possible, and Arthur is pictured in the Nennian story as having borne the ensign of a primitive Crusader, a curiosity certainly if the description was written at the beginning of the eighth century. It is interesting that the Anglo-Saxon Chroni- cle at this stage of Alfred's history ceases to speak of the men of Kent or West Saxons or Mercia, and notes simply " The Christians had the victory."


Another point of interest is Aallon, whither Arthur was carried when dying. Sometimes it is spoken of as an island, and sometimes as a valley. Glastonbury Abbey made an impertinent claim to the name and also to the mortal remains of Arthur, which were duly discovered at an opportune moment in the reign of Henry II. William of Malmesbury tells us that the Abbey made a point of collecting as many relics of saints as it could. Pilgrimages to the tombs of saints were a fruitful source of income to any religious community in the Middle Ages. William of Malmesbury, however, wrote " the sepul- chre of Avallon is nowhere to be seen whence ancient ballads fable that he is still to come." The word Avallon, for some reason, has been taken as " af alien " or " apple," and the early monkish explanation wh}' excellent sites were secured for abbeys was, that inspired pigs led the pious founders to fruitful orchards. But in the glossary of an eighth century manuscript in the old Mercian dialect at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, the word is interpreted as meaning " hazel nuts," and the scientific name of the hazel is still Corylus Avellana. Perhaps this gives us a clue to the real meaning. The hazel is the tree of mystery ; the hazel provides the rod used for divining in the discovery of water and, in the past, of hidden treasure and many other things. The Irish have traditions of hazel-nuts which give wisdom and knowledge when eaten and are grown on forbidden ground — the land of the unknown.

Thus Stokes, in translating the Rennes Dindsenchas, gives more than one story as to magic wells under the sea where grow " the hazels of the science of poetry " and from whence " flow seven streams of wisdom." Persons who sought to look into these springs were either struck blind or lost their life.

Just as in our own times the tomb of the Mahdi was des- troyed, so the Danes attacked monasteries and broke down the tombs of saints as a means of weakening national feeling. Because of them, the body of St. Cuthbert and other saints during the era to which Alfred belonged were carried about for years. The idea of a person sleeping ready for resuscitation dated back to Roman times and was revived by the story tellers of the Charlemagne cycle. It was a mode adopted by Christicin missionaries who fitted their behefs on to local Paganism — the Saxons and Norsemen only thought of everlasting feasting after death. In any case a story was current after Alfred was was buried at Winchester that he could be seen walking at nights, and in the end it was found advisable to bury him in another place. It may have been necessary later still to conceal the burying place of Alfred from the vindictive Danes. The queen Morgan, to whom Arthur is said to go, is nothing but the word " morgen," meaning " water-spirits." " Fata morgana " is the mirage sometimes seen in the Straits of Messina.


In all the stories, Arthur is constantly going to his palace of Gelliwic, which has been fixed in many places, but hitherto never satisfactorily. We have an old Roman station called Vindo-gladia, and possibly derived from Gelad (a derivative of lad or lode — passage), and often now modified into " inlet," or from Gelaet — a junction of roads. One form of " wic " is the A.S. for " bay," and is still a word commonly found in Iceland and Norway. Poole Harbour, the Megas Limen of the early voyagers of Britain, certainly answers the description of " the harbour for the junction of the roads," since several roads broke away at Badbury, just to the north. Gelliwig is Celtic for forest, which would not fit the context. Maclure, in his " British Place-names in their Historic Setting," points out that in dealing with early Anglo-Saxon place-names, it is important to bear in mind the tendency to shorten words by omitting elements, sometimes doubling the consonant and appending the vowel " e " or " a." Vindo-gladia is practically the modern Wimborne on Poole Harbour, and I hazard the suggestion that it is also Gelli-Wic. Wimborne was one of Alfred's royal residences. To turn once more to the story of Arthur, Medrodd, who caused Arthur's death was his nephew. The name means " chief usurper." He seized the palace of Gelliwic, and also Queen Guinevere, as some say, making her his wife. Let us go back to Alfred. We know he died in A.D. 901 from a cause differing from the sickness which had plagued him through his life. We know that his nephew, Ethelwald, raised a rebellion in 901 and seized this very palace of Wimborne and took a nun related to the royal family — a person married to God — from the abbey and made her his wife. This is thought to be one of the chief reasons why the Witan decided against his claim to the throne. Edward, Alfred's son and general, besieged his cousin at Badbury Rings, commonly acknow- ledged to be Badon, which is the place of Arthur's last battle. It should be noted, however, that most of the records usually fix it as subsequent to his succession to the throne.

In the stories of the Middle Ages it was usual for a great hero to fall in battle. So Roland fell in the Charlemagne story, and his magic sword Durandel was sunk in a magic well to prevent it from falling into the enemy's hands.

The battle of Badon certainly took place ; but just as Geoffrey had no Merlin in the first edition of his " History " so he improved upon the passing of Arthur in the second. History it was not. Giraldas Cambrensis pokes fun at him ; William of Newburgh, another contemporary, denounces him vigorous- ly as a liar who not merely collected folk-tales, but freely invented stories himself under the guise of Merlin. At any rate, we have every reason for thinking that Alfred died in his bed and not on the battlefield, but the description by Geoffrey of the force of Medrodd has a suspicious likeness even in wording to that given by others of the forces of Ethelwald. The geography of the incident stands firm — it is the incident which has been improved upon by the story-teller. Perhaps the connection of Camlan, which Geoffrey makes the scene of the " fatal blow," with the district of Glastonbury ma}' yet give a clue to the details that are missing.

Two facts emerge from the comparison of Arthur and Alfred — the tendency of early tale-tellers to speak of people by pseudon5ans, and the fact that Danes were the hated enemy of Welsh and English alike. As to the first we must remember that in those times a knight in full armour was not recognizable except by his device, and he often passes under the name of the creature so depicted. Do we not recall the fifteenth century couplet ?
" The Rat, the Cat and Lovell the Dog Rule all England under the Hog."

The Hog was the crest of Richard III. Possibly in some cases the animal is the old totem of the tribe. Arise Evans of Barmouth, who would tell his dreams to Oliver Cromwell, used to finish his pedigree with " the son of the Red Lion the son of the Wren."

The reputation of the Danes was terrible and lasted for ages. The early litanies of monasteries contained the petition " From the Black Pagan Good Lord deliver us." In the Middle x\ges mothers used to frighten their children into good behaviour with the threat of the Danes. The amusing Irish story of of the boy with the goat skin tells how he went to Hell for the Devil's flail with which to thrash the Danes, and Satan refuses it " because the Danes are much better customers to me." It is recorded that some telegraph men landed with their apparatus on the west coast of Ireland during the eighteenth century and the people fled thinking the Danes had returned.


Now the second story about Arthur given by Nennius speaks of his dog Cavall, which hunted the Boar Twixh Trwyth. Assuming that the tale-teller followed his usual practice, I set myself to answer the questions " What man is Cavall ? What Dane is the Twrch Trwyth ? " given that they belong to Alfred's period. Now Cubal, or as he is more commonly called in Pembrokeshire Bwth Ci Bal or Hen Ci Bal, means Baal's dog, the big black dog which frightens ill doers at night and carries off sinners at death.

Cabal is a word introduced into French and English during the Renaissance from Jewish mystics : as a term applied to dogs, " bal " may come from the root which has given us the word " bald " and the Gaelic " maol " or bald hill. In the Vosges and Black Forest, " ball " means a round-topped hill {e.g., Ballon d' Alsace). I take Cibal to be Ethelred, Alfred's son-in-law. Clearly the prominent underling and companion was no favourite with the Celts, and Mercia was the kingdom which had oppressed them heavily according to the Welsh writer Asser. Ethelred certainly hunted the Danes and was present at the famous battle of Buttington, at which place the hunt of Twrch Trwyth as given in the story of Kilhwch and Olwen ends.

As for the Twrch Trwyth, he is said to be the son of Prince Tared— that is, " Burster " the son of " Piercer," and he carried the usual emblems of sovereignty, the comb, razor, and scissors, whereby a young aspirant among those of nobler blood was formally admitted to manhood. The story says he was changed from man to boar because of his sins. Perhaps originally the story was about the ferocious leader Turgesius, whose name is Latinised as Torchillus Turchesius. For loo years, about the ninth century, his name stood as the rallying point for new parties of Danes attacking Ireland. It was a common name ; the chief ruler of Dublin, when captured by the Normans, was Turkil. And there are other reasons why the Celts commonly called the Danes pigs. A bronze plate (III.) taken from the grave of an early Viking on an island, Oland in the Baltic, showed two figures with helmets surmounted by boars ; and according to the sagas the boar was a favourite emblem of the Norsemen and probably worn on their helmets and belts. Plate III.


The hunt of the boar is told with much spirit in the Mabinogion story of Kilhwch and Olwen, and Sir John Rhys has elaborated the details. I agree with him that the names of the hunters are manufactured from local place-names, and the story generally followed the model of the classical Calydonian Boar Hunt. But Sir John was no geographer, otherwise he would not have blundered so often. Had he turned up Leland's " Tours " of the Elizabethan Period he would have found many of the places mentioned. To take but one instance. From the Amman Valley the Boar goes to " Llwch Tawe," which Rhys identifies with the bog by Ynys Pen Llwch below Pontardawe. Whereas Leland states clearly " Loogh Tawe in Blake Mountain where sum say is the Hedde of Tawe that cummith to Swansey."

Even worse is his placing of Llwch Ewin at Llwch's Awel, a bog in Bettws parish, whereas on the Ordnance and other maps it is plain enough as Llwch Owen or Wen or Llyn Llech Owen, near Llandebie.

Only a person familiar with South Wales could know of this peculiarity in Llwch replacing Llyn locally which goes some way to support the theory that the person who placed the story on record was a monk of Neath Abbey. The accompanying map above gives the details as I have worked them out. The Danes, otherwise Twrch Trwyth and his host, sailed from Ireland and ravaged the region about Milford Haven, taking boat again to Porth Clais just ahead of Arthur's fleet, which gained the neighbouring port of St. Davids, and the pursuit began at once.

The Twrch is heard of at Cor-y-vagil (the name still exists as Cwr-y-vagwr-ile) a farm east of St. Davids. He follows the Via Flandrica, the old road eastwards in North Pembrokeshire, with Arthur at his heels, clearly making for the Teify ; but the men of Cardigan disputed the passage of the Nevern, and the Boar turned back to the Via Flandrica and is caught at the pass of Cwm Kerwyn and compelled to fight. His forces ultimately broke away south on to the lower Roman road, and he hastily passed by Peulinioc, not the Commwt of that name, but the region of Paulinus the early missionary, whose headquarters were at Whitland or Ty Gwyn ar Daf.

Presumably they wanted to get out to sea, but failed, and crossed the sands at the mouth of the Towy to the old fort, Aber Towy, now buried in sand. Thence he goes towards Dinevor, but is clearly in danger from forces ahead, and is baffled which way to turn. He hides for some time in the Llwchwr valley but is discovered and driven into the Amman valley, where he loses heavily. Three streams of the mountainous region between the Amman and the Tawe Valleys bear the names of his supposed leaders. He attempts to retrace his steps, and is next heard of at Llwch Owen, the great pool near Llandebie and the source of the Gwendraeth Fawr. Here a part of his force got away by Dinevor into Ceredigion, but were exterminated before reaching the sea at a place Garth Grugyn, Grugyn being the pig's name.

The Roman road known as the Sarn Helen follows the valley of the Twrch and leads to near Llangeitho, where, according to the story, stood Garth Grugyn. Certainly such a castle was in the possession of Maelgwn Vychan in 1242 A.D., standing on land apparently obtained by exchange. It is along this road that Grugyn is taken by the tale-teller.

This may have been a feint, for the main force got through the Amman Valley and is next recorded as at Llwch Tawe, the big Van Pool, near by which runs an old north road to Redbriw Castle by Devynock on the Usk. This was a famous castle of about the twelfth century, and a hunter whose name is manufactured from that of the place, Rhudvyw Rhys, is killed there.

Ewyas of course must appear in all Welsh stories. It was the disputed land about which the Welsh princes in the eleventh century consulted the King of England as over lord. In early times the men of Ewyas and Archenfield went with Saxon Hereford in spite of differences of blood and held the privilege of leading the van and covering the return of the army.

To Ewyas went part of the Danish force under the lieutenant called Llwydawc, and here the men of east Glamorgan and Monmouth living on the westerly plain, called men of Llydaw or Armorica, attacked and finished them off.

The dominant hill is Allt Llwyd, and Craig Llwyd overlooks Ystrad Yw, where the pig was killed. Sir John Rhys gives a highly picturesque, though absurd explanation associating the men of Llydaw with the lake dwelling of Brecon Lake, but the text shows clearly enough what people are meant. Besides " litau " is a gloss for Latio in an eighth century document, meaning Latium or Latin territory. Stokes thinks it meant " coast " and illustrates this from " litus " in Lituwa or Lithuania, just as Armorica means " upon the sea." In this case it seems to refer to the coast-dwellers of Bro Morganwg and Wentloog.

Howel, king of Gleguising (which is assumed to have included Wentloog) accepted the overlordship of Alfred. Geoffrey makes Howel son of Emyr Llydaw and king of Llydaw one of Arthur's distinguished battle leaders against the Romans.

The main Danish force pushed on towards the Severn. At this stage the dog Cabal is much to the front, for " Bal " is a common name thereabouts. Pen y fal is our Sugar Loaf and Bal mawr and Bal bach hills near Llanthony. As the Twrch gets nearer the coast, besides the men of Glamorgan and others from north of the Usk pressing him in the rear, Arthur calls up the men of Devon and Cornwall and others to oppose his passage.

At Llyn Lliwan a fierce fight takes place, but the Chief Boar manages to escape across the Severn and out to sea though with the loss of all his following and his personal possessions. If anyone will read the story of the big Danish raid which ended at Buttingdon, he will understand the Boar Hunt better. Hasten fled, his forces being scattered or slain.


Cabal is only mentioned in the story when the name of a prominent hill or feature bears the name of " Bal." The rounded and treeless appearance of the Sugar Loaf suggests that the name arises therefrom. The Roman roads particularly, and other roads leading to important places give the foundation for the story. In a hill country with many bogs it was impor- tant to know the roads and the big landmarks. The telling of stories was one way of teaching them.

The story of Cabal's footprint preserved in stone is a good illustration of the tendency to connect stones with particular places and to read a meaning into place-names. Thus Nennius writes : " There is a wonder in the district which is called Buelt. Here is a heap of stones and one stone superposed upon the heap in which is the footprint of a dog. Cabal, which was the dog of Arthur the warrior, made it when hunting the Boar Troit, and afterwards Arthur made the heap of stone and placed the rock with the footprint on top and called it Carn Cabal. And men came and took away the stone for a day and a night, and on the following day they found it on the heap again."

But Giraldus Cambrensis, who was Archdeacon of Brecon and a South Walian by birth, should be more accurate, and he writes : " It is a remarkable circumstance or rather a miracle concerning Llanthoni that although it is on every side surrounded by lofty mountains not stony or rocky, but of a soft nature and covered with grass, Parian stones are frequently found there and are called freestones from the facility with which they admit of being cut and polished and with these the church is beautifully built. It is also wonderful that when after a diligent search all the stones have been removed from the mountains and no more can be found, upon another search, a few days afterwards, they reappear in greater quantities to those who seek them."

Now Bal mawr and Bal bach and Pen-y-fal are the names of the hills referred to by Giraldus, and a misreading by a stranger to the district, at about the time when Llewellyn the king was killed at Builth, which made Bal into Buallt is under- standable. Again, during last century, Lady Charlotte Guest, anxious to test the Nennian story, persuaded a friend to visit the hill near Builth named Carn Gavallt and of course on the top of the carn was a stone with a hollow left by a pebble which had dropped out. But Gavallt as a word has no connection with Cabal, and worse still, Builth is obviously right away from the road system which is being described in the Hunt of the Twrch.

At any rate, though it is 600 years since Giraldus wrote, I have heard myself from the people of the district near Llanthony and Abergavenny stories how they can carry away tile-stones (fissile bands of Old Red Sandstone) and come again almost at once for a further supply as if the first had been replaced. Over this very hill ran the Roman road from Brecon to Kentchester.


Now there is one thing which continues to be regarded as a marvel throughout all Welsh literature — the flood of Llyn Lliwan. At times one is reminded of the brook Kishon and the wonders which the Israehtes ascribe to it : at others it reads somewhat like the flood of Noah. Hear how Nennius describes it. " And there is a beach near the river and when the tide is in the Severn this beach is not covered : and when the sea and the Severn recede then the pool Lliwan disgorges all it has swallowed from the sea and that beach is covered therewith, and it discharges and pours it out in one wave like to a mountain. And if there should be the whole army of the country there and they should turn their faces towards the wave it would draw the army to it by force, their clothes being full of moisture and their horses would be drawn in like manner. But should the army turn their backs towards the wave it will not injure them."

Clearly the features of Llyn Lliwan gave a fine opening for exaggeration to the tale tellers. When hunting the Twrch here Kacmwri " was dragged down by two millstones into the deep " and Osla Kyllelvawr was sucked under simply because his empty sword sheath became full of water.

If there is anyone who would like to try the truthfulness of the facts, setting aside the exaggeration, I can assign him the place, and will guarantee that he will be under no delusions. In one of the early numbers of the Transactions there is an account of the making of the Severn Tunnel. The engineer tells how the face of the Dun Sands is cut away at a fearful rate to a great depth by the tidal current and how his men could not land because of the undercutting. The map (I.) gives the place. The important fact is that the rock barrier, the English Stones, are covered about half-tide. The tidal inflow sets towards the mouth of the Wye, and much sand and gravel are thrown up, so that sometimes the Dun Sands join up to the Enghsh Stones.

The Dun Sands are covered only at very high tides during the flow. But with the ebb it is quite different. The current sets towards the English shore and across the Dun Sands and the Enghsh Stones until about half-tide, when the rocks are approaching the surface. Then the current changes its direction and with a tremendous rush seeks the restricted channel of the Shoots, during which time the face of the bank is being steadily undercut. Anyone standing with his face towards the water is apt to slide in through this undercutting : if standing reversed he might escape by falling on his face.' As for the name Lliwan, it seems to have been a mis-spelling for Hewan or Owen, one of the early Christian Kings of Gwent.


So far I have been trying to sliow that the early Arthurian stories as preserved to us have a close connection with South Wales. Let me now show by examples how prone were the Welsh story-tellers to borrow local names and adapt stories to suit their own motives of local patriotism. The Mabinogion stories bear out what Giraldus Cambrensis tells us of the Welsh of his day. " Beyond all other rhetorical ornaments they preferred the use of alliteration and that kind more especially which repeats the first letters or syllables of words. They make so much use of it in every finished discourse that they thought nothing elegantly spoken without it. In private company or in seasons of public festivity they were very facetious in their conversation with a view of entertaining the company and displaying their own wit. And persons of lively parts sometimes in wild and sometimes in sarcastic terms under the cover of a double meaning by a peculiar turn of voice or by the transposition of words were continually uttering humourous or satirical expressions." I wish I could tell you the stories making the points which they did for their hearers. All I can do is to illustrate their method by two well-known stories, and show how they manipulated them according to the place of telling. More than one has come down to us with South Wales colouring.

Welsh Version of the Story of the Ancient Animals

My first story is that of the Ancient Animals. The main structure is common to the world — the creatures say much the same thing in the stories of Japan and India, of the Hausas in Africa and in the old Scandinavian world. The animals differ according to the geographic situation — the monkey comes in if it be a tale of the tropics, the whale if it belongs to northern climes. The animals used in these islands are those with tra- ditions of long life or the power of revival after death. The story always makes the creatures speak, and the whole point is to find some fanciful way of illustrating how long the creature has lived. Now we have Irish, Scotch and Welsh versions, probably all modelled on the Irish. They are peculiar in that they add the habitat of the creature to its name, e.g., the otter of the burn, the duck of the oozy pool.

For the Mabinogion story, if my theory is accepted, you must imagine the audience made up of people who spent their time hunting and were familiar with many spots in the chase of Monmouth Castle or some other castle of Wentwood. The hunter who knows the language of animals asked the ousel of Cilgwri for information about the man lost a long time ago, whom they seek. The ousel, or rather Kingfisher, " has sharpened his beak nightly on a smith's anvil and has worn it away, so long has he lived." He sends the enquirer to the Stag of Rhedynfre who has seen an oak sapling grow into a magnificent tree and this pass into decay through age. The Stag sends him to the Owl of Cwm Cawlyd who has seen three forests grow in succession on the same ground while his wings have withered into mere stumps, but he had never heard of Modron. So the hunter goes to the Eagle of Gwern abwy "who used to perch on a rock so high that he could peck the stars, but so long has he lived that the rock is now nothing more than a big boulder :" yet he knew nothing. But the Eagle remembers that the Salmon of Llin Lliwan is older than himself, for when he was young the Salmon was well grown and drew him down into the deep when he pounced upon him. And when they settled their differences the eagle pulled 50 fish spears out of the salmon's broad back. So big was this fish that he could carry two men on his back and sure enough he did know the man sought for ; he was imprisoned in Gloucester Castle, to which the Salmon swam daily with the tide.

Now the Kingfisher was the bird of wonder in the twelfth century. Giraldus tells some strange stories about it: how it never decayed on death, and if hung up dead could sprout feathers annually. The Kingfisher is of CilgwTi, or " lonely thicket," descriptive certainly of its favourite haunt. The play is on the word, for Kilgwrrwg is a large village in the middle of Wentwood. The Stag is of Rhedynfre or Fembrake. The famous Buckstone is by the Reddings to-day.

The Owl is of Cwm Cawlyd, the retreat of mixed food or hodge podge ; Who does not recognise in this the character of the disgorged pellets of undigested food ? I suggest tentatively that this is Cwm Clawdd, spelled Clawith by Speed, a well-known spot near Monmouth, where Offa's Dyke is very clear. The eagle is of Gwern abwj^ or " Carrion Swamp," and by the description close to the river at Chepstow. It is a play on the name of the river. For Gwern abwy we must read Gwern ab gwy, " Swamp by the Wye."

The Sow Henwen

My second story is that of the Beneficent Pig. It was one to be told in any Castle of South Wales, but less frequently in the north, and there were variants provided in the Triads, I fancy for use in a Welshman's home to be omitted when told in a Norman castle. The sow. Hen-wen, or Old White, of Dallwyr Dallpenn, went burrowing so far as Aust (or as a variant Pen wedic) and crossed the Severn into Gwent and at Maes Gwenith left a bee and a grain of wheat " from which time onwards Gwent has been famous for wheat and honey." Thence she went to the region of Pembroke to a place called Lanion or Llonniau Llonwen, and left a little pig and a grain of barley, " from which time Dyfed has been famous for barley and pigs." In Eivionydd she left a grain of rye only. At Rhiw Gyferthwch, near the Snowdon Mountains, the sow gave birth to an eagle-chick and a wolf-cub, which she presented to chieftains of the district. On the Straits of Menai, at Maen Du she brought forth a kitten which her keeper threw into the water, but the men of Anglesey rescued it to their subsequent regret, for this creature, the Cath Palug or ermine weasel, grew up to be one of their big persecutors, and, if no Norman was about, the story-teller could add " the others were Daronwy and Edwin, King of England."

You will note that the good things are all for South Wales and the opposite kind are given to the North. No one but a South Walian could have divided the honours so. Again, we have a mixture of fact and fancy : Dallwyr Dallpenn is descriptive. One of the favourite landing places of old before the days of the mariner's compass was Axmouth and the coast thereabout. Here came hordes of Anglo-Saxons with all their worldly possessions, including varieties of pigs which the Celtic folk coveted.

The Axe runs near its mouth in a glen or dale, so we get the Dale weir or landing place, while a few miles up it is apparently blocked by a hill or Penn around which the Roman road used to \\ind and behind it still lies the \allage of Dallwood. The Roman road is the " Foss Way " and in old Saxon Charters is termed the " Sow's Way." Aust and Pen Redwick are two landing places still on the Severn facing Chepstow. The Welsh words for bee and wheat are much alike, and the pla}' of words is clear — gwenith, gwenyn and Gwent. Maes Gwenith is a farm still. The Golden Valley takes its name from the rich wheat lands, and anyone who wanders near Abergavenny knows how abundant are the wild bees' nests.

In a book written about 80 years ago Lleiniau Llonnyen in Cardigan is mentioned as producing the earliest barley in West Wales, and this is the place given b^^ the twelfth century story teller. The very name indicates strips cultivated by the fisher folk still, and tradition has it that barley has been grown year after year on the strips for centuries. Similarly the other places are recognisable. Rhiw g}^'erthwch, the slope of the pantings, is obviously the hill behind Tremadoc, one of of the outposts of the Welsh princes of Snowdonia, from which they kept an eye on the sea. On this hill is the ancient stone of Gesail g3^arch. We recall that Snowdon is Mjmydd Eryri — the Eagle Mountain, while wolves lived on longer in that region than anywhere else in South Britain. But what of the Cath Palug ? The word is given differently in some versions, but Cath Pali — the ermine weasel, noted for its bloodthirstiness, though called beautiful by the old Norse folk, is clearly meant. Palig or Palling was one of the better known Danish leaders who ravaged the western coast and the name has been preserved in Carnarvonshire as a term of reproach for people of non- Welsh extraction. The weasel used to abound near the sand dunes of the Straits with their swarms of rabbits. One variant is of peculiar interest, " That was the Cath Balwg : it proved a molestation to the Isle of Mona subsequently." In the Brut y Tywysogion, under A.D. 959 is recorded : " And the sons of Abloec (Anlaf) devastated Caer Gybi and Lleyn." Balwg and Bloec are near enough to show the persons referred to.

If the Normans were not present, the story teller added the words about the three molestations of Anglesey. The second persecutor was Edwin, King of Northumbria, who though brought up at the Court of Gwynedd made war upon it and laid Mona waste ; the third was Daronwy, whom Mr. Gwenogvryn Evans has now fixed as Hugh the Fat, the terrible first earl of Chester, from a Taliesin poem describing his using a church as a stable..

Here ends my story. I claim then that Arthur, if he is to be identified by his battles, is not the Post Roman Celtic chief, but Alfred, King of the West Saxons. Again I hold that the people so often referred to in Welsh stories as cruel and bloodthirsty and constantly attacking Wales are the Danes. And that in the form they have come down to us, many stories were intended for use in the homes of South Wales.