Now just who was 'Arthur'? This is just my view. The problem we have
with 'Arthur' is his timeless popularity. So many people have jumped onto
the Camelot bandwagon over the centuries and adopted him - and then adapted
Looking at all the stories, and there are truly so many as to boggle the
mind, the first job is to delete the obvious romances and parodies of later
years. Then take the earlier offerings and, along with some thought for the
political and religious agendas of the periods, and see what we really have.
This takes us back to the twelfth century, and everyone's favourite liar,
Geoffrey of Monmouth. Most later works - the ones that weren't total
fabrications - were based either on G of M's works, or on similar 'evidence'
to that with which he worked. (Now, if that isn't an over-generalisation
worthy of a spot in the Guinness Book of Records, then I don't know one!)
My opinion - and this is only an opinion - is as follows:-
In British times names as we know and accept them are seldom recorded.
What could be termed 'titles' or 'nicknames' are prevalent. Sometimes two
very different people, though famous, noteworthy people in their own right,
could have the same 'name' within a generation of each other. Then again, a
single person could go through more than one 'title' in their single
lifetime. This can obviously lead to some confusion.
Looking at the names/titles involved in the Arthurian stories, and
applying them to other histories and documentation as we know them, seems to
give us two separate, and clearly defined, targets.
We have two Myrddins for a start. One youthful lad in the mid-fifth century,
and one slightly older chap in the mid-sixth century. The century between
them eliminates any chance of them being the same person (unless you REALLY
believe in magic).
Peredur, Gawain, Uriens and many of the 'Knights' of the 'Round Table'
are very much alive and active in Northern Britain in the latter half of the
sixth century [in, respectively, Ebrauc
(York), Guotodin, and North
At that time the Northern British War Chief, ' Great Warrior' or 'PenDragon'
to give him his proper title, was one Gwenddolau of Arddrydd [Caer-Guendoleu]
(choose your own spelling). It is not a big step from 'King of Arthuret' to
'King Arthur', especially allowing for the British passion for titles and
His chief councillor is recorded as one of the Myrddins mentioned above.
His wife's name is not recorded, but would likely be titled after him -
therefore would be Gwen-something, almost as in Mrs Gwenddolau. So Gwenifar
- or Guinevere in later tongues - would not be impossible.
Near his capital is a round circle where Celts have met since the dawn
of time. For meetings to be held there, in the neutral open - especially as
the so-called 'knights' were all in fact princes 'equal' to Gwenddolau -
would be quite feasible. And the Celt's love of pomp and ceremony would near
demand it. Oh yes - the nearby hill is still named 'Arthur's Seat'. Hence,
perhaps, the 'round table'.
Even Myrddin's sister, a troublemaker beyond belief, makes a good basis
for the 'wicked sister' of the later legends. She was also married to the
Prince of Din Eidin [Guotodin],
one Morgn [Morgan Bulc] of great fame. So her acceptable title could well
have been Morganna. Let's hope she wasn't much of a witch - as she seems to
have left Morgn to live with St Kentigern.
After Gwenddolau's death, in circa 572, his greatest friend Aiden,
soon chief of the Dal
Rhiadda Scots, 'named' his next born son Arthur in his memory.
Mere coincidence of course. As are all of the above.
Now further back we have our other Myrddin. He is sat closer to AD 460
and is in Gwynedd (modern
North Wales). Here we meet the red and white Dragons. Quite probably an idea
based on old Roman cavalry standards (not so old then of course). Nennius,
writing in the early 9th century, puts this story in Snowdonia, and Welsh
tradition also has it at Dinas Emrys near Beddgelert.