Session 125: Ystafell 5
The Celts and their neighbours in the Middle Ages

Sponsored by: CSANA

Chair: Michaela Jacques

The Welsh past in the Romance of Fouke le Fitz Waryn

Georgia Henley
Saint Anselm College, NH, USA

The early fourteenth-century Anglo-Norman French Romance of Fouke le Fitz Waryn has received attention for its depiction of outlawry in the genre of ‘ancestral’ romance and for its place in the corpus of texts copied by the famous Middle English Ludlow scribe. Set initially in Shropshire, Fouke depicts the disinheritance of Fouke III de Waryn during the reign of King John and Fouke’s adventures during exile on the continent and in native Wales, where he receives assistance from his childhood companion Llywelyn ab Iorwerth. Analyses typically draw parallels to other Anglo-Norman romances of the day such as Gui de Warewic and Boeve de Haumtone. This paper sheds new light by offering a Celtic and Marcher perspective. I argue that Fouke is occupied by Marcher concerns, including land rights in the march of Wales, the independence of Marcher lords, and the English crown’s jurisdictional limits. These themes are consistent with other literary works (chronicles and genealogies), commissioned by Marcher families. The failure of previous critics to recognize key references to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s De gestis Britonum and Prophetiae Merlini has resulted in an underappreciation of the depth of synthesis the author achieves between this family romance and contemporary adaptations of Geoffrey. Placing Fouke in the milieu of Marcher literary production allows for a more focused articulation of Marcher interests during this period and draws attention to the text as a witness to Marcher preoccupations with the Welsh historical past in a post-1282 world.

Bede’s Books in Kadeir Kerrituen

Joshua Byron Smith
University of Arkansas, AR, USA

This paper argues that the reference to llyfrau Beda (Bede’s books) in the Middle Welsh poem Kadeir Kerrituen should be understood as part of the larger Insular 'old book' topos. I first survey this Insular topos, offering examples in Irish, Latin, English, and French. These references have never been studied together in a multilingual context; in particular, vernacular Irish and Welsh literature have generally been excluded from studies of this trope. From my survey, it becomes clear that the old book topos took on new life in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Indeed, invoking an old book became one of the preferred ways that writers could invent stories about the ancient British past. Moreover, authors also began to invoke nonexistent works of Bede in order to claim even more authority for the supposed old book in question. Layamon, for example, cites a fictional book by Bede as one of his three main sources for his Brut. With this in mind, I briefly examine two other references to Bede in Welsh poetry, one from Gruffudd ap Maredudd ('Marwnad Hywel ap Goronwy, archddiacon Môn'), and another from the poem 'O Saith Weddi y Pader.' I then turn to Kadeir Kerrituen, a playful, allusive poem from the Book of Taliesin. The poem is self consciously literary, invoking the fourth branch of the Mabinogi, as well as some literary traditions that have been subsequently lost. I argue that the reference to 'Bede’s books' towards the end of the poem is a clever use of the old book topos, designed to subvert a Bedan/English version of the ancient British past. This playful use of Bede fits better with earlier interpretations of this passage, which simply views this line as a straight reference to one of Bede’s own works. The Insular context brings this subversive reading to life.

Law and identity in Araile felmac féig don Mumain

Patrick Wadden
Belmont Abbey College, NC, USA

The Middle Irish tale Araile felmac féig don Mumain is deeply concerned with legal affairs, including the rights of poets and the regulation of satire. It also raises questions concerning legal jurisdiction in eleventh-century Ireland. Of central importance to the narrative is the issue of whether or not the Hiberno-Scandinavian inhabitants of Limerick are subject to Irish law. The story implies a conflict between two attitudes. One of these views the legal system described in Old Irish law tracts as a territorial law, covering the entire island, while the other sees it as personal in jurisdiction, relevant only to Gaels.

Their laws had long been of central importance to the Irish sense of identity, and this story thus hints at a debate around the complex relationship that existed between the Gaelic Irish and their Hiberno-Scandinavian neighbors at a time when the issue of their national identity was foremost in the minds of learned Irishmen. This paper will look at the place of law in this debate, focusing on Araile felmac féig don Mumainand other sources. Finally, it will suggest that the debate around legal jurisdiction and identity in this period can help cast light on earliest period of Ireland’s legal history.