Chair: Eurig Salisbury
Over seventy years have passed since the publication of the only edition of Breuddwyd Rhonabwy, namely Melville Richards’ Welsh edition (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1948). As a new (English) edition is being prepared, questions are raised as to how the latest research has influenced our understanding and interpretation of the tale, and what challenges exist as the text is introduced to a twenty-first-century audience. Does Breuddwyd Rhonabwy continue to be an enigma?
Tension stemming from one’s courtly commitments are evident from the opening scenes of Chwedyl Iarlles y Ffynnawn, when Cai is reluctant to carry out his courtly duties as the Court’s Steward. This sets a precedence for what is to come. This paper will examine the conflict between the Laws of the Court and the bonds of friendship that can be seen between the Countess, Luned and Owain. This dissension is particularly apparent when Luned chooses to ignore her Court’s diaspedein (shoutings, cryings, bawlings, shriekings) to look after Owain instead. If this passage is read alongside two Welsh legal triads, in which the diaspedein of the court signifies the three incitements of revenge and the three shames of a corpse, then the magnitude of Luned’s actions, perverting the course of justice in favour of a possible friendship with Owain, are driven home. These tensions are further emphasised when the tale is contrasted with its French counterpart The Knight with the Lion. This paper will demonstrate that by taking this approach we can make significant headway in identifying not only one of the key themes of Chwedyl Iarlles y Ffynnawn, but also in explaining why the tale is often viewed as a 'native tale'.
In many Fenian tales, virtue, be it Christian or Courtly, plays an important role in the story’s progression. Following on from a paper given at UlidiaFinn 2018, the proposed paper will examine the use of ‘pite’ (that is, benevolence towards the weak, compassion, and charity) in the Early Modern tales of the Fenian cycle alongside a wider European framework. It will do so through an investigation of the character of Fionn and those who surround him and how the cycle fits within the archetype of the compassionate warrior knights of courtly literature. There is a significant shift in the characterisation of Fionn from a roving pagan warrior leading a band of warriors in the earliest tales, to a noble and often Christian leader in tales post-dating the Acallamh na Senórach (thirteenth century). A similar development can be seen in the characterisation of the Welsh King Arthur, who also undergoes a change from a leader of a band of heroes to one of the most noble kings in chivalric romance. It is hoped that an in-depth study of Fionn through the lens of ‘pite’ as a courtly virtue, and alongside the changes seen in the Arthurian material, will illuminate further intricacies of his character and the possible influences in its development.