The Golden Dawn: Player Aid #3

The Proto-Arthurian Manuscript

         This is a series of poems apparently composed in the which mentions Artorius, and is an obscure predecessor of Geoffrey of Monmouth's even more fanciful "History of the Kings of Britain". To place it within the context of other Arthurian works:

  • "History of the Britons", written by a monk known as Nennius in the late 8th century, and revised in the 10th century. The earliest manuscript describes twelve battles fought by Arthur, including one on Mount Agned. A later version replaces this with the battle of Bregimion.
  • "The Annals of Cambriae" (or "The Annals of Wales"), written in their years and compiled in the 11th century.
The poems were apparently composed by a bard in the North -- i.e. the land lying between the two Roman Walls, the Antonine Wall running between the River Forth and the River Clyde, and Hadrian's Wall running between the River Tyne and the Solway Firth. It was written down in the 7th century somewhere in Wales. It primarily concerns the King of Caer Eidyn and the travels of his warriors amidst the fights with the Saxons. There is a resemblance between some of the events and themes in the poems and the stories later written by Geoffrey of Monmouth.

         Arthur is mentioned several times in the background as a war leader allied to the unnamed King of Caer Eidyn, who was contrasted by his victories in battle, compared to the King's troubles which make up the bulk of the epic.

         The name "Zorlith" is one of two names used for the traitor within the King's court, the other being Adomnan. The two names appear inconsistently used, and not much is said of this figure's actions. It appears from the conclusion that he escaped, taking many of the men from the King's retinue with him.

         The name "Anstaria" appears in a list of women who descend upon the warrior Camarthen and offer him hospitality during his return from a battle against the Saxons. He leaves apparently with some distaste for them, being intent upon his mission. It is ambiguous within the narrative where they are from, but there are parallels to the faerie elements of later stories.

         The name "Thursif" appears solely within a curse which a mortally wounded Saxon leader casts upon the warrior Maelgwn. The full line is roughly "May the depths of the black Earth swallow you and your Sighle, and the fiery tongue of Thursif strike you".


John H. Kim <jhkim-at-darkshire-dot-net>
Last modified: Sat Sep 9 22:57:03 2006