British History, 407-597, by Fabio P. Barbieri

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Chapter 8.5: Scandinavian stories

Fabio P. Barbieri

I am all too conscious of the enormity of the claims made thus far, and have the deepest sympathy for anyone who should want to shut my book with an angry slap and throw it in the dustbin, or out the window.  Geoffrey’s account, historical?  Or even only with historical features?  The first reaction is utter disbelief: not only does he have Arthur conquer all Gaul between 528/9 and 542, but he takes him there directly from “Norway”, where he has carried out a savage and successful campaign, intervening in local dynastic feuds on behalf of two candidates of his own.  The notion that a British commander could successfully have invaded Scandinavia or Gaul in the 520s or 530s seems to us so outlandish as to barely deserve consideration.  The details provided by Geoffrey do not help: there was no such country as Norway in the sixth century, and Arthur is said to storm “cities”.

And yet, once we begin to look at the evidence, the sense of unlikelihood fades away.  As for the anachronistic features of a kingdom of Norway with urban settlements, they are really no worse than Geoffrey’s updatings of other accounts that we have found reason to think have roots in history.  An Arthor of Norway is actually known in Nordic saga, appearing briefly in Saxo Grammaticus as the enemy of Roller, the brother of Eirik the Eloquent – a couple of mythological heroes with much in common with the mythological Welsh figures of Taliesin and Morfrān eil Tegid[1].  H.R.Ellis Davison delivers herself of an unusually ill-judged comment: “the name Arthorus in Saxon presumably represents Arnthorr, a Scandinavian name, and has no connexion with Arthur” of Britain.  Quite; and Saxo was so ignorant of his own language that he could not hear the easy and natural form Arn-thorr, composed of two of its most popular name parts, and must needs misrepresent it as the unprecedented and pointless Arthorus!  I respect and admire Mrs. Ellis Davison, but here she has fallen victim to the natural human tendency to disregard, in fact almost not to see, the totally unexpected, the thing that really does not fit into any known scheme.  So, for that matter, had I: this, before I came across that single inexplicable Norwegian name, is what I had written on the matter:

To begin with, there is nothing to contradict it [the idea that Arthur had invaded Scandinavia].  No written history of Scandinavia for this period exists or can exist, given that the thin thread of literacy that had reached the North in the form of the new runic alphabet was decidedly not up to recording long historical texts.  Germanic learned men were able to write down their own language, but all the evidence is that they used it for short inscriptions, ceremonial and magical in character.  And nothing except a written source could ever preserve the memory of a raid on Scandinavia and Denmark such as Geoffrey describes; it is too short and sudden a shock to register on the archaeological evidence which is almost all we have.  For that matter, one wonders whether the learned of the Teutonic North would even want to preserve the memory of such events.”

We scholars really must avoid a priori exclusions and denials; there always is a piece of evidence waiting to turn up somewhere to show us up and make us look silly.

Arthorus is described as the king of two Norwegian provinces, Söndmöre and Nordmöre.  This makes better sense than to attribute to him a kingdom of Norway which did not exist before King Harald Fine-Hair in the 800s; that is, I am certainly not saying that the historical Arthur conquered Söndmöre and Nordmöre (the evidence hints at a quite different area, as we will see), but the fact that the name looks back to a pre-Harald Fine-Hair geography of independent Norwegian kinglets is consistent with an ancient origin for the tradition.  So is, indeed, its pale and faded quality.  If the mythological context suggests anything at all, it is genealogical fiction; that is, one of the families of local kinglets driven out of history by Harald Fine-hair may have claimed Arthor as an ancestor[2].

This tells us only a little more than nothing.  That Arthur did invade Scandinavia is not to be proved simply by the existence of the name Arthor; on the other hand, if a good case may be made for it on other grounds, this would strengthen it.

The heart of Geoffrey’s notice is that Arthur intervened in some manner, and successfully, somewhere among the northernmost Teutonic pagan tribes - tribes that can easily be distinguished, even in Geoffrey’s eyes, from the Saxons and the Franks to their south - driving off one candidate, whom Geoffrey identifies as Riculf, and installing one of his own kinsmen, whom Geoffrey identifies as Loth of Lodonesia, and then invading another kingdom identified with Denmark (we are not told that he replaced its king, and in fact a king of Denmark with a recognizably Nordic name turns up later in Geoffrey’s account).

What little is known of Arthur’s pedigree bears the traces of a Nordic connection.  It is not I, but such a sober and unadventurous specialist as Peter Clement Bartrum who points out that “the name [of Arthur’s maternal grandfather] Amlawdd is unique in Welsh, but it bears a marked resemblance to Norse Amlœši”; a hero of Northern legend who, among his other exploits, went to Britain twice to fetch himself a bride[3].  Saxo Grammaticus’ chronology is totally unreliable; but he places Amlœši next[4] to three heroes with strong known relations with Britain, Frodhi III, Hrolfr Kraki and Uffi or Offa, of whom the latter was not even a Dane but an Angle - here shamelessly appropriated for the royal Danish line.  Saxo’s Latin name for Amlœši is Amlethus, and, yes, this is the hero whose royal legend, centuries later, made its way back to Britain[5].

It is not, therefore, impossible that Arthur and his kinsmen should have had “rights of memory in this kingdom”, wherever it was; it is only unlikely, and unlikelihood is no argument against evidence.  Dynastic connections between the tribes of North Britain and of Scandinavia are hardly an impossibility.  One way or another, the call of the Saxons to Britain had extended direct relations between the Roman and the Germanic world further north than they had ever been.  One fact which is certainly historical is the transfer of a significant part, or even of the whole, of the Anglian tribe, including a royal group claiming succession from the Anglian hero Offa, from Angeln to England; and the Anglians came not from Germany, let alone from the mouths of the Rhine like the Franks, but from the territory of modern Denmark.  Royal contacts between East Anglia and Sweden are, as we have seen, proved by archaeology.  And there is no need to limit this influence to fertile south-east Britain: Frisians were once settled in Dumfries, in the tribal North where Arthur’s background lies.

One or two of the notices which connect Arthur with North Britain also imply naval warfare and seaborne conquest.  Pa Gur speaks of a naval expedition that resulted in the great battle at the shore of Tryfrwyd, and the fragments about Hueil in Caradoc’s Life of Gildas describe seaborne raids and a fighting encounter in a Manau which may well be Man.  And indeed, if there is a part of Britain where a habit of naval warfare and permanent fleets might well be expected to develop, the far north - with its scatter of islands and the urgent need to go fishing to supplement an otherwise scarce and stultifying Highland diet - is exactly it.  We know that Coroticus, who lived in the same regions a century before Arthur and Hueil, was able to go on slaving raids in Ireland, across the sea, which argues a fleet.  But above all, the mere fact that the British, whether or not led by Arthur, invaded Gaul and established a powerful colony, must prove massive naval resources.  The existence of the Armorican colony is not a hypothesis: it is a fact that has conditioned Frankish and French history ever since, and it means that in the crucial early stage of its development the British could reinforce their power by sea more effectively than the Franks could do by land.

There is much written Welsh evidence for a claim that Llychlyn[6] and Denmark were subject to Arthur.  Both surviving Welsh Arthurian narratives, The dream of Rhonabwy and Cullhwch and Olwen, refer to these countries as bound to Arthur in a particular way.  The Dream, a narrative so strange that I think it very likely to have originated in a real dream – remembered after waking and then decorated with all the flowers of rhetoric and bardic memory available to the author – presents the armies of Llychlyn and Denmark, and of no other European country, as going to war under Arthur’s supreme leadership.  The most notable peculiarity of The Dream is the complete suspension of the sense of time, so that the battle of Camlann is spoken of as already fought at the same time as Arthur is supposedly preparing for Mount Badon; and it follows that there is nothing to contradict the Galfridian scheme (in which the invasion of Norway comes long after Badon) in the fact that the Nordic armies are gathering to fight with Arthur at Mount Badon.  Along with this utter absence of time, on the other hand, there is a remarkable precision in the list of heroic names and characters: much of it is directly matched by similar lists in Cullhwch and Olwen and elsewhere[7], and what is not is made of heroes with known Arthurian connections, such as Taliesin, Elphin, Avaon, Bedwini and Gildas.

A part of this semi-historical learned precision is the description of Arthur himself and his dealings with another lord (none other than Owein son of Urien).  On the one hand there is the splendour of Arthur’s court, the glittering parade of glorious knights; as with Rachel Bromwich’s observation, there is no difference between the greatness of Arthur’s court and the splendour of Britain itself.  The atmosphere is chivalrous, courtly, refined: even when a gross insult to the king takes place (Avaon son of Taliesin carelessly splashes the king and his retinue) it is remedied with a ceremonial slap to a horse rather than with violence.  There is also that typically Arthurian sense of glory and doom, a sense that, in Patrick Sims-Williams’ words, “While Arthur’s time was a glorious high point, it doomed subsequent ages to mediocrity”; Arthur and all his court are physically gigantic, and when he sees his visitors from the future, Rhonabwy and his friends, he smiles bitterly to himself at the thought of “such small men” defending Britain when it once had been defended by his own likes.

On the other hand, the Arthur who insists that Owein should go on playing a board game with him while Arthur’s youth are tormenting and killing Owein’s magical birds is the Arthur of the Vita Cadoci, of the Vita Paterni, of the Vita Gildae, of the Dialogue of Arthur and the Eagle: over-ambitious, pushing his rights much too far and trampling on anyone else’s, and cruel – with, on top of this, a suggestion that he can dish it out but he can’t take it (when Owain’s birds begin to do unto Arthur’s young men as Arthur’s young men had done unto them, only harder, it is Arthur who asks Owein to stop playing, only to be answered, in his own words, “play on, my lord”).  As a nuanced description of mingled greatness and meanness, this is very close indeed to The dialogue of Arthur and the eagle.  And there is the sense that not all Arthur’s enemies are either wicked or contemptible.  Owein, placed artificially in opposition to Arthur, is a mighty hero of Welsh poetry, but Hueil and Mordred/Medrawt, his historical enemies, also seem to have left behind golden opinions.  And speaking of Medrawt, it is remarkable that not only is he not made the culprit of the battle of Camlann, which is started by the deliberate misrepresentations of Iddawc, his messenger to Arthur, but that even Iddawc’s own motives are not wicked (within a warrior ethic, that is); he is an ardent young man, burning to prove himself in a great battle.  (Even this may have a connection with historical reality, since Iddawc’s yearning for a great war seems to imply that life has lately been quite peaceful, and might possibly refer to Geoffrey’s five years of peace before Camlann.)  In short, the traditions that went into The dream of Rhonabwy do seem rooted in actual knowledge of the past.

We are therefore not surprised to find that, in Geoffrey’s account of the “second invasion of Gaul” – actually, as I argued, a duplication of the one and only historical invasion of Gaul, the one which began about 528 - the men of Norway and Denmark taking part as loyal members of Arthur’s grand army, exactly as they do in The dream of Rhonabwy[8].  On the other hand, there is absolutely no correspondence between the names of Arthur’s nominees for the two kingdoms.  Geoffrey says that Loth of Lothian was put in charge of Norway, and does not mention any king imposed on Denmark; later, a king of the Danes with the credible Nordic name Aschil turns up during the second invasion of Gaul.  In The dream, it is March ap Meirchiawn who is chieftain of the men of Llychlyn, and Edern ap Nudd who is lord of the Danes.  The latter, as we have seen, is a chronological nonsense, and only means that a king with legendary connections with Arthur had been placed in the throne of these two countries.  In other words, that it was known that Arthur had conquered these countries and placed a loyal man or men in the throne of at least one of them, but that the name of this man/men had not been preserved.  So both Geoffrey and the author of The dream (or his source) put in well-known Arthurian names (both Loth and March are ancient and important names in Arthurian lore).

The evidence from Cullhwch and Olwen is less obvious, because Cullhwch and Olwen is so baroquely worked, with sense and nonsense, genuine tradition and sheer rubbish, so mockingly placed together.  In the same piece of braggartry by Glewlwyd Mighty-Grip from which we have already drawn the important and certainly historical mention of Mil Du son of Dugum, and which nevertheless is full of book-derived trash about Africa, Asia and Corsica, there is a statement that Arthur fought a battle “at the two [places called] Ynir”, probably rivers, after which he took “the twelve hostages” from Llychlyn.  Hostages are a certain sign of overlordship, and Cullhwch and Olwen, let alone Glewlwyd’s speech, mentions no other country as giving hostages to Arthur.  And to judge by the fact that the great Niall, claiming kingship over all Ireland, only had “Nine Hostages”, one tends to assume that twelve represent a quite considerable degree of power[9].

All of this, however, is subsidiary to the heart of my hypothesis, which is that L was a document describing Arthur’s wars.  It did not include the story of his death, and therefore it was probably written in his lifetime. This document, I hold, became one of the sources of Geoffrey of Monmouth, who inserted its content in his own account so successfully that L itself ceased to be reproduced and was lost; Geoffrey’s account of Arthur is partly drawn from L, and partly from unhistorical epic sources.  The question therefore is whether it was from such a document – a historical document, not a piece of romance, however propagandistic its intent – that Geoffrey drew his account of Arthur’s Norwegian and Gallic wars.

This is where literary qualities – content, construction, style and language – are quite as much historical evidence as dates, places and names.  For it is my contention that Arthur’s military practices are described consistently, in a manner that suggests history rather than romance, and that mirrors the man’s character as seen in hostile sources.  Geoffrey’s Arthur routinely uses violence and hunger against the civilian population to achieve his ends.  After starving an enemy army into submission on the islands of Loch Lomond (?), “he was at liberty once more to wipe out the Scots and Picts.  He treated them with unparalleled severity, sparing no-one who fell into his hands.  As a result, all the bishops of that pitiful country, with all the clergy under their command, their feet bare and in their hands the relics of their saints and the treasures of their churches, assembled to beg pity of the king for the relief of their people… He had inflicted sufficient suffering on them, said the bishops, and there was no need for him to wipe out to the last man those few who had survived so far.  He should allow them to have some small tract of land of their own, seeing that they were in any case going to bear the yoke of servitude…”  Although Arthur is “moved to tears” and grants the bishops their plea, it is easy to see in this terrible picture, the “cruel” Arthur of the ecclesiastical accounts of Sawley Abbey and of the legends of Cadoc and Eliwlod.

His onslaught on Scandinavia follows the exact same pattern: “once [Arthur’s men] were sure of victory, they invested the cities [sic!] of Norway, and set fire to them everywhere.  They scattered the rural population and continued to give full licence to their savagery, until they had forced all Norway, and Denmark too, to accept Arthur’s rule.”  This happens, we should notice, after the kingdom’s forces were already defeated: the king of “Norway”, here called Riculf, had gathered all his men and come to meet the invaders at the very point of landing, just as the people of Scotland were harried and starved after their army had already surrendered.  Arthur resorts to calculated violence against the civilian population to obtain the submission of a people he had already defeated in battle: a tactic which would well justify his reputation for cruelty.

The point is not so much that a war of romance would not be so vicious, as that a writer of romance simply would not think of placing these aspects of war in the narrative forefront, or even of mentioning them at all.  All that would interest him would be the clashes of great heroes on the field of battle.  These can be as gory, as ruthless, even as odious, as you please, but they remain within the field of hand-to-hand battle, because that is what the writer is interested in.  Perusal of the Tain Bo Cuailnge, the Chanson de Roland or even the Aeneid, will tell you that economic warfare, large-scale plunder, and the persecution of civilians, are simply not things that occur to the writer of imaginary wars: when the Latin countryside is dotted with fire in Aeneid book 11, it is not because Aeneas’ troops have set fire to the fields, but because the countless victims of the fighting are being cremated.  Troy has been besieged for ten years, but although we hear plenty of the fear that its civilians will be enslaved, we read nothing whatsoever of the most typical effect of a genuine, historical siege, even a leaky one – hunger.  Homer gives a most horrible picture of hostilities, in perhaps the most unadorned depiction of inhumanity ever shaped by a great poet (and eventually has Achilles himself pray that “contention may perish forever from the earth”), but his noblemen, on both sides, live as though war had never even started, eating as much as they like from vessels of ceramic or even gold.

Now Arthur’s activities in “Norway”, which prelude to his invasion of Gaul, also happen to coincide, as closely as extremely faulty documents can prove it, with a couple of conquering outbursts from the region.  It is in the 520s that Hygelac, or Chlochilaicus, carries out a memorable raid upon Friesland.  This is the only known Scandinavian intrusion into Frankland until the days of Ludovic the Pious, but it seems to have been quite an event: fifty years later, Gregory of Tours heard of it in his distant see, to which all noises from the North came very muffled indeed.

It is, in my view, not really a coincidence that the other account of the disaster is to be found in the English heroic saga Beowulf.  We have seen that the obscurity and, quite possibly, the obfuscation of the dynastic references which nevertheless are the warp and woof of the poem – whose protagonist spends his time moving from court to court and forging alliances with the most famous kings of the North – have a lot to do with the extremely mysterious succession to the English kingdom of East Anglia, whose scanty and certainly manipulated data suggest a great deal of usurpation and bloody invasion.  But it is East Anglia itself that seems to have suffered a similar invasion at roughly the same period.  We have seen that John Morris and Wendy Davies believe that invaders, probably from Scandinavia, entered East Anglia about 527 – interesting date, that! – and I have connected this with the memory of rule by one Hrešmund; in my view, this may also be linked to the arrival in Kent of Oesc, a parvenu kinglet whose dynasty was as eager to forge itself new origin myths as it was to forget its historical and quite close origins.  These invasions originate not from Saxony, but from the islands and the Scandinavian peninsula, striking not the British and Christian regions of Britain, but the Saxon territories, and leaving behind territories, and leaving behind, at least in East Anglia, a distinctly Swedish cultural heritage.

We are so used to thinking of Scandinavia in the light of the continent-changing explosion of the Vikings, that I do not think scholars have quite appreciated just how strange this extremely brief period of near-Viking daring really is.  The Scandinavian intrusion into Saxon Britain is as strange, as unprecedented, as un-followed, as Hygelac’s raid.  There is no evidence whatever that either of them had any predecessors or successors: within a few years, Scandinavia was to return to what are, in European terms, its interrupted slumbers, and not trouble the continent again for two and a half centuries.  No permanent tradition of conquest has been set, and indeed the outburst has as little to precede as to follow it.  In the fifth century, the terror of the northern seas were not the Danes, but the Saxons, the tribes of north Germany (and of the conquered areas of Britain); in the seventh, the sea was dominated by Frisians.  It seems likely that it was actually counterproductive in terms of the stability and long-term prospects of the tribes concerned: certainly, the Beowulf poet makes it quite clear that Hygelac’s raid led to disaster for his own Geatish people, as the hostility of the Franks joined hands with that of the Swedes; and the legends of both the Danish and the Swedish courts place violent inner feuds about this time.

However unlikely this may seem, I would point out that these seaborne invasions share a common feature: they strike enemies of Britain.  The Franks do manage to clobber the invaders - if perhaps at the price of having to take their eye off Armorica at a most delicate time; but the core Saxon lands in Britain, East Anglia, seem to have been permanently weakened, and, if John Morris and I are right, intrusive dynasties manage to hold themselves in place for decades - in the case of the Oiscings, permanently - distracting the attention of local powers that might otherwise have taken advantage of a dangerous shift of British Christian power from the island itself to France, and breaking apart Saxon territory – of which Procopius’ informants knew that it was ruled by a single king – into a number of probably quite unfriendly and definitely smaller kingdoms.

As a historian I do not believe in coincidences.  I do not think it is a coincidence that the one great work of literature which clearly embodies a memory of Hygelac’s raid also seems to involve some sort of obscured apologia for the confused dynastic politics of mid-sixth century East Anglia.  To try and perceive what Beowulf meant in terms of dynastic ideology is like trying to understand a telephone conversation in which the person you can hear only does about a fourth of the talking: there clearly is an apologetic intent somewhere, but where and on whose behalf is not at all clear.  But at the very least, it must involve both Hygelac’s disastrous raid and the obscure relationship between Scandinavia and East Anglia in an age of dynastic feud and usurpation.  Now one thing we can get out of the dynastic politics of Beowulf is that the immediately previous generation – the one which had named the Helming lady Wealhtheow, Queen/Goddess of the Romans/slaves, thought naturally in terms of attacking and subduing Romans; which is something we cannot perceive here at all.  The one thing we never see even at the horizon of Beowulf is hostility to Romans or conquest of Roman land.  All the conflicts are among Teutons.

A and L both justify all Arthur’s wars in terms of resisting the barbarians, and there can be no doubt that this was one of the pedestals of his ideology – such as it was.  He had won his greatest glory, a glory he was not shy of advertising, by smashing the Saxons at Mount Badon; and on their spoils he had become rich.  It follows that he must have had a petty good reason, not only to remove his hand from Saxon throats in Britain, but even to come to some arrangement with the most pagan of pagan tribes, the ones most remote from any Christian influence, and actually call them to the soil of Britain itself.  The only possible explanation is that he needed his back covered while he mounted a massive expedition into Gaul.  This is strategy on the grand scale, moving peoples like chess pieces across northern Europe, such as no other power of the time except Byzantium was able to conceive; and if Arthur or anyone was able to conceive and execute it, it might well justify the epic memory he left behind.

Such, then, is the case for Arthur invading and conquering two kingdoms in Scandinavia.  I suggest these kingdoms were the kingdom of the Danes and that of the people called Geats in Beowulf, of which the Wolfings who invaded East Anglia may have been a branch.  It is from these regions – and, so far as anyone can tell, from no other - that the invaders of the 520s come; there are no Swedes proper and no men from the regions of Norway mentioned either among the invaders of Britain and Gaul, or featuring prominently in Beowulf.  And if we imagine Arthur to be capable of the grand strategy I suggested, then the lands of Jutes (Oesc and his descendants regarded themselves as Jutes), Danes, Wolfings and Geats are much the best target for any naval adventurer, dominating the entrance to the Baltic as well as being the least agriculturally wretched among those lands of the cold.  There is also the fact that Gotland, understood as the island of that name, turns up, visibly out of place, among Arthur’s early island conquests; it is possible that Geoffey may have misunderstood a notice about Arthur conquering Gotland, meaning the region of southern Sweden where the Geats lived.


[1] I am not saying that the story was borrowed.  Although I did not analyze or compare the two legends in depth, it seems likeliest that they both go back to a common Indo-European past, specifically to common ideas about poetry.  (Nobody denies that such a thing as an original Indo-European poetic tradition, with a common prosody, can be identified.)

[2] I do not know enough about the mechanisms of Nordic history to guess how exactly the dynasty of Söndmöre and Nordmöre would have such claims, but in Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla, we can see a legendary dynasty of kings of Sweden turn into a historical dynasty of Norwegian Upland (the Oslo region); which, I think, provides a possible template for the migration of ancient pedigrees, heroic stories, or claims, from the two centres of the Nordic world – Denmark and the heart of Sweden at Uppsala – towards the edge, the little kings of Norway with many claims and not much land.  It is perfectly possible that one of these local royal families claimed the misty legend of a remote conqueror for themselves, whether they had a right to or not.

[3] One of many interesting features about Amlœši/Amlethus is that Saxo makes him the son of the mysterious mythological figure Aurvandil, whom the roving god of thunder Žórr had safely ferried over a dangerous sea.  It is possible that Aurvandil, Earendil in England (where he is the Morning Star, the first light announcing the birth of Christ), Orendel in Trier (where he is a seafaring hero rescuing a relic of Our Lord from the sea) and Erentheil in Strassburg, where he is the earliest of all heroes, had something to do with ferrying sacred things safely over the ocean, and also with beginnings; in which case, his “son” Amlœši might stand for something taken safely to Saxo’s native Denmark from mysterious distances across the sea.  One observation which arises is that this would reverse the opening scene of Beowulf, when the dead Danish king Scyld Sceafing is committed to the sea; the other is that if Amlœši had mysteriously reached Denmark from the sea, well, one of the places from which he might have come is Britain.  With which he might be connected - see note 5 below.

[4] Disregarding the astonishing fact that he also places his version of the Twilight of the Gods – the war of Hotherus and Balderus – immediately before Amlethus!

[5] Not to mention that the Danish scholar N.Lukman has suggested that the name itself may have entered Nordic languages from Britain and refer to none other than Ambrosius!  As he argued this from the very same grounds I use about Fitela and Vitalinus - see Appendix 12 - that is the unusual, polysillabic form of the name, I can hardly reject it out of hand; and besides, Saxo’s story of Amlethus, read from this point of view, is full of interesting material and possible echoes of the British legend of Ambrosius.  There is of course no reason, given the intense contacts between Britain and the North German world, why Ambrosius (whose name clearly survives in English place-names - Appendix 12) should not have entered Teutonic legend in some form.  I may investigate this in a future study; the point here is that even if Lukman is correct, the fact is that the name recurs in Arthur’s ancestry in an indubitably Nordic rather than British form, that is that it has passed through Scandinavia before reaching him.  N.LUKMAN, British and Danish traditions, in Classica et Medievalia, 6, Copenaghen 1944, 72-109.  (Notice the year of publication: though I think this, on the whole, a poor study, the fantasy is excited, and the emotions moved, by the picture of scholars carrying on genuine research – and publishing in English! – in the darkest days of German occupation and Nazi barbarity.  There is a little light that did not quite go out.)

[6] A name that can apply to Scandinavia or any Scandinavian country, but which seems most often used for Norway.

[7] See the commentary notes to the long list of heroes in Rachel Bromwich and D.Simon Evans’ edited text of Cullhwch, where the parallels between various Welsh Arthurian list are made item by item.  In spite of its bizarre appearance, there is nothing especially strange or dubious about the list of heroes in The dream of Rhonabwy.

[8] The correspondence is not perfect, since, while the army described in The dream has no members from outside Britain except for Llychlyn-men and Danes, at the battle of Sessia Arthur’s army is also full of men from various Gallic areas; but we have to understand that by the time Sessia was supposed to have taken place, Arthur had been lord of Gaul for a considerable time.  I do not think we need doubt that, if a historical Arthur did in fact have the career I am suggesting for him, then a good few Gauls did in fact serve in his armies, at least in the later stages of the war: we will soon see evidence that the Frankish kings of the time felt a great deal of apprehension about the loyalty of their Gaulish subjects and their sympathy for the Britons, and that one major and documented Gallo-Roman revolt against the Franks may in fact have broken out in the expectation of British support.  My point is that both in The dream and in Geoffrey, the Norwegians or Llychlyn men and the Danes are the only divisions of the Arthurian army which do not pertain to Arthur’s immediate and obvious sphere of sovereignty.

[9] That is of course not certain, since Irish and North British hostage laws and practices may have been different; the point is however that Arthur is stated quite definitely to have taken hostages from Llychlyn, as a victorious overlord would.

History of Britain, 407-597 is copyright © 2002, Fabio P. Barbieri. Used with permission.

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