This was, we may remember, the result of a promise made to his uncle, while the scene itself takes place in the castle of another kinsman. Looking carefully at the context of this earlier episode, it would appear that feelings of guilt and denial associated with an act of regicide and internecine violence are being represented. Here the silence is self-imposed and does not in contrast to the previous section seem to relate to problems of guilt or collective denial.
While the mutism of the hero in the second episode is less concerned with internecine violence, the fact it leads onto a situation in which the possibility of regicide is so clearly represented as we will see below is undoubtedly significant. This begins with a development that seems to echo the circumstances of the previous episode: a conflict-through-misidentification with the knights of Arthur. That the hero refuses to retaliate on this second occasion, might be seen as further evidence that this deliberate act of silence forms part of the complex tapestry of ritualistic repetition and irrational but symbolically-charged actions often of a penitential or self-denying nature which typifies this stage of the trajectory of the magical drama.
What makes this magical manoeuvre so characteristic of the hidden purpose of the genre is that, through a complex and rather unfeasible set of circumstances, a situation is created in which a transgressive action is envisioned with no accompanying sense of wrong-doing. Immediately after this we have the start of the third subsection of the tale of Peredur: sometimes known as the Empress of Constantinople sequence.
This opening section is worth quoting in full as it has a number of resonances both within and beyond the text as a whole:. Arthur was in Caerllion ar Wsyg, and he went to hunt, and Peredur with him.
And Peredur let his dogs loose on a stag, and the dog killed the stag in a deserted place. Some distance away he could see the signs of a dwelling, and he approached the swelling. He could see a door, and at the door of the hall he could see three swarthy, bald young men playing gwyddbwyll.
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And when he entered he could see three maidens sitting on the couch, dressed in garments of gold as befits noblewomen. And he went to sit with them on the couch. One of the maidens looked at Peredur intently, and wept. Peredur asked her why she was weeping.
And he kills everyone who comes to this court without permission. There are a number of observations arising from this. After this we recognise the familiar motif of the Chase of the White Stag, reminding us of the Mabinogi of Pwyll, as well as a number of even older Gaelic dynastic legends.
The Tip of My Tongue (And Some Other Weapons As Well)
A closer comparison might be with the individual Branches of the Mabinogi, elements of which may have once existed as independent traditions but which also, clearly and demonstrably, functioned as working parts of a systemic whole in their final, extant versions. The circumstances leading up to this are worth quoting in full here the Gwyn and Gwyn translation captures the picaresque spirit :.
And then he could hear a great clatter, and after the clatter he could see a big black one-eyed man coming in. And the maidens arose to meet him, and they drew off his garb from about him.
And he went to sit down. Who put out thine eye? Beneath from the vivid characterisation at work in this passage, it is apparent that there is a kind of parallel-in-reverse of the Grail Castle episode, where the hero maintained a polite silence when confronted with evidence of past crimes of violence. This parallel leads us to understand that the Black Oppressor, like his namesake in Owain , appears to be an inverted mirror image of the avuncular helper-figure encountered by the hero at an earlier stage. Both of these parallels — with the Grail Episode and with the Black Oppressor of Owain — may not be accidental, as we will be considering in due course.
The inevitable conflict which arises between Peredur and this ogrish villain leads to the equally inevitable victory by our hero. And these are the attributes of the stone: whoever holds it in his hand will have as much gold as he wishes in the other hand. And I lost my eye fighting that serpent…. The day you set off from here, you will come to the court of the Sons of the King of Suffering…when you leave there you will come to the court of the Countess of Feats…the night you set off from there you will get to the Mound of Mourning, and there, surrounding the mound, you will find the owners of thrre hundred pavilions, guarding the serpent.
The Tip of My Tongue (eBook) by Trezza Azzopardi (Author)
But a further, entirely non-Celtic influence is also apparent — that of the schoolroom, of Macrobius and the Psychomachia , the allegorical imagination of Late Antiquity. Allegorical emblemata of this kind, as we have suggested, are foreign to the Celtic tradition — but their admixture here is what gives the Romance its distinctive flavour. The ingredients of tribal history, heroic saga, hagiography, otherworld adventure and allegorical introspection all contribute to the rich and faintly hetereodox materia used by the Romancers to give body and atmosphere to their magical plots.
They are perhaps better regarded simply as medieval wonder-tales with a Welsh-Arthurian backdrop. Once again, the bounty of the Primal Horde is offered to the hero, and ritually declined.
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All of this, in terms of the magical plot, serves to remove feelings of guilt and illegitimacy in preparation for the final acquisition. The meaning of this appellation, which has already been partly revealed by the Black Oppressor, becomes clearer when Peredur arrives at the court:.
When he came to the court, he could see only women. The women got up and welcomed him. As they started to talk, he could see a horse approaching with a saddle on it, and a corpse in the saddle. One of the women got up and took the corpse from the saddle, and bathed it in a tub of warm water that was by the door, and applied precious ointment to it. The man got up, alive, and went up to Peredur, and greeted him and made him welcome. Two other corpses entered on their saddles, and the maiden gave these two the same treatment as the previous one.
And Peredur asked why they were like that. They replied that there was a monster in a cave that killed them every day. And that night they left it at that. The next day Peredur is warned not to seek out the monster, and is told that if he was killed, there would be no-one who could bring him back to life again implying, perhaps, that the strange resurrection described above can only be effected by a lover.
And Some Other Weapons as Well
Nevertheless, Peredur sets out to find the monster and en route comes across a beautiful woman sitting on a mound, who gives him advice and supernatural assistance in the form of a magical stone which will help him overcome the monster. Later in the tale, we find out that this woman was none other than the Empress of Constantinople — whom Peredur marries at the end of this section.
He continued along to a river valley, and the edges of the valley were wooded and on each side of the river there were flat meadows. On one side of the river he could see a flock of white sheep, and on the other he could see a flock of black: when one of the white sheep bleated, one of the black sheep would come across and turn white, and when one of the black sheep bleated, one of the white sheep would come across and turn black.
He could see a tall tree on the riverbank, and one half of it was burning from its roots to its tip, but the other half had fresh leaves on it. This extraordinary vision strongly hints at the allegorical, but its significance is never explored or disclosed.
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As with so much in the dreamscape of Romance, it is presented but not explained. Rather than being a token or a parable, the burning tree is a monstrum — a sign or a prodigy — that suggests that the protective boundary between the internal and the external worlds is in temporary abeyance. Such wonders serve to emphasise the apprehension that the final phase or end-game of the magical plot is close at hand. Alongside the burning tree, Peredur encounters a royal-looking squire on top of a mound, who points out three paths: one narrow, two broad.
The monster is summarily dispatched by Peredur, following the advice given by the maiden on the mound previously encountered. On his way out of the cave, he finds some young men from the Court of the Sons of the King of Suffering who would have met their deaths at the hands of the monster. Once again, this sexual and economic bounty is declined, and Peredur proceeds to his next destination, the Mound of Mourning. The two arrive at the Court of the Countess of Feats.
The custom at this court, in contradistinction to contemporary Welsh social practice, was for the countess to sit among the retinue, and incoming guests to be seated in the less honourable places below, from where they would be obliged to listen to lengthy accounts of the bravery of the household warriors. It is tempting to see an element of parody in the representation of the boorish self-regard of this particular court community — a dig at the parochial arrogance of native Welsh warrior society, perhaps? Whether or not this was case, the implicit challenge of the Court of the Countess of Feats seems to have triggered predictable results — with Peredur takes on and defeating the entire retinue of three hundred.
After this, once again, Peredur is offered the opportunity to claim the countess as his own. Once again, however, this fulfilment of the sovereignty complex fantasy is deferred by the hero. These are the guardians of the mound, waiting for the serpent to die, after which time they will fight amongst themselves for ownership of the wealth-bestowing stone. Peredur overthrows these three hundred pavilion-dwelling knights and defeats and kills the serpent single-handedly. The magical stone is given to Edlym, who then leaves the tale as rapidly as he entered it.
Here he enters a beautiful river valley, which is thronging with pavilions a visual echo of the previous scene. Peredur catches a glimpse of the Empress herself who turns out to be identical to the vision of the maiden that he saw on the mound just before defeating the monster at the Court of the Sons of Suffering. On the third day, a clout from the miller between the shoulder blades rouses Peredur from his lovelorn trance and he at last enters the fray at the tournament where predictably enough he overthrows all comers.
His bravery and martial power awaken the curiosity of the Empress herself, who sends a series of messengers to ask him to come and see her.
Related The Tip of My Tongue: And Some Other Weapons as Well (New Stories from the Mabinogion)
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