By Stephen Knight (auth.)
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Additional resources for Arthurian Literature and Society
67-8). By 1155 an extant verse translation of the Historia was completed by Wace, a Channel Islander and professional poet of the Norman aristocracy. Geoffrey's Historia is a book ostensibly about British Celtic kings, especially Arthur, which found an enthralled audience among the Normans who ruied England. It seems an unlikely mixture at first sight and the detailed reasons for the relationship will be the main topie of this chapter. However, there was areal basis for the contact of Normans and Celts.
A sister of Culhwch's mother, another of Arthur's aunts, has not only married a shepherd (a member of the farmer, not the warrior caste) but has also seen twenty-three sons destroyed by the giant: only Goreu survives. Her descent in dass has left her, however fertile, not only nameless but without warriors to defend her, vulnerable to the force of the neighbouring giant. In real contemporary terms the chief of the neighbouring tribe, given the opportunity and signs of weakness, would raid across tribai borders, killing farmers and rustling catde.
He is one of a number of Norman-Welsh who were quite important in the cultural wing of Norman and Angevin power in the twelfth century - Gcrald of Wales and Walter Map are later figures, and a contemporary of Geoffrey's was his friend Walter from whom, Geoffrey insists, he reccived his major source, 'a very ancient book writtcn in the British language' (Thorpe, 1966, p. 51: all quotations will be from this edition). No such manuscript exists today. Many scholars have thought Geoffrey made this up as one of the fictional self-authorisations common in medieval writing.