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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Important Arthurian Works: Culhwch and Olwen

Evidence has suggested that this Welsh prose tale dates to the 11th century, which could make it the earliest Arthurian tale. The work has been preserved in the manuscript, Red Book of Hergest, and in partial form in the White Book of Rhydderech. It has also been included as part of Lady Charlotte Guest’s collection of translations of eleven medieval Welsh prose stories, The Mabinogion. The story has been cited as an influence on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion.

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The story focuses on Culhwch, the son of a king, and Olwen, the daughter of a giant named Ysbaddaden. Culhwch turns to his famous cousin, Arthur, for assistance in winning the beautiful Olwen away from her father. Ysbaddaden has given Culhwch a series of seemingly impossible tasks to complete before he will grant his daughter’s hand in marriage. Some of the challenges and quests with which Culhwch is tasked carved a blueprint for some of the more famous Arthurian legends, including the search for the Holy Grail.

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