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Geraint


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Often with patronymic fab [son of] Erbin

[cf. L Gerontius].

Welsh Arthurian hero usually portrayed with his wife, Enid. The putative historical model for the hero, the 6th-century (d. 580) king of Dumnonia [Devon], would have been two generations younger than Arthur, but in romance he is seen as Arthur's contemporary and cousin. Manuscripts of the 13th-century prose romance Geraint ac Enid are found in the White Book of Rhydderch (c.1325) and the Red Book of Hergest (c.1382–1410) and elsewhere. Along with Owain and Peredur it is part of Tair Rhamant [Three Romances]. Lady Charlotte Guest included it in her translation of The Mabinogion (1846), as have later translators.

Geraint sets the action in motion by avenging an insult to Arthur's wife, here called Gwenhwyfar; he defeats the Knight of the Sparrowhawk, who is revealed to be Edern mab Nudd. In thanks for his help against Edern, Geraint restores Yniwl to his kingdom near Cardiff, wins the king's daughter Enid as his wife, and returns to Arthur's court, where he receives a stag's head as a reward. In time, Geraint inherits the kingdom from his father-in-law and rules it with Enid. Because he devotes more time to his wife than he does to jousts or battles, Geraint's subjects complain bitterly, which Enid inadvertently repeats to him. Geraint then treats Enid rather badly before setting out on a journey to prove his valour and strength. He performs extraordinary feats and slaughters warlike knights and ruffians in great numbers, but nearly kills himself in the attempt. Redeemed in the eyes of Enid and subjects, Geraint rules once more, despite his suspicions of her infidelity.

The corresponding 12th-century French romance Erec or Erec et Enide by Chrétien de Troyes differs in ascribing the hero's cruelty to Enid to jealousy. Some commentators argue that the French version is closer to original sources, its hero's name deriving from the Breton Guerec. Alfred Lord Tennyson's once widely known Geraint and Enid (1859) in his Idylls of the King draws more from Chrétien than from the Welsh Geraint ac Enid.

See also GERENNIUS.

See Rachel Bromwich, Trioedd Ynys Prydain, rev. edn. (Cardiff, 1978), 355–60, 551.

Subjects: Religion.


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