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I know that Efrawg, the name of Peredur’s father in the Welsh romance, might sound perfectly Welsh but it’s actually just the British version of Latin Eboracum.  In turn, Eboracum was the Roman name for modern York.  You might think it was a little odd to name a person after a city, and you’d be right to.  You see there actually was an historical Peredur.  His father’s name was Eliffer and most scholars locate their kingdom around York.  See how that works, Peredur was from York and his father’s name was kinda similar to the main city in the area and somehow or other the two got mixed up.

I know, that probably sounds a little odd and it probably also sounds like quite a leap without too much evidence.  If that was all we knew, it would be.  But there have been a lot of eras similar to what we find in post-Roman Britain during the world’s history – the Germanic, Sumerian, and Greek heroic ages are only the most widely known.  Many people, but especially Hector and Nora Chadwick, have studied them all as a group.  In the process, they’ve learn a lot of things about how heroic cycles develop.

One of the main ingredients to these periods is that most of the extant literature is oral.  Another is that the political situation unstable.  What that means is that whichever ruler the bards like best – whether because they are magnetic, or generous, or simply great warrior-kings – eventually becomes the central figure in the literature of the period.  In the case of Britain it seems that Arthur was that person.  As the literature develops, it attracts less popular kings and warriors from the era (and supernatural figures once in a while but not as a rule) into the cycle.

So, back to Peredur son of Efrawg/Eliffer?  We know of a few Peredur’s in the period, but none were as powerful as him.  He was present at Arfderydd, one of the largest battles of the sixth century.  His death is recorded, even though we don’t have any idea when most British rulers died in his era.  Most importantly, Peredur appears in the Welsh Triads a total of four times, and in the earliest section.  Since we already know that Peredur was probably a person, it was most likely this person.

The problem, of course, was that once Peredur’s patronymic had been changed it never stabilized again.  Chretien wouldn’t name the father, but most of the authors who followed him would all delight in changing his name – continuators, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Sir Thomas Malory, Vulgate, and so forth.  No one really knows why the father’s name kept changing, but it definitely hasn’t helped understand exactly what Peredur’s original story was, or how it was developing when it was brought into the Arthurian orbit.

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