Gwenhwyfar

‘White Fairy’, ‘White Phantom’
Guanhumara, Guennuvar, Gwenhwyvar

The Welsh, and original, name for Guinevere, found in Welsh legend. It is a name that does not appear to have been in use prior to the establishment of the Arthurian cycle.

In one version of the story of Culhwch and Olwen, however, a character named as Gwenhwyfar, Arthur’s wife and Chief Queen, who may be the same, is said to have had two servants named Yskyrdaw (Ysgardaf) and Yseudydd (Ysgudydd), who could run as rapidly as their thoughts. Both of them joined the expedition mounted by Culhwch to locate Olwen.

The Triad identifies her as the most faithless wife in the Island of Britain. According to a Welsh Triad, Arthur had three queens of this name, who were the daughters of CywyrdGwythyr, and Gogfran the Giant.

In the History of the Kings of Britain by Geoffrey of Monmouth, she is called Guanhumara. She is abducted by Medrawt (later known as Mordred). Dafydd ap Gwilym, a poet who flourished in the fourteenth century, tells of Melwas who abducts Gogfran the Giant’s daughter from Caerllion (Caerleon).

Some scholars suggests her name, Gwenhwyvar, should be spelled Gwenhy-Mawr (Gwenhwyvawr) and thus translated to ‘Gwen the Great’. Her sisters name, Gwenwyvach, means ‘Gwen the Small’.


Sources
Culhwch and Olwen | Late 11th century
Triads of the Island of Britain (Welsh ”Triads”) | 11th century to 14th century