Nightbringer | The Arthurian Online Encyclopedia

Peredur Long Spear

A character in both Arthurian and non-Arthurian Welsh legend. He is the Welsh counterpart, and perhaps the origin, of Perceval. Peredur himself may have origins in the Welsh hero Pryderi, though multiple references probably point to a historical figure of that name. His father was called Elidur or Efrawg and he had a brother named Gwrgi.

In Welsh, he is often given the surname “Long Spear”, and his name phonetically [peri dûr] could be taken to mean “hard spear”. Another theory holds that Peredur mab Efrawg is a corruption of Praetor ab Eburaco, a Roman title signifying “an official from York”.

Peredur appears in the Annales Cambriae, which says he and Gwrgi defeated Gwenddolau at the battle of Arfderydd in 573. Peredur and his brother were slain in 580 against Eda Great-Knee at the battle of Caer Greu, apparently after their own warriors deserted them. He left a son named Gwgon Gwron. As Arthur’s death in the Annales occurs in 539, it seems that Peredur was originally a post-Arthurian hero (and possible a historical figure) later drawn, like Urien and Owain, into the Arthurian saga. A Peredur also appears in Y Gododdin as one of the British warriors slain by the Angles at the battle of Catraeth, about 600, though this may be a late interpolation.

Peredur appears briefly in the Welsh Triads and in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae. In Geoffrey’s Vita Merlini, he becomes the King of North Wales after Arthur’s death and, as in the Annales, goes to war with King Gwenndoleu of Scotland (Gwenddalou).

His romance, called Peredur, dates from the thirteenth century. It parallels the adventure of Perceval in Chrétien de Troyes’s Perceval, and it is unclear how much of his story was adapted directly from Chrétien and how much is part of an earlier Celtic or French tradition. The youngest of seven boys who, with their father, were all killed in war and combat, Peredur was raised by his mother ignorant of chivalry and its perils. One day, he saw some knights near his home and decided to accompany them to Arthur’s court, causing his mother to die of grief. Arriving at Arthur’s hall, he was proclaimed the “flower of knights” by two dwarves, who Cei beat for their insolence to the rest of Arthur’s knights. Peredur later avenged Cei’s abuse by breaking Cei’s arm. In his first combat, he defeated a knight who had offended Gwenhwyfar, Arthur’s queen.

Peredur visited the home of his uncle (analogous to the Fisher King in Chrétien), where he saw the head of another uncle floating in a dish. His various adventures led him to slay robbers, reclaim kingdoms, and win tournaments. He had a brief affair with Angharad Golden Hand, conquered the heathens of the Circular Valley, slew the Black Serpent of the Barrow, and killed the Black Oppressor. He won the favor of the Empress of Constantinople, with whom he shared a throne for fourteen years. He then returned to his adventures, and was prompted by his cousin – in disguise – to slay the Hags of Gloucester, who had murdered the uncle whose head was in the dish. This revenge then parallels Perceval’s slaying in Partinal in the Third Continuation of Perceval in order to avenge the death of Goon Desert.

Y Gododdin | Aneirin, c. 600
Annales Cambriae | c. 960-980
Historia Regum Britanniae | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1138
Vita Merlini | Geoffrey of Monmouth, c. 1150
Triads of the Island of Britain (Welsh ”Triads”) | 11th century to 14th century
Peredur | 13th century
Geraint and Enid | 13th century