Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms (book #86)

Alistair Moffat, 1999.

Moffat’s homepage.

Moffat on In Our Time discussing the Celts in 2002 with Barry Cunliffe and Miranda Aldhouse Green.

Quotes a Welsh poem I hadn’t come across before – Dinogad’s shift (smock, petticoat etc). Here’s someone pondering it, having heard a CD with it on. I do wonder why people insist on making things up. If you Google it you find people assuming it was written / written down by a woman and that it’s a nursery rhyme, when we have no way of knowing these things. I can’t find anything more academic online, apart from the suggestion in an examination paper from Aberystwyth that the text poses problems “for the historian, the literary historian, the philologist and the literary critic”.

I’m not sure what to think about Moffat’s thesis that Arthur was based in the now lost town of Roxburgh in the Borders. Short discussion here. He does make it an attractive and romantic theory, but the emphasis on linguistic evidence worries me. For instance, he quotes the motto of Hawick in the Borders, Teribus Ye Teriodin and says “no one [in Hawick] knows what it means. In fact it is a P-Celtic phrase, more correctly rendered Tyr y Bas y Tyr y Odin, and I believe it is an ancient connection with the legends of the Ride of the Dead … Odin led the Ride of the Dead, collecting souls as they rode through the night sky … a motto in P-Celtic a millennium and a half after it was the common tongue of the countryside”. Of course I don’t have the expertise to make much comment on this, but I’m not sure that phrases do get handed down so well-preserved; and Moffat’s “in fact it is” is worryingly certain. First rule of etymology – the more attractive an origin story is, the less likely it is to be true.

It is unfortunate that the landowners, the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe, apparently won’t allow an excavation.


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One Response to “Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms (book #86)”

  1. Lilly Says:

    ‘Odin led the Ride of the Dead, collecting souls as they rode through the night sky’ – there’s a print in there, if someone hasn’t already done one…

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