2018, Volume 15, Issue 1

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Will Parker
Aberystwyth University
Aberystwyth, UK

Arthurian Toponymics: Folk Tradition or Antiquarian Invention?
Review of the book: Lloyd, S. (2017). The Arthurian Place Names of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

Voprosy onomastiki, 2018, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp. 188–195 (in English)
DOI: 10.15826/vopr_onom.2018.15.1.010

Received 6 June 2017

Abstract: The article reviews Scott Lloyd’s survey of Arthurian place names in Wales, and the background to this material in the literature and scholarship of the modern and medieval periods. The reviewer presents an overview of Lloyd’s scope and methodology, situating it within the context of current trends in the wider field of Celtic studies. Lloyd’s survey shows that Arthurian toponymics is a modern as much as a medieval problem. The mutual influence between the map-makers on one hand, and the scholars and story-tellers on the other, is best regarded as a dynamic work-in-progress, rather than a passive snapshot of timeless folk tradition. Lloyd’s most significant discovery is the relative fluidity of Arthurian toponymics, with many of the place names in question first appearing on the cartographic or literary record no earlier than the 19th century. The case of the common Welsh place name Arthur’s Quoits or Coetan Arthur is considered, and Lloyd’s implication of a 17th century origin for this form is critically discussed. Attention is drawn to the alternating currents of scepticism and reconstructionism that have defined Arthurian scholarship and literature from the Tudor period onwards. The author then offers some concluding thoughts on Arthur’s “ontological ambiguity,” and the powerful stimulus this seems to have exerted on topographical and historiographical speculation, both modern and medieval.

Keywords: Celtic languages, Welsh place names, historical toponymics, Arthurian historiography, ethnotoponymy, topographic legend


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