The Future of History

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Uther Pendragon

As I guessed, slowly drip-feeding info about the real Arthur out into the world provokes a backlash.  And a very funny backlash it is too, much of the time.

Still, it allows me to sharpen my claws, check my arguments and practice countering the usual charges.

One observation I've recently made on Arthurnet (a sort of global email community) is that a lot of the old familiar names from the Arthur legends only make sense when you stop thinking of them as Welsh and start thinking of them as Gaelic in origin.

A good example is the name we all associate with Arthur's father: Utherpendragon.

Now, a lot of people assume that it's Welsh and means something like 'Terrible Chief Dragon'.  And, let's face it, that sounds fair enough.  Uthr (Welsh: 'terrible', 'awesome') makes sense.  Pen means 'head' or 'chief'.  And we all know what a dragon is.

Except that's not the original meaning of Utherpendragon.  Only the pen bit is right.

'Uther' is an English version of the Welsh Uthyr.  That in turn was a contraction of Gwythyr, which some say was the Welsh version of the Latin 'Victor'.

But Gwythyr was still only a Welsh attempt at a Gaelic term.  Athir was an Old Irish word.  It meant 'father'.  To that was added Eo or Io, old words for a 'yew'.  In fact, there is evidence that Eo ('yew') could be applied to any large sacred tree.

Put the two together - Io and Athir - and you get 'Yew-Father', a name I'm sure we're all familiar with.


It's what the name Jupiter meant.

So, Uther wasn't a Welsh name at all.  It was the Irish equivalent of Jupiter, the Roman god also known as Jove (or Zeus to the Greeks).

I don't want to give too much away about the 'Dragon' part - you'll just have to hold your breaths till the book comes out.  But I'll give you a bit of a clue.  It has nothing to do with dragons.  It was Draigen, an Old Irish word meaning 'Blackthorn'.  And it was a place - an island in fact.  A very special island.

And Arthur's father was the 'Chief' of that isle. 

See, it all makes sense when you figure out what language you're dealing with.

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