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Bagdemagus is a character in the Arthurian legend, normally depicted as king of the land of Gorre and a Knight of the Round Table. He chiefly figures in literature the father of the knight Maleagant, who abducts King Arthur's wife Queen Guinevere in several versions of a popular episode. Bagdemagus first appears in French sources, but the character may have developed out of the earlier Welsh traditions of Guinevere's abduction, an evolution suggested by the distinctively otherworldly portrayal of his realm. In most versions he is portrayed as a kinsman and ally of Arthur and a wise and virtuous king, despite the actions of his son.

Contents

Origins

Bagdemagus first appears in French works of the late 12th century, but the principal episode in which he appears, the story of the abduction of Guinevere, developed out of significantly older traditions. Caradoc of Llancarfan's early 12th-century Latin Life of Gildas includes an episode in which Guinevere is kidnapped and taken to the "Isle of Glass", glossed as Glastonbury Tor, by Melwas, King of the "Summer Country". This Melwas is generally understood to be the original of Maleagant, Bagdemagus' son in the French works. Some other texts testify to the early popularity of this story; a version of it is alluded to in the Welsh poem known as "The Dialogue of Melwas and Gwenhyfar", which survives in two variants,[1] and a "Meloas", lord of the Isle of Glass, is mentioned in Chrétien de Troyes' French romance Erec and Enide.[2] Some writers have suggested that Bagdemagus should be identified with Baeddan, mentioned as the father of "Maelwys" in the early 12th-century Welsh romance Culhwch and Olwen. This identification relies on the suggestion proposed by E. K. Chambers that this Maelwys is an alternate spelling of Melwas. However, this suggestion is rejected by Rachel Bromwich and Simon Evans, among others, who instead connect Maelwys with the historical Irish prince Máel Umai, son of Báetán mac Muirchertaig.[3]

Appearances

In the Romance Sone de Nansai, King Baudemagus is said to be the father of Meleagan, and the son of Tadus. In Chrétien de Troyes' Le Chevalier de la Charrette, he is the king of Gore, a mysterious land connected to Logres only by a bridge as sharp as a sword, where many natives of Logres are kept prisoner; again, his son Meleagant abducts Guinevere, who is later rescued by Sir Lancelot.

The story is repeated, without its supernatural overtones, in the Arthurian Vulgate romance; King Baudemagu is presented as a cousin of Sir Gawain and a friend of Sir Lancelot, who condemns his son's evil deeds and acknowledges that his death at the hands of Lancelot was deserved. In Le Morte d'Arthur the link between Bagdemagus and "Sir Meleagraunce" disappears, and Bagdemagus is just another brave knight of the Round Table. He is accidentally killed by Gawain at a tournament.

Notes

  1. ^ Williams, p. 39.
  2. ^ Erec and Enide, line 1944.
  3. ^ Bromwich and Evans, p. 69.

References

  • Loomis, Roger Sherman (1997). Celtic Myth and Arthurian Romance. Academny Chicago Publishers. ISBN 0-89733-436-1.


References to other romances that mention King Bagdemagus should be included.

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