Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-7l5rh Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-23T12:44:24.894Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

2 - Seeking the Middle-Aged Woman in Medieval Wales

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 February 2023

Get access

Summary

Any discussion of middle-aged women in medieval Wales has the advantage of being able to draw on not only the historical sources, most notably the law codes, but also the rich literature of the period. However, the topic is fraught with hidden pitfalls, since it hides a number of questions and assumptions within it. When, for example, would a woman be considered middle-aged in medieval Wales? Did the category even exist? If it did, was the position of a middle-aged woman to be pitied or to be envied? How were such women treated? There are a number of examples of middle-aged women to explore, both in historical and literary texts, and the way that they are presented in the contemporary material is the subject of this essay, in an attempt to answer at least some of these questions. The focus of the essay will be on women in medieval Welsh literature and law codes.

‘Gwreic Wyf Fi’: Transition to Womanhood and Middle Age in Medieval Welsh Literature

The title of this section includes a quotation from one of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, the four most important medieval Welsh prose tales. The particular quote, ‘gwreic wyf fi’ (‘I am a woman’), is taken from the fourth branch, Math uab Uathonwy, the longest and possibly most complex of the four branches. Math fab Mathonwy was a demi-god, or at least a wizard, and also the king of Gwynedd, the main kingdom in north Wales throughout the Middle Ages. According to the tale, Math has a peculiarity which means that he is unable to live unless he has his feet permanently on a virgin’s lap (the exceptions are when war prevents him from being in this position). His virgin is named as Goewin, daughter of Pebin. However, in the story a man from his court, Gilfaethwy, falls in love with Goewin, and with his brother Gwydion (also a magician) plots to obtain her.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2011

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×