Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Dream of Maxen Wledig

Maxen Wledig was emperor of Rome, and under him were 32 kings. One day he ostensibly went hunting, but his real purpose was to put himself on equal footing with his vassal kings. In the field, it being a hot day, he took a nap. He dreamed he came to the highest mountain in the world, then followed a plateau until he came to a long slope where rivers ran down. Following the biggest river he came to a city, where boats were anchored. One boat stood out among the others for its magnificence. He boarded it, and it carried him to the fairest island in the world. After further travel he comes to a castle. The gate is open, and he sees precious jewels everywhere, and gold and silver. Two youths play chess; a richly dressed old man carves chessmen; and a beautiful young maiden rises to meet him. He throws his arms around her neck, then they sit and converse. Then they are cheek to cheek. Then the dogs clashing on the shields and neighing horses wake him up.

The emperor remains listless for a long time, and neglects his duty. This causes the people to revile him. He calls the kings and explain that his dream, his inability to meet the young maiden, is the cause of his trouble. They recommend he send out messengers to seek the maiden, but after a year they do not find her. It is suggested, then, that he should go to the place he had the dream. He does, then he sends out a group of messengers, who journey long to the castle in his dream, and meet the same people, including the maiden. One announces to her that the emperor would make her his empress. She requests he come to her.

Going back to Rome, they recount their travel; and the emperor sets out to the maiden. On the way, the emperor conquers Britain from Beli, and comes to the castle of Aber Sain. He sees Kynan and Adeon playing chess, and their father Eudav carving. Also he sees the maiden, Helen, who becomes his bride that night. The next day she asks her portion, which she gives her father: Britain. Two castles are built for her. Maxen builds another. He remains in Britain seven years. According to Roman law, an emperor who is absent that long can be overthrown, so a new emperor is named. Maxen sets out to recapture the empire, and on the way vanquishes France and Burgundy, then besieges Rome for a year, but cannot take it. Then come Helen's two brothers from England with a small army. They measure the walls, and make ladders; and when both emperors leave off the fighting, the brothers' army invades and conquers the city in three days. But they conquer Rome for themselves. Maxen needs to ask for the city, which is given to him. He allows the brothers to conquer other lands, which they do until old. Adeon returns to Britain. Kynan remains at Armorica, and cut out the tongue of the women so that they do not corrupt his own speech. This explains why the British tongue is still heard in Armorica. The conquered men are already dispatched.

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The Dream of Maxen Wledig is also know as The Dream of Emperor Maximus. The tale recalls events in the late fourth century. Before he ruled as a co-emperor, Magnus Maximus(383-388) was a general in England in at least 380. In 383, he took men from Wales to Gaul. There are no further record of Roman troops in Wales afterward. He went as far as Rome, but was stopped by a combined force. An agreement was reached that he would rule Gaul, Britain, Spain, and Africa.

Armorica is the ancient name of Brittany. The author of the tale attempts to explain why the language of the Britons is found there. Armorica means, "before the sea". The "mori", Fr. mer, is sea.

I mentioned that the principal figures in the tales appear originally to have been gods. That is not true in this tale, of course. The son of Magnus Maximus was King Anwn Dynod, a variant of a name that also appears in the tales. The writers enhanced the stature of rules so that they appear godlike. It is possible, too, as was said earlier, that some gods ended as superhuman beings.

Castles came later than this period. The writer might have written "fortified places".


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