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The Sources
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The Welsh Triads
(early forteenth century)
Robert Vermaat

The Welsh Triads or Trioedd Ynys Prydein are a mixed collection of triadic sayings that recount personages, events, or places in Welsh history. They were probably designed as mnemonic structures for fast recollection of stories by the bards. Unfortunately, there are also numerous versions with differences in names, meaning, and the order in which they are written down. There are pieces and portions included in all of the early manuscripts including the Peniarth Manuscript, the Llfyr Gwyn Rhydderch (White Book of Rhyderrch), the Llyfr Coch Hergest (Red Book of Hergest), and also the Black Book of Caermarthon. The White Book is generally dated to the early 1300's and the Red Book to about a century later. Thirteen Triads are missing from the beginning of the White Book text which begins in the middle of Triad 53 but the order and grouping of the remainder is identical with that in the Red Book. Either the red Book is a direct copy or both stem from a common source which is not the Early Version.

They have been collected on numerous occasions and all versions I have found differ. This grouping is based on a combination of several extant on the web that include the Peniarth manuscript 16, the White Book, and information from Lady Charlotte Guest's Mabinogion notes. Triads 38 to 46 are referred to as Trioed y Meirch (the Triads of the Horses). As four of these are found in the Black Book of Caermarthen the authority for these is older than for any other of the Triads. The Book of Taliesin also contains a poem Canu y Meirch which is similar in meter and has a triadic arrangement and references to some of the same horses. Triads 50, 56 to 58, and 66 together with several triads I do not have are grouped together in Peniarth MS. 47 as Trioedd y Gwragedd (The Triads of the Women). Some of the later triads in my list are not numbered which I hope to rectify as soon as I can determine where they are generally placed in the list.

A transcript of the relevant passages can be found here


Bibliography

  • Bromwich, Rachel (1961): Trioedd Ynys Prydein, The Welsh Triads, (University of Wales, Cardiff, repr. 1978).

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