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Lundy, Isle of Avalon by Les Still ePublished by Mystic Realms
     

Lundy, Isle of Avalon

 Sone de Nansai

   Lundy, Isle of Avalon         Arthurian and related Texts

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The 'Sone de Nansai' tells of the adventures that befall the hero, Sone, after he enters the service of Alain, king of Norway. Alain is a manifestation of Arawn lord or head of Annwn and Norway is a confusion of Llychlynn which first meant ' the fabulous land beneath the lakes or waves of the sea' (Rhys) (Arthurian Legend,II). but when the Norse sea raiders began to ravage the coasts it became the name for the land of fiords or Norway. ( Evolution of the Legends )

Alain and Sone set sail for the island of Galoche; - a mistranslation of the French 'Isle Galesche' - 'island of Wales. As the ship nears the island the king blows a horn and two monks set out in a small boat and ferry the king and Sone ashore. When they landed they saw a most beautiful castle. It had four towers on the outer wall and a great tower in the middle. This central tower was round, a hundred feet in diameter. Alain and Sone are invited to join the company of monks at a feast in a walled meadow. Three streams issuing trom the rocks meet nearby before plunging to the sea. Where the waters enter the sea all manner of fish are found.

The next morning Sone hears the history of the island from the abbot. He says, 'The castle was founded by the holy body (cors) of which you see the holy vessel lying yonder.' see elsewhere for the bit about cor = horn = body Corbenic etc. The abbot goes on to tell the story of Joseph of Arimathea, how he aquired the spear from the crucifixion and the cup from the Last Supper, how the latter nourished him during his imprisonment, how the cup shone like the sun, and possessed miraculous healing powers. Eventually Joseph sailed from Escalone ( confused from Avalon or Askalon) by himself, arrived in Norway (Llychlynn) drove out the Saracens

Subsequently Joseph wedded the daughter of the pagan king. Although she was baptised, she remained a non christian and God wounded Joseph so that he had always to lie down ( maimed king ) . Joseph would go out in his boat to fish and for this reason he was called the ' Fisher King.' His kingdom was called Logres, a word which in Arthurian romance is never far removed from the Otherworld. During Joseph's illness the kingdom was a wasteland. Eventually he was healed by a knight and before he died he founded this monastery consisting of an abbot and twelve monks in memory of Our Lord and the twelve apostles. Sone was shown the grail and the spear. Sone and Alain, the king, left after another feast. The abbot sent a messenger after Sone with a gift of Joseph's sword, a gift which Sone used to kill a giant.

Later, after the death of Alain, Sone returns to the 'Isle Galoche' to marry the daughter of Alain, Odee. An archbishop and three bishops officiate, and all are robed in white. After their wedding in the Isle Galoche, Sone and his queen depart for a visit to a neighbouring island, which is said to be so exactly square that no one could tell which side was longer. The walls of this island are said to be high and wide and made of crystal. There is a palace at each of the four corners. Meleagan had been ruler here, his father King Baudemagus and his grandfather Tadus. A fountain rose through a horn of gilded copper in the centre of the island. . ***And there was also a cemetery, where the names of the buried were inscribed on stones.*** A raging storm drove mountainous seas over the island drowning those who did not take refuge. Sone saved the life of his bride. At last after three days and nights, a thunderbolt fell in the cemetery, opening the grave of the wife of Joseph. Then the sun shone once more. The body was given to the sea. Sone and his queen returned to the isle Galoche.

in 'Sone de Nansai' we find a 'cors' again misunderstood as a body. connected with the Fisher King, a figure whose relation to Bran is unmistakeable. In this romance, the hero arrives at a castle situated on an island in the sea. There are four towers - presumably at the four corners - on the outer wall, and this place is marvellously rich and well provided with good things. Thirteen monks entertain Sone at a sumptuous feast Sone learns that 'ce castiel fonda / li sain cors, dont vous vees la/ Le saint vassiel u se repose.' This body is that of Joseph of Arimathea, here called the fisher King. Sone next beholds the Grail being placed on the alter and the entrance of the bleeding lance. The abbot shows him the caskets which contain the body of Joseph and those of his two sons.

Conn to Bran---1 the setting recalls descriptions of the Welsh otherworld. The island castle with its four towers resembles the four cornered fortress of Caer Siddi

--2 the island is characterised by great wealth and abundance.

---3 the 'sains cors' is closely assoc. with the 'sains vaissiaus';

--4 in the scene of worship the 'cors' is mentioned with the Grail and the spear.

--5 one 'cors' is specifically identified with that of the Fisher King > Bran

another example of the disguised horn of Bran is probably the 'cors' of the Fisher King in Perlesvaus

'While the island of Galoche seems to be a highly Christianized form of the Celtic Otherworld as described in the Harryings of Annwn, there is in Sone de Nansai another island, which seems to be the most extraordinary composite of Celtic conceptions of the Otherworld. After his marriage in the Isle Galoche, Sone and his queen depart for a visit to a neighbouring island, which is said to be so exactly square that no one could tell which side was longer. The walls are high, wide, and made of crystal. There were four palaces at the four corners of the walls. A bowshot away was a great causeway which led to the mainland half a league away. Meleagan had been lord, King Baudemagus his father and his grandfather Tadus. In the centree of the island was a fountain which welled up through a horn of gilded copper. ***And there was also a cemetery, where the names of the buried were inscribed on stones.***There was lightning, thunder, and a gale which tore up trees, and drove mountainous seas over the island, so that all who did not take refuge on the walls were drowned. Sone saved Odee's life. At last after three days and nights, a thunderbolt fell in the cemetery, tearing open the grave of Joseph's heathen wife. Then the sun shone out once more....the body was thrown in the sea. Sone and his bride returned to Galoche.

First, the four palaces at the corners of the walls relate this island to Galoche with its four towers upon the walls, to the isle of the immortal elders in Perlesvaus with its four-cornered town, and to Kaer Sidi called the Four-cornered fortress.

Secondly, the fact that the island is so square that no one could tell which side was longest carries us back to that description of the island of the sun which Gervase of Tilbury drew from Oriental sources.(Gervase of Tilbury, Otia Imperialia, ed. Liebrecht, 35.)

Thirdly, the storm. The experiences of Demetrius, as recorded by Plutarch, and Sone are similar enough to suggest a connection when we realise that both visit sacred islands off Britain.

Fourthly the walls of crystal remind us of Merlin's glass house on the sacred isle of Bardsey, of the Glass Fortress mentioned in the Harryings of Annwn and reappearing as a round vessel of ivory in Perlesvaus, and of the name Ynys Witrin or Glass Island , later mistakenly attributed to Glastonbury

'In the Huth Merlin, the enchanter, makes a Perilous Bed, a testing sword, a sword set in a block of stoneand a bridge of iron not half a foot in breadth. Before leaving the island he instructed those in the castle that he wished it to be called the Isle of Merlin or the Isle of Marvels.

 

Alain, king of Norway, takes Sone into his service and shows him his land which abounds in all manner of exotic fruits and animals. The explanation is not difficult if we identify Alain with Arawn, Head of Annwn, and Norway with Llychlyn, which, according to Rhys, 'at first meant the fabulous land beneath the lakes or waves of the sea, but got in the time of the Norsemen's ravages to mean the land of the fjords or Norway." (Arthurian Legend,II). Alain and Sone come to a plain , thence they set out for the island of Galoche, which Bruce has correctly interpreted as a misunderstanding of the French 'Isle Galesche,' that is, 'an island of Wales.' (Evolution, I, 350 f,note). As they approached Alain sounded a horn, and two monks in a little boat put out from the island, weeping and angry, but on recognizing the king they welcomed him. They landed and behest a most beautiful castle, around which the sea surged. It had four towers on the outer wall, and in the middle a great tower. This central tower was round, a hundred feet in diameter.... Alain introduces Sone to the company of monks, and all sit down to a feast in a walled meadow. Nearby three streams issuing from a rock meet, and where they fall into the sea, all manner of fish gather. The next morning the abbot tells the history of the institution. He says, 'The castle was founded by the holy body (cors) of which you see the holy vessel lying yonder.' This muddled statement is due to the fact that the author has misunderstood the word cors which stood in his source; for it was the nominative of cor, meaning a drinking horn, and actually referred to the holy vessel or Grail itself. The abbot then tells the story of Joseph of Arimathea's aquisition of the spear and the cup, which fed him during his imprisonment, which shone like the sun, and healed those who touched it. Finally Joseph left Escalone (apparently a confusion of Avalon and Askalon) in a boat alone, became a knight, arrived in Norway, drove out the Saracens, and wedded the daughter of the heathen king. She though baptised, remained a heathen at heart, and God smote Joseph, so he always had to lie down. But the good king Joseph had a boat, and right after mass he used to go forth to fish, with a boatman. Therefore Joseph was called the Fisher King. His realm was called Logres,- a clear indication that it was not Norway, but England, for which the Welsh word is Lloegyr and which in Arthurian romance is never far removed from the Otherworld. During his malady all the powers of Nature and man were sterile. Finally a knight healed him, before his death he founded this monastery consisting of an abbot and twelve monks in memory of Our Lord and the twelve apostles. The abbot showed the Grail and the spear. After another feast they left the island. The abbot sent after them the sword with which Joseph had guarded the land, with this weapon Sone slew a giant.

Long after, when Alain is dead, Sone returns to be married at Galoche to Alain's daughter, Odee. An archbishop and three bishops officiate, and all are robed in white.

 

'The island of the immortal elders in Perlesvaus is but a partial Christianization of legends concerning Annwn and its lords, the pagan deities. Brown in a penetrating article has shown how many of the pagan Irish Imrama or Voyages, such as that of Bran, became Christianized.

'The fact which most clearly accounts for the transformation of the sacred islands of the gods into the dwellings of monastic communities is the actual occupation of these sacred islands off the British coast by Christian monks. Stories told about the divine inhabitants of these islands were naturally transferred to the human but still hallowed successors...In fact many a hermit, anchorite, and venerable figure in religious garb who crosses our path in Arthurian romance may be legitimately suspected of being a god or goddess in disguise. 

The two islands in the Sone de Nansai are clearly recognisable as variants of the Welsh or Dumnonian dreams of the Otherworld. They are the realms of Manawyd and Pryderi, of Gwynwas and Melwas; thay are the sacred isles visited by Demetrius in the first century. The white robed monks have given way to white robed monks, (?) the cauldron of plenty to the grail, but there is no mistaking the original outlines.

'Sone de Nansai'- 'Its correspondence in a number of features to the 'Perlesvaus' and the 'Harrying of Annwn' proves its authenticity. In the 'Sone de Nansai' the Grail abides in an island, with four towers, - apparently at the corners, -under the guardianship of holy men: we hear of three streams issuing from a rock, and of a great feast.-Sone de Nansai provides parallels to the Perlesvaus on the following points: the hero arrives at the island, is entertained there lavishly, finds besides the two holy men **** a company garbed in white *** , departs for a time, but returns to be crowned king of the land.

'We have seen the Guardians of the Grail assuming more and more distinctly the forms of the Welsh gods, Manawyd, Myrddin, Bran, Avallach, Gwair. Beli, and Llwch; and the castle of the Grail as distinctly rearing its crystal walls and phantom towers on the islands of Man, Bardsey, Grassholm, Glastonbury, Lundy, at Ashbury Camp, and in the Scilly Isles.

 

related pages

Perlesvaus or the High History of the Holy Grail
 
Caer Sidi
 
Towers on Lundy
 
Joseph of Arimathea
 
The Holy Grail
 
Logres

 

 

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