Tristan
Tristan


Tristan
Tristan (Latin & Brythonic: Drustanus; Welsh: Trystan), also known as Tristram, is a Cornish knight of the Round Table and the hero of the Arthurian Tristan

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Tristan Tristan and Iseult character Tristán e Iseo (La vida) by Rogelio de Egusquiza (1912)InformationOccupation Knight of the Round TableTitle SirSignificant other(s) Iseult

Tristan (Latin & Brythonic: Drustanus; Welsh: Trystan), also known as Tristram, is a Cornish knight of the Round Table and the hero of the Arthurian Tristan and Iseult story. He is the son of Blancheflor and Rivalen (in later versions Isabelle of Cornwall and Meliodas), and the nephew of King Mark of Cornwall, sent to fetch Iseult back from Ireland to wed the king. However, he and Iseult accidentally consume a love potion while en route and fall helplessly in love; the pair undergo numerous trials that test their secret affair.

Contents Tristan legend cycle

Tristan made his first recorded appearance in the 12th century in Celtic mythology circulating in the north of France and the Kingdom of Brittany, which had close ancestral and cultural links with Cornwall by way of the ancient British kingdom of Dumnonia, as made clear in the story itself, and the closely related Cornish and Breton languages. Although the oldest stories concerning Tristan are lost, some of the derivatives still exist. Most early versions fall into one of two branches, the "courtly" branch represented in the retellings of the Anglo-Norman poet Thomas of Britain and his German successor Gottfried von Strassburg, and in the Folie Tristan d'Oxford; and the "common" branch, including the works of medieval French literature. The name Tristan is also known as "Trischin" in the Maltese culture.

Arthurian romancier Chrétien de Troyes mentioned in his poem Cligès that he composed his own account of the story; however, there are no surviving copies or records of any such text. In the 13th century, during the great period of prose romances, Tristan en prose or Prose Tristan appeared and was one of the most popular romances of its time. This long, sprawling, and often lyrical work (the modern edition takes up thirteen volumes) follows Tristan from the traditional legend into the realm of King Arthur where Tristan participates in the Quest for the Holy Grail. In the 15th century, Sir Thomas Malory shortened this French version into his own take, The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones, a part of Le Morte d'Arthur.

Historical roots Scenes from the story of Tristan on 13th-century tiles from Chertsey Abbey

There are obscure aspects to Tristan; his ancient Cornish, Welsh or Breton name appears to mean "clanking swords of iron", while the more recent Romance languages version, including French, is interpreted as "sadness" in keeping with the Tristan and Iseult romantic tale. Tristan (Trystan, Drystan) is almost certainly taken from the legendary Pictish Chronicle Drest or Drust which frequently appears as the name of several ancient Pictish kings in modern Scotland far to the northwest; Drustanus is merely Drust rendered into Latin. It may have originated from an ancient legend regarding a Pictish king who slew a giant in the distant past, which had spread throughout the isles, or the name may also come from a 6th-century Pictish saint who bore another form of the name – or it may have migrated upwards from the southwest due to the fame of the legends of King Arthur. In addition, there was a Tristan who bore witness to a legal document at the Swabian Abbey of Saint Gall in 807.

Another strange aspect is his kingdom, Lyonesse, for whose existence there is no evidence. However, there were two places called Leonais: one in Brittany, the other the Old French transcription of Lothian. However, the Isles of Scilly have also been proposed to be this place, since they were possibly one island until Roman times and several islands are interconnected at low tide. Regardless, Tristan being a prince of Lothian would make his name more sensible, Lothian being on the borderlands of the Pictish High-Kingship (and once was a part of Pictish territory; Tristan may in fact have been a Pictish prince under a British King). There are also records of a Turstan Crectune, whose name gave the Lothian village of Crichton its name. He was granted lands in 1128 by King David of Scotland. One other suggestion is that he could have been adopted into the family of Mark of Cornwall, a historical practice attested in Roman law.

Researcher Sigmund Eisner came to the conclusion that the name Tristan comes from Drust, son of Talorc, but that the legend of Tristan as we know it, was gathered together by an Irish monk living in North Britain around the early 8th century.[1] Eisner explains that Irish monks of this time would have been familiar with the Greek and Roman narratives that the legend borrows from such as Pyramus and Thisbe; they would also have been familiar with the Celtic elements of the story such as The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne. Eisner concludes that "the author of the Tristan story used the names and some of the local traditions of his own recent past. To these figures he attached adventures which had been handed down from Roman and Greek mythology. He lived in the north of Britain, was associated with a monastery, and started the first rendition of the Tristan story on its travels to wherever it has been found."[2]

The Tristan Stone The Tristan Stone in 2008

Possible evidence for his Cornish roots is the 6th-century inscribed granite pillar known as The Tristan Stone, or The Longstone (Cornish: Menhir, meaning long stone), set beside the road leading to Fowey in Cornwall. It measures some 2.7 m (7 feet) in height and has been set in a modern concrete base. Until the 1980s it was in its original position some yards from the coastal road in a field near the turn down to the small harbour of Polkerris. It was then closer to Castle Dore and may have been the origin of the association of this site with the story of the tragic love of Tristan and Iseult. There is a Tau cross on one side and a Latin inscription on the other side, now much worn, reading:[3]

DRVSTANVS HIC IACIT
CVNOMORI FILIVS

Plaque detailing the history of the stone

It has been suggested, and is confidently asserted on the plaque by the stone, that the characters referred to are Tristan, of which Drustan is a variant, and Cynvawr Latinized to Cunomorus. Cynvawr, in turn, is said by the 9th-century author Nennius, who compiled an early pseudo-historical account of King Arthur, to be identified with King Mark known in alias 'QVONOMORVS'. Around 1540, John Leland recorded a third line now missing: CVM DOMINA OUSILLA ('with the lady Ousilla': Ousilla is conceivably a latinisation of the Cornish Eselt), but missed the badly weathered first line ('DRUSTANVS HIC IACIT') which has led Craig Weatherhill to speculate that this third line could have been lost by stone fracture,[4] but which has also led Goulven Peron to propose to see 'OUSILLA' as a particular reading of 'DRUSTANVS'.[5]

Modern works See also References
  1. ^ Sigmund Eisner, The Tristan Legend, A Study in Sources, Northwestern University Press, Chicago, 1969, pp. 37, 52.
  2. ^ Sigmund Eisner, The Tristan Legend: A Study in Sources, Northwestern University Press, Chicago, 1969, p. 37.
  3. ^ Megalithic Portal
  4. ^ Craig Weatherhill, Cornovia, Ancient sites of Cornwall & Scilly 4000 BC – 1000 AD Halsgrove, Wellington, 2009 p. 88.
  5. ^ Goulven Peron, Tristan et Yseut ont-ils existé ? Publication de l'Observatoire Zetetique 77, 2013 (fr) ; see also, by the same author and on the same subject (the names DRUSTANUS and OUSILLA on the Long Stone of Fowey) : L'origine du roman de Tristan, Bulletin de la Société Archéologique du Finistère, CXLIII, 2015, p.351-370 (fr).
External links Wikimedia Commons has media related to Tristan and Iseult. King Arthur and the Matter of BritainKey characters Knights of the
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