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A while back I found a small note (which seems to have been removed because of a lack of proper citation) on the Wikipedia article for Bedivere, speaking of his “role in Welsh tradition” and first mentioning:

Bedwyr is one of the earliest characters to be associated with the Arthurian cycle, appearing in a number of early Welsh texts in which he is described as Bedwyr Bedrydant (Bedwyr of the Perfect Sinews), a handsome, one-handed knight under Arthur's command. His father is given as Pedrawd or Bedrawd, and his children as Amhren and Eneuawg, both members of Arthur's court.

It went on to say:

He was known to use dark magic to seduce and subdue his foes with great skill and aggression. He was feared by many and although the townspeople frequently asked for his hanging, King Arthur still held him in high regards.

Since I have read several places that Bedwyr wielded an enchanted lance, Cei (Kay) and Menw had magical powers (in Culhwch ac Olwen, if not elsewhere), and Gwalchmei (Gawain) has solar-powered strength, it made me wonder what the source is for Bedwyr having “dark magic.” I would assume that if he ever had magic it has its origins in the Welsh stories.

Is there any source for Bedwyr having “dark magic” in Welsh tradition? Is this concept from a more modern retelling? Does it have no basis at all and was justifiably removed from the Wikipedia article?

Edit: I only have these excerpts from the Bedivere article because I made a copy before it was edited out. The copy I have dates the edit “last modified on 12 April 2014 at 19:32” if that's helpful in some way. I was unable to find the information linked to an external source, however.

Update: Did a few searches and found another reference to this sourceless dark magic.

Some believe that the reason Bedivere was so skilled in fighting was because he secretly was a friend with a knight who was known for using dark magic. But the main argument supporting that he didn’t use dark magic, is that it was never written in text that he did.

Though this seems to confirm that Bedwyr/Bedivere never used dark magic, I'm still curious about the source of this idea and what has caused some to believe in it. Wish there was a mention of a source text, or the name of this friend. The mystery continues.

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    Hello and welcome to M&F SE, not sure if you need the tour but here it is. As for my usual pointers, I will just say that it is sad you don't have any links to show (can we look up in the wiki history?) but I understand that it can be pretty hard in the case of not well documented material on Wikipedia. I will en by thanking you for an interesting question and that I hope we'll keep you on our beloved SE! – Calaom May 20 '19 at 13:02
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    @ Calaom, thanks for the welcome! Still learning how everything works. Sorry about the lack of links, I edited to give as much information as I can. – MorgenAfallon May 23 '19 at 0:33
  • @MorgenAfallon Is there anything else you're looking for before accepting an answer? – Dan Mar 11 at 2:23
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Insofar as the earliest native British traditions go, at least, it doesn't seem so.

Looking through some early Welsh texts (Culhwch ac Olwen, Pa Gur, the Trioedd Ynys Prydein, the Beddau stanzas, a couple mentions in poetry), I can't find anything that suggests Bedwyr possessed magical abilities. The closest thing of relevance I saw was in CaO, when Cai describes Bedwyr's spear: "The head of his spear comes away from its shaft, it draws blood from the wind and lands on its shaft again"1, which certainly sounds like some sort of enchantment, but seems tied entirely to the weapon itself. (The line is obscure to me; it might just be figurative language, or Cai blowing smoke or something, but in any case, it doesn't seem to be what you're describing.)

So then I thought, maybe someone might have misunderstood the concept in Welsh literature of a cynneddf, which means something like "magical trait". It's not something inherently negative, per se (and some are less than what we'd think of as "magical"; one of Cai's was just that he was stubborn). But in the texts I checked, I didn't see that word associated with Bedwyr anywhere, either.

It's possible there's other literature that does associate him with magical powers; I didn't look at anything from later medieval texts (i.e, anything demonstrably based primarily upon post-Galfridian writings).

So, while the earliest descriptions of Bedwyr do consistently highlight his combat prowess and preternatural reflexes, there's no indication (from what I've seen) that there's a supernatural element in play.


1. Taken from the Sioned Davies translation.

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  • Thank you for the information! It’s nice to know I didn’t miss anything in the Welsh reading I’ve done so far. I’m still curious where this dark magic idea came from, whether it’s from the post-Galfridian writings of the middle ages or from the renewed Victorian interest in Arthur and his court, or even from later retellings. The thought of searching for the source in all that material is daunting! So I appreciate all you could tell me. – MorgenAfallon Feb 16 at 9:14
  • @MorgenAfallon You're very welcome! And if I ever come across anything else in the future, I'll be sure to update my answer here. :) – Dan Feb 16 at 13:40

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