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9Annwfn, Rhiannon, Arawn & Morris-Jones

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  • Candon McLean
    May 30, 2002
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      First I'd like to say, hello. I'm glad to be on this list (an
      excellent idea Carl)!

      The Welsh word _annwfn_ does have a controversial etymology as both
      elements have multiple meanings, e.g. _an-_ 'un-' or 'in;' _dwfn_
      'deep' or 'world,' and so on (See Geiradur Pryfysgol Cymru (GPC)
      entries _an-_, _annwfn_, and _dwfn_). So we could have 'unworld,'
      'undeep,' 'inworld,' 'indeep.' And the interpretations of what these
      glosses mean is another contentious point.

      I prefer 'unworld' (otherworld?) and 'inworld' as these seem to capture
      what (little) we know of Celtic religion from the indigenous writings
      and the archeological temple finds.

      I believe that these multiple intrepretations would not have been lost
      on Tolkien, and perhaps both _ud�n_ and _ann�n_ were both influenced by
      Welsh _annwfn_.

      Rhiannon does not mean as Pavel has suggested 'mistress,' rather most
      scholars agree that it is derived from _*rigantona_.

      _rig_ is not a 'crown' but 'king' (see GPC entry _rhi_).

      _-ant_ is 3rd person present. So _rigant_ 'he who kings/rules,'
      compare Brittonic _briganti_ (see GPC entry _braint_).

      _-on_ is a thematic suffix which has been given various
      interpretations, the more conservative being 'great,' but it may have a
      completive meaning which could be interpreted as 'end of,' compare
      Gaulish _samonios_ (Olmsted: 190-194 _The Gaulish Calander_, 1992).

      _-a_ is a feminine suffix.

      Rhiannon would then mean something like 'great one(feminine) who
      rules). Notice also that this etymology (or one similar) would have
      been available to Tolkien (see MacCulloch "Celtic Mythology" pg. 95, in
      _Mythology of All Races_ vol. 3 1918, where he glosses _Rhiannon_ as
      'great queen' which is essentially the same etymology).

      As far as I know, no one has given an etymology for _Arawn_. I have
      played with it a bit, and perhaps _Arawn_ could be derived from
      _ar-_ an intesifying affix (see GPC _ar-) and

      _rhawn_ 'mane, 'head of hair' (see GPC _rhawn)

      If the name is early enough, the Brittonic form would be *_arr�n_, and
      this could give Mod. Welsh _Arawn_.

      There is nothing in the Mabinogion that suggests that _Arawn_ had a
      'great mane,' but compare the feminine name _Ronnwen_ which could be
      'white/fair mane'(see Bromwich pg. 498-499, _Trioedd Ynys Prydein_

      The Celts were known for their swept back hair like a horse (see James
      Pg. 64 _The World of the Celts_, 1993. This is relevant if the name is
      as old as the Brittonic period.

      Also, a being who rules the Otherworld, which is arrived at through a
      forest, might well have a magnificent mane of hair indicated
      otherworldliness and a closeness with nature.

      Anyway it's an idea. I'm not wedded to it.

      A warning about Morris-Jones. His syntax is excellent, but his
      phonology, and hence his etymologies are not accurate. Morris-Jones'
      phonology isn't accepted today nor was it accepted in his own time (see
      Allen James _John Morris-Jones_ in the _Writers of Wales_ series. for
      an intermediate stage see Jackson _Language and History in early

      Tolkien was an excellent philologist, and he would have been aware of
      the contorversy with Morris-Jones' etymologies. Tolkien, I believe,
      may have been influenced by Morris-Jones, but he certainly would not
      have accepted Morris-Jones' etymologies blindly (even if there were not


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