Blodeuwedd and Guinevere have many commonalities in their tales. Both could be seen as sovereignty goddesses that had marriages that gave kingship to their husbands. Both had marriages that began as happy, but devolved into unhappiness on the part of the wives. Both found true love when they were already married, and were thus involved in a love triangle! Both Guinevere and Blodeuwedd are seen as being flower brides, and May queens. In Blodeuwedd’s case she was literally made of flowers by Math and Gwydion. References to Guinevere celebrating nature in May (going-a-Maying) are numerous in various versions of the legends! Their stories do diverge in that Blodeuwedd literally plots with her lover to kill her husband. This is something that Guinevere never does. Another divergent point is that Guinevere consented to her marriage in a way that Blodeuwedd never was given that opportunity. Since Blodeuwedd never gave consent to her marriage, which all Celtic women had a right, her marriage could be seen as null and void.
Lancelot and Gronw are both powerful men. Gronw is a lord of a nearby land who met Blodeuwedd while on a hunting expedition on her husband’s lands, while Lleu is away. Lancelot is a knight who comes from another kingdom who met Guinevere when he came to Camelot in order to become a Knight of the Round Table. Both men are fighters who easily win in battles be they against man or nature. Women have always been attracted to marital prowess in men, and a man who can fight is one who could protect you and your offspring. It is not surprising that both of this emotionally neglected queens would be attracted to the virility and prowess of these warriors!
Arthur and Lleu Llaw Gyffes are kings who gain their land when they are already adults. They do not grow up as princes (at least in most legends Arthur did not know his father’s identity until adulthood). Both kings are empowered by magic, and have magicians as aides through their lives.They both gain crowns with marriage to sovereignty goddesses, if we view Guinevere as a sovereignty goddess. Both have marriages that begin great, and they are both enamored with the beauty and sexuality of their wives. It is also true that both men end up growing increasingly emotionally distant from their spouses as they are more consumed with the duties of being king. This leads to an opening for a new man in their wives beds.
Blodeuwedd beds Gronw three nights in a row, which in Welsh Celtic culture was as good as marriage. This gives a bigamistic overtone, but given she never consented to her first marriage it leaves her mostly open to a new union. This is when they decide to plot to kill her husband. When the plot goes awry, and Lleu is rescued by the magicians Math and Gwydion, Blodeuwedd is cursed to be an owl as punishment. Guinevere’s end is not as tragic, she is saved from being burned at the stake by Lancelot, and retired to a nunnery. Still both women pay for their choices, in unjust ways.
I hope you have enjoyed my analysis of Guinevere and Blodeuwedd. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!
Note on Image: The image at the top of the post is Blodeuwedd by Jessica Galbreth. I found the image on pinterest.com via birdsofrhiannon.tumblr.com.
- The Mabinogion translated by Sioned Davies
- Arthurian Romances by Chretien de Troyes
- Flower Face: A Devotional Anthology in Honor of Blodeuwedd edited by Lori Feldmann
- Arthur and the Sovereignty of Britain by Caitlin Matthews
- The Once and Future Queen by Nicole Evelina