Teyrnon Twrf Liant

The Severn Bore
In the First Branch of Y Mabinogi it is said that Teyrnon Twrf Liant is Lord over Gwent Is-goed (Gwent Below the Forest). This forest stretched across the south-eastern corner of Wales to the River Severn. The remaining woodlands of Wentwood above the town of Newport and near to the remains of the Roman fortress of Caerleon - or the Arthurian court of Caer Llion - are a remant of this forest. There are also large tracts of forested land along the valley of the River Wye either side of the current border between England and Wales. There is also the Forest of Dean stretching between the River Wye and the River Severn. Most of this latter forest is now in the English county of Gloucestershire, though it has always seemed to me to be an extended border enclave between the two lands, such is its liminal quality. Certainly it would have been part of the imagined territory of Teyrnon whose name 'Twrf Liant'(Roar of the Flood Tide?) has been linked to the phenomenon of the Severn Bore.

I witnessed this event - not for the first time - on a recent visit to the area to enjoy the autumn colours in the forest, re-visiting paths and trackways winding through the great oaks and other trees that are the inhabitants of this realm. The Severn Bore itself is a fascinating occurence. It is caused because of the huge width of the extensive estuary of the river. At particular high tides this causes a sudden rush of water into the tidal stretch where the river narrows nearly as far up as the city of Gloucester (Caer Loyw). Standing expectantly watching the waters flow steadily towards the sea, watchers are suddenly confronted by a huge wave rushing up-river against the current. As it rushes past the flow of the river is reversed and the river continues to rise for some time until it eventually subsides and begins to sink down again as its usual direction of flow is restored.

'Teyrnon' is a modernised form of 'Tigernonos' (Great Lord). In the medieval tale he is the foster father of Pryderi, son of Rhiannon or Rigantona (Great Queen). Pryderi was snatched from his mother soon after birth, as was Mabon son of Modron, or Maponos son of Matrona. It is often the case that typological motifs are paired or doubled, indicating mythological origins. These characters continue their psychic presence in stories making their own ways through the world. So here, in these woods where I walk, I can imagine the boyhood of the Divine Son whose father resides by the roaring waters of the River Goddess Habren, or Sabrina.

Walking the forest paths from Lydbrook on the Wye to Lydney on the Severn (where there was a temple to Nodens) is to walk enchanted paths as Autumn shifts the spectrum of colour from greens to rust and yellow-browns. It is to be aware, also, of deep currents of myth, legend and story which enliven the physical landscape in the psyche so the river, the water brooks and the forested hills are inhabited not just in place but also in time.

1 comment:

Bo said...

Beautiful piece.

Andrew Breeze has recently suggested that Teyrnon is a backformation from a placename like *Cae Teyrnon or Bryn *Teyrnon, in which the Teyrnon wd be an archaic plural of teyrn, 'prince', rather than being from *Tigernonos. My attitude is 'if it ain't broke...'