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Chapter 3 Journal Activity

Geoffrey - Folk tales or Political spin?

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I doubt that archaeologists working on Stonehenge and its environs today are influenced by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s version of the building of the monument any more than archaeologists working in the area of The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim are influenced by the story that the causeway was built by the Scottish giant Benandonner so he could fight the Irish giant, Fionn mac Cumhaill.

At a time when the history of the building of Stonehenge had been lost and there was no obvious explanation as to how these massive stones had been erected it must have seemed quite credible that a long-dead race of giants from Africa (now that is surprising!) were responsible for placing them in Ireland in the first place and if you are left grappling with who could have moved them the second time, what better person to bring them to England than Myrddin (Merlin).

Geoffrey is thought to have been a first-generation Welshman of Breton parentage and could have been heavily influenced by the traditional Breton histories and folk stories he heard from his parents and wider family but as the Breton and Welsh languages share similarities it is also possible that he understood Welsh so learned of the old Celtic stories too.

Given his position in the Church, his noble connections, and the possibility that he could read Welsh I feel it is quite reasonable that he was entrusted with these ancient books to translate and I think we should remember that many in the Church were from noble families, some of whom might have been looking to validate their position in society by ‘enhancing’ their family trees.

It would be reasonable to assume that Geoffrey, who was said to be an ambitious man, might have added, or omitted portions of the books which did not fit the turbulent political atmosphere of the time. T

However, I am sure the work carried out by William Stukeley and produced in his book 'Stonehenge, A Temple Restor'd to the British Druids' will have provided even modern day archaeologists with a wealth of knowledge, especially the drawings and descriptions.

What I find amazing is that there is no record of anything in history relating to Stonehenge or to any of the other stone monuments at a time when many more of them would still have been standing and very obvious in the landscape. It is as if the builders just disappeared off the face of the earth without leaving even folk tales behind.


almost 2 years ago

Thank you for this context. You make me want to look into the history of the area around Salisbury Plain in other eras. The frustration of it is that even if the place lay fallow for only a few hundred years, that might be enough to break or destroy any lore connected with it.

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