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Walter Map

Also known as ‘Walter Mahap’, and ‘Walter Mapes’. C.AD1137-1209.

Writer and ecclesiastic. Believed to be a Welsh man, perhaps nobility, but there is also evidence to suggest he may have come from Herefordshire.

Studied in Paris. Known to have travelled on a mission to Rome and later to have become a ‘Canon of St. Paul’s’. Also known to have been ‘Archdeacon of Oxford’ (AD1197). Map was also clerk to ‘Henry II’ of England.

It appears that Map, like Geoffrey of Monmouth, was also keen to investigate ancient Celtic and Arthurian history and legend. When Map was organising his own work on compiling Arthurian legends for his writing of ‘De Nugis Curialum’, ‘Of Courtier’s Trifles’, a collection of historical tales, legends, and anecdotes, it is thought that he was in liaison with Geoffrey of Monmouth, so influencing its construction.

Map and Geoffrey of Monmouth are thought largely responsible for the introduction of the concept of chivalry and manners to Arthurian legend. Map is known to have introduced Geoffrey to a Breton book, the title of which is uncertain, written in the British language, that contained many ancient customs and stories, including that of Arthurian connection. This may have helped Geoffrey develop the later work on his ‘Historia Regum Britanniae’. It is said that only those who had some knowledge of Kymric could understand and interpret the content of the Breton book, which is perhaps another reason why Map approached Geoffrey knowing of his earlier work being written in the Welsh language. Map is thought to have influenced the Norman vision of Arthur in Geoffrey’s later writing and that it was Map who first led Geoffrey to make firm the associations of Arthur with Christianity, with Arthur then seen to be the embodiment of the perfect Christian Knight.

It is possible that Map may have assisted Geoffrey of Monmouth on his third poetic work entitled ‘Vita Merlini’, The Life of Merlin, believed to have been written in c.AD1150, and seen as a biography of the adult life of Merlin, based mainly on fiction although it does contain some of the more well known Druid customs and personages.