Mediaeval European Literature & Paintings concerning Supernatural Skycraft


King Arthur’s Shield-Vehicle (Flying Saucer)

Flying ships appear, e.g., in “the Book of Leinster, translated by O’Grady, Silva Gadelica, II, 453, where three ships navigating the air over men’s heads are described.” (Kittredge, p. 112, fn. 2)

shrinkable supernatural ship

cf. “Curtin, Hero Tales of Ireland, p. 249, where a staff thrown into the sea becomes a ship.

This is a combination of the serpent-rod of Mos^eh with the Viking dragon ship.

It can be “put back into a staff again” and borne in the hand.”

According to the Edda, the ship Ski`d-bladnir can be folded and carried (Prose Edda, XLIII).

(Kittredge, p. 79, fn. 1)

shield as ship

Pritwenn, “white face, white form”. Gaufrei of Monmouth and, naturally, the Brut Tysilio, name Arthur’s shield Prytwenn (Gaufrei, IX, 4; Brut Tysilio, Myv. arch, p. 462). Taliesin (Skene, II, 181, 15) alludes to it: “Three times full Prytwen we went there: only seven came back from Caer Sidi.””

the ship Prytwenn ... could contain any number, however great. It is the ship in which Arthur journeys to the Other World.” (Kittredge, p. 79, fn. 1)

However, Arthur himself (in Kilhwch and Olwen) distinguished “my ship” from “Wynebgwrthucher, my shield”.

{Perhaps this other shield was ordinary; was not a vehicle of transport.}


Notes by Joseph Loth on Kilhwch and Olwen

George Lyman Kittredge : Arthur and Gorlagon. STUDIES AND NOTES IN PHILOLOGY AND LITERATURE, vol. VIII. Boston, 1903.


Caer SIDi

[Latin] SIDus ‘star’

tomb-tumulus as abode of the souls of the dead

allusion to starship for voyaging to stars?

/sidus/ is supposedly from */sweid-es/

/sueid/ is repraesented by Lithuanian /svidùs/ ‘blank, gleaming’

This Lithuanian word, however, may refer to reflected (rather than originated) light.

The Hellenic word (suggested by Liddell & Short, A Latin Dictionary) /sideros/ ‘molten iron’ would refer only to originated (not reflected) light; and could be referred to an Hellenic belief that the stars (including the sun) consist of glowing molten metal. /Sideros/ would derive from */tidara-/.If so, cognate could be /Side/ < */Tida/ (name of the wife of constellation Orion). [But, /side/ is ‘pomegranate’; and /sideros/ is not usually molten.]

Possibly, the word /sid-/ may be borrowed from S^emitic /s^ed/ ‘daimon’ (if considered to glow in the dark).


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