Arthur’s Three Sons

by Virginia Chandler

[Originally published about 15 years ago in Mystic Journeys eZine, 
it is reprinted here by permission of the author.]

How Mordred was Slain by Arthur

”How Mordred was Slain by Arthur” Arthur Rackham 
[Public domain], 
via Wikimedia Commons

Most people know that King Arthur had a son named Mordred or Med0raut.  However, it is rarely discussed that Arthur, in fact, had other sons. Mordred makes a better drama and a better tale, so he's gotten the "spotlight" for centuries while Amhir and Loholt have, except by hard core Arthurian scholars, been forgotten.   Yet, their tales are fascinating, full of emotion and tragedy.

Llachau, Marvellous in Song

In the Welsh remembrances, this son is called Llacheu:

I have been where was slain Llacheu, son of Arthur marvellous in song, when ravens croaked over his blood.
(Rachel Bromwich (ed. and trans.) Trioedd Ynys Prydein. The Welsh Triads (University of Wales Press, Cardiff 1961) p.416)

It is Llacheu, not Arthur, that is "marvellous in song"; so he must have had courageous and noteworthy deeds for the bards to remember him this way.    This comes from the Black Book of Carmarthen, 10th or 11th century, and the poem Mi a Wum or The Dialogue of Gwyddneu Garanhir and Gwyn ap Nudd.  It is a listing of warrior heroes, and the poet claims to have been at each of their deaths.

In the poem Pa gur yv y porthaur we get a hint into Llacheu's life, and ultimately, his death:

Cai the fair and Llachau, / they performed battles / before the pain of of blue spears (ended the conflict).

(Lines 76-8; Sims-Williams 1991, p.43)

Llachau persevered  in Welsh folklore as one of the great warriors of Arthur's band, as likewise, did Cai.  In the Trioedd Ynys Prydein, (the Welsh Triads), Llachau has great prominence:

Three Well-Endowed Men of the Island of Britain:

Gwalchmai son of Gwyar, and Llachau son of Arthur, and Rhiwallawn Broom-Hair.

**"Well-Endowed" is thought to mean "men of substance" in this case.

Amr, son of Arthur

Map of Ergyng (c. 500)

Ergung (circa 500)

Amr presents an even greater mystery than does Llachau.  Nennius, a 9th century monk, tells us that Amr was killed by Arthur himself at Archenfield and that the grave, called Licat Amr, had the odd habit of changing size.

There is another wonder in the country called Ergyng* (Ercing). There is a tomb there by a spring, called Llygad Amr (Licat Amr); the name of the man who was buried in the tomb was Amr. He was the son of the warrior Arthur, and he killed him there and buried him. Men come to measure the tomb, and it is sometimes six feet long, sometimes nine, sometimes twelve, sometimes fifteen. At whatever measure you measure it on one occasion, you never find it again of the same measure, and I have tried it myself. (John Morris (ed. and trans.) Nennius: British History and The Welsh Annals

(Arthurian Period Sources vol. 8, Phillimore 1980) p.42, marvel no. 13)

Amr is called Amhar in The Mabinogion and is described as one of Arthur's four "chamberlains".   Beyond this, almost unbelievably, we know next to nothing of Amr.

Interesting to note, as far as we know, none of these sons were borne by Gwenhwyfar, lest it be Amr.  Both Mordred and Llachau were bastard sons, though it seems that both were acknowledged by Arthur AS his sons, just not as his heir.  If Amr was the son of Gwenhwyfar and Arthur, then he was killed by his father, and we can only guess as to why; what is more, we have no idea, beyond speculation, of how Gwenhwyfar reacted to Amr's death.


Virginia ChandlerLearn about her new book, The Green Knight’s Apprentice at: www.virginiachandler.com.