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Taneu

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Taneu (known as Denyw in medieval Welsh) is the daughter of King Leudon of Lothian and the mother of St. Kentigern in some medieval tales. The father of Kentigern is said to be Owein son of Urien in accounts which name the father.

The Incomplete Life of St. KentigernEdit

The Begetting of St. KentigernEdit

According to the anonymous Incomplete Life of St. Kentigern, Taneu’s father was the half-pagan King Leudon who gave his name to the kingdom of Leudonia (Lothian).

Taneu is a firm and devout Christian who often meditated on the purity and blessedness of the Virgin Mary and greatly desired that she also might bear a son without knowing man. Accordingly, when Owein son of Urien seeks Taneu’s love, she rejects him. But rejection only increases Owein’s desire.

When King Leudon becaomes aware of the situation, he gently urges Taneu to accept Owein’s suit. But Taneu still resists. King Leudon becones angry and declares that Taneu will be handed over to the care of a common swineherd if she still refuses Owein. Taneu prefers to be a lowly servant in the house of the poor man, with the possibility of remaining chaste than to live as a great lady and be impure. So King Leudon gives Taneu to the swineherd.

The swineherd turns out to be a chaste man and a secret Christian who shows immense respect to Taneu and her vow of virginity. Day by day, in the fields, the swineherd would tell Taneu of the teaching he had learned from St. Sevanus, who himself had been a disciple of Palladius, the first bishop of the Scotti, who was sent in the year of the Incarnation 430, by Pope Celestine, as the first bishop to the Scots who believed.

But Owein does not give up. Owein sends a woman to Taneu to try to persuade Taneu to accept Owein rather than continue to live miserably. Taneu refuses to listen. Owein believes that if Taneu could experience sexual extasy with him, she would see the error of her ways. So Owein disguises himself as a woman, being still a very, young man and beardless. He comes across Taneu alone at a stream she used to frequent, and feigns to need her help in lifting a pile of twigs he has gathered. Taneu, suspecting nothing, follows the disguised Owein. Coming to a suitable spot, Owein grabs Taneu and rapes her, impregnating her in an instant. Owein’s love for Taneu now cools as his desire cools. Owein tthinks of her now only as the concubine of a swineherd. He urges her not to weep, for he had not known Taneu as a man knows a virgin, for was he not a woman himself? It had just been some fun. Then Owein leaves her.

Taneu is wretched, doubtful whether she had been defiled or not. Owein puts the matter out of his mind (until it is recalled to him, years later, by Kentigern, his son).

Taneu is Miraculously SparedEdit

Taneu becomes pregnant. King Leudon orders his daughter to be stoned, according to the laws of the country. But none of the executioners will throw the first stone at one of the royal family. Instead they place Taneu in a wagon, intending to throw the wagon down from the hill of Kepduf. But Taneu prays to the Virgin Mary, asking her forgiveness for attempting to be like her, and asks the Virgin to save her own life for the sake of the child in her womb. Taneu ends by making the sign of the cross. When the wagon is thrown down, Taneu is miraculously unhurt. The wagon turns around, its pole sticks into the earth and slows its descent. And from the place where the pole first pierced the rock, a steam bursts forth, which is said to still flow in the writer’s time.

A New PunishmentEdit

But King Leudon will not be seen to prefer his daughter over the laws of the kingdom. Leudon now demands that Taneu be set adrift at sea, saying that if Taneu is truly innocent, then God will save her. So Taneu is brought to a river mouth called Aberlessic to be put into a coracle. Many folk there say that it is cruel to condemn a person twice for the same crime, and that rather the judge who makes no distinction should perish. Taneu calls on the Lord to judge those who fight against her.

Death of King LeudonEdit

Meanwhile Leudon has decided that if his daughter will die, then the swineherd must die. (Presumably Leudon thinks that it is the swineherd who has made Taneu pregant.) So King Leudon pursues the swineherd into a marsh, and when the swineherd sees that even the marsh does not halt King Leudon, the swineherd, snatching up a javelin, transfixes King Leudon, throwing it upon him from behind by means of a thong. Later a great stone is placed there as a monument to King Leudon, a mile to the south of Mount Dumpelder.

Birth of St. KentigernEdit

Meanwhile Taneu, in a coracle, is carried beyond the Isle of May and the fish of the shore miraculously follow her so that from thenceforth they are scarce at Aberlessic but plentiful at the Isle of May. When dawn arrives, Tanu is safely cast up on the sand at Collenros, which, according to sailors’ computation, is thirty miles distant from the Isle of May in Scotland; but by then Taneu suffers from birth pangs.

As translated by A. P. Forbes:

As she lay on the ground earnestly praying, suddenly a heap of ashes, which the day before had been gathered together by some shepherds close to the shore, was struck by a gust of the north wind, which scattered around her the sparks which lay hid within them. When therefore she had found the fire, the pregnant young woman, as best she could, dragged herself at once to the place indicated by God, and, in her extreme necessity, with anxious groans, she made a little heap with the wood which had been collected the day before by the aforesaid shepherds to prepare the fire. Having lighted the fire, she brought forth a son, the chamber of whose nativity was as rude as that of his conception.
Some of the shepherds happen on the spot. They aid Taneu and give her food. Some go and tell St. Sevanus who was at the place, and Sevanus recalls that at the very time when the Taneu’s son was born, Sevanus had heard that morning the angels singing “Gloria in Excelsis” on high.

A this point, the fragment ends.

Taneu in Jocelyn’s Life of St. KentigernEdit

The king, unnamed is pagan, not just half-pagan. The daughter hides her Christianity from her father. When she becomes pregnant, she does not know how it happened, though the Jocelyn indicates it must have had, unknown to her, a natural source. Jocelyn makes not a mention of Owein. He suggests the girl might perhaps have been drugged, and then impregnated.

In Jocelyn's account, it is the custom, that a girl who had committed fornication in her own homeland became pregnant should be hurled down from the highest mountain. So the girl is cast down from Dumpelder no wagon mentioned. As in the earlier account, the girl prays, and she lands with no harm.

But some claim the girl is a worker of witchcraft and that is what saved her. They therefore place the girl in a small, oarless boat which they set adrift. There is no mention of the death of the king.

The boat was driven onto the sands near Culross, where Saint Sevanus had a school. The girl feels the beginning of birth pangs. She sees the embers of a fire in the distance, goes to it, rekindles it, and her child is born. Meanwhile, Saint Sevanus hears the angels singing. Shepherds happen on the girl and her baby, comfort and feed her, then bring her to Saint Sevanus. Sevanus baptizes both the girl and her young son, naming the girl Tanau, and the son Kyentyern which is said to mean ‘First Lord’.

Taneu in the Welsh Bonedd Y SantEdit

The Welsh Bonedd y Saint describes Kentigern, whom it calls Cynderyrn Garthwys, as the son of Owain ab Urien Rheged and Denyw the daughter of Llewddyn Luyddawg of Dinas Eiddyn (Edinborough).

Taneu in the John Major’s History of Great BritainEdit

In adapting Geoffrey Monmouth’s account of Arthur, John Major in his History of Great Britain (published in 1521), makes a few changes, including stating that King Loth was the father of Gawain, Mordred, and a daughter named Thametes who was mother to St. Kentigern. An identification of the Arthurian King Loth of Lodonesia/Lothian of the Arthurian tales with King Leudon of Leudonia (Lothian) seems to be a reasonable one, but no-one before John Major makes it.

Taneu in Chrétien de Troyes’ YvainEdit

Yvain son of King Urien, the titular hero of Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvan, is obviously in origin identical to Owein son of Urien who is reputed to have been Kentigern’s father by Taneu.

In Chrétien’s poem, Yvain kills a knight and then wins the hand of his former wife, whose name Chrétien says is Laudine of Landuc, the daughter of Duke Laudunet, of whom they sing a lay. The name Laudunet is not horribly different from the Leudon of the Kentigern legend, and may point to a connection between these two traditions about Owein/Yvain.

Some Name VariationsEdit

LATIN: Taneu, Tannu, Thaney, Teneuu, Theneuu, Thametes; LATIN WELSH GENEALOGIES: Denyw, Denw, Dinw, Dynw, Dunwl, Dwywai, Dyfuyr.

ReferencesEdit

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