The "Mabinogion" (pronounced IPA|/mabɪ'nɔɡjɔn/) is a collection of eleven
prosestories from medieval Welsh manuscripts. They draw on pre-Christian Celtic mythology, international folktale motifs, and on early medieval historical traditions. While some details may hark back to older Iron Agetraditions, each of these tales is the product of a highly developed Welsh narrative tradition, both oral and written. They were first translated into English by Lady Charlotte Guestin the mid 19th century. [cite web
title=BBC - Wales History - The Mabinogion
The name first appears in 1795 in William Owen Pughe's "Cambrian Register": "The Mabinogion, or Juvenile Amusements, being Ancient Welsh Romances." It was then adopted as the title by first English translator of the complete tales,
Lady Charlotte Guest. The form "mabynnogyon" does indeed occur at the end of the first tale, but it is now generally agreed that this is a scribal error that was assumed to be the plural of the Welsh word "mabinogi", which occurs correctly at the end of the remaining three of the Four Branches. The word "mabinogi" itself is something of a puzzle, although it is ultimately related to the Welsh "mab", which means "son, boy". Professor Eric P. Hamp, however, suggests that "mabinogi" derives from the name of the Celtic deity Maponos("the Divine Son"), and originally referred to materials pertaining to that god. Strictly speaking, "Mabinogi" applies only to the Four Branches (see below), which are speculated to have derived from older tradition. Each of these four tales ends with a colophon meaning "thus ends this branch of the Mabinogi" (in various spellings), hence the name.
The stories of the "Mabinogion" appear in either or both of two Medieval Welsh manuscripts, the
White Book of Rhydderch("Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch") written ca. 1350, and the Red Book of Hergest("Llyfr Coch Hergest") written about 1382– 1410, although texts or fragments of some of the tales have been preserved in earlier 13th centuryand later manuscripts. Scholars agree that the tales are older than the existing manuscripts, but disagree over just how much older. It is clear that the different texts included in the "Mabinogion" originated at different times. Debate has focused on the dating of the "Four Branches of the Mabinogi". Sir Ifor Williamsoffered a date prior to 1100, based on linguistic and historical arguments, while later Saunders Lewisset forth a number of arguments for a date between 1170 and 1190; T.M. Charles-Edwards, in a paper published in 1970, discussed the strengths and weaknesses of both viewpoints, and while critical of the arguments of both scholars, noted that the language of the stories best fits the period between 1000 and 1100, although much more work is needed. More recently, Patrick Sims-Williams argued for a plausible range of about 1060 to 1200, and this seems to be the current scholarly consensus.
The question of the dates of the tales in the "Mabinogion" is important because if they can be shown to have been written before
Geoffrey of Monmouth's "Historia Regum Britanniae" and the romances of Chrétien de Troyes, then some of the tales, especially those dealing with Arthur, provide important evidence for the development of Arthurian legend. Their importance as records of early myth, legend, folklore, culture, and language of Wales is immense.
The Four Branches of the Mabinogi
Four Branches of the Mabinogi("Pedair Cainc y Mabinogi") are the most mythological stories contained in the "Mabinogion" collection. Pryderiappears in all four, though not always as the central character.
* "Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed" ("
Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed") tells of Pryderi's parents and his birth, loss and recovery.
* "Branwen Ferch Llŷr" ("Branwen, Daughter of Llŷr") is mostly about
Branwen's marriage to the King of Ireland. Pryderi appears but does not play a major part.
* "Manawydan Fab Llŷr" ("Manawyddan, son of Llŷr") has Pryderi return home with
Manawydan, brother of Branwen, and the misfortunes that follow them there.
* "Math Fab Mathonwy" ("Math, son of Mathonwy") is mostly about Math and
Gwydion, who come into conflict with Pryderi.
The native tales
Also included in Lady Guest's compilation are five stories from Welsh tradition and
Breuddwyd Macsen Wledig" ("The Dream of Macsen Wledig")
Lludd a Llefelys" ("Lludd and Llefelys")
* "Culhwch ac Olwen" ("Culhwch and Olwen")
Breuddwyd Rhonabwy" ("The Dream of Rhonabwy")
* "Hanes Taliesin" ("The Tale of
The tales "Culhwch and Olwen" and "The Dream of Rhonabwy" have interested scholars because they preserve older traditions of
King Arthur. The tale "The Dream of Macsen Wledig" is a romanticized story about the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus. The story of Taliesinis a later piece, not included in the Red or White Books, which more recent translations omit.
The three tales called The Three Romances (Y Tair Rhamant) are Welsh versions of Arthurian tales that also appear in the work of
Chrétien de Troyes. Critics have debated whether the Welsh Romances are based on Chrétien's poems or if they derive from a shared original. Though it seems probable the surviving Romances derive, directly or indirectly, from Chrétien, it is probable he in turn based his tales on older, Celtic sources. The Welsh stories are not direct translations and include material not found in Chrétien's work.
Medieval Welsh literature
Christopher Williams (Welsh Artist 1873-1934)painted three paintings from the Mabinogion. Branwen (1915) can be viewed at the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea. "Blodeuwedd"(1930) is at the Newport Museumand Art Gallery. The third painting in the series is "Ceridwen" (1910).
*Bollard, John K. (translator), and Anthony Griffiths (photographer). "Companion Tales to The Mabinogi: Legend and Landscape of Wales". Gomer Press, Llandysul, 2007. ISBN 1-84323-825-X. (Contains "How Culhwch Got Olwen", "The Dream of Maxen Wledig", "The Story of Lludd and Llefelys", and "The Dream of Rhonabwy", with textual notes.)
*Bollard, John K. (translator), and Anthony Griffiths (photographer). "The Mabinogi: Legend and Landscape of Wales". Gomer Press, Llandysul, 2006. ISBN 1-84323-348-7. (Contains the Four Branches, with textual notes.)
*Davies, Sioned. "The Mabinogion". Oxford World's Classics, 2007. ISBN 1-406-80509-2. (Omits "Taliesin". Has extensive notes.)
*Ellis, T. P., and John Lloyd. "The Mabinogion: a New Translation." Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1929. (Omits "Taliesin"; only English translation to list manuscript variants.)
*Ford, Patrick K. "The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales". Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977. ISBN 0-520-03414-7. (Includes "Taliesin" but omits "The Dream of Rhonabwy", "The Dream of Macsen Wledig" and the three Arthurian romances.)
*Gantz, Jeffrey. Trans. "The Mabinogion." London and New York: Penguin Books, 1976. ISBN 0-14-044322-3. (Omits "Taliesin".)
*Guest, Lady Charlotte. "The Mabinogion." Dover Publications, 1997. ISBN 0-486-29541-9. (Guest omits passages which only a Victorian would find at all risqué. This particular edition omits all Guest's notes.)
*Jones, Gwyn and Jones, Thomas. "The Mabinogion." Everyman's Library, 1949; revised in 1989, 1991. (Omits "Taliesin".)
**Jones, George (Ed), 1993 edition, Everyman S, ISBN 0-460-87297-4.
**2001 Edition, (Preface by John Updike), ISBN 0-375-41175-5.
Welsh text and editions
*"Branwen Uerch Lyr". Ed. Derick S. Thomson. Medieval and Modern Welsh Series Vol. II. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1976. ISBN 1-85500-059-8
*"Breuddwyd Maxen". Ed. Ifor Williams. Bangor: Jarvis & Foster, 1920.
*"Breudwyt Maxen Wledig". Ed. Brynley F. Roberts. Medieval and Modern Welsh Series Vol. XI. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 2005.
*"Breudwyt Ronabwy". Ed. Melville Richards. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1948.
*"Culhwch and Olwen: An Edition and Study of the Oldest Arthurian Tale". Rachel, Bromwich and D. Simon Evans. Eds. and trans. Aberystwyth: University of Wales, 1988; Second edition, 1992.
*"Cyfranc Lludd a Llefelys". Ed. Brynley F. Roberts. Medieval and Modern Welsh Series Vol. VII. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1975.
*"Historia Peredur vab Efrawc". Ed. Glenys Witchard Goetinck. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 1976.
*"Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch". Ed. J. Gwenogvryn Evans. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1973.
*"Math Uab Mathonwy". Ed. Ian Hughes. Aberystwyth: Prifysgol Cymru, 2000.
*"Owein or Chwedyl Iarlles y Ffynnawn". Ed. R.L. Thomson. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1986.
*"Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi". Ed. Ifor Williams. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1951. ISBN 0-7083-1407-4
*"Pwyll Pendeuic Dyuet". Ed. R. L. Thomson. Medieval and Modern Welsh Series Vol. I. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1986. ISBN 1-85500-051-2
*"Ystorya Gereint uab Erbin". Ed. R. L. Thomson. Medieval and Modern Welsh Series Vol. X. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1997.
*"Ystoria Taliesin". Ed. Patrick K. Ford. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1992. ISBN 0-7083-1092-3
*Charles-Edwards, T.M. "The Date of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi" "Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion" (1970): 263-298.
*Ford, Patrick K. "Prolegomena to a Reading of the Mabinogi: 'Pwyll' and 'Manawydan.'" "Studia Celtica," 16/17 (1981-82): 110-25.
*Ford, Patrick K. "Branwen: A Study of the Celtic Affinities," "Studia Celtica" 22/23 (1987/1988): 29-35.
*Hamp, Eric P. "Mabinogi." "Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion" (1974-1975): 243-249.
*Sims-Williams, Patrick. "The Submission of Irish Kings in Fact and Fiction: Henry II, Bendigeidfran, and the dating of the "Four Branches of the Mabinogi", "Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies", 22 (Winter 1991): 31-61.
*Sullivan, C. W. III (editor). "The Mabinogi, A Books of Essays". New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0-8153-1482-5
Evangeline Waltonhas done a complete re-telling, with some additions, in four novels: "The Island of the Mighty" (1970), "The Children of Llyr" (1971), "The Song of Rhiannon" (1972) and "Prince of Annwn" (1974). All four novels were published as "The Mabinogion Tetralogy" in 2002.
Y Mabinogi" is a film version, produced in 2003. It starts with live-action among Welsh people in the modern world. They then 'fall into' the legend, which is shown through animated characters. Elements are mixed and some parts of the plot left out.
*"Mabinogi", a network game with certain references to the names and places of "The Mabinogion", adapting them and some of the ideas for use in the game.
Lloyd Alexander, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Chronicles of Prydain, has acknowledged "The Mabinogion" as the source material for portions of that fantasy series, especially with respect to the character of Arawn, Lord of Annuvin.
There is a new, extensively annotated translation of the four branches of the Mabinogi proper by Will Parker at
* [http://www.mabinogi.net/ Mabinogi Translations]
The Guest translation can be found with all original notes and illustrations at:
* [http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/mab/index.htm Sacred Texts: The Mabinogion]
The original Welsh texts can be found at:
* [http://titus.uni-frankfurt.de/texte/etcs/celt/mcymr/pkm/pkm.htm?pkm001.htm Mabinogion] (Contains only the four branches reproduced, with textual variants, from Ifor Williams' edition.)
Versions without the notes, presumably mostly from the
Project Gutenbergedition, can be found on numerous sites, including:
* [http://www.wyldwytch.com/weavings/reading_room/books/celtic/mab.htm PDF book of "Mabinogion", translated by Lady Charlotte Guest]
* [http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=5160 Project Gutenberg Edition of The Mabinogion] (From the 1849 edition of Guest's translation)
* [http://www.missgien.net/arthurian/mabinogion The Arthurian Pages: The Mabinogion]
* [http://www.webmesh.co.uk/Mabinogionhomepage.htm The Mabinogion]
* [http://www.geocities.com/branwaedd/mindex.html Branwaedd: Mabinogion]
* [http://www.timelessmyths.com/celtic/mabinogion.html Timeless Myths: Mabinogion]
A discussion of the words "Mabinogi" and "Mabinogion" can be found at
* [http://themabinogi.googlepages.com/mabinogiandmabinogion Mabinogi and "Mabinogion"]
Audio extracts from the Sioned Davies translation, read by the author, are available from the publisher's site:
* [http://www.oup.co.uk/general/mabinogion/ OUP: The Mabinogion]
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