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PostSubject: The Mabinogion   Thu Aug 25, 2016 12:54 am

The Mabinogion

This collection of Welsh Myths has a similar history to the Irish myths, but is less ancient. The earliest stories were probably composed and passed on by druids in a complete and sensible fashion in the pagan iron age until the Roman conquest of Britain, after which the stories were passed on, lost and embellished by wandering story-tellers and old grannies until Christian monks wrote down what was left of them in the 13th-14th century, in documents such as the Peniarth manuscripts *written down about 1200*, the White Book of Rhydderch *written down about 1300-1325* and the slightly later Red Book of Hergest *written down about 1375-1425*. They were then re-written and transcribed several times, gathering dust in monastery attics whilst simultaneously continuing to grow and mutate in the oral tradition amongst the illiterate medieval Welsh peasants, until being collected together at the end of the nineteenth century and published in English for the first time by Lady Charlotte Guest.


 There are eleven stories.


The first four form a continuous narrative relating stories of British kings, warriors and wizards *meaning Welsh: England was not Britain then* and visitors from The Otherworld *the Welsh equivalent of the Irish Tir Nan Og or fairyland, sometimes called Annwn*. These are the oldest of the tales, probably originating in the late iron age, and are often referred to as the proper mabinigion *plural of mabinogi, a dodgy translation of "fairy story"*. Completely pagan. They are:


Pwyll Prince of Dyfed

Branwen Daughter of Llyr

Manawydan ap (son of) Llyr

Math ap Mathonwy


 The second four are unrelated folk-tales, two featuring Arthur, and probably the last shreds of a much larger body of early Celtic Arthurian myth that was the inspiration for Mallory. The general feel is very pagan, and chivalry is not mentioned. They are:


The Dream of Macsen Wledig

Lludd and Llefelys

Culhwch and Olwen

[size=18]The Dream of Rhonabwy [/size]


The last three are later Arthurian romances, probably mostly Norman-French and reminiscent of Mallory, at best faint echoes of early pagan Celtic myth. They are the only ones to actually mention knights and a chivalric code, and each tale follows the adventures of one knight. They are:


The Lady of the Fountain (concerning Owein ap Urien)

Peredur ap Efrawg

Gereint ap Erbin


One of these is clearly out of order. Arthur appears alive in books 7, 9, 10 and 11, but is dead and in the Otherworld after Camlan in book 8. In spite of this I have maintained the traditional order as defined by Lady Charlotte Guest at the end of the nineteenth century.


Arthur is never described as being a king. He is clearly a great nobleman with an impressive court and a huge warband, but only one tale defines his status; In *The Lady of the Fountain* he is introduced as emperor.



Adapted from :-

*The Mabinogion*
by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones
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