Mabinogi



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The Two Kings (sculptor Ivor Robert-Jones, 1984) near Harlech Castle, Wales. Bendigeidfran carries the body of his nephew Gwern
The Mabinogion is a collection of prose stories from medieval Welsh manuscripts. They draw on pre-Christian Celtic mythology, international folktale motifs, and on early medieval historical traditions. And while some details may hark back to older Iron Age traditions, each of these tales is the product of a highly developed Welsh narrative tradition, both oral and written.

Name

Its name comes from a misunderstanding by the Mabinogion's first English translator, Lady Charlotte Guest: she found at the end of the first tale the form mabynnogyon, 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.

Date

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 13821410, although texts or fragments of some of the tales have been preserved in earlier 13th century and 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 Williams offered a date prior to 1100, based on linguistic and historical arguments, while later Saunders Lewis set 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 stories

Series on
Celtic mythology
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Coventina
Celtic polytheism
Celtic deities
Ancient Celtic religion
Druids · Bards · Vates
British Iron Age religion
Celtic religious patterns
Gallo-Roman religion
Romano-British religion
British mythology
Welsh mythology
Breton mythology
Mabinogion · Taliesin
Cad Goddeu
Trioedd Ynys Prydein
Matter of Britain · King Arthur
Gaelic mythology
Irish mythology
Scottish mythology
Hebridean mythology
Tuatha D Danann
Mythological Cycle
Ulster Cycle
Fenian Cycle
Immrama · Echtrae
See also
Celts · Gaul
Galatia · Celtiberians
Early history of Ireland
Prehistoric Scotland
Prehistoric Wales
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The Four Branches of the Mabinogi

The Four Branches of the Mabinogi (Pedair Cainc y Mabinogi) are the most mythological stories contained in the Mabinogion collection. Pryderi appears 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. 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 legend: 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 Taliesin is a later piece, not included in the Red or White Books, which more recent translations omit.

The Romances

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.

See also

Bibliography

Translations

  • 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

Secondary sources

  • 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

Adaptations

  • Evangeline Walton has 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 little, if any, relationship to the Mabinogi other than the name.
  • 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.

External links

There is a new, extensively annotated translation of the four branches of the Mabinogi proper by Will Parker at The Guest translation can be found with all original notes and illustrations at: The original Welsh texts can be found at:
  • Mabinogion (Contains only the four branches reproduced, with textual variants, from Ifor Williams' edition.)
Versions without the notes, presumably mostly from the Project Gutenberg edition, can be found on numerous sites, including: A discussion of the words Mabinogi and Mabinogion can be found at
Mabinogi refers to any of the medieval Welsh stories known as the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, or more generally to the Mabinogion, a collection of the Four Branches and other stories.
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Prose is writing distinguished from poetry by its greater variety of rhythm and its closer resemblance to the patterns of everyday speech. The word prose comes from the Latin prosa, meaning straightforward, hence the term "prosaic," which is often seen as pejorative.
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Middle Ages form the middle period in a traditional schematic division of European history into three "ages": the classical civilization of Antiquity, the Middle Ages and Modern Times.
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Welsh}}} 
Writing system: Latin alphabet (Welsh variant) 
Official status
Official language of: Wales (de facto)
Regulated by: no official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1: cy
ISO 639-2: wel (B) 
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manuscript is any document that is written by hand, as opposed to being printed or reproduced in some other way. The term may also be used for information that is hand-recorded in other ways than writing, for example inscriptions that are chiselled upon a hard material or scratched
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Iron Age was the stage in the development of any people in which tools and weapons whose main ingredient was iron were prominent. The adoption of this material coincided with other changes in some past societies often including differing agricultural practices, religious beliefs
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English}}} 
Writing system: Latin (English variant) 
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Official language of: 53 countries
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Language codes
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ISO 639-2: eng
ISO 639-3: eng  
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Lady Charlotte Guest

Portrait of Lady Charlotte Guest
Born: May 19, 1812
Uffington, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom
Died: January 15, 1895 (age 82)

Occupation: Translator, businesswoman
Nationality: British Lady Charlotte Elizabeth Guest
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Welsh}}} 
Writing system: Latin alphabet (Welsh variant) 
Official status
Official language of: Wales (de facto)
Regulated by: no official regulation
Language codes
ISO 639-1: cy
ISO 639-2: wel (B) 
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Eric P. Hamp is an American linguist. Born November 16 1920, he received his PhD from Harvard University in 1950s and since then he taught at the University of Chicago where he is Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Departments of Linguistics, Slavic
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In ancient Celtic religion, Maponos or Maponus ("divine son") was a god of youth known mainly in northern Britain but also in Gaul. In Roman times he was equated with Apollo.
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The White Book of Rhydderch (Welsh: Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) is one of the most notable and celebrated manuscripts in Welsh. Written in the middle of the fourteenth century (ca.
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1350 in other calendars
Gregorian calendar 1350
MCCCL
Ab urbe condita 2103
Armenian calendar 799
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Bah' calendar -494 – -493
Buddhist calendar 1894
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The Red Book of Hergest (Welsh: Llyfr Coch Hergest) is one of the most important medieval Welsh manuscripts. It includes both prose and poetry and was written around 1382-1410.
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1382 in other calendars
Gregorian calendar 1382
MCCCLXXXII
Ab urbe condita 2135
Armenian calendar 831
ԹՎ ՊԼԱ
Bah' calendar -462 – -461
Buddhist calendar 1926
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14th century - 15th century - 16th century
1380s  1390s  1400s  - 1410s -  1420s  1430s  1440s
1407 1408 1409 - 1410 - 1411 1412 1413

:
Subjects:     Archaeology - Architecture -
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As a means of recording the passage of time, the 13th century was that century which lasted from 1201 to 1300. In the history of European culture, this period is considered part of the High Middle Ages, and after its conquests in Asia the Mongol Empire stretched from Korea to
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Sir Ifor Williams (April 16 1881 - November 4 1965) was a Welsh scholar who laid the foundations for the academic study of Old Welsh, particularly early Welsh poetry.
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Saunders Lewis (John Saunders Lewis) (October 15, 1893 - September 1, 1985) was a Welsh poet, dramatist, historian, literary critic and political activist. He was a prominent Welsh nationalist and founder of the Welsh National Party (later known as Plaid Cymru).
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Geoffrey of Monmouth (Welsh: Gruffudd ap Arthur or Sieffre o Fynwy) (c. 1100 – c. 1155) was a clergyman and one of the major figures in the development of British history and the popularity of tales of King Arthur.
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Chrétien de Troyes was a French poet and trouvère who flourished in the late 12th century. Little is known of his life, but he seems to have been from Troyes, or at least intimately connected with it, and between 1160 and 1172 he served at the court of his patroness Countess Marie
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Celtic mythology is the mythology of Celtic polytheism, apparently the religion of the Iron Age Celts. Like other Iron Age Europeans, the early Celts maintained a polytheistic mythology and religious structure.
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Celtic polytheism refers to the religious beliefs and practices of ancient Celts until the Christianization of Celtic-speaking lands. At various times those lands included Gaul, Ireland, Celtiberia, Britain, certain territories on the Danube, and Galatia in Asia Minor.
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The gods and goddesses of Celtic mythology are known from a variety of sources. From the classical and pre-classical period, many statues, dedications, votive offerings, and cult objects survive.
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druid denotes the priestly class in ancient Celtic societies, which existed through much of Western Europe and in Britain and Ireland until they were supplanted by Roman government and, later, Christianity.
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bard was one of a caste of poets and scholars of medieval and early modern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

Etymology

The word is a loanword from Proto-Celtic *bardos, ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *gwerh2:
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The earliest Latin writers used vates to denote "prophets" and soothsayers in general; the word fell into disuse in Latin until it was revived by Virgil [1] . Then Ovid could describe himself as the vates of Eros (Amores 3.9).
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Gallo-Roman religion was a fusion of Roman religious forms and modes of worship with Gaulish deities from Celtic polytheism. It was a selective acculturation.

Deities


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Welsh mythology, the remnants of the mythology of the pre-Christian Britons, has come down to us in much altered form in medieval Welsh manuscripts such as the Red Book of Hergest, the White Book of Rhydderch, the Book of Aneirin and the Book of Taliesin.
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Breton mythology is the mythology or corpus of explanatory and herioc tales originating in Brittany, now in France. Bretons were a subset of Celtic people that adopted Christianity.
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