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The Mabinogion (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 18, 1976
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In 1948 the Golden Cockerel Press issued an "edition-de-luxe" of translations from Medieval Welsh prose tales, made by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones, under the title of "The Mabinogion." This was the direct ancestor of the present Everyman volume. The translators, besides sharing a common Welsh name, were both distinguished academics: Thomas Jones was Professor of Welsh at Aberystwyth, and Gwyn Jones was Professor of English at Aberystwyth and Cardiff.
This title of the book was, as the translators pointed out, an erroneous form, a mere scribal error turned into a comprehensive title for stories with quite diverse histories. It was established in the public mind in the nineteenth century by Lady Charlotte Guest, who issued the first complete English translation of the stories, with Welsh texts, published in seven volumes, 1838-1845. The English text and notes of the shorter 1848 edition of her version had been included in the "Everyman's Library" series since 1906. This fat (432 pages) little volume furthered its position with the literary public interested in Welsh matters, general Celtic literature, or Arthurian stories, despite enormous advances in Welsh studies in the intervening century before the Jones and Jones translation. (I have separately reviewed some of its recent editions, with more on the translator's remarkable life.)
A more accurate translation by T.P. Ellis and J.Read more ›
Others of these tales are much more interesting for their relatioships to other parts of the mythos of the British isles. 'Peredur son of Evrawg' is variant of the Parsival story, with close parallels in many of its particulars. The Mabingion also retells some of the earliest known tales in the Arthurian canon. 'Gerient and Enid,' for example, is founded in the Arthur mythology. It's founded on the notions of knightly honor and chivalry, but with a primitive and harsh interpretation of the ethos.
There are other glimpses of early Celtic times, as well. One that struck me, in two different passages, was a telling of some great feast, where the doors were closed to all comers once the feasting began. All comers, that is, except a "king of a lawful dominion or a craftsman who brings his craft." Later in that story (Culwch), the bouncer isn't told to let the kings in, only the craftsmen. This is a vivid display of their high regard for skilled work, something that sounds strange to a modern ear. I think less of the modern ear for thinking so little of such skills.
Not all translations of the Mabinogion are created equal. Reading another translation, I foundered on obsolete, Elizabethan language injected to make the stories seem archaic. This one uses contemporary language, as bards in a living oral tradition would have done, to create a smooth and readable collection.
The tales of the Mabinogion were paraphrased by T.W. Rolleston in his _Celtic Myths and Legends_, 1917 (still available from Dover,) so I was already somewhat familiar with them when I read them. The full versions are much better, and being already familiar with the plot did not diminish my enjoyment at all. The Mabinogion has many parallels with Irish myth and legend. It also contains some of the earliest versions of tales from the King Arthur mythos (even a primitive, very understated version of the Grail legend!Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This really is the type of thing you'd read if you're a student of mythology or if you're simply trying to be thorough on that topic (which is my case). Read morePublished 13 months ago by Darth_J_Schmader
Just what we wanted, as described, at a fair price and shipping. The only thing we could criticize is the shipper; the package arrived really battered and open on one end.Published 15 months ago by Morgaine Bergman
Still the most accurate translation of the complete works in the White Book of Rhydderch and Red Book of Hergest. Some archaisms but very readable. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Alan Baragona
Being Welsh, I had a wonderful old copy old this book as many people living in or descended from Wales do. Read morePublished 20 months ago by lexi
First read it in college for a class on Celtic Literature.
Timeless tales not just about early Celts but humanity like all good literature.