- Series: Oxford World's Classics
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (May 11, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0199218781
- ISBN-13: 978-0199218783
- Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1 x 5.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 26 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Mabinogion (Oxford World's Classics) 1st Edition
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"The Mabinogion is famously magical. Enchantment glows on every page, but it does not here violate the laws of nature: it reveals them."--The Independent on Sunday
"It may be said at once that the translation will have instant success. It will bring the tales to thousands of new readers, while its commentary will be a vital tool for scholars....By fuelling debate on this and other questions, Sioned Davies's splendid volume inaugurates a new age of Mabinogion studies."--Modern Language Review
About the Author
Sioned Davies is Chair of Welsh at Cardiff University. Her special interest is the interplay between orality and literacy, together with the performance aspects of medieval Welsh narrative. Her publications include Crefft y Cyfarwydd (Cardiff, 1995), which is a study of narrative techniques in the Mabinogion, The Four Branches of the Mabinogi (Llandysul, 1993), and a co-edited volume, The Horse in Celtic Culture: Medieval Welsh Perspectives (Cardiff, 1997).
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I compared their translations of a favorite passage of mine early on in the First Branch, Pwyll's tale. Arawn's just been reunited with his queen after the year's test by unwitting yet steadfast doppelganger Pwyll. She wonders, post-coitally after a long year's lapse, why it's been so long since her husband made love with her.
Here's Ford (1977 ed., p. 41) first at the starting line.
"Shame on me," she said, "if from the time we went between the sheets there was even pleasure or talk between us or even your facing me-- much less anything more than that-- for the past year!"
And he thought, "Dear Lord God, it was a unique man, with strong and unwavering friendship that I got for a companion." And then he said to his wife, "Lady," he said, "don't blame me. I swear to God," he said, "I haven't slept with you since a year from last night nor have I lain with you."
And he told her the entire adventure.
"I confess to God," she said, "as far as fighting temptations of the flesh and keeping true to you goes, you had a solid hold on a fellow."
"Lady," he said, "that's just what I was thinking while I was silent with you."
"That was only natural," she answered.
--You can feel the hesitant insertion of the teller's dramatic pauses implied with the "saids." These intensify rhythms of the poet's strong, confident prose. A few contractions and the well-placed dashes quicken the dialogue's pace. The language avoids the flowery exactitude and chivalric diction that marked Gwyn and Thomas Jones' 1949 Everyman edition. But, neither does Ford choose an entirely modern register. He keeps a slightly elevated style while emphasizing verve and a gently sophisticated voice for the couple.
--Compare and contrast Davies (2008 ed., p. 7). As in other pages I spot-checked, the two professors run neck and neck and overlap considerably-- a sign of how both scholars channel what Ford calls the "restraint" in this passage as well as its humor and tension.
"Shame on me," she said, "if there has been between us for the past year, from the time we were wrapped up in the bedclothes, either pleasure or conversation, or have you turned your face to me, let alone anything more than that!"
And then he thought, "Dear Lord God," he said, "I had a friend whose loyalty was steadfast and secure." And then he said to his wife, "Lady," he said, "do not blame me. Between me and God," he said, "I have neither slept nor lain down with you for the past year."
And then he told her the whole story.
"I confess to God," she said, "you struck a firm bargain for your friend to have fought off the temptations of the flesh and kept his word to you."
"Lady," he said, "those were my very thoughts while I was silent just now."
"No wonder!" she said.
--Davies in her preface emphasizes the "performative" qualities in her edition. In this passage, she appears to let the lines go longer rather than reining them in to English syntax. They drift away slightly before coming back to us. Perhaps this echo demonstrates Davies' own scholarship in the medieval Welsh interplay between orality and literacy. The author of two books on the Mabinogi, she stresses the "interactive" nature of the manuscript to be read aloud for the "acoustic dimension" embedded in the Welsh texts and through alliteration, tone, and beat, she tries to give us a feel for this tempo, albeit imperfectly conveyed perforce into our clunkier English.
--Both Davies and Ford include the four branches: Pwyll, Branwen, Manawydan, and Math. Both include Lludd & Llueyls. But, reflecting textual differences in the original manuscript anthologies, they also differ. Ford's tales attributed to Gwion Bach & Taliesin, Culhwch & Olwen, and his appendix on Cad Goddeu do not appear in Davies. She provides Peredur, The Dream of the Emperor Maxen, The Lady of the Well, Geraint, and Rhonawby's Dream.
--Both editors explain their textual choices and open with prefaces. They both add glossaries, pronunciation guides, and bibliographies. Ford situates the tales in Indo-European contexts and Davies delves into their delivery as recited stories. Ford begins each tale with a short introduction; Davies adds explanatory notes in a detailed appendix, keyed to asterisks in the body of the text. Davies keys her "Index of Personal Names" to pages in the text while Ford does not. For study and teaching, it looks like the competition may result in a dignified and spirited draw. Most serious readers doubtless will want to consult, as I have, both fine efforts side-by-side.
(This review, fittingly, is also on the Ford 1977 ed. listing on Amazon US. The UC press reissue has not yet been published. May both translations flourish.)
'Mabinogion' means "boy's tales" or something like that, and they are top-notch stories for anyone to hear... not quaint at all, not restricted to fantasy, some really had me thinking about stages of life. The stories are distilled from generations of storytelling, so you get that feeling of wisdom.
Anyway, I highly recommend it, especially because there are few other works from the same place and time to compare it to.
I alternated between this new translation of Davies and Charlotte Guest's Victorian one and enjoyed both however Davies gives a wealth of background information that I found very helpful.
Search online for "CSANA," "Pwyll," and "pronunciation"; you'll find audio recordings (by Dr Aled Llion Jones, a native Welsh speaker) of all of the names and place-names in the First Branch of the Mabinogi, "Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed."
The stories in this collection richly deserve to be called "world's classics." There is nothing quite like them.
Fairleigh Dickinson University
on behalf of the Celtic Studies Association of North America