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The Mabinogion (Penguin Classics) Paperback – November 18, 1976

4.0 out of 5 stars 41 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Language Notes

Text: English, Welsh (translation)

About the Author

Jeffrey Gantz lives in Massachusetts, where he works as a newspaper editor and journalist. An expert in Celtic languages and literature, he has also translated Early Irish Myths and Sagas for Penguin Classics.
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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reprint edition (November 18, 1976)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140443223
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140443226
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #313,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The publishing history of this edition, and its relationship to other translations of what is commonly known as "The Mabinogion," is a little complicated, and I think that is worth clearing up, although it may be a little tedious. However, my explanation of it should serve as "buyer's guide" if you are hesitating over exactly what to order.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Jeffrey Gantz's translation of The Mabinogion is not only the most readable to the modern man, unlike Guest, he doesn't delete passages thought "indelicate" by Victorian society. This is the best representation of these Welsh classics, and includes Gantz's own study of the mythology of these texts, a book in it's own right, as a prologue and at the beginning of each tale. A must for every library.
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Format: Paperback
Gantz has created a modern, readable translation of these eleven Welsh classics. Although they come from the same oral tradition and were captured on paper around the same time (1200s to 1400s), they are rarely related to each other. Each story has its unique character, like page after page of people named in 'How Culwch won Owen'. 'The Dream of Rohanbwy' likewise seems to be a listing of colored arms and costumes so detailed that the writer say, "no one ... knows The Dream without a book because of the many colors."

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.

//wiredweird
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Format: Paperback
The Mabinogion is an excellent collection of Welsh Celtic myths/legends. Certain tales are difficult to follow because of a large cast of characters and long list of events/deeds. Nevertheless, the Mabinogion portrays Celtic (Welsh) mythology well. There is an excellent summary of each tale, a guide to pronunciation of names and a map of the region. Together with the tales, these additions make this book exciting and easily accessible.
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Format: Paperback
Eleven Welsh tales written in the 13th century based on older oral versions which probably date back to pagan times. The quality and coherence of the tales varies. Some of them are well-told with good narrative flow and consisent, well-defined characters. Others are a confused jumble of seemingly random incidents which end abruptly with major conflicts still unresolved. Jeffrey Gatz's translation is plain and readable; nowhere near as murky or as dry as some translated "classics" I have struggled through. I noticed a slight change in tone from the gentle Celtic lilt in the first half of the book, to frequent use of Beowulf-like compounds ("ferocious-bold" "venomous-painful" "fierce-powerful" etc) in the Arthurian tales of the second half. Could it be that in the Arthurian romances, an intentionally archaic style was used by the writer? Dr. Gantz doesn't specifically mention this, though he does say that some of the vocabulary in the Mabinogion was obsolete even at the time it was written. An air of mystery and magic pervades all the stories.

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!
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