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The Mabinogion

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  6,490 ratings  ·  386 reviews
(Book Jacket Status: Not Jacketed)

Preface by John Updike

The 11 stories of The Mabinogion, first assembled on paper in the fourteenth century, reach far back into the earlier oral traditions of Welsh poetry.

Closely linked to the Arthurian legends--King Arthur himself is a character--they summon up a world of mystery and magic that is still evoked by the Welsh landscape the
Hardcover, Everyman's Library), 259 pages
Published February 13th 2001 by Everyman's Library (first published 1410)
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Jenni The Guest version is older. Charlotte Guest was the wife of a Welsh industrialist in the early 1800's. Women of high society could not know about unse…moreThe Guest version is older. Charlotte Guest was the wife of a Welsh industrialist in the early 1800's. Women of high society could not know about unseemly things. Guest left some of these unsavory moments (death, rape, violence) out of the Mabinogion. Translating it at all would have harmed her reputation.
To be fair Guest did leave in some naughty parts. The scene with Goewin the footholder and Gilfaethwy stayed in even though the brothers forced her. The story of Peredur Son of Efrawg does not leave out Peredur's mother's advice to "make love to a woman weather she wishes it or not."
I cannot read Welsh but people who can have told me that the Gantz version is truer to the original. The Oxford library now uses Sioned Davies's translation. I would recommend reading her version.(less)
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Mary Jones
I'm splitting the difference between my love of the medieval collection (i.e. Y Mabinogi and other Welsh tales) and Lady Charlotte Guest's sometimes-bowdlerized, romanticized, nineteenth-century (and I mean that in the worst possible way) translation (which would garner at best two stars, because I'm feeling generous). The real advantage of this book is if you're interested in the history of how the Mabinogion has been treated in the English language; otherwise, you should decide if you want

The Mabinogion is a collection of Welsh stories preserved in manuscripts from the fourteenth century, but it's assumed that the stories are older than that, they have been translated into English since the eighteenth century and this collection is in that tradition.

The odd thing about collections like this is the need to drop any idea of an original version of the stories. Stories are told and changed, always in flux until they are caught between the pages of a book. Then a version is set in ink
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: read part of Welsh history, connection to King Arthur stories
"On the bank of the river he saw a tall tree: from roots to crown one half was aflame and the other green with leaves."

Here is 11 Welsh stories with myth, folklore and history shining through. In a way, they are escapist stories, but real history grounds them. They were mostly written down from oral stories (from storytelling bards) around 13th century, and happen in the forest and valleys of Wales, and the shadowy otherworld connected to it. Each story has its own introduction; there is also a
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading the Mabinogion after a childhood spent reading books that were based on these Welsh myths: The Chronicles of Prydain, The Dark is Rising, The Owl Service... I recall that those retellings/recyclings were a bit more user-friendly, but what I love about mythology is the concentrated nature of it. These are oral traditions boiled down to their essence--the versions finally set to paper are meant to communicate what was really important to someone nearly 1000 years ago, from stories that ...more
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: myth-legend, medieval
I like mythological and I like medieval but this book is much more than that. There’s a dreaminess to these tales I find so surprising, seductive, and mysterious. They intoxicate me with dream and weird my imagination in wonderful ways.

That said, it’s a very uneven book. The first four “branches” are really where the sauce is. The tales that follow, mostly chivalric Arthurian adventures, can be dry (though interesting for predating any round tables or swanky grails). I’ll make an exception for t
Mark Adderley
This is an excellent translation of the Mabinogion. Unlike Gantz, Davies uses familiar spellings of names, which I like; unlike Jones and Jones, she divides dialogue up into paragraphs--a conversation can be pretty confusing when it's printed as a single paragraph. Above all, though, Davies translates for oral performance--they're wonderful stories to read aloud. Occasionally, when the action is getting intense, Davies will switch to the present tense, as the Welsh originals do. It makes the nar ...more
Supervisor wanted me to use a different translation to my old one (the Everyman 1993 edition). So I had to get this one. It's supposed to be more accurate -- I don't know about that, but it does seem a bit more immediate and colourful than the old Everyman edition. The little I know suggests it is a good translation, and it's certainly readable, and has a full complement of explanatory notes, introduction, etc, which is more than I can say for the Everyman edition. Slightly odd order of tales, n ...more
Julian Worker
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where does the title 'Mabinogion' come from? Its use for this collection of tales dates from the 19th Century when Lady Charlotte Guest's version of these 11 myths appeared in book form. However, Mabinogion is not even a Welsh word. Mabinogi is a Welsh word, but in these texts only appears in the first four of these stories. The real title should be 'The Mabinogi and Other Early Welsh Tales'.

I thought I'd clear that up as I've always wondered where the title came from.

These stories were not writ
Aug 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a group of 12 Welsh legends that feature King Arthur along with other kings. They are stories passed down orally and have mnemonic devices imbedded in them to aide in the telling so they sometimes sound odd to our modern ears. There is so much here that appears in current day literature. There are magical creatures and wells and rocks and carpets, shape shifting, giants, fierce warriors, fair maidens, unbelievably delicious food, and chesslike games, etc. everything that appears in moder ...more
Eddie Watkins
Feb 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: froggy princes
Recommended to Eddie by: John Cowper Powys
Shelves: myth
A wonderfully curious collection of old Welsh tales. Not exactly literature, not exactly folktales, not exactly mythology. Like folk tales and mythology it’s the expression of a collective mindset, yet it’s also the product of individual (now anonymous) authors elaborating upon or distilling long existent oral tales, more than likely preserved across centuries by highly skilled bards. The introduction refers to them as Wondertales, actually an official subset of Folktales. Sounds wonderful to me ...more
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The contents of this book are:
The Mabinogion “proper” (its four branches, Pwyll, Branwen, Manawydan, and Math), The Dream of Macsen Wledig, Lludd and Llefelys, Culhwch and Olwen, The Dream of Rhonabwy, The Lady of the Fountain, Peredur, and Gereint, Son of Ervin.

I used this collection of Welsh tales to gain key insight into connections with the English language by comparing the names of characters and locations to their English counterparts.
Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed is the first tale collected h
Aug 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How does a person even presume to review a book that has survived 700 years, containing stories that survived close to their current form without anyone writing them down for a further 300 years?

I originally picked up the book because Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain is based on Welsh myth, Mabinogion is _the_ collection of Welsh myth, and is even acknowledged by the author as one of his sources. Who would want to read some of the proto-stories that gave us the Black Cauldron, and Arwan
(Sixth book/seventh text in the readathon.)

It's been a long time since I read this in its entirety, if I ever did. I picked it up since I seemed to be on a role with Arthurian stuff, and was surprised to find how many of the stories do have some Arthurian aspect. I was under the impression it was only one or two.

I like the Joneses translation, although the 'thou'ing gets a little irritating and hard to read at times -- perhaps mostly once it's 8am and you haven't slept that night.

Interesting tha
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, folklore
The Mabinogion is a collection of ancient Welsh folk stories, and Lady Charlotte Guest did a brilliant job bringing them into English. She not only made them read like stories and not dry translations, but she added a ton of her own notes and research, like about places in Wales that were still connected with these traditional stories into the nineteenth century when she did her work. (I read this in hard copy, not on Kindle, but I couldn't find the edition I read.) ...more
Barnaby Thieme
I cannot say why I resonate with some cultures and times more than others - why, for example, I love the literature of Sumer but not Egypt. I can say that I am grateful that we have the Mabinogion to puzzle over, to study, and to treasure as an invaluable source of information about the literature and history of the Welsh, even if I do not deeply respond to it on an artistic level to the same degree as, say, The Book of Invasions, with which it was approximately contemporaneous.

Tales of uneven
I guess this was a good book to read for awhile while sick.

While I like the stories, this edition is the reason I'm giving this three stars. NO GLOSSARY? They had a brief how translate the words in the beginning, but I think it was needed at the end with all the characters mentioned. Got confusing and the Welsh names don't help.

What I liked best was this version's of Arthur. Not the best Arthurian book, but it was interesting he was already a hero and just a king at this point. He's not the main
Oct 26, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Krissy
The Mabinogion is a collection of medieval Welsh tales that makes up a rich mythological tradition. The tales themselves are only tangentially related - only one character, Pryderi, appears in all four branches. Nevertheless the tales are fascinating, rich and varied in their interpretation. This translation, Sioned Davies, was recommended to me as a good starting point so I happily took it. I'll likely try out other translations as the year goes on.

Not being too thoroughly versed in Welsh cultu
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always been extremely fond of the Mabinogion, and it was delightful to reread these stories (in Gwyn Jones's translation). Manawydan the son of Llyr and The Lady of the Fountain are two favourites, and I love the distinctive Welshness of these stories. ...more
Daniel Summerstay
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
This was, quite possibly, the most enjoyable medieval book I've read (although, admittedly, it's also the latest). One thing I appreciated was all the references to knowledge the storytellers assumed the reader had. Those are what really made reading this book feel like a complete departure to an earlier time, moreso than The Canterbury Tales which is also a collection of stories from the 14th century. The characters, especially in the four branches, were also more realistic and 3-dimensional th ...more
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such a fun read (though the names were a challenge - ”Gwlwlwyd”!?) with some great stories. I thought the Four branches were the best part of it, the Arthurian adventures were ok (especially ”Owein/The countess of the fountain”) but they also show a shift in tone with knightly valor (and more solo adventures) and courtly love. As I find heroes like Peredur a real snore these stories were less interesting to me and harder to get through.

There are a lot of recurring themes and formulaic patterns
Lady Mayfair
From my notes:

1. Mabinogi is a scribal error, derived from the Welsh word mab meaning ‘boy, son’. As a result, mabinogi are tales for the young, stories for youth.
2. Llyma dechreu mabinogi - this is the beginning of a mabinogi.
3. He who is leader, let him be a bridge - Welsh proverb, here taken quite literally.
4. Englyn - is one of the oldest Welsh strict-metre forms, here an early three-lined type (four lined is the norm today), written in a complex system involving the repetition on conson
russell barnes
I'd heard of the Mabinogion, but just assumed it was just a Welsh version of Chaucer, and at £2 in a second hand bookshop it seemed a decent gamble.

Having read it, I now seem to have accidentally read three quarters of the key medieval texts about King Arthur. This isn't necessarily a terrible thing as all three have been quite enjoyable, but I'm not sure what I'm going to do with my new-found knowledge about corrupt folios, Red Books, White Books and the movement of the legends from Wales and
Mar 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asnc-y
I love the stripped-down style of the original tales (well. Apart from the, what, five pages of all the knights that were at Arthur's court that day in one of the tales. I imagine that sounded lovely and lyrical when it was being performed aloud, but in written form it does drag a little) and I think Jeffrey Gantz has done a brilliant job in capturing a slightly archaic, but still perfectly readable cadence here. I also like the way names are left untranslated in the text, but are usually footno ...more
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
this book is a classic that I finally had to read. many stories or parts of them were already known to me. now I read the whole mabinogion. of course some parts are pretty much ridiculous from our point of view. but the stories are rich with mystery, history, magic, mythology and most of all love for wales. this is what made me read and enjoy it very much. many places are known to me. what a great collection, for me this ranges in the same league with other sagas I have read, like the edda, kale ...more
I have read several versions of The Mabinogion, but would love to track down this edition. Illustrations by Alan Lee: what could be better? He names certain of his influences as Arthur Rackham, Edward Dulac, and the Pre-Raphaelites, on his 'author' page here. ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay I read it again! And it's still amazing! ...more
Lilaia Moreli
Fascinated with all things related to the Celtic tradition, I sought for any written sources associated with mythology and literature that would shed light on the wisdom and worldview of this culture. It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon the Mabinogion in an online research.

The Mabinogion are the earliest prose stories of the literature of Britain, namely Wales. The book is a collection comprised of twelve stories compiled in Middle Welsh during the 12th and 13th centuries from earlier oral tra
May 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this with my Classics Book Club. Although I found it interesting, my mental state due to other parts of my life found me just “reading” and not really “comprehending” and therefore it colored my rating.

In some ways I find this more interesting to read and follow than Mallory’s LeMorte D’Arthur. Many of the tales were easy to imagine being read aloud to children.
G. Lawrence
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating collection of Welsh folk tales, if a little meandering at times.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not really a review, but I was asked for an opinion, so:

I'm nowhere near a qualified scholar of anything Welsh; therefore, I probably missed a lot of intricacies. On the top of that, I read the translation that is generally viewed as inferior. But needs (student's ever-empty pockets) must, so free ebook on smartphone during the commute it was.

Things I noticed:
-Invisibility and magic cauldrons play a great part, even in latter, Christian-influenced works. There are some elaborate illusions as wel
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Essays: Peredur son of Efrog 9 4 Jun 16, 2018 07:15PM  
Essays: The Third Branch (General comments) 1 3 Jun 15, 2018 08:16PM  
Essays: The Second Branch (General comments) 3 3 Jun 14, 2018 05:58PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Combine Books 3 12 Feb 16, 2017 03:59AM  

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Books can be attributed to "Anonymous" for several reasons:

* They are officially published under that name
* They are traditional stories not attributed to a specific author
* They are religious texts not generally attributed to a specific author

Books whose authorship is merely uncertain should be attributed to Unknown.

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