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The Mabinogion

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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  6,296 ratings  ·  356 reviews
The Mabinogion (Welsh pronunciation: mabɪˈnɔɡjɔn) is a collection of 11 prose stories collated from medieval Welsh manuscripts. The tales draw on pre-Christian Celtic mythology, international folktale motifs and early medieval historical traditions. While some details may hark back to older Iron Age traditions, each of the tales is the product of a developed medieval Welsh ...more
Paperback, 311 pages
Published August 26th 1976 by Penguin Classics (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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Average rating 3.94  · 
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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

a.)
...more
Jan-Maat
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
...more
7jane
Sep 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Julian Worker
Jan 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
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
...more
nastya
Not being a Brit, I stumbled upon this collection quite randomly. Never heard of it before, but, they turned out to be the earliest prose stories of Britain. Collection itself felt arbitrary, not very cohesive, maybe because Lady Charlotte Guest just decided it is, the writing itself has little in common, only that the stories are quite old and written in Welsh, that's all.

So it's no wonder my enjoyment varied quite a lot. My least favorite were definitely Arthurian stories and romances. They ar
...more
Christine
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
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
Mark
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
...more
Philip of Macedon
What we call the Mabinogion today is a collection of eleven stories from the Red Book of Hergest, one of the Four Ancient Books of Wales, and the White Book of Rhydderch, another medieval Welsh manuscript.

Four of these mythical stories end with a vague allusion to being one of four branches of “the Mabinogi”, giving the collection its name, and the others are hero quests, Arthurian romances, spectacular and chemerical pseudo-historical sagas, which might or might not be related to the first four
...more
Jeffrey
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
...more
Emily
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
Morgan
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
...more
Nicky
(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
...more
Suzannah
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Terese
May 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
...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, more so 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 t ...more
Lady Selene 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
...more
russell barnes
Oct 21, 2009 rated it liked it
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
...more
Basicallyrun
Mar 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Katrin
Feb 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Alys
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Okay I read it again! And it's still amazing! ...more
Valentina Moreli
Nov 25, 2017 rated it liked it
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
...more
Glenda
May 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
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.
Grant
May 04, 2022 rated it really liked it
Shelves: myth
A fascinating look at the evolution of welsh myth, from the surreal beginnings to the more courtly romances at the end.
G. Lawrence
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating collection of Welsh folk tales, if a little meandering at times.
Helen
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
...more
Briynne
May 08, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I honestly tried really hard to like this. I wanted to like it and expected to like it, but it just didn't happen. I feel really bad about the two stars because this collection of old Welsh stories has a lot of historical significance. I think I read in the intro that it contains the first recorded Arthurian tales (or something of that nature), and it is supposed to be a cool example of older Celtic mythology adapted into mostly-Christianized, partly-Frenchified court romances and adventures. Gr ...more
Laura
Apr 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
First off, this is infinitely more entertaining after just having finished Tears to Tiara, on account of that Celtic mythology translates to anime *so well* that it is actually makes more sense in the context of the show than in literature. I mean, this is perfectly normal behavior for any self-respecting Celtic hero. Totally. Tame for a warp spasm!

Also, you can shout ARAAAWWWNNN every time he shows up. Because why not?



The Chretien/Mabinogion Arthuriana stories are so hilariously broship it's ri
...more
Richard S
I feel sad when I read these stories, because there was probably a time when they were coherent, and were probably pretty good. These feel like they were written down by someone with an unclear memory, who may have heard them a long time prior. As a result, their value is rather limited to me. Maybe they hint at something in the distant past, especially with the names, but I find it difficult to believe they are the basis of a coherent Welsh mythology or cultural history. They do hint at _someth ...more
Carl Barlow
Aug 05, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very violent, very bloody, more than a bit bonkers, utterly charming. Truly the Matter of Britain. Davies' translation is clear and learned, with copious and quite fascinating notes that only add to the wonder. I now understand why Cerys Matthews thanks the lord she's Welsh. ...more
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