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Mabinogion > The Fourth Branch (General comments)

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message 1: by Lia (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
‘I cannot be killed indoors,’ he said, ‘nor out of doors; I cannot be killed on horseback, nor on foot.’
‘Well,’ she said, ‘how can you be killed?’

You can’t kill me in a house! You can’t kill me with a mouse!
You cannot kill me here or there! You cannot kill me anywhere!

I need to read more kids books, they’re fun.

message 2: by Lia (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
‘By making a bath for me on a riverbank, and constructing an arched roof above the tub, and then thatching that well and watertight. And bringing a billy-goat,’ he said, ‘and standing it beside the tub; and I place one foot on the back of the billy-goat and the other on the edge of the tub. Whoever should strike me in that position would bring about my death.’*

You might as well be immortal!

message 3: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments Lia wrote: "You might as well be immortal..."

Such conditions are a folklore theme, but the basic idea seems to be very, very ancient.

In one of the older layers of Hindu mythology, the King of the Gods, Indra, swears not to harm a particular Brahmin who happens to be an Asura, that is, a Titan or demon (yes, demons have Brahmins too....). He vows that he will not harm him on land or on water, with neither anything wet nor anything dry, etc.

This is supposed to make peace between the Asuras and their younger siblings, the Devas (gods). When it turns out the Brahmin in question is still assigning the benefits of sacrifices he conducts (yes, the gods offer sacrifices) to the Asuras, instead of the Devas, the Brahmin of the gods reveals how Indra can kill his rival without breaking his word -- at the tide-line, with a weapon made of sea-foam.

This works, and evades the oath, but Indra is still stricken by the sin of Brahminicide, and has to be purified, a long and complicated process with repercussions for mortals.

message 4: by Lia (last edited Jun 16, 2018 04:18PM) (new)

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Do you think it's possible that Welsh folklore at some point mixed with Hindu mythology?

I basically don't take the Mabinogi very seriously -- I think of it as entertainment for children. But I expect Hindu myth to be religious in nature -- the idea that people take this as godly behavior, and that it forms some kind of framework for social justice or morality, is terrifying! (then again, the Greek gods and even the Old Testament God had questionable moral code by modern standard as well.)

I was going to say Mabinogi is a lot like Grimms Brother or Aesop. But then I remember reading about Aesop as slaves "morality" tales for slaves to communicate their discontents with their masters without openly naming their oppressors, it's also a kind of warning-tale to let the masters know bad things will happen to them if they abuse their power and take things too far. So then as silly as it seems, it might serve some kind of didactic function.

I wonder if that's true for the Mabinogi as well.

message 5: by Ian (new)

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments Lia wrote: "Do you think it's possible that Welsh folklore at some point mixed with Hindu mythology?..."

The theme of paradoxical or absurd conditions is fairly universal in folklore, with so wide a distribution as to discourage source-hunting beyond specific details of the conditions.

But there is a creditable literature comparing the stories of Ireland of the Ulster Cycle (Cuchulain and all that) and various legendary kings, and its oldest laws, to the world of ancient Indian epic, including parallel customs and stories.

They are all attributed to a common origin in the deep Indo-European past, before the dialects that became the historical languages had parted company: not to rather difficult contacts in historical times.

There isn't enough early Welsh literature to make all the kinds of comparisons to India that are possible with Old Irish, but there are some, and the assumption is that there were more there, but haven't reached us.

Indra often runs into problems with Dharma, especially personal Dharma versus Universal Dharma. Although popular as the warlike King of the Gods (to judge from the hymns of the Rig Veda), he was apparently something of a problem for the Brahmins who transmitted India's Sanskrit heritage.

Some of the stories in the epics and Puranas (compilations of myths) may serve as something of a commentary on the unreliable nature of secular authorities, or the situation of kings who wind up doing morally wrong things for good practical reasons. (Compare Aesop, from the opposite end of the social hierarchy.) And some of the myths of Indra are just good stories.

Indra, violent and lustful, faded from the active pantheon, displaced mainly by Vishnu and Shiva, and stories about his "evil-doing" may have been a factor. (Not that Vishnu and Shiva always came off much better, frequently tricking Asuras and lesser demons instead of dealing with them fairly.)

Wendy Doniger O'Flaherty's book on "The Origins of Evil in Hindu Mythology" has a lot to say on the subject, and is entertaining to boot, but has been criticized for not using the Sanskrit literature on how to reconcile specific and general demands of Dharma in various situations. (Universal Dharma wins, of course.) But she was paying attention to how the issue appears in narrative literature. (She also points out that, in India, the Vedas are not revealed *by* the gods, but revealed *to* them, and that saying that a specific scripture was revealed by a deity is to call into question its orthodoxy.....)

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