The Mabinogion

by Anonymous

Other authorsJeffrey Gantz (Translator)
Paperback, 1979



Call number





Penguin Classics (1979), Paperback, 320 pages


Then they took the flowers of the oak, and the flowers of the broom, and the flowers of the meadowsweet, and from those they conjured up the fairest and most beautiful maiden that anyone had ever seen.Celtic mythology, Arthurian romance, and an intriguing interpretation of British history -- these are just some of the themes embraced by the anonymous authors of the eleven tales that make up the Welsh medieval masterpiece known as the Mabinogion. They tell of Gwydion the shape-shifter, who can create a woman out of flowers; of Math the magician whose feet must lie in the lap of a virgin; of hanging a pregnant mouse and hunting a magical boar. Dragons, witches, and giants live alongside kings and heroes, and quests of honour, revenge, and love are set against the backdrop of a country struggling to retain its independence.Sioned Davies' lively translation recreates the storytelling world of medieval Wales and re-invests the tales with the power of performance.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member tlachtga
I'm splitting the difference between my love of the medieval collection (i.e. Y Mabinogi and the 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.) a literal translation: in that case, go with the Jones and Jones translation of the 1950s (IIRC), offered by Everyman

b.) a readable translation that also tries to give the flavor of the medieval original: in that case, go with Sioned Davies' translation from 2006.

c.) a translation that focuses on the pre-Christian mythology of the non-Romance tales: in that case, go with the Patrick Ford translation from the 1970s. The advantage of Ford's translation is its inclusion of the earliest version of "The Story of Taliesin"; the disadvantage is it doesn't include the Three Romances ("Peredur", "Owain", and "Gereint").

d.) a translation that focuses on the environment of Wales: the Bollard translation is great for this.
… (more)
LibraryThing member RobertDay
Not a full review: but I love the bardic interlude in the tale 'How Cwlhwch won Olwen', where in reward for a deed of heroism, the king offers Cwlhwch anything in the kingdom, and Cwlhwch says "I ask nothing but the hand in marriage of the fair maiden Olwen: and I invoke her in the names of your warriors." There then follows eight pages of names - an opportunity for any itinerant bard to name-drop like mad and get lots of cheers from the assembled audience - and at the end of this, the king says "I know nothing of this Olwen of whom you speak, or of her family, but if you can win her hand in marriage, marry her with my blessing."

It must have got a laugh then, it gave me a great laugh the first time I read it, and it goes to show that the best comedy routines are timeless!
… (more)
LibraryThing member jpsnow
Eleven Welsh stories dating from the 14th century shares much content with Morte d' Arthur. Arthur and Gwenhwyfar are principle characters. The tales shares parallels with Arthur, and Homer, and yet are much simpler and rustic. Comparatively, it's as if these tales were neither written by a single genius nor had time to be refined through successive iterations of storytelling.… (more)
LibraryThing member Brendan.H
The first four stories are really excellent, weird old stuff from pre-christian Wales that move quickly and are consistently entertaining and surprising. I found the Arthurian stories a little less interesting, though not terrible by any stretch. The Welsh taxonomy is just fantastic, and puzzling out the correct pronunciation of character and place names (with the help of the pronunciation guide) is a great game. Wales seems to get short shrift among Celt-crazy Americans, and it seems a bit unfair after reading this.

Also recommended if you enjoyed Lloyd Alexander in your youth, as he clearly drew heavily from this and similar sources.
… (more)
LibraryThing member yuuago
This collection of Welsh tales is a must-read for any lover of Arthurian literature. It contains "Culhwch and Olwen", the first full-length tale (that we know of) starring Arthur and his men in its entirety. Other tales contained in this collection bear resemblance to works by Chretien de Troyes, and serve as interesting comparisons to the French variations, which people are more likely to be familiar with.… (more)
LibraryThing member PetreaBurchard
I'm giving the Mabinogion five stars because it is so much itself. These old tales are not for everyone and the language comes down to us a bit stilted, but I love the repetition and pageantry. It's dreamlike: evil giants, strange beasts, knights so powerful they kill a thousand men in a day. I love phrases like "the loudest thing anyone ever heard" and "the hoary-haired man."

It's old-fashioned. It's put-downable. And there's nothing else like it.

Petrea Burchard
Camelot & Vine
… (more)
LibraryThing member baswood
"And they took counsel and cut out the tongues of the women lest they should corrupt their speech. And because of the silence of the women from their own speech, the men of Amorica are called Britons. From that time their came frequently, and still comes, that language from the island of Briton"

"And he (Lludd) dwelt therein most part of the year, and therefore was it called Caer Lludd, and at last Caer London. And after the stranger-race came there it was called London or Lwndrys"

The above must be true as I read them in Lady Guest's 1849 translation of the Mabinogion. These tales were collated from medieval Welsh manuscripts and draw on pre-Christian Celtic mythology. The first four stories in the collection are the oldest and are known as the four branches of the Mabinogi. Pryderi fab Pwyll from Welsh mythology occurs in all of them and they have a very medieval feel to them and are not always easy to follow. Magic features prominently in all of them and there is much going "to meat" and "taking counsel", however these feel more like crude devices to keep the story moving or to depict time passing. There is no character development: merely a relating of events, but these get a bit bogged down by the need to list the names of characters that might be relevant to the narrative.

The five following tales are more recognisable because they are based around the figure of king Arthur and his knights. There are still difficulties however as in Kilhwch and Olwen there is a four page list of Arthur's knights, which are largely unrecognisable in their Welsh spellings. However all the tales have some interest especially the dream vision of Rhonabwy, which features Arthur, Gawain and flocks of ravens.

The next three tales are all recognisable from Chretien de Troyes Arthurian Romances. The Lady of the Fountain has the same source material as "The knight with the lion (Yvain)" and "Peredur the son of Evrawc" and "Geraint the son of Erbin use material from "The story of the Grail". They do not however have the same Christian message as Chretien's tales for example we find this in Peredur:

"Then said Peredur, to heaven I render thanks that I have not broken my vow to the Lady that best I love, which was that I would not speak one word unto any Christian"

As these three tales in particular have not been dated, it is still not known whether they came from an original source or are adapted from Chretien de Troyes Arthurian Romances. The final story in the collection is Taliesin; the story of the Welsh bard and features some of the poems accredited to him. Apparently this is from a later manuscript and there is a direct reference to Christianity in the first poem that Taliesin wrote which ends like so:

There lies a virtue in my tongue.
While I continue thy protector
Thou hast not much to fear;
Remembering the name of the Trinity,
None shall be able to harm thee.

The Mabinogion is certainly of interest for those who wish to delve into the history of the Arthurian legends and to medievalists in general. The Lady Charlotte E Guest's translation has been criticised for a bowdlerisation of the original text and at times it feels a bit clunky. There are more recent translations available but these may not include the Taliesin poems
… (more)
LibraryThing member gwernin
The Mabinogion (Everyman Paperback Classics) by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones: This is not the most accessible translation of the Mabinogion, but it is the most literal, and most fully conveys the rhythmn and feel of the original language. Out of all the versions available this is my favorite. However, for a first time reader not familiar with the Welsh language, I think I would recommend Patrick Ford's "The Mabinogi" as being an easier read.… (more)
LibraryThing member Gwendydd
A very Victorian translation--she left out any bits that seemed even marginally naughty, and tended towards the romantic in her translation.
LibraryThing member jon1lambert
I remember buying this at Robert Fludd's bookshop on Palmerston Road in Southsea. I expect it was a warm summer afternoon. I also remember reading Mabinogion in connection with the Arthurian legend.
LibraryThing member mdrmoore
The 4 Branches stories are better than the other 2 parts. The native tales and the romances seemed to be tainted with Chrétien's touch. Favorite tale: Branwen, Daughter of Llŷr(Efnisien's complexity). Least Favorite: Culhwch and Olwen( way to many lists).
LibraryThing member tonidew
An accessible and eminently readable new translation with copious notes which are almost as interesting as the original stories themselves.
LibraryThing member jontseng
Full of Welsh people with silly names, but an interesting glimpse into folk memeries from the edges of History.
LibraryThing member Czrbr
Book Description: Dragons Dream, 1982. 1st trade paperback (4to) issued simultaneously with the hard cover edition. Illustrated with 45 gorgeous color plates by Alan Lee. As new
LibraryThing member JVioland
Fairly confusing Welsh mythology introducing ferries and other sprites among historical figures.
LibraryThing member infjsarah
Sadly I found the language style and way of storytelling dull. I read the first 4 mabagoni but then gave up - too much like hard work.
LibraryThing member pmtracy
Used mainly as a reference in a course. Would have liked footnotes instead of end notes but the information was helpful. I've found more modern translations to be more easily understood as some of the arcane word patterns here made reading comprehension challenging in some parts.
LibraryThing member Bernadette877
Jones & Jones highlight the distinctly differing styles of the anonymous manuscript writers, ranging from gritty tales where heroes die often and horribly, to courtly romances where to be a hero is to be invulnerable. I mostly enjoyed this book: there’s some really terrific tale telling. Just skip the pages where one anonymous was having all too much fun with this writing things down idea, naming every single person in Arthur's court... There are so many borrowings and adaptations of this Welsh cultural masterpiece in contemporary writing that it was all eerily half familiar. But definitely worth going back to the source.… (more)
LibraryThing member Helenliz
This is a set of tales translated from the original Welsh. They were collected together in the 1350s, although some of them probably have much older origins. They are from an oral tradition that was dying out, cultural changes meant that the old Welsh mode of living was being diminished. And you can see that within these stories, there are mounted knights and jousts - surely not a part of ancient Celtic life. There are some startling images, the sheep that change colour from black to white and back again as the cross the stream, the tree that is half burning flame and half in leaf, the colourful knights and messengers. It is captivating. It doesn't always, strictly, make sense. But there is something about them that captures the imagination. In the same vein as Beowulf, and again reflecting that transition from oral to written history, you could view this as being part of the touchstone of being Welsh.… (more)
LibraryThing member avarisclari
The stories themselves are fascinating, but between the Old English translation and the near impossible to pronounce names, this translation is a pass.
LibraryThing member woolgathering
This translation was pretty painful to get through. There were several instances of tense shifting within the same sentence, all throughout the book. The entire thing seemed kind of sloppy.
LibraryThing member MorgannaKerrie
Gorgeous collection of Welsh tales.


Original language


Original publication date

c. 1300 (White Book of Rhydderch)

Physical description

320 p.; 7 inches


0140443223 / 9780140443226

Similar in this library

Page: 0.3175 seconds