1 The Mabinogi
1.1 The aim of this book is to give a foundation for the reading of Middle Welsh. Within the Welsh of the Middle Ages there are writings
of various genres, styles, and subjects. This book concentrates on the Welsh of the Mabinogi, and especially on the first two
tales of the collection. Experience suggests that if you can read these with understanding of structure and form you can probably handle
the other parts of the Mabinogi, and can move with fair ease to the wider literature of the period -- the laws, lives of the saints,
histories, and poetry.
1.2 The great collection of Medieval Welsh stories is found in two manuscripts, the White Book of
Rhydderch (in the National Library of Wales,
at Aberystwyth) and the Red Book of Hergest (in the Bodleian Library
at Oxford). When these stories were first presented to the modern
world, all eleven of them were called by the erroneous term Mabinogion. Then it became clear that this name, in the more correct
form Mabinogi, referred only to four of them, so that we were left without a convenient name for the collection as a whole.
1.3 The eleven stories are as follows:
- The four "branches" of the Mabinogi. These deal with mythical characters from the earliest layers of Welsh tradition. All four refer,
however obliquely, to the hero Pryderi, from his birth in the first to his death in the last. The four branches are:
- Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed -- 'Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed'
- Branwen Ferch Lyr -- 'Branwen, Daughter of Llyr'
- Manawydan Fab Lyr -- 'Manawydan, Son of Llyr'
- Math Fab Mathonwy -- 'Math, Son of Mathonwy'
- Three Romances linked to the Arthurian cycle, closely connected with the French versions of the same stories presented by
Chrétien de Troyes:
- Peredur Fab Efrawg -- 'Peredur, Son of Efrawg', corresponding to the French Perceval
- Gereint Fab Erbin -- 'Gereint, Son of Erbin', the French Erec
- Owein -- 'Owein', also known as Iarlles y Ffynnon -- 'The Lady of the Fountain', the French Yvain
- Two Dreams:
- Breuddwyd Macsen -- 'The Dream of Maxen'
- Breuddwyd Ronabwy -- 'The Dream of Rhonabwy'
- In some ways the most archaic of the collection, in which heroes of the mythical and legendary eras are gathered
around Arthur in a quest story:
- Culhwch ac Olwen -- 'Culhwch and Olwen'
- A short tale of two brothers and how they dealt with plagues that afflicted the Isle of Britain:
- Lludd a Llefelys -- 'Lludd and Llefelys'
1.4 Nine of these eleven stories are available in annotated students' editions, all in print. The four
most useful for the majority of beginners, since they have notes and vocabularies in English, are published by the
Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies: (see
1.5 Then there are five with Welsh notes and vocabularies, published by the
University of Wales Press (Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru):
- Pwyll, ed. R.L. Thomson, 1957
- Branwen, ed. Derek S. Thomson, 1986
- Owein, ed. R.L. Thomson, 1975
- Lludd a Llefelys, ed. Brynley F. Roberts, 1975
- Manawydan and Math, together with Pwyll and Branwen, in Ifor Williams' pioneering
edition Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi -- 'The Four Branches of the Mabinogi', which first appeared in 1930
and has been reprinted many times
- Peredur, ed. G.W. Goetinck, 1976
- Culhwch ac Olwen, ed. R. Bromwich and D. Simon Evans, 1988
- Breuddwyd Ronabwy, ed. G. Melville Richards, 1948 and reissues
1.6 For the other two you will have to go to out-of-print texts:
- Breuddwyd Macsen, ed. Ifor Williams (Bangor 1928)
- Gereint -- not available as a separate text, see the Bibliography for collections (see
All text copyright © 1996 by Gareth Morgan.
Online layout copyright © 2001 by Daniel Morgan.