Ford, Patrick K.
The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales.
Berkley: University of California Press, 1977.
February 2008, second edition.
The mabinogi, as the four branches are probably properly called, are a collection of four interrelated Welsh mythological tales. They consist, in order, of “Pwyll, Prince of Dyved,” Branwen Daughter of Llyr,” “Manawydan Son of Llyr,” and “Math Son of Mathonwy.” These are all included.
Ford also translates the two “native tales,” “The Dream of Maxen Wledig” and “The Story of Lludd and Lleuelys,” tales about Wales’ mythological past from the point of view of the medieval Welsh. Ford also includes two very Welsh Arthurian tales, the odd and very funny tale of “Culhwch and Olwen,” and the Arthurian dream vision, “The Dream of Rhonabwy.” In addition, unlike other modern translations of the group of tales known as the Mabinogion, edited and translated by Charlotte Guest, Ford includes his translation of the “Tale of Gwion Bach, ” known also as “The Tale of Taliesin.” In his Appendix Ford includes the only lucid translation of “Cad Goddeu,” or “Battle of the Trees” that I’ve ever read.
This is, hands down, absolutely the best translation of the four branches of the Mabinogi, and of the “native tales.” Really. Ford has managed to capture the lively, intimate conversational tone, (including the acerbic wit) of the Welsh originals, something that no other translator has managed.
In addition, the Introduction and headnotes provide provocative guides to thinking about the tales in the context of medieval Celtic literature, for either the novice or the scholar. Even if you have another translation, read this one for Ford’s notes, and for the not readily available “Tale of Gwion Bach.”
You really can’t find a better person than Patrick Ford to guide you as you read the Mabinogi.