The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales — Patrick K. Ford

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Ford, Patrick K.
The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales.
Berkley: University of California Press, 1977.
February 2008.
ISBN: 0520253964

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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 Dyfed,” “Branwen Daughter of Llyr,” “Manawydan Son of Llyr,” and “Math Son of Mathonwy.” All four of these tales are all included in Ford’s translation.

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. In addition, Ford 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.”

Ford also includes his translation of the “Tale of Gwion Bach,” known also as “The Tale of Taliesin.” Finally, in his Appendix Ford provides his singularly lucid translation of “Cad Goddeu,” or “Battle of the Trees.”

This is, hands down, absolutely the my favorite translation of the four branches of the Mabinogi and the native tales. Really. Ford has managed to capture the lively, intimate conversational tone, (including the acerbic wit) of the Welsh originals, something that previous translations didn’t manage.

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 introductions and notes, and for the not readily available “Tale of Gwion Bach.”

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