Too often neglected (for a variety of reasons) Wales gave us not only Dylan Thomas and Roald Dahl, but the largely unknown and monumentally awesome Four Branches of the Mabinogion, a series of pre-Christian mythologies involving really, really cool stuff like Pwyll, who trades places with the king of the otherworld for a year and a day, and Math, who would die if he wasn't at war. . . .or had his feet in the lap of a virgin. This is mythology like you've never encountered—violent, scary, and wild as the woad-covered Celts who sang these stories to harp music in the red light of highland fires.
'On the bank of the river he saw a tall tree: from roots to crown one half was aflame and the other green with leaves'
Drawing on myth, folklore and history, the stories of the Mabinogion passed from generations of storytellers before they were written down in the thirteenth century in the form we now read them. Set in dual realms of the forests and valleys of Wales and the shadowy otherworld, the tales are permeated by a dreamlike atmosphere.
In 'Math Son of Mathonwy' two brothers plot to carry off the virginal Goewin, while in 'Manawydan Son of Llˆyr' a chieftain roams throughout Britain after a spell is cast over his land. And King Arthur's court provides the backdrop to tales such as 'How Culhwch Won Olwen', in which a young man must complete many tasks before he can marry a giant's daughter, and 'Peredur Son of Evrawg' who strives to prove his valour as a knight.
In his introduction, Jeffrey Gantz discusses the sources, oral tradition and artistry of the tales. This edition includes introductory prefaces to each story, a list for further reading and a note on pronunciation.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
Did you find this review helpful?