Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Its name comes from a misunderstanding made by the Mabinogion's first English translator, Lady Charlotte Guest: she found in one story the Welsh word mabynogyon and assumed it was the plural form of the Welsh mabinogi. The word mabinogi itself is something of a puzzle, although it is clearly related to the Welsh mab or "son, boy". Professor Eric P. Hamp suggests that mabinogi derives from the name of the Celtic deity Maponos, and refers to the materials pertaining to the god Maponos.
The stories of the Mabinogion appear in two Medieval Welsh manuscripts, the White book of Rhydderch (Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) written ca.1350, and the Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest) written about 1382-1410, although fragments of these tales have been preserved in earlier thirteenth century manuscripts. Scholars agree that the tales are older than the existing manuscripts, but disagree over just how much older. Sir Ifor Williams offered a date prior to 1100, based on linguistic and historical arguments, while later Saunders Lewis set forth a number of arguments for a date between 1170 and 1190; T.M. Charles-Edwards, in a paper delivered to the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion, discussed the strengths and weaknesses of both viewpoints, and while critical of the arguments of both scholars, notes that the language of the stories best fits the period between 1000 and 1100, although much more work is needed.
The question of the date of the Mabinogion is important because if it can be shown to have been written before Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britaniae, then the value of these stories as evidence for the early folklore and culture of Wales is that much stronger.
The Mabinogi proper consists of four stories, also called "The Four Branches of the Mabinogi." These stories are:
Since the Mabinogion's first compilation and translation by Lady Guest, seven other tales have been associated with the Four Branches. There are four stories that retell material from Welsh tradition and legend:
- The Dream of Macsen Wledig
- Lludd and Llefelys
- Culhwch and Olwen
- The Dream of Rhonabwy
The tales Culhwch and Olwen and The Dream of Rhonabwy have interested scholars because they preserve older traditions of King Arthur. The tale The Dream of Macsen Wledig is a romanticized story about the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus.
Three tales are Welsh versions of Arthurian Romances that also appear in the work of Chrétien de Troyes. While nineteenth century critics believed that these works were based on Chretien's own poems, some more recent critics have leaned towards believing that these two collections are based independently on a common ancestor.
- The Lady of the Fountain
- Peredur, son of Efrawg
- Gereint, son of Erbin
Also included by Lady Guest but dropped from later English translations which yet continue to use Guest's term Mabinogion is an eighth tale not found in the Red Book or White Book:
- Ford, Patrick K. The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977. ISBN 0520034147 (Includes "Taliesin" but omits "The Dream of Rhonabwy", "The Dream of Macsen Wledig" and the three Arthurian romances)
- Gantz, Jeffrey. Trans. The Mabinogion. London and New York: Penguin Books, 1976. ISBN 0140443223. (Omits "Taliesin")
- Guest, Lady Charlotte. The Mabinogion. Dover Publications, 1997. ISBN 0486295419 (Guest omits passages which only a Victorian would find at all risqué. This particular edition omits all Guest's notes.)
- Jones, Gwyn and Thomas Jones. The Mabinogion. Everyman's Library, 1949; revised in 1989, 1991. ISBN 0460872974 (Omits "Taliesin")
Welsh text and editions
- Branwen Uerch Lyr. Ed. Derick S. Thomson. Medieval and Modern Welsh Series Vol. II. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1976. ISBN 1855000598
- Culhwch and Olwen: An Edition and Study of the Oldest Arthurian Tale. Rachel, Bromwich and D. Simon Evans. Eds. and trans. Aberystwyth: University of Wales, 1988; Second edition, 1992.
- Cyfranc Lludd a Llefelys. Ed. Brynley F. Roberts. Medieval and Modern Welsh Series Vol. VII. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1975.
- Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch. Ed. J. Gwenogvryn Evans. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1973.
- Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi. Ed. Ifor Williams. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1951. ISBN 0708314074
- Pwyll Pendeuic Dyuet. Ed. R. L. Thomson. Medieval and Modern Welsh Series Vol. I. Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1986. ISBN 1855000512
- Charles-Edwards, T.M. "The Date of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi" Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1970): 263-298.
- Ford, Patrick K. "Prolegomena to a Reading of the Mabinogi: 'Pwyll' and 'Manawydan.'" Studia Celtica, 16/17 (1981-82): 110-25.
- Ford, Patrick K. "Branwen: A Study of the Celtic Affinities," Studia Celtica 22/23 (1987/1988): 29-35.
- Hamp, Eric P. "Mabinogi." Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1974-1975): 243-249.
- Sullivan, C. W. III (editor). The Mabinogi, A Books of Essays. New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0815314825
There is a new, extensively annotated translation of the four branches of the Mabinogi proper by Will Paker at
The Guest translation can be found with all original notes and illustrations at:
Versions without the notes, presumably mostly from the Project Gutenberg edition, can be found on numerous sites, including:
- Project Gutenberg Edition of The Mabinogion
- Lady Charlotte Guest's The Mabinogion
- The Mabinogion (Translation by Lady Charlotte Guest) from Mystic Realms
- The Arthurian Pages: The Mabinogion
- The Mabinogion
- Branwaedd: Mabinogion
- Timeless Myths: Mabinogion
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