British and Irish Literature Mabinogion
by
Catherine McKenna
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 June 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 October 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0036

Introduction

The term “Mabinogion” was employed by Lady Charlotte Guest in her translation of eleven Middle Welsh prose narratives and one from the 16th century, published in three volumes between 1838 and 1849. It has for some time been generally accepted that the term derives from a scribal error in the Red Book of Hergest, her principal manuscript source. Each of four texts concludes in the Red Book with a colophon stating that “thus ends this branch of the mabinogi,” but in one case the scribe has written mabynnogyon rather than mabinogi, mabinyogi, or mabinogy. Lady Guest seems to have understood mabinogion as a plural form, and applied it as such to her collection of tales. And indeed, recent work by Diana Luft has shown that mabinogion had been used as a plural of mabinogi before Lady Guest published her collection. Although the term mabinogi applies explicitly only to what are now generally known as the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, the term “Mabinogion” has turned out to be a convenient label for the eleven extant medieval narratives of Welsh origin (as opposed to medieval Welsh translations of texts from other literary traditions). Three translations of “The Mabinogion” that employ the term to refer to those eleven tales are currently in print. In addition to the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, the Mabinogion comprises three tales that have been described (but not without resistance) as chivalric romances. Each of these has a counterpart among the works of Chrétien de Troyes, although they seem not to be derived (at least not directly) from Chrétien. And there are four additional tales, unrelated to one another. All eleven Mabinogion texts are anonymous, and none of them has been dated with certainty. The earliest manuscript source of all eleven tales is the Red Book of Hergest (c. 1382–1400). Ten of them are found in the somewhat earlier White Book of Rhydderch (c. 1350), and there are fragments of two of the Four Branches (Branwen and Manawydan) in Peniarth 6, a manuscript of the mid-13th century. It is generally agreed that the texts are older than these manuscripts, that Culhwch and Olwen is the oldest of the eleven, and The Dream of Rhonabwy most likely the latest. Most scholars would place the composition of the Mabinogion texts between the late 11th century and the end of the 12th, but others would argue for a later date for some of them.

General Overviews and Critical Studies

Despite the convenience of the umbrella term “Mabinogion” for the eleven medieval Welsh prose narratives, even the most general critical works tend to focus on either the Four Branches or the three “romances,” and those are cited under Four Branches and Three “Romances”. The best overviews of the Mabinogion as a whole are the introductions to two modern translations, Davies 2007 and Jones and Jones 1974 (cited under Translations). Mac Cana 1992 is a 140-page overview of the Mabinogion texts and a concise review of scholarship to that point. Jarman and Hughes 1992 includes chapters that, taken together, survey all of the tales. Roberts 1992a and Roberts 1992b appear in is a collection of essays, most of them treating Mabinogion texts. Roberts is particularly interested in the processes through which oral traditional narrative acquires literary form and the transformations that it undergoes in authorial hands. Of the essays in this volume, Roberts 1992a and Roberts 1992b encompass the widest range of Mabinogion texts. Davies 1995 also proceeds from a belief in the oral origins of the Mabinogion texts, but Davies is more inclined than Roberts to see them as preserving oral traditional features in their written forms. The relationship of the Mabinogion texts to oral tradition has been one of the principal preoccupations of scholarship, and Nagy 2001 reviews the history of the folkloristic approach to these texts. Luft 2011 is a fascinating review of the history of the terms mabinogi and mabinogion that helps the reader to understand how the eleven Mabinogion texts might have come to be understood as a coherent collection, effectively challenging the traditional scholarly view that Lady Charlotte Guest in titling her translations of these tales simply made a mistake. Davies 1997 is a delightful study unique in its coverage of all eleven texts while focusing exclusively on a single narrative motif, the horse.

  • Davies, Sioned. Crefft y Cyfarwydd: Astudiaeth o Dechnegau Naratif yn Y Mabinogion. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1995.

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    A detailed study of the Mabinogion tales from the perspective of their origins in oral tradition and survival as texts in oral performance. Davies’s oral traditionalist approach informs the introduction to her translation of the Mabinogion (Davies 2007, cited under Translations) and her study of the Four Branches (Davies 1993, cited under Criticism and Commentary) but is set out more fully in this Welsh language book.

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    • Davies, Sioned. “Horses in the Mabinogion.” In The Horse in Celtic Culture: Medieval Welsh Perspectives. Edited by Sioned Davies and Nerys Ann Jones, 121–140. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1997.

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      A survey of all the horses that appear in the eleven Mabinogion tales, focusing on the descriptions of these horses but with some attention to their functions within the stories. A useful catalogue for those interested in the role that horses play in any of the tales.

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      • Jarman, A. O. H., and Gwilym Rees Hughes, eds. A Guide to Welsh Literature. Vol. 1. Rev. ed. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1992.

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        This collaborative history includes a chapter on the Four Branches that provides a useful overview of early critical approaches, including W. J. Gruffydd’s argument that they were in origin a coherent heroic biography of Pryderi. Chapter 9, “Tales and Romances,” situates several of the Mabinogion tales in the context of storytelling tradition, the origins of literary narrative, and Arthurian tradition.

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        • Luft, Diana. “The Meaning of Mabinogi.” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 62 (2011): 57–79.

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          Where Hamp 1974–1975 (cited under The Four Branches: Criticism and Commentary: Origins) treats the word mabinogi linguistically, Luft treats it historically, surveying the use of the term from the Middle Ages through the 19th century. She shows that the form mabinogion as a plural did not originate with Lady Charlotte Guest and that the term mabinogi has always been a source of confusion, understood and employed in a variety of ways, none of which resolves the question of why the Four Branches are so called.

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          • Mac Cana, Proinsias. The Mabinogi. 2d ed. Writers of Wales Series. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1992.

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            Although the title suggests that it deals exclusively with the Four Branches, this little book provides a brief overview of and introduction to all eleven Mabinogion texts. It serves as a useful survey of early scholarship and of some of the work published in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as a succinct account of Mac Cana’s own views on the origins of Welsh narrative prose.

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            • Nagy, Joseph Falaky. “Folklore Studies and the Mabinogion.” In 150 Jahre ‘Mabinogion’: Deutsch-walisische Kulturbeziehungen. Edited by Bernhard Maier and Stefan Zimmer, 91–100. Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer, 2001.

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              Reviews the embedded nature of much Mabinogion criticism in mythological and folkloristic approaches from its beginnings in the work of W. J. Gruffydd down to the early 21st century. A useful survey and critique of the work of some early scholars.

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              • Roberts, Brynley F. “Tales and Romances.” In Studies on Middle Welsh Literature. By Brynley F. Roberts, 41–79. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1992a.

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                A reprint of Chapter 9 in Jarman and Hughes 1992, this essay charts a trajectory of developing strategies of narrative prose in Welsh, touching upon Lludd and Llefelys, The Deam of Maxen, Culhwch and Olwen, Peredur, Gereint, Owein, and The Dreawm of Rhonabwy

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                • Roberts, Brynley F. “From Traditional Tale to Literary Story.” In Studies on Middle Welsh Literature. By Brynley F. Roberts, 81–94. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1992b.

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                  Originally published in Leigh A. Arrathoon, ed. The Craft of Fiction: Essays in Medieval Poetics (Rochester, MI: Solaris, 1984). Like Roberts1992a, this chapter continues to explore the development of literary prose out of oral tradition, with reference to Lludd and Llefelys, The Dream of Maxen, Culhwch and Olwen, Peredur, Gereint, Owein, and The Dream of Rhonabwy.

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                  Reference Works

                  These resources serve as a good starting point for the reader new to the study of the Mabinogion. Koch 2006 is the more recent work and provides more extensive cross references, as well as some bibliography for further research, but Stephens 1998 remains a useful basic reference work.

                  • Koch, John T., ed. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.

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                    A convenient starting place, this encyclopedia provides extensive internal cross-references to related articles and brief bibliographies. A good starting point is the entry in on “Mabinogi/Mabinogion.”

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                    • Stephens, Meic, ed. The New Companion to the Literature of Wales. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1998.

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                      A single volume encyclopedia with some cross-referencing. There are entries on “Mabinogion” and on the individual tales.

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                      Manuscript Sources, Catalogues, and Diplomatic Editions

                      The principal medieval manuscript sources of the Mabinogion texts are the White Book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hergest. The White Book (c. 1350) contains ten of the eleven tales and the Red Book (c. 1382–1400) contains all eleven. John Gwenogvryn Evans published early diplomatic editions of the pertinent sections of both (Evans 1898–1905), but these have now been superseded by digitized images of the two manuscripts and diplomatic editions of the prose that they contain freely available online. Important to Mabinogion studies for various reasons, including the evidence they provide for dating of the texts, are several other medieval manuscripts. Peniarth 6, a composite manuscript, comprises one leaf of each of Branwen and Manawydan (c. 1250), and a 14th-century fragment of Gereint. Peniarth 7 (c. 1300) contains a text of Peredur that is of increasing interest to scholars, as does Peniarth 14 (c. 1325). Peniarth 16 (c. 1275) contains The Dream of Maxen, and Jesus College Oxford MS 20 (c. 1400) contains a text of Owein. Except for Jesus College 20, none of these is available digitally. Huws 1991, Huws 2003, and Charles-Edwards 1979–1980 provide excellent introductions to the two principal manuscripts. The Medieval Welsh Prose project (Thomas, et al. 2007) contains transcriptions of the texts from both of them.

                      • Charles-Edwards, Gifford. “The Scribes of the Red Book of Hergest.” National Library of Wales Journal 21 (1979–1980): 246–256.

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                        Remains the definitive analysis in English of the structure of the Red Book (c. 1382–1400) and account of its principal scribe, Hywel Fychan, and his patron, Hopcyn ap Tomas.

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                        • Gwenogvryn Evans, J., ed. Great Britain, Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts: Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1898–1905.

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                          This remains the standard catalogue of the Peniarth manuscripts and the best resource for those Mabinogion manuscripts (Peniarth 6, 7, 14, and 16) not represented in Thomas, et al. 2007 nor discussed in detail by Daniel Huws. The Peniarth manuscripts are catalogued in Volume 1, Parts 2 and 3.

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                          • Huws, Daniel. “Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch.” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 21 (1991): 1–37.

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                            The leading authority on medieval Welsh manuscripts examines the scripts, quiring, and decoration of the White Book, and discusses its likely production at the Cistercian monastery of Strata Florida for Rhydderch ap Ieuan Llwyd, c. 1350.

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                            • Huws, Daniel. “Llyfr Coch Hergest.” In Cyfoeth y Testun: Ysgrifau ar Lenyddiaeth Gymraeg yr Oesoedd Canol. Edited by Iestyn Daniel, Marged Haycock, Dafydd Johnston, and Jenny Rowland, 1–30. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2003.

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                              A more detailed account of the Red Book of Hergest than Charles-Edwards 1979–1980, based on a fresh examination of the manuscript. Includes a detailed study of the preparation, construction, and collation of the manuscript (including a number of apparently blank leaves now missing) and a more detailed list, gathering by gathering, of its contents. In Welsh.

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                              • Jesus College Oxford MS 20.

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                                A manuscript from the late 14th century containing various texts, including chronicles, and a single Mabinogion tale: Owein.

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                                • Red Book of Hergest. Jesus College Oxford MS 111.

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                                  This late-14th-century anthology of Welsh prose and poetry is our earliest source for all eleven Mabinogion tales, although they do not appear together in the manuscript.

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                                  • Thomas, Peter Wynn, D. Mark Smith, and Diana Luft, eds. “Rhyddiaith Gymraeg 1350–1425.” 2007.

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                                    This extremely useful database, freely available, provides online transcriptions of the prose in fifty-four medieval Welsh manuscripts, including the White Book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hergest. It permits the user to browse through a given manuscript or to search for a particular text in all project manuscripts in which it appears. It also allows searches for particular words, phrases, etc.

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                                    • White Book of Rhydderch. National Library of Wales MSS Peniarth 4 and 5.

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                                      The original White Book was divided at one point in its history into two manuscripts, of which only Peniarth 4 is available digitally. It is Peniarth 4, however, that contains the ten Mabinogion texts (all but The Dream of Rhonabwy).

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                                      Translations

                                      There is no modern scholarly edition of the Mabinogion as a whole, but as shown under Manuscript Sources, Catalogues, and Diplomatic Editions, all eleven texts as they appear in either or both of the two medieval manuscript sources are available online. There have been a number of translations of the Mabinogion as a whole since Lady Charlotte Guest’s in the mid-19th century. Of the translations currently available, Jones and Jones 1974 is the most literal but employs a somewhat archaic diction. Bollard 2006, Bollard 2007, and Bollard 2010 are faithful and transparent translations accompanied by color photographs of places in Wales associated with the tales. Davies 2007 and Ford 1977 (which includes only six of the ten Mabinogion tales) are lively and colloquial translations that are nevertheless faithful to their originals. The introductions to these translations take different critical approaches. Thomas Jones and Gwyn Jones (whose translation was first published in 1948) subscribe to the theory of W. J. Gruffydd. This theory was published in the first half of the 20th century and claims the Four Branches represent a heroic biography of Pryderi, the sole character to appear in all four; this is a story that according to Gruffydd came to be buried among other traditional material in the redaction of the Four Branches, which was seen as an attempt to record received narrative tradition rather than shape a literary fiction. Gruffydd’s views of the Four Branches have been almost entirely discarded, and accordingly his two books and two major articles on the subject have not been listed in this bibliography. However, the Joneses’ introduction provides an excellent overview of Gruffydd’s argument. Their position on the so-called Mabinogionfrage, i.e., the question of the relationship of the Welsh tales of Owein, Gereint ab Erbin, and Peredur to Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain, Erec et Enide, and Perceval, is firmly nativist. The 1974 revised edition of the Joneses’ translation includes a supplementary introduction by Gwyn Jones, in which he backs away slightly from the mythological interpretation of the Mabinogion tales that pervades the 1948 introduction, emphasizing rather their nature as wonder tales (as that genre has been defined by folklorists). Ford 1977 provides the best introduction to a mythological reading of the tales that is more up to date in its scholarship than the Joneses’ study. Sioned Davies (Davies 2007) has a particular interest in the oral origins of the written texts, and her introduction explores the oral roots of the tales. Davies also reviews the history of translation of the Mabinogion, beginning with that of Lady Charlotte Guest.

                                      • Bollard, John K., trans. The Mabinogi. Llandysul, UK: Gomer, 2006.

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                                        Accompanied by Anthony Griffiths’s photographs of places in Wales associated with the stories, this volume provides transparent translations of the Four Branches.

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                                        • Bollard, John K., trans. Companion Tales to the Mabinogi. Llandysul, UK: Gomer, 2007.

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                                          This companion volume to Bollard 2006 contains translations of Culhwch and Olwen, The Dream of Rhonabwy, The Dream of Maxen Wledig, and Lludd and Llefelys, along with Anthony Griffiths’s photographs of the locations in which they are set.

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                                          • Bollard, John K., trans. Tales of Arthur. Llandysul, UK: Gomer, 2010.

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                                            Completes John K. Bollard’s translations of the eleven Mabinogion tales, illustrated with photographs by Anthony Griffiths (see Bollard 2006 and Bollard 2007) with Owein, Gereint, and Peredur.

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                                            • Davies, Sioned, trans. The Mabinogion. Oxford World’s Classics. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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                                              The lively translation and the layout of text on the page encourage reading and “hearing” the tales as oral performances. Useful endnotes explain certain narrative motifs. The introduction discusses oral storytelling traditions in Wales and situates the tales in Welsh history and literary culture.

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                                              • Ford, Patrick, trans. The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977.

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                                                Includes the Four Branches, Culhwch and Olwen, Lludd and Llefelys, and “The Tale of Gwion Bach and the Tale of Taliesin,” generally believed to have a medieval origin. Although not a complete Mabinogion translation, Ford’s is listed here because its lively language has made it a great favorite with readers. It has a simple but accurate guide to the pronunciation of Welsh names.

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                                                • Jones, Gwyn, and Thomas Jones, trans. The Mabinogion. Rev. ed. New York: Dutton, 1974.

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                                                  This is perhaps the most literal of the available translations, but the language is somewhat archaic in places.

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                                                  Criticism and Commentary

                                                  While there have been a number of Translations of the Mabinogion as a whole since Lady Charlotte Guest published hers in the mid-19th century, most Manuscript Sources, Catalogues, and Diplomatic Editions of the Welsh texts, and virtually all of the published critical commentary, focus on a group of tales within the larger whole (such as the Four Branches of the Mabinogi) or a single tale (such as Culhwch and Olwen). There are a few articles and volumes of essays, however, that include discussions of most, if not all, of the eleven Mabinogion tales; these include Bromwich, et al. 1991, which looks at the Mabinogion from the perspective of the Arthurian legend; Jones 2005, which employs a mythological and folkloristic approach to several of the tales; and Hutton 2011, which is a study and severe critique of the mythological approach to medieval Welsh narrative. Charles-Edwards 2001, Russell 2003, and McKenna 2011 concern themselves in various ways with the situation of Mabinogion texts in their manuscript sources, and the implications thereof for questions of interpretation and dating. Rodway 2007 is also concerned with dating the composition of the texts, and approaches the problem from a linguistic perspective. Bromwich 2006 is a unique and invaluable resource for the study of medieval Welsh narrative.

                                                  • Bromwich, Rachel, ed. and trans. Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Triads of the Island of Britain. 3d ed. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2006.

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                                                    The triads preserve, in abbreviated form, much medieval Welsh lore and are an invaluable resource for study of Mabinogion tales. Every personal name in the triads is annotated, including Mabinogion characters from Aranrhod to Peredur. These notes list the texts in which each character appears, including genealogies, chronicles, and poetry, as well as references to the secondary literature concerned with each figure.

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                                                    • Bromwich, Rachel, A. O. H. Jarman, and Brynley F. Roberts, eds. The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1991.

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                                                      One of a series of essay collections intended to update Roger Sherman Loomis’s Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1959). Includes chapters that discuss the five Mabinogion tales with an Arthurian setting—Owein, Gereint, Peredur, Culhwch and Olwen, and The Dream of Rhonabwy.

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                                                      • Charles-Edwards, Thomas. “The Textual Tradition of Medieval Welsh Prose Tales and the Problem of Dating.” In 150 Jahre ‘Mabinogion’: Deutsch-walisische Kulturbeziehungen. Edited by Bernhard Maier and Stefan Zimmer, 23–40. Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer, 2001.

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                                                        Concerned with the question of the transmission of texts, and ways in which that question is complicated by the poor rate of vernacular manuscript survival in medieval Wales. The Four Branches and Peredur are the tales most closely scrutinized.

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                                                        • Hutton, Ronald. “Medieval Welsh Literature and Pre-Christian Deities.” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 61 (2011): 57–85.

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                                                          An excellent review and reevaluation of scholarship on the survival of pre-Christian mythology in the Mabinogion tales, focusing on the figures of Mabon ap Modron (Culhwch and Olwen), Nudd or Lludd (Lludd and Llefelys, Culhwch and Olwen), Lleu (Fourth Branch), and Rhiannon (First Branch, Third Branch, with references to her birds in the Second Branch and Culhwch and Olwen). Hutton draws upon linguistic, archaeological, and literary evidence.

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                                                          • Jones, Leslie Ellen. “Boys in Boxes: The Recipe for a Welsh Hero.” In Heroic Poets and Poetic Heroes in Celtic Tradition. Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook 3–4. Edited by Joseph F. Nagy and Leslie Ellen Jones, 207–225. Dublin, UK: Four Courts, 2005.

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                                                            In a wide-ranging essay, Jones ruminates on the search for connections among the Mabinogion tales and then proposes a connection among several of them in a recurring theme that she reads as mythological.

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                                                            • McKenna, Catherine. “Reading with Rhydderch: Mabinogion Texts in Manuscript Context.” ‪In Language and Power in the Celtic World: ‪Papers from the Seventh Australian Conference of Celtic Studies, University of Sydney, September 2010. Edited by Anders Ahlqvist and Pamela O’Neill, 177–203. Sydney, Australia: Celtic Studies Foundation, University of Sydney, 2011.

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                                                              Argues for a reading of the ten Mabinogion tales in the White Book as texts considered au courant and fashionable in the 14th century and important Welsh contributions to an international corpus of narrative entertainment.

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                                                              • Rodway, Simon. “The Where, Who, When and Why of Medieval Welsh Prose Texts: Some Methodological Considerations.” Studia Celtica 41 (2007): 47–89.

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                                                                After critiquing the methodologies of several recent writers on the Mabinogion, and demonstrating the limitations inherent in any attempt to assign to any of the tales an author or date or place of composition, Rodway examines the occurrence of the early preterite ending, ws/-wys, in an attempt to discern what (if anything) those forms can tell us about the origin of a given Mabinogion text.

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                                                                • Russell, Paul. “Texts in Contexts: Recent Work on the Medieval Welsh Prose Tales.” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 45 (2003): 59–72.

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                                                                  A review article useful for its survey of two volumes of essays: 150 Jahre “Mabinogion”: Deutsch-walisische Kulturbeziehungen. Edited by Bernhard Maier and Stefan Zimmer (Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer, 2001) and Sioned Davies, and Peter Wynn Thomas, eds. Canhwyll Marchogyon: Cyd-destunoli Peredur (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000). It may be particularly helpful with regard to the latter volume, in which all but one essay are in Welsh. Russell focuses on studies most concerned with manuscript studies.

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                                                                  The Four Branches

                                                                  It is generally agreed that the terms mabinogi (and the scribal error mabinogion) refer properly to just four narratives among the eleven included in Lady Charlotte Guest’s collection. Each of these four concludes, in both the White Book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hergest, with a colophon of the type “a llyma ual y teruyna y geing honn o’r mabinyogi” (and thus concludes this branch of the mabinogi). The Red Book also features incipits to each of the four, beginning with “llyma dechreu mabinogi” (This is the beginning of a mabinogi.) At the head of the Second Branch, we read “llyma yr eil geinc o’r mabinogi” (this is the second branch of the mabinogi). As was noted, the term “Mabinogion” derives from a form (mabynnogyon) that occurs in both manuscripts in the colophon at the end of the First Branch and that has generally been understood to be a scribal error for mabinogi. There is no way to be certain that there were never more than four branches of the mabinogi. The term mabinogi itself has been discussed from linguistic (Williams 1930 cited under Editions, Hamp 1974–1975 cited under Criticism and Commentary: Origins) and historical (Luft 2011 cited under General Overviews and Critical Studies) perspectives.

                                                                  Editions

                                                                  The standard edition of the Four Branches remains Williams 1930, which is available only in Welsh. Editions of each of the Four Branches have been published with introductions and notes in English. The editions of the First Branch (Thomson 1957) and Second Branch (Thomson 1961), make reference to most of the observations, emendations, and notes in Williams’s Welsh edition of Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi. Patrick Ford’s English language editions of the Third Branch and the Fourth Branch (Ford 2000 and Ford 1999) are teaching editions and do not incorporate all of Williams’s notes on the language of the texts. Hughes’s editions of the Third and Fourth Branches (Hughes 2007 and Hughes 2000) include more extensive annotation, but are in Welsh.

                                                                  • Ford, Patrick K., ed. Math uab Mathonwy: Text from the Diplomatic Edition of the White Book of Rhydderch by J. Gwenogvryn Evans. Belmont, MA: Ford and Bailie, 1999.

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                                                                    Like Ford 2000, this is a teaching edition based on the 1907 diplomatic edition of the White Book Mabinogion rather than directly on the manuscript. The introduction, notes, and glossary are in English. The introduction and notes are less extensive than those in Hughes 2000.

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                                                                    • Ford, Patrick K., ed. Manawydan Uab Llyr: Text from the Diplomatic Edition of the White Book of Rhydderch by J. Gwenogvryn Evans. Belmont, MA: Ford and Bailie, 2000.

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                                                                      Based on the 1907 diplomatic edition of the White Book Mabinogion rather than directly on the manuscript, this good teaching edition of the Third Branch has a less extensive introduction and fewer notes than Hughes 2007, but the introduction, notes and glossary are in English.

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                                                                      • Hughes, Ian, ed. Math uab Mathonwy: Pedwaredd gainc y Mabinogi. Aberystwyth, UK: Adran y Gymraeg, 2000.

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                                                                        Like Hughes 2007, this edition of the Fourth Branch is based on the White Book with variants from the Red Book and the Peniarth 6 fragment. This is accompanied by an introduction to the text, extensive notes, and a full glossary, all in Welsh.

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                                                                        • Hughes, Ian, ed. Manawydan Uab Llyr. 2d ed. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2007.

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                                                                          An edition of the Third Branch based on the White Book with variants from the Red Book and the Peniarth 6 fragment, along with an introduction to the text, notes, and a full glossary. In Welsh.

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                                                                          • Thomson, R. L., ed. Pwyll Pendeuic Dyuet. Mediaeval and Modern Welsh Series 1. Dublin, UK: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1957.

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                                                                            This edition of the First Branch from the White Book, with Red Book variants noted when they are more than orthographic, includes introduction and notes in English, as well as a full Welsh-English glossary.

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                                                                            • Thomson, Derick S., ed. Branwen Uerch Lyr. Mediaeval and Modern Welsh Series 2. Dublin, UK: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1961.

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                                                                              This edition of the Second Branch from the White Book, with Red Book variants noted when they are more than orthographic, includes introduction and notes in English, as well as a full Welsh-English glossary.

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                                                                              • Williams, Ifor, ed. Pedeir Keinc y Mabinogi allan o Lyfr Gwyn Rhydderch. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1930.

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                                                                                This standard edition of the Four Branches takes the White Book of Rhydderch for the base text. The introduction covers the relationship of the three manuscript texts (three, including the two fragments of the Second and Third Branches in Peniarth 6), the language and orthography of the text with reference to the problem of dating; and the literary, historical and cultural context of the Four Branches. There are extensive linguistic and topographical endnotes.

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                                                                                Criticism and Commentary

                                                                                Among the questions that have interested scholars are the meaning of the words mabinogi and cainc (branch) and the significance of their use for these tales; the dating of the texts; their place of origin and authorship; their relationship to pre-Christian mythological traditions in Wales; their relationship to oral traditions; and their thematic concerns, particularly as these recur across all Four Branches. Critical approaches to the tales in recent years have included gender criticism and postcolonial theory, while mythological and folkloristic approaches continue to be employed. Critical discussions of the Four Branches have been divided here into those that are directly interpretive (Themes) and those that deal with questions of Origins, such as the date and place of composition and the source materials of the Four Branches. There are also sections listing studies of each of the Four Branches individually.

                                                                                Themes

                                                                                The studies listed here reflect the range of approaches that critics have taken to the Four Branches over the last half-century. Most of them seek to find unifying concerns and/or structures across all four tales, which are examined from a variety of perspectives, including the politico-legal background (Ito-Morino 1997, Clancy 2003, Fulton 2005), gender (Winward 1997, Lloyd-Morgan 2001, Clancy 2003), thematic structure (Bollard 1974–1975, Roberts 1992a), and literary style (Roberts 1992b). Sullivan 1996 is an anthology of essays that makes a point of representing a variety of critical strategies.

                                                                                • Bollard, J. K. “The Structure of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.” Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1974–1975): 250–276.

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                                                                                  A widely cited article arguing that three themes are interwoven through the Four Branches of the Mabinogi: friendships, marriages, and feuds.

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                                                                                  • Clancy, Thomas Owen. “The Needs of Strangers in the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.” Quaestio Insularis 4 (2003): 1–24.

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                                                                                    Examines the characters in the Four Branches (particularly the women) from the perspective of their vulnerabilities in relation to legal norms and social expectations.

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                                                                                    • Fulton, Helen. “The Mabinogi and the Education of Princes in Medieval Wales.” In Medieval Welsh Literature and Society. Edited by Helen Fulton, 230–247. Dublin, UK: Four Courts, 2005.

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                                                                                      Argues persuasively that the Four Branches advocate adoption of a “feudal” model of lordship by the Welsh princes and situates them within the context of medieval “mirrors of princes.”

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                                                                                      • Ito-Morino, Satoko. “The Sense of Ending in the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.” Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 49–50 (1997): 341–348.

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                                                                                        Explores the interrelationship of the Four Branches thematically in terms of the righteousness and efficacy of rulers and structurally in terms of the recurrence of crises arising in one Branch or another.

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                                                                                        • Lloyd-Morgan, Ceridwen. “Gender and Violence in the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.” In 150 Jahre ‘Mabinogion’: Deutsch-walisische Kulturbeziehungen. Edited by Bernhard Maier and Stefan Zimmer, 67–77. Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer, 2001.

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                                                                                          Argues that violence against women in the Four Branches serves the purpose of preserving the status quo in a patriarchal social order. May be compared with Winward 1997.

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                                                                                          • Roberts, Brynley F. “The Four Branches of the Mabinogi.” In Studies on Middle Welsh Literature. By Brynley F. Roberts, 95–104. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1992a.

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                                                                                            Brief overview of the Four Branches that accepts the notion of the figure of Pryderi as a unifying device without embracing W. J. Gruffydd’s reconstruction of a lost Pryderi saga. Engages with Bollard 1974–1975, proposing that each branch has its own themes and key words, in opposition to Bollard’s theory of interlaced themes.

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                                                                                            • Roberts, Brynley F. “Characterization in the Four Branches.” In Studies on Middle Welsh Literature. By Brynley F. Roberts, 105–113. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1992b.

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                                                                                              Discusses the author’s skill in rendering figures of traditional legend as fully rounded fictional characters, especially through the use of dialogue.

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                                                                                              • Sullivan, Charles W., ed. The Mabinogi: A Book of Essays. New York: Garland, 1996.

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                                                                                                A collection of sixteen essays, some dealing with all Four Branches, others with one or two, reprinted from previous journals.

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                                                                                                • Winward, Fiona. “Some Aspects of the Women in the Four Branches.” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 34 (1997): 77–106.

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                                                                                                  Looks at the women in the Four Branches in relation to their life stages: as unmarried maidens, married women, and mothers. Makes forays into the situations of those in each of these stages who are temporarily estranged from their social situations. Winward sees the women as losing agency and power with marriage, and even more so with motherhood. She sees the medieval Welsh society depicted in the Four Branches as definitively patriarchal

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                                                                                                  Origins

                                                                                                  These studies concern themselves with questions as varied as the survival in the Four Branches of pre-Christian Welsh mythological material (Hemming 2007), the relationship of the texts to oral sources (Jackson 1961, Welsh 1988, Davies 1993), the time and place of the composition of the texts (Charles-Edwards 1970, Roberts 2001, Sims-Williams 2001) and the meaning of the elusive term “Mabinogi” (Hamp 1974–1975).

                                                                                                  • Charles-Edwards, Thomas M. “The Date of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.” Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1970): 263–298.

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                                                                                                    A canonical article on the date of composition of the Four Branches, but effectively challenged in Sims-Williams 2011b, cited under Branwen Ferch Lyr and Rodway 2005 (cited under Culhwch and Olwen: Criticism and Commentary) and Rodway 2007 (cited under Criticism and Commentary).

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                                                                                                    • Davies, Sioned. The Four Branches of the Mabinogi. Llandysul, UK: Gomer, 1993.

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                                                                                                      A brief eighty-six-page overview of the Four Branches by a translator of the Mabinogion, emphasizing her view of the texts as having originated as oral tales.

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                                                                                                      • Hamp, Eric P. “Mabinogi.” Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1974–1975): 243–249.

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                                                                                                        Linguistic analysis by an eminent Indo-Europeanist concludes that the original meaning of mabinogi is “the material or doings pertaining to (the family of) the divine Maponos (Makwonos)” (p. 248). An article central to all subsequent mythological approaches to the Four Branches.

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                                                                                                        • Hemming, Jessica. “Ancient Tradition or Authorial Invention? The ‘Mythological’ Names in the Four Branches.” In Myth in Celtic Literatures. Edited by Joseph F. Nagy, 83–104. Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook 6. Dublin, UK: Four Courts, 2007.

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                                                                                                          Examines the names of characters in each of the Four Branches for their linguistic and literary associations with mythological figures and argues that while most do have such associations, they are not deployed in the Four Branches as divinities in decline. Rather, the author draws upon tradition for the names of characters that (s)he crafts to suit his/her own narrative purposes. Compare Hutton 2011, cited under Criticism and Commentary.

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                                                                                                          • Jackson, Kenneth Hurlstone. The International Popular Tale and Early Welsh Tradition. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1961.

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                                                                                                            A still important although dated analysis of the Four Branches in relation to international oral literature motifs and tale types. Updated in Welsh 1988.

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                                                                                                            • Roberts, Brynley F. “Where Were the Four Branches of the Mabinogi Written?” In The Individual in Celtic Literatures. Edited by J. F. Nagy, 61–73. Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook 1. Dublin, UK: Four Courts, 2001.

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                                                                                                              Argues for a northern Welsh origin of the text of the Four Branches.

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                                                                                                              • Sims-Williams, Patrick. “Clas Beuno and the Four Branches of the Mabinogi.” In 150 Jahre ‘Mabinogion’: Deutsch-walisische Kulturbeziehungen. Edited by Bernhard Maier and Stefan Zimmer, 111–127. Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer, 2001.

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                                                                                                                Examines the topographical onomastics of the Four Branches and several other medieval Welsh texts and argues that the traditional material in the Four Branches was assembled, and the text redacted, at the monastery of Clynnog Fawr in Arfon.

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                                                                                                                • Welsh, Andrew. “The Traditional Narrative Motifs of The Four Branches of the Mabinogi.” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 15 (1988): 51–62.

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                                                                                                                  A useful list, organized according to narrative chronology, of the international motifs as defined by Stith Thompson’s Motif-Index of Folk Literature that are to be found in the Four Branches. The study explicitly disavows any claim that the presence of such traditional motifs tells us anything about the origins of the tales.

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                                                                                                                  Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed

                                                                                                                  Studies of individual branches of the Mabinogi are rare, with more critical attention having been paid to the thematic and structural forces that unify all four: as a result, the listings under this heading are scant. In this section on the First Branch, in fact, one of the two articles (Welsh 1990) deals with the Fourth Branch as well as the First Branch. Welsh 1990 employs the concept of doubling in psychological and structural senses to illuminate the First Branch. McKenna 1980 is a widely read essay that attempts to bridge the divide between mythological and more literary readings of the First Branch.

                                                                                                                  • McKenna, Catherine. “The Theme of Sovereignty in Pwyll.” Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 29 (1980): 35–52.

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                                                                                                                    Suggests that narrative traditions of a female sovereignty figure were consciously adapted in the fashioning of a story about the maturation of a good ruler.

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                                                                                                                    • Welsh, Andrew. “Doubling and Incest in the Mabinogi.” Speculum 65 (1990): 344–362.

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                                                                                                                      Excellent discussion of the function of doubling in the First Branch (Pwyll and Arawn, Pwyll and Teyrnon, etc.) and the Fourth Branch (Gwydion and Gilfaethywy, Lleu and Dylan, etc.) and of incest in the Fourth Branch, against the background of international story tradition and 20th-century psychology.

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                                                                                                                      Branwen Ferch Lyr

                                                                                                                      The Second Branch, Branwen, has received more attention as an individual tale than have the First and Third branches, largely because its Irish characters and settings have piqued the interest of scholars in questions of the influence upon the development of medieval Welsh narrative of the older and more extensive (at least in terms of surviving texts) Irish narrative tradition. Those questions bear, in turn, upon the question of a common Celtic literary culture, a concept increasingly out of favor among scholars. Studies of Welsh-Irish literary relationships are here represented by four chapters from Patrick Sims-Williams’s book on Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature (Sims-Williams 2011a, Sims-Williams 2011b, Sims-Williams 2011c, and Sims-Williams 2011d), a recent and highly learned study of the entire subject that will lead the interested reader to all of the previous significant publications on the topic. Branwen also lends itself to comparative (Welsh 1991, Zimmer 2003, Sims-Williams 2011d, Rowland 2012), and postcolonial approaches (McKenna 2007).

                                                                                                                      • McKenna, Catherine. “The Colonization of Myth in Branwen Ferch Lŷr.” In Myth in Celtic Literatures. Edited by Joseph Falaky Nagy, 105–119. Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook 6. Dublin, UK: Four Courts, 2007.

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                                                                                                                        Reads Branwen not as an attempt at recapitulation of the traditions of the family of Dôn it draws upon, but rather as a deployment of those materials in an exploration of the cultural and political anxieties and uncertainties of 12th- and 13th-century Wales.

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                                                                                                                        • Rowland, Jenny. “The Maiming of Horses in Branwen.” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 63 (2012): 51–70.

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                                                                                                                          Situates the maiming of Matholwch’s horses in the medieval European context, exploring it from the perspectives of animal husbandry, law, and cultural significance. Reviews previous comparative literary studies of this incident.

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                                                                                                                          • Sims-Williams, Patrick. “The Irish Geography of Branwen.” In Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature. By Patrick Sims-Williams, 188–207. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011a.

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                                                                                                                            Thorough discussion of all of the places in Ireland mentioned in the Second Branch and of previous views of them. Four successive chapters in Sims-Williams’s book deal with Branwen, and they are listed in order here.

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                                                                                                                            • Sims-Williams, Patrick. “The Submission of Irish Kings in Fact and Fiction.” In Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature. By Patrick Sims-Williams, 208–229. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011b.

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                                                                                                                              An important challenge to Charles-Edwards 1970 (cited under Criticism and Commentary: Origins) on the dating of the Four Branches.

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                                                                                                                              • Sims-Williams, Patrick. “Llasar and the Lake of the Cauldron.” In Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature. By Patrick Sims-Williams, 230–261. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011c.

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                                                                                                                                Detailed study of the characters, objects, and names associated with the story of the cauldron of rebirth in Branwen, examining both Irish and Welsh analogues and possible sources.

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                                                                                                                                • Sims-Williams, Patrick. “The Iron House, the Men in Bags, and the Severed Head.” In Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature. By Patrick Sims-Williams, 262–286. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011d.

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                                                                                                                                  Sims-Williams begins by situating these motifs in a wider literary and historical context, demonstrating that they would not necessarily have to be borrowed from a source Irish or otherwise. Goes on to delineate a number of close parallels between this part of Branwen and the Irish Bórama. He discusses possible links between monasteries in northwest Wales and southeast Ireland.

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                                                                                                                                  • Welsh, Andrew. “Branwen, Beowulf, and the Tragic Peaceweaver Tale.” Viator 22 (1991): 1–13.

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                                                                                                                                    This essay, situating the Second Branch as a tale of the Tragic Peaceweaver and comparing it in that respect to the story of Hildeburh embedded in Beowulf, offers a moving and compelling reading of the figure of Branwen.

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                                                                                                                                    • Zimmer, Stefan. “A uo penn bit pont: Aspects of Leadership in Celtic and Indo-European.” Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 53 (2003): 202–222.

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                                                                                                                                      An intriguing study, with enormous amounts of comparative data, of the association between effective leaders and the construction of bridges.

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                                                                                                                                      Manawydan Fab Llyr

                                                                                                                                      The figure of Manawydan has received a considerable amount of critical attention as perhaps the most reasonable and most “human” of the characters in the Four Branches (see, for example, Mac Cana 1992, cited under General Overviews and Critical Studies and Roberts 1992b, cited under Criticism and Commentary: Themes). Yet few studies devoted exclusively to the Third Branch have been published. Welsh 1992 is an essay that advocates a reading of Manawydan as just such a reasonable hero, while McKenna 1999 challenges that view. Koch 1987 is a well-argued example of an approach to the Four Branches that seeks their narrative sources not in mythology but in Roman and sub-Roman British history.

                                                                                                                                      • Koch, John T. “A Welsh Window on the Iron Age, Manawydan, Mandubracios.” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 14 (1987): 17–52.

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                                                                                                                                        Reads the Third Branch as a permutation of an account in Caesar’s De bello Gallico of the struggles of a British chieftain named Mandubracius with Cassivellaunus, employing philological strategies and histories from Roman and sub-Roman Britain. Although well argued, Koch’s reading of the Third Branch has persuaded few other scholars.

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                                                                                                                                        • McKenna, Catherine. “Learning Lordship: The Education of Manawydan.” In Ildánach Ildírech: A Festschrift for Proinsias Mac Cana. Edited by John Carey, John T. Koch, and Pierre-Yves Lambert, 101–120. Andover and Aberystwyth, UK: Celtic Studies, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                          Reads the figure of Manawydan not as the ideal of wisdom and restraint that he is seen as in Mac Cana 1992 (cited under General Overviews and Critical Studies) but as a lord as much in need of maturation as Pwyll in the First Branch.

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                                                                                                                                          • Welsh, Andrew. “Manawydan Fab Llyr: Wales, England, and the ‘New Man.’” In Celtic Languages and Celtic Peoples: Proceedings of the Second North American Congress of Celtic Studies held in Halifax August 16–19, 1989. Edited by Cyril J. Byrne, Margaret Harry, and Padraig O. Siadhail, 369–382. Halifax, NS: D’Arcy McGee Chair of Irish Studies, Saint Mary’s University, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                            Reads the Third Branch as a text that employs the structures of traditional story to represent Manawydan as a sort of “culture hero” who introduces a new, post-heroic “way of life” to Dyfed, in the aftermath of the utter devastation of the Second Branch.

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                                                                                                                                            Math Fab Mathonwy

                                                                                                                                            The Fourth Branch has received more focused attention than any of the others, largely for two reasons. One is that one of its central characters, Lleu, has been identified (by no means unproblematically) with the Irish god Lug, widely understood to have been the chief god of a pan-Celtic pantheon. The other has to do with the pervasive themes of rape, gender instability, and incest, all of which have been of particular interest to critics in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Carey 1991 is representative of the mythological approach, while Valente 1988, Welsh 1990 and Millersdaughter 2002 are the best introductions to gender-based discussion of the Fourth Branch. Hughes 2001 and McKenna 2003, on the other hand, approach this branch as a kind of “Mirror for Princes,” as all Four Branches have been read by several scholars (see for example Fulton 2005, cited under Criticism and Commentary: Themes).

                                                                                                                                            • Carey, John. “A British Myth of Origins?” History of Religions 31 (1991): 24–38.

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                                                                                                                                              In an interesting and offbeat approach to the Fourth Branch, Carey employs the comparative mythological theory of Georges Dumézil, as developed by Alwyn and Brinley Rees in their Celtic Heritage (1961) to read the figure of Lleu as a Celtic hero. He also reads the opening passage in which Math cannot live without his virgin footholder as a prelapsarian myth.

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                                                                                                                                              • Hughes, Ian. “The King’s Nephew.” In 150 Jahre ‘Mabinogion’: Deutsch-walisische Kulturbeziehungen. Edited by Bernhard Maier and Stefan Zimmer, 55–65. Tübingen, Germany: Max Niemeyer, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                Reviews W. J. Gruffydd’s theory of the Fourth Branch as a distorted version of the tale-type “The King and His Prophesied Death,” arguing that the tale concerns itself rather with lordship and succession in the northern Welsh kingdom of Gwynedd.

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                                                                                                                                                • McKenna, Catherine. “Revising Math: Kingship in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi.” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 46 (2003): 95–117.

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                                                                                                                                                  Reads the first section of the Fourth Branch, through the rape of Goewin and the war with Dyfed, as an indictment of Math’s slothful inadequacy as lord of Gwynedd.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Millersdaughter, Katherine. “The Geopolitics of Incest: Sex, Gender and Violence in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi.” Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 14 (2002): 271–316.

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                                                                                                                                                    An interesting and complex reading of the Fourth Branch that explores the function of incest in the text, drawing upon feminist and anthropological theory. Argues that “the invention of ‘Wales’ in the later Middle Ages was thoroughly embedded in the convergence of colonialist violence with the masculinist discourses of ethnic identity, gender and sexuality” (p. 316).

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                                                                                                                                                    • Valente, Roberta. “Gwydion and Aranrhod: Crossing the Borders of Gender in Math.” Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 35 (1988): 1–9.

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                                                                                                                                                      The first study of the Mabinogi from the perspective of gender studies, this article remains one of the most frequently cited. Valente explores transgressions of their societally imposed gender roles by Gwydion and Aranrhod against the background of medieval Welsh law.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Welsh, Andrew. “Doubling and Incest in the Mabinogi.” Speculum 65 (1990): 344–362.

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                                                                                                                                                        Excellent exploration of the theme of incest and its relationship to the phenomenon of doubling (Gwydion and Gilfaethwy, Lleu and Dylan, etc.) against the background of international story tradition and 20th-century psychology. Includes some discussion of the First Branch as well.

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                                                                                                                                                        The Three “Romances”

                                                                                                                                                        The tales of Owein, Gereint and Peredur are variously labeled ystorya and chwedl in the manuscripts, never rhamant (romance). That term has been applied to them by analogy with their counterparts among the poems of Chrétien de Troyes, Yvain, Erec et Enide, and Perceval. Recent criticism has questioned that usage, focusing attention on the differences in ethos and form between the Welsh texts and Chrétien. Such discussions are a refreshing change from the Mabinogionfrage—the debate over the dependence of the Welsh and French texts upon one another—that dominated work on these three texts for decades. Interest in the postcolonial condition has stimulated a good deal of new and interesting work, especially on Peredur, with its explicitly Welsh hero encountering a chivalric Arthurian world. There has also been considerable interest in the different versions of Peredur to be found in its medieval manuscript sources (the shorter in Peniarth 7 and 14, the longer in the White Book and the Red Book).

                                                                                                                                                        Editions

                                                                                                                                                        Owein and Gereint have been edited for the Mediaeval and Modern Welsh Series of the School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, and so are available with English introductions, notes, and glossaries (see Thomson 1968 and Thomson 1997). There are two editions of Peredur, one in print and one online, both of them based on the White Book of Rhydderch text, and both in Welsh (Goetinck 1976 and Peredur: Golygiad Lleiafol, respectively).

                                                                                                                                                        • Goetinck, Glenys, ed. Historia Peredur vab Efrawc. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1976.

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                                                                                                                                                          The standard print edition. Introduction, notes, and glossary in Welsh.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Peredur: Golygiad Lleiafol.

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                                                                                                                                                            This edition, completed in 2000, describes itself as “minimalist”: i.e., it makes every effort to respect the White Book text. It is accompanied by an excellent review of the history of editorial practice with respect to medieval Welsh prose and an illuminating discussion of the position of Peredur, Owein, and Gereint in their manuscript sources, demonstrating that medieval scribes and patrons had no concept of “the three romances.”

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                                                                                                                                                            • Thomson, R. L., ed. Owein or Chwedyl Iarlles y Ffynnawn. Mediaeval and Modern Welsh Series 4. Dublin, UK: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1968.

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                                                                                                                                                              The standard edition. Introduction, notes, and glossary in English.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Thomson, R. L., ed. Ystorya Gereint uab Erbin. Mediaeval and Modern Welsh Series 10. Dublin, UK: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1997.

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                                                                                                                                                                The standard edition. Introduction, notes, and glossary in English.

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                                                                                                                                                                Criticism and Commentary

                                                                                                                                                                As mentioned in the section Three “Romances”, there is considerable interest among scholars in the postcolonial resonances of Peredur, Gereint, and Owein. Fulton 2001 is a good introduction to ways in which Gereint and Owein reinflect the stories of these knights’ adventures to embody an ethos different from that found in the romances of Chrétien de Troyes, while Roberts 1992 reexamines the assumption that the three texts distinguish themselves from other medieval Welsh narratives in a fashion that constitutes them as “romances.” Most of the scholarship on the so-called romances deals with them individually, and is cited under the appropriate heading.

                                                                                                                                                                • Fulton, Helen. “Individual and Society in Owein/Yvain and Gereint/Erec.” In The Individual in Celtic Literatures. CSANA Yearbook 1. Edited by Joseph Falaky Nagy, 15–50. Dublin, UK: Four Courts, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Starting from the substantial body of scholarship that proposes the invention of the individual and of subjectivity in the 12th century, Fulton shows through a comparative study of Owein and Gereint and their French analogues that the Welsh texts are far more concerned with their heroes’ roles in their societies than with their subjectivities.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Roberts, Brynley F. “The Idea of a Welsh Romance.” In Studies on Middle Welsh Literature. By Brynley F. Roberts, 133–146. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Provides a brief review of the Mabinogionfrage, or debate on the relationship between Owein, Gereint and Peredur on the one hand, and Chrétien’s Yvain, Erec et Enide, and Perceval on the other. The real subject of the essay, however, is the features that distinguish the three Welsh texts not only from their French counterparts but also from the other Mabinogion tales. Compare Lloyd-Morgan 2004.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Owein, or the Lady of the Fountain

                                                                                                                                                                    Hunt 1973–1974, Thomson 1991, and Roberts 1992 are three essays on Owein that concern themselves with the ways in which it distinguishes itself from medieval French romance.

                                                                                                                                                                    • Hunt, Tony. “The Art of Iarlles y Ffynnawn and the European Volksmärchen.” Studia Celtica 8–9 (1973–1974): 107–120.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Provides a useful review of previous criticism of the “romances” before going on to employ Max Lüthi’s theory of the folktale to read Owein as a märchen, despite its literary origins, and as such a fully realized work of art.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Roberts, Brynley F. “Owein or The Lady of the Fountain.” In Studies on Middle Welsh Literature. By Brynley F. Roberts, 115–132. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Addresses the so-called Mabinogionfrage, i.e., the question of the relationship between the Welsh tales of Owein, Gereint, and Peredur and Chrétien’s Yvain, Erec et Enide, and Perceval. His concern, though, is with the distinctively Welsh features of Owein—a narrative style derived from oral tradition and a non-chivalric ethos.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Thomson, R. L. “Owain: Chwedl Iarlles y Ffynnawn.” In The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature. Edited by Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman, and Brynley F. Roberts, 159–169. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                          A brief overview of Owein by the editor of the text, touching upon the historical figure of Owein ab Urien in Welsh tradition and the relationship of Owein to Chrétien’s Yvain.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Gereint ab Erbin

                                                                                                                                                                          As is the case with studies of Owein, these essays on Gereint concentrate on the features that distinguish the Welsh tales from their counterparts and sources. Roberts 2004 reads Gereint against the work of Chrétien de Troyes, while Middleton 1991 focuses on the Breton origins of the figure of Erec/Gereint.

                                                                                                                                                                          • Middleton, Roger. “Chwedl Geraint ab Erbin.” In The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature. Edited by Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman, and Brynley F. Roberts, 147–157. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Explores the French source and ultimate Breton origins of Gereint, and various stylistic markers, such as formulaic repetition, that show how it was adapted in the creation of a new and distinctive Welsh work.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Roberts, Helen A. “Court and Cyuoeth: Chrétien de Troyes’ Erec et Enide and the Middle Welsh Gereint.” Arthurian Literature 21 (2004): 53–72.

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                                                                                                                                                                              A close study of differences between Chrétien’s Erec and its Welsh counterpart, which demonstrates through an impressive accumulation of detail that the courtliness of the former is matched in the latter by a preoccupation with the ruler’s proper relationship to his realm.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Peredur

                                                                                                                                                                              Peredur invites a postcolonial approach to an even greater extent than do Gereint ab Erbin and Owein, or the Lady of the Fountain, because while the latter give clear evidence of familiarity in Welsh literary circles with the materials of French romance, Peredur also features as its hero an explicitly Welsh knight and his interactions with a chivalric world. Aronstein 2005 is a superb example of the use of postcolonial theory to read medieval Welsh “romance,” and Knight 2000 also makes effective use of the postcolonial approach. The relationship of the shorter and longer versions of Peredur is also of great interest to contemporary scholars, and this is explored in Lloyd-Morgan 1981, Bollard 2000, Aronstein 2005, and four of the seven essays in Davies and Thomas 2000. Goetinck 1975 represents an older mythological approach to Mabinogion tales; it is effectively critiqued in Lovecy 1991. The perennial question of the status of all three tales (Gereint ab Erbin, Owein, or the Lady of the Fountain, Peredur) as “romances” is examined with particular reference to Peredur in Lloyd-Morgan 2004.

                                                                                                                                                                              • Aronstein, Susan. “Becoming Welsh: Counter-Colonialism and the Negotiation of Native Identity in Peredur vab Efrawc.” Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 17 (2005): 135–168.

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                                                                                                                                                                                In this outstanding contribution to the postcolonial reading of Mabinogion texts, Aronstein reads both the shorter and the longer versions of Peredur as re-readings of Chrétien’s Perceval and some of its French continuations and variants, each with its own agenda for resistance and survival.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Bollard, John K. “Theme and Meaning in Peredur.” Arthuriana 10 (2000): 73–92.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Argues that the longer version of Peredur, which strikes a number of scholars as loose and baggy, is thematically coherent.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Davies, Sioned, and Peter Wynn Thomas, eds. Canhwyll Marchogyon: Cyd-destunoli Peredur. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Most essays in this important volume of Peredur criticism are in Welsh. They include Daniel Huws on the four medieval manuscript sources; Peter Wynn Thomas on the textual relationships of the different versions; Brynley Roberts on narrative structure; Sioned Davies on the development of the text from its oral roots; Morfydd Owen on social context; and Ceridwen Lloyd-Morgan on European context. See also Knight 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Goetinck, Glenys. Peredur: A Study of Welsh Tradition in the Grail Legends. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1975.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      A reading of Peredur in terms of Celtic sovereignty myths as a call to Welsh resistance to the Norman incursion.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Knight, Stephen. “Resemblance and Menace: A Post-Colonial Reading of Peredur.” In Canhwyll Marchogyon: Cyd-destunoli Peredur. Edited by Sioned Davies and Peter Wynn Thomas, 128–147. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Nuanced reading of Peredur and its structure from the perspective of postcolonial ironic mimicry. Knight suggests that the Peniarth 7 version of Peredur might have been the source of Chrétien’s Perceval, and that the final section of Peredur in the other manuscripts might represent a response to Chrétien.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Lloyd-Morgan, Ceridwen. “Narrative Structure in Peredur.” Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 38 (1981): 187–231.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          Studies the longer (White Book and Red Book) version of Peredur as a narrative about the claims of the family versus the claims of the state.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Lloyd-Morgan, Ceridwen. “Medieval Welsh Tales or Romances? Problems of Genre and Terminology.” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 47 (2004): 41–58.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            Explores the convenient but problematic practice of classifying Peredur, Owein, and Gereint as “romances.” The absence of any grouping of the three in the manuscript sources is examined, as is the ambiguity of “romance” as a literary genre. The main focus is on the impossibility of fitting Peredur into any definition of romance, and its conformity to typical structures of other medieval Welsh prose narratives.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Lovecy, Ian C. “Historia Peredur ab Efrawg.” In The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature. Edited by Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman, and Brynley F. Roberts, 171–182. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Survey of the medieval manuscript sources and critique of the analyses of Goetinck 1975 and Lloyd-Morgan 1981. Explores differences from and similarities to Chrétien’s Perceval. Antedates work that sees the longest version of Peredur as a later development.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              Culhwch and Olwen

                                                                                                                                                                                              Culhwch and Olwen has received a considerable amount of attention because it is generally acknowledged to be the earliest of the Mabinogion texts, because it has a demonstrably close relationship with oral tradition (although the nature of that relationship is a matter of debate), and because of its setting in an Arthurian milieu that strikes most readers as dramatically different from that in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Brtianniae and the tradition of Arthurian romance that grew out of it. Rachel Bromwich and D. Simon Evans published an edition of the text in 1988, based on the text that Sir Idris Foster had prepared before his death in 1984. That edition had very little apparatus, but in 1992 Bromwich and Evans (Bromwich and Evans 1992) published a fuller version of the edition, with introduction, notes, and full glossary in English.

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Bromwich, Rachel, and D. Simon Evans, eds. Culhwch and Olwen: An Edition and Study of the Oldest Arthurian Tale. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                This English version of the editors’ 1988 edition in Welsh, with expanded introduction and notes and a full glossary, is the standard edition of the tale.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                Criticism and Commentary

                                                                                                                                                                                                The studies listed here represent all of the principal concerns of Culhwch and Olwen scholars: its position as the oldest extant Welsh narrative (Rodway 2005), its orality (Henry 1968, Davies 2004), its relationship to the Welsh and European Arthurian traditions (Roberts 1991) and the significance of the Irish names and settings that occur in the text (Sims-Williams 2011). Critical and interpretive approaches to Culhwch and Olwen have been to a considerable extent constrained by these preoccupations, but Radner 1988 remains a classic and well-received reading of the tale by a folklorist as a deliberate parody of oral style.

                                                                                                                                                                                                • Davies, Sioned. “Performing Culwch ac Olwen.” Arthurian Literature 21 (2004): 29–51.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  A detailed study of the oral features of Culhwch and Olwen. Davies has published extensively on the orality of the Mabinogion. See Davies 1993 cited under Criticism and Commentary: Origins), Davies 1995 (cited under General Overviews and Critical Studies), Davies 2007 (cited under Translations).

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Henry, P. L. “Culhwch and Olwen—Some Aspects of Style and Structure.” Studia Celtica 3 (1968): 30–38.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    This brief study explores the style of Culhwch and Olwen on the levels of vocabulary, syntax, verbal ornamentation and episodic structure.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Radner, Joan N. “Interpreting Irony in Medieval Celtic Narrative: The Case of Culhwch ac Olwen.” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 16 (1988): 41–60.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      A groundbreaking article by a folklorist that reads Culhwch and Olwen as a conscious literary parody of the conventions of folktales, heroic narratives, and myths.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Roberts, Brynley F. “Culhwch ac Olwen, the Triads, Saints’ Lives.” In The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature. Edited by Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman and Brynley F. Roberts, 73–95. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        The focus in this chapter of The Arthur of the Welsh is the nature of the figure of Arthur in native Welsh tradition, especially insofar as he is different from the Arthur of the Galfridian tradition.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Rodway, Simon. “The Date and Authorship of Culhwch ac Olwen: A Reassessment.” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 49 (2005): 21–44.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          Rodway’s work (see also Rodway 2007, cited under Criticism and Commentary) is the most recent on the dating of Mabinogion texts. His approach is linguistic, focusing on vocabulary, the morphology of the verb, and orthography. He also considers the arguments advanced by previous scholars on the basis of the lack of influence on the tale by Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae. He finds no grounds for dating Culhwch and Olwen any earlier than the mid-12th century.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Sims-Williams, Patrick. “The Irish Elements in Culhwch and Olwen.” In Irish Influence on Medieval Welsh Literature. By Patrick Sims-Williams, 134–187. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            A thorough reexamination of the arguments and suggestions that have been made over the course of the 20th and early 20th centuries century concerning the origin and function of Irish names and narrative motifs in Culhwch and Olwen. Recognizing that several names derive from Irish tradition, Sims-Williams argues that these do not necessarily reflect extensive familiarity with Irish narrative tradition and literature on the author’s part.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Dream of Rhonabwy

                                                                                                                                                                                                            The Dream of Rhonabwy, by contrast with Culhwch and Olwen, has been generally understood to be the latest of the Mabinogion tales and the most definitively literary. Widely read as satire, it has attracted critical attention to the nature of that satire.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Richards, Melville, ed. Breudwyt Ronabwy allan o’r Llyfr Coch o Hergest. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1948.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              The standard (and only) edition. Introduction, notes, and glossary are in Welsh.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                              Criticism and Commentary

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Like other Mabinogion texts, The Dream of Rhonabwy is impossible to date definitively, since the single medieval manuscript source, the Red Book of Hergest (c. 1382–1400) is known to be later than most of the texts it contains. A number of scholars have attempted to date the text on the basis of its apparent allusions to historical events and cultural developments (Giffin 1958, Carson 1974, Lloyd-Morgan 1991, Fulton 1999). Critical studies have tended to emphasize pervasive parody and irony (Bollard 1985, Jones 1974, Slotkin 1989, Lloyd-Morgan 1991) and particularly the ways in which the text questions the possibility of interpretation (Slotkin 1989, McKenna 2009).

                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Bollard, J. K. “Traddodiad a Dychan yn Breuddwyd Ronabwy.” Llên Cymru 13 (1985): 155–163.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                Argues that The Dream of Rhonabwy demonstrates the dangers of rhetorical amplification, parodying stylistic features of medieval romance in its descriptions and long list of Arthur’s knights.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Carson, J. Angela. “The Structure and Meaning of ‘The Dream of Rhonabwy.’” Philological Quarterly 53 (1974): 289–303.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Reads the text in terms of the hostile pairs that it presents and the futility of internecine or fraternal conflict. Assigns The Dream of Rhonabwy to the late 14th century

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Fulton, Helen. “Cyd-destun Gwleidyddol Breudwyt Ronabwy.” Llên Cymru 22 (1999): 42–56.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Reads Arthur as he is represented in this text as the national leader that bards have dreamed of, but nevertheless a disappointment—uncaring and ineffectual. Suggests that the Arthur of The Dream of Rhonabwy is a commentary on the ambitions of Llywelyn ap Iorwerth in the late 12th and the first part of the 13th century.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Giffin, Mary. “The Date of the ‘Dream of Rhonabwy.’” Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion (1958): 33–40.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Argues from the heraldic quality of the descriptions of Arthur’s warriors for a date of composition early in the 14th century.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Jones, Dafydd Glyn. “Breuddwyd Rhonabwy.” In Y Traddodiad Rhyddiaith yn yr Oesau Canol. Edited by Geraint Bowen, 176–195. Llandysul, UK: Gwasg Gomer, 1974.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        A valuable essay in Welsh that reads The Dream of Rhonabwy as a parodic satire not only on the conventions of storytelling but also on its inherent value.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Lloyd-Morgan, Ceridwen. “Breuddwyd Rhonabwy and Later Arthurian Literature.” In The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature. Edited by Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman, and Brynley F. Roberts, 183–208. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          An overview of The Dream of Rhonabwy that discusses the traditional elements in its style and content on the one hand, and the parodic and ironic elements on the other. Lloyd-Morgan reviews the debate on the date of the tale, tending to side with those who would assign it to the late 13th or early 14th century.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                          • McKenna, Catherine. “‘What Dreams May Come Must Give Us Pause’: Breudwyt Ronabwy and the Red Book of Hergest.” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 58 (2009): 69–99.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This article argues that the place of The Dream of Rhonabwy in its single medieval manuscript source authorizes reading it in relation to medieval dream science as a text concerned with the act of interpretation.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Slotkin, Edgar M. “The Fabula, Story and Text of Breuddwyd Rhonabwy.” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 18 (1989): 89–113.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A groundbreaking study of Breuddwyd Rhonabwy that employs the narratological theory of Mieke Bal and other post-structuralist critics to explore the distortion of underlying chronology, the function of extended descriptive passages, and the relationship of embedded dream to frame story.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The Dream of Maxen Wledig

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This tale has received relatively little attention from a literary critical point of view, although it is covered in General Overviews and Critical Studies of Mabinogion texts such as Jarman and Hughes 1992, Mac Cana 1992, and Roberts 1992a and Roberts 1992b (cited under General Overviews and Critical Studies). It is more often discussed by historians in connection with the fourth-century usurpation of the throne of the western empire by Magnus Maximus, who developed in Welsh legend into Maxen Wledig, and with the construction of the Roman past of Wales by 12th-century dynasts. Roberts 2005 replaces Ifor Williams’s edition of 1920, incorporating most of Williams’ notes on the language of the text.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Criticism and Commentary

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Much of Brynley Roberts’s work on medieval Welsh prose has been concerned with the relationships between history, oral tradition, and literary narrative, and it is from that perspective that he approaches The Dream of Maxen Wledig in Roberts 2005. Brewer and Jones 1975 reflects a similar interest in the ways in which history is processed through the conventions of oral tradition to become fiction.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              • Brewer, George W., and Bedwyr Lewis Jones. “Popular Tale Motifs and Historical Tradition in Breudwyt Maxen.” Medium Aevum 44 (1975): 23–30.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Covers parallels in international oral tradition to the motif of falling in love through a dream, the historical roots of the figure of Maxen, and Welsh traditions concerning Elen Luyddog.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                • Roberts, Brynley F. “Breuddwyd Maxen Wledig: Why? When?” In Heroic Poets and Poetic Heroes in Celtic Tradition. Celtic Studies Association of North America Yearbook 3–4. Edited by Joseph F. Nagy and Leslie Ellen Jones, 303–314. Dublin, UK: Four Courts, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Roberts suggests that the literary tale of Maxen was developed out of the historical traditions surrounding Magnus Maximus as a piece of mid-12th-century propaganda for Gwynedd as the traditional and hence appropriate source of authority in Wales and of hegemony over its other principalities.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Lludd and Llefelys

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  There has been even less discussion outside of the general overviews (Jarman and Hughes 1992, Mac Cana 1992, Roberts 1992a, and Roberts 1992b, cited under General Overviews and Critical Studies) of this brief cyfranc (adventure) than of The Dream of Maxen. Roberts 1975 includes an introduction that engages the principal critical questions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Roberts, Brynley F., ed. Cyfranc Lludd a Llevelys. Mediaeval and Modern Welsh Series 7. Dublin, UK: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1975.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This edition, with introduction, notes and vocabulary in English, supersedes the 1910 edition, entirely in Welsh, of Ifor Williams.

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