The Mabinogion, the earliest literary jewel of Wales, is a collection of ancient tales and legends compiled around the 12th and 13th century deriving from storytelling and the songs of bards handed down over the ages. It is a remarkable document in many ways. From an historical perspective, it is the earliest prose literature of Britain. But it is in its drama that many surprises await, not least the central role of King Arthur, his wife, Gwenhwyvar, and his court at Caerlleon upon Usk.
There are tales of jousting, of quests, of damsels in distress, of abandoned wives, of monsters and dragons, of loyalty, deception and honour. Heroes and villains abound; there is courage and suffering in abundance. This is why The Mabinogion has a rightfully important position within the early literature of Europe.
There are 12 stories of varying lengths in the collection. Some, such as 'The Lady of the Fountain' and 'Geraint, the Son of Erbin', are centred on the Arthurian legend, and they display all the chivalric elements we expect from greater familiarity with later texts such as Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur. However, here, in The Mabinogion, we inhabit an earthier world, before the Round Table and the Grail Legend, though hints of these exist.
Emotions, intentions and actions are real and direct! Nevertheless, The Mabinogion was drawn from a variety of sources, and there are tales of very different character, such as 'The Dream of Maxen Wledig', which harks back to the period of the Roman Empire, and 'The Story of Llud and Llevelys', which involves the Island of Britain and the Kingdom of France.
This recording presents the classic, groundbreaking translation by Charlotte Guest. It brought The Mabinogion to a wider audience for the first time, and we can enjoy the grandeur of her literary style - one that particularly suits the audiobook medium. This is especially so in this skillful performance by Richard Mitchley. Welsh was his first language, though he has for decades divided his time between English and Welsh audiobooks and radio plays; furthermore, he guides walking holidays in Wales and is thus personally familiar with areas mentioned in The Mabinogion.
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