Transforming the Mabinogion
Improving the understanding of Welsh myths and legends from the Mabinogion.
The School of Welsh has undertaken research into the Mabinogion for over 30 years. Regarded by many as one of Wales' greatest contributions to European literature, the Mabinogion is a rich mix of Celtic mythology and Arthurian romance captured by anonymous authors in eleven tales.
The book has wonderful characters and stories. It tells of Gwydion the shape-shifter, who can create a woman out of flowers; of Math the magician whose feet must lie in the lap of a virgin; of hanging a pregnant mouse and hunting a magical boar. Dragons, witches, and giants live alongside kings and heroes, and quests of honour, revenge, and love are set against the backdrop of a country struggling to retain its independence.
A new updated English translation has not only enhanced public understanding of the text but has led to new performances and inspired a series of modern stories.
Reviving and retelling a masterpiece
Professor Sioned Davies' acclaimed translation of the Mabinogion into English was originally intended primarily for academic use. However, its accessibility has led to a revival of interest well beyond academia.
Her detailed re-examination of the text has enabled modern audiences to understand how it would have been understood by medieval listeners and, crucially, performed. A rich collection of explanatory notes and indices has helped to enhance the reader's understanding of this ancient text.
What is the Mabinogion?
The Mabinogion is a collection of Welsh tales found in several medieval manuscripts. The stories are rich in pre-Christian Celtic mythology, international folktale motifs and medieval historical tradition.
Professor Davies translation has led to a revival of the practice of telling the Mabinogion by contemporary storytellers, encouraged by a series of highly successful workshops. In addition, Seren Books commissioned award-winning authors to reinvent the original stories in a series entitled New Stories from the Mabinogion, inspiring such stories as White Ravens by Owen Sheers and The Meat Tree by Gwyneth Lewis. The translation has also been the source for children's books such as Margaret Isaac's Arthur and the Twrch Trwyth (2012) and Daniel Morden's Tree of Leaf and Flame (2012).
In addition, the translation has been used to develop tourism trails such as the Twrch Trwyth Trail in Cwmaman. A Mabinogion web portal and mobile app is being created in collaboration with the Pembrokeshire-based SME Writemedia Partnership to guide users to designated Mabinogion sites.
Meet our experts
- Davies, S. M. 2013. "Venerable relics"? Re-visiting the Mabinogi. In: Nagy, J. F. ed. Writing Down the Myths: a collection of essays on mythography in ancient and medieval literary traditions. Cursor Mundi Vol. 17.Turnhout: Brepols. , pp.157-179.
- Davies, S. M. 2012. Writing Welsh to 1150: (Re)-creating the past, shaping the future. In: Lees, C. ed. The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature. The New Cambridge History of English literature Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. , pp.660-686.
- Davies, S. M. 2012. O Alice i Alys: cyfieithu clasur i'r Gymraeg. Llên Cymru 35 (1), pp.116-146.
- Davies, S. M. 2010. Translating the Mabinogion. Anglistik: international journal of English studies 21 (1), pp.41-54.