The Mabinogion

The Mabinogion - Anonymous, Jeffrey Gantz This is a very old series of legends. In fact, many of the stories have inconsistencies and some of the stories break off and end without explanation. (Even the footnotes admit that they are missing information.) While that is not the fault of the editors of the book (they can't just make up the ends of these fragmented stories), it made reading a little troublesome. That aside, it was an interesting piece of Arthurian legend. There was a very helpful pronuciation bar at the front of the book, which showed how Welsh names were sounded out. The Welsh stories are very different than the traditional Arthurian stories; for one, these Welsh tales rely heavily on dark magic and a flippant nature about death. On one mission, Arthur and his knights ride into the underworld to take a goblet. But, like I said, some of these stories are so old that passages are missing, making it difficult to understand. "The Dream of Maxen" is a particularly trippy story. Likewise, "How Culhwch Won Olwen," spends several pages listing travel companions rather than explaining the story. The most coherent story is "Gereint and Enid," which has no missing passages. Enid is also much more proactive, and a resource of strength for her husband, and reminds me more of Tennyson's Lynette from "Gareth and Lynette." (I know this is not really important in ancient legends, but in this book after so many stories with women being traded around like cattle, a strong woman was a nice change.) All in all, these stories were very interesting, but I kept wishing that this edition would provide more insight. Having so many unintelligible passages was a bit of a letdown. The footnotes frequently reference some Irish myths, so hopefully those might shine some light on the confusing aspects of these stories.