Native Tales

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The Native Tales of the Mabinogion are classics of Celtic mythology. Each story is firmly rooted in the fertile soil of Welsh culture and draws on the same themes, symbols and archetypes that find both in other ancient Welsh tales, as well as those of Ireland, France and elsewhere.

Yet even though each tale draws on this same ancient tradition, each one is also unique and distinct. For all of the similarities that they share, each tale presents its own vision of the world.

Dream-journeys, magical women, fighting dragons, monstrous giants and boars, initiations and spirit animals are only some of the themes we’ll be stalking through the tangled woods of The Native Tales. They are not only entertaining stories, but also enigmatic, mysterious, sometimes puzzling in their imagery.

This course will explore The Dream of the Emperor Maxen, Rhonabwy’s Dream, Lludd and Llefelys, and How Culhwch won Olwen, and discuss how their symbols, characters and events can be interpreted. Each of these tales poses it’s own riddle, and the only way to answer those riddles is to pay close attention to the details, be sensitive to the many clues that the authors have left for us, and also do our best to understand the tradition these tales come from. The tradition of the medieval Welsh storytller, the cyfarwydd, those that preserved knowledge and could guide others into an understanding of that knowledge.

Before you begin . . .

Please get yourself a decent translation of The Native Tales. The translation I suggest is by Sioned Davies in The Mabinogion (OUP 2007). There is also a Kindle edition.

Audible have released an audiobook version of Davies’ translation, but it’s narrated by someone who can’t pronounce the Welsh names properly (don’t ask me why, please complain to them), so you can use it as a quick reference but don’t use it as a pronunciation guide. Also, please don’t use the Lady Charlotte Guest translation that’s freely available online. 

Please read The Dream of the Emperor Maxen in preparation for the first session. I’ll prompt you throughout the course to read the relevant sections and stories.

Please do get in touch you have any questions or comments.

Created by Dr Gwilym Morus-Baird. He completed his studies at Bangor University School of Welsh in 2011 with a dissertation on the bardic tradition of Medieval Wales. He has worked as a research fellow at the Library of Congress, Washington DC and has taught on courses in several different establishments. In recent years he has focussed on developing his own courses and running workshops for various organisations.