The Native Tales of the Mabinogion, these being The Dream of the Emperor Maxen, Lludd and Llefelys, How Culhwch won Olwen and Rhonabwy’s Dream, are a mixture of oral and written, Arthurian and pseudo-historical tales that form a significant part of The Mabinogion. They span at least two centuries of written tradition and, as with their sister tales, draw their basic materials from a much older oral tradition.
Yet even though each tale is firmly entangled in the web of native myth, each one is also uniquely set in its own historical or cultural context. Each tale does something different with the myths that it evokes, and even though there are similarities and connections between them, each tale presents its own vision of the world.
This course will locate each tale within the broader network of Welsh mythology, and discuss how their symbols, characters and events can be interpreted. The course will also discern the political, social and cultural motivations behind these strange stories, and compare them with both the other classics of Welsh literature and the broader European storytelling tradition.
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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 lecture. 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.