Friday, January 7, 2011

Fairytale Reflections (14) Celia Rees at SMoST

I missed posting Fairytale Reflections (14) Celia Rees at SMoST due to the holidays, but today we get to also read the new Fairytale Reflections (15) Gillian Philip which I will give its own post in a moment.

Rees chose a tale I am almost completely ignorant of which made me appreciate her all the more--I love to learn and she inspired me. She wrote about Blodeuedd, a story from the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion. I have a copy of the Mabinogion on my shelf with many good intentions to always read it carefully instead of giving it a casual perusal, but time and other demands have continued to hamper me.

Here's an excerpt from Rees article, click through to read it all and more about her own work, too:

Blodeuedd is a story from the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion. I first came across it when I was eleven or twelve years old and reading my way through the Myths, Legends and Fairy Tales section of the school library. There, I discovered Lady Charlotte Guest’s translation of the Mabinogion, that great collection of Welsh stories [this is a link to a free online version]. I was familiar with Greek myths and legends, stories of the Norse gods, but these tales were new to me and they were our stories, stories from the British Isles. There were familiar characters, I recognised King Arthur, but this was not the Arthur I knew. There was a strangeness here and a power. Many of the stories did not make sense on first reading; there was a denseness about them, a feeling that the tales contained many stories, concentrated and packed together. This did not detract from my enjoyment. It merely added to the mystery. Here were kings, queens, magicians and shape shifters, golden ships, magic cauldrons, giants and dragons but behind them it was possible to sense something far more ancient, darker: more dangerous and more powerful.

I have continued to be fascinated by the Mabinogion, by its elusiveness and by its hints at other meanings, the remnants of a much more ancient storytelling tradition reaching back into an otherwise unknowable pre-history. The Mabinogion has proved a rich source of raw material for many of our greatest fantasy writers: Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Susan Cooper and, of course, Alan Garner who used the story of Blodeuedd as the basis for his novel The Owl Service.
Links to books by Rees herself:

Sorceress The Fool's Girl Pirates! Witch Child

Sovay City of Shadows (Celia Rees Supernatural Trilogy) The Host Rides Out (Celia Rees Supernatural Trilogy) Blood Sinister

Finally, here are some editions of The Mabinogion. I don't have a recommendation for the best edition although I myself have the Everyman Classics edition which has suited my needs just fine.

The Mabinogion (Oxford World's Classics) The Mabinogion (Penguin Classics) The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales: 30th Anniversary Edition The Mabinogion (Everyman Paperback Classics)

Lady Charlotte Guest and the Mabinogion; some notes on the work and its translator, with extracts from her journals
A book about Guest's edition

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