the earliest prose stories of the literature of Britain
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The Mabinogion is a collection of anonymous medieval Welsh tales, deriving in some cases from the very oldest strata of Celtic legend. The first complete translation of The Mabinogion was published by Lady Charlotte Guest in 1838-1849. The most literal translation is perhaps that of Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones, first published in 1949 and cited here in the 1989 revised version. All editions and translations include eleven stories preserved in the White Book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hergest; Lady Charlotte Guest's also includes a twelfth story, "Taliesin".


  • He who is chief, let him be a bridge.
    • "Branwen Daughter of Llyr" {Jones and Jones, 1989, p. 34)
    • The original Welsh, "A fo ben, bid bont", is sometimes quoted.
  • "Aye," said Math, "let us seek, thou and I, by our magic and enchantment to conjure a wife for him out of flowers"...And then they took the flowers of the oak, and the flowers of the broom, and the flowers of the meadowsweet, and from those they called forth the very fairest and best endowed maiden that mortal ever saw, and baptized her with the baptism they used at that time, and named her Blodeuedd.
  • And then that emperor drew up a letter of threat to Macsen. It was moreover no more of a letter than: "If thou come, and if ever thou come to Rome". And that letter and the tidings came all the way to Caer Llion to Macsen. And thence he in return sent a letter to the man who said he was emperor in Rome. In that letter too there was nothing save: "And if I go to Rome, and if I go".
  • Knife has gone into meat, and drink into horn, and a thronging in Arthur's hall. Save the son of a king of a rightful dominion, or a craftsman who brings his craft, none may enter.
  • Yellower was her head than the flower of the broom, whiter was her flesh than the foam of the wave; whiter were her palms and her fingers than the shoots of the marsh trefoil from amidst the fine gravel of a welling spring.
    • "Culhwch and Olwen" (Jones and Jones, 1989, pp. 110-11)
  • On the morrow early he arose, and when he came outside, a fall of snow had come down the night before. And a wild she-hawk had killed a duck alongside the cell, and what with the horse's clatter the she-hawk rose up, and a raven alighted on the bird's flesh. Peredur stood and likened the exceeding blackness of the raven, and the whiteness of the snow, and the redness of the blood, to the hair of the woman he loved best, which was black as jet, and her flesh to the whiteness of the snow, and the redness of the blood in the white snow to the two red spots in the cheeks of the woman he loved best.
  • And he came his way towards a river valley, and the bounds of the valley were forest, and on either side of the river, level meadows. And one side of the river he could see a flock of white sheep, and on the other side he could see a flock of black sheep. And as one of the white sheep bleated, one of the black sheep would come across, and would be white; and as one of the black sheep bleated, one of the white sheep would come across, and would be black. And he could see a tall tree on the river bank, and the one side of it was burning from its roots to its tip, and the other half with green leaves on it.
    • "Peredur son of Efrawg" (Jones and Jones, 1989, p. 211)
  • Their Lord they will praise,
    Their speech they will keep,
    Their land they will lose,
    Except wild Walia.
    • "Taliesin" (Guest, 1849, vol. 3 p. 388)
    • Taliesin is represented as prophesying the future of the Britons after the coming of the Saxons.
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