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The Mabinogion is a collection of stories based on the oral tradition of the Welsh bards. Its name comes from a misunderstanding made by the Mabinogion's first English translator, Lady Charlotte Guest: she found in one story the Welsh word mabynogyon and assumed it was the plural form of the Welsh mabinogi. The word mabinogi itself is something of a puzzle, although it is clearly related to the Welsh mab or "son, boy". Professor Eric P. Hamp suggests that mabinogi derives from the name of the Celtic deity Maponos, and refers to the materials pertaining to the god Maponos.

The Mabinogion proper consists of four stories, also called in its manuscripts, "The Four Branches of the Mabinogi." These stories are:

These tales were written down in manuscripts of the fourteenth century -- The White Book of Rhydderich and The Red Book of Hergest -- and earlier fragments of these tales have been presevered in thirteenth century manuscripts.

Since Mabinogion's first translation by Lady Guest, seven other tales have been associated with the Four Branches. There are four stories that retell material from Welsh tradition and legend:

The tales Culhwch and Olwen and The Dream of Rhonabwy have interested scholars because they preserve older traditions of King Arthur. The tale The Dream of Macsen Wledig is a romanticized story about the Roman Emperor Magnus Maximus.

And three tales are versions in Welsh of Arthurian Romances that also appear in the work of Chretien de Troyes. While nineteenth century critics believed that these works were based on Chretien's own poems, more recent criticism has leaned towards believing that these two collections are based independently from a common ancestor.

Table of contents
1 Bibliography



Welsh Text and Editions

Secondary Sources