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The Oldest British Prose Literature: The Compliation of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi [Hardcover]

Nikolai Tolstoy , Nicolas Jacobs

Price: CDN$ 173.88 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

May 30 2009
This work establishes the chronology and provenance of the early mediaeval tales known today as the "Four Branches of the Mabinogi". Although they have been justly described as 'fundamentally the stories of the old Brittonic gods from whom the leading Welsh dynasties claimed descent', which makes their principal subject-matter archaic and in principle timeless, Tolstoy shows that often seemingly incongruous and contradictory passages reflect details of historical events in Britain and Ireland during the first two decades of the eleventh century. It is not suggested that the author of the "Four Branches" was attempting a pastiche history of the times in which he lived, but rather that he envisaged historical events as reflections of themes drawn from the mythology of pagan Britain. Dramatic events culminating in the battle of Clontarf in Ireland and the Danish conquest of England in the same year were viewed by the author as echoing those gormesoedd, Otherworld scourges which had assailed Britain in illo tempore, as Mircea Eliade termed the concept. In order to substantiate this central argument, Tolstoy's researches range widely across mediaeval history, in the course of which he investigates and provides fresh answers to many perennial problems which have long exercised the minds of scholars of the period.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 567 pages
  • Publisher: Edwin Mellen Pr (May 30 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0773447105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0773447103
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 23.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 953 g

Product Description


"[Mabinogi] has recently been the object of renewed scholarly interest, especially with regard to questions of date and authorship. By contrast, the concern of earlier scholars to disentangle and make sense of the elements of British or 'Celtic' myth in the stories has fallen out of fashion, partly as a result of an increased concentration on the texts as they stand rather than with what might or might not lie behind them, and partly through a distrust of the whole methodology of the older school of mythological criticism, as exemplified by the sometimes undisciplined speculations of the late R. S. Loomis. Tolstoy, by contrast, argues afresh for the recognition of the mythical elements in the Four Branches, not with the intention of treating those elements as the real subject of interest, of which the texts are to be seen merely as a late and garbled version, but as a means of recreating the intellectual context in which the texts were composed." - Nicolas Jacobs Jesus College, Oxford"

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