Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lloyd Alexander and his Welsh mythological sources

A new piece I’ve written on Lloyd Alexander has just appeared in the latest issue of Randy Hoyt’s online mythology ’zine, Journey to the Sea. In the article, I take a look at some of the Welsh mythological underpinnings to Alexander’s five-volume Chronicles of Prydain (plus The Foundling and Other Tales from Prydain). That’s a tall order, so my examples are necessarily abbreviated, but I hope that the essay will prompt others to explore the subject further, perhaps even crack open a copy of the Mabinogion themselves.

Here’s how Randy described the new issue:

I have published the fourteenth issue of my online myth magazine Journey to the Sea. This issue includes an article by [...] Jason Fisher on Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Cycle and an article by me on Where The Wild Things Are (the book [by Maurice Sendak]).

In addition to these two typical examples of modern mythopoeic literature, the third article looks the film Katyń by Polish film director Andrzej Wajda. The film is not fantastical at all — I suppose it qualifies as historical fiction, looking at the tragic 1940 massacre in the Poland forest Katyn — but Laura Gibbs looks at how Wajda wove the Greek myth of Antigone into the film.

Any and all feedback is welcome, both here and at Journey to the Sea. If you haven’t been reading the ’zine, now would be a great time to start!


  1. Katyń and Antigone? That, indeed, is a very interesting point and something that I hadn't thought of.

    It seems Journey to the Sea has found a new reader in me. :)

    And speaking of the Mabinogion, I wish I could read Tolkien's partial translation of Pwyll Pendefig Dyfed.

    Well, I'm on my way to the 'zine. :)

  2. The Alexander piece is well-timed for me, I've been reading the Prydain cycle to my son at bedtime and we've just reached The High King; questions about where it's all coming from have been asked...

  3. Glad to hear it! As I said, my piece only scratches the surface. Michael Tunnell’s Prydain Companion is well worth checking out for more detail.

  4. Yes, Eva, me too. Sooner or later, I hope his partial translation and etymological notes will be published. With Sigurd and Gudrún having paved the way, I hope we’ll see more to come in the next few years.

  5. The difference being, of course, that Sigurd and Gudrún is an original work by Tolkien, not a translation.

  6. Yeah, pretty much, Doug. Maybe more accurate would be to call it an adaptation. It’s certainly not an original story, and even the wording of it is not original at every point. Christopher Tolkien notes a number of occasions where Tolkien’s verses are essentially a direct translation of one of his Eddic sources. Tolkien follows his sources much more closely than, say, William Morris in The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of Niblungs.

    But essentially, you’re right: it’s definitely more “original” than the Beowulf or Mabinogion translations, though probably less so than the unpublished Fall of Arthur. I have to say “probably”, because none of us has seen that work yet. Let’s hope we may yet.