Medievally Speaking reviews: The Mab

Medievally Speaking reviews:

Matt Brown and Eloise Williams, eds., The Mab: Eleven Epic Stories from the Mabinogi. Illustrated by Max Low, translated into Welsh by Bethan Gwanas. London: Unbound, 2022.


Reviewed by: Donna R. White (dwhite@atu.edu)


The Mab announces itself as a collection of retellings for young readers, but it would be more accurate to call it an adaptation of the medieval Welsh tales rather than retellings. Telling a story again may introduce changes but does not necessitate them, whereas adaptation requires change. According to Linda Hutcheon’s A Theory of Adaptation (2nd ed., Routledge, 2013), an adaptation is a re-visioning based on alterations to its sources. All adaptations, says Hutcheon, are made in a “creative as well as an interpretive context that is ideological, social, historical, cultural, personal, and aesthetic” (p. 109), and a new interpretive context mandates change. Like its source, in other words, an adaptation is a work of a particular time and place. In the case of The Mab, a twenty-first century iteration of tales first written down in the twelfth or thirteenth century, the changes incorporate a shift of genre, context, audience, tone, point of view, characterization, theme, and ideology.

The Mab is not the first children’s version of the eleven medieval Welsh tales known collectively as the Mabinogion. That honor goes to Sidney Lanier’s The Boy’s Mabinogion (1881), a highly bowdlerized edition of Lady Charlotte Guest’s English translation (1838-1849). READ FULL REVIEW HERE

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