Welsh Legends and Folk-Tales Critical Essays

Gwyn Jones


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Jones’s book allows the young adult reader to understand the Welsh people through their legends and tales. People of all cultures have a body of knowledge and wisdom that they transmit through their stories—through myths, legends, and folktales—and the Welsh are no different. Such stories help to define the culture out of which they arise, explaining to the reader or listener (for such stories in most cultures were first transmitted orally) what values and mores that culture cherishes. In essence, myths, legends, and folktales help both to preserve a people’s past heritage and to create a people’s future heritage.

Readers can easily detect within the stories of Welsh Legends and Folk-Tales those things that the Welsh hold most dear. Marriage and family are important aspects of traditional Welsh life. Pwyll’s quest for a suitable wife is a concern not only for him but also for his friends and advisers. The expectation of an heir coming from his marriage to Rhiannon is a source of anxiety for all of Pwyll’s subjects until their son Pryderi eventually is born. Gwydion’s efforts for a proper name for his son, Culhwch’s quest for Olwen, and Macsen Wledig’s curious way of finding a wife because of a dream all emphasize the place that familial relations occupy in Welsh life.

Personal honor as well is privileged in traditional Welsh society. The insults that Efnisien heaps on his brother-in-law Matholwch not only anger...

(The entire section is 570 words.)