Welsh Legends and Folk-Tales Critical Context - Essay

Gwyn Jones

Critical Context

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

As an accomplished writer and scholar, Gwyn Jones was well suited to present the best of Welsh legends and folklore to young adult readers. Welsh Legends and Folk-Tales is only one book in an entire corpus of Jones’s works dealing with the legends and folklore of Northern cultures, works such as Scandinavian Legends and Folk-Tales (1956), The Norse Atlantic Saga (1964), A History of the Vikings (1968), and Kings, Beasts, and Heroes (1972). It is clear, however, that the most important influence on Welsh Legends and Folk-Tales was The Mabinogion, a work that Jones translated from the Welsh with Thomas Jones and published in 1949.

Popular interest in mythology and folklore grew steadily throughout the twentieth century, and the elements of Welsh legends and folklore presented in Welsh Legends and Folk-Tales began to arise even in mainstream young adult fiction. One need only go to Lloyd Alexander’s highly successful Chronicles of Prydain series to witness the appeal of Welsh tales. Alexander openly acknowledges a great debt to the traditional Welsh tales that inspired the Prydain series. In fact, much of the fantasy fiction of the latter half of the twentieth century incorporates the same elements that make the traditional Welsh tales so enticing: heroic quests, magical trinkets, glorious battles, fairies, and antagonistic giants. The influence of collections of traditional folklore such as Welsh Legends and Folk-Tales is widespread, profoundly affecting readers and writers alike.