Wales

Mabinogion features in BBC Radio 3 anniversary series

Branwen and Ceridwen Image copyright City and County of Swansea/Glynn Vivian collection
Image caption Branwen and Ceridwen - Welsh artist Christopher Williams was inspired by characters from the Mabinogion early in the 20th Century

The mythical tales of the Mabinogion will be brought to BBC Radio 3 listeners in a new series all this week.

Writers including former national poet Gwyneth Lewis will present analysis and readings from the medieval Welsh text.

The Mabinogion Revisited can be heard at 22:45 GMT from 14 to 18 November.

Writer Jon Gower said: "It's wonderful to share a national treasure that not even everyone in Wales realises we've got."

The medieval tales include fabled beasts and monsters and one of the earliest-known references to King Arthur.

Some of the stories are more than 1,000 years old, but others are thought to date back even further.

They were popularised and caught the imagination of a new generation of readers when the 11 tales were translated in the mid-19th Century.

"It's one of the finest collections of European folk stories," said Gower.

"But they also have a relationship to the country in which we live today, as so many of the places on the map today connect with those stories told such a long time ago.

"They had been handed down orally from one storyteller to another, down the generations."

The other writers discussing the Mabinogion as part of The Essay series are Prof Sioned Davies, James Hawes and Horatio Clare.

The series is part of BBC Radio 3's 70th anniversary programming. It launched as the Third Programme in 1946, and featured contributions from Dylan Thomas in its early years.

Image copyright Evening Standard/Getty Images
Image caption Richard Burton (right) rehearsing Under Milk Wood with Emlyn Williams and Sybil Thorndike in 1954

Thomas's play Under Milk Wood premiered on the station shortly after his death in 1954, with Richard Burton playing the principal narrator.

As well as speech programming, it also broadcasts music and has a longstanding relationship with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

BBC Radio 3 controller Alan Davey, who studied the Mabinogion at university, said he welcomed the chance to broadcast the work.

"The Essay on Mabinogion forms part of BBC Radio 3's 70th anniversary, as part of our mission to connect audiences with remarkable music and culture," he said.

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Media captionA modern animated take - Cardiff University's Dr Juliette Wood explores some of the magical menagerie in The Mabinogion

Jon Gower's essay will be on the role of nature in the tales and he said they remain relevant today.

"You can look for clues to elements of the landscape in Wales now, and how it's changed," he said.

"For instance in Culhwch and Olwen there's reference to the deforestation of the land.

"There are characters in the tales which have got universal appeal. For instance there's King Arthur, who is chasing the Twrch Trwyth [a wild boar] around Wales and which had him running everywhere, and defeated almost all of his bravest knights.

"It shows that we have possession of that folk character, who is a legend and an icon of Britain."

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