Fantastic telling of the four branches of the Mabinogion. One truly needs to read several versions before being comfortable with the four branches. This is my ultimate favorite among all books Mabinogi.
In the forward Betty Ballantine tells the story of Evangeline Walton born in 1907 in Indianapolis Indiana as a blue baby and never enjoying good health. All her life she had to cope with silver nitrate treatments which left her with a blue complexion. She was thus home educated and was very much a recluse.
In this atmosphere, she began a life long love affair with books, her early favorite authors being Rider Haggard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, L. Frank Baum, and Lord Dunsany. The worlds of fantasy, love and adventure were also her world. A love of ancient and medieval history as well as the high poets formed her. Along with these factors, writing became a lifelong habit and passion.
Her direction was toward magic and fantasy and when mixed with her burgeoning imagination this led her to the Mabinogion with its heroic myths of ancient Welsh lore. Therefore, her ambition focused on this rich body of literature. The myths, with a matter-of-fact acceptance of magic in the everyday lives of humankind, together with the fierce, tempestuous stories of the early Cymru, the titanic imagery, the blending of gods and men - proved the lure of a lifetime.
In 1936, Walton published the Forth Branch of the Mabinogion with a title of 'The Virgin and the Swine.' This in the Depression went largely unnoticed. In the early 1970's Ballantine Books found a copy of 'The Virgin and the Swine. .Having started a new line of adult fantasy books, they were more than eager to republish this book. The Library of Congress did not have an address for the author, the publisher was long defunct. Ballantine posted ads for any information about the author in hundreds of publications.
Calling the republished book The Island of the Mighty it was already in its print run when the Library of Congress informed them that the copyright had been renewed but they still had no address. A publisher's nightmare! Then another author found a twenty-year-old address for Walton.
She was living in Tucson Arizona, and was pleased to see her book back in print. She asked if Ballantine would like the manuscripts for the other three branches. Checking and revising her early work, Prince of Annwn, The Children of Llyr, and the Song of Rhiannon The Mabinogion Tetralogy was published to the delight of dedicated fans of the Ballantine adult fantasy series.
Recognition of her immense writing talents followed rapidly in the mainstream media. The Saturday Review of Literature wrote of Walton: “Evangeline Walton stands with T. H. White and C. S. Lewis as not only the best fantasies of the twentieth century. . . they are great works of fiction. Walton succeeds in creating an imaginary world that we believe actually existed [their italics] in this world’s history.”
So this is the one work you cannot live without if you love the tales of the Mabinogi.
Paperback: 720 pages
Publisher: Overlook TP (December 31, 2003)
Rating: 5 Stars
Review by Bill Tillman
May 20, 2010
The Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton
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