A new translation of the Four Branches is presented here, from the forthcoming study by medievalist Will Parker: The Four Branches - Celtic Myth and Medieval Reality.
These translations include detailed annotations on various literary, historical and linguistic aspects of the text. Some of these notes may refer to themes discussed more fully in the forthcoming book.
Notes on translation
This is a literal translation of White Book text: using the Dublin Advanced Studies edition for the First and Second Branches, and Ifor Williams' Pedeir Keinc Y Mabinogi (1951) for the Third and Fourth Branches.
· Where this text has been departed from, e.g. in order to render an idiomatic phrase into readable Modern English, this has been indicated by a footnote
· Additional words have occasionally been inserted to render implicit meanings in the Welsh, or clarify the sense where this is not clear. These are indicated in square brackets […]
· The word heb is used throughout The Four Branches to indicate direct speech. This is strictly only translatable as 'said'. However, for the sake of clarity and readability, it has been translated with other synonymous or closely-related expressions e.g. 'exclaimed' 'suggested', where appropriate. In dialogic contexts 'replied' 'responded' or 'answered' is sometimes used where heb is followed by conjunctive form of the pronoun. Heb is probably best understood as a punctuative marker of direct speech, as much as a semantic value in its own right (there are no inverted comas or other indicators of direct speech in Medieval Welsh manuscripts from this period).
· Likewise, ac / a (= 'and' occasionally 'but' 'with') seems to function in the Medieval Welsh prose of the Mabinogi as a marker of punctuation between clauses, as much as a conjunction. Where it occurs at the beginning of a sentence it is generally omitted. Long sentences consisting of short, independent clauses linked by ac / a are sometimes broken up into shorter sentences.
· The fossilised verbal form sef ( < ys + ef ) is not readily translatable into Modern English, and is sometimes ignored, e.g. sef a wnaeth Teirnon tynnu cledyf 'Teyrnon drew a sword'; sef a wnaeth Riannon, edrych arnaw 'Rhiannon stared at him'. Elsewhere, where it is appropriate to reflect the stylistic force of this element, it is translated with a variety of periphrastic constructions e.g.; sef a wnaeth ynteu, medylyaw y mae Lleu oed yr eryr 'It occurred to him that the eagle was Lleu'; sef ual yd eistedyssont 'this is how they sat'.
· Demonstratives such as llyma and llyna (identical in meaning to the French voici and voila respectively) also do not translate readily into Modern English, and have been rendered in a variety of ways according to the context, e.g. llyma Pryderi a Riannon 'there was Pryderi and Rhiannon'; llyma dwrwf 'suddenly there was a clap of thunder'; llyma y guelei ef teulu ac yniueroed …yn dyvot y mwyn 'lo and behold - he saw a war-band and retinues coming inside. Nachaf is translated in a similar way i.e. ar hynny nachaf un o'r llongeu yn raclaenu rac y rei ereill 'Then lo! one of the ships came out ahead of the others'
· Verbal nouns often appear in highly visual sequences, such as the one above, but are usually translated with a finite form (see Grammar of Middle Welsh, D. Simon Evans, 1964, §180). However, on occasion the dramatic present is used: a chyuodi y uyned, a chymryt y mab erwyd y traet, a heb ohir, na chael o dyn yn y ty gauael arnaw, yny want y mab yn wysc y benn yn y gynneu 'and he rises up and takes the boy by his feet and without delay, before anyone else in the house catches him, thrusts the boy headlong into the blaze'.