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A Century of Welsh Myth in Children's…
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A Century of Welsh Myth in Children's Literature

by Donna R. White

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Donna R. White is by no means the first critic to espy the strong influence of Welsh mythology in much of contemporary fantasy literature, a fact she herself acknowledges in the introduction to this book. Her work builds upon that of Kath Filmer-Davies, the author of numerous articles, as well as the book-length study, Fantasy Fiction and Welsh Myth: Tales of Belonging. White is also much indebted to C.W. Sullivan's 1989 title Welsh Celtic Myth in Modern Fantasy. But although she was not the first or only scholar to explore this topic, she was the first to limit her study to the field of children's literature, a fact which led me to begin my reading with her work.

With chapters devoted to Sydney Lanier's retelling of the Mabinogion, Kenneth Morris' Book of the Three Dragons, Alan Garner's The Owl Service, and Lloyd Alexander Chronicles of Prydain, as well as two chapters on various other retellings of the Mabinogi, there is much here to ponder and digest. Susan Cooper's marvelous Dark Is Rising Sequence is discussed, as is Jenny Nimmo's Snow Spider Trilogy (and this long before she had become popular with the publication of her Charlie Bone series). Other authors briefly considered: Joan Aiken, Nancy Bond, Grace Chetwin, Clare Cooper, Louise Lawrence, and Madeleine L'Engle.

I used White's book in preparation for the course I taught on the use of folklore in children's fantasy fiction, and assigned parts of the chapter on Lloyd Alexander as a secondary reading for my students. I found the book as a whole to be both informative and inspirational: it strengthened and reinforced my own interest in the connections between fantasy and folklore, and has served as a model for the dissertation I would like to write on the use of Irish mythology and folklore in children's literature. ( )
2 vote AbigailAdams26 | Jul 3, 2013 |
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Myth, legend, and folklore have been entrenched in children's literature for several centuries and continue to be popular. Some of the most ancient traditional tales still extant come from the Celtic cultures of France and the British Isles, whose languages are among the oldest in Europe. Among these tales are four native Welsh legends collectively known as the Mabinogi, which were first translated into English in 1845 by Lady Charlotte Guest. Numerous children's books have been based on the Mabinogi since then, and many have received awards and critical acclaim. Because these books are written for children, they are not necessarily faithful retellings of the original tales. Instead, authors have had to select certain elements to include and others to exclude. This book examines how authors of children's fantasy literature from the 19th century to the present have adapted Welsh myth to meet the perceived needs of their young audience.
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Myth, legend, and folklore have been entrenched in children's literature for several centuries and continue to be popular. Some of the most ancient traditional tales still extant come from the Celtic cultures of France and the British Isles, whose languages are among the oldest in Europe. Among these tales are four native Welsh legends collectively known as the Mabinogi, which were first translated into English in 1845 by Lady Charlotte Guest. Numerous children's books have been based on the Mabinogi since then, and many have received awards and critical acclaim. Because these books are writte.… (more)

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