The Mabinogion by Anonymous

This is not a full review: but I love the bardic interlude in the tale ‘How Cwlhwch won Olwen’, where in reward for a deed of heroism, the king offers Cwlhwch anything in the kingdom, and Cwlhwch says “I ask nothing but the hand in marriage of the fair maiden Olwen: and I invoke her in the names of your warriors.” There then follows eight pages of names – an opportunity for any itinerant bard to name-drop like mad and get lots of cheers from the assembled audience – and at the end of this, the king says “I know nothing of this Olwen of whom you speak, or of her family, but if you can win her hand in marriage, marry her with my blessing.”

It must have got a laugh then, it gave me a great laugh the first time I read it, and it goes to show that the best comedy routines are timeless!


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