“Pwyll was a fool” was not the opening sentence I expected when I started reading Kris Hughes’ new chapbook, A Tale Of Manawydan. However, in fairness, it and the ensuing paragraph had me hooked. I was eager to read the chapbook not least because I know this is an approach to working with mythology that is unusual for her, and I know that myth is a serious subject for her, as it is for me. In A Tale Of Manawydan, Kris explores various dimensions of the myth contained in the Mabinogi from the perspective of Manawydan fab Llŷr, the son of Llŷr and brother of Bran and Branwen.
Kris is a writer on pagan themes, a researcher into the Mabinogi and the Celtic horse goddesses, a poet and blogger, amongst many other things. You may have come across her on various forums related to pagan discussion, particularly where the old myths of the cultures commonly referred to as Celtic are concerned.
First impressions. The chapbook is nicely laid out. The semi-serif font is not one I instantly recognise but it is aesthetically pleasing and easily readable, while the line spacing makes everything gentle on the eye and easy to read (trust me, as I get older, I really appreciate these things), and there is just enough illustration to lift the book without swamping it. It all shows that a lot of love and attention went into the details.
Manawydan’s name and lineage strongly associate him with the sea, a relationship Kris plays against Rhiannon’s sovereignty of the land with an easy and light touch. He is notable throughout his appearances in the Mabinogi as a source of mature and stabilising counsel, making his perspective an ideal one from which to present certain aspects of the narrative of the Mabinogi from a deeper perspective.
Personally, a storyteller and BDO bard, I find this style of working with myth and story very useful, to understand the myth from inside the myth. And I think A Tale of Manawydan does that in spades. Easy to read (not necessarily a simple thing to achieve with what is essentially a long monologue), it becomes a meditation on the meaning of many of the most significant events of the Mabinogi (focusing primarily but not exclusively on the third branch), not offering conclusions but inviting you to share in the meditation. You may not agree with insights that arise in this kind of shared meditation on meaning, but you do gain insight, and depth, from essentially working with a narrative “path working” experience of the myth from someone who has worked with it very deeply for many years. The voice of Manawydan came alive for me.
If you would like to read A Tale Of Manawydan, the chapbook is available from http://www.godeeper.info/store/p33/tale-of-manawydan.html
If you are interested in reading more of Kris’ writing, you can find her blog at http://www.godeeper.info/blog and if you are interested in supporting her in her creation of writing and teaching on Celtic Paganism and Horse Goddesses, you can find her Patreon page at https://www.patreon.com/user?u=11476509