- Save 10% on selected children’s books, compliments of Amazon Family Promotion exclusive for Prime members .
King Arthur'S Raid On The Underworld : The Oldest Grail Quest Hardcover – 15 Oct 2008
Special offers and product promotions
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
I applaud the fruits of scholarship which have exposed the themes and underlying coherence in this most difficult of, enigmatic of texts. The experience is overwhelming; a kaleidoscope of glittering images and correspondences. This book is very welcome, setting out the themes clearly and leading us gently through a poem which has never been satisfactorily dealt with until now. As a bonus, the presentation is wonderful beautifully laid out on thick paper and with stuning full colour iullustrations. It really must be seen and stroked. In this format, even the timid would-be scholar is led gently through the commentary which outlines the mystery at the heart of Taliesin's great poem.
Penny Billington, --Touchstone, December 2008
This is a treasure trove of a book, beautifully presented and packed with artistry, information and tales of wondrous deeds. The main subject of the book is a famously enigmatic early Welsh poem commonly known as 'the Spoils of Annwn' and attributed to the legendary Taliesin. An introduction by John Matthews lets us in gently with a description of the poem's subject matter, author and background.
The poem itself is printed ina new translation by Caitlín Matthews, with fabulous facing pages of artwork by Meg Falconer. These painting s are very special and create an evocative synergy with the text. This is the inspirational heart of the book, which can be returned to time and again.
The following chapter Uncovering the Treasures; is a line by line study of hte poem by Caitlín in which she gives detailed explanations of the characters, places and themes, drawing on nurmerous sother source materials and cross referencing with relevant stories from Wales, Ireland and Scotland. Specific themes are the Descent to the Underworld, the Cauldron/Grail and the Great Prisoner.
The Welsh text is then presended on pages facing the English text followed by anappendicx outlining the themnes of other related stories, such as the Death of Cu Roi mac Daire and Culhwch and Olwen.
Thje book is a facinating journey into our island's earliest recorded culture; an oral culture written down centuries after the stories were fist composed. Caitlín, John and Meg have combined in a wonderul way to create an ambience in which these ancient tales resonate anew. My best commendation for this book is the loss I felt when I had to hand it on to another reviewer. I want it back!
Mike JonesSee all Product description
Top customer reviews
The book is subtitled "The Oldest Grail Quest" but the "Grail" in question is the cauldron from Celtic mythology. Many scholars believe that writers on the Continent who wrote down the Grail-legends in mediaeval times were borrowing ideas from this older Celtic/British material. In other words, even though the Grail as we know it has a different physical form, the basic concept was based on the magical cauldron (and horn of plenty) of Celtic myth but given a Christian twist.
The book centres on the early British poem known as "The Spoils of Annwfyn" which describes Arthur's descent into the Celtic Otherworld to recover the cauldron. The authors describe this as "a prequel of the later medieval Grail quest, making the Preiddeu Annwfyn one of the earliest stories of the search for the Holy Grail". This raises an important question namely how we can be so sure that there really is this link between the earlier Celtic stories and the later mediaeval ones penned by Chretien de Troyes, Robert de Boron and so on. This is a debated point but I believe with the authors that the link does exist.
Preiddeu Annwfyn is presented in Appendix One in its original Welsh form along side a new English translation. This English translation also appears in Chapter One, along side Meg Falconer's paintings. The poem is then given a detailed analysis in Chapter Two with more analysis and commentary on the deeper, salient themes such as the Cauldron and the Great Prisoner in Chapter 3. The Irish and Welsh mythic roots of the poem are broached in Appendix Two. This gives outlines of some of the most important sources in Celtic Myth such as the story of Culhwch and Olwen, which is the oldest extant Arthurian story in the world.
This is a truly wonderful book and now that I've read it once I want to read it again.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
In the introduction, John Matthews gives an overview of the various versions and manuscripts of the poem, and touches upon the figure of the bard Taliesin. He then outlines the main themes of the poem with the central one being that of the acquisition or "theft" of wisdom from the otherworld.
Two brief notes follow the introduction: In the "Author's Note", Caitlin Matthews outlines the plan of the book and suggests a useful sequence for reading. Meg Falconer, in the "Artist's Note", offers highly useful insights into the impressive and luminous paintings that accompany the text.
Three chapters form the core of the book. First comes Caitlin Matthews' incandescent translation of the " Preiddeu", Her rendering glows deeply with the spirit of the poet. The "Preiddeu" tells of Arthur's journeys to a series of otherworld "fortresses", which clearly have deep initiatory implications. For instance, in Stanza II we find references to the cycling of the seasons and elements, the primal song that originates in the cauldon of inspiration, and the mystery of the Nine Maidens that was expressed and embodied in numerous ancient initiatory sisterhoods:
I am renowned in fame: the song was heard
In Caer Pedryfan, four times revolving.
My original song stems from the cauldron,
By the breath of nine maidens was it kindled. ...
Caitlin Matthews' evocative renditions of Taliesin's verse narration express well the dense magical imagery of the poem. Taliesin's poetry is so tightly compressed, however, that it will seem somewhat opaque to those without knowledge of Celtic myth and magical tradition. Fortunately, Caitlin Matthews expertly clarifies some of the deeper meanings in Chapter Two, entitled "Uncovering the Treasures, A Guide to the Raid".
Chapter Three rounds out the mysteries of the "Preiddeu Annwfyn" by presenting a useful overview of the tradition of the "Katabasis" or decent to the UnderRealm. Here you will learn about the Sleepers in the Land, the Porter at the Gate, and the relation between the Cauldron and the Grail. A prose reading of the poem is also included for purposes of clarification.
Two appendices give helpful additional material: Appendix 1 presents the poem in the original Welsh; Appendix 2, the mythic background to Arthur's Raid.
Catilin Matthews' book is highly recommended to anyone interested in the Celtic UnderRealm Tradition and its connections to the Grail quest and the magical poetry of the ancient Bards. Her new translation of the sacred verse of the "Preiddeu Annwfyn" glows with the light of the hidden wisdom and her insights rise from the page like mist from the cauldron of inspiration itself.
Look for similar items by category
- Books > Mind, Body & Spirit > Mythology > Encyclopaedias
- Books > Mind, Body & Spirit > Mythology > Folklore
- Books > Poetry, Drama & Criticism > History & Criticism
- Books > Poetry, Drama & Criticism > Poetry > Genres > Myths
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Social Sciences > Anthropology > Customs & Folklore > Folklore
- Books > Society, Politics & Philosophy > Social Sciences > Sociology