Blodeuedd and Bláthnait
: A Reassessment

  • Sarah Lynn Pfannenschmidt

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Arts


In 1928, W.J. Gruffydd published his edition and findings on the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, Math vab Mathonwy. He proposed that the story of Blodeuedd, Lleu’s unfaithful wife and the woman created from flowers, was taken in part from the Irish story of the Munster hero Cú Roí mac Dáiri and his treacherous wife, Bláthnait. He further suggested that both Blodeuedd and Bláthnait’s stories derive from a lost common Irish source that is more closely represented by Bláthnait’s tale. He also reconstructed the Welsh story to appear more similar to his summarized form of the Irish tale, but neglected to discuss the complexity of the Irish tradition surrounding Cú Roí’s death tale.
There are several points of resemblance between the texts. Both stories feature similar names for the women and the shared theme of an unfaithful wife who betrays her husband to his enemies. For her crime, the woman is punished and becomes an example of the consequences faced by unfaithful women. The Irish and Welsh stories also share a number of general motifs, but these motifs are not manifested using the same story details and are, therefore, better thought of as sub-motifs. Depending upon which versions of the Irish and Welsh stories are being analyzed, the same sub-motifs may or may not be shared between the texts. Gruffydd considers some of these factors, but he does not consistently acknowledge the existence of international examples of these motifs. Ultimately, his theories do not account for another possibility: that the stories may be analogues rather than borrowings.
Therefore, it is the aim of this paper to reopen the question of the relationship between the tales of Blodeuedd and Bláthnait and to re-examine Gruffydd’s arguments regarding their possible connections. The first necessity is to distinguish between the versions of the Welsh and Irish stories and to examine the texts as they have survived. To that end, the Irish and Welsh stories are considered first within their own traditions before being subjected to an extended comparison. Clarifying the nature of the varying details and how they manifest within each tradition is crucial to determining the most likely nature of the stories’ relationship. The focus is primarily upon the sequence of events in each story, the wife’s role in these events, and any potential connections with common literary themes and folk motifs. Based upon the numerous differences between the texts, it is difficult to accept that the Welsh story is merely a copy of the Irish death tale of Cú Roí as Gruffydd supposed.
Date of Award02 Mar 2010
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorPatrick Sims-Williams (Supervisor)

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