Narrative Techniques of the Early Medieval Welsh and Irish Prose Tales
: A Comparative Investigation of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi and a Selection of Tales from the Ulster Cycle

  • Anka Furlan

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This doctoral thesis seeks to examine some of the narrative techniques of the medieval Welsh and Irish prose narratives and compare and contrast them in an attempt to provide an insight into the mind and the methods used by the final redactor of the Four Branches. The sample of narratives selected for this research consists of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi, Compert Con Culainn, Aided Óenfir Aífe, Tochmarc Emire, Mesca Ulad, Echtra Nerai, Táin Bó Fraích, Scéla Mucce Meic Dathó, and Longes Mac n-Uislenn.
The thesis consists of seven chapters. The first chapter explains the main purpose of the research and the reasons behind selecting the primary sources. The second chapter presents a short survey of the existing scholarly views on the material, the editions of the texts used for the purpose of the present thesis, the manuscript sources, and a discussion of the oral tradition. The third chapter explains the theoretical and methodological background on which the research is based. The fourth chapter concentrates on the narrative structure of the texts examined, and offers a graphic representation of the structure of each text. The fifth chapter examines certain narrative devices such as triads, lists, onomastic tales, embedded tales, cynneddfau and geasa, the watchman device, and poetry and roscada; this chapter also offers a discussion on how the use and placement of these devices in the narrative affects the flow of the narrative. The sixth chapter moves away from the level of the narrative structure and explores the variations in the inquit formulae used in the texts. The seventh chapter concludes the research by presenting an attempt at outlining a possible profile of the editor of the Four Branches.
Appendix A offers a graphic representation of the narrative structure of Culhwch ac Olwen. Appendix B is a brief note on the censorship of the Four Branches
Date of Award11 Jun 2012
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aberystwyth University
SupervisorIan Hughes (Supervisor) & Simon Rodway (Supervisor)

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