Wow. How awesome is the phrase “Badger-in-a-Bag”? LOVE IT. So this is my first time reading the Mabinogion, however I have read about some of the stories and characters before. So far, the writing style is…. well, let’s just say I can see the influence on English writing. It’s a bit stiff compared to The Tain, and it definitely lacks a lot of the comedy and wit (although, Rhiannon telling Pwyll that he could have spared his horse a lot of grief if he had just asked her to stop rather than chase her was a total “OOOH! SNAP!” moment). And I swear, if Pwyll said, “Between me and God” one more time… What? Is he Rainman? He starts every sentence with it!
Another contrast is the women. Oh, the women. We are only about 35 pages in and already I am leery of the way women are going to be treated in these stories. Point number one: Pwyll desires Rhiannon based solely on the fact that she is a hot chick on a fast horse. She’s the Welsh Malibu Barbie (Barbi ap Mallybw?). She manages to negotiate the marriage on her terms, but then at their “engagement party”, Pwyll ends up giving her to another guy, who clearly sees nothing wrong with this arrangement. Seriously, who wants to be married to someone who doesn’t want you? Marriage is hard enough when you both want to be there. Of course, in the end, she gets his dumb ass “badgered”, so again she wins, but what a lousy way to treat a gal. Next, she has a baby, and somehow the six handmaidens lose it. Talk about sucking at your job. Instead of butching up and dealing with the situation, or, I don’t know, LOOKING FOR THE BABY, they decide to frame Rhiannon for eating her kid. Nice. Way to throw a sister under the bus. They persist in their lies until Rhiannon is sentenced to do public penance and tell everyone her story. To make me even more rage-filled, when their lies are exposed and it is shown that Rhiannon clearly did not eat her baby (several YEARS later), not only is she not particularly bitter, NOBODY SEEMS INTERESTED IN PUNISHING THE GAGGLE OF BITCHES THAT ACCUSED HER. Why? Ooooh if I were Rhiannon I would be in a state of mind to retaliate with god-like fury. THIS calls for a warp spasm. You know, I probably would be so hateful towards these women, except 1. Backstabbing women is a hot button issue for me. And 2. They killed puppies to achieve their goal. PUPPIES. Puppy killers get no mercy from me. So far, Rhiannon seems like she’s being bullied left and right, and while in each instance she more or less comes out on top in the end, it still fills me with what my husband calls my “bear rage”.
Interestingly, Rhiannon, like Medb, is associated with the goddess of the throne, that by ritually marrying her a king married his kingdom (Proinsias Mac Cana’s Celtic Mythology- a cool book if you can find a copy). So far, the two seem vastly different as characters. Rhiannon seems to fit that description more, as she seems easier to manipulate in this story and lacks her own motives. She seems less like an actual queen and more like the embodiment of a concept. Medb was nothing BUT motive and seems more like a leader, albeit a lousy one.
Don’t get me started on Branwen. Abused, enslaved, held captive, and then they throw her baby on the fire? Again, we have no idea what her motives or desires are in life. She’s just there to be the Golden Vagina that men want… because vagina. She has zero agency or character. Something tells me The Mabinogion is going to be like a Lars von Trier movie: filled with woman being victimized, abused, and traded like cattle. (Seriously, have you seen his movies? I mean, I actually loved Dogville, but it’s hard to take everything the leads up to the ending. Breaking the Waves was like some kind of really negative personal fetish fantasy, and Dancer in the Dark was like making a musical out of torture porn. Melancholia basically makes a woman’s inability to control her emotions the cause of the apocalypse. I won’t even watch Antichrist, seeing as the woman in the story is supposed to be the titular character, not to mention she mutilates her genitals with scissors. Eeech! I am convinced the man just hates women.)