A low rumbling sound had broken the silence around them. It grew steadily louder as they looked up and down the street for some sign of a headlight; it swelled to a roar as they both looked up at the sky – and a huge motorbike fell of the air and landed on the road in front of them.
If the motorbike was huge, it was nothing to the man sitting astride it. He was almost twice as tall as a normal man and at least five times as wide. He looked simply too big to be allowed, and so wild – long tangles of bushy black hair and beard hid most of his face, he had hands the size of dustbin lids and his feet in their leather boots were like baby dolphins. In his vast, muscular arms, he was holding a bundle of blankets.
“Hagrid,” said Dumbledore, sounding relieved. “At last. And where did you get that motorbike?”
“Borrowed it, Professor Dumbledore, sir,” said the giant, climbing carefully off the motorbike as he spoke. “Young Sirius Black lent it me. I’ve got him, sir.”
“No problems, were there?”
“No, sir – house was almost destroyed but I got him out all right before the Muggles started swarmin’ around. He fell asleep as we was flyin’ over Bristol.”
Dumbledore and Professor McGonagall bent forward over the bundle of blankets. Inside, just visible, was a baby boy, fast asleep. Under a tuft of jet-black hair over his forehead they could see a curiously shaped cut, like a bolt of lightning.
“Is that where – ?” whispered Professor McGonagall.
“Yes,” said Dumbledore. “He’ll have that scar for ever.”
Excerpt taken from Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2013), pp. 16-17.
June 2017 marks the twentieth anniversary of the publication of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first book in the series that was to change the landscape of children’s literature publishing worldwide. To celebrate this anniversary, the final BookTalk of the session is inviting three literature scholars to explore the phenomenal growth and global impact of the series in the years since the release of The Philosopher’s Stone.
“Sioned Davies, professor of Welsh at Cardiff University, has written about the stories in The Mabinogion as performances. They fit the speaking voice perfectly and are full of the repetitions and devices that make oral feats of memory possible. We get the onomatopoeia of Peredur hitting a knight “a blow that was brutal and bitter, painful and bold”. The excitement of the action is further intensified by mid-sentence switching into the present tense, as when Geraint, son of Erbin, “struck the knight on the top of his head so that all the armour on his head shatters and all the flesh splits, and the skin, and it pierces the bone and the knight falls on his knees”.
Davies’s arrangement of the tales shows what happens when an oral tradition begins to be committed to the page. The rhetorically simpler “Four Branches” precede “How Culhwch Won Olwen”, a far more “literary” production. Interestingly, Culhwch wins his bride not by his own feats but by invoking 200 of Arthur’s warriors, who do the dirty work for him. This virtuoso recitation is one of the jewels of The Mabinogion, and Davies’s decision not to translate the names conveys the stirring original rhythm of this astonishing heroic catalogue.
The stories are also released from the faux-Victorian romanticism that has dogged the text, even as late as Jeffrey Gantz’s Penguin Classics translation of the late 1970s. So, the “Countess of the Fountain” is now the “Lady of the Well” and “buskins” are “boots”. This fresh, energetic translation is a revelation and, for the first time, shows off The Mabinogion tales as what they were originally: splendid entertainment.”
The review in full can be accessed here.
(Illustration by Margaret Jones. Source.)
Reading from Prof. Sioned Davies’ 2007 translation of The Mabinogion, Cerys Matthews brings to life the moment when Pwyll meets Rhiannon for the first time.
Our May 2017 BookTalk event celebrates the 2017 Year of Legends initiative by bringing together four Cardiff University scholars who will discuss the Welsh legends and tales gathered together as Y Mabinogi/The Mabinogion.
A review from Siriol McAvoy of our last BookTalk event about David Jones’ In Parenthesis, which took place on 11th October 2016, to whet some appetites on the eve of our next event.