New Stories from the Mabinogion is an exciting series of contemporary novels by leading authors, reworking ancient Celtic myth cycles.The first two stories are published in October 2009. Authors so far commissioned are Owen Sheers, Niall Griffiths, Russell Celyn Jones and Gwyneth Lewis. The eleven stories in the Mabinogion are diverse medieval Welsh tales taken from two fourteenth-century manuscripts collating a much earlier oral tradition. They were first translated into English in the nineteenth century. They bring us Celtic mythology, a history of the Island of Britain seen through the eyes of medieval Wales, and include the first appearance in literature of King Arthur - but tell tales that stretch way beyond the boundaries of contemporary Wales. There is enchantment and shape-shifting, conflict, peacemaking, love, betrayal. A wife conjured out of flowers is punished for unfaithfulness by being turned into an owl,Arthur and his knights chase a magical wild boar and its piglets from Ireland, across south Wales to Cornwall, a prince changes places with the king of the underworld for a year - Each author has chosen a story to reinvent and retell for their own reasons and in their own way: creating fresh, contemporary tales which speak to us today, while tapping into a vigorous source of stories still flowing just beneath the surface of our culture. White Ravens by Owen Sheers is the first in the series and is based on the tale of Branwen, Daughter of Llyr, one of the most action-packed in the whole myth cycle. This 2009 retelling moves this bloodthirsty tale of WelshIrish power struggles and family tensions into the twenty-first century, but retains many of the bizarre and magical happenings of the original.
Owen Sheers was born in Fiji in 1974 and brought up in Abergavenny. The winner of an Eric Gregory Award and the 1999 Vogue Young Writer's Award, his first collection of poetry, The Blue Book (Seren) was shortlisted for the Wales Book of the Year and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection 2001. His second collection Skirrid Hill (Seren) won a Somerset Maugham Award. His debut prose work The Dust Diaries (Faber) was shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize and won the Wales Book of the Year 2005. Owen's first novel, Resistance (Faber) won a 2008 Hospital Club Creative Award was shortlisted for the Writers Guild Best Book Award, and is translated into nine languages. Owen's recent collaboration with composer Rachel Portman, The Water Diviner's Tale, was premiered at the Royal Albert Hall for the BBC Proms 2007.Owen was a 2007 Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Fellow at the NewYork Public Library.