THE STRUCTURE OF THE FOUR BRANCHES OF THE MABINOGI by J. K. BOLLARD, M.A. It has long been recognized that the Four Branches of the Mabinogi are among the finest literary creations of the Middle Welsh period, and represent a noteworthy contribution to European literature. Yet, in the search for ultimate origins, many studies of the Four Branches have tended to highlight a number of inconsis- tencies and to magnify certain weaknesses. The aim of this paper is to present an approach to these tales which will help to reveal the intricately formed pattern of the Mabinogi, leaving little room for doubt that it is the coherent and unified work of a single artist. In a paper on 'Form and Meaning in Medieval Romance' Professor Eugene Vinaver suggests that modem readers have difficulty in reading and understanding many medieval romances because we tend to approach them with a set of literary principles which 'pre-suppose some permanent criteria of value'.1 The literary study of medieval texts is hampered by the fact that aesthetic criticism is rarely practised in a disinterested way; it is there to strengthen the argument for or against a particular theory of the origins of early poetry; it is a means of discovering not what the poem is, but how it came to be composed '.2 Vinaver then goes on to suggest that the remedy lies not in the search for other, more valid, general principles, but in the realization that all such principles are products of taste and sensibility, and that our taste and sensibility have a history a long, varied and eventful history The next step is obviously to determine what are some of the principles which underlie the creation of medieval tales and romance, and using the Vulgate Cycle' of Arthurian romance as his chief example Vinaver shows that one great difference between 1 Form and Meaning in Medieval Romance, Modem Humanities Research Assoc. (1966), p. 3. Revised and enlarged in The Rise of Romance, (Oxford, 1971), chap. V. 2 Vinaver, Form, p. 3. 3 Vinaver, Form, p. 5.