Book on Breton ballads shortlisted for prize

Posted on 26 October 2017
Miracles & Murders

Miracles & Murders: An Introductory Anthology of Breton Ballads by Mary-Ann Constantine, Reader at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies (CAWCS) and Éva Guillorel (Caen University) is among the contenders for this year’s Katharine Briggs Award for folklore. 

The annual book prize was established in the 1980s by the Folklore Society to commemorate the life and work of the distinguished scholar Katharine Mary Briggs (1898–1980; Society president 1969–72). It aims to encourage the study of folklore, help improve the standard of folklore publications in Britain and Ireland, and to establish the Folklore Society as an arbiter of excellence.

The collaborative volume, published by the British Academy, comes out of CAWCS’s long-standing connections with Breton scholars and is a vivid introduction to one of the most fascinating and little-known song traditions in Europe, the Breton-language gwerz.

These narrative songs, collected in Western Brittany from the 19th century to the present day, recount a wealth of stories based on tragic local events or legends. They tell of shipwrecks, abductions, murders, miraculous rescues, penitent souls and strange journeys, and unfold in clear, spare verses, filled with striking imagery.

Speaking about the nomination, Dr Constantine said:

“It’s great to be nominated for the prize and to see subjects from Celtic Studies reaching wider audiences; we hope our collection will help a few more people to discover these extraordinary ballads and the communities which created them.”     

The winner of the award will be announced at a reception following the annual Katharine Briggs Lecture, this year held at the Warburg Institute in London on the 8th of November. The main prize is the Award itself, but the winning author will also be presented with an engraved goblet and a cheque for £200.

On the 20th of November, Dr Constantine will be talking about the gwerziou as part of the British Academy’s ‘Being Human’ festival. Starting at 6:30pm, the event will include a lecture by Dr Constantine followed by a performance of Breton ballads as well as the opportunity to try traditional Breton dancing. For more information, please visit the British Academy’s website - https://www.britac.ac.uk/events/breton-ballads

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