Friday, October 14, 2016

Made in Wales - Volume 1

This is Volume 1, of several, intended to provide information for Welsh people around the world - or for those around the world who are interested in Wales and 'things Welsh'.  The contents first appeared in, and I have now extracted them from, a website that I created a few years ago. 

Once the other Volumes have been posted, you should be able to jump from one Volume to another by clicking on the links included below. Links throughout theses Volumes are appear thus:italicized, underlined, in purple

Volume 1 - Welsh Authors and Books
Volume 2 - Welsh Actors
Volume 3 - Welsh Singers
Volume 4 - Welsh Names
Volume 5 - Welsh Stuff to download
Volume 6 - Welsh and Wales via internet links
Volume 7 - Welsh Images

Volume 1 - Welsh Authors and Books 

Though labeled, 'Its most famous son', Dylan Thomas affectionately referred to his (and incidentally mine too) hometown, Swansea, as 'That ugly, lovely town'.

He was honored, October 27th, 2014, by issuance of this postage stamp on the Centennial of his birth.

He was honored, October 27th, 2014, by issuance of this postage stamp on the Centennial of his birth.
Some of his works, suitable for framing, are presented in Volume 5 - but, in his words, ' . . . but just for now . . . To begin at the beginning . . .' As that great Welsh poet, Dylan Thomas, on"
Libraries the world over contain many of the works enumerated below. Some - among other great works not noted here - may be found in Aberystwyth at the National Library of Wales.

[A] Classic Welsh ‘history’ books

Welsh mythological works are not as well known (nor as old) as those of the Greeks or Romans - but they do exist! 

The following description is extracted (some verbatim, some paraphrased) from a publication by Everyman Classics in 1949 entitled 
'The Mabinogion - translated by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones'. 
The principal work of eleven stories (collectively and commonly) known as THE MABINGION were written down in the 14th Century.

The stories have been preserved in two Welsh collections:
The White Book of Rhydderch (Llyfr Gwyn Rhydderch) written down about 1300-1325 and,
The Red Book of Hergest (Llyfr Coch Hergest) of 1375-1425. 

In addition, manuscripts Peniarth 6,7,14 and 16 (the 'Four Branches') contain portions of stories, some written down in the 1200s. However, some stories are reputed to be from as early as 1050 - or even 100 years before that!

For reasons not to be belabored here, the term 'Mabinogi' is deemed applicable only to four works - "The Four Branches of the Mabinogi"

  1) 'Pwll - Prince of Dyfed', 
  2) 'Branwen - daughter of Llyr',
  3) 'Manawydan - son of Llyr
  4) 'Math- son of Mathonwy'. 

Four others (of the eleven) -  known collectively as the "Four Independent Native Tales"- comprise:

  5) 'The Dream of Macsen Wledig' - a short story
  6) 'Lludd and Llefelys' - a short story
  7) 'Culhwch and Olwen' -  an unclassifiable and incomparable work, the earliest        Arthurian tale in Welsh)
  8) 'The Dream of Rhonabwy

The three remaining later works, Arthurian with Norman-French influences, collectively "The Three Romances" are: 

  9) 'The Lady of the Fountain', 
10) 'Peredur - son of Efrawg'
11) 'Geraint - son of Erbin

In the early 1970s, Pan/Ballantine Books published four books (by Evangeline Walton) 'based on / drawn from' the Mabinogion.

They are titled (and the Branches they pertain to) are:
'Prince of Annwn' (first Branch)'The Children of Llyr' (second Branch)'The Song of Rhiannon' (third Branch)'The Island of the Mighty' (fourth Branch)

A review in 'Prince of Annwn' states: "J.R.R. Tolkien and Joy Chant have both made use of magical archetypes found in 'The Mabinogion' to enrich their own books; Evangeline Walton's books, on the other hand, are actual retellings of these 
diverse legends in novel form".

In 1939, Berkley Medallion published '
The Once and Future King' - by T.H.White - a classic novel about the court of King Arthur. The Arthurian legend of course is steeped in connections to Wales and Welsh characters​


[B]  Famous Welsh Authors

Richard Llewellyn's most famous novel is "How Green was my Valley" - about coal mining in 19th century Wales. Two later works, about life in the Welsh colony in Patagonia, South America, conclude this trilogy about the Huw Morgan family.   

Dylan Thomas, born and raised only a few hundred yards from my own childhood home, wrote many books and poems. His most famous works include "Under Milk Wood", described as 'a play for voices', and is best appreciated if heard when read by Welsh actors. Your local library should have it on tapes, CD or DVD - read either by the author himself, or by Richard Burton. Dylan's wit is shown by the name he created ('Llareggub') for the village setting of the play. Just spell the name backwards!  Another of his most famous works is "A Child's Christmas in Wales" - also available in audio and video formats. Thomas addressed his concern with mortality – in a poem composed at the time of his father's death – in ‘Do not go Gentle into that Good Night'.

Alexander Cordell's most famous novel, "Rape of the Fair Country" - about struggles in the coal and iron industries of 19th century Wales - is also the first work of a great trilogy. Cordell also wrote many other novels about Wales - and other lands!


[C] Welsh Mystery Novels Rhys Bowen, a UK-born author, has written (1997-2006) a delightful series of mystery novels set in the small North Wales town of Llanfair and featuring the exploits of the town's local 'bobby', constable Evan Evans (Evan-the-Law).

Those with a heritage rooted in rural Wales will easily find their minds transported to the crime-scenes that Ms. Bowen portrays. This could be a great way to relax, sitting in front of a warm fire, during any winter nights.  All of her books in
the The Evan Evans Series can be obtained through your local Public Library System.

Gaynor Madoc Leonard was born and raised in Carmarthenshire, South Wales, in a Welsh-speaking family but she has lived in London for many years – interspersed with visits to her Welsh home. I had the privilege of meeting her in Carmarthen in 2013 as she worked on one of her novels.  

Her first novel, ‘The Carmarthen Underground’ was published by Y Lolfa in December 2009 and has since been made available on Kindle. Two sequels, ‘A Meeting of Dragons’ and ‘Darkness at Dark Gate’, were both published on (paperback) and (e-book). The final book in the series, ‘Red Kite’s Song’ is now available at those same outlets.


[D] Jokes and humor    Christie Davies, professor-emeritus at the Sociology Department of the University of Reading, England, is also an old school friend of mine - from back in the mid-1950s. He used to delight in chanting (about his bald-headed neighbor) - in somewhat Ogden Nash style: "Old man Waldron has a head like cauldron!

In addition to his 
'Welsh Jokes' book, Davies has written many professional works analyzing (globally) the subject of 'humor'. He is also the author of this children's book, published by Y Lolfa - a Welsh publishing house: 'Dewi the Dragon'.


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