Of Grey Kings, Owl Goddesses, and Other Matters Welsh

Reprinted from Sleeping Hedgehog which you really should visit.

Dydd da!

It’s time for hearty spring fare so kitchen staff here at the Estate got the jones (pun fully intended) for Welsh cooking this week. I think it was the case of metheglin, a Welsh spiced honey liquor, that gave them the idea. So tonight’s eventide repast will lead off nicely off with cig oen cymreig gyda thatws a chabetsh a garlleg rhost (loin of welsh lamb with bubble and squeak and roasted garlic) with cacen datws, brocoli a chennin wedi’i bobi dan grwst cnau castan (a baked leek and broccoli potato cake topped with a chestnut crust) and cawl cnnin a deleri gyda hufen perlysiau (a leek and celery soup with a herb cream).

All washed down with either Celtic Dark Ale which is a traditional dark Welsh ale brewed and kegged by S.A. Brain at the same brewery in Cardiff, Wales since 1882, or some of the metheglin. Lechyd da!

Dessert will be, and I’ve been attempting to ‘sample’ it all afternoon without success, teisen lap (moist raisin cake).

We’re going to have an evening of Welsh stories after supper in the Robert Graves Memorial Reading Room in the Estate Library. If you cannot join us for those stories, I have some recommended reading for you instead. Now keep in mind that like all really ancient bodies of myth that get turned into stories and then back again, there’s a complexity to these stories that is both entertaining and at time frustrating.

Start off with this look at not only The Mabinogion, which is the übertext of Welsh mythology, but also Lloyd Alexander’s young adult series The Chronicles of Prydain (The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, The High King, and The Foundling and other Tales of Prydain), and Evangeline Walton’s series of four novels from the first four stories of The Mabinogion (Prince of Anwn, Song of Rhiannon, The Children of Llyr, and The Island of the Mighty).

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising cycle is comprised of six books: Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, and Silver on the Tree. Of the six, The Dark is Rising was a Newberry Honor Book, and The Grey King actually won the Newberry Medal, one of the most notable awards in children’s literature. The series makes excellent use of the Welsh landscape and offers many hours of fine reading.

I’m finishing off with my favorite work that uses Welsh myth as its source material: Alan Garner’s The Owl Service. As I noted in an earlier post, the legend that Garner riffs on concerns Blodeuwedd, a woman created from flowers by a Welsh wizard. She betrays her husband, Lleu, in favour of another, Gronw, and is turned into an owl as punishment for inducing Gronw to kill Lleu. In Garner’s telling of this story, three teenagers find themselves tragically reenacting the story as they first awaken the legend by finding a dinner service with an owl pattern on the plates.

OR Melling, who is a great fan of this work, will be reviewing the BBC series and the audio series that were based on this work. Look for that review sometime this summer and also watch for her essay on Garner as well.

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