Stroud, Gloucestershire, 2001
ISBN: 0 7524 1935 8
legends, and fairy tales were once imbedded in the daily lives
of peoples around the world, and to some extent still aremostly
in developing countries. In the West, they linger
in the realm of consumer fictionRollings Harry
Potter, Tolkiens Lord of the Ringsor are
visited in updated versions for prime time television like Buffy
the Vampire Slayer. Though their meaning in modern life has
been diminished, there is still a great need to grasp mysterious,
mystical and magical layers that flow below the thin layer of
reason upon which we tread.
Anne Ross, the
author of Folklore of Wales, spelunks below that
layer of reason to resurrect many of the old myths and legends
that have survived in Wales from pre-Roman times to the present.
One of the contributing factors to the retention of some of these
legends has been the fierce determination of the Welsh people
to resist Englands domination of their culture and language.
Though the myths and legends are losing their hold to television,
the Internet, and the sense that Wales is a dead-end backwater
amongst youth, Ms. Ross attempts to chronicle much of the folklore
of Wales into a concise work before it is lost forever. This she
does, and does it well. However, in trying to pack all of the
folklore of Wales into an accessible 150 pages, she is unfortunately
unable to make accessible an advanced level of detail. This book
could be at least twice, if not three times its present size.
But that sad fact is overshadowed by the sad fact that if it were
that much larger, it would probably be relegated eccentrics
dusty shelves instead of being available to a broad reading public.
Wales is a rough
region of Great Britain, strewn with moody hills and peaks, packed
with lush and secluded post-coal mine valleys etched by streams
and waterfalls. Windswept, ragged coastlines are equally bombarded
with rain and sunshine, peppered with wildflowers, echoed with
gull screeches and the occasional ghost-like seal swimming in
the surf. A mystical sense pervades in the hills, teaming with
sheep and small farms. Hundreds of castles, many dilapidated,
are scattered around the countryside, a relic of how the English
attempted to control this land. There are also remnants of iron
age forts and Stonehenge-era structures the offer eerie reminders
of the impermanence of societies. Walking the streets of the larger
cities and towns, browsing the shops, you will sometimes hear
the sing-song oddness of spoken Welsh. This is a rich ground for
Ms. Ross explores
first folk narrative and what it meant to the people who learned
most stories by memory and word of mouth. Some fables are as exciting
as those presented by a Tolkien adaptation. But these stories
did not serve as fiction or entertainment, but as lessons in life
and morality for the early inhabitants of the British Isles. Ms.
Ross also explores calendar customs, the churchs influence,
healing and herbal remedies and charms. Where Folklore of Wales
glitters is in the sections where she brings direct translations
of folk tales to the pagegiants, water monsters, ghosts,
seers, fairies, and supernatural birds and animals roam the pages.
Also fascinating are the different interpretations of the Arthurian
legend, the Holy Grail, and special thought given to Merlin the
Ms. Ross provides
a fascinating and accessible introduction to the folklore of Wales
that should opens doors to the reader interested in pursuing additional
knowledge that could not be rendered in this text.