If there’s one thing that struck me on my trip around Wales (and growing up the product of Welsh lineage) it’s that the Welsh love a good tale. They can turn the smallest thing into an evocative, resonating myth, for their own enjoyment and the enjoyment of others. Every stone in Wales has a story. Every lake. Every ford. I know this because I spent weeks driving around the country photographing them and coming to be as amused by the Welsh tales as I was entranced.
My Welsh father would have called such tales ‘porkies’ (from the rhyming slang ‘pork pie’ for ‘lie’) but ‘lying’ is such an unattractive, unequivocal word when really what they were doing was simply carrying on the age-old habit of their people in creating stories that help the make sense of the world around them. It’s in their DNA, this need to compose beautiful stories about the world around them.
To make sense of it. Interpret it.
And so turn a lump of sod in Wales and you’ll reveal something that has an ancient story. It could be something that features in the oldest and most traditional Welsh tales which were captured in The Mabinogion . Or it could be something from the Arthurian pantheon, something risen from the many Christian tales of the time, or something remembered from Wales rich bardic tradition.
It could be based in fact, or evolved over centuries out of a fiction. It could be an out-and-out fabrication (I’m looking at you Geoffrey of Monmouth and David Prichard). But even fabricated stories (like Prichard’s tale of the faithful hound Gelert) have their roots in much older cultural tales. They were a real tale once.
And so, I salute you, Welsh storytellers of old and of new. Wordsmiths, interpreters, magicians, bardds.
Without you, the fist of intrigue for all things Welsh would never have wrapped around my happy little heart.