It’s Share a Story month and Wales’ tradition of sharing stories is reflected not only in our Manuscripts collection but also our printed books collections. From folklore and the legendary tales of Twm Siôn Cati to stories of Madog and his voyage to America, to the adventures of Wil Cwac Cwac and his friends in Llyfr Mawr y Plant and the magical world of Harry Potter, this is a chance to share some of our favourite stories from the printed books collections.
The hero of The adventures and vagaries of Twm Shôn Catti (1828) is the legendary character who sometimes corresponds to Robin Hood or Rob Roy. His exploits are claimed to be based on events in the early life of Thomas Jones of Tregaron, landowner, antiquary, genealogist and poet. This was the first book to celebrate this hero. It is evident that the book was intended for a Welsh readership from the author’s open criticism of English travellers.
Cymru fu : yn cynnwys hanesion, traddodiadau, yn nghyda chwedlau a dammegion Cymreig (1862) is one of the first important works published by Isaac Foulkes (Llyfrbryf, 1836-1904), publisher, journalist and man of letters from Llanfwrog in Denbighshire. As well as publishing books such as this collection of folklore, Llyfrbryf wrote biographies of J. Ceiriog Hughes and Daniel Owen, and edited the poetry and letters of Goronwy Owen and the works of Twm o’r Nant. He did more than any other editor of the time to arouse the interest of ordinary Welsh people in their country’s literature.
Madog ab Owain Gwynedd is said to have sailed with eight ships from Abercerrig near Abergele to search for a new country in the west after tiring of the quarrels between his brothers following their father’s death, and to have landed in Mobile Bay about 1169. In the 16th century, John Dee was the first to claim the New World for the Queen of England on the basis of Madog’s voyage. The descendants of the Welsh who emigrated with Madog were identified with the Mandan Indians living to the west of the Missouri river at the end of the 18th century. The myth came to public notice when the historian John Williams published Farther observations, on the discovery of America, by Prince Madog ab Owen Gwynedd (1792). As a result of Iolo Morganwg’s forgeries this became a strong motivation for emigrating from Wales to America.
The novelist Isaac Craigfryn Hughes (1852-1928) was born in Quakers’ Yard, Glamorgan. He was a miner and was blind for the latter part of his life. Y ferch o Gefn Ydfa (1881?) is the most popular of his six novels, which tells the story of Ann Maddocks (1704-1727), daughter of William Thomas of Cefn Ydfa, a house near Llangynwyd in Glamorgan, and wife of Anthony Maddocks. Her father died when she was a child, and according to the unfounded romantic legend she unwillingly married Maddocks, a wealthy lawyer who was her guardian’s son, although she was in love with a young poet called Wil Hopcyn, who composed the verses “Bugeilio’r Gwenith Gwyn” for her. She is said to have died of a broken heart soon after marrying Maddocks. Iolo Morganwg was the first to claim that Wil Hopcyn was the author of the song, but Hughes added over-emotional details to the story in this novel.
Histori Sawney Beane (ca. 1800) is an extraordinary legend telling the tale of Alexander “Sawney” Beane, head of a 45-member clan in Scotland in the 16th century. His wife Agnes Douglas was accused of being a witch. The clan was responsible for murdering and cannibalizing more than 1,000 people while living undiscovered in a cave between Girvan and Ballantrae for 25 years, until they were discovered and executed on the orders of King James VI. This book about the history of Sawney Beane is a translation from the English.
This of course is only a small selection – the Library’s shelves groan under the weight of books that are full of stories of myths, magic and mayhem. There are boundless hours of entertainment between the covers of these books – search our catalogue to see what stories you will discover.
This post is also available in: Welsh