Saturday, January 18, 2014

Week 12: Thomas's Welsh Fairy Book

These were my favorite Welsh stories from the Welsh Fairy Book (Thomas) unit.

Arthur in the Cave. I thought this was a fantastic story; I really like the idea of sleepers who can sleep for years or even hundreds of years: A sorcerer  leads a Welshman to a cave where they found thousands of sleeping knights in armor, along with the round table and a sleeping king: Arthur, holding Excalibur! There is a bell that will awaken them. The man and the sorcerer gather up gold, but the man cannot resist ringing the bell. The warriors awake, but Arthur tells them to go back to sleep again because it is just robbers, not time yet to awake.

March's Ears. I recognized this as the story of King Midas! There is a rich king but he has horse's ears (Midas had donkey ears) and, just like in the Midas story, only the barber knows. He whispered the secret in the reeds, and when a piper made the reeds into a pipe, they sang about the horse's ears of King March. The king gave up and let the truth be known! Really, it's better to just let things out instead of trying to keep them hidden.

Bala Lake. I really liked the way that a little bird sings the word "vengeance" in the harper's ear and leads him away from the palace before the horrible destruction arrives. When he comes back he sees that the palace has disappeared beneath a lake, with his harp floating on the water - so the harper escaped, but his harp did not. I also really liked the Helig's Hollow story about another drowned palace; in that one, it ends with the resulting lake being haunted: fishermen who see Helig's palace below the water are doomed to die!

Dick the Fiddler's Money. After Dick walks through the Fairy Green Lane playing a tune, he finds his fiddle is full of money. He uses it to pay his landlord, but the coins turn into cockleshells - but Dick luckily had gotten a receipt first! I thought the detail of the receipt was hilarious: I will always remember to make sure I get a receipt when I pay for something with magical money, ha ha.

Owen Goes A-Wooing. Owen goes to see his lady, but he falls into the Llyn Cynnwch, but instead of drowning, he ends up in a kind of fairy land under the water.  After a couple of hours he asks to go on his way, but when he comes back up, it turns out he was gone for a month! This time displacement theme is one that I really like, where time passes at different speeds in different worlds, and you see the effect when you somehow move from one world to the other.

Why Deunant has the Front Door in the Back. Some little imp makes the farmer's cattle sick because the slops thrown out of the farmer's front door fell on the little imp's house; he could see the imp's house only when he put his own foot on the foot the imp. He had to close up the front door and use only the back door and from then on the cattle were well. I loved the way the illustration showed these two worlds intersecting, the big and the little:

The Martyred Hound. This is one of my favorite folktales of all time! The idea of the "single dad" is a powerful one to start with, and the intense grief he must have felt after he killed the dog in anger, wrongly, is just incredible. And, of course, his son will be a reminder to him forever of the crime he committed. INTENSE.

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