A Treasury of Welsh Heroes
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A Treasury of Welsh Heroes by Brett Breckon
A collection of tales about some of Wales's greatest heroes, including St David, Owain Glyndwr, Black Bart etc. A beautiful gift book.
Do children and young people have coffee-table books? Do adults and parents purloin glossy childrens books to enjoy themselves? Whatever the answer, A Treasury of Welsh Heroes appears at first glance to be that kind of desirable, must-buy publication. Its an attractive shape, with a dramatic, richly coloured front cover showing, on a classic white steed, a fearsome Welsh warrior (who turns out to be none other than Llywelyn the Last, one of the ten featured heroes and heroines of the books title). The theme of speed and movement continues on the back cover, with a subtler, yet perhaps more interesting blurred image of a young runner pursued by a mle of wild creatures the hare, the hound, the hawk and the horse, so reminiscent of ancient tales of Welsh culture. The figure is in fact the much less well-known, but equally engaging hero of 18th century Porth, Guto Nyth Brn. All then seems ready for a feast of tales of daring-do and wonderment. And that is indeed what the book provides. Its crammed full of facts about the chosen heroes, and to some extent this is where some difficulties begin to appear. The author, or the translator unacknowledged it would seem, for we are informed that the book is based on Trysorfa Arwyr Cymru, an original work by Tudor Dylan Jones cleverly attempts to vary the portrayal of each character, often through the eyes of a minor fictional character. Some biographies are more successful than others. I cant help thinking that something of the spirit of the original has been lost in translation. The narrative poem detailing Princess Nests amours is at times clumsy in both its rhythms and its rhymes. Occasionally odd and inappropriate choices of dumb-down vocabulary stick out like sore thumbs ('Only bad kings do things like that') and young readers might find difficulty in puzzling out who exactly is telling the story and what is his or her relationship with the hero. Its a great idea to vary the narrative voice (we have 1st and 3rd person accounts, and lots of examples of the writer addressing the reader directly) but the position of the story-teller in relation to his audience is sometimes rather contrived. Young readers might be confused too by this direct address, and by travel directions to the locations of battles and burial places, and might consequently find it difficult to relate to the hero himself. Often the individual texts leave more questions than answers. Is this fact or fiction? Will Owain Glyndwr return to free the Welsh nation? Where did Dafydd ap Gwilym decide to be buried? Should we be fearful of the return of Twm Sin Cati on a 21st-century stormy night? Should we indeed expect a narrative verdict in every case? Despite these minor misgivings as to the narrative devices of the individual biographies, I cannot but enthuse about the quality of the publication itself. The choice of subjects, some well-known, some less so, and the full page images of each one of them by the highly creative illustrator Brett Breckon (I particularly liked the atmospheric death of Gwenllian and the pursuit of that 18th century Olympic-style sprinter), work well. Together with the ivy-clad chapter headings, the repeated page number cartouche, and the clear yet varied fonts, these presentational features add to the overall appeal of this real treasury of people from Waless past. Im sure that any young person, whether fond of history or not, of upper primary and lower secondary age, would be delighted to receive this book as a gift, and an equal number of parents and teachers will be grateful for the knowledge it contains about a half-remembered host of Welsh heroes, characters whom they can share with a new generation of readers and listeners. C. S. Stephens It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. Gellir defnyddior adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru. -- Welsh Books Council
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