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Bird, Blood, Snow

Cynan Jones
ISBN-13: 
9781854115898
Format: 
Paperback
Publication Date: 
Monday, October 22, 2012
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Peredur - 'Immune to mildness' An Interview With Cynan Jones

"...a remarkably interesting interpretation of this legendary hero's doing indeed" – The Bay Magazine

“No matter how you build them, the world will come crashing against your fences.”

Hoping to give him a better start, Peredur’s mother takes him from the estates in hope he won’t suffer the same fate as his father and brothers, allof whom are dead, jailed or missing.

But the world won’t be held at bay, when local kids cycle into his life he heads after them, accompanied by the notion of finding Arthur – an absent, imaginary guardian.

Used to making up his own worlds, he’s something of a joke. Until he seriously maims one of the older kids. And that’s when the trouble starts. 

The original ‘Peredur’ fights for recognition in King Arthur’s court, defending maidens, defeating giants, overcoming witches. Cynan Jones turns the tale into a modern Quixotian romp.

 

REVIEWS

Review by Suzy Ceulan Hughes, Gwales

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cynan Jones’s Bird, Blood, Snow is one of the latest welcome additions to Seren’s excellent series New Stories from the Mabinogion, in which some of Wales’s best-known contemporary writers offer modern adaptations of the tales of the Mabinogi. Taking the story of Peredur Son of Efrog as his inspirational springboard, Jones has woven a haunting tale of brutality which both echoes the original and sits firmly in the twenty-first century. Whether you choose to read the modern version simply in its own right, or to contemplate it as a pair with the original, it is a story that sticks – perhaps a little uncomfortably – in the mind, inviting sober consideration of some perennial questions concerning the nature of the human psyche, the competing forces of biological and environmental determinism, and shifting cultural paradigms. 

Peredur is the seventh son. His father and older brothers have all been violent, fighting men. In the original, they are knights; in the modern story, they are criminals. His mother, wanting a different life for her youngest child, removes him from their influence and from what she perceives as a negative environment which encourages such behaviour. It is a good and well-intended plan. Which fails, utterly and horribly. 

In a fantastic opening which mirrors both the language and the content of the original tale, Peredur has his first encounter with the boys from the estate, with their flashy bikes and fancy gear, just like the knights of old with their shining armour and ornamented steeds. Peredur’s immediate wish is to emulate them. He sets to on his rusty old bicycle, adorning it with random food labels and blackening its tyres with creosote ‘so it was made glorious’. This first section is a very clever, slightly humorous take on the original, like something seen in a distorting mirror or a cracked glass. There is even a gentle echoing of the language of the medieval epic. 

The picture and the mood quickly darken. Peredur perceives himself as a champion of the oppressed. Frighteningly strong for his age, his treatment of the oppressors is merciless and brutal. Is he a child gone wrong, or an avenging angel? A knight or a monster? Jones’s reframing of the action of the original tale highlights the gratuity of the violence, the medieval romanticisation of brutality, the lie of chivalry. Events are seen through a shifting prism of differing perceptions of reality. As a knight of King Arthur’s court, Peredur was a questing hero. In the modern world, he is criminally insane. Facts remain the same, but truths change. 

In this finely wrought jigsaw of a book, Jones offers us a story that is at once timeless and starkly contemporary. 
 

A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council. 

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