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The White Trail

Fflur Dafydd
ISBN-13: 
9781854115515
Format: 
Paperback
Publication Date: 
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
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"Dafydd seamlessly amalgamates the extraordinary into the everyday in her reworking of 'Culhwch and Olwen'" The Guardian 2011

Life is tough for Cilydd, after his wife Goleuddydd, who is nine months pregnant, seems to vanish into thin air at a supermarket one wintry afternoon. Cilydd gets his cousin, Arthur - a private eye who has never solved a single case - to help him with the investigation. So begins a tale of intrigue and confusion that ends with a wild boar chase and a dangerous journey to the House of the Missing.

In this contemporary retelling from Seren' New stories from the Mabinogion series, award winning Fflur Dafydd transforms the medieval Welsh Arthurian myth of the Mabinogion’s ‘Culhwch and Olwen’ into a 21st century quest for love and revenge.

Mabinogion Series

REVIEWS

Review by Rachel Carney, Created to Read

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

If you live in Wales for any length of time, you cannot avoid noticing the love of storytelling that has filtered down through centuries of tradition. The Mabinogion is the name given to an assortment of Welsh legends dating back to a pre-Medieval era of mythology and Arthurian romance. Seren books commissioned 11 Welsh writers to re-write these tales for a modern audience, bringing them to life in twenty-first-century Wales.   

The White Trail by Fflur Dafydd re-creates the story of ‘How Culhwch Won Olwen’. Not being familiar with this particular tale, I found it helpful that the book includes both a brief introduction to the series in the front and a synopsis of the original story in the back. I read the synopsis first, and wondered how such a magical tale could be turned into something believable and modern, but Fflur Dafydd has managed to do just that.

Dramatic and Strange

The opening scene is dramatic and strange, but I was engaged immediately by the author’s descriptive language and the wry sense of humour which runs throughout the novel. It begins with the sudden disappearance of Cilydd’s heavily pregnant wife (Goleuddydd) from a supermarket aisle. The description of his grief and anger is very real. Eventually her body is found, but the baby has been taken from her womb.

Cilydd suffers long years of grief, anger and hope. He joins the local missing person’s network, creating profiles online for all those who have gone missing, working tirelessly, always wondering whether his son might be alive somewhere in the world. I particularly love Dafydd’s depiction of King Arthur as an unsuccessful private eye, searching and failing to find numerous missing persons.

Eventually Cilydd does come face to face with his son, Culhwch, and we discover where he’s been all these years. The novella turns into a quest to rescue the beautiful, pregnant Olwen, who has been kept prisoner by Ysbaddaden Bencawr, and they discover an incredible secret.

The Writing Process…

The book also contains a short afterword, in which Dafydd describes how she “fell in love with the Mabinogion as a child” and yet, when she began to write, the task ahead of her “seemed overwhelming”. She realised that she was “concentrating too dutifully on what was present in the text”. Instead she needed to “look beyond the tale, behind the tale” at the other characters, and that’s why The White Trail focuses on Cilydd’s version of the story. “I found that Cilydd and Goleuddydd… were the original Culhwch and Olwen”, she explains.

Dafydd describes the process of writing as “charging on ahead in bold realist strides with surreality trailing at its heels, waiting to bite.” Her evocative descriptions seem both real and surreal at the same time:

“The farmhouse was grey and decaying; pale green moss creeping up the walls like bad facial hair, a monster of a building. There were some disused tractors and farm machinery lying about, metallic skeletons gawping at him.”

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