Sunday, August 1, 2010




: a usually Welsh competitive festival of the arts especially in poetry and singing

Coincidentally, the Welsh EISTEDDFOD happens every year in the first week of August. And look where we are.

The EISTEDDFOD can be traced back to 1176 when Lord Rhys of Cardigan gathered poets and musicians from all over Wales to his castle for festivities. As tradition holds, the best poet and musician is awarded a chair at the Lord's table. (Although, I'm not sure who the contemporary Lord is.)

The main purpose of the EISTEDDFOD is to promote Welsh culture. This makes me realize I know NOTHING about Welsh culture. Lucky for me, there's—the official gateway to Wales. Some interesting things about Wales:

- home to the World Bog-Snorkelling Championships, also held annually in August.
- birthplace of Catherine Zeta Jones
- importer of various cheeses, namely caerphilly, a hard white cheese originating from (you guessed it) Caerphilly, Wales; known as "the crumblies," although I cannot locate an explanation for this nickname
- home and stomping ground to Dylan Thomas, famous poet known for "Do not go gentle into that good night," although apparently this piece is not particularly representational of his style. Thomas died in New York shortly after his thirty-ninth birthday of a gnarly case of pneumonia which may have been helped along by pollutive smog.
- origin of a mountain "Lady of the Lake" myth:

Llyn y Fan Fach, a remote lake in our Black Mountains has its very own Lady of the Lake legend. The story goes that it was here a young farmer named Gwyn won and then tragically lost the love of his life.

He fell in love with a beautiful water fairy and she agreed to marry him but warned him she would leave him for ever if he struck her three times. They lived happily for many years and had three sons but when Gwyn struck her playfully for the third time she disappeared into the lake and he never saw her again.

She would sometimes reappear to her sons and teach them the powers of healing with herbs and plants and they became skilful physicians as did their children after them. Some of their ancient remedies have survived and are in the Red Book of Hergest, one of our most important medieval manuscripts.

I feel like this myth has some holes in the story. As a reader I am confused. I am unclear with whom I am supposed to sympathize—the battered woman or the misunderstood farmer. While her conditions are totally reasonable, I am not informed of the first two strikes, only the third. Am I supposed to take her word for it? Am I supposed to side with the farmer because his strike was "playful," suggesting the fairy may have overreacted? In her defense, she did lay down some pretty clear ground rules, and if I were that farmer I wouldn't have fucked with some water fairy. This is what I think happened—I think he agreed to her rules and then after he got her knocked up THREE TIMES he got complacent and forgot who he was dealing with. Thankfully she stuck to her guns and set an example to warn future generations of single Welsh farmers who drunkenly wander the outskirts of lakes looking for some mythical virgins to ravage.

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