Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Three Sisters and a Great Occasion

IMG_20160805_142445_resized_20160805_070831215Today, I’ll be doing something I’ve never done before – telling a story at the National Eisteddfod of Wales. Two storytellers who live in Wales, Marion Oughton and Cath Little, have invited me to join them in the storytelling session they’re giving in the Welsh Learners’ tent on the Eisteddfod field. This will be a pleasure. The National Eisteddfod is an annual event, held in a different part of Wales each year and oscillating between the north of the country and the south. This year it’s being held in Y Fenni (known in English as Abergavenny) and it’s proving extremely well-organised and highly successful. In the two days I’ve been here already, I’ve loved it.

My story: Three Sisters

The story I intend to tell – in Welsh of course – is a story about three of Wales’s best-known rivers. At the start, we meet three sisters living on top of a mountain in mid-Wales (and therefore not far from Y Fenni). They make their clothes out of birds’ feathers. They wash in the limpid pools of water left on the mountain top by the rains. When they look into the distance they can see the sea and sometimes they get a scent of it. They fantasise. What would it be like to go to the sea?

Fantasy in this story turns  into a definite plan as the sisters decide that the very next day they will go and visit the sea. What will the seashore be like, the oldest sister wondered. Will the sea shine? the middle sister asked. Would they see silver fish in the waves asked the youngest.

In the morning, the eldest sister woke early and decided to go some of the way down the mountain at once to see what the journey would be like. She dressed and washed and then, putting her feet in a pool of water,  drew the water behind her as she started down the mountain. But the countryside around her was so lovely,  she completely forgot her plan to return for her sisters and, instead, went smoothly on.

IMG_20160805_140803_resized_20160805_070948151When the middle sister awoke, she feared she had woken too late after seeing her elder sister had gone. So she hurried to dress and wash and before she left to follow her sister, she too dipped her feet in a mountain pool and drew its water after her. Unfortunately, going down the mountain, she continually lost sight of her sister and constantly turned to her left and her right in her effort to find her. So her path to the sea was never straightforward but full of wide, looping turns. Not till late afternoon did she catch sight of her sister and, by then, her sister had already reached the sea and was walking into the waves. So, calling to her as she went, the middle sister ran after her and it was in the sea that they were reunited.

And the interesting thing is that those two sisters are still there in that sea together. For in her path down the mountain, the eldest sister, whose name was Gwy, created what is known in Welsh as Yr Afon Gwy, the Wye river. And the middle sister who name was Hafren, which is translated as Severn, created the widely looping river Severn. They both reached the sea on the south coast of Wales.

As for the youngest sister, she’d slept badly and woke in a terrible panic to see that her sisters had both gone. Hurriedly she washed and dressed, hurriedly she set off down the mountain, also drawing the water from a mountain pool behind her. But the way she went was completely different from the one her sisters had taken and, after a much shorter journey, she reached the coast on the west side of Wales. There, she ran joyfully into the sea to join the silver fishes she saw there. Her name was Rheidol and what she’d created was the River Rheidol which still tumbles hurriedly down to the sea from the mountains in the middle of Wales.IMG_20160804_174535_resized_20160805_071057068

A Great Occasion:

Although I’ve known this story for a long number of years, I haven’t told it more than a few times before. I think it will suit Eisteddfod goers in Y Fenni. From here you see some of the mountains of mid-Wales as well as beautiful skies. Besides, one of the key things about the National Eisteddfod is that it is a great celebration of place and landscape, people and culture.

Central to the celebration are the dozens of competitions that are held throughout the week in all those forms that are important in Welsh culture, including literature, singing, verse-speaking, folk dancing, and many other things besides. But there are also the talks, the walks and, perhaps most important of all, the meeting up with other people for whom these things are also important. How glad I am to be here. The whole event is an expression of a very basic value in Welsh life which was well expressed in the motto of the Welsh football team that did so well in the recent Euros football competition: Together Stronger. How delighted I am to be part of the togetherness. 

PS: My top photo is of me at the Eisteddfod, leaning against one of the circle of Gorsedd stones. The second is of the pattern of clouds above the Eisteddfod field on Friday afternoon. The third is of a troupe of pink people performing eye-catchingly strange dances on the Eisteddfod field.


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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Three Sisters and a Great Occasion”

  1. Meg Says:

    How lovely to be able to soak all that Welshness up, Mary.
    The story is so gentle and believe able! Have a good time with more Storying.
    Best Regards, Meg

  2. Fiona Says:

    Ron i’n falch iawn clywed gan Marion yr oeddet am gyfrannu eleni, Mary. Wnaeth Marion, Carol Pearce a fi yr un sesiwn llynnedd ym Meifod ond doedd naill ai Carol ai finnau ar gael eleni ar yr unig dirwnod yr wnaeth gynnig trefnydd Pabell y Dysgwyr. Diolch byth roeddech ti a Cath yn fodlon cyd-weithio gyda Marion!
    Ond be sydd yn poeni fi yw:: pam nad yw adrodd stori yn ran o’r Prifwyl? Gan fod barddoniaeth, canu ac hyd yn oed dawnsio disgo yn ran o’r rhaglen swyddogol, be sy’n o i le gyda’r celf stori????

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