Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Mabinogion’

Storytelling Starters ~ Red

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

P1070651A note to readers is where I should begin this week.  Here it is. If any of you is in North Pembrokeshire on Friday 9th October, please come along to Castell Henllys where I’ll be doing what is described as an Author Tea – and hopefully selling some of my books.

Will there be red leaves and red berries in the lovely Castell Henllys glade, I wonder? I ask because red has been on my mind all week. Perhaps that’s because of all  the red, red leaves on the pavements round us in London. Or perhaps it was the red, red moon on the night of the eclipse? Or could it be the red jerseys of the Welsh Rugby team when they played and won against England? 

I can’t be sure. But what I do know is that just thinking about red has led to me remembering the red ears of the gleaming white hounds that accompany the Lord of the Underworld in the first branch of  the Mabin0gion, that most ancient and strange cycle of stories.  The red hounds appear there in a forest which could not have been far from Castell Henllys.

But red on my mind has also led to me remembering some very different things, for instance The Red Wheelbarrow, that extraordinary William Carlos Williams poem.  I wonder if you know it? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Catch the magic

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

P1070369In Pembrokeshire (again), I’m starting to prepare some workshops for Pembrokeshire National Parks. They’ll be training sessions for wardens, rangers and volunteers. But more of that anon. This week’s unmissable experience was another kind of storytelling – an art installation in Narberth.

Place of magic

Narberth – or Arberth in Welsh – is a crucial place in the Mabinogion, the epic cycle of medieval Welsh stories.  It’s where the stories and their magic begin. Today, Narberth is a dynamic little town where many varied artistic events take place – including oral storytelling. But the installation I went to see is an unique work of storytelling of another kind –  in painting, carving, words, animation and film.


Sarah and Tim Williams are the makers. Sarah is becoming well-known throughout Wales as an artist. I’ve known her since she was born and value her work very highly. Tim is an enormously skilled craftsman in wood and also a musician. Tim and Sarah got married a few years ago and Tim recently persuaded Sarah to sing with him on one of his albums, thus revealing that she also has a fine voice.

Together, Sarah and Tim have created an extraordinary, gallery-filling piece about their Pembrokeshire world. Sarah’s place of upbringing is in the north of the county, Tim’s in the south. Their new work brings both parts together in a circular installation which you enter to view. (Tim used a portable swimming pool as its basis).

The installation (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ My storytelling goes for a walk

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

P1060967The sky was bright blue. Sun poured through the window. My friend rang up: ‘Let’s walk. We’ll meet for coffee.’ ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’ll set off right now.’ It was the right thing to do. Later can so easily become never. Besides the long walk to Tooting Common from Brixton allowed time for my thoughts to dip in and out of my mind and settle. Here are some of them:

How lovely it was…

. . . to get two excellent comments on last week’s blog. Liz said she’d tried the Doors visualisation to powerful effect. She’d closed her eyes and over the next 20 minutes had brought to mind all the doors that had opened up in her life and led her to where she is now. Karen wrote about a boy who’d had extremely distressing eczema and who was taught a visualisation that brought him great relief in which he saw a cellar door that led down to a calming pool in which he could immerse himself. From mind to body, it’s powerful stuff.

How grateful I felt

. . . for all the care that was taken by my host for my two performances in North Wales last week. In Llangollen last Friday, Fiona Collins (who is a storyteller of great and wide experience and also my very old friend) carefully arranged the tables and chairs, put up two lovely pieces of fabric behind my performing space, lit the candles she’d brought for each table and created such a warm and friendly atmosphere. The same kind of thing happened in Llandudno the following night. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Doors again

Saturday, October 11th, 2014

P1040451Doors have so many meanings, signal so many different things. At the end of the Second Branch of the Mabinogion (see below for details), there is a brief account of a marvellous journey. Seven chieftains are returning from Ireland bearing with them the head of Bendigeidfran, their leader. He has told them to bury his head on the White Hill in London. This will give protection to this island for the future (and by the way, it makes me think that, if his head is still there, we really have no need of Trident.)

On the way, the seven chieftains are twice delayed, once at Harlech in North Wales where, for seven years, they are enchanted by the singing of the birds of Rhiannon. Then they move on to the island of Gwales (it’s what we now know as the island of Skokholm off the coast of Pembrokeshire). On that island, there is a royal dwelling in which they find a large hall in which there are three doors. Two doors are open. One is closed. And Manawyddan, who is one of the seven bearers, says it must not be opened.

For 80 years, the seven chieftains do not open the door and in all of that time, they remain oblivious of all the sorrows they’ve ever seen or suffered. Nor do they age – and all the while the head of Bendigeidfran, provides good company to them as he had promised. Then of course – for it has to happen – one of the seven men opens the door that’s been shut and at that point they all know they must move on. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Red

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

The sumach tree is ablaze. The geraniums flare. Hips on the Handel Rose glisten in the brilliance of the morning sun. It feels both like summer is here and summer is passing at the very same moment. It’s been making me think red.

P1060958Red for the ears of the shining white hounds that Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, encounters on the sacred hill at Arberth in the First Branch of the Mabinogion. (I’m preparing the Third Branch for telling next Friday at the Storytelling Café in Llangollen.)

Red for the drops of blood that fall on the snow-covered window ledge when the princess in the story of The Sleeping Prince as retold by Alison Lurie in Clever Gretchen and Other Forgotten Tales pricks her finger with her needle and the bird in the tree outside her window alerts her to the mission she will undertake to go and waken a sleeping prince:

Gold and white and red
The Prince lies in his bed.

In Welsh and Irish tradition, white and red are the colours of the other world, the supernatural. But I’ve been seeing the red as the farewell of summer and the herald of autumn.  (more…)