Tuesday, 12 March 2013

How would we know ourselves without our stories and songs?

At Glastonbury Abbey
A new story about Arthur, first King of all Britain, brings news from Wales about the whereabouts of the great King's grave.
‘The Bardic Monk – and the Grave of King Arthur’ is the latest novel from Cardigan-based writer Liz Whittaker.

It takes the reader on a journey through medieval Wales – and to Glastonbury – in search of the final resting place of Arthur.

This is a tale both of the stories and of the storytellers and recorders of 900 years ago, yet it has strong contemporary appeal.
The novel is about journeys – physical, personal and spiritual – and it is has magic and miracles to engage us on the way.

The tale begins with Walter Map, envoy to Henry II of England, who waits impatiently and uncomfortably for the arrival of his King at St Davids.

Map appeared as narrator in Liz’s earlier novel, ‘A Court in Splendour’, in which the comings and goings around Cardigan Castle were brought alive in the story of the first Eisteddfod. It is a pleasure to have him back again in this new work, and happily, he is just as gloriously pompous as he was before.

Henry II is travelling to west Wales to meet with a monk of no name, a small man both in stature and rank, who he hopes can help him to discover the final resting place of his hero ancestor, King Arthur.

The tale grows and develops new layers with the addition of the voice of the young Bardic Monk, who relates the story of Caradog, whose blessings brought miracles to many; and who passed to the little man the secret of the resting place of Arthur and Guinevere.

There is a sense of the fairy tale, but real folk and their chronicles are strongly interwoven into this yarn. The narrative of the importance of the small man in great affairs is given added spice by the conflict we witness between the little monk and Walter Map every time they meet.  Tension is created by the contrast between the self-important Map and the pious little monk and Map’s attempts at humility bring a wonderful irony. This is the art of storytelling at its best

As the herbalist who tends the Lord Rhys and the little monk tells us, we must cherish the Bardic Monks, for: ‘They are the beating heart of our land. How would we know ourselves without our stories and our songs?’ How would we, indeed.

* ‘The Bardic Monk and the Grave of King Arthur’, by Liz Whittaker, published by Llanerch Press Ltd. On sale now at bookshops, £10. also available from: