Lily Dewaruile: Medieval Welsh Romance

And something new: Geiriau Cymraeg

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Traitor's Daughter, Betrayal, Salvation and Reconciliation
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An Immigrant's Journey

I, like many, had never heard of Wales. Celtic meant Irish or Scottish. By chance, I visited the town of Rhuthun near Chester and fell in love with the country and eventually the language.

Four years later, I began to write a story set in medieval Wales but within months realized I was ill-informed in every aspect. I made amends by taking a course in the language and further discovery led to an emigration, an eye-opening and a marriage.

During my life in Cymru(Wales), I have written many stories, one relentlessly led to another until I had amassed shelves of manuscripts that demanded I keep faith with the characters I had created out of my love and respect for this country, its language and people.

I have since realized I wrote these stories to help me cope with and understand the agonies of being an immigrant. Despite my love for my new land, I was not part of it or its culture. Though I had a Welsh husband, Welsh children and was a Welsh speaker, I was, and still am, a foreigner. This is an uncomfortable place for anyone who also feels an abiding love for their native country.

I was tempted, as so many are, to ‘go native’. I was also tempted to demand, as others do, that my new home accommodate me, speak my language, accept my valves, understand my point of view, address my needs.

I did none of these. I resolved this cultural conflict with compromise. I could not be the Cymraes (Welshwoman) nor could I be the Alltud (stranger). I embraced my new home and retained my identity.

This compromise was made imperative by the nature of Welsh history and the battle for survival raging all around me, to prevent the loss of language, culture and identity of my adopted country.

How could I participate in the destruction of a way of life I had come to love? How could I join the tsunami of cultural devastation that so many other immigrants were causing?

“The sooner the Welsh language is dead and buried, the better.” — English Immigrant, Business owner, Cardiff, 1981

“This country is a cultural desert.” — English Immigrant, Art Gallery Owner, Aberteifi, 2001

I chose instead to be among those immigrants who accepted they were in another country, with a culture and language worthy of respect.

“I came to Wales to find work and found another, wonderful life.” — English Immigrant, Botanist, 1990

“You don't arrive in a country, speaking not a word of its language and expect people to change their language to suit you.” — Canadian Immigrant, Musician, 1985

As an immigrant to Cymru, finding my way into the language and culture, I was conscious that I had a responsibility to represent this country to the best of my ability. But, until the publication of Traitor's Daughter, I was silent. When I grasped the “I am a writer” nettle, I found my voice and my confidence.

Writing about Wales

I have been writing about Wales since I first visited this Celtic country and fell in love with its language, culture, landscape and history. Over the years, I have come to know Wales as Cymru. The term 'Wales' is used in English and means 'foreign' – understandably, the people of Cymru (the Cymry) are not foreigners in their own land. The strength of the Cymry and their culture is best exemplified by their language: Cymraeg – the only Celtic language that is still spoken in every part of the country on a daily basis.

I like to remind fans of Rugby that, of the three Celtic nations involved in the Six-Nation Rugby International Tournament, Cymru is the only team that sings its national anthem in its own Celtic language. Despite centuries of oppression, similar to that experienced by Ireland and Scotland, but closer to hand and for many years longer, the language of Cymru has survived and flourished. Its culture is deeply rooted and survives in its language – unlike other nations which have abandoned their language but cling to the superficial trappings of a dead past. Cymru is vibrant and exciting because its language and culture are vital and thriving.

Though I am partial to the distant history of Cymru – especially the time in which it faced its most violent struggle to survive against the encroaching invader from the Continent – it is my fascination for modern Cymru that feeds my desire to write about this past. I make no pretense of being a scholar but my novels have a foundation in the cultural and social history of this country. For me, the people of my novels bring to life that struggle for independence and the singular success of cultural survival in the shadow of a vastly more powerful country. I believe their success is a testament to the determination of the Cymry to be faithful to their own unique way – without relying on the superficialities of outward manifestations that offer no substance but are great tourist attractions.

Perhaps Cymru's strength has always been that it is overlooked. At one time, it was possible to travel the length and breadth of what is now called England (Lloegr), Scotland (Yr Alban) and Cymru without speaking any other language than Cymraeg. Teutonic tribes, Vikings and Picts drove wedges into the homeland of the Cymry but did not succeed in driving the native population out. Parts of Scotland and England are still called by their original placenames identifying them as strongholds of the Cymry. Far from being driven out, the Cymry integrated and survived – the only truly British inhabitants of the three nations.

The tenacity of the people of Cymru to remain unique, quietly influencing the course of history, forms part of the history of the United States which can boast no less than fourteen signers of the Declaration of Independence with roots in Cymru, among them Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. For a small nation, Cymru has had a huge impact on the course of human history and boasts some of the most brilliant minds and creative talents.

In my own way, I am on a mission to bring Cymru to the attention of readers of romantic literature – there is very little as romantic as the emergence and survival of love against all the odds. If, when you read my novels, you learn something about this fascinating country, I will have done my bit to awaken a few more to the wonderful place I have discovered.

Over the decades I have lived in Cymru, I have found inspiration in so many ways, that writing has become a way of showing my ultimate respect and admiration for this Celtic country. As little known as it is outside a close-knit seiat of scholars, the Cymry and friends, this country has fueled many of the most important social, industrial and cultural changes the world has ever known, as well as been the source for some of the best loved literature and legends that have inspired writers such as Mallory, Tolkien, T H White, Cornwell and Walt Disney to name only a very few.

Cymru am byth.

A Glossary of Welsh Words / Geiriau Cymraeg

To aid all readers of my Pendyffryn: The Conquerors series and my first novel, Traitor's Daughter , I include a Glossary of Welsh Words (Geiriau Cymraeg) that are used in each of the books (six in all to date). The Glossary is the final section of the book (both digital and print) but I thought having the Glossary accessible someplace else would be of help. Therefore, I'm including it here and also on my website,, so these words are readily available at any time.

The Glossary also includes a pronunciation guide. Readers are surprised when they see words like pendefig or hafodydd , how easy they are to pronounce. Some words, such as Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch , are difficult even for me, but these words are not in my books!

Here then, is the entire Glossary section from my latest paperback edition of Revival: Book IV: Pendyffryn: The Conquerors . Not all of the words are in all of the books and some words in other books in the series have additional words, but this will help readers get a quick start on learning the wonders of the Welsh language!

Glossary of Gymraeg (Welsh Words)

In most instances, the following words are used so their meaning is explained within the context of the story. I have taken a few liberties with the plural, adjective and possessive forms of some words. Welsh follows the Latin & other Romance languages noun/adjective (as in  vin rouge /  vino rosso  / gwin coch ) rather than the Teutonic adjective/noun (red wine) but to do that in a book written in English would be a step too far. I wanted to use some Welsh to give some flavour of the language Caryl and her friends speak. As in Invasion, Book 1 of this series, Christophe Maides is conversant in the Celtic language, having a greater facility for linguistics than his close friend, Jehan-Emíl deFreveille.

Welsh also employs a similar form of expressing ownership: the object is dominant and the owner is subordinate: her cloak is  ei chlogyn hi . Caryl's cloak is  clogyn Caryl . For the purposes of this story, I have used the English possessive construction of adding ‘apostrophe s'. I simplified the mutations that occur in specific juxtapositions of words starting with certain letters, such as in  ei chlogyn hi :  ei  designates (in this instance) female when followed by  hi . If followed by ‘ e ' then the mutation is male and is  ei glogyn e . These mutations are the aspirate and soft mutations, respectively. There is also the nasal mutation which replaces the beginning consonant with an 'ng', 'ngh', 'm', 'mh', 'n', or 'nh' when the word is proceeded by 'yn' (and a number of other instances that I won't mention!) as 'c' becomes 'ngh'; 'g' becomes 'ng'; 'b' becomes 'm'; 'p' becomes 'mh'; 't' becomes 'nh'. Caryl refers to her husband as  fy ngwr .

You can hear how these words are pronounced at The emphasis is always on the next to last syllable, as in most Romance languages. Below, I have used some English words to illustrate the sounds. ‘S' is always an ‘es' sound, never ‘z'. ‘R' is always rolled. ‘CH' is always aspirated as in ‘loch', never as in ‘choo-choo' or ‘k' as in the Italian ‘che'. ‘DD' is pronounced as the ‘th' in ‘with'. ‘TH' is the ‘th' sound as in ‘pith'.

Many double letters (dd, ll, th, ph, ng, etc.) are considered a single letter in Welsh and follow their closest single letter (d, l, t, p g etc.) in the Welsh dictionary.

Welsh vowels are the same as in Italian, open and full—one of the reasons why Welsh is called the language of heaven. Welsh also has more vowels than English, not only “and sometimes Y and W”: AEIOUYW.

Arawn: the lord of the underworld ( AHR-ow*n ) *as in ‘ouch'

Baban: infant ( BAH-bahn )

Beudy: Dairy, Milking Parlor ( BAY-dee )

Blodyn: flower ( BLOW-din ) - also a term of endearment

Buarth: farmyard ( BEE-ahrth )

Caer: fort ( CEYEr )

Calan Gaeaf: beginning of winter/All Hallow's Eve ( CAH-lahn GEYE-ahv )

Calan Gwanwyn: beginning of spring ( CAH-lahn GWAHN-win )

Cariad: love ( cahr-EE-ahd )

Carthen: blanket ( CAHRth-en )

Cawl: Meat (Lamb) Stew ( COWl )

Cromlech: burial tomb (CROHM-leCH - CH as in loch)

Cymraes: Welshwoman ( CUHM-rice )

Cymro: Welshman ( CUHM-row )

Diawl: Devil ( DEE-ahwl )

Duw annwyl: Dear God ( DEE-you AHN-noo-eel )

Gelyn: enemy ( GEL-en  - G is always hard as in ‘gas')

Gwraig: wife ( GOOR-eyeg )

Gwr: man/husband ( GOOr )

Gwyl Dewi: St. David's Day, March 1 st  ( GOO-eel DOW-ee )

Hafod(ydd): small dwelling(s) ( HAH-vod(iDD ), DD is pronounced as in ‘wi th ')

Mam: Mother ( MAHM )

Meddyg: medic ( MEDD-ig , DD is pronounced as in ‘wi th ')

Menyw: woman ( MEHN-you )

Merch: girl ( MEHRch  - CH as in loch)

Mwydyn: worm (MOOee-din)

Pendefig: prince/nobleman ( pen-DEHV-ig )

Pennaeth: chieftain ( PEN-eyeth)

Pryfyn: insect (PRUH-vin)

Saeson: Saxon ( SIGH-son )

Titw: small bird/tit (TIT-oo)

Trwsus: trousers (TRUE-sis)

Tylwyth: family/clan (TUHL-ooeeth)

Uffern: hell (EE-fehrn)

Uwd: porridge ( IEWD )

Ystad: estate ( UHS-tahd )

Don't be shy! Welsh is the language of heaven and of singing. In fact, singing in Welsh is the best way to learn the pronunciation. To get you started, here is a link to a wonderful folk song that I've sung in public at a St. David's Day event while my lawyer played her harp! Morfa Rhuddlan  means the Marsh of Red Land (literally). It is a lament for the deaths of Caradog and all his Welsh warriors in a battle with Offa in 796AD, the words were written by Ieuan Glan Geirionydd. A number of harpists have recorded the tune, but it is the words/poetry of the song that capture the true pathos of the history of Cymru (Wales).

If you have time, please listen to the other songs that Thomas L. Thomas sings, you will recognize some of the tunes which have become theme tunes for films and much more. If there is anything that can explain my love of Welsh, Wales and the Welsh people, it is the music they have created that speaks so eloquently to the heart.


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