Peter Stevenson : Teller and Collector of Stories.

Folk Tales of Ceredigion

In Ceredigion Folk Tales, by Peter Stevenson, published by the History Press, folk stories local to our own county are, possibly for the first time, given a whole book to themselves, without being tucked into a general Wales-wide folk tales collection. The book is most interesting to those of us who live here, as all the stories are connected with recognisable places, and when one can read a story which has come from Llangranog, or Bettws Bledrws, then one has a reason to read on, as familiarity breeds curiosity. In a way it is like looking into a neighbour’s window to see how they live, though in these stories the people we encounter are very different from those we are likely to meet today. Many of these are the stories that the generation who came up in the 19th and early 20th century would have been telling one another, and within them is the evidence of the certain belief in a world of magic, of conjurers, of tylwyth teg, and otherness, of babies swapped for fairy folk, and animals that have magical presence. Also, within what is a very eclectic mix there are stories about people known for their exaggerated characteristics, like Sir Herbert Lloyd, otherwise known as ‘The Wickedest Man in Ceredigion’ for his evident greed and cruelty. There are the well-known tales, still told today and widely known, like Twm Sion Cati, Tregaron’s own Robin Hoodalike, with his tricks and idiosincracies. Stevenson acknowledges Pritchard, who was the man who made Twm Sion Cati famous and lost his own nose along the way. Indeed he was a storyteller in his own right and a huge character who died penniless. There is also a short piece about Sion Cwilt, the thief and outlaw of Synod Inn who wore a patchwork coat, whose exploits will now live on through the next generation as the new primary school at Synod Inn is named after him, though what brought Cwilt his fame, may be best overlooked. With contemporary tales of Aberystwyth ghosts, and strange things on Borth Bog, and the continuing stories of Nanteos, it can be deduced that though our modern society may have a more prosaic view of life, the stories of strange occurrences and extraordinary happenings are still being enjoyed, that people love to be scared, horrified, amused or simply amazed, and the joy for a storyteller like Peter Stevenson is that these are continuing evidence that folk tales will go on being requested, for ever. (Peter Stevenson launched his book Ceredigion Folk Tales at Awen Teifi, Cardigan High Street on Saturday 19th April with musical accompaniment on harp and fiddle.

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