Review: 'The White Trail'

The White Trail by Fflur Dafydd - review by Gwyn Griffiths
Morning Star Online
Wednesday 11 January 2012

Sophisticated and complex mediaeval Welsh tales like the Mabinogion, and others such as Culhwch and Olwen which now appear to have been accepted as a part of that cycle, are a challenge to the imagination.

The elements of enchantment and shape-shifting pose problems for the modern reader and even more so to the writers who have accepted Seren's commission to adapt these tales to a contemporary setting.

Fflur Dafydd's reworking of Culhwch and Olwen into The White Trail is a particularly inventive work.

While retaining the essence of the tale she develops some events and themes and skims over others. Goleuddydd, pregnant with Culhwch, vanishes mysteriously in a supermarket on a dark evening.

She is found dead in a pig run and the baby taken from her by a caesarean operation is not there.

Her distraught husband Cilydd joins a group searching for missing relatives and enlists the help of his cousin Arthur, demoted from king to an inept, if persistent, private eye.

Doged is another missing person, downgraded from king in the original tale to health minister in the Welsh Assembly government.

He disappears, having left a privatised health service in a mess.

Chieftain Ysbaddaden Bencawr is a mysterious oligarch evidently mixed up in something dodgy.

Dafydd has produced a good, convincing read and The House Of The Missing struck me as a particularly clever idea in which Dafydd effortlessy retains some of the enchantment of the original tale without being in the least obtrusive.