Sometimes a book hits a reviewer's desk and the reviewer thinks "oh, that sounds interesting." Sometimes the response is "oh dear lord, no, please." But then, every once in awhile, a book like Blodeuwedd: Welsh Goddess of Seasonal Sovereignty arrives and my genuine response is "who?" Which is actually a really exciting response. So many books go through a lens of what you already know, or think you do, about a subject. Being able to come at something with totally fresh eyes is a pleasure, and the Pagan Portals series from Moon Books is good at taking on these topics. So, what is there to know about Blodeuwedd?
Quite a lot, it turns out, and not all of it is sunny. For those like me who do not know her story, a quick-ish primer: Blodeuwedd is a being created from flowers specifically to wed Lleu, which gets him around a tricky prohibition (and a story unto itself, just go with me here) prohibiting his marriage to a mortal woman. She ends up turning her attentions to a rival prince, Gronw Pebyr (ah, the Welsh), and is eventually punished for this by being transformed into an owl. I have danced around certain parts because those parts are interpreted in different ways leading to different conclusions about Blodeuwedd, but at root her story is not a happy one. Whether she connives to betray her husband or simply acts in knowledge that her marriage was never valid, she often feels like a gear in someone else's machine - a plot device but never the actual plot. If her lack of agency sounds like something that would irritate you, you aren't alone. The most fascinating part of the story as told by Telyndru is the transformation of the very story of Blodeuwedd, shifting the narrative of her waxing and waning interests in the men of the story into something mystical, aligning it with the seasonal cycle of the world shifting from summer to winter. Piecing together how her story was "taken back" as we would say today is an invaluable example of the impermanence of narrative and our ability to make sense of our world,.
Like a lot of things in life, what you get out of Jhenah Telyndru's book on Blodeuwedd has a lot to do with what you bring with you to the reading. The history is one part; the lessons to be learned are distinctly another. Pulling my reviewer's hat down tight on my head, I think that getting double value from this taut, well-written book is certainly worth your investment.
~review by Wanderer
Author: Jhenah Telyndru
Moon Books, 2022
pp. 128, $10.95