DEWITHON 20 WEEK 2: One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard

A few shared thoughts on chapters 5-8 and other aspects of the novel

It was Lisa Top House’s fox fur that attracted our attention […]. We could see its head laughing at us from her shoulders with its black eyes shining like stars.”

ONE MOONLIT NIGHTAs the second week of Wales Readathon comes to an end, I briefly summarize chapters five to eight of our official Dewithon 20 book: One Moonlit Night by Caradog Prichard.

This 37-page segment is a pungent concoction of humour, tragedy, joy and mystery. For instance, in chapter 5, the boy recalls the time he fell sick on Good Friday after discussing the crucifixion of Jesus with his best friends Huw and Moi. He is discovered sleeping on a gravestone and wakes some hours later in his Mam’s bed, having suffered a headache he likens to someone “knocking nails into it”. After eating homemade hot-cross buns he is reinvigorated and walks up “the Hill”, where he meets the tall, blue-eyed Humphrey, newly returned “from the sea”, who gives the boy gifts (including a ten-shilling note for his Mam) and shows him tricks, before inviting him and his mother to join them (Humphry and his wife Lisa, that is) for Sunday afternoon tea. As they depart, the boy declares him “the kindest man in the world”.

Look, the moon’s in the River down there exactly like a wheel of fire. Maybe that’s what Will Starch Collar saw when he was drunk.”

We attend Church with the boy in chapter 6. He and Huw sing in the choir and relish what we would nowadays call ‘people-watching’, while also peeping through fingers at the lovely Ceri. They particularly enjoy Communion mornings, observing worshippers “coming up in a long line to kneel before the Altar, and seeing who was there and who wasn’t.” They have to “watch what [they] are doing”, though, as “Frank Bee Hive’s dad on the organ [can see them] through the mirror near his head”, but they are nevertheless able to “do lots of things under [their] surplices” (such as painfully pinching each other’s legs) without raising suspicion.

A little later the two boys visit Moi in his home, who in the previous chapter was said to have a cold. They find him in bed because his “Mam won’t let [him] up” until the “Doctor’s been”. He seems cheerful and chatty enough but shocks his friends by coughing up blood after “laughing his head off” at a story of Huw’s. Moi makes light of this, but we subsequently discover he is suffering from TB. His funeral is described in the next chapter.

In chapter 7, we are introduced to Johnny Beer Barrel’s cousin, Johnny South – so named because he is a South Walian who “talks funny”. He has opened a “boxing booth behind The Blue Bell” and is teaching others to fight “for a shilling a week.” We are regaled with an amusing anecdote about the occasion when local toughie, Owen Gorlan takes on “the Southerner” in the ring and is left “like a flatfish on the floor”.

As ever in these early stories, the boy returns home to his Mam at the end of the day. She takes in washing to earn a few extra pennies, so he generally finds her ironing late into the night. He watches her work for a while, regaling her with his latest exploits and divulging local gossip. She listens to his tales, commenting occasionally, sometimes dispensing advice, now and then even laughing at the things he says. Then she sends him to bed so she might continue her task in peace.

I am the Queen of Snowdon, the Bride of the Beautiful One. I lie upon the bed of my ascension, eternally expectant, forever great with child and awaiting the hour of his delivery.”

Finally, we come to the highly perplexing chapter 8, which materialises as unexpectedly as if the Lady of the Lake had emerged from the still waters of Llyn Ogwen bearing Excalibur. Quite abruptly, the relatively rational thread of the book, which until this point has been provided by its narrative structure, is interrupted by something Jan Morris describes as “mysteriously vatic pronouncements of no explicable origin, as though some deus ex machina has intervened.”

This peculiar interlude, delivered in florid language, is somewhat disconcerting because it is so unlike previous or subsequent chapters and seems to belong in a different book. “Is this the voice, I wonder?” asks the boy. “Or is it just the wind blowing through Adwy’r Nant?” We are never told.

About the Author

CARADOG PRICHARDCaradog Prichard (1904-1980) made his name in Wales as one of the writers of the Caernarfonshire quarrying district. Born and raised Bethesda, a tiny town and community on the River Ogwen, he spent his career as a journalist, eventually moving to London and becoming a sub-editor on the foreign desk at the Daily Telegraph. During this period, he penned four award-winning odes in addition to this remarkable novel. He remained in the English capital for the rest of his life.

Whenever anyone from the south came to the Village, everyone would look at them in the street as though they had horns growing out of their head, and laugh at the way they spoke cos their South Walian Welsh was so funny.”

Please share your thoughts on chapters 5-8 of One Moonlit Night and join me next week to discuss chapters 9-11 (plus other aspects) of this novel.


This is my thirteen choice for The Classics Club

Categories: Reading Wales

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16 replies

  1. It is oh so difficult to avert my eyes, Paula, perhaps my copy of the book is being printed in Wales 🙂

    • What a flippin’ nuisance, Gretchen. I can’t believe it still hasn’t arrived. 😲 It would have been quicker if I’d mailed you a copy – I could have done so had I realised you were going to be kept waiting so long. Fingers crossed it arrives very soon.

      • Thank you, Paula, that is very kind of you. But it should arrive soon! I ordered through Booktopia, usually a very reliable source. Unfortunately local libraries do not have the book so I will widen my search. It will be read!

  2. I’m a little behind but have read most of the afternoon and am nearly caught up! I’m slow mainly because have to reread to really appreciate the marvellous language. So enjoying it thank you. The word Dew is said often . Is it like Gosh? It makes no difference of course to the sense of the language but other words I have been able to look up for a definition. Mainly place names. NOt this one. I worked with a woman from Wales and keep hearing her voice speaking in her wonderful accent.

    • Yes, you’re quite right, Penelope, ‘dew’ is an exclamation similar to gosh.

      I’m so glad you’re finding this a positive reading experience and enjoying the book’s language. I’m sure you will find place names rather peculiar, especially as the pronunciation of Welsh words is so different from the English. For instance, a single f is pronounced as a v but a double ff gives you the familiar eff sound. Another one people find strange is the double dd, which makes a th sound. There are lots more but I’m sure you get the gist. 😵

  3. I am frustrated at not contributing here at the appropriate times, but really – does it matter! Already we begin to appreciate what’s important in our lives 😊

    I loved this book and will try to comment here only up to chapter 8. I agree with you, Paula, about that mysterious jarring chapter which makes no sense at all. I have a vague theory but it could be a spoiler for some so I’ll hold on to it for the moment. Setting aside that chapter I found much of this central section of the book included my most favourite parts. Such lyrical language and heartwarming tales from the village, invariably sprinkled with humour and resilience alongside the pathos. Has anyone else found themselves thinking of Cider with Rosie? I think I shall have to re-read that – when I rediscover my reading mojo!

    Hope everyone is keeping well and staying safe 🤗 😷

    • No worries, Sandra. This is meant to be a pleasurable activity and it matters not when or indeed if you decide to comment. However, it’s always good to hear your thoughts. 😊

      I’m so glad you’ve found reading this book a positive experience. Amid all the current turmoil, it’s quite difficult to concentrate, I find, but it’s good to immerse oneself in something not remotely connected to you-know-what! 😷

      We’re fine so far, thank you, and doing quite well at isolating ourselves. I hope all is well with you and you’re not going stir crazy. 🤗

  4. I’m enjoying the tone of these scenes. As others have said, they feel removed from our present-day realities and even the language alone requires a certain attention so, for a spell, one is thinking only of the words and the style. As for that strange chapter, I don’t know what to make of it either. It feels almost feverish, as though some of the inexplicable intense emotions of the preceding days has bloomed forth in tongues. The boys’ grief over Moi’s death is very moving and I feel as though this will cast a shadow over the rest of the story (which would make sense) but perhaps there is, yet, worse to come.

    • As a North Walian, I’m accustomed to the quirks and lilt of everyday chatter (in both languages equally, although my understanding of Welsh is limited), so it’s interesting you say attention is required to follow this book. Thinking about your comments, I can well understand why this may be because English people often describe Welsh accents as ‘singy-songy’ – personally, I think it’s not dissimilar from hearing an Indian person speak in English – though, I may be alone in that thought.

      Having researched chapter 8, I’ve come across various theories, including it presages madness, or even that the boy himself is religiously obsessed. Perhaps so. It’s all a bit Alice in Wonderland. Nobody knows for sure. As far as I’m aware, Prichard never offered an explanation.

      I hope all is well with you, Marcie. Take care. 🤗

      • It definitely requires a little more of me, as a reader. All those double consonants. And the differences in the lengths of sentences (some so short, others meandering). Sometimes flipping to the glossary. But I don’t mind that at all because it does, as you say, reflect the rhythm and cadence of the speech, the inflections and the delivery, and I really enjoy that sense of being immersed in the place.

        How interesting that he’s never offered an explanation! So perhaps he believed it was self-evident? Now that I’ve finished reading, I can see where that could be true. That section makes a different kind of “sense” to me too, looking back on it, having turned the story’s final pages.

      • It’s a great pleasure to have someone such as yourself interpret the language. I find your thoughts on the ‘rhythm’ and ‘cadence’ absolutely fascinating. It’s far ‘too close to home’ for me to pick up on the speech patterns. Thank you so much.

  5. WEEK 2 (5-8)

    A while back I tried to convince a friend that you can read direct speech without quotation marks; once the voice has been established it’s smooth sailing. The same for stream-of-consciousness writing, and Prichard imbues an almost hypnotic effect, a language which draws me ever onwards.

    First up is Church and Ho-lycherubim-and-Se-ra-phim ‘we sang at the tops of our voices’ which I remember doing too. I grew up Protestant but my friends were Catholic and I often heard about their antics during Mass so I enjoyed chapter 6 with its human observations, and where members of the congregation fitted on the social scale. The boy recalls the crucifixion of Jesus with his best friends Huw and Moi and I understood his feelings but don’t think it was related to his illness.

    Paula, I beg to differ on a minor point. Under their surplices, Huw and the boy pinched each other on their hands. The boy was punctured badly enough by Huw’s fingernail to draw blood and ‘The scar’s still there’ which could possibly be autobiographical.

    Moi’s slow demise was graphic, sad and well styled through the boy’s eyes. But, golly gosh, several authors today could take action lessons from the fight scene between Johnny South and Owen Gorlan.

    Lastly, my loose interpretation of Queen of Snowdon from that odd chapter 8. I think Prichard was (1) going through a sensual Omar Khayyam stage and tried his hand at Persian poetry or (2) alluding to childbirth with oblique references to Snowdonia and the female body… on page 133 the boys talk about Snowdon in the shape of a woman lying down, her chest, her swollen belly and her feet…


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