I’m delighted to have fellow romance author A L Lester on my blog today, talking about the Welsh equivalent of St Valentine, St Dwynwen, and how she inspired their latest short story. It’s a fascinating tale and I can’t wait to see the result – I’ve bought it but not yet had time to read it. Over to you, Ally!
“Thank you so much for having me here today to talk about my new short story, Playing Chicken! It’s a meet-cute bit of fluff that I accidentally wrote as a distraction from Real Life ™ over the last couple of weeks. I have recently joined the UK Romance Novelist’s Association’s Welsh chapter – the Cariad Chapter – and we are doing a Thing this week around St Dwynwen’s Day, the 25th January.
Dwynwen is sometimes talked about as ‘The Welsh St Valentine’ and there are various origin stories. They all start with Dwynwen being one of the twenty-four daughters of the fifth century King Brychan Brycheiniog, King of Brycheiniog or Brecknockshire/Breconshire. She fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, but her father wanted her to marry someone else.
In one version of the story, Maelon was so angry when she told him she couldn’t marry him, that he raped her. She ran away to the woods, where she begged god to make her forget Maelon and when she fell asleep she was visited by an angel who gave her a potion to erase her memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice.
God also gave her three wishes:
- Her first wish was that Maelon be thawed, which was very generous of her, considering.
- Secondly she asked that god meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers. Again, generous after her own bad experience.
- And thirdly she wished that she would never marry. I can get behind this.
All her wishes were granted and in thanks she devoted her life to god.
I loathe this version. I feel that if someone raped me and I had the good luck to get him frozen, I wouldn’t be immediately unfreezing him, however saintly I was. So I like to think this is the misogynistic version of the story I prefer—that they were in love and slept together, but when her father found out, Dwynwen panicked and said it had been without her consent before she ran away. Poor old Maelon still gets frozen, but it would explain why she unfreezes him so quickly.
There’s a bit of a fashion for modern fairy-tale retellings at the moment, but I really didn’t intend to make one. To begin with, the story was set on Christmas Eve, but it just didn’t sit right and after the discussion on our Cariad zoom call last week, it seemed that St Dwynwen’s Day was a natural fit. And I ended up making poor, frozen, unjustly accused Maelon one of my main characters, because he deserved a happy ending!”
🐓 Playing Chicken 🐓
Marc returns home from London to his isolated Welsh cottage for good, having found his ex boyfriend shagging someone else in their bed. Who’s the thin, freezing cold man with the bruised face he finds in his barn? Will the tenuous connection between them grow, or fade away?
A 9,000 word short story to mark the Welsh St Valentine’s Day, St Dwynwen’s Day, the 25th of January. With chickens.
A. L. Lester writes queer, paranormal, historical, romantic suspense and lives in the South West of England with Mr AL, two children, Morris the badly behaved dachshund, a terrifying cat, some hens and the duckettes.
She likes permaculture gardening but doesn’t really have time or energy these days. Not musical, doesn’t much like telly, likes to read. Non-binary. Chronically disabled. Has fibromyalgia and tedious fits.