Ghosts and Folklore of Wales review
Being Welsh is something of a privilege. We have the coolest looking flag, and the best national anthem. We also have a Christmas tradition of having a rap battle against a horse’s skull on a pole (yes, really). This is partly why this review of Ghosts and Folklore of Wales is being released today. But I digress…
This is another queue jumper for my review schedule, but one I think is worthy. As soon as I’d heard the first episode I knew I’d be ploughing through the whole lot in no time. I’d actually be further along with it, but the pre-Christmas work rush has put the kibosh on my 8 hour listening sessions somewhat. So without further ado, here is my review of the Ghosts and folklore of Wales podcast.
So what’s it all about?
Ghosts and folklore of Wales is a weekly podcast by the perpetually cheerful Mark Rees, a Welsh journalist, author and folklore fanatic. In fact, according to Mark, this is the ONLY podcast dedicated to Welsh folklore. Every episode revolves around a different subject, and usually includes a few stories related to the main theme. So far he’s covered stories about the Welsh versions of the “Black Shuck” dog, the infamous Mari Lwyd, various tales of devils, and even the story of a headless Jesus driving a coach and horses. See, Wales is nothing if not fascinating.
Is it any good?
You can really tell that Mark has a great love for what he does. His enthusiasm is contagious and his witty style of storytelling is a joy. After listening to the first episode I had decided that this was a “four brain” podcast (maybe a three). I had judged too quickly though, because I didn’t realise how subsequent episodes would go. The things that I would have critiqued actually have become endearing features of the style of the show. Hopefully he keeps his special effects budget exactly as it is!
It’s amazing how he manages to research some of the stories found here. For every well known ghost, or tale of fairies, there are some really obscure local news reports that must have taken all his journalistic skill to unearth. I suspect that he spends hours hunched over a microfiche machine, or maybe poring over old archives. Maybe he just types searches into his work computer, who am I to assume? Not all of these are truly paranormal however. Stories the local ne’er-do-wells tormenting unwitting victims are just as good as, if not more entertaining than a real ghost story.
Another thing I love about this podcast, and one that sets it apart from other podcasts like this is the fact that he will translate the Welsh names of the subject of the episode. I suspect that other podcasts don’t do this because. A) the sources they use don’t do it. B) they don’t speak Welsh themselves so can’t do it. or C) They don’t think it’s important. It’s just some hard to pronounce word that sounds weird and thats good enough for them.
The great thing about translating though is that it gives more depth to the subject. I mean who knew that the dog breed Corgi, actually means “dwarf dog”. Not dwarf because it’s small, but because it was owned by the mythical dwarves? This also provides someone with only a passing grasp of Welsh (me) with plenty of head slapping moments when I try to figure it out and get it completely wrong. At the risk of perpetual ridicule, and full disclosure, I translated it to “choir dog” or even “singing dog” because the Welsh for choir is also “Cor”.
A lot of paranormal and folklore podcasts (and I’ve listened to quite a few) have a tendency to get rather stuffy and academic. This is probably just the nature of the beast, as a lot of the resources available tend to be stuffy and academic. What sets this series apart is the light-hearted way each story is told. I’m reluctant to use the comparison, but it’s more along the lines of Horrible Histories than some late night BBC documentary.
I’m really not putting it down with this comparison, but I feel you are more likely to retain facts when they are related in an engaging manner. An engaging manner is (thankfully) what Mark has in spades. His self-deprecating humour is endearing rather than irritating and his real sense of disbelief relating the more far fetched tales and hoaxes result in some proper laugh out loud moments. You are also guaranteed to learn some obscure nugget of wisdom from the aforementioned translations. The Dwarf Dog is absolutely being retained for when I get to go on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
I know that Mark has also written a number of books on the subjects of ghosts and folklore. I’ll be getting my hands on them soon, because if they are half as well researched and written as this podcast then they will be a great addition to any collection.
You can get the show here: