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Miscellaneous Persona Questions

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Question: Hello! I am newish to the SCA and I am looking at deveopling a Welsh Gypsy persona to match my actual family background.

Answer: In terms of numbers, and especially of available source material, the heyday of the Welsh Gypsies was considerably after the SCA's period -- I'm thinking of the writings of George Borrow and the rising fame of Welsh Gypsy musicians. There are scattered references to Gypsies in the British Isles in the 16th century -- I don't know if there are any for Wales specifically -- but the ones I've seen tend to be fairly horrific accounts of persecutions. Still, good hunting on the research.

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Question: I'm looking for some information about the proper period (say about 1300) form of Welsh storytelling and music. As for the music, some specific examples to set a style would be good. Any references would be appreciated.

Answer: For storytelling, you've hit an ideal period. The majority of the Medieval Welsh literary tales that we have access to were written down in the 13th century. A few show evidence of having been composed/set-down earlier (e.g. "Culhwch and Olwen") and a few others are only available from significantly later manuscripts (e.g. the legend of Taliessin).
The main corpus of material that you want to be familiar with are the four "branches" of the Mabinogi, the four "native" tales, and the three Arthurian romances. There are several translations of these available and everyone has their own favorite among them.

But there are a number of other storytelling resources that should not be overlooked, simply because they are harder to find. Giraldus Cambrensis' writings about Wales from the late 12th century ("The Journey Through Wales/ The Description of Wales") include a number of short narratives that he heard and recorded on his travels. There are also a half-dozen or so Welsh-related stories in Walter Map's "Courtiers' Trifles". The Welsh chronicles -- specifically the "Brut y Tywysogion" -- contain a large number of descriptions of historical events that could be worked up into stories with little effort.

I'm afraid the musical situation is much more depressing. With the exception of some brief and extremely vague descriptions of Welsh music, we have no indication of what that music was like before the late 16th century -- and even then the information is sketchy and includes a lot of guesswork. W.S. Gwynn Williams, in his work "Welsh National Music and Dance", covers just about all of what is known about period Welsh music - and it isn't much at all.

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