top of page

Gwlad yr Asyn - Wyn Mason

Updated: Jun 5, 2023

*For Welsh review, see language toggle switch*



(suggested) reading age: 12+

(suggested) interest age: 14+ / YA/ Adults

1Illustrations1: Efa Blosse-Mason



 

I've taken ages to write this review. Mainly because I wasn't really sure how to put my response down on paper! When I saw this book for the first time I saw it, the cover looked deceptively childish, but believe me, there’s much more to this book…


To be honest, after finishing it for the first time, I just sat there thinking 'what on earth have I just read?' Graphic novels are so rare in Welsh anyway, maybe this was part of the reason why I wasn't really sure what to make of it. But having read it several times, I've completely changed my mind. I discover some new meaning upon every read. I’m not trying to sound cliché, but it really was a well needed breath of fresh air. Like the old Irn Bru adverts used to say: "I like it. It's different."


Ari is a donkey who has been raised amongst people, and consequently she lives a comfortable life in a house, with Mam-Gu. She much prefers to spend her time in the company of humans, and although she has the body of a donkey, she has the mind of a person. Unfortunately for her, one day and very unexpectedly, Ari's life of luxury is turned upside down... Indeed, she gets quite the shock to see her new home is a field, a far cry from the warm, cosy house she’s used to. And if that wasn’t enough of a shock, Prost, her new owner is a dangerous man – and not to be crossed.



When she is introduced to Cal, a captive donkey who dreams big dreams of freedom, Ari learns more about wild flocks of donkeys roaming without walls or fences. Will his wild, extreme ideas will be enough to spark the spirit of rebellion in this tame donkey, or is all that talk of escaping and being free a load of baloney from a crazy fool?


In addition to the humour, there are a number of deeper themes in the story, including man's relationship with animals, specifically our abuse of animals and our desire to exploit everything for profit. Cal's dreams of freedom draw parallels with Wales as a Nation. Like Ari and her love for mankind, we still insist on sticking tightly to the United Kingdom, even though it is not exactly a healthy relationship for us. Do we have a bit of 'Stockholm syndrome' ourselves? Is it a matter of better the Devil you know for us? Ari's story certainly makes me think more about this. Are we ready to be brave and to demand our ‘freedom’ ?



Having spoken to several people who have read the book, I'm still not quite sure who the primary audience is. But perhaps that’s my problem- my need to try to put everything into neat little boxes. It's a book that can be enjoyed on a more superficial, simple level but also has different layers and deeper, philosophical ideas lurking inside it. It will appeal to teens, (I want to say 12+) adults and Welsh learners too.


I understand that this book evolved from a play that was written as part of a creative PhD, and was later staged successfully as a play by the National Theatre. I must admit, I knew nothing of this until after I’d read it!



In my opinion, it fully deserved its place on the Tir na n-Og Awards shortlist, because it represents a somewhat left of field choice that adds to the choice we have in Welsh. Depending on the sales, I think there's room to see similar graphic novels, but I’m aware this type of fiction won’t be for everyone.


Some may think "what the heck was that I just read?" but I've personally done a full 180 and think it's genius! It's worth buying it just to see Efa Blosse-Mason's simple yet impressive artistry. It was certainly a new and different reading experience for me in Welsh.




 

For a far more eloquent review than mine, have a read of Jon Gower's response to 'Gwlad yr Asyn' on Nation.Cymru




"Graphic novels in Welsh aren’t exactly two a penny – so Gwlad yr Asyn is an uncommon item. It’s even more so when you find out that it’s novel based on a play, placing its playful yet thoughtful account of the adventures of a donkey in a field of its own."
 

Publisher: Carreg Gwalch

Released: 2022

Price: £12

Format: softcover

 


 

Why not listen to the radio drama instead? (Welsh language only)




Comments


bottom of page