Eisteddfod: War graves inspire Haf's winning novel


Shane Brennan

A LLANUWCHLLYN author has won one of the most prestigious prizes in Welsh literature.

Haf Llewellyn was presented with the Tir no nog award by the Welsh Books Council at the Urdd National Eisteddfod in Bala last week.

The prize is Wales’ top literary prize for children and young adults.

She won for her novel, Diffodd y Ser, based on the World War I poet Hedd Wyn.

Speaking after the awards ceremony, Haf said: “I was inspired to write Diffodd y Sêr
following a trip with friends to see the World War cemeteries at Ypres in Belgium, where we visited Hedd Wyn’s grave. It was an odd feeling to see row upon row of white gravestones with Welsh names etched on them, and the full realisation of how young those boys were really affected

“After I got home I began to read many letters from soldiers on the front to their families, and vice versa. And that was it – I was caught up in the story, and had to start writing.

“I was eager to write from the perspective of the family, and those who were left behind. I learned a great deal by visiting Yr Ysgwrn and spending time with Gerald Williams, Hedd Wyn’s nephew, who very kindly shared his knowledge and memories with me. Going to Yr Ysgwrn is always an interesting experience – sitting by the roaring fire in the warmth of the kitchen, exactly where Hedd Wyn sat to write his poetry.”

Published by Y Lolfa, Diffodd y Sêr is a historical novel based on the Evans family of Yr Ysgwrn, Trawsfynydd, and their famous son, fallen World War I poet Ellis Humphrey Evans, Hedd Wyn, whose story unfolds through the eyes of his younger sister, Annie.

According to Eirian Pritchard, Chair of the 2014 Tir na n-Og judging panel: “Haf’s novel, Diffodd y Sêr, portrays a rural agricultural society a century ago, as the shadow of the Great War transforms a closely-knit community. Through the eyes of Annie, Hedd Wyn’s sister, we are given the opportunity to get to know him from a personal perspective.”

Children's poet laureate of Wales, Aneirin Karadog, praised the book as a work that would engage young people.

He said: “ I think it is a fantastic book especially for a Welsh speaking audience. It is such a well known story even having been used in Hollywood. But Haf tells it again in a fresh way. The aim of these books is to get young people reading and the poignancy of the story is treated in a way that will be attractive to them.”

See full story in the Free Press

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