The Woman made of Flowers (Blodeuwedd)
Blodeuwedd is a Welsh myth that centers around Lleu Llaw Gyffes. He is cursed by his mother never to find a human wife. So the magician Gwydion creates a wife for him made of flowers. The whole tale is very well told by Tamar Williams in this video.
My poem is inspired by that tale. I thank Prof. Angharad Price from Bangor University for creating the Welsh translation. Please click on the pictures to read the poem.
North Frisia is located in the northwest tip of Germany. Its green marshes lie below sea level, protected from the North Sea by hundreds of kilometres of dikes. The permanent shifting and shaping of the coastline creates a permanent struggle between the locals and the ocean. The effort to reclaim land from the sea is more than just work. Here it’s an attitude towards nature that has shaped the characters of the Frisian population for hundreds of years. Today, the same attitude needs to be associated with the local Frisian language and our cultural heritage. It is not enough just to speak a minority language. It is one’s duty to reclaim more areas of life with one’s own words and terms.
The Frisian language is on the brink of extinction. The sellout of real estate on the islands Sylt, Amrum and Foehr displaces the locals and thus also the last hideouts of their language and culture. „Reclaim the land!“ needs to be the slogan here too.
The quality of every culture depends on the language in which that culture happens. A language expelled from certain parts of life narrows the identity of the speaker; one’s full self can’t be expressed. (This is a problem for all minority languages.) According to that there is a negative effect on the arts and especially on literature in that language. – In 1930, the Welsh politician and playwright Saunders Lewis put it this way: „If a nation that has lost its political machinery becomes content to express its nationality thenceforward only in the sphere of literature and the arts, then that literature and those arts will very quickly become provincial and unimportant …”
In Frisian, literary forms like novel or tragedy haven’t really been developed. There is no contemporary world-class literature and drama in the Frisian languge.
Language has its limits where its vocabulary is unable to express the events of daily life. Ask yourself a question: in which language do you do your finances, browse the internet or fill up your car on a petrol station? – In High German we know the answer all to well. English expressions like computer, smartphone or recently vaccine became part of German vocabulary. Even more German words weaken the Frisian language, because cultural progress is made by the German majority in the German language. A continuous effort is necessary to keep a minority language up to date.
Today, this is the duty especially for writers and poets. They always have enriched any language with smart, sometimes humorous, but always skilful contributions.
Literature and poetry have to reach for places in a language where no word has gone before. Especially in a minority language it is not enough merely to write but to write further. That is important for Frisian as well as for any other minority language.