Rhiannon's Way

illustrations by Angela Hoppe Kingston
Apecs Press 2002
hb 0 9537267 8 9

Rhiannon is a Celtic princess whose father has been captured by the Romans. She decides to try to rescue him with the help of her friend Brychan, a clever pony called Llwyd and a magic mirror. She is able to draw on her own affinity with the Celtic goddess Rhiannon, one of whose tales from the Mabinogion is featured in the book.

Much has been written about the Romans and the way in which they conquered and 'civilised' a large part of the modern world. When asked to write a story about the Romans in Caerleon, author, Margaret Isaac decided to tackle the story from the point of view of the Celtic people who were being invaded. These people who had lived in their country for thousands of years were faced with a hostile and disciplined force, determined to conquer and assimilate them into an alien (Roman) way of life.

First of all, she asked herself what it must have been like to be a Celt confronting the power and strength of a Roman Legion and wondered how successful the Romans really were in defeating the Celtic people living in Wales at that time? In seeking the answers to these questions, the history of the Celts in Wales in the first century A.D. was researched and some surprising discoveries made.

There was an extensive network of hill forts covering Wales. It seemed that here were the homes of an invisible people who had been forgotten by time. They were an interesting people, inventive and self-sufficient, lovers of music, art and poetry. They were a spiritual people with a strong sense of law and order, amazingly clever horsemen and women, ferocious and brave in battle and people with a strong sense of family. Above all, they were men and women who were passionate and proud of their Celtic identity.

And so the story was written from the point of view of the families who would have lived in the hill fort located in the south of the Great Gwent Wood above Caerwent, called in the story, Pengelli. The author has breathed life into the people she created and conveyed some of the characteristics of the Silurian Celts who fought long and hard to preserve their way of life. They were eventually conquered by the Roman might. Or were they? The Romans left Wales in A.D. 410 leaving behind a people who had absorbed their cruelty and barbarism and adopted some of their ways. They continued to enjoy the Roman road systems and Roman central heating. But she believes that their innate spiritualism and Celtic identity remained untarnished.