Under Milk Wood: A Play for Voices, by Dylan Thomas, was published, posthumously, in 1954. It was first performed on BBC radio on January 25, 1954.
The first sentence is: “To begin at the beginning: It is spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeback, slow, black, crowback, fishingboat-bobbing sea.”
The story takes place during a single day in the Welsh town of Llareggub. It begins before dawn, with the residents asleep and dreaming.
Captain Cat, the retired blind seacaptain, dreams of drowned sailors, who all want to hear the latest goings on above the sea. “And who brings cocoanuts and shawls and parrots to my Gwen now?”
Miss Myfanwy Price dreams of her lover. “Throw away your little bedsocks and your Welsh wool knitted jacket, I will warm the sheets like an electric toaster, I will lie by your side like the Sunday roast…” he says to her.
Mister Waldo, “rabbitcatcher, barber, herbalist, catdoctor, quack“, dreams of his dear mother.
The twice-widowed Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard dreams of her two husbands, who both assure her that they are taking care of their health, just as she always instructed them to. Both husbands, in Mrs. Ogmore-Prichard’s dreams, are happy to be henpecked beyond the grave.
Through their dreams, we are introduced to the residents of Llareggub: Organ Morgan, the organist; Willy Nilly, the postman; Butcher Banyon; Gossamer Banyon, daughter and schoolteacher; Reverend Eli Jenkins; Nogood Boyo, the fisherman, and so on.
Dawn arrives at Llareggub, signaled by Captain Cat ringing the townhall bell.
Up on Coronation Street and down on Donkey Street, Llareggub starts another day. Cherry Owen and Mrs. Cherry Owen have last night’s onions and spuds for breakfast, while bickering lovingly. Sinbad Sailors greets the day with a freshly drawn pint as he opens the Sailor’s Arms. Mr. Pugh fantasizes about poisoning Mrs. Pugh, while treating her well.
Children go to school. Fishermen go to sea.
I absolutely loved this book/screenplay. The story is touching and romantic and hilarious. It’s down-to-earth and magical. It’s beautiful.
I read Phillip the following passage, which made me laugh out loud: Bessie Bighead “…picks a posy of daisies in Sunday Meadow to put on the grave of Gomer Owen who kissed her once by the pig-sty when she wasn’t looking and never kissed her again although she was looking all the time.” Phillip said that passage reminded him of A Prairie Home Companion. I hadn’t seen that before, but I think that’s an apt comparison for this entire book. If you like one, I think you’ll like the other.
(By the way, there is no actual town named Llareggub. It’s bugger all spelled backwards.)
Why I chose this book:
Except for my father tracing his immediate family tree, ancestry was never an important topic in my family. I know that my father can trace his roots back to Germany. I’ve been told that, if you go back far enough, some of my mother’s family can be found in Wales. That was good enough for me.
Wales seems like a more interesting place than Germany, mainly because I don’t know much about Wales.
I did some internet searching for novels set in Wales. I found a few, but none that were in either of my local libraries. (Someday, maybe, I’ll finally remember the most obvious solution and ask a librarian.) Then I worked backwards and looked for Welsh authors, and, of course, found Dylan Thomas.