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The fascinating subject of Welsh mythology provides an important background to any travels through Wales. The Mabinogion is a collection of tales dating back to the misty Celtic past. Giraldus Cambrensis was a 12th-century monk who journeyed round the country looking for recruits for the Third Crusade. His medieval travel tales are best digested in the collection A Mirror of Medieval Wales.The Matter of Wales is Jan Morris' entertaining description of her home country's history and present. Facts and figures to round out the picture can be found in John Davies' A History of Wales.No listing of Welsh literature is complete without Dylan Thomas. His Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog reflects his own experiences growing up in the 'ugly, lovely town' of Swansea, while the play Under Milk Wood is required reading or, better still, listening, for anyone hoping to come to terms with Welshness.Bruce Chatwin's novel On the Black Hill is an excellent read about the life of twin farmers living and working on the English-Welsh border. For a more romanticised view, Richard Llewellyn's How Green Was My Valley is the first of a set of four novels describing the life of a boy growing up in a South Wales mining community. His novels went a long way to creating the mystique of the tough life they portrayed.For something more quirky, try Elizabeth Mavor's The Ladies of Llangollen, which describes the unusual lives of a lesbian couple in the 18th century, who eloped from Ireland to Wales to settle in Plas Newydd, where they were visited by many well-known figures of the era.

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