Llywelyn, Morgan 1937-
Llywelyn, Morgan 1937-
Born December 3, 1937, in New York, NY; immigrated to Ireland, 1985; daughter of Joseph John (an attorney) and Henri Llywelyn (a secretary) Snyder; married Charles Winter (a professional pilot; surname legally changed to Llywelyn in August, 1981), January 1, 1957 (died March 25, 1985); children: John Joseph. Education: Attended high school in Dallas, TX.
Home and office—Oaklands, Newcastle, County Wicklow, Ireland. Agent—Abner Stein, 10 Roland Gardens, London SW7 3PH, England. E-mail—[email protected].
Writer. Fashion model and dance instructor in Dallas, TX, 1954-56; secretary in Denver, CO, 1956-59; riding instructor in Denver, 1959-61; amateur equestrian, training and showing her own horses, 1961-76; writer, 1974—.
National League of American Penwomen, Authors League of America, Authors Guild, Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Association, Gaelic Arts League, St. Brendan Society, Irish Society of Pittsburgh, Mensa, National Geographic Society.
Women's U.S. equestrian high jump record, 1953; best novel award, National League of American Penwomen, 1983, for The Horse Goddess; Cultural Heritage Award, for Lion of Ireland; Woman of the Year, Irish Heritage and Cultural Committee, 1986; Poetry in Prose Award, Galician Society of University of Santiago de Compostela, and Award of Merit, Celtic League, both for Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish; Bisto Award for Excellence in Children's Literature, 1993, for Brian Boru: Emperor of the Irish; Best Foreign Language Novel, Academie Celtique, for Druids; Bisto Award for Excellence in Children's Literature, and Reading Association of Ireland Biennial Award for Best Book for Children, both for Strongbow: The Story of Richard and Aoife; Irish-American Heritage Award, for 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion; Exceptional Celtic Woman of the Year Award, Celtic Women International, Ltd., 1999.
The Wind from Hastings (historical novel), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1978.
Lion of Ireland: The Legend of Brian Boru (fictionalized biography), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1979.
The Horse Goddess (historical novel), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1982.
Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish (historical novel), Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1984.
Grania, She-King of the Irish Seas, Crown (New York, NY), 1986, Forge (New York, NY), 2003.
Xerxes (biography), Chelsea House (New York, NY), 1987.
Red Branch, Morrow (New York, NY), 1989.
The Isles of the Blest (novel), Berkley (New York, NY), 1989.
On Raven's Wing, Mandarin (London, England), 1991.
The Last Prince of Ireland, Morrow (New York, NY), 1992.
Druids, Del Rey (New York, NY), 1992.
Strongbow: The Story of Richard and Aoife, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), 1992, Tor (New York, NY), 1996.
The Elementals, Tor (New York, NY), 1993.
Finn Mac Cool, Forge (New York, NY), 1994.
(With Michael Scott) Ireland: A Graphic History, Gill & Macmillan (Dublin, Ireland), 1995.
(With Michael Scott) Silverhand, Baen (Riverdale, NY), 1995.
Brian Boru, Emperor of the Irish, Tor (New York, NY), 1995.
Silverlight, Baen (Riverdale, NY), 1996.
Pride of Lions, Forge (New York, NY), 1996.
1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion, Forge (New York, NY), 1998.
The Essential Library for Irish Americans, Forge (New York, NY), 1999.
(With Michael Scott) Etruscans, Tor (New York, NY), 2000.
A Pocket History of Irish Rebels, O'Brien Books (Dublin, Ireland), 2000.
1921: The Great Novel of the Irish Civil War, Forge (New York, NY), 2001.
1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State, Forge (New York, NY), 2003.
1972: A Novel of Ireland's Unfinished Revolution, Forge (New York, NY), 2005.
The Greener Shore: A Novel of the Druids of Hibernia, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Also author of children's historical fiction, including Brian Boru, Pirate Queen, Young Rebels, Star Dancer, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland), and Cold Places, Poolbeg Press (Dublin, Ireland), and of children's history, including The Vikings in Ireland, O'Brien Press (Dublin, Ireland). Contributor to Irish Magic, Pinnacle, 1995, and Irish Magic II, Kensington, 1997.
Lion of Ireland was filmed by Boruma Productions for release in 1986. Several of Llywelyn's novels have been option for film and adapted for audio.
It was a lifelong interest in her own Celtic background that prompted Morgan Llywelyn to write her first novel, The Wind from Hastings, based on Prince Griffith Llewellyn of Wales and his influence on the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The Celts were a division of the early Indo-European people who populated much of Western Europe, Spain, and the British Isles. In The Wind from Hastings and many of her other novels, Llywelyn has taken ancient Celtic heroes and created fictionalized versions of their lives. This type of historical fantasy has increased in popularity in recent years, becoming a genre in its own right with Llywelyn as one of its foremost practitioners. "By writing real history in a fictional style I hope to make it familiar and interesting territory, full of lessons that are applicable today," she once told CA.
Two of her better-known characters created from historical figures are Epona of The Horse Goddess and Brian Boru of Lion of Ireland: The Legend of Brian Boru. Modeled after an extraordinary Celtic woman, Epona brings the modern horse to the Celts, becomes a priestess, and is elevated to the level of a goddess for her contributions. Llywelyn explained to Jane Stewart Spitzer in the Christian Science Monitor that she wanted her book "to show the deification process—how we make gods out of people who do extraordinary things." Brian Boru, created from legends surrounding the tenth-century monarch of Ireland, unites the disjointed country against the Norsemen and insures temporary prosperity. Llywelyn portrays Brian as learning to avoid the reckless and bloodthirsty ways of his ancestors. Lion of Ireland was a best seller in Ireland and the United States. Writing in the Washington Post, Maude McDaniel called it an "authentic tale about a genuine hero of a kind alien to today's rock-hard young and all but forgotten by modern adults."
Llywelyn's love for the Celts carried over into her personal life; she lived Celtic-style with her extended family in a two-hundred-year-old former inn until the deaths of her husband and parents. About her allegiance with the past, Llywelyn told Spitzer: "Maybe somebody needs to be writing about Celtic history these days—about courage and heroes in a real sense, not about Arthur, who is mythological, but about the reality of courage and achievement…. These are qualities inherent in every ethnic group…. It's the Celts who have been ignored. They're so much a part of all we have and see in Europe and America today. The Celts are the free world."
Bringing Celtic history to life has been the main thrust of Llywelyn's writing career. Pride of Lions relates a sequel to Lion of Ireland. In Pride of Lions, Brian Boru has met his death in battle, leaving his fifteen-year-old son Donough to aspire to the throne. But he faces competition from a brother, Teigue, and is even in danger from his manipulative, untrustworthy mother. According to a Publishers Weekly writer, in Pride of Lions, "Llywelyn tells a strong story distinguished by its psychological depth and by [her] knowledge of ancient Irish history."
Llywelyn explored Druid culture further in the novel titled Druids, which relates the story of Caesar's Gallic Wars from the viewpoint of the losers—the Celts. Set mostly in Gaul (the area now known as France), the story centers on Ainvar, a young orphan training to be a druid. When Ainvar becomes chief druid to the Celtic prince Vercingetorix, the two strive to form a united front among the warring Celtic tribes, so that they can face the might of Rome. Sybil Steinberg, writing in Publishers Weekly, credited Llywelyn for "imaginatively and vividly" portraying druid rituals and daily life. Many of Llywelyn's other novels also cover Celtic history in various ages.
In 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion, the author shifts from ancient to more modern history: the Easter Rebellion of 1916, in which Irish nationals tried unsuccessfully to overthrow British rule. "The task of transforming the events of the 1916 Irish Rebellion into coherent fiction would terrify most writers," commented a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. "Llywelyn, however, has produced a thunderous, informative read that rises to the challenge." The basic facts of the story and many of the people in it are drawn from painstaking historical research, but the central character, Ned Halloran, is the author's invention. Ned is a country boy who survives the sinking of the Titanic and goes on to be swept up in the patriotic fervor of the vibrant early days of the twentieth century in Ireland. Attending a school headed by a rebel leader, Ned enthusiastically joins the cause and fights in the bloody five-day battle now known as the Easter Rebellion. Booklist critic Margaret Flanagan observed that 1916 is "first-rate historical fiction that will appeal to anyone with an interest in Ireland's tragic past," while the Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book "Llywelyn's best work yet."
Despite her great success in writing historical novels, Llywelyn has not confined her work entirely to that genre. Working with Michael Scott, she has coauthored books that are pure fantasy and some that blend fiction and fantasy. In The Etruscans, Llywelyn and Scott tell a tale of the Rasne culture, which existed in the present-day region of Tuscany before it was absorbed by the culture of the Roman conquerors. When an Etruscan noblewoman is raped by a demon, her supernatural offspring must work hard to avoid death at the hands of his father. A Publishers Weekly reviewer found the story "convincing" if somewhat "uninspired," and added that by the climactic sequence, the author had reached her "usual vivid standard" of writing.
Llywelyn has also written a unique fantasy in The Elementals, a set of four loosely-connected stories that reach from the distant past into the near future, touching on the elements of fire, water, earth, and air. As human beings despoil each of these elements, the earth reacts, until in the final story, the planet verges on collapse, with the ozone layer mostly destroyed, along with the greater part of the human population. By getting in touch with the various elements, characters in the stories—who are all related in some way—work to effect some kind of positive change. In the final story, a half-Irish, half-American Indian man named George Clement Burningfeather goes to a desolate reservation, where he finds he may be able to save the dying Earth. "Llywelyn's poetic cautionary tale provides food for thought," asserted a Publishers Weekly reviewer.
Llywelyn returned to her saga of Ireland's twentieth-century struggle for independence in 1921: The Great Novel of the Irish Civil War, the second novel of what is called the "Irish Century" series. Ned Halloran continues to be an important character in this installment, but the events between 1917 and 1922 are mostly viewed through the eyes of Ned's friend, the journalist Henry Mooney. A Publishers Weekly reviewer, while acknowledging that the author "knows her Irish history, culture, language and ambience," also felt that "she produces a story that is as dense as an Irish bog and nearly as confusing to navigate," by having to relate both the history of the Irish Civil War and Mooney's own story. However, Flanagan, writing in Booklist, had no such reservations, noting that the author "masterfully interweaves historical figures and events with fictional ones."
Llywelyn takes her saga forward with 1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State, in which she traces the development of the country from the partition of the Catholic Free State in the south and the majority Protestant Northern Ireland in the 1920s to the establishment of the Irish Republic in 1949. Ursula Halloran, daughter of Ned, is at the center of action in this "third magisterial novel," as a Publishers Weekly contributor described 1949. Ursula is torn between her love for two very different men in this work: an Irish civil servant and a British pilot. The Publishers Weekly critic went on to praise the "well-realized characters and a vivid history [that] make for richly gratifying reading." Similarly, Maudeen Wachsmith, writing in BestReviews.com, called the work "a compelling story of Ireland's continued struggle for complete independence from British rule."
In the fourth volume of the "Irish Century" series, 1972: A Novel of Ireland's Unfinished Revolution, Llywelyn deals with the years from 1950 to Bloody Sunday in 1972 and the beginning of what is known as the "Troubles." This novel focuses on Ursula's son, Barry, a photographer who exchanges his camera for an IRA gun to fight for his country. A Kirkus Reviews critic found this a page-turning novel, concluding, "the years whistle by with joy and gunpowder." Reviewing the same work in Booklist, Brad Hooper applauded the author's "ability to create characters from a previous time who possess contemporary vibrancy and viability." With her 2006 novel, The Greener Shore: A Novel of the Druids of Hibernia, Llywelyn provides a sequel to her 1992 novel, Druid. The action in this installment finds Ainvar having escaped the Roman legions to Ireland where he establishes a new Celtic society. Patricia Monaghan, writing in Booklist, felt this was a "highly readable tale [that] offers unforgettable women characters." Further praise came from a Publishers Weekly contributor who called The Greener Shore a "gentle, quietly dignified tale."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Falk, Kathryn, Love's Leading Ladies, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 1982.
America, June 14, 1980, David Delahanty, review of Lion of Ireland: The Legend of Brian Boru, p. 507.
Analog, December 15, 1993, review of The Elementals, p. 160.
Blackbird, summer, 1997, review of Strongbow: The Story of Richard and Aoife, p. 58.
Booklist, May 15, 1993, review of The Elementals, pp. 1678, 1682; October 15, 1993, Gary Young, review of Strongbow, p. 432; February 1, 1994, review of Finn Mac Cool, p. 979; February 15, 1995, Patricia Monaghan, review of Irish Magic, p. 1059; March 15, 1995, Sally Estes, review of Silverhand, p. 1313; March 1, 1996, review of Pride of Lions, pp. 1121, 1127; March 1, 1997, Patricia Monaghan, review of Irish Magic II, p. 1110; April 15, 1998, Margaret Flanagan, review of 1916: A Novel of the Irish Rebellion, p. 1428; May 1, 1998, review of Ireland: A Graphic History, p. 1511; March 15, 2001, Margaret Flanagan, review of 1921: The Great Novel of the Irish Civil War, p. 1354; February 15, 2005, Brad Hooper, review of 1972: A Novel of Ireland's Unfinished Revolution, p. 1061; April 15, 2006, Patricia Monaghan, review of The Greener Shore: A Novel of the Druids, p. 33.
Bookwatch, July, 1995, review of Ireland, p. 9.
Children's Bookwatch, July, 1996, review of Strongbow, p. 3.
Christian Science Monitor, December 2, 1983, Jane Stewart Spitzer, reviews of Lion of Ireland and The Horse Goddess, B3; December 27, 1983, review of The Wind from Hastings, p. 20.
Critic, May 15, 1980.
Horn Book Guide, fall, 1995, review of Brian Boru: Emperor of the Irish, p. 311; fall, 1996, review of Strongbow: The Story of Richard and Aoife, p. 303.
Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1993, review of The Elementals, p. 493; February 1, 1994, review of Finn Mac Cool, p. 90; June 1, 1995, review of Brian Boru, p. 782; January 1, 1996, review of Pride of Lions, p. 16; April 1, 1996, review of Strongbow: The Story of Richard and Aoife, p. 533; February 15, 1998, review of 1916, p. 216; March 15, 2000, review of Etruscans: Beloved of the Gods, p. 343; February 1, 2005, review of 1972, p. 149.
Kliatt, July, 1994, review of The Elementals, p. 16; May, 1997, review of Pride of Lions, p. 8; September, 2004, Ann Hart, review of 1949: A Novel of the Irish Free State, p. 23.
Library Journal, June 15, 1993, review of The Elementals, p. 104; March 15, 1994, review of The Elementals, p. 101; July, 1996, review of Silverlight, p. 170; February 15, 1998, review of 1916, p. 170; March 1, 1998, review of 1916, p. 102; March 15, 1999, Denise J. Stankovics, review of The Essential Library for Irish Americans, p. 70; April 15, 2000, Jackie Cassada, review of Etruscans, p. 126.
Locus, August, 1992, review of The Last Prince of Ireland, p. 54; February, 1993, review of Druids, p. 55; July, 1993, review of The Elementals, p. 44; April, 1994, review of Finn Mac Cool, p. 31, review of Bard: The Odyssey of the Irish, p. 49; May, 1994, review of Finn Mac Cool, p. 50.
Publishers Weekly, December 21, 1990, Sybil Steinberg, review of Druids, p. 46; March 9, 1992, review of The Last Prince of Ireland, p. 48; April 26, 1993, review of The Elementals, p. 61; February 28, 1994, review of Finn Mac Cool, p. 74; March 13, 1995, review of Silverhand, p. 64; February 5, 1996, review of Pride of Lions, p. 77; February 10, 1997, review of Irish Magic II, p. 69; February 16, 1998, review of 1916, p. 204; April 24, 2000, review of Etruscans, p. 66; January 15, 2001, review of 1921, p. 51; March 3, 2003, review of 1949, p. 54; February 13, 2006, review of The Greener Shore, p. 66.
School Librarian, May, 1995, review of Ireland: A Graphic History, p. 81.
School Library Journal, December, 1994, review of Finn Mac Cool, p. 144.
Voice of Youth Advocates, December, 1993, review of The Elementals, p. 311; December, 1995, review of Brian Boru, p. 304; August, 1996, review of Strongbow, p. 157.
Washington Post, February 21, 1980, Maude McDaniel, review of The Lion of Ireland.
BestReviews.com,http://www.thebestreviews.com/ (August 19, 2001), Maudeen Wachsmith, reviews of 1916 and 1921; (February 24, 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of Lion of Ireland; (March 23, 2003), Maudeen Wachsmith, review of 1949; (May 24, 2003), Harriet Klausner, review of The Elementals.
O'Brien Books Web site,http://www.obrien.ie (January 29, 2007), "Morgan Llywelyn Describes the Adventure of Writing Historical Fiction."