Lewsyn Lwcus, Jesse James and Shakespeare

16 Nov 2010

The latest outing in the popular Welsh series  Lewsyn Lwcus (Lucky Luke)  sees our cowboy hero tackling one of the Wild West’s most infamous characters. In  Yr Herwr Jesse James  (The Outlaw Jesse James) (Dalen) Lewsyn Lwcus is tasked with ending the pillaging reign of the James Gang with a lick of tar and a sackful of feathers.

Although this humorous bustling adventure, now published in Welsh by Dalen, is set in a sleepy town in the middle of the American West, the story has several unexpected associations with Wales.

Dafydd Jones, who translated  Yr Herwr Jesse James  from the French original,  "As I was working on adapting this classic story by the prolific author Goscinny and talented illustrator Morris, it was clear that giving this book a Welsh flavour would be an adventure in itself.

"First of all, Jesse James himself was of Welsh extraction — his grandfather was born and bred in Pembrokeshire. Secondly his approach to banditry was very similar to the Welsh highwayman Twm Siôn Cati — to begin with, at least. There’s a story that Jesse helped an old farmer’s wife who was due to be evicted because she couldn’t pay her rent. He gave her  $500 to pay her landlord, and told her to insist on getting a receipt. As the landlord trundled home after his rounds collecting his dues, he was held up by an outlaw who just happened to be waiting for him — none other than Jesse James of course!"

Dafydd continued,  "But in all probability, the greatest challenge I faced when translating  Yr Herwr Jesse James  was tackling Shakespeare — whose own grandmother was Welsh. Jesse’s brother, Frank James, loved to quote Shakespeare whenever he could, so rather than translating these quotations from scratch, I went searching for existing Welsh translations of the Bard’s work."

"I remembered seeing some excellent Welsh translations of Shakespeare some years ago — translations by T Gwynn Jones, J T Jones, and Gwyn Thomas. As these are mostly out of print I went looking for them at the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, and chose relevant quotations from the plays."

Consequently  Yr Herwr Jesse James  is full of quotations from  Hamlet  in Welsh, Bid Wrth Eich Bodd  (As You Like It),  Nos Ystwyll  (Twelfth Night),  Romeo a Juliet, Y Dymestl  (The Tempest) and  Macbeth.  "We’re all familiar with some of Shakespeare’s great speeches in English," said Dafydd, "but on the whole we’re unfamiliar with the prosaic Welsh translations which are themselves notable works of literature."

 "I hope  Yr Herwr Jesse James  will help give these Welsh translations of Shakespeare the attention they deserve, as readers of all ages enjoy  Lewsyn Lwcus’  latest adventure."

As Frank James would say, "Da bydd hynny ("Good",  Hamlet, Act IV, Scene III), debyg iawn ("You have said it,sir!"  Nos Ystwyll, Act III, Scene I)!".

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