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Radio Bristol Book Club: The Moon-Eyed People – Folk Tales from Welsh America

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club where readers from BCM and the Bristol Public Library come together each month to celebrate and explore books inspired by our region’s rich Appalachian cultural and musical heritage! We invite you to read along and then listen to Radio Bristol on the fourth Thursday of each month at 12:00 noon when we dig deep into the themes and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

Cover of The Moon-Eyed People: Folk Tales from Welsh America by Peter Stevenson.

According to Cherokee legend, the “moon-eyed people” are a race of small men who once lived in the Southern Appalachians. These folk, considered significantly different from the Cherokee in physical appearance, were bearded and had ashen skin. They were called moon-eyed because “they were small and pale, lived underground, and could see in the dark.” 

The Moon-eyed People: Folk Tales from Welsh America is a collection of stories by Peter Stevenson that includes true stories, tall tales, and folk tales, all mixed together into a literary delight. They tell about the lives of migrants who, upon leaving Wales, settled in America. These “moon-eyed people” were a diverse group of soldiers, hobos, witches, miners, explorers, sailors, and wayfaring strangers, to name just a few. In this collection of tales, you will find stories about “a mining settlement in Appalachia described as being unfit for pigs to live in, Welsh weavers making cloth for enslaved people, a monster being defeated by a medicine-girl, a criminal marrying an ‘Indian Princess,’ and mountain women practicing Appalachian hoodoo, native healing, and Welsh witchcraft.” There is sure to be a tale for everyone’s taste.

Peter Stevenson with a “krankie,” a device that allows the storyteller to roll out the story in illustrative form while they tell their tale. Credit: Felix Cannadam Photography

Author Peter Stevenson was born in Lancashire, England, but lived in Wales for most of his life.  He studied illustration at Manchester Art College, and he researched folk drama and folk tales as a postgraduate in the Institute for Dialect and Folklife Studies at Leeds University. Stevenson has written, illustrated, and compiled children’s books and fairy tales for various publishers. He has also shared his tales as a storyteller in a variety of places, such as church crypts, village halls, grand theaters, cafes, and art galleries. In addition, he tours storytelling shows while working with talented musicians. Stevenson has lived in Aberystwyth for the last 30 years and is the recipient of the Children’s Book of the month award in Wagga Wagga, Australia.

Please make plans to join us on Thursday, October 28 at 12:00pm for the discussion of The Moon-Eyed People: Folk Tales from Welsh America, followed by a conversation with author Peter Stevenson. You can find us on the dial at 100.1 FM, streaming live on Radio Bristol, or via the Radio Bristol app. The book is available at the Bristol Public Library so be sure to pick up a copy and read it ahead of time. The librarians will be happy to help you find the book. We look forward to sharing our thoughts on this wonderful children’s book, and if you have thoughts or questions about the story that you would like to share with our readers, you can email info@birthplaceofcountrymusic.org (Subject line: Radio Bristol Book Club) – your book insights might appear on air with us!

Looking ahead: Our book pick for November is Hear My Sad Story: The True Tales That Inspired “Stagolee,” “John Henry,” and Other Traditional American Folk Songs by Richard Polenberg; we’ll be discussing it on Thursday, November 18 (a week early due to Thanksgiving). Check out our full list of 2021 Radio Bristol Book Club picks here, where you can also listen to archived shows, and keep an eye out – we’ll be releasing our 2022 reading list soon!

Guest blogger Tonia Kestner is the Executive Director at the Bristol Public Library.