How Green Was My Valley
|How Green Was My Valley|
First edition cover of How Green Was My Valley
|Genre(s)||Historical fiction, Drama, Novel|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|Pages||651pp (first edition)|
|Followed by||Up Into the Singing Mountain (1960)|
How Green Was My Valley is a 1939 novel by Richard Llewellyn, telling the story through narration of the main character, of his Welsh family and the mining community in which they live. The author had claimed to have based the book on his own personal experiences but this was proven untrue after his death; Llewellyn was English-born and spent little time in Wales though he was of Welsh descent. Llewelyn gathered his facts for the novel from conversations with local mining families in Gilfach Goch.
The title of the novel appears in two sentences. It is first used in Chapter Thirty, after the narrator has just had his first sexual experience. He sits up to "... look down in the valley." He then reflects: "How green was my Valley that day, too, green and bright in the sun." The phrase is used again in the novel's last sentence: "How green was my Valley then, and the Valley of them that have gone."
Plot summary 
The novel is set in South Wales in the reign of Queen Victoria. It tells the story of the Morgans, a respectable mining family of the South Wales Valleys, through the eyes of the youngest son, Huw Morgan.
Huw's academic ability sets him apart from his elder brothers and enables him to consider a future away from this troubled industrial environment. His five brothers and his father are miners; after the eldest brother, Ivor, is killed in a mining accident, Huw moves in with his sister-in-law, Bronwen, with whom he has always been in love.
One of Huw's three sisters, Angharad, marries the wealthy mine owner's son - whom she does not love - and the marriage is an unhappy one. She never overcomes her clandestine relationship with the local minister.
Huw's father is later killed in a mine explosion. After everyone Huw has known either dies or moves away, he decides to leave as well, and tells us the story of his life just before he does.
The Older Morgans:
- Gwilym Morgan, Huw's father: likes things done properly, with an attention to manners, and a minding of one's own business
- Beth Morgan, Huw's mother: devoted to her children and husband, uneducated, struggles to hold in her temper
- Bronwen, sister-in-law: A gentle character to whom Huw goes when he is in trouble or wants to know information that the adults hold from him. She is the mother of Gareth.
- Ivor Morgan, Huw's eldest brother, marries Bronwen, sides with the father against the strike, defends Angharad against Iestin Evan's initial familiarity.
The Middle Brothers: These are Huw's young adult brothers. Ianto goes to London to find work early in the book, but returns unsatisfied; Owen and Gwilym do the same later.
- Ianto Morgan, Huw's second oldest brother
- Davy Morgan, a leader in the union
- Owen Morgan, an inventor, frequently in the shed behind the house working on an engine
- Gwilym Morgan (junior), with his wife, Marged
The Younger Morgans:
- Angharad Morgan, Huw's sister, marries Iestyn Evans
- Ceridwen Morgan, Huw's sister, marries Blethyn
- Huw Morgan, son, the Narrator
- Olwen Morgan, Huw's youngest sister
- Merddyn Gruffydd, the preacher who is beloved by Angharad, helps Huw recover from his illness, and offers general support to the Morgans.
- Iestyn Evans, an arrogant dandy, son of the mine owner, who courts Angharad. According to Young Gwilym, "a purse-proud ninny" (chapters 15, 22, 23, etc.)
- Master Jonas, an arrogant teacher who makes Huw's life miserable. He is pro-English, and ashamed of his Welsh heritage (chapters 16, 18, 19, & 21)
- Ceinwen Phillips, a manipulative young girl in love with Huw (chapters 24, 25, 26)
- Elias the Shop, enemy of the Morgan family (chapters 8 & 14)
- Dai Bando, Huw's boxing teacher (chapter 16)
First printing 
The first edition was published in 1939 by Michael Joseph Ltd, London, set and printed in Great Britain by William Brendon & Son, Ltd., at the Mayflower Press, Plymouth, in Walbaum type, twelve point, leaded, on a toned opaque-wove paper made by John Dickinson, and bound by James Burn. It was published in 8vo size. The first printing included a limited edition run of 200, numbered and signed by Richard Llewellyn. The original print run also included a glossary covering Welsh words and terms at the end of the book.
The author continued the story about Huw Morgan's life in three sequels:
- Up Into the Singing Mountain (1960) – Huw emigrates to Argentina
- Down Where the Moon is Small (1966) – Huw's life in Argentina
- Green, Green My Valley Now (1975) – Huw returns to Wales
The successful 1941 film of the book had a cast including Walter Pidgeon, Maureen O'Hara, Anna Lee, Roddy McDowall (as Huw), Donald Crisp, and Barry Fitzgerald. None of the leading players were Welsh. Directed by John Ford, How Green Was My Valley is one of the films selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. How Green Was My Valley is available on DVD from 20th Century Fox as part of their 20th Century Fox Studio Classics collection.
The novel was also adapted as a Broadway musical, called A Time for Singing, which opened at the Broadway Theatre, New York, on 21 May 1966. The music was by John Morris; book and lyrics were by Gerald Freedman and John Morris. The production was directed by Mr. Freedman, and it starred Ivor Emmanuel, Tessie O'Shea, Shani Wallis, and Laurence Naismith.
A stage version, adapted by Shaun McKenna was performed at the Royal Theatre (Northampton) in 1990. It marked the stage debut of Aled Jones as the teenage Huw. It was directed by Michael Napier Brown and designed by Ray Lett.
- "Richard Llewellyn". BBC Wales. 28 November 2008. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
- "Books and Authors", The New York Times, 16 February 1941, page BR12. ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times (1851-2007).
- "20th-Century American Bestsellers – Llewellyn, Richard: How Green Was My Valley" at www3.isrl.illinois.edu