I first read about the Welsh Nannau Oak (also called the Strangling Oak; Derwen Ceubren Yr Ellyll, the Hollow Oak, Haunt of Demons; and the Skeleton Tree) while working on Honest Labour: The Charles H. Hayward Years. I was intrigued.
After months of thinking about it and doing a bit of research, I sent an email to Chris about the tree. Stories surrounding the oak involve murder. Ghosts. Witch hangings. Cursed objects.
I gave him some background on the tree and asked if there was any merit in doing more research for something unusual given the nature of the oak: an illustrated children’s book. My long email was followed by his short answer.
“Hell yes, this is cool.”
Fast forward to today.
After months of research, countless drafts and help from many fine people (all of which I’ll write about more in the weeks to come) I have finished the manuscript and am working on the storyboard. And now I am thrilled to say that Welsh illustrator Elin Manon Cooper has agreed to illustrate the book.
Elin grew up in Cardiff, Wales, and currently travels between homes in Wales and Cornwall. She has a first-class BA Hons Degree in illustration from Falmouth University. Elin’s work “is often inspired by the natural world, folklore and folk traditions, particularly those Welsh and Cornish.” She has a passion for storytelling and she “aims to bring a sense of magic to the everyday, reflecting stories of the landscape, in a world that is often focused on the modern and material.”
Her work was recently featured as a Google Doodle in celebration of St. David’s Day 2021.
Our long-form illustrated children’s book is about Cadi, the daughter of a Welsh chairmaker – plus the Nannau oak and an acorn-shaped cup filled with spirits’ stories. Unlike Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree,” this oak fights back. But at its heart it’s about storytelling and the importance of truth, even when the truth seems scary.
I can’t wait to tell you more about it.
— Kara Gebhart Uhl