I’ve always loved the sea. When I was young, anytime the weather forecast gave the hint of a storm, my mum and dad, me and my sister, would pull on our cagoules and head for the beach. Our favourite place was Porthcawl in south Wales. The waves would crash up and soak us. It was dramatic, and thrilling, and probably very dangerous. It made you feel alive, and wild, and free.
Now, many years later, I am lucky enough to live very close to the sea in Pembrokeshire. It’s usually a more friendly beast than the tempestuous monster I remember of my youth. Sliding in gracefully, shimmering blue to the horizon, sparkling and dazzling, sometimes sullen and grey but beautifully mercurial all the same. On its angrier days, it spits up all sorts of flotsam and jetsam, leaving it strewn amongst spume on the sands.
I scour the scuffed landscape with my dog Watson Jones, ever the eager scout when there is a sniff of adventure in the offing. Plastic and fishhooks, rope and lost gloves, pieces of pottery and sea glass -which we now call tide singer tears – are all scooped up and recycled in some way. Occasionally a baby seal is stranded, and we wait for the rescue wardens to come and save it. Sometimes there are other strange creatures, brittle starfish, sea slugs, jellyfish the size of dustbin lids, knobbly old spider crabs impressive in their ugliness. It makes me wonder what other things might be hidden in those everchanging depths. What else might be washed up and stranded by a storm?
The tide singers live beneath a cemetery island off the coast of a small Welsh town called Carregton Crow. They are a shy folk, rarely seen by humans. Because they are mysterious, the mainlanders gossip about them. Rumours are rife and fear spreads with ignorance. Morwenna, a girl who lives in the town, and travels regularly by boat to caretake the island, doesn’t believe they exist because she has never seen them.
One night, during a fearsome storm, a strange girl is washed ashore challenging everything Morwenna has ever believed. Why is the girl’s hair always wet no matter how much Morwenna tries to dry it? Why does she eat a raw fish whole, leaving only its skeleton behind? What of her silvery singing and the way it calms a squall? And what happens when the fearful townsfolk discover that a tide singer has been captured?
Wales is a land of poetry and song, myth and legend. An ancient language, still very much alive, reverberates vibrantly from the hills and valleys. Dragons soar through the skies if you glance up at the right time. A drowned city sounds it bells on foggy nights and mythical sea-morgens call to passing sailors with their enchanting, if treacherous, spells.
Why then couldn’t there be an undiscovered people who live in the watery depths of Carmarthen Bay? Mythological beings who create chaos and fierce storms in their quest to be safe and free?
If you wander along the beach, as the day begins to lilac into twilight, listen closely. Above the roar of dragons and the gentle heave of the sea, you might just hear the enchanting song of the tide singer.
The Tide Singer by Eloise Williams is published by Barrington Stoke and is available now.