Author’s Note from Book I, MADOC...
There are many Welsh, Irish, Norse, English and Dutch references to pre-Columbian voyages to North America. I used some of these as chapter epigrams to show how Celtic navigators might have known about the western lands… the Summer Isles, as Captain John Smith called what is now the United States. It’s what Native Americans called Turtle Island, their known world.
But the trail thins out on this side of the Atlantic.
The red nations of Turtle Island achieved a rich oral and material culture. But they used only pictographs, and not alphabetic writing, so what we know of their early history and legend is what has survived in rock art, sculpture, pottery and fragments of oral tradition translated long after European contact.
The earlier historical Europeans to these shores were aware of predecessors. At least one Irishman crewed Columbus’s famous voyage, and there is evidence that the Admiral sailed to Galway as early as 1479 where he would have been informed about St. Brendan and Madoc. Explorers, soldiers, artists, missionaries, farmers, and white captives have added to the anecdotal material.
Tennessee Governor John Sevier said in 1810 that the Cherokee “... Chief Occonostota informed me of an old woman in his Nation, named Peg [who]had some part of an old book given her by an Indian living high up the Missouri, and thought he was one of the Welsh tribe. Unfortunately, before I [Sevier] had an opportunity of seeing the book, the old woman’s house and its contents were consumed by fire.” Sevier, like Andrew Jackson, was an Indian fighter who probably could have said more...
I used the idea of such a book-- an illustrated manuscript of the Bible-- in "Madoc" and "Madoc's Hundred."
Throughout the past two centuries stories have circulated about European coins dug up in Georgia, red-haired blue-eyed Indians surviving in the vast American west, and paleface mummies in Alabama caves (related in Louis L'Amour's "Jubal Sackett.")
Several published Indian captivity narratives end with the Indian captors adopting a condemned white man after hearing him pray in Welsh understood as the Indians' own language.
My primary sources for the American material are Shawnee, Creek, and Cherokee legends of early Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee, and later well-documented Mandan reports from the Upper Missouri. Lewis and Clark carried maps and other documents given them by President Jefferson who instructed the explorers to report back any evidence of the so-called Welsh Indians.
Prayers and other religious practices imagined here are based on Spanish, French, and English first-contact journals, James Moody’s Cherokee interviews, and archaeological evidence from hundreds of pre-Columbian pyramid sites on the rivers of the American South.
Captain John Smith and other British writers believed Madoc made more than one journey to western lands. Book II in the trilogy, “Madoc’s Hundred,” follows the hero where he settles a colony in Kentucky then returns to Britain for reinforcements. The unpublished, completed Book III, “Songs of the Big Canoe,“ recounts his homecoming and obstacles to his plans for the second venture at the court of English King Henry II.
There is some evidence that over the centuries the colonists made their way, as Cherokee legend says, along the Tennessee to the Ohio, the Mississippi, and finally the Missouri River, where the artist George Catlin was sure he found their descendants in the 1830s. Catlin bases his argument on the Mandans’ light skin and eyes, round canoes identical to Welsh coracles, migration route, unique glass-making art, and parallels between their language and Welsh.
We are fortunate that place names tend to remain the same over generations. Many Southern States, rivers, and towns retain some words from native languages-- the word "Mississippi" itself is ancient. For clarity, I’ve used modern spellings. Tribal names can be confusing, because people usually don’t refer to themselves with names others call them— the Welsh and Cherokee are cases in point. The Yuchi ["Children of the Sun from Far Away"] is one of the few self-named tribes. Except when specifically explained, I used the most familiar terms despite the temptation to recall more of the wonderful old names of people and things that figure in this story.
The portage between the Tombigbee and Tennessee Rivers in the story anticipates the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Conceived by Gen. U.S. Grant's engineers during the Civil War and completed in 1985, the immense U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project and the Tennessee Valley Authority have erased features of the old rivers, including the original Muscle Shoals. The Shoals are described in this story from 18th century eyewitness reports rather than the way they look today— a string of lakes, locks and dams with which we like to think we’ve conquered the serpent spirit of the wild old stream. However, still standing below Wilson Dam near the modern towns of Florence and Muscle Shoals, Alabama are the pyramid mound, island, and a few broken fragments of the original thirty-five miles of black rocks where Cherokee legend says they defeated the Welshmen.
I do not have permission to reproduce the map of Madoc's world view published in the original Bantam novel. But here is the preliminary sketch on which the published map is based...
... compiled from several contemporary maps, to show what Brother Wyn's golden map in the story might look like. Wales is the small yellow spot on the western hip of Britain. The Mississippi River is lined in red, the Mobile River in green and the Tennessee River in blue.
In the story and in previous texts on the Madoc Legand, it is assumed that Madoc would have followed prevailing east-to-west currents from Africa to the Gulf of Mexico, just as Columbus did. Eric the Red's route to Vinland via Greenland 170 year before, would have been closed by ice in November, 1170, when Madoc is said to have sailed.
In the story, the golden map made by Brother Wyn becomes the dieu ex machina of Book III, “Songs of the Big Canoe,” when Henry’s sister, Madoc's siter-in-law Emma of Anjou, sacrifices the gold with the map hammered away to keep Madoc’s journey secret from her land-grabbing brother, Henry II, King of England.
Many thanks to my daughter, Kimberly Ann Statzer, and friends Leni Sorensen and Judy Lalah Simcoe for help with the manuscript and research. Thanks also to Alexei Kondratiev of the Irish Book Loft in Manhattan for historical and linguistic consultation, and to Michael de Buys for nautical and technical expertise. Gratitude to the staffs of the New York Public Library; Toltec Mounds State Park in England, Arkansas; Desoto State Park of Alabama; the Indian Mound and Museum of Florence, Alabama; and the Old Stone Fort State Park of Tennessee, the site of the mountain gaming field in “Madoc.”
Others who shared invaluable information are Eileen Campbell of Rivendell Bookshop Ltd. of New York, agent Lydia Galton, and editors Greg Tobin and Barbara Alpert of Bantam Books.
Very special thanks to Louis L’Amour, who speaks (in personal correspondence a short time before he passed on) through the chief in the last chapter of Book I… "The whites came. They went. So what...?"