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With its beautifully written and deeply felt descriptions of the feelings the first white settlers and Native Americans had for each other, THE CHILDREN OF FIRST MAN tells the fascinating story of a European people gradually absorbed into the Amerindian culture until their literacy was lost and their Christian religion submerged in the legend of a Welsh Prince named Madoc, With its beautifully written and deeply felt descriptions of the feelings the first white settlers and Native Americans had for each other, THE CHILDREN OF FIRST MAN tells the fascinating story of a European people gradually absorbed into the Amerindian culture until their literacy was lost and their Christian religion submerged in the legend of a Welsh Prince named Madoc, the First Man. Sweeping from the blood-soaked castles of medieval Wales to the landmark expedition of Lewis and Clark, from the hushed beauty of virgin wilderness to Mandan villages of domed earthen lodges, THE CHILDREN OF FIRST MAN is a triumph of the storyteller's art.


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With its beautifully written and deeply felt descriptions of the feelings the first white settlers and Native Americans had for each other, THE CHILDREN OF FIRST MAN tells the fascinating story of a European people gradually absorbed into the Amerindian culture until their literacy was lost and their Christian religion submerged in the legend of a Welsh Prince named Madoc, With its beautifully written and deeply felt descriptions of the feelings the first white settlers and Native Americans had for each other, THE CHILDREN OF FIRST MAN tells the fascinating story of a European people gradually absorbed into the Amerindian culture until their literacy was lost and their Christian religion submerged in the legend of a Welsh Prince named Madoc, the First Man. Sweeping from the blood-soaked castles of medieval Wales to the landmark expedition of Lewis and Clark, from the hushed beauty of virgin wilderness to Mandan villages of domed earthen lodges, THE CHILDREN OF FIRST MAN is a triumph of the storyteller's art.

30 review for The Children of First Man

  1. 5 out of 5

    Phoenix Reads

    In The Children of First Man by Ballantine Books, Copyright 1994, James Alexander Thom wrote a compelling tale that presents a theory on who the Mandan Indian's god, Lone Man, was based on a legend that scholars have been divided about for two centuries or more -- the truth behind the legend of Prince Madoc and his lost Welsh colony. In the 1100s, Prince Madoc of Wales, was one of the King’s many sons who would not inherit land or have the chance to become king. He wanted a kingdom of his own an In The Children of First Man by Ballantine Books, Copyright 1994, James Alexander Thom wrote a compelling tale that presents a theory on who the Mandan Indian's god, Lone Man, was based on a legend that scholars have been divided about for two centuries or more -- the truth behind the legend of Prince Madoc and his lost Welsh colony. In the 1100s, Prince Madoc of Wales, was one of the King’s many sons who would not inherit land or have the chance to become king. He wanted a kingdom of his own and heard the tales of a land across the Atlantic, a tales that circulated only amongst skilled navigators of the seas. Prince Madoc, an experienced adventurer and sailor, set out to find it and was successful. The description of the coast he found could have been around South Carolina. He traveled back to Wales to organize a group of colonists and set sail again to set up his new kingdom in the New World. Prince Madoc and his colonists were never heard from again. James Alexander Thom’s engrossing and well-written story is about the possible survival of that colony, speculating that they landed at the Gulf of Mexico and moved up the Mississippi. His premise is that the unusual looking Mandan tribe, who had blond hair and blue eyes, were actually ancestors of Madoc and that the Mandan legends eventually turned Madoc into the mythical character that they worshiped called Lone Man, or First Man. It is also supposed that they also inherited from him the white streak in their hair. Further, the Mandan myths tell of their starting at the “Great Waters” and over the centuries working their way up the Mississippi to the Missouri River.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Becky Norman

    An astounding history of the Mandan tribe, who are rumoured to be descended from a Welsh prince (Madoc) who apparently sailed the Atlantic with a hundred of his community in 1169-1171 (yes, 300 years before Columbus) in an attempt to found a realm in unchartered territory. In a style similar to Rutherford's London or Sarum, Thom uses artifacts to carry his story of this people through the centuries. While they're disturbing and heart-breaking in turns, each "lengthy short story" of the generatio An astounding history of the Mandan tribe, who are rumoured to be descended from a Welsh prince (Madoc) who apparently sailed the Atlantic with a hundred of his community in 1169-1171 (yes, 300 years before Columbus) in an attempt to found a realm in unchartered territory. In a style similar to Rutherford's London or Sarum, Thom uses artifacts to carry his story of this people through the centuries. While they're disturbing and heart-breaking in turns, each "lengthy short story" of the generations in the saga are intensely engaging, placing the reader directly into the lives of a magnificent people. Like "the telephone game" children play, where each subsequent telling of the story is distorted, The Children of First Man is a fascinating look at how a people's history shape-shifts over time.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

    Having lived on the Navajo Reservation for many years, I am always fascinated with learning more about the history of Native Americans. This book is fascinating. It tells the story of early Welsh settlers to America, long before Columbus. Thom presents a compelling argument that these early Welsh settlers can still be found in the language and culture of certain tribes. Fascinating reading.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jeannine

    Oh dear. This went on FOREVER. It starts off very well with the story of Madoc's journey from Wales to America - good characters and action, all quite plausible and Thom's usual attention to detail. But then the story jumps ahead umpteen years, then jumps again, and again. And with each jump there are all new characters and evolved cultures to learn, and just as you get involved, it's time to jump again. This really slowed the story down for me (and is why I seldom read short stories) and makes Oh dear. This went on FOREVER. It starts off very well with the story of Madoc's journey from Wales to America - good characters and action, all quite plausible and Thom's usual attention to detail. But then the story jumps ahead umpteen years, then jumps again, and again. And with each jump there are all new characters and evolved cultures to learn, and just as you get involved, it's time to jump again. This really slowed the story down for me (and is why I seldom read short stories) and makes it harder for the reader to get involved with characters or situations. In all, it's an interesting proposition that is fun to argue in your head (yes, but... no, but...), but detracted from the actual storytelling. I'm sticking with his well-researched historicals.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Robb Hoff

    I hadn't read a James Alexander Thom historical novel since I devoured Panther in the Sky 25 years ago, and was glad I found the time to read this 500+ page tome! I was drawn to The Children of First Man because of its chronicle about the Welsh Prince Madoc and his colony in America along the Tennessee River in the 12th century. Madoc and his legacy emerge in my own work, Contract With The Lycanthrope, and figure prominently in its work-in-progress sequel. But even without this research interest, I hadn't read a James Alexander Thom historical novel since I devoured Panther in the Sky 25 years ago, and was glad I found the time to read this 500+ page tome! I was drawn to The Children of First Man because of its chronicle about the Welsh Prince Madoc and his colony in America along the Tennessee River in the 12th century. Madoc and his legacy emerge in my own work, Contract With The Lycanthrope, and figure prominently in its work-in-progress sequel. But even without this research interest, I would've marveled none the less at the saga that Thom details, starting with Madoc's journey from North Wales and back then his escape from Welsh civil war to return to North America and permanently settle with his colonists. The book teems with the excitement of the discovery, encounters, and legacy of Madoc from the Gulf of Mexico, the Tennessee River, and then both the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. The generational portraits of Madoc and the Welsh descendants in their assimilation and conflicts with Native Americans and eventual European arrivals are truly "Shadow Catcher" worthy, as the Mandan descendants of the "First Man" Madoc come to call the artist George Caitlin, whose passion to preserve the dying history bookends this truly amazing work. Anyone with interest in the historical twist framed by the legend of Madoc and the Welsh White Indians would love this book, but even more than that, those who enjoy American history prior to the Civil War would find this unusual testament most fascinating.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Dee Renee Chesnut

    This book has been in my home library probably since its publication date of 1997. I read his Panther in the Sky and enjoyed it. Back then, I had the hobby of buying books that I wanted to read "some day," and twenty-three years elapsed until I read it. It is excellent historical fiction that reimagines what may have happened to the Welsh prince Madoc and descendants of the families who traveled with him to the land of Iaghral over 700-years. I highly recommend this book. This book has been in my home library probably since its publication date of 1997. I read his Panther in the Sky and enjoyed it. Back then, I had the hobby of buying books that I wanted to read "some day," and twenty-three years elapsed until I read it. It is excellent historical fiction that reimagines what may have happened to the Welsh prince Madoc and descendants of the families who traveled with him to the land of Iaghral over 700-years. I highly recommend this book.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Wacksman

    I am a fan of James Alexander Thom. This is the 2nd book of his and I intend to read all of his books. He knows how to span the generations of the characters in a much better way than, say Edward Rutherford. I am learning so much about the first peoples of our country.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    3.5 stars. I don’t usually read 550 page tomes but thought this one worth the time and effort.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Teresa Kartheiser

    I rarely read books over again. I read this book about 25 years ago. I love it still. I love James Alexander Thom so much. He is a master author.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    1169-1838 America about the Welsh descendants of Madoc

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jerry

    great book of the Mandan people

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    Read this years ago and still think about it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Beverly Rudnicki

    I loved this book based on the theory that white Europeans were in this country much earlier than Columbus, and finally became intermarried into the Mandan tribe along the Missouri River.

  14. 4 out of 5

    James Burns

    In this book we meet Madoc a Welsh Prince, who left his homeland to escape from the civil wars after his father the King died, leaving behind his sons fighting for the crown. Madoc an accomplished Mariner left to find a place in the new world with one of his older half brother. The historical Madoc is lost in legend, He arrives in the Americas on the Gulf coast along the coastline of Mobile AL. This is the legend of the lost Welsh Tribe and their migration from Alabama to the Dakotas. How they in In this book we meet Madoc a Welsh Prince, who left his homeland to escape from the civil wars after his father the King died, leaving behind his sons fighting for the crown. Madoc an accomplished Mariner left to find a place in the new world with one of his older half brother. The historical Madoc is lost in legend, He arrives in the Americas on the Gulf coast along the coastline of Mobile AL. This is the legend of the lost Welsh Tribe and their migration from Alabama to the Dakotas. How they intermarried with Indians and became their Masters building stone castles and being defeated by hostile Indian allies. and their migration north along the mother of rivers, and their final intermingling with Mandan Indian Tribes. and their final decimation by a small pox epidemic in the late 1830's. This legend was given credence by different fur traders and explorers, such as Lewis and Clark who wrote that they met tribes with white and blond hair and blue and light gray eyes, stating that their language had strong welsh in origin and also based old stone fort or castle ruins on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers. And different Tribes legends and their story history stating about their for fathers originating from white men. And when George Catlin famed Indian artist and writer documented The similarities in some words to the Welsh Language and his seeing Indians with light hair and blue eyes. This is also the story of white Europeans taking lands and enslaving what they considered an inferior race. This is about the detestable way the American Indians and other races were treated by the European Whites. The Indian nations were decimated by the white mans diseases and their whiskey. Over-all this is really good book, it is well researched and well written, the only thing that I didn't like was the fact that he kept skipping years and sometimes 60-100 years and I was left wanting to Know about Characters That was introduced and then story would skip generations. I give this book a five star Rating for the research and story line, 3 1/2 stars over all.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Gary

    The writing started out less-than-elegant, but I decided to keep reading "The Children of First Man" to see what Thom would do with these Welshmen in the New World. Turns out to be a good enough story that explores some topics which I find interesting. Right now, however, I'm having issues with Thom's biology. While the prehistoric world distribution of syphilis is somewhat controversial, I believe the consensus is growing that syphilis did not exist in the Old World before Columbus and his kind The writing started out less-than-elegant, but I decided to keep reading "The Children of First Man" to see what Thom would do with these Welshmen in the New World. Turns out to be a good enough story that explores some topics which I find interesting. Right now, however, I'm having issues with Thom's biology. While the prehistoric world distribution of syphilis is somewhat controversial, I believe the consensus is growing that syphilis did not exist in the Old World before Columbus and his kind brought it back from the Americas. I can't be sure it is syphilis that the lust-crazed Mungo is inflicting upon the Native American women, but given the described symptoms and sexual transmission, I believe syphilis is the best fit - except for one significant factor - Thom depicts the disease as much more virulent in the Native population than among the Welsh. If syphilis was already endemic in the Americas at the time of contact, it is the Welsh settlers who would have been devastated by intimate contact, not the Natives. In fact the Europeans did die of the horrible symptoms which Thom describes, and that happened when the first syphilis epidemic swept through Europe soon after Columbus returned. Sure, there were large die-offs of the Native population from exposure to Old World diseases soon after first contact, but it's odd that Thom chose the unlikely agent of syphilis to depopulate the Native cities and villages. There are several viruses which are spread by more casual contact - smallpox, measles, and influenza, for example - which are much more likely to be the cause of epidemics in the New World than syphilis. Thom seems to have syphilis spreading in the wrong direction; maybe he decided the Mungo character was more important to the story than his "diligent" research.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Vicki Ahn

    Wonderful book but it doesn't make you proud of what the American Indians suffered at the hands of white settlers Wonderful book but it doesn't make you proud of what the American Indians suffered at the hands of white settlers

  17. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Moore

    The Children of First Man deserves the title "Epic" like few books I have read. It is exciting, sensual, wondrous, heart-breaking, devastating. It evokes a bittersweet yearning for a world that is no more and will never be again. According to folklore, Madoc was a Welsh prince who sailed to North America in the mid-1100s and founded a colony that disappeared soon thereafter. Whether or not this voyage of discovery ever took place and what may have happened to the colonists are queries no researc The Children of First Man deserves the title "Epic" like few books I have read. It is exciting, sensual, wondrous, heart-breaking, devastating. It evokes a bittersweet yearning for a world that is no more and will never be again. According to folklore, Madoc was a Welsh prince who sailed to North America in the mid-1100s and founded a colony that disappeared soon thereafter. Whether or not this voyage of discovery ever took place and what may have happened to the colonists are queries no researcher has been able to definitively answer. I believe there is a sizable amount of circumstantial evidence and I would love to believe such an exploration took place, but no one knows. Whatever the truth may be, James Alexander Thom's novel lays out a rich, textured, deeply researched and very plausible explanation for what may have happened to the Welsh colonists if they did in fact travel to the New World. This book is a fascinating study of how historical facts can be distorted and lost down through the years by a society increasingly separated from its geographical and literacy past. It is one of the most engrossing and believable works of historical fiction I've had the pleasure of reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn Collen-dubose

    My favorite Thom book. I had read it years ago and was glad to read it again for my book club. It's long and it's dense and the small paperback format is hard to hold at times, especially if reading in bed, but so worth it. Thom deftly immerses us into the minds and hearts of the characters with such ease that a chapter can jump ahead 200 years and we still feel the the thread of connection. We are fully present with each character: in the ship with Madoc, in the swamps of Florida, the falls of My favorite Thom book. I had read it years ago and was glad to read it again for my book club. It's long and it's dense and the small paperback format is hard to hold at times, especially if reading in bed, but so worth it. Thom deftly immerses us into the minds and hearts of the characters with such ease that a chapter can jump ahead 200 years and we still feel the the thread of connection. We are fully present with each character: in the ship with Madoc, in the swamps of Florida, the falls of the Ohio, along the Missouri with the fascinating Mandans. He magically keeps us engaged while incorporating nearly 700 years of possible history. And as far as the validity of the theory goes- I choose to believe that Welshmen came here long before Columbus. The most touching, painful and beautiful parts are the Mandan chief's utter beliefs in the connection between his people and the newly arrived white "brothers." Ripping.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Kelly

    Yeah, this one was weird. Thom expands upon the legend of the "Welsh Indians" he touched upon in From Sea to Shining Sea. Legend has it that a 12th century Welsh prince named Madoc sailed to America and started a colony. Eventually they moved and intermarried and adapted until they became the Mandan Indian tribe. Thom was working on a lot more speculation than historical fact on this one, and I think the book suffers for it. Some of the explanations he puts forth for various things are interesti Yeah, this one was weird. Thom expands upon the legend of the "Welsh Indians" he touched upon in From Sea to Shining Sea. Legend has it that a 12th century Welsh prince named Madoc sailed to America and started a colony. Eventually they moved and intermarried and adapted until they became the Mandan Indian tribe. Thom was working on a lot more speculation than historical fact on this one, and I think the book suffers for it. Some of the explanations he puts forth for various things are interesting, but on the whole it's just too far fetched for me.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Teresa

    This being my second Thom book, I wasn't let down. Covering many centuries and several people's, this is a great fictionalized timeline and I felt immersed in the Native life. I especially loved Thom's ability to get us to see the world through the eyes of the Mandan people. The idea that miscommunication and language/cultural barriers could cause any culture to veer off into a direction, or cultivate a belief system that might otherwise not have happened, is at once shocking and very believable. This being my second Thom book, I wasn't let down. Covering many centuries and several people's, this is a great fictionalized timeline and I felt immersed in the Native life. I especially loved Thom's ability to get us to see the world through the eyes of the Mandan people. The idea that miscommunication and language/cultural barriers could cause any culture to veer off into a direction, or cultivate a belief system that might otherwise not have happened, is at once shocking and very believable. I only wish I'd have found it in a format without super-tiny type!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Gus

    I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book. It's the third book from Thom that I have read and each one is great. The cyclical tragedies of the Mandan people, as Thom proposes here, is very believable and emotional. His descriptions are livid and real. There is a scene where a warrior captures a wild stallion and tames it enough to ride it all in the same day. It was one of the most beautiful passages in the book (and kept me up till midnight to finish it!) Great book, great story and great re I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book. It's the third book from Thom that I have read and each one is great. The cyclical tragedies of the Mandan people, as Thom proposes here, is very believable and emotional. His descriptions are livid and real. There is a scene where a warrior captures a wild stallion and tames it enough to ride it all in the same day. It was one of the most beautiful passages in the book (and kept me up till midnight to finish it!) Great book, great story and great read. Definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Indian saga or historical fiction.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    I was really interested in Thom's story of the Mandan people who are thought to have been descended from Madoc, a Welsh mariner and settler. I wasn't disappointed in most of the story but there were times when the narrative dragged quite a bit and it took me awhile to get back into the story. I think most readers who are interested in Native American prehistory will enjoy this book though those who like books on the various early meetings of Europeans and Natives will enjoy this more. I was really interested in Thom's story of the Mandan people who are thought to have been descended from Madoc, a Welsh mariner and settler. I wasn't disappointed in most of the story but there were times when the narrative dragged quite a bit and it took me awhile to get back into the story. I think most readers who are interested in Native American prehistory will enjoy this book though those who like books on the various early meetings of Europeans and Natives will enjoy this more.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Teri Armstrong

    I loved the first part of the book, the second part got kind of long. I can't imagine that a people could take for granted the ability to read and not pass it down to their offspring but I suppose it could have happened. How tragic to have God's word and not have anyone to read it, forever looking for a connection to their past and their Savior. Sad ending to a lovely people. I loved the first part of the book, the second part got kind of long. I can't imagine that a people could take for granted the ability to read and not pass it down to their offspring but I suppose it could have happened. How tragic to have God's word and not have anyone to read it, forever looking for a connection to their past and their Savior. Sad ending to a lovely people.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    This is the second book by Mr. Thom that I have read. He does a marvelous job of taking bits and pieces of historical reference and fleshing it out into a story well worth reading. His characters are fully formed, interesting and the story draws you into their lives. This book is well worth the read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    I just could not get into this one, others he's written are loads better. I'm interested in the theory of Madoc but after 144 pages of 544 I found myself struggling to plow through. I decided that life is short so why waste time on a book that's not grabbing me. I just could not get into this one, others he's written are loads better. I'm interested in the theory of Madoc but after 144 pages of 544 I found myself struggling to plow through. I decided that life is short so why waste time on a book that's not grabbing me.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nina

    Novel about the Mandan Indian tribe which legend says incorporated a lost colony of Welshmen from the 12th century. Terrific story. I couldn't put it down. Immediately went to library to look up Plains Indian art and reserve a book on the archaeology of the Mandans. Novel about the Mandan Indian tribe which legend says incorporated a lost colony of Welshmen from the 12th century. Terrific story. I couldn't put it down. Immediately went to library to look up Plains Indian art and reserve a book on the archaeology of the Mandans.

  27. 4 out of 5

    James

    Was there a white Welsh settlement at Louisville long before Columbus discovered the New World in 1492?

  28. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    This was not my favorite Thom book, but it was pretty good, considering that we don't know the answer to whether the Mandan's were of Welsh decent or not. He makes a good case for it. This was not my favorite Thom book, but it was pretty good, considering that we don't know the answer to whether the Mandan's were of Welsh decent or not. He makes a good case for it.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ann L

    I read this once before, years ago, and really liked it. I'm curious to see if I still like it as much now that some time has passed. I read this once before, years ago, and really liked it. I'm curious to see if I still like it as much now that some time has passed.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lina

    Super cool concept intertwined with some amazing history.

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