Monthly Archives: July 2011

Tales Which Want Telling

It’s July, many of you will be going on holiday, whether you are sat around a camp fire, spending evenings in tavernas or relaxing on a Mediterranean beach with delicious bread and olives, wine and good company you could find the ideal space for a story. Some years ago, on tour with Pressgang in Italy I told the first half of “Jack The Cunning Thief” to the guitarist, Damian Clarke and his three sons with white sand, blue sea and an olive grove as the backdrop. I promised, as the boys were sent off to bed, that at some point I would tell them the second half of this two part story. Roll on 15 years to the eldest’s wedding night: another beach, this time in Dorset with a crackling camp fire instead of the chorus of cicadas, and this story, so long in gestation, made sure it got out and told.

Some stories just push themselves forward, they definitely want to be told, and few are so patient. Often something someone says or even just a feeling will have a story leaping forward, occasionally even pushing the legend I was intending to tell out off the way just as I step in front of an audience. These inspired tellings are often the best and most magical, moments when one feels in tune with the universal flow, or that the story has chosen to tell itself because someone needs to hear it.


In “The story not told; the song not sung” the main character is a woman who has a story and a song inside her but she does not tell her story and does not sing her song. Oppressed within her for many years and never given voice they turn against her. One afternoon as she falls asleep the story and the song decide they have had enough and make a break for it, pausing only to exact revenge for their long captivity. The story crawls out of her and on reaching the door transforms itself into a pair of muddy workmen’s boots, her song leaps out and as it flies across the room falls into the shape of a man’s jacket hanging on the back of the door. Clearly when her husband comes home and finds another man’s things making themselves at home in his house he is none too pleased. Her denial of any knowledge of the items, or any man who might be connected with them, does nothing to calm his fury and he storms off to sleep in the Temple of the Monkey God while she waits up late into the night hoping for him to return.

Now, everyone knows that the flickering lights of the candles go to stay in the temple of the Monkey God when they are put out and this night her light is late arriving, as it does so it explains to the others that it is so late because of the ructions caused by the story not told and the song not sung. The Husband, who is having trouble sleeping in the unfamiliar surroundings, hears the candle flame’s explanation and returns the next day to ask his wife’s forgiveness. He then requests that she save them both from further trouble by telling her tale and releasing her song in joy. However it is too late: they have both gone.


As famous folk singer Maddy Prior once said to Damian, when discussing the possibly sacrilegious idea of delivering traditional folk songs in a lively punk style, “The worst thing you can do to a folk song is to not sing it”. The same holds true for stories, if you have one inside you then, as any psychiatrist will tell you, repression is not a good idea. Your holidays may provide the perfect environment to let your stories get out into the air and remember, you never know what trouble they might cause if you don’t!



…here’s to living happily ever after, until the next adventure.

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Filed under stories, Storytelling, Summer