Time is a strange thing. As a storyteller I live in a world where “recent” means about two hundred years ago and “really old” refers to a time before the the Roman Empire was even a twinkle in Romulus and Remus’ eyes. Yet here I am with my mind in the future, writing a Folk Tales Corner for you to read in August while it’s early July. It gets worse. Over the next month I have to learn the Viking saga “Bosi and Herraud” to tell in the authentically historical reconstruction of a Dark Age Long House at the Ancient Technology Centre in Dorset. During the same period of (calendar) time I will also be researching and learning some (probably) more recent tales featuring tea for the Gyllyngdune Tea Festival in Cornwall. I’ve not come across a single folk tale with tea as it’s theme in the past. It could be an interesting search.
Meanwhile, with my salesman’s hat on, I am trying to book my autumn gigs and sell the set of subterranean adventures I have called “Underworld Journeys”. This includes myths from as far back as the earliest writings of the Sumarians (who invented writing alongside agriculture and cities about five thousand years ago), through Iron age to Dark age Celtic and Norse legends up to the frighteningly modern verses of Edgar Allen Poe. All of which will have to be committed to my gently boggling memory during September while I simultaneously begin my PR assault on the arts centres who will be doing their bookings for January to April around then. If you see Doctor Who tell him I’d like to borrow the Tardis.
It is fun though, being able to sit with one’s nose in a book for an afternoon and call it work.
It’s good for us too. As I’m sure I have mentioned, the stories are not only full of good advice and useful information but are in themselves cultural artefacts. Every time you read a story you are improving yourself, whether it’s Homer’s Illiad* or Jack the Giant Killer.
So if you are inclined to take my advice from last month but don’t already have a story inside you waiting to get out, where do you start? Well, I suggest that you tuck a copy of “Dark Tales From The Woods” by Daniel Morden in to your holiday luggage. I was lucky enough to be given mine for Christmas and what an excellent present it has proved to be. If you like books as things of beauty in their own right then “Dark Tales” is most definitely the book for you. Care has been taken with everything between the hard covers: the paper stock feels earthy and real, the typeface is enticing and easy on the eye, the illustrations add just the right level of atmosphere. Even the dust jacket is delightful, the whole is a lovely thing to hold. Then you start reading. Mr. Morden being a storyteller as well as an author the stories are smoothly re-told, with equal measures of respect for their antiquity and touches of originality, blended with natural humour and an economic but fluid use of language.
Although the stories contained in “Dark Tales” were only collected fairly recently, they began their life and are set in that misty storyteller’s territory of “long, long ago”. I do like it there. As with many people, I find I can get lost in a good story and time, in more ways than one, just slips away. It’s funny stuff, time.
…here’s to living happily ever after, until the next adventure.
*If you haven’t read the Illiad it’s a really old all action romp and far better than the film.