Category Archives: Folk Tale

Mothers, Grandmothers, Bananas and Tradition


Folk culture is a fascinating thing. It can be a thing of deeply distinct nationalistic pride one moment and continent wide inclusivity the next. Here in England we can be rather disparaging about our national folk customs, people who will happily wrap themselves in a St. Georges Cross flag will make jokes about morris dancers and mummers. Over the Scottish border, in what is to the rest of the world the same country, laughing at a man doing a jig in a kilt is likely to get you stabbed with the dirk that is traditionally kept in the very accessible sock of the wearer.

Oppression by invaders and occupiers often brings about a renewed pride in ancient forms of traditional dress, dance, song and story as a means of identification. Witness the winning entry to the Eurovision Song Contest: The intro and chorus sound like part of a folk song sung with traditional harmonies and the band were dressed in a variety of traditional folk costumes from the regions of their country. The lyrics are about the singers mother, with strong hints that it is a metaphor for the mother land of Ukraine. As a musician I particularly enjoyed the use of the telenka, a local overtone flute, which has no finger holes and is played by a mixture of breath control and partial or fully covering the end of the pipe. I hope we do not witness a completion of the Russian invasion as all of the above elements of Kalush Orchestra’s delightful performance will almost certainly be instantly banned and violently persecuted, as the folk practices of conquered nations nearly always are.

Meanwhile, from a little further north and west, the same competition brought us a fully modern dance floor friendly take on a folk tale. A folk tale so classic that Norway clearly expected the entire continent to get the joke of deflecting a wolf from eating grandma with the worlds default comedy fruit, if it was a joke, since the maned wolf of South America does actually eat bananas. Either way the Little Red Riding Hood reference was clear for all to see, as was it’s thoroughly international reach.

Greece, Sweden and particularly the UK, fielded some very fine songs with very fine singers which will undoubtedly get to single figure places in their own countries charts if not several others. I doubt however, that we will still have any of them on regular rotation in three years time.

The national distinctiveness of ‘Stefania’ and international inclusivity of ‘Give That Wolf A Banana’, both borrowing extra depth and connection from folk tradition and teaming that up with some solid up to date beat production, will probably be filling dance floors across Europe and beyond even a decade or so from now.

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Come On In


There is much to be learned about our past by studying the stories we have told ourselves over the years, the omnipresence of agriculture or textile manufacture, the power dynamics of royalty and inheritance, but sometimes it is interesting to look at the things that are almost totally absent. Swimming for instance.

Nowadays we are quite used to the idea of swimming and water safety being taught to everyone at a fairly young age, toddlers who can barely walk splashing around with floatation devices in the gradually yellowing waters of the shallow pool. Just as well too, although the UK statistics for accidental drowning have been falling steadily and fairly dramatically since 1985, it is still the worldwide bronze medal winner for unintentional human fatality. The ubiquity of at least some aquatic ability is, however, a new thing.

In folktale it is extremely rare for anyone to swim for any reason. Entering water voluntarily is almost unheard of. Witches famously won’t even attempt to cross running water, possibly very wisely since giants, thieves and villains of all stripes are enticed or forced in to water in any number of denouements, breathing their last on the ocean floor or at the bottom of a well. Protagonists have less to fear from H2O, nevertheless rivers, moats and lakes are all crossed by the aid of boats, bridges, fords, swans, fish or wading. An occasional lucky Jack will survive a shipwreck but not by swimming; they grasp a barrel or spa and hang on until they are washed up on some far shore. This is historically pretty accurate: Hardly anyone learned to swim before the 1900s, not even sailors who considered it irrelevant at best and bad luck at worst.

Maritime superstition aside, the ability to swim is, to the medieval mind, an extraordinary skill. Only a limited number of legendary characters with bloodlines traceable to a deity actually choose to come on in, and the water is rarely lovely. The Anglo Saxon epic poem, Beowulf, devotes several pages to the re-telling at a feast, of a swimming match between the eponymous hero and a childhood friend. For some reason it is held at night and in the face of a storm. The thrashing waves separate the two competitors, sharks or sea monsters attack Beowulf and drag him to the bottom where he dispatches all nine of them with the sword he is carrying for exactly that purpose, the brief delay costs him the race but Beowulf considers his feat to be greater.

This episode pre-figures the climax of part one, where Grendel’s terrible mother, after trashing Hrothgar’s famous feasting hall and several of his best warriors, takes sanctuary in a heathland lake. All present are about to give up the chase: how can they possibly pursue her in the water? However Beowulf, wearing full armour of course, dives in and swims down for a day or so until he finds and destroys the monstrous family. No other warrior had the skills to carry out the rescue of Heorot from the demons that plagued it: no warrior save Beowulf!

Swimming is in effect presented as a super power, almost akin to flying, but if anything more unusual.

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Bird Brain


Bird brains, love birds, storks bringing babies and Henny Penny running round complaining that the sky is falling. Just at a guess I think these would be the kind of associations that would spring to mind if I said I was going to tell you an evening of tales about our feathered friends. As ever, a trawl through the stories we used to tell two hundred years ago and more produces a very different picture.

Far from being foolish or simple, folk tale birds from an assortment of genera often demonstrate some of the most shrewd and subtle problem solving in the folk corpus. Aesop’s crow is probably the most famous of these conundrum crunchers, as he drops pebble after pebble in to a pitcher of water to raise the fluid until it is in reach of his beak.

In the Turkish tale of The Crow and the Snake, the strategy is taken to a higher level. The Crow, whose nest is at the top of a tree, has a problem with a snake that lives in a pit near the bottom. Whenever she lays some eggs the snake climbs up and eats them. After a consultation with a Jackal she forsakes the anger driven option of direct confrontation: pecking the snake’s eyes out might have been satisfying but would, the jackal points out, be very dangerous. Instead, our clever corvid steals a precious ring from a lady having a bath, makes sure that a number of people chase her, stays in sight of the mob until she is by her tree and then drops the ring in to the snake pit. To retrieve the jewellery the obliging humans promptly deal with her scaly problem for her.

This tactical leverage of third parties is quite different in character to the chicanery and deception of the trickster archetype, where the target is often destroyed by their own gullibility as the con artist stands beside them laughing. Avian reprisals tend to be a more surgical strike, delivered from a distance without risk that the enemy will catch on at the last minute. It is also largely free from the chaos and collateral damage often generated by the tricksters, to the extent that assisting a fowl with their sting can even be beneficial to those manoeuvred in to it.

When a wicked elephant tramples the nestlings of a lowly quail, she swears she will get revenge. The Elephant arrogantly taunts her as a weak and powerless creature. The incensed Quail does a kindness for each of a crow, a fly and a frog. When they enquire what they can do in return she asks the crow if it would be so good as to peck out the elephant’s eyes, an action the Crow is only too happy perform since eyeballs are a delicacy. The Quail then asks the Fly if she would mind laying her eggs in the Elephants ruined eye sockets, which is a bit like telling me I could repay you a fiver by going to the London Inn and buying myself a pint of Avocet, it is a perfect place for her larvae to develop. The Frog is requested to croak at the top of a hill and then climb down to the bottom of the steepest cliff and croak again. The blind and maggot maddened Elephant, desperate for water, follows the sound of the frog to the top of the ridge and then over the cliff to it’s doom. Thus, by coming together these four small and vulnerable creatures brought down a strong and powerful tyrant.

So be kind to birds and they will reward that kindness; upset them and they will not only take you down, but you will never see it coming. If that’s being bird brained then count me in!

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The Fox and The Crow


There is a tree that stands by the edge of the wood where tame fields meet wild trees. It has a dead branch sticking out straight at just the right height for Crow to sit.

Fox was hungry. Fox was always hungry. He had been through the fields and round the barns but found nothing. He headed back towards the woods. There he saw Crow sitting on her branch… and Crow had a chunk of cheese in her beak.

Fox stopped under the branch and looked up
“Ah! Crow how wonderful to see you!”
Crow cocked her head on one side.
He continued, smooth as the finest silk,
“I was hoping I would run in to you, since we last met I have only had one thing on my mind”
Crow looked down at him with one eye and then the other.
“It is your delightful voice that I wish to hear. Please sing for me Crow, bring joy to all the wood with your melodious song!”

Crow had never been praised like this and it made her ruffle her feathers.

“Oh, please do not be bashful Crow. Sing for us and make the field bright with your mellifluous tones, bless us with the balm of your beak.”

Overcome by Fox’s flattery, crow could hold back her overture no longer.

She opened her beak and let out… a rasping “CAW!”

The cheese fell from her beak. Down it fell and Fox snatched it out of the air.

“Oh Crow that was delightful, thank you. I knew something wonderful would happen if you opened your beak.”

He said and, licking his lips, Fox went on his way.

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

The Travelling Talesman www.thetravellingtalesman.co.uk

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It WasA Dark And Stormy Night


The folk process is an endlessly fascinating and wondrous thing. Much like genetic evolution, mutations and variations creep in with every repetition until eventually it has either become something else entirely or lost it’s ability to survive. Sometimes a story will change to suit a warmer or wetter climate, sometimes it may find that it’s feet are no good for a new terrain and it will take to the wing…

I accidentally stumbled across an example of the breadth of variation brought on by oral transmission of even a very simple four line trope. Storm Ciara was doing her best to wreck the fences out the back and I found myself typing in to Facebook:

“It is night
It is dark.
It is stormy.
The rain is falling down in torrents.
If you are a skipper, please, please turn to your mate and ask them to tell you a story.”

Now, if none of this rings a bell I must first ask if you have been hiding under a rock and then go on to explain that I first heard this famous opening from my father at tea one evening, long before I began my explorations of storytelling. Some reference had been made to entertaining with a tale and Dad suddenly came out with,

“It was a Dark and stormy night, and the rain fell down in torrents, and the Skipper said ‘tell me a story’, so the Mate began…”

The Mate of course begins his story “It was a Dark and stormy night, and the rain fell down in torrents, and the Skipper said ‘tell me a story’, so the mate began…”
and so it goes on…
This delivered with great gusto, my father’s eyes wide, long arms gesticulating with outsized hands (all traits which he passed on to me very much unchanged!). As a child, I remember the infinite, helical nature of the story that never ended, but also never really started, forming a chain of stories within stories stretching through immeasurable, parallel stormy nights, being quite mind blowing.

Within minutes of my post I had variations pouring in “In my childhood, it was always the mate who asked the captain for a story.” said Anne.

Viv commented “my dad’s was …” it was a dark and stormy night, and the wind began to howl, and captain jack to captain jo said tell me a story and this is how the story began… “”

“It was a bright and sunny afternoon” quipped Robin.

The inevitable internet search found only one reference to this widely known eternal tempest, on a joke page in reddit:
“It was a dark and stormy night on buffalo hill… a group of bandits sat around a campfire… one of the bandits said to the captain, “tell us a story captain… ” etc.
Which readily demonstrates the stories adaptation to the inland terrain of the American continent.

And so it spirals off in to the distance. I wonder where this strangely evocative collection of words will end it’s journey, if it ever does… maybe in some far distant future a space captain will gaze out of their bridge at some twisting nebula flashing with electrical discharge, and as the stellar wind batters their fragile craft they will turn to their Mate and say “Tell me a story”…

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All Pull Together


Before I start the blog, just a quick apology that this wasn’t up in August but I suffered a catastrophic disc failure, lost all my archives and everything I was working on including the publicity for the autumn tour. Amazingly I managed to fix the crashed disc and I have now recovered the data so there will be a couple of blogs in short order before normal service is resumed.

Here’s the first one:

An old fella planted some turnip seeds. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, it’s a very old story, so you may well have done, though I expect you have forgotten some of the details, sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the things we already know. Anyhow, while we’ve been talking the turnips have been growing and the old fella decided it was time to pull them up.

He went along the row gathering them in until he came to the last turnip. This one was a little different. The green leafy fronds at the top were as tall as he was! “I expect there’ll be an even smaller turnip than usual on the end of that lot” he laughed. He took hold of the turnip top and pulled. It didn’t move an inch. He cleared away a bit of the earth and could now see that it was an enormous turnip, every bit as big as the overgrown top should indicate. “Well I never!” he said, “I’m going to need a bit of help with this”. So he went and asked his wife. Out she came and she took hold of him and he took hold of the turnip top and they pulled and pulled but the turnip stayed firmly in the ground.

Now I expect, even if you haven’t heard the story before, you have a pretty good idea what happens next. This is where a good storyteller, seeing the “yeah, yeah, we know this” expression in the eyes of the audience will keep you engaged by asking what it is that you know happens next? It’s a win-win question of course: if you get it wrong you now want to know what could possibly be coming up instead of what you thought was obvious, and if you get it right you are equally keen to stay and be right some more. A brilliant, Norfolk storyteller I work with occasionally, called Mike Dodsworth, does a version of this five minute tale that lasts for half an hour. He starts off asking the audience what they had for lunch, or if they like vegetables. After ten minutes he eventually brings the conversation round to turnips, everyone joins in with the “and they pulled, and they pulled” bits and the whole thing is enormous fun! Nearly as enormous as that turnip which is still stuck in the ground.

So the old lady goes and gets their granddaughter and the girl holds on to the old lady and the old lady hangs on to the old man and the old man holds on to the turnip, and they pulled and they pulled and they puuuuuulled… but still the humungous turnip wouldn’t move.

One of the great things about this point of the story is that it is almost infinitely extendable. If you want to stretch it out you can add all sorts of relatives, neighbours… I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it with a postie getting involved. In the straight forward version, after the magical three family members it’s time to shift gear a bit. Who’s up next? Well, he is often considered a family member but not being human can make him a mildly comic surprise: it’s the dog. The dog takes hold of the girl etc. and they pu… well you can do that bit, you know how it goes, but whether Jack Russell or great Dane the result is still a static turnip.

More help is needed. After the dog it may seem a cliched step to add the cat but it is an important one. The inclusion of these age old rivals demonstrates the need to put aside our differences for the good of all. (The cat holds on to the dog…).

When the turnip still doesn’t move, the mouse demonstrates the infection of co-operation by volunteering. The mouse holds the cat, the cat holds the dog, the dog holds the girl, the girl holds granny, granny holds the old gaffer, and they all pulled, and they pulled, and they puuuuuuuuuulled… and out came the enormous turnip!
Which goes to show that even the smallest has value when we all pull together.

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The First Christmas Tree, A German folk tale


Once upon a time there was a Count, by the name of Otto, who lived near Strasburg. Although handsome and single he was so indifferent to the flirtations of the ladies that they called him “Stone Heart”.

One year Count Otto hosted a Christmas Eve hunt in the forests around his castle. He and his guests rode for hours through woods and wastes until, as is pretty much compulsory for a noble who goes hunting in a story, Otto found himself alone and lost. Finding a spring he stopped to wash the dust of the chase from his hands. He was surprised to find the water warm despite the time of year and plunged his arms deeper into the bubbling well head. As he did so he felt as if a smaller softer pair of hands met his own and drew from his finger his favourite gold ring. When he withdrew his hands the ring was indeed missing so he made a mental note to send some servants to fetch it out the following day.

As he lay in his bed that night he heard sounds as of the drawbridge going down and a host of people arriving. Rather shortly afterwards he also heard coming from his own Great Hall the sounds of music and merriment, rather like some throng feasting. When he threw open the doors he found that was indeed the case as colourfully clad dancers whisked past him. In the centre of the room a fir tree stood, bedecked with gold rings, diamond encrusted bracelets, bejewelled belts and ruby pommeled daggers in silver sheaths. As Otto stood staring in disbelief, the dancers parted and as the music faded away the most beautiful woman he had ever seen swayed towards him with raven hair and fine dress in plush satins and velvets. “We have come to return your Christmas visit to our fairy well” she said, “and return to you something you have lost.” She held out a small gold casket which, when opened, revealed his ring. “I am Ernestine, Queen of the fairies” she said holding out her hand. As the music began again Otto found himself taking her hand and joining the dance. As they danced the other fairies shimmered away leaving only Ernestine in his arms. Entranced he sank to one knee and asked her to marry him. Ernestine smiled and said: “As long as you never speak the word “Death” in my presence.”

The two were wed the very next day and spent many happy years together. Otto still enjoyed hosting the occasional hunt and Ernestine joined in too. One day, when everyone was in the courtyard ready to set off on for the pursuit, Ernestine was still in her chambers. Otto held up the departure. Time trickled away and Otto grew impatient. Eventually Ernestine came out through the doors. Otto was quite angry by this time, “You have kept us waiting so long,” he cried, “that you would make a good messenger to send for Death!”

There was barely time for her to utter one anguished scream and then she was gone, vanished in to thin air. Otto was frantic. He searched the castle and the forest, dived in to the fairy well and ranged up and down the banks of the stream that flowed from it, all to no avail.

Every year he brought a fir tree in to his hall and dressed it in bright shiny jewels and candles in remembrance of their first night together and the hope that its sparkling lights might bring her home.

After a while Otto’s neighbours began to put up decorated trees of their own. Slowly the custom spread until now, if the queen of the fairies should return to seek her lost love, she would find his signal shining from houses all over the globe.

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

The Travelling Talesman www.thetravellingtalesman.co.uk

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There’s No Team In I


When I think about the stories I would like to tell and the messages I would like my audience to take away with them I often find myself wishing I could find more tales where a group or community get together to face a threat, solve a problem or, even better, create something wonderful. These tales are few and far between and most that I have come across have a coda in which everyone argues about who did the best or was the most vital contributor. The results of this argument range from general embarrassment, through the loss of all they have worked for, to absolute destruction of the entire community.

It’s fairly easy to see how the “Who’s most important” coda comes in to being as both a reflection of reality and a warning about the dangers of rampant ego. Nevertheless, there are an enormous number of stories of an individual heroic teenager going on an adventure and they almost invariably end with a young and inexperienced couple getting married. These very rarely have a coda in which one of them is slowly driven mad by the other’s inability to remember where they put their car keys or their failure to do the washing up. This may, of course, be because the protagonists either started off royal or acquired unimaginable wealth during their adventures and have servants to deal with that sort of tedious day to day stuff, but I suspect the answer is deeper than that.

So why are there so few team type tales and why don’t they end happily ever after? Firstly there are the storytelling considerations. It is important for the audience to be able to identify with someone in the story. With a suitably undefined lead character everyone can see themselves as the strong, clever protagonist. With a gang the members have to be differentiated by appearance and characteristics which narrows down the number of listeners who can identify with each one. This differentiation gives the storyteller a lot more to juggle, not just remembering who is strong or fast and who is carrying which magical dodad, but also making sure they all get equal airtime. You have to keep the crowd who feel kinship with Ariel The Elven Archer as happy as the fans of Sam The Skipping Satyr.

The second reason lies in the underlying psychology of the story. When we dream we feel as if we go to strange places and meet actual people who are quite different from us. In fact all the people and places we encounter in our dreams are inside our own heads and therefore have been created by us. However much that flying unicyclist may look like your neighbour they are really a part of you. To work out what the dream means you only have to ask yourself what your neighbour, the unicycle and flying are symbols for in your own mind. Similarly, to unpick the deeper psychology of a story we first have to imagine that all the characters and events in the story, however disparate and opposed, are part of the same single psyche. Once we look at a tale from this perspective it is easy to see that we all occasionally find ourselves out of balance (persecuted by step parents), battle with our inner fears (fight monsters), free our repressed selves (rescue prince / princess) and re-unite our inner opposites (the wedding at the end): the basic elements of the classic heroic loner tale type.

Far fewer of us have our psyches split up in to a happy band of specialists. Team tales are much more likely to come from some event in the physical world. They are maps of society. To be complete they tend to show the routes to and from the central event, the good and the bad of our worldly interactions. The heroic tales are about ourselves individually, so we have a lot of them because we like thinking about ourselves. There is no coda as lost keys and dirty dishes are not concerns of the mind’s inner workings, a metaphor has no need of a car. The team tales, being about us collectively, are less likely to speak so directly to our inner psychological maps, which is a shame because I think it would be easier to build a better world if they did.

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Giants and Revenge


As I explained in December I am researching for my spring and autumn tours at the same time, themed “Giants” and “Revenge” respectively. All very straight forward… until you come across a story that sits in the part of the Venn diagram where the two circles overlap and could be used in either set. The most surprising of these is probably the most well known story of the big people going.

This tale is turned in to pantomimes on a regular basis and is a staple of children’s literature. As with any well known trope from olden times it has started coming under fire from modern ethical watchdogs. It’s easy to see why too. The problem being that the protagonist, one “Jack”, who is established early on as somewhat easily led, can appear as rather racist. After a giantess lets him in to her husband’s castle and feeds him, the ungrateful simpleton repays this kindness by stealing from the giants not once, but three times! Whilst trying to escape justice after his third larceny he brings about the death of his understandably enraged victim. It is presented as un-premeditated but I think it would still attract a charge of murder if it came to court. One would hope that even UKIP supporters would see that this is a bad way to treat people from other lands who are a bit different from us and most definitely not the model for a foreign policy.

So where, I hear you ask, does the overlap with the revenge theme come in? Well, in my usual fashion I have been hunting through my library, comparing different versions and digging out the earliest manuscripts. In the case of Jack And The Beanstalk (which in case you hadn’t realised is the story in question) this takes us back to 1807. At this time the story contained an encounter with a fairy when Jack reaches the top of the beanstalk. This fairy tells a chilling story of Jack’s kind and generous father who was tricked, robbed and murdered. The perpetrator of the deed, whilst burning down their manor, spared the infant Jack and his mother on the condition that she never tell Jack about his father. The wicked murderer come arsonist is, of course, the giant and the fairy points out quite distinctly that the giant’s wealth was taken from Jack’s father and is rightfully his.

This episode, which is conspicuous by its absence from the majority of later re-tellings of the tale, casts Jack’s behaviour in a very different light. No longer a wayward, sizeist, thug, Jack is the true avenger, reclaiming his ancestral rights and handing out the ultimate punishment to the original villain of the piece. The worrying bit is not just that the story has been reproduced so often without this justification for Jack’s criminal spree, but that doing so has done nothing to harm it’s popularity, many of us falling into despising the giant based on heresay and rooting for his downfall with no hard evidence that he has done wrong to anyone.

Fascinatingly the fairy also admits that she was influencing Jack when he exchanged his cow for a handful of beans, which explains how he goes from being laughably gullible at the beginning of the yarn to a cool master of negotiation, concealment and escape by his first encounter with the giants.

So, it always pays to do your research, even when you think you know the story, possibly especially then… and I had better get back to mine, there are giants and avengers to sort out and they keep getting mixed up!

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

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Parental Advisory


People die in folk tales, especially kind, loving parents. People get hurt, tortured, imprisoned, eaten, turned into animals, boiled to death and shoved into ovens. Whole families are systematically wiped out until the youngest child, presumably paddling ankle deep through their kindred’s blood, tricks, traps and dismembers or cooks the clan’s psychopathic assailant.

People talk about violence on TV but it’s been part of our entertainment for thousands of years. As has sex.

Folktale farmers and fishermen fornicate with fairies, mate with mermaids and sleep with seal people. Princesses, peasant girls and goddesses alike are wooed, seduced, stripped naked, abducted and sexually assaulted whilst in a magical sleep. Heroes, villains, step relatives, trolls, witches and half siblings magically transform themselves into the likeness of protagonist’s lovers for a night of passion, often followed by gloating revenge and/or dubious offspring. When not disguising themselves as bulls, bears and swans to have sex with humans, mythical deities frequently have sexual relationships with their siblings, their mortal enemies and occasionally horses.

You see, despite what most modern people think, these stories were not created for children. They were told by firesides of an evening to a mixed audience who’s age range probably narrowed from both ends as the night wore on. Many were grown out of the lives of real people and poorly reported events. Everything that television, radio and even books are to us now, storytelling was to our forebears.

When I tour pubs I am unsurprisingly expecting my audience to be adult. Characters in the stories may be driven by hormonal motivations that make little sense to the pre-adolescent and other characters, a drunk and abusive giant for instance, are more believable with a touch of post watershed language. That is not to say that it becomes a tsunami of filth and gore but these are stories originally created by and told for adults. An intelligent, well behaved child of say 10 would be able to cope with most of the material but I wouldn’t recommend many of the tales for a six year old simply on length of time and level of plotting. Kids under seven have neither the attention span, the narrative facility, nor the vocabulary necessary to be anything other than mildly baffled by the experience.

Of course I also do sessions for families at festivals, fun days and the like where I select the material that is less likely to horrify and bemuse the youngsters. It is a tricky business, age appropriateness. On the face of it a tale of two abandoned kids who rob, are imprisoned by and eventually roast a cannibal might be considered parental advisory, yet few would question Hansel and Gretel’s place in the cannon of little children’s literature. Death is part of the point of the stories: things change, people die, life continues. The stories are a safe way for children to experience fear and loss and learn how to overcome them. For all their fantastical settings, folk tales hold up a mirror to life and help us cope. Each tale is a learning experience, a map for dealing with the problems that life throws at us, including sex and death. However old we are we keep needing to revise these lessons and what better way than with a story in your local pub?

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