Tag Archives: Folk tale

Time To Pay The Piper

Stories are wonderful things, they seem to know when they are needed and somehow find a way to present themselves to you. I was struggling with what to write this month, maybe something about my festival experiences… or the heat… or my festival experiences in the heat. Having done a sufficiency of procrastinative housework to warrant a lunch break, I sat down, put on the Netflix documentary series Myths and Monsters and there it was: the story I needed.

You all know it. A prosperous German trading town is beset with a plague of rats, nothing they do is enough to save them. The stores are being eaten, the fabrics nested in, the ropes chewed in to short lengths. Nothing softer than iron is safe from the sharp teeth of the omnipresent vermin and what doesn’t get gnawed up is covered in the unhealthy spoor of the rodents. The town council is at it’s wits’ end and initiates the age old fairy tale cure all of offering a reward of unimaginable wealth to whoever can save them.

A poor musician, so poor that their clothes are a multicoloured mismatch of patches and replaced parts, appears in the square tootling on a whistle. The music is delightful and everyone wants to listen. Once he has their attention the piper introduces himself as a Rodentia Extermination Operative. The grandees of the city immediately offer him a 1,000 guilder contract to end the plague.

The man in motley strikes up a strange and haunting tune that draws every last one of the rats from their nests as they pour from basements and eaves alike to follow the capering flautist, who leaves the town and heads for the banks of the river. In a scene which has delighted pantomime directors and animators alike, the myriad meal munchers plunge in to the flowing waters and squeak their last.

Job done, the Pied Piper returns to a deeply relieved Hamelin where they give him a big round of applause but, claiming the town has significant expenses to cover replacing the unrealised profits for the rich merchants and there is no magic money tree, they refuse to give him the agreed 1,000G. The melodious rat catcher is unsurprisingly a bit miffed, swears revenge, much to the wealthy traders amusement, and storms out.

The final episode comes a few months later, on a Sunday when the adults are all in church. A man clad in green prances through the streets playing a lively dance on his flute, entrancing all the children who follow him out of the town and away… never to be seen again.

Now, I could go on about the fascinating history of the tale, how the rat infestation element was added a few hundred years after the original mysterious, but probably true, disappearance of a surprisingly specific 130 Hamelin children in 1284. On this occasion though it is the relevance to current affairs that caught my attention. Following a decade of political austerity, a Brexit that promised greater prosperity and a pandemic which clearly demonstrated exactly who are key workers that deserve reward; NHS staff, postal employees and transport workers are all being denied recognition of their essential functions in the meaningful form of getting paid enough to have a house and eat.

Striking is significantly less disruptive than taking away everyone’s children, but it is the only form of leverage available to those who have no magic flute. It may be inconvenient but unless we want it to get worse, it’s time to pay the piper.


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Filed under Rich and poor

So Simple My Friend

In the folk tale hall of fame there is one single character who has probably become the star of more tales than any other. Not our friend jack, as it is clear from the number of mothers and wives he has had that these are different people who share the same name. No we must look further afield than our own shores. If we leave even Europe, cross the Bosphorus and head out through Turkey and the near east we will find the person we seek: Nasrudin. Unlike jack he goes by a variety of spellings, Nasreddin, Nasruddin, Nasredin and more. Often a Mullah, sometimes a Hodja or Hoca (teacher), he is known and claimed by Afghans, Iranians, Uzbeks, and Arabs, as well as the Turkic Xinjiang area of western China.

Is he some kind of hero? A middle Eastern Robin Hood? Well, not so much. His speciality is humorous and philosophical anecdotes. Often short pithy yarns that leave you thinking, but with a smile on your face. He is sometimes a trickster and sometimes a simpleton, something of a Divine Fool. Although a poor man, Nasrudin is a friend of kings, becoming the voice that speaks truth to power, even to the great 14th century Emperor Tamerlane who ruled from Russia to India, and from the Mediterranean Sea to Mongolia.

The venerable Mullah has rather crept up on me. Over the years I have found stories that simply appealed to me in a variety of compilations, mostly of world stories but also in a couple of books of Turkish tales. Without really trying, I have accrued the makings of a full set on the old fella. There is often a simplicity or innocence in Nasrudin’s actions, alongside a good dollop of absurdity that hides the deeper wisdom, when there is some. My favourite so far is one in which he takes advantage of a king who would like his beloved horse to read to him. It’s a little long for the space I have left so here are a pair of short ones to give you a taste.

The Mullah had a new house built in the town. When the door was fitted he attached a strong lock to it. Next to the door was a window which Nasredin left open in all circumstances.
His neighbours grew curious.
“Wise one” they said, “why do you have this strong door that you keep locked to prevent burglary, but then leave your window open, even when you are out, making it easy for a thief to enter?”
“The door is locked” said Nasredin “to keep my friends out that they do not disturb me when I am praying. A thief though, will get in and take what they want even if the window is locked, so I leave it open that they do not break the glass.”

Nasrudin’s neighbour looked over his fence and saw the Mullah walking slowly, stopping, and turning around by his back door, all the while looking down thoughtfully.

“Are you alright neighbour?” he called out.

“I’ve lost my key.” Came the troubled reply.

The neighbour rushed round and joined in the search while the Mullah thanked him profusely.

After a few minutes of fruitlessly scanning the stony ground he asked

“Are you sure this is where you lost it?”

“Oh no,” said the Mullah, “I lost it in the cellar.”

“Then why are you looking out here?” shouted the exasperated neighbour

“It’s so simple my friend” Said Nasrudin calmly, meeting his eyes with a clear gaze,

“The light is better!”

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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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You Did Not Do This On Your Own.

[another casualty of bad filing and too much other stuff to do, this one was written in August 2019 in the back of my van and I only discovered I hadn’t posted it when I went to find the link for someone]

I am in Dorset as I write, taking a break between storytelling sessions at Purbeck Valley Folk Festival. It nearly didn’t happen. During the set up fifty mile an hour winds destroyed two marquees and prevented the erection of a third until Saturday. Torrential rain on Friday also made life difficult, but the show must go on!

A couple of years ago one of my regular visitors to the storytelling asked if I knew a tale called Tritill, Litill And The Birds. I didn’t but I said I would see if I could find it. I enlisted some help and managed to track it down, lost it, found it again, learnt it, and this afternoon I told it for a packed tent, much to the delight of the original requester.

It is a Hungarian folktale which follows a fairly standard pattern. A princess has gone missing and the king will give her hand in marriage to whoever brings her back. The oldest of three brothers goes out to search, meets two beggars but doesn’t share his food with them, wont feed the birds, finds an ogresses cave, fails to do the chore she sets him and is killed. Ditto brother two. Youngest brother gives the beggars and birds food and is rewarded with offers of magical help. In the Ogresses cave he is able to do all the three tasks he is set with the aid of the two beggars, Tritill, Litill and all the birds. Although the Ogress threatens to kill the youngest brother if he fails at the tasks she is also generous and offers him the choice of three things from her cave if he completes the third task. Tritill and Litill advise him to ask for the chest from the end of the bed and, more enigmatically, the thing that is on the bed and the thing that is under the side of the cave. These turn out to be a chest full of treasure, the missing princess and a boat that can sail on land as well as it does on the sea. He loads the first two in to the last one and is soon off to a life of royally wedded happily ever after.*

A couple of things struck me about the story. One was that the Ogress bore certain similarities to witchy antagonists in some other stories who turn out to be echoes of ancient earth goddesses, punishing the bad and rewarding the good. The other was an intriguing element common to a wide variety of folktales in which the protagonist is set tasks: On finding the task completed the antagonist, be they ogress, giant, witch or other monster, will pass a comment about the protagonist having had help, or having not done it on their own. From a modern perspective we tend to view this as if the Ogress is a teacher at secondary school where we were all expected to do our own work. However, it is clear that they know help was had, but they never do as your teacher would have done and dock marks, disqualify or, since they are not teachers but folklore characters, kill the quester.

This seems strangely out of character as they have generally been shown to be decidedly pedantic and disinclined to tolerate failure or deviation from the challenge as set. If doing it alone is important why do they let it slide when they know help has been given? If they are not going to act on the ‘cheating’ why mention it?

The answer can be found through an examination of the rest of the story. Two brothers gave their lives to demonstrate that the tasks are simply impossible when attempted alone. The youngest brother has only got as far as he has through giving and accepting help. The Ogress, a vestigial mother nature – the original teacher, mentions that youngest brother has had help after every task because this is the true point of the story: he does not do it on his own. Everything that he achieves is through co-operative action.

So as I prepare to go out for this evening’s late night performance, the set list for which is entirely made up of requests from the audience, at a festival that is only possible because of the volunteers who applied teamwork to overcome the elements, I will remind myself that the smiles and applause of the audience are for all of us and none of us did it alone.

Here’s to living happily ever after… Until the next adventure!

* The whole story: https://fairytalez.com/tritill-littil-birds/

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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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Filed under Folk Tale, Fox stories, Talking Animals

Beardy and the Beast

When I grew my beard It was purely an accident precipitated by the breakdown of the beard trimmer with which I had previously maintained a very tidy long-stubble goatee. The unexpected effect this was that a couple of years and several inches of facial hair later I discovered I had unintentionally preempted the trend and was, for the first time in my life, fashionable. When beards are ‘in’ long hair also becomes acceptable and I have rather enjoyed not being seen as beastly.

This tour I am looking in to transformation, transfiguration and transmutation So I thought I might have a go at Beauty And The Beast. I started looking for a version of it in my library. I couldn’t remember coming across one but, it being a classic and me having spent many years avoiding those, I thought I might have just passed it by. A search through the most likely collections has so far turned up several frog princes, and a small tooth dog, a black bull, two bears, and an invisible man, but no lead male simply referred to as a beast.

All of the above are essentially the same story of a beautiful young woman pursued by an ugly and undesirable male who is really a rich and handsome prince under a curse. In most she has a pair of selfish, older sisters for contrast. However it is usually the girl’s father that does something wrong and, to save his own life, enters into a contract with a powerful and frightening entity to hand over his beloved youngest daughter. She is at first scared but slowly comes to appreciate her inhuman captor’s kindness, though still rejecting his advances. Eventually some action of hers brings her unsightly suitor near to death, she realises that she loves him and her love restores his humanity and good looks. Sometimes he is removed from her and she, left with nothing, has to search for him for several years, climb a glass mountain, collect a series of magical objects and trade them with another woman to win him back. It is known in storytelling circles as “The Search For The Lost Husband”. Which is all well and good but still not the populist, crowd pleasing, fairy tale that I was trying to track down: I simply don’t have it!

Puzzled that such a well loved romance should be absent from the works of the assorted collectors on my shelves, I resorted to the internet. There, I discovered why: the title and the particulars of the most well known form of this anti physical prejudice story, are the work of a sixteenth century French publisher called Jeanne-Marie LePrince de Beaumont, who edited down her version from the novel length original by the equally over-named Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve. Between the two of them, these writers have nurtured and distilled the essence of a genre sufficiently well that they have all but replaced the folk tales from which they took their inspiration.

Hmmm, so left with a literary tale on the internet instead of a folk tale in a book I rather went off the idea. But… the essential story is such a classic form of transformation that I feel it really should be represented. On the other hand, it’s a lot of story for only one change. Well, now I am on a search of my own, hopefully I won’t have to wear out my shoes or climb a glass mountain to get it. I wonder if I can find a version that fits the brief?

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Filed under Beauty and the beast, Search for the lost husband, Uncategorized

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?


Filed under Folk Tale

Nothing to Fear

The word Goblin is nowadays almost inseparable from the word “horde”. We imagine these short, ugly, ravening creatures of evil hanging out in great gangs in the wastelands of old forests and abandoned mines waiting to feast on the flesh of unwary travellers. Tolkien is largely responsible for the modern concept of misshapen malevolence in insect like legions. Folklore rarely sees goblins in such numbers, in fact, it rarely sees them at all and they would only appear to have been with us for about six hundred years under the name in question. So what are they and where did they come from?

The earliest appearance in British literature tells of a hillock in the midst of a dense wood where a tired knight might call out “I thirst!”

A pointy nosed and pointy eared goblin amuses himself dropping leaves from a cliff

“Leaf Goblin” A sympathetic rendition of a goblin by fantasy artist Marc Potts. More of whose excellent work can be seen at http://www.marcpotts.co.uk/

and immediately find himself in the presence of “a Goblin with a cheerful countenance, clad in a crimson robe, and bearing in his outstretched hand a large drinking-horn richly ornamented with gold and precious jewels, full of the most delicious, refreshing and unknown beverage. After the drinker had emptied the horn, the Goblin offered a silken napkin to wipe the mouth. Then, without waiting to be thanked, the strange creature vanished as suddenly as he had come.” Hardly terrifying. Typically an arrogant knight nicked the generous forest dweller’s horn and he withdrew his services.

With little to go on the folklorist generally turns to etymology to trace the origins of supernatural beings. It appears the word goblin may have been derived from the German “Kobold”. Now, the Kobold is a house spirit, famed for their domestic usefulness and their ability to remain unseen. They were sufficiently common that most houses had one who was looked after with great care, having food left out for them on a daily basis. As with any invisible helper, it was a bad idea to try to see them and one story tells of a persistent burgher throwing ashes around the room to make the kobold, King Goldemar’s footprints apparent, resulting in the householder being dismembered, roasted on a spit and eaten.

As the religious fervour of the middle ages took hold, these pagan house spirits fell out of favour and were, along with witches and the like, demonised. Stories of their helpfulness were told less often than the tales of them turning nasty on overly inquisitive humans; whilst the original message of such narratives, treat all beings with respect, was replaced with the implication that we should fear the unknown and the supernatural.

They say there is nothing to fear but fear itself and the goblin is a fine example of that truism, fear having turned the commonplace in to something fearful. The goblin as we know him now is a horror of our own making. Their willingness to assist mankind for the price of a meal, a roof over their head and a little privacy as to their appearance has been rejected, leaving thousands homeless and desperate roaming the wastes of our imagination… and they’re hungry.


Filed under Folk Tale, Goblins, Invisible Helper, stories

The Blacksmith’s Wife Of Yarrowfoot

Two brothers worked in apprenticeship to a blacksmith down at Yarrowfoot many, many years ago. They were hard working lads and good learners but after a while the youngest began to grow pale and thin, his previous ready wit and easy smile were gone from him along with his ability to concentrate and perform all but the simplest of tasks. He seemed distracted, tired and edgy.

One night, the elder brother sat down on the side of the younger’s bed as his brother lay there, with his eyes fixed somewhere beyond the roof.

What is wrong my brother? Speak to me, maybe I can help”

Help?” he replied “There is no help for me on this earth.”

Well there certainly will not be if you don’t tell anyone what’s wrong! Now speak, for you know I will not let the matter drop until you do.”

So the lad told his tale, “Each night is the same, after everyone is asleep the Blacksmith’s wife comes in to our room. She slides a bridal over my head and I am transformed in to a horse. She then rides me for miles out across the moors, sparing neither kicks nor whips, places me in the stables of a great hall and goes within to dance and debauch with a host of other witches and their demonic associates. When they are done she collects me from my stall, in which there is neither food nor water, and rides me back here at full gallop, with just enough time to creep in to bed before I have to get up. I have not slept for days”

He said sadly. “Then swap beds with me now” urged his brother “and tonight you shall sleep while I bear your burden.”

The youngster needed no second asking and was fast asleep in his brother’s bed in a trice. There was not long to wait before the Blacksmith’s wife crept in to the room and slid the magic bridal over the elder brother’s head. He felt the strangeness of transformation, becoming a fine, strong stallion and allowed the witch to lead him out of the house. Soon he was galloping over the moors as she kicked his sides and whipped his back. Eventually they reached a great hall high up on the moors, where she placed him in a stable before going off to her ghastly revels.

The elder brother, whilst trying to scratch an itch on his cheek by rubbing it against the wooden side of the stall, discovered a nail sticking out of a post, managed to snag the bridal on it and pull it off over his elongated head. As soon as the bridal was removed he underwent a reverse of his previous transformation and hid in the shadows of the stall. When the witch returned from her unearthly carousing he suddenly leapt out and placed the bridal over her head, turning her in to a rather startled mare. Leaping upon her back he then rode her homeward across the moors, sparing neither kick nor whip and when he reached civilisation he made her gallop up and down a ploughed field until she was all of a lather. On the way he stopped at another forge and had the smith fit a fine set of horseshoes to her front hooves before completing the journey and releasing the blacksmith’s wife to slink, exhausted, in to her bed.

The honest blacksmith rose soon after and went to work but was concerned when his wife did not also rise. She claimed illness and a doctor was called who, seeing her pale and dishevelled state, wished to take her pulse but she refused to let him see her hands. Despite his entreaties she kept them beneath the bedclothes until he grew exasperated and pulled back the sheets. To their horror they saw the horseshoes attached to her hands and the bruises on her side. The brothers told their tale and the witch was duly punished in the time honoured fashion. The younger lad was nursed back to health with butter made from the milk of cows grazed in the churchyard, a sovereign remedy for those who have been hagridden.


Filed under Folk Tale, Halloween, Witch

Chirp-Tweet Chirrup-Cheep

What’s that you say? You want to understand the speech of the birds? There used to be a way, I don’t think you would like it though, and anyway it’s too late for you to test it now even though the right time of year is fast approaching. You see, what you need to do is lie under the gallows on midsummer’s eve. Not something you would imagine trying on the off chance I should think. This is how it generally happens:

Sometimes it’s two brothers, sometimes just two travellers that fall in together on the road.
By various means it always ends up that one has control of the food and the other has an empty stomach. The food controller asks a higher and higher price of the hungry one, taking any gold or money he has and all his belongings. Eventually Control asks Hungry for his eyes. Yes, you read that right: his eyes! Weak and desperate Hungry pays. To add insult to injury, Control abandons Hunger outside the town they have been travelling towards, leaving him blind and helpless by the gallows.

The Magpie on the Gallows
(Ok, there’s only one, it’s not a raven, there’s no one under the gallows, people are dancing and it’s not at night but it’s a free picture so what do you want?)

As he lies there with ignominious death creeping towards him on unfriendly feet, he overhears a meeting that is held once a year by three ravens (Or three crows. Or a raven a crow and a blackbird. Or a magpie and a dove. In one version a fox and a squirrel but let’s not dwell on the details for too long). The magical combination of liminality in both place and time renders the speech of the creatures intelligible as they relate a series of misfortunes that have befallen the people of the nearby town and the obscure means by which they might be delivered from them.

Typically there is sick princess to be cured, a drought to be ended and a blind mayor to be restored to sight. None of which would be much use except that the cure for the mayors blindness just happens to be the dew that falls right there on Solstice morning… and it will work for anyone! Gratefully, Hungry rubs his sightless sockets with the dew and vision returns.

Hungry bottles some of the magic moisture, drags his enfeebled body to the town and sure enough sets the Mayor aright, gaining his thanks in food, accommodation and often a job to boot. Control, however, is already in the town and, envious of Hungry’s new found status, tries to bring him down. Control’s efforts only result in Hungry using his knowledge to rise even higher through ending the people’s troubles and not only saving the princess but gaining her hand in marriage.

Now, you may be tempted to rush off trying to find somewhere that still hangs murderers or and old gibbet preserved on some rural hillside so you too can eavesdrop on some corvids, cure the blind, save a town and win a princess but hold fast: timing is everything.

Eventually Control learns of the method through which Hungry came by his amazing knowledge and, since a year has passed heads out that very night (just as you have been thinking you might do) to hear what the birds have to say. As he lies there, the ravens meet. How is it that all they discussed last year has come to pass when only they knew? Someone must have been listening! Look there he is down there! And they ply their beaks dexterously upon him, plucking out his eyes and striking out his life.

So if you do choose to seek a gallows to hear the birds beneath this summer solstice eve, be careful no one has been there before you!

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


Filed under Folk Tale, Solstice, Talking birds