TALES OF BRITAIN: Autumn 2017

LOGO.jpgWith TALES OF BRITAIN, the first British folktale anthology to be released in decades, nearing publication, it seems timely to migrate all the weekly blogs going back to the launch at Glastonbury in 2017 to a safer place, as Nuada knows what Unbound does with them after publication. I’ve made attempts to keep references intact for this migration, but if you’re missing any video or audio, you can probably find it somewhere on the www.TalesofBritain.com website HERE.

142%? HAPPY YULE!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Well, there we are then, absolute confirmation, that TALES OF BRITAIN is now marching towards your homes as we speak – Xmas downtime aside. And as originally promised, we did actually hit 42% as well!

The above isn’t strictly true, the manuscript was delivered on Halloween, and we’re hoping for a late spring/early summer release. That’s a very quick turnaround, and we have yet to decide anything about illustrations (budget allowing), but the feeling seems to be ‘Just give us the 77 tales!’ and we could not agree more.

If that wasn’t pleasing enough, our YULE TALES OF BRITAIN show was our most successful yet, with something to actually divvy up at the end of the jovial proceedings! We did film it, but the footage is unlikely to surface before Xmas itself, so we’ll see what can be shared.

Above all, in 2018 the challenge will be to spread word about TOB – you can assume a publicity budget of £0, and all plugging will almost be a one-man stress machine. But we have wonderful storytelling shows for you, both with Brother Bernard alone and, expenses permitting, with Sister Sal – so PLEASE, if you know of any opportunity to stage TALES OF BRITAIN events at any literary, children’s, folkie, or indeed any kind of festival, fete, or party, any library, any bookshop, anywhere on the island of Britain… please get in touch, as we can only arrange so much ourselves, and your invitations will mean the world to us. All we’d need is travel expenses…

Anyway, this will be the last blog of the tumultuous year of 2017 (travelling back from the Welsh marches a week today), so there’s no need to let standards drop and not give you a special tie-in tale for the day, even if Unbound and Folklore Thursday are offline. So here’s the original version, as told by Rab Burns and his sister Isabella, of the second tale from our live show, THE MARRIAGE OF ROBIN REDBREAST:

THERE was an auld grey Poussie Baudrons, and she gaed awa’ down by a water-side, and there she saw a wee Robin Redbreast happin’ on a brier; and Poussie Baudrons says: “Where’s tu gaun, wee Robin?” And wee Robin says: “I’m gaun awa’ to the king to sing him a sang this guid Yule morning.” And Poussie Baudrons says: “Come here, wee Robin, and I’ll let you see a bonny white ring round thy neck.” But wee Robin says: “Na, na! grey Poussie Baudrons; na, na! Ye worry’t the wee mousie but ye’se no worry me.” So wee Robin flew awa’ till he came to a fail fauld-dike, and there he saw a grey greedy gled sitting. And grey greedy gled says: “Where’s tu gaun, wee Robin?” And wee Robin says: “I’m gaun’ to the king to sing him a sang this guid Yule morning.” And grey greedy gled says: “Come here, wee Robin, and I’ll let you see a bonny feather in my wing.” But wee Robin says: “Na, na! grey greedy gled; na, na! Ye pookit a’ the wee lintie but ye’se no pook me.” So wee Robin flew an’ till be came to the cleuch o’ a craig and there he saw slee Tod Lowrie sitting. And slee Tod Lowrie says: “Where’s tu gaun, wee Robin?” And wee Robin says: “I’m gaun awa’ to the king to sing him a sang this guid Yule morning.” And slee Tod Lowrie says: “Come here, wee Robin, and I’ll let ye see a bonny spot on the tap o’ my tail” But wee Robin says: “Na, na! slee Tod Lowrie; Na, na! Ye worry’t the wee lammie; but ye’se no worry me.” So wee Robin flew awa’ till he came to a bonny burn-side, and there he saw a wee callant sitting. And the wee callant says: “Where’s tu gaun, wee Robin?” And wee Robin says: “I’m gaun awa’ to the king to sing him a sang this guid Yule morning.” And the wee callant says: “Come here, wee Robin, and I’ll gie ye a wheen grand moolins out o’ my pooch.” But wee Robin says: “Na, na! wee callant; na, na! Ye speldert the gowdspink; but ye’se no spelder me.” So wee Robin flew awa’ till he came to the king, and there he sat on a winnock sole and sang the king a bonny sang. And the king says to the queen: “What’ll we gie to wee Robin for singing us this bonny sang?” And the queen says to the king: “I think we’ll gie him the wee wran to be his wife.” So wee Robin and the wee wran were married, and the king, and the queen, and a’ the court danced at the waddin’; syne he flew awa’ hame to his ain water-side, and happit on a brier.

Did you get all that? If not, in a few months you’ll have our own retelling in more familiar English words. Of course, it’s fair to say this story never actually happened, but Burns’ Ayrshire in the snow is gorgeous enough to convince you that maybe, one century long ago, a Scottish King did get married on Christmas Day, and a certain red-breasted bird really was guest of honour…

If you missed our free exclusive Yule tale this year, HERE IT IS again, enjoy, have a glorious Mithras/Xmas/Yule/Solstice, and we’ll see you in 2018, with a really really great book.

THE LAST YULE!

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

A very merry Folklore Thursday and a happy new book, pledgers!

It has gone all-too silent, deep, crisp and peaceful since our BIG ANNOUNCEMENTlast week, and if you’re disappointed that the promised switch hasn’t yet occured, we can only offer you solidarity! No word has come through about what our situation is, but hopefully we won’t all be left hanging over the festive season. As it is, we have been promising you a special seasonal surprise for weeks, and having to announce the exciting new deal in advance did feel like being hired to play Father Christmas, but then being told you have to open all the kiddies’ presents in front of them first, in case any of them didn’t like what was inside. Still, getting this book in our mitts remains the be-all and the end-all, as we all know there really isn’t anything remotely like this out there, and it won’t hit the (indie) shops before time. So it’ll be a story packed 2018!

AND WE STILL HAVE OUR LAST SHOW OF THE YEAR TO LOOK FORWARD TO THIS SATURDAY AT 3PM!

And besides… we do have one very special present for you all, unwrapped until today, ready to share with you: a free ancient British story, retold specially for the season, and not in the book itself: THE LAST YULE. Click for PDF!

Nothing whatever to do with Wham, this yarn sees us breaking one of our key rules – to avoid stories involving saints, whose questionable miracles clog up our national treasury in many cases. But we’ve made an exception for St. Augustine, the very first Archbishop of Canterbury.

This saxon squib actually came to us via the star of Tales of Britain’s sister book, SOUPY TWISTS – Stephen Fry hilariously summarised the exchange at the Yule feast in his priceless compendium of essays Paperweight 25 years ago, and not only was this the first version of the story we found… it’s actually turned out to be the only other version, search as we might. Was it a piece of East England lore which was picked up by young Fry, but never popularly known, or perhaps even his own invention? We hope not the latter, though at least this story is FREE, so the dear fellow needn’t worry that this is plagiarism for commercial reasons. But in the belief that it is a genuine nugget of history which has come down to us via Stephen’s very brief summary, this little tale has everything – a mad Pope, saxon yuletide self-indulgence, and of course, acres of snow, both up in Ramsgate, where Augustine first set foot on British soil, and down at his eventual home in Canterbury.

It’s FATHER CHRISTMAS! No, wait, that’s Saint Augustine…

To everyone out there of Christian faith, we sincerely hope you enjoy the story in the festive spirit in which it’s intended – Christianity has, after all, been holding the reins of our winter festival ever since Augustone came along, so after over a millennium, you can’t complain when the blueprints of the festival continue to become more and more apparent, that this time of peace, pleasure and warmth in the depth of the coldest season is something we have been celebrating for a lot longer than Christianity has existed – and we will be making good use of December the 25th as an inspiration for hedonism and jollity for as long as Britain exists. No offence is intended, especially at this time of year, and we hope it raises a chuckle!

It seems odd that there will be no official Folklore Thursday next week, but we will be keeping you updated no matter what the season, and will offer something new before Mithras/Saturnalia/Xmas/Christmas itself. Whatever you’re celebrating in the meantime, have a very happy one!

Oh, and remember, this year’s must-have Christmas present is the promise a few months’ hence of a road atlas of British folklore retold for the 21st century complete with with tourist guides! Just because the book is all-but funded, doesn’t mean we don’t want the total to keep rising, so if you love your family, think of their reading pleasure, keep pledging and buying copies!

TALES OF BRITAIN IS GO?!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

TERRIBLY IMPORTANT TALES OF BRITAIN INFORMATION FOLLOWS…

This blog was originally intended to be incredibly tangentially connected to yesterday’s Folklore Thursday theme of Urban Myths – you see, there is an urban myth that the number 42 is the answer to the Ultimate Question, of Life, The Universe and Everything. Well, as Douglas Adams’ official biographer, I have to say, it’s not so much an urban myth as a joke that got way out of hand. And yet, there is a pleasing element to the fact that it was only just as funding for Tales of Britain was nearing that most meaningful of meaningless numbers, 42%, that word came through, that…

WE ARE NOW ABLE TO SIMPLY FLY PAST OUR FUNDING GOAL, AND THIS ALL-NEW ROADMAP OF 21ST CENTURY BRITISH FOLKTALES WILL BE IN YOUR LOVELY HANDS BY THE SUMMER…!

… That is, if those of our 280-odd backers who have pre-ordered a hardback copy are happy to get hold of these 77 stories in paperback instead – with full credit for the extra money pledged. If not, you are entitled to contact Unbound and ask for a refund…

But we do hope, as this is above all a campaign to popularise our national lore for a whole new generation, with fresh retellings for everyone, of all ages and any nationality or philosophy, doing our bit to bring together England, Scotland, Wales and the Isles in this time of Brexit madness… that you feel, as we all do, that just getting this already completed book out to people all over the world is what really matters right now.

If everyone’s happy with the new deal, TALES OF BRITAIN IS GO! The interstellar jump from 42% may need some further explanation, and all pledgers will be contacted by Unbound directly if they haven’t yet, but what it comes down to is, the goalposts were wisely moved. There’s no denying that the last few months, of getting funding to this stage, has been one of the very hardest challenges imaginable, particularly given how crucial and undervalued our national treasury of tales is, while other titles with fewer pledgers were sailing off to the bookshops, our progress was incredibly arduous – because our proposed budget/target was so much higher.

So essentially, we’ve made two big concessions to get the book out to everyone – first, we’ve removed the Penguin/Random House distribution, which does mean that you won’t automatically find Tales of Britain in the big stores, Waterstones, WH Smith etc. – but you CAN always ask for them there, and as there are no other British folklore books, or anything like this, that may inspire individual shops to order copies in. Certainly their bookshelves will be poorer for having no such British story treasury on them. If you wish to support our folklore, and share these tales as wide as posssible, visiting your nearest Waterstones and requesting copies could be a great move.

The other concession is launching in paperback, which was always our ideal in the first place! Tales of Britain is a road atlas of stories with tourist guides, designed for action, to be rolled up and put in backpacks while exploring the country, thrown in the car’s back window for Sunday jaunts to mystical corners of the UK, and generally manhandled, pored over and LOVED. If it looks disshevelled in a year or two, that just means it’s been enjoyed to the full. This book is certainly not designed to sit on a shelf looking nice, gold-leaf-covered and never being read, as a big unwieldy hardback. And these retellings are to be SHARED ALOUD, too, so who cares what paper it’s printed on?

We send sincere apologies to anyone who particularly wanted a hardback copy, and the main thing is, this is a ball which is going to keep on rolling, we hope this first edition of TALES OF BRITAIN will be successful enough that eventually there will be special editions, further volumes (more and more tales keep mounting up, and we want regional folk-lovers to keep sending ones we’re unacquainted with), Tales of Ireland, Tales of Europe, Tales of Azerbaijan, collector hardbacks, spin-offs, adaptations, pencil cases and who knows what else.

And of course, Unbound will be giving all hardback pledgers credit for other books – why not enjoy works by Julie Warren, or Mark Bowsher? Or perhaps even, ahem… a bit of Fry & Laurie?

So there you have it – or soon will, if that’s okay with everyone. With those changes made, ‘the maths’ adds up to a 2018 release for our road atlas of ancient stories, at last, with a few months ahead to agree on the design, potential illustrations, and so on. The relief is beyond words, even for a storyteller.

If we now make this magical switch, then it’s all thanks to each and every one of you who has pledged, and our kind supporters including everyone at Godchecker, Neil Gaiman, Sir Tony Robinson, Cerys Matthews, Shappi Khorsandi, Francis Pryor, Greg Jenner, Neil Innes, Dirk Maggs, Hugh Fraser, Brian Blessed… well, just look at them all! And we hope with the book a reality, more lovely folk may join their ranks.

2018 will be the year of TALES OF BRITAIN, with the book out soon, and as many events and live shows as we can fit into the twelvemonth – if you can think of any feasible booking for our live storytelling show, either with Brother Bernard and Sister Sal or one of them solo, we’ll move mountains to be there! Our next show is YULE TALES OF BRITAIN at The Bell Inn, Bath on Saturday 16th December if you’d like a special festive flavour of our yarn-spinning…

And of course, the blogs will keep coming, up to the book’s release and beyond – plus a further bonus Yule story is headed your way as an early present!

Thank you once again to everyone who has backed our campaign so far, and to all hardback pledgers for understanding the change; the support of every last one of you means the universe to all of us. That’s a lot of universes.

Oh, and if you haven’t yet pre-ordered a copy, now you know it won’t be an empty gesture, but there’s a real big beautiful book headed your way as soon in 2018 as possible! Pre-order away!

MERRY YULETIDE, FOLKS!

BLACK SHUCK: Urban Myth!

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Happy Folklore Thursday, all! This is a novelty – an emergency blog! A few gremlins to battle behind the scenes before we make our yuletide announcement. But as today’s #FolkloreThursday theme is Urban Myths, nothing fits the bill better than one of Britain’s most famous ‘monsters’ – BLACK SHUCK.

We explicitly state in our pitch that one of the problems with British folklore books is the sheer tiresome repetition, lame saint narratives, dull ghost stories, and ‘big black ghost dogs with eyes like saucers’ is one of the most unoriginal of them all – but Shuck is the paragon of those ghostly kennels, and it would be unforgivable not to feature the mysterious mutt in our pages. Although we’re glad to say our Black Shuck story (there really isn’t much of an established ‘story’ as such) takes some interesting diversions, to lift it from the tangle of similar urban myths.

The urban areas where Shuck is said to haunt are primarily Bungay and Blythburgh, in the mystical far east of Suffolk, and the basic legend can easily be laughed out of court – in 1577, an electrical storm caused a fire in a church, and of course to Christians of the 16th century, nothing explained gigantic fire-causing lightning bolts as satisfactorily as a big black devil dog. Blythburgh’s Holy Trinity church even boasts Shuck’s fiery paw prints on its door!

Reports of Black Shuck sightings, however, have taken many forms, both malevolent and benevolent, and we’re keeping it a secret for now which path we’ve chosen for our narrative, but hopefully very soon you can judge for yourself whether this is an urban myth which still has a life of its own in the 21st century…

PLEASE keep your pledges coming in! Just choose an option from the list on your right!

BEWARE THE CAT!

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

NOTE TO ALL FOLKTALE LOVERS – we’ve messaged all social media followers individually, but despite that, we have only 275 pledges from nearly 2,000 followers, which seems a bit of a discrepancy. We have exciting news imminent, but we hope to see a boost soon anyway. Have you pre-ordered? Have you told friends? We need to pull together to really get this crucial campaign spread further. Please help today! Now read on…

Another Folklore Thursday, another theme – and we were tremulous to learn that it’s ‘SUPERSTITIONS’ this week, as that’s one of the many problems with the way folk see folklore, which irked us enough to launch this campaign in the first place! When trying to track down really entertaining tales with a beginning, a middle and an end, stories which deserve to be better known, the sheer weight of TOT we’ve had to comb through to find them – a haze of ‘In Lincolnshire, ’tis said that cleaning your teeth on a Thursday with a hedgehog will reveal to you the name of your third husband on a lilypad in the local fishpond’ or some such bilge. Yes, these old superstitions can be fun, but scrapping all that non-narrative old wives’ (and husbands, let’s not genderise) tales stuff is central to what we’re about here, clearing the dead wood to reveal the quality tales anew.

That said, a number of the 77 tales on our British roadmap are of course steeped in different superstitions, and we’re going with the oddest, nastiest one of all – BEWARE THE CAT!

If you haven’t heard of this seminal doggerel before, it’s a mid-16th century narrative with claims to being the very first HORROR NOVEL of all time! The plot goes on to feature a whole host of murderous moggies, were-cats and the like, but our retelling only takes the prologue of the novel – which is bad enough – and works it into a disgusting shape of its own. Much of the original work is narrated by one ‘Master Streamer’, at the court of young Edward VI, who has learned how to talk the cat language. This is where the superstition comes in – he reads in an ancient book that it is possible to decipher cat’s vocalisations, but only if you EAT AN ENTIRE CAT and wear its pelt. And so, yes, he does – he grabs one poor feral cat, and forces every last morsel of edible matter into himself in truly gut-churning ways (with the bizarre added observation that the experience causes floods of mucus to pour from his sinuses). So it’s cat murder, bogeys and the kind of meal that would cause any cat lover to die of terror – and then you can talk with any puss that comes your way. Allegedly.

We sincerely hope nobody who buys our book will try to test this superstition, obviously – and this tale has an unusual tourist guide attached to it, unless anyone out there has a hankering for a holiday in West London. Streamer lives at the King’s Court, and though Edward VI was born at Hampton Court, west of London, and died at Greenwich, to the east, this long-gone court must have been somewhere within easy reach of the unassuming environs of St. John’s Wood, because it was in that very wood that Streamer found and caught the poor unfortunate cat for his supper. There’s not much of a wood there these days, and no feral cats, and it’s hard to recommend for a weekend break. Also key to the story – for reasons you’ll have to wait for the book to discover – is the church of St. Batolph’s, and its clanging bells.

This church, a quick skip over the road from the Gherkin, is only a few centuries old, but it does mark the spot of a much older St. Batolph’s, Aldgate, which seems the closest historically to the belltower which gave Streamer his comeuppance, after all that cat cruelty.

Fear not, cat lovers, the moggies do of course get their own back…

Stay tuned for big TALES OF BRITAIN NEWS tomorrow!

BEDDGELERT: A Good Doggy

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Merry Pet-themed Folklore Thursday, dear Tales-backers! Exciting news due soon, but for now, let’s talk dogs.

Actually, after last week’s treatise on the real basis of legends, with KING LEIR, sadly this week we have to face up to a bit of relatively recent myth-making, when it comes to the tragic story of the Welsh Prince Llewelyn, and his trusty dog, Gelert.

This is a particularly sad admission for me to make, as when I was around 10 my family visited the Snowdonia area (all holidays were in Wales in those days) and we had our photograph taken right here, by Gelert’s grave… it may well be that standing at the site of such an inspiring folktale planted a seed or two right there and then… but there’s no denying the likelihood that this stone does NOT mark the burial place of the tear-jerkingly misunderstood hound, but the site where an 18th century landlord decided to drum up more trade by creating a shrine, attached to a dubiously historical rumour.

Presumably you’re familiar with the bare bones of the tale – the Prince leaves his beloved dog guarding his young son as he travels to England, but on his return the baby is missing, his cot overturned, and Gelert is badged with blood. Llewelyn reacts immediately, assuming his old pal has savaged his son, and runs him through with a sword – just as the baby’s cries make it clear what really happened. A wolf attacked the crib, and was fought and killed by the brave Gelert, who safely hid the baby away, and emerged covered in the wolf’s blood. I remember being heartbroken by the tale as a child, and its tragic power still works now – and hopefully will have many readers reaching for hankies in our own fresh retelling.

Just because Gelert’s grave is a mock-up, however, that’s no reason at all to deny any possible truth to the story itself, as a private tragedy in Llewelyn’s life. Some folklorists dismiss the tale because there are precedents, similar yarns of faithful pets being wrongly punished… but all I can say about that school of thought, is woebetide any historians 1,000 years hence who try to research the assassination of President Kennedy, because presumably the fact that another American President was assassinated in the 1800s will preclude any possibility of Kennedy being a real historical figure. Sometimes human behaviour repeats itself, and it seems odd that a completely false legend would attach itself to the life of Llewelyn and his dog. Even if his memorial is a commecial ploy.

Any animal lover will be well within their rights to shed a tear for the poor maligned pooch when they visit the area that seems to (but actually doesn’t) bear his name. A devotion to cats and dogs is undeniably a crucial part of the British psychological make-up, and it’s not surprising that a story like this would resonate for so many centuries. True or not, Gelert’s tale reminds us all to think before we act, and to trust those who have always been faithful to us.

You can trust us, too – these 77 tales, and the tourist guides to each setting, will be with you before 2018 is too old, and we have faith that you will love every last one of them. Keep spreading the word, we’re getting closer every Folklore Thursday!

BLOW, WINDS, AND CRACK YOUR CHEEKS!

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Here’s wishing a clement Folklore Thursdays to all our backers! 40% – let’s see how quickly we can get up to the mythical 42%, pledge or get someone to pledge TODAY!

For this terribly British weather-themed Folklore Thursday, we were tempted to visit the Ancholme Valley to become acquainted with The Tiddy Mun, the people’s saviours in times of drought… but when it comes to weather and British legends, there can be only one.

Leicester really isn’t the most obvious holiday destination in the UK. It’s rare that any TV game show gives competitors the chance of a luxury fortnight in any north midlands city. But when you couple the newly-built historial sepulchre of King Richard III with the mythical resting place of another Shakespearian anti-hero just around the corner, the place should surely be a mecca for any lover of British stories. And today we look at the weather-beaten jewel in our not-necessarily-historical collection of Kings: KING LEIR.

Strange admission from a cynical humanist first: I find it very hard to believe that Leir never existed. The belief that his story was extrapolated from that of some ancient pagan water god, Lir, is particularly fishy to me, as gods are of course all man-made concepts, and if anything, the inspiration for such ‘gods’ would quite probably have been real people of power. As gods do not exist, all the gods we know of, from Zeus to Yaweh, are more likely to be misunderstandings based on influential figures in far distant antiquity than entirely cooked-up fictional creations. The legend is that Queen Cordeilla laid Leir in a vault ‘under the River Soar’ (which was once known as ‘Leir’ itself), and a temple was built above it, being converted to worship of the god Janus by the Romans soon after they staged their UK takeover in the mid-first century. Somewhere in the region of the ruined Jewry Wall in the city centre, a large temple once stood, and somewhere under there, the wisdom has always run, lie the remains of a 9th century BC war lord, who had severe problems with his retirement plans.

And so it seems far more likely to me that Leicester takes its name from an early Celtic ruler, circa 800 BC, and that his life story to some extent corresponded to the story we know, than all this lame water god tot. We know nothing about the origins of ‘Lir’, so the god could as easily be based on a man, as the other way around. Stories were so often simply the way we humans, Britons or otherwise, remembered things – and still are – and more often than not, the thing being remembered, and endlessly embroidered over centuries, was a real event.

I apologise to any fellow historians whose lives may have been shortened by my logic there, but despite a complete lack of religious or supernatural belief, I do have a certain degree of blind faith in the real origins of the majority of the 77 stories in our collection. Besides, by demoting Leir to mythology alone, you’re also negating surely one of our most undervalued figures – his successor, Queen Cordeilla, a warrior Queen predating Boudicca by several centuries, and definitely a ‘mythical ruler of Britain’ who deserves to be celebrated more, both for her wisdom, and bravery (not to mention her tragic end – look it up…).

Talking of tragic ends, of course Warwickshire scribbler William Shakespeare’s dramatic revamp of the old King Leir play in 1605 is the real reason we all still remember him and his daughters, even though he clearly changed the ending one day while in a very bad mood, skewing the tale forever more, and offing Cordeilla many years too soon.

Full disclosure here – your author has long been obsessed with the play King Lear, positively knowing it by heart and despite the recent publication of Dunbar, a modern take on the legend, can’t help a far better way of building a new story on the myth from growing inside my head… one day, perhaps.

But for now, it’s the Tales of Britain retelling we’re concerned with, and although the play contains not a single word too many, cutting it down to size for our collection seemed quite a task. But the more you boil down the story, in some ways the better it gets – because what does the King learn in that wild and life-threatening storm which qualifies the tale for this week’s Weather theme, but how to be a human being? Our version retains the Fool, but otherwise returns the story back to its most ancient structure, and no matter how you tell it, King Leir is a story all about humanity, and charity. It’s about a King who has lost touch with what it means to be human, and learns the hard way that every person in his kingdom matters, not one jot less than an old man like him.

This wonderful and crucial moral becomes all the more stark when the tale is reduced down to its clearest form, as in our collection, but we’re glad to add that we haven’t simplified it into an anodyne fairy tale – no ‘once upon a time’ here – but have striven to echo the grim poetry of Shakespeare’s play, and bring it to life for a new generation. And of course, central to the story is still that refreshing rant in the driving rain, wind, hail, thunder and lightning somewhere on a blasted heath out Leicestershire way (some say the raving ruler took shelter in Black Annis‘ cave).

Take a Shakespearian jaunt to Leicester yourself, and see – or perhaps feel – whether you can picture the real Leir and Cordeilla standing on that land, nearly 2,800 years ago. Whether you agree or not, you can even find the play’s final tableau recreated at the Watermead Country Park… Hopefully it will keep nice for you.

ARE YOU LOCAL?

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Of all the Folklore Thursday themes to throw us, ‘Local Lore’ is the toughest – we have 77 tales, all chosen to be local to everyone on this island, with at least one never more than a Sunday afternoon’s drive away from any Brit. Should we head to the North-East to explore the silliness of The Hedley Kow? Or visit the Kingdom of Seals up on the north coast of Scotland? Or plumb the depths of the villainous King Tegid Foel in Snowdonia…?

We could find no relevant illustrations for these on his page, but prepare to be utterly beguiled by the heart-cwtching folklore artwork by Smallfilms legend Peter Firmin, over on his site here – and thanks to Folk Horror Revival on Twitter for pointing us towards it. Firmin’s illustrations come from the late Katherine Briggs’ Folio Society collection, Folk Tales of the British Isles – the ultimate multi-volume collection for hardened folklorists, festooned with the basic ur-versions of our nation’s lore, with all the original outdated morals and dusty stylings intact, making a fair few stories very problematic to share with 21st century audiences, without a great deal of contextualising and explanation.

As with Carolyne Larrington’s brilliant The Land of the Green Man, we’re so glad we never immersed ourselves in this collection before our own book was delivered to Unbound, so our 77 tales remain the result of totally independent research, we’re not just riffing on someone else’s work – only one of the illustrations on Firmin’s site is from a tale in our collection. But particularly given the involvement of an artist as adored as Firmin, we do dearly want to own the full collection one day. It’s just that we’d have to mortgage our own knees to afford that price. If only there was a more affordable collection of British folktales…

The storytelling wonder of Firmin and his Smallfilms partner, the eternally missed Oliver Postgate, are something we can only, and do, dream of aspiring to. Though Tales of Britain above all aims to bring to mind the anarchy of Rik Mayall’s Grim Tales, with big doses of Tony Robinson and Terry Jones thrown in, there are so many different kinds of stories, from the silly to the vicious to the pastoral and sweet… we’re confident that many of our stories would have worked perfectly in Postgate’s lulling, warming tones.

This is his take on a favourite of ours which we’ve shared widely in the past, and which will be kicking off our special LIVE YULE show next month – The Apple Tree Man. Not quite how we see the scene, but again – this is Peter Firmin, so he wins. We have yet to agree on any illustration battleplan with the book just yet, though I have a dream shortlist of artists I’d love to work with – the problem is, affording their talents. We could keep crowdfunding this book for another two years to afford the services of an artist to cover all 77 tales, but overwhelmingly, the feeling we get from our supporters is that THEY JUST WANT THIS BOOK ASAP! Quite rightly so, we do too. For years now, parents in particular have seemed positively angry with me that the book isn’t already available to own, and it’s time that was finally sorted out.

And so for a first edition at least (if we do well, who knows what further editions might be possible?), we will have to find a way of making the tales look pretty on the lowest budget imaginable, and it’s not fair to expect any talented illustrator to work for peanuts… It’s a quandary we’ll be trying to sort out in the coming months, for sure.

Two brilliant artists who deserve to be paid full whack have already supplied us with gorgeous and exciting imagery – Phillip McCullough-Downs and Perry Harris, who went out of their way to create these pics for us, and we’d like to include both in the finished book.

Perry is Bath’s own artist laureate, and Philip is a Bristol-based inky genius… so at least we’re keeping it local!

See The Little Goblins…

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Skeleton lore is today’s Folklore Thursday theme? Oh dear… we thought you said SHILLINGTON LORE! We don’t have any skeletons in our closet, but we do have a wonderful story about party animal goblins, which reminds us all of the importance of having a flipping good time.

But first! It’s a momentous week for Tales of Britain, as we have formally delivered the manuscript to Unbound. Of course, we haven’t quite got to 100% just yet, so the delivery won’t be put into production immediately, but hopefully there will be some exciting news soon of major progress, so do keep the faith, keep spreading the word, and if you haven’t yet – PRE-ORDER! We’re not trying to sell the promise of a potential book any more – if you order a copy now, you can be certain you will soon have the book itself, with all its tourist guides and rebooted stories, taking us throughout Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats!

Today’s tale keeps us safely in the genteel Englishness of the Home Counties, at Shillington, in Bedfordshire. As a holiday destination, Shillington seems very pretty indeed, but with not much else to offer, excitement-wise – though perhaps Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah fans might be interested to know that Viv Stanshall was evacuated here as a baby. Perhaps he was visited by goblins who gave him a life-long taste for the bizarre…

Even worse, the actual site of the story was long ago built over, and turned into suburbia. The tale of the Shillington Goblins takes place during the time of Cromwell and the Puritans, who tried to stamp out Christmas, and all manner of old-church festivities around the year – leaving it to the loony goblins of the village to keep the party going, until the return of the merry old monarchy (er, hooray?) a generation later. The site of the Goblins’ merry dances was said to be marked by a ring of fungus in a field below the church, All Saints’ – but the area was built on many years ago. Who knows though, perhaps the spot where one household puts out its recycling could be the very spot, and the goblins still dance there amid the empty milk bottles and cereal boxes, when nobody’s looking…?

The lovely thing about ‘Goblins’ is that they can pretty much be anything. Tales of Britain is of course packed with weird species of little people, from Brownies to Hobs to Faeries, but when it comes to ‘goblins’, all bets are off. The Shillington mob can and do look like anything, as long as it’s weird, silly and far from human.

The question is, how do we illustrate this lot, and any of the other 77 tales? To speed the book into your hands, Unbound will have to produce this first edition of Tales of Britain as cheaply as possible, and we have no set plans as yet, for illustration. Naturally, there will be no asking any artist to work for free, but perhaps an illustrator who really believes in this campaign might offer a fair fee, to help us make the most enjoyable road atlas possible. All of these questions will now surface, with the manuscript handed in, and we’ll keep you up to date with all developments as they develop.

For now, keep the pledges coming in, and why not lift a glass or otherwise cheer for us, marking the delivery of the first collection of newly retold British folklore to be published in generations? It’s what the Goblins would have wanted…

Tam O’Shanter’s Halloween Dash

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Happy Samhain, and Folklore Thursday, our dear diabolical TOB-pledgers!

First of all, thank badness for Folklore Thursday’s theme this week – we were never intending to offer anything but Halloween frights this week anyway! And we’d already started early with the ghostly lore with last week’s look at HERNE THE HUNTER!

But when it comes to witches – and even more specifically, Scottish witches* – we are spolt for choice among Tales of Britain’s 77 yarns. Macbeth goes without saying (literally, if you’re of a theatrical bent) and we could pause awhile to pay tribute to The Great Gormula of Tobermory fame… But for a dark night Halloween fright, you can’t do better than Rab Burns’ TAM O’SHANTER…

Pay a trip to Burns’ Ayrshire (especially the west-coastal district of Carrick, where you’ll find the tiny village of Kirkoswald, Tam’s home, the Ayr suburb of Alloway, where Burns was born, and somewhere in between, both the ruins of Alloway Kirk, and of course, the famous Brig o’Doon which linked Kirkoswald with Alloway…) and you will find yourself in perhaps the most witch-addled countryside on the island.

 

For kids especially, the tale of Tam O’Shanter’s mad dash to escape the witches of Alloway, as laid down by Burns in verse 227 years ago, is the perfect Halloween tale, because it’s SO DAMN SCARY! The famous drunkard is headed home (late as ever) to his poor spouse in Kirkoswald, when he stops off to voyeuristically pry into the evil ancient rites of a gaggle of hideous old naked crones, prancing around the crumbly gravestones of Alloway. And a badly timed heckle sends the terrified sot racing for his life on the back of his poor long-suffering horse Maggie, with flying, spell-casting evil witches hurtling after him in fast, flying pursuit, screaming the darkest oaths and horrific threats of eternal damnation.

The beauty is that this kind of basic terror, which taps right into the simplest infant nightmares, can be taken as far as you like, in the interests of causing eyes to widen around the campfire come ghost-storytelling time… Because, of course, as those cackling, horrifying servants of satan finally close in on our anti-hero… Just at the last minute…

… Well, that would be giving it all away, now, wouldn’t it? At least to those not up on their Burns.

Halloween is specifically mentioned in a number of our tales, from Tam Lane to the truly nasty Beware The Cat, but top of the list for blood-pumping horror, with a few laughs thrown in, has to be Tam O’Shanter. And come next Halloween, you will be able to share them all around the campfire, from our unique road atlas of exciting British stories…

Keep pledging, keep sharing – and keep scaring!

PS England obviously has its own share of witches, from Pendle Hill to Downing Street, and our friends’ show WITCHES OF WEST SUFFOLK seems like a Halloween treat you have to experience if you’re in the south-east…

*No wonder Rentaghost had McWitch on their books.

BLESSED NEWS!

Friday, 20 October 2017

Hello, your friendly neighbourhood storyteller Jem Roberts here – I try to hide myself away as much as I can, but when it comes to a certain mountaineering legend, it gets personal.

Before we all go off to our lovely weekends – on which you could explore the story-dwelling sites of Britain, had we reached 100% – I just wanted to shout excitedly about two wonderful people who have just joined our campaign! We have already told you the tales of Molly Whuppie and Bran the Blessed, what about Molly Shappi and Brian the Blessed?

First of all, thanks to a mixture of poverty and busy-ness – not least preparing for tomorrow’s half-term-heralding TALES OF BRITAIN LIVE at the Rondo Theatre – I just missed the opportunity to appear on a new TV show presented by our first new patron, the hilarious SHAPPI KHORSANDI! Born in Tehran, British to the tips of her follicles, Shappi’s life and career could not more perfectly compliment what we aim to do in TALES OF BRITAIN: remind the world that Britain was created by millennia of immigration, and that you can be British no matter where you were born.

Shappi has already written a book on this topic, A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English, and now she’s travelling the country finding comedy in British history. Director Tom Holland contacted me asking for pointers about my hometown of Ludlow, and asking me to be interviewed, whereupon I could mention TOB on national TV… but sadly getting up to Ludlow just wasn’t even dreamable at such short notice. I did, however, tell him all about the tale we’ve already excised, ROBIN’S ARROW, so hopefully that will make the cut, and Tales of Britain should ideally get a mention.

But whether it does or not, Shappi’s kind agreement to join our patrons and help spread the word about our revival of the British story treasury is boon enough, it means a lot to have her part of our campaign – a hero every bit as wonderful as our own MOLLY WHUPPIE!

 

But what can I say about our surprise second patron, that shouldn’t be shouted from the rooftops? The reason I’m writing this in the first-person this time, is to come clean about the comedy background of the author of these Tales – I have previously written the official I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue guide, THE CLUE BIBLETHE TRUE HISTORY OF THE BLACK ADDER, the official Douglas Adams biography THE FROOD, and coming from Unbound in the new year is my official Fry & Laurie celebration SOUPY TWISTS!

It was of course on my second book that I first had the honour of chatting with BRIAN BLESSED! I’m even attaching a tiny audio snippet of how encouraging he was to me, and how much belief he had in me and my numerous book ideas – including, of course, TALES OF BRITAIN. So to have the sainted Brian offer his support to our road atlas of 21st century stories is such an exciting, cheering note on which to end this slow-funded week!

And of course, our own retelling of BRAN THE BLESSED was already inescapably infused with Brian’s spirit, so what could be more fitting than to have him powerful spirit on our side? He even told me, ‘When I visit Herefordshire, people often refer to me as Bran the Blessed!’

 

Thank you, Brian. Thank you, Shappi. And thank you everyone who has pre-ordered a copy or got someone else to. May you all have deliriously happy weekends, and let the fight go on!

Oh, and we hope to see you at the Rondo Theatre tomorrow at 3pm!

GreenFire: Herne the Hunter & Windsor Castle

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Happy Folklore Thursday! Lots of love to the sainted 256, but we need to be at least another 100 strong before TALES OF BRITAIN goes into production at last! Keep the faith strong! This Saturday at 3pm we will be kicking off half-term at Bath’s Rondo Theatre with TALES OF BRITAIN LIVE, packed with dragons, pigs, pies, battles and bogles! brother Bernard and Sister Sal hope to see you there…

It’s a little early for Halloween, but this week’s ‘fire and ice’ theme set down by the @FolkloreThursday folk brought to mind the mysterious green fire which surrounds the ghostly figure of HERNE THE HUNTER, every time he manifests himself in Windsor Forest.

It seems odd now to reflect that when our take on Herne’s origin story was lovingly embroidered nearly exactly one year ago, it was in the hot sun of Georgia USA – a proper American Halloween – as we provided the only TOB updates off British soil. But having performed the tale around the campfire back in Blighty a few times since then, we’re very happy with the balance of menacing horror, silliness, and a very suitable dollop of humane ecological subtext, in the finished tale, set in the reign of Richard II. It spooks the kids, and contains real danger, but there’s always a more comforting story just around the corner to share before bedtime…

It was a very sensitive story to retell, with suicide playing a very central role in the plot, but there are very few horror stories without death playing a part somewhere along the line, so we haven’t watered it down.

As for the historical story of Herne, we see no reason why very real skulduggery among the King’s woodsmen out Windsor way 700-ish years ago shouldn’t have given rise to the figure of Herne – a legend picked up by Shakespeare a few generations later as part of his Merry Wives of Windsor festivities. But the gigantic ghostly antlered figure clearly has roots way beyond any historical record, appearing to foolish interlopers in the royal forests, bathed in greed flame, and… certainly giving them the fright of their lives. He’s in the same family tree as Robin Goodfellow, The Green Man and any number of fertility and tree-themed gods and mythical spirits…

You can visit Herne’s home at Windsor Great Park for free today – though certain areas cost a fortune! And sadly the great oak where Herne was said to emanate in his eerie green flames died and was cleared away many a century ago – though it’s said that George III planted an acorn in the same area, so it’s still worth having a look for its descendant! But leave the deer alone.

We have a fuller guide to Windsor Great Park in the book, along with 76 other exciting folktale sites to visit! But until we get to 100%, it’s all top secret… pledge today if you haven’t, convince someone else to pledge if you have!

Jersey: The Cream

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Happy Folklore Thursday, dear pledgers! 35% up the mountain, and no time to set up camp!

We’re rather spoiled for choice with today’s @FolkloreThursday theme of ‘Island lore’, as all 77 of our tales could be called Island lore! We have stories from Shetland, the Orkneys, a whole host of Hebridean islands, the Isles of Man and Wight, and the Channel Islands. But we’ve plumped for one of the furthest away tales of all, deep down in the sunny south, at Jersey.

It’s always fun to revisit the source material of tales we’ve retold, and to be reminded of what we used, what we adapted, what we felt was best left in the past, and so on. For THE GIFT HORSE, we were inspired by a folktale summary as basic as this one on the BBC, and used it as the starting point for a more involving narrative, with a great villain. We also added a grandfather for William, who is the one who suggests and collects the mistletoe which saves his life.

People often ask if we have personally visited all of the places where our 77 stories are based, and the answer is: if we were that rich, we’d shove £10k in the pot and publish Tales of Britain tomorrow. But the idea is that every tale must make you WANT to visit the place – yes, even if it’s just London or somewhere equally familiar. And we certainly want to stand on the beach at Bonne Nuit Bay, and try to find the jagged rock which was once a villainous shape-shifting water spirit who tried to drown William in water horse form – but was rendered harmless by the application of a sprig of festive decoration.

One day we will – just as we will get to 100% and have this road atlas of stories in your hands as soon as we can. But the book will only be in your hands if you keep spreading the word, and encouraging friends, family and folkies of your acquaintance to click on of the pre-order options on your right!

Robert Henryson: The Scatalogical Scribe

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Happy Folklore Thursday! Pre-orders are coming in spits and spots, but it’s possible that a way to smooth our way forward may be found – watch this space for updates, but all those of you who share our passion for getting this roadmap of tales into shops, and into your hands, will have your kindnesses rewarded! In the meantime, any scheme that occurs to anyone out there to spread the word and get more folk to join our merrie band of 246, would be very welcome indeed!

Given today’s arboreal theme, we’ve already shared THE APPLE TREE MAN, and the remaining tale out of 77 with ‘Tree’ in the title is one we were thinking of keeping secret until release… but THE WHIKEY TREE is a crucial, and very weird, entry in our Contents list, and raises the issue of Parental Guidance warnings for some of these tales.

We want the book to appeal to the widest audience possible, without any age being ruthlessly targeted, and it’s a fine line between cruelly bowdlerising tales which can be bawdy, gory or otherwise naughty, and finding the best way to keep all of that juicy stuff intact. So we have The Miller telling his tale on the road to Canterbury, we have Vikings tearing the heads off their enemies and decorating their saddles with them, we have Janet debating whether to keep Tam Lin’s child… and we have the story of the great Robert Henryson’s last laugh on this planet.

The trailer above, for Seamus Heaney’s adaptations of Henryson’s adaptations of Aesop’s fables, brought to life by Billy Connolly, is how we first became aware of the Scottish storyteller’s existence, as I’m sure it was for many folk. That ‘The Whikey Tree’ celebrates a largely forgotten storyteller is one of the key reasons for including it in Tales of Britain, and none of Henryson’s own stories (which tended to be fables, bar one stab at Troilus & Cressida). However, this yarn is a little more NSFW than any of the above.

 

Dunfermline Abbey, the neighbourhood where the scatalogical events of ‘The Whikey Tree’ took place.

‘The Whikey Tree’ purports to relate Henryson’s final moments, as he lay dying of flux – dysentery – in the winter of 1500, at Dunfermline. Having received no benefits from taking every kind of medicine then available, and expecting the end, Henryson was annoyed to be visited by a crazy fan of his tales, a self-appointed wise woman, the medieval equivalent of a homeopathic alternative therapist, who told him that if he walked round the old tree at the end of his garden shouting ‘Whikey Tree, Whikey Tree, take this flux away from me!’ he would be cured. As he could barely lift his head at that point, his rejoinder to the unwelcome visitor was that doing something so stupid would be as useful as if he climbed onto his bedside table and shouted ‘Oaken board, oaken board…’ well, maybe you can make it out in the picture below.

‘Turd’ seems pretty straightforward, but the verb is still up for discussion – though it will certainly not be the Americanism ‘poop’. Harry Potter, of course, throws in ‘bugger’ without any eyelid-batting, and there’s a grand history of family literature embracing the scatalogical and the crude, and nowhere should that be more celebrated than in this collection of our national lore. These tales are made to be shared, above all, and so as with any other medium, we’re working on a clear indication if any tale contains material in the PG-13 area, and judgement can then be made on the best context for sharing any tale.

So, Sunday teatime is perhaps not the ideal arena for reciting Robert Henryson’s last words, it could put you right off your Dundee cake. But we’re chuffed to feel we’re keeping this great storyteller’s last laugh alive, in the 21st century.

The Land of the Green Man

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

It’s unusual both to blog on any day but Folklore Thursday, and to write about any book other than our own roadmap of British tales, but having just come to the end of Professor Carolyne Larrington’s The Land of the Green Man, it’s hard to resist offering a recommendation to all our pledgers. When Tales of Britain launched back in late summer, the passionate cries of there being nothing out there like it were sincere – and they still are! We’ve always made full exception for the Folio Society British Folklore collection, and the myriad regional collections, but when it comes to bringing together all the lore of the British island, there’s still a shocking paucity of decent books out there.

Professor Larrington’s stream-of-consciousness journey around the island is a wonderful addition to the extremely slight range of British folklore books, and although if you haven’t yet pre-ordered Tales of Britain (just click on the right there – you know you NEED to!) we’d obviously prefer you did that first of all, lovers of folklore who have already pledged for TOB should look for a copy of this book as a really evocative compliment. We’re glad we never picked up this paperback until we’d completed all 77 of our own tales, we may well have been unduly influenced by the good Professor’s journey rather than using our own judgement, whereas, as it is, we feel vindicated with many of our choices by seeing them reflected in a great work like this – lots of crossover, showing we’re more than on the right track.

But of course, the two books could not be more different, which is why they’re so complimentary, and we’re very pleased to have Professor Larrington as one of our backers. Her excellent book is an intellectual adult travelogue from a professional academic folklorist, wheres Tales of Britain is a storybook. TLOTGM discusses the nature of British mythology, in a mystical journey, whereas we have many aims with our 77 tales, but ultimately, entertainment is the most important. We do also show that immigrants have built this country over millennia, that British lore contains incredible female-gendered heroes as well as male ones, and of course, we offer tourist guides to all the locations on our map, making this something of a multi-tasking collection. But amid the many academic folklore dictionaries and suchlike, what we’re offering is a pick-up-and-share collection of tales perfected for a new generation, designed to appeal to as broad an audience as possible, and as such, Tales of Britain remains not just unique, but desperately needed in bookshops in Britain and all over the world. We’re all about celebrating our stories on an international scale, enjoying them in a visceral way, laughing, crying, having fun. And we’re very glad that those adults who subsequently wish to dig further into the stories behind the stories have something as fascinating as The Land of the Green Man to turn to. It’s a proud addition to our bookshelves!

Now, the next person to pledge for Tales of Britain will receive a UNIQUE gift if they message us via Twitter or Facebook! Come and join our wonderful patrons in standing up for British tales…

The Wizards Of Radio

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

A magickal – with a K – Folklore Thursday to all our lovely pledgers! We’re now into the middle third of crowdfunding, and we hope that one or two big announcements in the offing will give us a leg-up to the next level, but until then, please do keep spreading the word, and if you haven’t yet pre-ordered a copy of this all-new roadmap of British stories, choose an option from the list on the right!

Ordinarily in these weekly epistles we include an audio recording from BBC Radio Bristol of Brother Bernard performing a tale, but there’s so much great folkloric entertainment currently on the BBC Radio iPlayer, we thought we’d mention those instead.

First of all, there’s the star-studded retelling of the Arthurian cycle in ARTHUR: THE SWORD OF THE KING with Ben Whishaw as Arthur and Ian McDiarmid as Merlin. It plays very fast and rather loose with the lore, but should not be missed by any lover of British myths!

However, our second recommendation brings us to this week’s tale – the classic 1989 adaptation of Alan Garner’s WEIRD STONE OF BRISINGAMEN is getting a very well-deserved repeat on 4xtra, and one of the very first tales we retold, all those years ago, was Garner’s inspiration, THE WIZARD OF ALDERLEY EDGE!

Here’s the wizard himself, carved into the rock in the exact spot where it all happened all those eons ago! It’s well worth travelling to this land of billionaire footballers to have a voyage of discovery around Alderley Edge, and try to find the crack in the stones that led to the magician’s underground cave, where an ancient army await their call to return to the Land Of Men And Women, and start murdering things!

The reason this was one of our earliest tales is because a friend who lives in Cheshire was expecting their first little one, and so of course we promised to create a book specially for them, with their local legend retold, and illustrations!

The video above is a wee record of the book we created for young Theo Fury, but don’t worry – the actual Tales of Britain illustrations will be endlessly more professional, this version was for a private christening present only! Thankfully it seems friends and family have now run out of procreation steam for a good while, as we’re so busy trying to get Tales of Britain funded we don’t think we’d have time to make another one of these any time soon…

Alan Garner of course built a very different tale on the foundations of The Wizard of Alderley Edge, but as one of the true golden names in British folklore-inspired literature, every tale we tell feels in some way inspired by Garner’s goose-pimple-creating works, and you should tune in to the radio version while it’s still up online.

But not before you pledge – or get a friend to pledge – for our 77 retold tales!

It Is Time For Your Appointment… with The Apple Tree Man.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

HAPPY HARVEST FOLKLORE THURSDAY, LOVELY TOB-BACKERS!

Before we dive into this week’s themed tale, we’re positively fizzy with excitement not only to be 1/3 funded, but also to announce that the tickets for the next TALES OF BRITAIN LIVE at the Rondo Theatre, Bath, are now available to buy HERE. Brother Bernard (comedian and Blackadder chronicler Jem Roberts) and Sister Sal (actor Kate Harbour, Bob the Builder, Shaun the Sheep) will be performing four tales from Wales, Scotland and England in this beautiful theatre at the foot of Solsbury Hill, with free sweeties for audiences, and all ages catered for! (Though under-5s may need cosy laps.) It’s right at the start of Half-Term, what could be more perfect? Hope to see you there!

We won’t be performing this tale on that occasion, but if the show goes well, The Rondo will invite us back for a Christmas special in December – in which case, THE APPLE TREE MAN will be a must! In fact, we were planning to save this tale – along with the short recording from BBC Bristol, you can listen to above – for the festive period, as a special pressie for you all. But as Folklore Thursday has announced a Havrest theme for today, this had to be the choice.

The Apple Tree Man is such a fun yarn and with such a distinct rural magic, we’ll never get bored of performing it, and hope that when the book is finally in your hands, you’ll enjoy reading it aloud too – the only problem for our roadmap of tales, was where to place it! There’s no one county with dibs on The Apple Tree Man, and we were particularly split between the counties of Kent (The Garden Of England) and Somerset, while Dorset and Herefordshire also can lay claims to being cider central, as well. In short, we’ve recommended orchards you can visit and see cider being made, and sampled, but given Somerset the default spot on the story map.

We’re trying to limit the number of tales we give away for free, but having offered this text as a Winter Solstice gift for you all last year, we may as well keep it in circulation, so here’s the longer version to enjoy for yourself, besides the mp3 above: THE APPLE TREE MAN.

And we’ll have to think of a different story to give you all this Christmas!

In return, all we would ask, is that you order our book if you haven’t already – by clicking on any of the pledge options to the right! And if you already have, please get someone else to do this. If everyone who’s looking forward to this book could convince one other person to do this, never mind being 1/3 funded, we would be 2/3 on the way to publication!

Keep spreading the word, and of course – should you be of age and have no alcohol problems – DRINK UP THY ZIDER!

© Andrew Paciorek – an oddly creepy looking Apple Tree Man!

©Sandy Nightingale – Now that’s more like it! Order a copy HERE.

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