TALES OF BRITAIN: Summer 2018

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With 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.

Pennard Castle: A Verry Fine Feast

Thursday, 2nd August 2018

A fine, feast-filled Folklore Thursday to all!

We love a feasting theme – so many of our tales involve food, it gives us almost carte blanche. Knucker Pie? The Apple Tree Man? The Shillington Goblins all partying away? No, this week we make a return to Wales, and a look at the wild feasting party which led to the Gower fortification of Pennard Castle being buried under a mountain of sand!

So many Welsh tales seem to be about great big parties getting disrupted by tragedy – usually it’s a sunken city that becomes drowned while everyone has a good time, but in this case, it’s sand: the revenge of a gang of faerie funmakers turned away by a bunch of bigoted humans.


But first, a slight confession – this anthology hasn’t been quite put together with the most sensible level of organisation required. Which is to say, over 14 years of collecting and updating these tales, 77 of them in the book we’re all waiting for, another 4 already written for a follow-up, and a waiting list of at least a dozen more… it’s hard to keep track of quite where we first heard of each individual tale. Sometimes it can be so frustrating, trying to find a unique story to attach to a region, with a beginning, a middle and an end that isn’t just another version of Cinderella or something with big black ghost dogs, that when one swims into our ken, we pounce on it, and sometimes lose track of its origin.

So, for instance, if you were to search for “pennard verries mowbray” you will get nowt. Take out the ‘verries’ (a specific spelling of ‘fairies’, of course) and you get the rather dull historical information that ownership of the castle briefly passed to some guy called John de Mowbray, then to someone else, and eventually it was abandoned because of encroaching sand, ratherthan a magical tidal wave of the stuff. Boo.

But here is one retelling of the story we have chosen to represent this blob of south wales, except in our retelling, the plot about a great feast in the castle being disrupted by verry weird and groovy supernatural gatecrashers, who force everyone to flee the castle forever with a sandstorm on being turned away, becomes a tale about toxic masculinity versus peace-loving fun-makers. Mowbray and his army are pigs, obsessed with nothing but war and measuring their tiny manhoods, while the verries are just good-time faeries wanting to join in the fun.

The fairies’ complaint at being turned away has a wonderful wing of the infamous 1970 Isle of Wight Festival rant from Rikki Farr, sampled by Oasis on their track ‘Being Naughty In The Bushes’ (sic) – “WE PUT THIS FESTIVAL ON, YOU BASTARDS!!! WITH A LOT OF LOVE! WE WORKED FOR ONE YEAR FOR PIGS! AND YOU WANT TO BREAK OUR WALLS DOWN! AND YOU WANT TO DESTROY IT!! WELL YOU GO TO HELL!!!”

This sentiment is also just a tiny bit like lavishing years of hard work on a folklore collection and then not being sure whether it’s going to be published with anything but the most basic text-only treatment, but we’re going to keep you informed of the book’s devlopment over the next few months, as it inches nearer to release. In the meantime…

… If you’d like to hear some of these stories, as retold for the 21st century, then do come to St James’ Wine Vaults in Bath for 3pm on Saturday 11th August, as we’re kicking off the Bath Folk Festival with a special hour-long show, where you will get to choose any story you want from the map! And we’ll be doing it all over again at the Edinburgh Fringe on Thursday 23rd August at 1pm, Upstairs at the Waverley Bar! This will be the first ever Scottish Tales of Britain show, so please come along and support us if you’re north of the border!

Welsh show details are to follow – we’ll just have to be sure not to make it such a rollicking fun show that we end up dumped under tons of sand or gallons of water. You can never be too careful, having fun in Wales…

British Folklore: The Stories So Far…

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Happy Folklore Thursday, pledgers! As today’s theme is folklore from around the world, we’re taking the very rare chance to not feature any specific story – they are all British, after all – and give an update on where we stand.

You know why this campaign has been fought for so long, and why we will continue far beyond this book’s release. There are endless books of random lore, myriad non-fiction investigations into British mythology, and copious releases covering individual counties, and the UK’s constituent parts – there are even themed lore books on plants, and Nuada knows what! But as for an anthology of British folktales, individually retold for a new generation – nothing along these lines has been seen since 1987, and never really attempted in this way, with tourist guides to each location. The passion that drives us was explained pretty well in this Folklore Thursday feature, and on www.TalesofBritain.com.

Launching pledges at Glastonbury in June 2017, and delivering the manuscript on Halloween, we were informed at one point that this book should be released in spring 2018 – the unlikelihood of this was tangible at the time, but we went along with it, knowing that my other Unbound book, the official Fry & Laurie biography Soupy Twists, was a definite for the end of summer, delayed by a whole year. Despite a crowdfunding campaign which caused such stress it was a serious health hazard (seriously, everyone who got a DM of any kind, it was one of the most painful times ever, so thank you to the tiny minority who then pledged for the book), and despite the patronage of our wonderful supporters including Cerys Matthews, Sir Tony Robinson, Francis Pryor, Neils Innes and Gaiman, Brian Blessed and many more of the wonderful people below… by the end of the year, after five months, we were still way off the target, and so Unbound moved our book to the cheaper Digital option, as detailed HERE.

The lack of a release date has been tricky, as the release of Tales of Britain needed, and still needs, storytelling events all over the UK to accompany its release, and so far this year I’ve performed tales in Bath, Bodmin and Ludlow.

Incidentally – ADVERTISING BREAK! Come to see us kick off the Bath Folk Festival for a special folktale request show on Saturday 11 August at 3pm! Or come up to Edinburgh to see our first ever Scottish show at the Waverley Bar on Thursday 23 August at 1pm! Shows in Cardiff, London (and anywhere you like, if you want to invite us!) will follow before Yule. Just try us.

Of course, nothing like a Spring release has happened, and right now, the first styled-up manuscript is currently back with us for checking. We’re sorry to say it is currently only the most basic text. The 77 tales are intact, and we’re really proud of them, every word shines and we know you’ll love them, both read alone and shared aloud. But when we agreed to the reduced Digital release, we were aware this meant the book would not be stocked in WH Smiths or Waterstones, and would only come out in paperback (which we preferred) and ebook… what we weren’t told was that there would also be minimal visual element, and we have worked so hard to provide useable art, saving budget by doing it all ourselves. But as you can see from this Art blog, we had great hopes for illustrations and visual elements aplenty.

As we’re presuming most of this work won’t see the light of day any time soon, we’l share a little with you. PLEASE note, this is not offered as ‘finished art’, the hope was that these rough designs would be reworked by more talented book designers, but it seems our budget does not stretch that far. There’s a tiny chance we might be able to change the publisher’s mind on this, though, with enough support…

Author’s rough page designs, of desired layout…

So this is the battle we face right now, after 14 years of dreaming of this book – and also partly why we have striven to keep asking those of you who haven’t pre-ordered to do so, as the bigger a group of pledgers we have, the stronger our position is when trying to fight for a more opulent release for this first edition. Tales of Britain is a campaign which has only just started, and will continue far beyond this first release – further volumes, audiobook releases, live shows, tales from further afield, you name it, we’re here to stay as a permanent line in 21st century folklore. So this is only the beginning. But right now, we’re doing all we can to make it an auspicious beginning, and to make for you the book we all want so badly.

So we hope you’re sitting comfortably.

MACBETH: A Deed Without A Name…

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Hail to thee, O Tales pledgers… a foul and fair ritulatistic Folklore Thursday!

You may have received emails this week saying our book has now reached the next stage of production. The strictures of the digital deal we had to make when we moved from Unbound’s inflated original target mean having to make so many huge concessions with design – but the main thing is, the WORDS! 77 retold folktales, made for THIS century, for THIS generation! There’s truly nothing else like this, and all our supporters should know, plans are afoot for special editions and further volumes, so our campaign is only just getting going! This is STEP ONE!

The need to theme our blogs to each Folklore Thursday’s topic of the week means we’ve been most remiss, by only featuring English tales for some weeks, but the theme of RITUAL gives us a perfect opportunity to feature one of the greatest Scottish legends this week. Few tales feature freakish folklorish rites and rituals as centrally as that of MACBETH & THE WITCHES!

Admittedly, the rituals we think of with Macbeth are all the creation of an actor from the West Midlands, but Shakespeare did not invent the Weird Sisters. In fact, the earliest references to them call the trio ‘faeries’, which was tempting to use for our folklore collection, but there’s such a strong connection between Scotland and witchcraft, we went for the traditional approach:

Double, double, toil and trouble,
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and caldron bubble.
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and howlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble. 

In even more fact, our first draft retelling of the King’s rise and fall had a kind of remix of this twisted ritual, a deliberate attempt to not just quote from the play (nothing to do with theatrical superstition), but one of the many copy editors presumed we’d GOT IT WRONG and corrected it back to Shakespeare’s version. So we settled for that. Maybe Bill did know what he was doing.

The rituals of Macbeth are personal favourite elements of the play – ‘A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap, and munched and munched and munched…’ – the play is like one long perfect poem, and every cut made my companies is a pair of daggers to the heart. The recent National Theatre post-apocalyptic production was such a sixth-form disappointment, fingers crossed selling a kidney to see Christopher Eccleston at the RSC next month wasn’t a waste of offal…

Where the bizarre rituals of these Hecate-worshippers came from – the playwright’s imagination, King James’ own witchcraft researches, or a rag-tag of half-truths and twisted reportage – we will never know. But there’s no doubt when it comes to the historicity of 11th century warrior MacBheatha mac Fhionnlaigh, ‘The Red King’ of Alba, of course. And the tradition that his (actually very successful and long) rule was inspired by magic and preternatural portents was already kicking around even before the Bard’s favourite source, Holinshed, starting putting together his lore-packed history book.

It’s even said that the very blasted heath where Macbeth & Banquo was met by the fateful threesome can be visited today, in the ground of Brodie Castle near Forres – a mound known as ‘Macbeth’s Hillock’ is the spot, and there’s even a whole site of places to visit HERE.

Although the great Dunsinane Hill where Shakespeare’s tyrant met his last does exist, and the real King was said to have lost a crucial battle there, he was actually killed in battle in Lumphanan, a village 25 miles outside Aberdeen. Our retelling of the legend hopefully has a heady mix of history, legend and Shakespeare, and as with our version of King Leir, fits in well with the other 76.

We’re proud that these 77 stories constitute the first British folktale (not ‘lore’) anthology to be published in over 30 years – and you have just a week or so to get your name in the first edition, by pre-ordering on the right!

Peace – the charm’s wound up!

Macbeth’s Hillock, Forres

BEGIN THE BUGGANE!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Happy and indeed proud Folklore Thursday to one and all this week of #Pride – and good one to the FT gang for recognising it in this week’s theme!

You may have picked up by now that – besides having a laugh and promoting tourism to each story’s location – a crucial part of our Tales of Britain campaign is the long overdue de-toxifying of our national folklore, examining what makes our best stories tick, going back to each tale’s roots, and scraping off the centuries of religious bigotry, racism and misogyny and so on. In spirit, of course this also extends to promoting tales which are inclusive of different sexualities and non-binary genders as well.

We were very excited by the folktale of a particular saint who was able to change gender – but saint stories were something we were keen to downplay, and then we realised that legend was Irish anyway, so inapplicable (However, we were told the tale by someone we’ve lost contact with and have failed to identify it, who was this gender-defying Irish saint? If you know, please tell us! bernard@talesofbritain.com).

Our keenness to reflect diveristy as much as possible in our 77 stories doesn’t mean that any LGBTQ+ elements have been blatantly imposed on existing legends (although there may be plenty fo folk out there who think they should have been), because that would be frankly obnoxious, adding new layers of distortion to our national story treasury, and would also incite exactly the kind of ‘political correctness gone mad!’ hysteria barfed out by bigots in our society, to whom none of us want to give the slightest ammo.

But then, there is The Buggane of St. Trinians.

Nothing whatever to do with the vintage schoolgirl comedy franchise, St. Trinians is a ruined church on the mystical Manx isle which is plopped in the cold sea, surrounded by Ireland, Scotland, Wales and North-West England. Like around 85% of all British churches built before the Renaissance, it was said that building the church at the foot of Mount Greeba was made near-impossible by the pestering of Forces of Evil! Where this old chestnut usually involves Satan carrying away the foundation stone or similar, they do things differently on the Isle of Man – and this church was beseiged by THE BUGGANE.

In monster terms, The Buggane really is an absolute mess. A search shows some cryptozoologists trying to sum the creature up as ‘a kind of giant mole’, but it seems more like a kind of Frankenstein creation – several storeys high, covered in thick yak-like hair, and so festooned with claws, horns and tusks that it can only lope along awkwardly. But it can also speak, and kill slow humans very effectively – and it was said that St. Trinians had to be rebuilt three times due to his vandalism. The second each last slate went on the roof, along he would come, tear it off, scoff a few choir singers, and return to his cave.

But then, as the poor git’s cave had been there for countless centuries, until along came all these little pink people RINGING BELLS EVERY SUNDAY MORNING right outside his nice cave, you can hardly blame the poor man-eating mess of a monster.

Anyway, we don’t wish to spoil the tale as per usual, but the Buggane met his match when he clashed with a simple young tailor from the parish of Marown called Timothy. Timothy was wagered by the locals that he could not vanquish the mighty brute, but he swore to do not only that, but sew together a pair of trousers as he did so! With the help of his self-designed trousers, which allowed him to outrun anything, let alone the hulking great Buggane, he finally saved St. Trinians from vandalism for the final time, and made himself a bit of money into the bargain. There are many different tellings of this tale, even one from the famed and rather wet poet Gerard Manley-Hopkins – and the nearby pub is still proud of Timothy’s needlework according to this version – but one retelling of the legend we found suggested that Timothy wanted the money to be able to marry his true love, who remains off-stage throughout the story.

So we tell the tale of a young tailor alienated by his community, and in love with an unseen partner – and leave it at that. There’s no need to make the gender of Timothy’s partner explicit, if you think he’s marrying a pretty hetero lass, then historically that seems fair enough. If you wish to see this story as a triumph of same-sex love, that works every bit as well. It’s not at all the point of the story, the fresh take just gives it an extra layer of relevancy, of interest, of humanity. And once again, shows that heroes are not all bull-necked heteronormative galoots.

We repeat, the gender of this unseen partner of our hero is unmentioned, and left entirely up to the reader’s imagination. And if any Manx homophobes out there are outraged, crying ‘Why is our only tale the one with potential LGBTQ+ relevance?’ then you can be reassured, it is all in your own mind. Although we have to admit, the fact that the Isle of Man only legalised homosexuality in 1992 and same-sex marriage a couple of years ago, does add a layer of irony which honestly only struck us during the writing of this blog.

Tales of Britain is for everyone, and we wish a very happy Pride week to story-lovers of all genders and sexualities. Though particularly those who have already pre-ordered the book! If that’s not you, put on your go-faster trousers now and get busy!

Milky Milky: Mitchell’s Fold & Shropshire’s Blue Remembered Hills

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Thank you to everyone who came along to the Ludlow Fringe Tales of Britain show on Saturday! By the end of local tale The Stokesay Key, Welsh tale Vengeance Will Come and very silly Scottish yarn The Brown Bear of the Green Glen – plus bonus request Jack O’Kent & The Devil – the hat contained enough money to more than cover the horrendous train fare up from Bath, so nil desperandum!

The past long weekend in the Land of My Fathers – south Shropshire – also brought suitable inspiration for this week’s Folklore Thursday theme of FARMING. Surprisingly few tales sprung to mind for the theme, considering the links between farming and folklore – plenty of lore, but precious few decent stories! The protagonist of The Wizard of Alderley Edge is only known as ‘Farmer’, but we’ve already done that one.

The thing about being a local is you rarely get to act like a tourist, and so this was my first ever visit to the very pleasant Shropshire Hills Discovery Centre, which left me a proud Salopian and as the video above shows, it contained lots of fascinating stuff about life here in the pre-Roman period. Being descended from countless generation after generation of Shropshire farmworkers (less so farmers, there’s not a lot of land ownership in the family tree), from such a very rural area, you think farm folklore would be at my fingertips, but I learned a lot.

Not least as the museum also had a very short version of a local legend all about dairy farming – MITCHELL’S FOLD – which I blush to admit, was deliberately left out of Tales of Britain many years ago. This was for a few reasons: I was worried that a glut of stories in my native area would be rightly criticised by those who live in a less tale-festooned region, and also the elements of the tale were familiar elsewhere – WADE & BELL had the giant cow, and LONG MEG the ‘difficult woman’ turned to part of a stone circle.

This has been one of the many challenges with creating the first British folktale collection in generations: avoiding repetition. Just this weekend, someone began relating a folktale unfamiliar to me, and it soon turned out to be largely an old yarn we have down as a Cheshire legend, with a bit of a story from Dyfed thrown in for good measure. Finding and settling on disctinct narratives has called for some harsh decisions here and there. But then, if we do well enough to get a second volume, there’s still oceans of lore out there to be revisited…

And, come to think of it, of course Mitchell’s Fold will be one of them, it deserves to be – but it took the pithy summary at the Discovery Centre to show me I was wrong.

In short, the stone circle itself was the original home of the Dun Cow – a familiar British myth trope often centred on Worcester. The giant dairy farmer allowed villagers for miles around to milk their fill from the gigantic udders, but a bucketful each. But then one day, a nasty old witch came along and milked the poor cow into a sieve until her udders ran dry, whereupon the distressed titanic heifer pelted for Worcester, dooming all around to famine and breaking the giant’s enclosure. So the obviously rather magic giant turned the witch into a stone post for his now empty cow pen in retaliation.

What historical events – famine and the building of sites of worship – this tale encodes, none of us can guess, sans Tardis. But there’s enough there for a very tasty tale, and so we’re getting to work on it right away.

But if it’s ever to be published, this first volume has to be a hit, so please do tell your friends to pop along here and pre-order a copy when you can!

Thank you, and may your udders never be milked dry.

You Don’t Know Jack…

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

This blog marks a FULL YEAR of providing you with weekly blogs for Folklore Thursday! And as Unbound has not yet provided us with a release date for this book we’re all anticipating so warmly, we must prepare ourselves for at least another few dozen, even though most blogs are centred on one tale, and we have 77 in total. When time allows, we’ll start trying to migrate all this hard work to a special Blog section on www.talesofbritain.com, as we presume once the book is in shops, this little corner of the Unbound website will be deleted.

Now, to turn to this week’s Folklore Thursday theme… Heroes, you say? (We don’t hold truck with ‘heroines’ – as if the gender of a character requires a different word.) Why, we have them by the bucketload. It’s not that many weeks since we confided our determination to celebrate the greatest female protagonists in British folklore, with our ‘Tales of Britain Princesses‘ update…

… In which we also discussed our happiness to present some of the less detailed heroic figures in British storytelling as brave women rather than men, to try and get closer to equality. But we also had to admit that our story still boasts some of the greatest inescapably male heroes in world literature – King Arthur, Merlin, Robin Hood, Dick Whittington, Macbeth, Leir…

… And then, of course, there’s Jack. Now, while we consider a figure like Dick, who was a real historical figure, should be presented as male/white for historical accuracy, and even a vastly questionable legendary figure like Arthur is somewhat dependent on his maleness and status as Romano-British, from a historical perspective… we realise that a hero like Jack could be any gender, colour, etc. Okay, so he’s clearly supposed to smell like an ‘Englishman’, but who says giant’s noses aren’t racist or misogynist?

Anyway, we have placed Jack’s first ever titan-slaying mission – up the infamous beanstalk – in the east of the British island, this place some call ‘England’, and post-Arthur, when the villainous Saxons have firmly set up home in south-east Britain, and those born here, like Jack, never even question their ‘Britishness’. So on our historical timeline, Jack was busy killing giants around the 6th-7th centuries AD, based somewhere in the South Downs, near the Long Man of Wilmington…

‘Jack & The Beanstalk’ turned out to be by far the longest tale in our entire collection, over twice the average story length – because when you re-examine the world-famous yarn, there’s so much to fit in! Just the cow-selling, bean-grabbing narrative covers as much ground as most entire folktales do, before our hero has even climbed the magic vegetable plant.

But then there is, of course, the sequel, centred on St. Michael’s Mount at the tip of Kernow, where the seasoned ogre-murderer Jack takes on his supposed greatest challenge, against the giant Cormoran. Now, we’re well aware of the potential controversy of making this the same Jack, not least as Cornwall proudly boasts of the latter pest-control expert as their own, a Cornishman, not an Englishman, for which we can only apologise, but this way does make more sense of Jack as a figure of British mythology – a young boy who triumphs against a giant in the sky, and then is compelled to repeat his feats throughout a long career, until there are almost no giants left (except perhaps that poor lovely hippy giant up in Lewis).

The Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex provides the chalk outline to mark the spot of Jack’s first kill, and so our version of his sequel takes in a number of famous British giant battles as Jack makes his way down to St. Michael’s Mount, from the cheeky fellow at Cerne Abbas in Dorset, to Plymouth Ho (the site of Corineus’ triumph against Gogmagog, or if you prefer, Gog AND Magog), until the final showdown. Perfect for our collection, St. Michael’s Mount even boasts the grave of Cormoran, you can visit as part of a truly magical stay down in the South West…

In a way, this sequel tale – telling the story of a grizelled older Jack, rather than the boy who stars in some versions – makes Jack’s legend all about the very nature of BEING a hero, and particularly about brains coming before brawn – Jack is a trickster, a wily foe for his gigantic enemies, but not a swaggering assassin priding himself on giant genocide. Like everything else in Tales of Britain, we present more the kind of hero we need in the 21st century, not a toxic macho goon.

To support us in our cause to celebrate British folklore for the 21st century, please do pre-order a copy now, or get a friend to do so if you already have. Then you will officially be OUR hero!

Tiddy Mun, The Weather’s Thruff!

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks – or indeed, enjoy the lovely sunshine this solstice, ye folktale-pledgers!

This here is the Ancholme valley in eastern England – or at least, a particularly pretty bit of it, the result of centuries of drying out the biggy land and finding ways to live and capitalise on every square foot, despite the area’s natural sogginess. There’s a very particular piece of folklore in this bit of the country which concerns this sogginess – drought, and rain. But the problem for us was, The Tiddy Mun legend didn’t quite amount to a ‘folkTALE’…

This was particularly irksome, because this area of Britain – Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, the fens generally, was a very stubborn bit of the map to pop a pin into, when it comes to original folktales with a beginning, a middle and an end. This was particularly annoying, as Cambridge’s Museum of Folklore was not far away, and we wanted to mention it for an afternoon’s exploration – the area is famed for its storytelling, with medals being struck for the person who told ‘the most improbable tale’ (a fascinating challenge coming from the city where Douglas Adams was born).

Having written official biographies of Adams and Fry & Laurie, this area of east England is one I’ve had great pleasure in exploring, but just couldn’t find a fenland STORY to retell which wasn’t a mash-up of at least half a dozen stories we already had! Our 77 folktales are all distinct – yes, even the several which are about dragon slayings – and that means sifting through hundreds of repeated or unoriginal narratives, to settle on one worth telling anew.

Now, some Anglo-Saxons reading this may be yelling “WHAT ABOUT THIS STORY?” to which the reply would be, don’t yell at the screen, it looks weird, and you should instead email or tweet us with details, and hopefully a further volume will allow us to rectify the absence of the folktale in question. But for now…

Taken from the Hypnogoria blog.

‘The Tiddy Mun’ – nothing to do with Ken Dodd – is an interesting addition to our 77, as there really isn’t much of a story to tell you – in fact, it brings up the very tricky subject of folkLORE versus folkTALES. One of the reasons this book, and blog, and campaign exists at all, is because there are so many collections of LORE, but really no book which gave you an anthology of well-told TALES to enjoy, and share. While learning that virgins in Wolverhampton are told to put bacon rind in their shoe on Maundy Thursday to find out who their second husband would be is of course FASCINATING, it’s entertaining yarns that we collect.

But we felt there was just enough meat on the bones of Lincolnshire’s Tiddy Mun myth to hang a narrative on – and even better, a historical context in which to set it. The area, you see, was expertly drained by Dutch builders, sent over to reclaim land in the time of Charles I, and folk history tells us that their efforts were so good, a hot summer led to the worst drought anyone in the area had ever seen! And so, the British equivalent of a rain dance was required, anything to save the dry and cracked land and the people who lived off it. The Tiddy Mun were mysterious creatures, water sprites who dwelt in the fenland mists making sound like the peewit, or lapwing… and they were rightly very very peed off with what had been done to their moist home.

© Susan Sorrell

And so, the folklore runs that a certain rhyme, containing the words “TIDDY MUN WITHOUT A NAME, THE WEATHER’S THRUFF…” had to be intoned, while a water sacrifice was poured into the muddy riverbanks, and only then would the appeased little people allow the water levels to rise again, and rain to fall from the clear blue skies. And incredibly – or rather, improbably – it worked! The rains returned, and the Tiddy Mun could be heard going about their business. And that sound definitely wasn’t actual lapwings at all. No, of course not.

So, with the addition of a few local characters, we eventually found we had a tale to tell – and we placed it in the market town of Brigg, where the river Ancholme forks.

This need to extrapolate a narrative from lore was a rare occurence, with so many stories to squeeze into the book, but we felt every bit of the map had to have an even array of tales, so every child in the UK had a story within reasonable distance of where they live, and now we do. Although ironically, the other sparsest expanse is of course Northern Scotland, where population is thinner and fewer tales have come down to us – ironically because this is also the home of Britain’s other folklore museum!

With all this hard work done, development of the book is still going on, but as we keep saying, we need to keep swelling our ranks to have plenty of support for the best book possible – so wahetever the weather, please do pledge if you haven’t, or get someone else to if you have!

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN TODAY!

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