Saturday, August 13, 2005


Last night's activity was amazing. I was invited by some friends to go with them to the Celtic Knot (a local pub) and listen to a professional storyteller. Given that the Celtic Knot is a very traditional looking pub, with lots of neat stonework and dark wood dimly lit, and my general liking for things medieval, I imagined myself a traveler in about the 13th century, stopping off at an inn along the way for a night and happening upon a bard who was paying his way by entertaining the other guests. I didn't know such things as professional storytellers existed - the wife of a classmate of mine would have loved it. So we crowded into a cozy room and all took our seats, ale in hand. The gentleman who would be "telling", as they called it, was from London. His name was Patrick Ryan (sounds like he should have been from Dublin, but maybe he was originally as he had an Irish accent). He regaled us with all sorts of tales, some fantastical, others more set in the realm of reality. Anyone who has ever read a fantasy book will recall the author writing about bards who tell their stories in a "high, almost chant-like voice". That's high as in elegant, not pitch. I never really could fully imagine what that meant until last night. It was amazing. Clever use of meter and rhyme, frequent alliteration, and changes of tone and pitch all led to an experience tht transported us to the world of these tales. We were there, in them, watching them unfold, not infrequently upon the edge of our seats! It was so cool! To try and give you a sample of what we heard, I will, to the best of my ability, re-tell a short story here, and then in the next post, re-tell a longer story. I hope you enjoy and I hope if you get the chance to hear one of these folks, that you do. Future and current preachers out there - we have much to learn from storytellers.

The Tale of the Boy Without a Story

Times were hard, food was scarce, and so it was that young Johnny set out upon the road, seeking his fortune, as young boys are wont to do. He left home with naught but the clothes on his back and the stick in his hand, taking to the trail in good spirits. But, by the end of the first day, as night was settling in, he was in a somewhat more dampened mood. He had nothing to eat and nowhere to lay his head and no prospect of work. For he had been to several towns and villages that day, looking for employment to no avail. Butchers, farmers, merchants all turned him out. Chandlers, cooks, and cobblers had no work for him at all. He had begged a place to stay but had been unsuccessful and so struck out, as twilight was upon the land.

It was then that he happened upon a lone farmhouse, apart from anything else in the land, and he bore himself up proud and knocked upon the oaken door. The farmer answered, greeting him cordially, for these were good people. Welcoming Johnny in, he offered him a warm meal and a bed of fresh straw to lay his head for the night. "It's not much," said the farmer, "for we have little ourselves, but what little we have we will share." Johnny thanked him mightily and enjoyed the small amount of stew the farmer's missus set before him. After supper, the farmer brought out his fiddle and played a few light hearted tunes. The missus joined a lovely voice to the strain, and sang of whimsy and love. The song came to an end and the fiddle's voice was quieted as the farmer looked at Johnny and said, "Ok, now it's your turn." Johnny looked abashed, "I cannot do anything sir," he said humbly. "Oh, come now," replied the farmer, "surely you can sing us a song or tell us a story?" "No," said Johnny sadly, "I am not skilled in telling stories, and besides nothing interestin' ever happens to me to tell." "Well then, sing us a tune," enjoined the missus. "I'm afraid I've no voice for singin'," Johnny replied. "How bout a dance then. Can you do a jig? Something from where ya come from to share with us a bit of your home flavor?" "Alas, no," Johnny said, "I've no skill at jiggin'".

The farmer looked disturbed, and he said slowly, "You mean to tell me, you come to my house, beggin' me of room and board, and you've no story to share, no song to sing, and not even a dance to dance. Is that what you're tellin' me lad?" "Yessir, I'm afraid it is."

The farmer stood up and walked to a wooden cupboard. Reaching high up on top of it he pulled down an old shotgun that looked a bit like a blunderbuss with it's large barrel. He pointed it at Johnny and Johnny said, "Are ya gonna shoot me because I've no story to tell?" The farmer said, "Go in there," pointing to a room beyond a darkened doorway. Johnny started to when the man pointed the gun at his wife. Johnny turned and said, "Are you gonna shoot your wife because I've no story to tell?" The man said to his wife, "Go in there, " pointing to the same room. When they got in there, the farmer pointed the gun back at Johnny and said, "Strip off your clothes." Johnny said, "Ay, I cannot do that sir. For I am a good lad. No woman has ever seen me naked except my mum and the last time that was was when I was five." The farmer said again, "Take 'em off." Pointing the gun at his wife he said to her the same. Johnny looked ashamed and said, "Ay! She cannot do that! For I am a good lad and I've never seen a woman undressed!" The farmer said again, "Take 'em off," Then he said to the both of them, "Now get into the bed yonder." Johnny blanched and said, "Ay, sir! I cannot do that at all! For I am a good lad and I've never done that!" "Go!" said the farmer. When they were both naked and in the bed together, the farmer put down the gun, smiled and said, "Now, the next time you're a beggin' room and board and your benefactors ask for a story, at least you'll have something to say!"



Sounds like the time some friends of mine and I went into a pub in Pullman, WA, while they were at WSU. They wanted a place to go to talk over a particular assignment and thought this pub the perfect spot to do it.

Well, we walked in and the place looked like it was right out of The Hobbit or Ladyhawk, and there was this bard there playing.

I only remember two things about that night: 1) He was blind, which made his guitar playing all that more impressive to me; and 2) He sang this song with a refrain that went, "No, No, NO, I won't sing anymore Bob Dylan!"

It was a great night.

By Blogger Reverend Ref +, at 10:53 PM  

Post a Comment

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?