Thursday, 30 June 2016

A Europe of shared stories - Lari Don

Warning: this blog contains politics. No apologies for that, just a warning!

I thought I might be over it by now, but honestly, I’m still too shell-shocked and upset about the vote a week ago to write about anything else.

Also, at exactly the time I should have been drafting a coherent Awfully Big Blog post about books and writing yesterday, I was standing in the drizzle outside the Scottish Parliament, showing my support for EU citizens living in this country and my support for Scotland’s place in Europe. Sorry. It seemed more important.

So here, because stories are how I deal with things, are a few of my favourite European traditional tales. Stories I share with children in schools and libraries, stories I share with children from all over Scotland, and with children living here whose families hail from the rest of the UK, the rest of Europe and the rest of the world.

England – a story about a girl turned to a dragon by her jealous stepmother, who is rescued by her brother’s kiss

Wales – the story of Ceridwen, who tries to give her son the gift of wisdom using a magic potion

Northern Ireland – the battle between an Irish giant and a Scottish giant, featuring the wonderful Giant’s Causeway and a bitten thumb

The Republic of Ireland – the story of Caoilte, who can run so fast that he rounds up a pair of every animal and bird in one night, as a ransom to free his uncle Finn McCoul

France – a story of a rather lovely werewolf who is betrayed when his wife steals his clothes

Denmark – the legend of Bodvar, a principled hero who gives a young boy confidence by letting him ‘kill’ a monster who is already dead

Germany – a story about a little boy who accidentally becomes a clumsy werewolf cub

Sweden – a girl who tries to save her warrior boyfriend by turning into a swan and flying above a battle to protect him

Italy – a horse who escapes a wolf by tricking him into trying to read words on her horseshoe and kicking him hard on the nose (owowowowow!)

Greece – a boy who befriends a baby dragon, and is later saved from robbers by his friend when he’s all grown up. (Oh, and ALL the myths)

Poland – how the dragon of Warsaw is defeated by a booby-trapped sheep

Netherlands – the story of an archer who discovers his neighbour is a werewolf when he shoots a marauding wolf with an arrow
(Yes, I do know a lot of werewolf stories. What can I say? I like shapeshifters!)

Finland – A hero who breaks a promise to a fiery horse, and is killed (temporarily) by a swan.

Germany – the story of how spiders playing on a Christmas tree invented tinsel...

And a pan-European legend I’ve been working with recently – The Emperor Charlemagne’s female knight and champion, Bradamante, who defeats a magician and wins herself a hippogriff

These are all stories I tell regularly, stories that are part of my imaginative and creative life. I haven’t artificially added in ones that I don’t tell regularly, just so that I can tick all 27 boxes. But please, if you know any fabulous traditional tales from other EU countries, let me know! Perhaps finding more European stories to tell, and deepening my cultural European identity, is my project for the next few months... Because I believe stories can achieve anything, but they are particularly good at bringing us together.

Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including a teen thriller, fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales and novellas for reluctant readers. 


Sue Purkiss said...

I am deeply saddened by the result too. I love your list of stories, and I'd love to hear you telling some of them. Ooh, just had a thought - maybe I could move to Scotland?

Ann Turnbull said...

A lovely post, which cheered me at this gloomy time. Thank you, Lari. Another thing that cheered me: your English 'traditional' tale at the beginning of the list sounds like my own original story The Serpent's Cave? I would be so pleased if it was as the book is out of print and, I thought, unloved...

Lari Don said...

I'd love to tell you some stories, Sue! (And you're welcome in Scotland any time, as a visitor or for longer!)

Lynne Benton said...

Great post, Lari. Pity the Remain leaders didn't plug this wealth of shared European stories as an additional reason for staying in!

Lari Don said...

Glad this cheered you up Amy! But I'm sorry to say that I haven't read your Serpent's Cave... (though I shall now look out for it!) The story I tell is The Laidly Wyrm, from Northumberland, about the king who lived in Bamburgh Castle, and his daughter (who becomes a dragon, and despite her gentleness, scares the local farmers) and his son (who intends to kill the dragon, unaware that's she's his sister, but ends up saving her instead.) It's definitely my favourite English trad tale!

Lari Don said...

Yes, Lynne. You're absolutely right. There wasn't nearly enough said about shared culture. Let's just hope that stories can keep crossing borders!

Alastair McIver said...

Romania: Fat Fumos, basically Romanian Prince Charming, wouldn't stop crying as a baby, until his father the King, at the end of his tether, promices life without death, and youth without ageing. The child fell silent. 15 years later, Fat Fumos asks about his promised. His father is astonished that he remembers, and says "I'm sorry, I was just saying that to make you shut up." Fat Fumos replies, "Then I must go, and find for myself what has been promised to me!"

So he leaves, and has severeal fairytale adventures, at the end of which he comes to a land where he does indeed receive life without death and youth without ageing. He marries and is happy, but the day comes when he misses his home and family, so he returns home, to find everyone he loved has been dead for hundreds of years. When he sits upon the throne, his true age returns, and he turns to dust.

Lari Don said...

lovely lovely story Alastair - another in your fab series of stories about discovering the true meaning of life! (I suspect I'm much shallower than you, I'm mostly about defeating our monsters!)

Alastair McIver said...

There's another Romanian one about a many-headed dragon getting a doing from a hero, but I can't remember the details, I'd have to dig it out.

Alastair McIver said...

And here's one from Estonia.

Lari Don said...

Thanks Alastair - you are a wonderfully global storyteller!