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.
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.