Cee’s Odd Ball Challenge: Strange Fruit

I’ve been wondering what to post since the WPC Weekly Photo Challenge ended in May. So, I’m hoping for inclusion in another (Cee’s) photo challenge. Over this last month I’ve been fascinated by the blossoming of this particular tree … and thinking about fruits and seeds

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Such a glorious velvet red!

Telling a story is like sowing a seed – you always hope you see it become a beautiful tree, with firm roots and branches that soar up. But it is a peculiar sowing, for you will never know whether your seed sprouts or dies.” Michael Montoure in his book ‘Slices.’

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These odd little balls are fruits/seed cases clamouring to be attractive to birds so they can be dispersed far from the tree. Perhaps someone knows what kind of tree this is?

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A change in colour after rain

Seeds are powerhouses in stories as in life.  They can be magical and send you to sleep like Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream or they can provide opportunity, health and wealth.

Now they’re turning brown.

This month I’ve been retelling the Asian folktale Aina-Kizz and the Black-Bearded Bai. I first told it more than twenty years ago. The trickiest part of the retelling is the pivotal liar’s competition, demanded by the Bai ( a local official) when this woodcutter’s daughter outwits him in public and the judge fines him. The first one to call out “That’s a lie!” loses their bet.

[It’s hard work lying consistently. If the reteller misses some details out, the ending won’t work!]

The Bai began by saying that he found 3 ears of wheat in his pocket, one day before he was born. These he threw nonchalantly out of the window. When he next looked out, the crop was so vast his horsemen took ten days to get to the end of it … (and he brags on about his workers, the crop …  goes on more about his power)

The girl in her turn calmly claimed she found one cotton seed.  The bush that grew from it reached the clouds and she picked and cleaned the full bolls herself. She made made enough money at market to buy 40 camels laden with silks … sent her brother off to trade these in Samarkand … (and goes on more about her family)…

Her intelligence triumphs over his brute force.

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All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

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A Japanese Twist

This week’s Photo Challenge Twisted didn’t mean much till I found this photo I’d taken in my local Sushi Bar ( I did move the figurine, just a tad.)

The women’s twisted hair and that knotted Obi sparked a rewrite of a traditional folktale I’ve been working on –

Long, long ago in Old Japan there was a young man who loved his old father dearly. Not long after his son’s wedding, the old man died and the young man withdrew into his work as he grieved for his father.

Early one morning, he brought his wife in to show the piles of baskets he had made and said he must go to the  market. She helped him stack them on his back and waved him off on his walk to the nearest town. She felt pleased to see him at last like his old self again. Such fine, strong weaving attracted many buyers so he sold out quickly. and made a good profit. Before returning home, the shy young man had time to wander the stalls.

An array of silver objects caught the light. He had never seen anything like these before. The Gaijin vendor signalled they were delicate and would break if dropped. He nodded as the young man gingerly picked up the nearest. One glance and he was amazed … for there was his father looking at him.

“Oh father!” he muttered, lifting his eyes to the sky, “What are you doing here in the town?” No voice spoke from the clouds. Was this some kind of magic? Looking around him, he wondered why his father had come back to see him.  He quickly bought the object, tucked it safely in his belt and anxiously hurried home.

As soon as he got there, he placed his precious find in the family shrine and said nothing of it to his wife. From that day on, he prayed fervently each dawn and dusk.

Naturally, his young wife noticed how much time he spent praying. One day, after her husband had gone off to gather more bamboo, she looked inside the shrine and gasped. There, she surprised a lovely young woman who looked back at her. She quickly closed the door … only to look again several times through the  day. The woman was always there.

As soon as her husband came home, she turned on him angrily. and pointed to the shrine “How dare you bring home another woman! You worship her! How could you do this to me?”

“What woman?” her husband stammered. “That is my dear departed father in there!” He rushed to to make sure. Yes … there was his father, looking worried. As he stepped back with a sigh of relief, his wife pushed past and grabbed the disc . One triumphant look and she handed it back saying “That is not your father … that is a jealous young woman!” Then she hurried away.

They argued till they were speechless and miserable. After a sleepless night, the young man suggested they talk to the wise nun who lived in the village temple.

One look at the pair and the nun ushered them in.  She listened with a kindly smile while they took turns to tell their part of the story. When tears had been shed and both were finally still, the nun stretched out a hand for the source of their troubles. After she studied its smooth surface, she exclaimed. “Goodness! This woman has repented and become a nun. It’s best that she remain here, for a time, in the temple.” Then she opened a wooden chest beside her, put in their mirror and closed the lid.

It did not take long for the news of the arrival of a wonderful glass to go round the village. The young couple laughed together when they, in their turn, heard the story  from a friendly neighbour. How mistaken they had been! How foolish! How marvellous!

Next morning, they found their furoshiki -swathed mirror on the doorstep and both agreed it should be hung by their door so anyone might look in at it. The tale of the mirror spread to many districts. The young couple gained status as the first family in that village to own one and they were not the last … to see their truth …  in a mirror.

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Twisted

A Japanese Twist©2018Meg Philp

Adapted from ‘The Mirror’ by BANG, Garrett, Men from the Village Deep in the Mountains. New York, Macmillan, 1973: 67- 9.

Some of the sources consulted

Japanese Bamboo weaving 

Japanese Historical Timeline

Japanese Mirrors

Mirror (See History)

Sacred Mirror: Japanese Imperial Regalia

All text  and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and is also Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

 

Music in Story

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To me, stories have their own beat and music. When I’m learning a traditional story, I like to listen to music from that part of the world. It helps me travel to that place in my imagination, get a feel for the rhythm of the words and sense the flow of the story.

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Celtic fiddle music gets me in the mood for Scottish tales. I never really believed that a fiddler would be stolen awa’ to play for the fairies (and be gone for a hundred years) until I heard and saw Alasdair Fraser play his fiddle. He had the audience (me included) up dancing wildly, with him off the stage and in the middle of us all! Talk about carried away! Magic! See the video clip of Alasdair playing on his website. Hull’s Reel starts at about 2:40 http://www.alasdairfraser.com/

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I did a singing workshop last year with Sue Hart, who has often visited and sung with the Baka People of Cameroon. Their vocal music, meant to imitate the sounds of birds in their forest, is mesmerising. Learning to sing in their way, I’m carried off to dusk in the native forests of that part of Africa.

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Mark Knophler’s guitar title track for the movie “Local Hero” is very up-lifting. I recall coming in to land at my local aiport, with this being played as ‘muzak’ in the cabin. All I could think of was that I was coming home. I was ecstatic by the time I walked into the terminal!

When I’ve told my version of Parsifal and the Holy Grail, I began by playing an excerpt of The Doors classic “Riders in the Storm” sung by Creed. It’s very atmospheric.

But, to me,  the truest of all sounds comes from old instruments –  as they were played in the times when the old stories were told. In mythology, Cheiron the Centaur sang and played a golden harp. He struck it with a golden key and “sang till his eyes glittered, and filled the cave with light.” (KINGSLEY, Charles. The Heroes)

One afternoon I went along to a local church to hear American harpist Anne Heymann and was transported back through centuries.

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She had six harps with her. But the most treasured was a replica an early Irish harp kept in Trinity College, Dublin. It’s strings were made of Australian silver coated, depending on their length, with 9ct to 24 carat gold.

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This master harper has a deep knowledge and love of the Celtic harp.

Listen to Anne Heymann playing an Italian piece ‘ Lamento di Tristano’ in St Patrick’s Church, Kilkenny, Ireland 2012

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ifvXVaL-Ab4

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Here also is a Link to Downloads of soundtracks from Ann Heymann’s website

http://www.harpofgold.net/downloads.htm

Imagine that you are part of the gathering in King Nuada’s fort in ancient Ireland. Here is part of the story I have told this past year. Lugh is the gifted harper who transports his listeners with his music. These lyrical tales are meant to be accompanied by the harp.

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– Excerpt from from The Coming of Lugh From Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha De Danaan and the Fianna of Ireland by Lady Augustus Gregory (1904)

http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cwt/cwt07.htm

“That is the harp of the Dagda. No one can bring music from that harp but himself. When he plays on it, the four Seasons -pring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter – pass over the earth.”

“I will play on it,” said Lugh.

The harp was given to him.

Lugh played the music of joy, and outside the dun the birds began to sing as though it were morning and wonderful crimson flowers sprang through the grass. Flowers that trembled with delight swayed and touched each other with a delicate faery ringing like silver bells. Inside the dun a subtle sweetness in the laughter filled the hearts of every one: it seemed to them that they had never known such gladness till that night.

Then Lugh played the music of sorrow. The wind moaned outside, and where the grass and flowers had been there was a dark sea of moving waters. The De Danaans within the dun bowed their heads on their hands and wept, like they had never wept for any grief before.

When Lugh played the music of peace, outside there fell silently a strange snow. Flake by flake it settled on the earth and changed to starry dew. Flake by flake, the quiet of the Land of the Silver Fleece settled in the hearts and minds of Nuada and his people: they closed their eyes and slept, each where they sat.

Lugh put the harp from him and stole out of the dun (fort). The snow was still falling outside. It settled on his dark cloak and shone like silver scales; it settled on the thick curls of his hair and shone like jewelled fire; it filled the night about him with white radiance.”

Such is the power of the harp.

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Text, except quote, and photos © Meg Philp under Australia Law.

Story Twigs …! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

 

With a Little Help from the Brownies

Before the start of the year, it’s feels good to have a clear-out, a de-clutter and give-away, recycle or dump. It was my mother’s custom to have the house spick and span for the New Year. She would even go out in the snow to clean the downstairs windows! I found myself thinking of her as I cleaned out cupboards recently.

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As I washed down walls, I thought of all the years of housework mum put in. At the time, I was muttering that I could do with a little help. Shame I didn’t have any Brownies in the house.

But sometimes I feel someone’s watching me as I work. Where’s that Blu-tac?IMG_1603

In Scottish folklore, it was believed that the wee folk, Brownies,
would sometimes move into a home and help with house-work. These hob-goblins were very shy and worked at night when the household was asleep, sweeping, washing dishes, keeping things clean and tidy. According to a story in Duncan Williamson’s collection The Coming of the Unicorn, they were small men, in old shabby clothes, often with a long white beard and the most arresting, blues eyes you could ever see.  The only payment they required was a bowl of porridge with milk, left out at night by the hearth.

If you forgot, the Brownie could let you know by making a mess in the house, breaking dishes and the like.  If you offered money, it was considered an insult and they quit the place.

In “The Broonie’s Farewell” Duncan tells of just such an event when the farmer’s wife leaves out a new set of clothes for the Brownie who had helped their farm to flourish. The farmer kept the clothes their Broonie left behind for years, hoping the he’d return.

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In English foklore, Brownies were most likely to help with animals and crops on the farm, sleep in the barn by day, and work by night. Like the Scottish Brownie, they liked to be thanked, with their bowl of porridge, but never be paid.

I wished for a Brownie in the house and remembered I had been one,  joining the local pack, like this, at the age of seven.

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Baden-Powell, who had founded the Scouting movement, co-opted the Scottish Brownie, to create an alternative group for girls. (Thank goodness the Rosebuds idea didn’t stick.) Their sworn promise was …  ” “to help other people at all times, especially those at home.”

Each weekly meeting, we’d all skip around a papier-mache toadstool and sing, ”We’re the Brownies here’s our aim, lend a hand and play the game.” We were taught all sorts of useful skills, like how to light a gas stove and the order to wash dishes in.  For me, the best bit about the Brownies was learning to sing lots of rounds and silly songs.

In my group of six, we also had our own song “Look out! Here we are the jolly Pixies helping others when in fixes” – which rings prophetic if you’ve read the my first post in this blog.

Multi-purpose

According to folklore, they do say some Brownies went bad and turned into boggarts – big, strong limbed, evil looking, creatures doing damage and causing mayhem wherever they lived. They were aggressive and challenged any humans they encountered to a competition, some game of strength, and if you couldn’t beat them, they’d eat you!

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I’ve read several  boggarts’ tales in Alan Garner’s book A Bag of Moonshine. These teach the reader how to use their wits if they should encounter such a beast. Is that a Boggart?

 I’m sure there‘s a Boggart bothering me at work –  in the computer program I have to use. I was at at my wits end with it last week. So I’m reverting to what I learned as a Brownie, not sure what to do next? Let’s sing!

Join in with  In the Brownies! on YouTube – Billy Connelly’s parody of a well-known hit in the 70s. I won’t put the link here because of Copyright but watch it and sing along –  that just might help the Boggart in my computer decide to revert to being a helpful brownie again …

With thanks to Irene for the image of her Brownie pack.

All Words and other Images by Meg Philp.

Story Twigs … ! this blog by Meg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.