White Samite, Mystical, Wonderful

 

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This abstract image reminds me of a scene in the Grail legend, when the vessel, covered in white samite, is reverently carried aloft through the Great Hall.

The words, ‘Clothed in white samite, mystic, wonderful,’ come from Tennyson’s poem Morte d’ Arthur , and was a line I heard but couldn’t see: something not of my time and wasted on me in high school English class.

Many years later, on a raw, winter’s day in Cornwall,  I stood at the edge of Dozmary pool, listening to Canadian Ed Kylie telling the story of King Arthur’s death based on Tennyson’s poem. This was the  place where Excalibur was said to have been returned to the Lady of the Lake. In my minds’s eye, I did see the glittering sword flung, turning, end over end through the air. The arm I imagined coming up was pudgy and chilled pink.  All I could see of the ‘samite’ was a draped, white, sodden bedsheet. I couldn’t see more of the story for the cold.

Wikiwand can give me interesting facts about samite. It was the most important silk weave of Byzantium, reserved for kings and church leaders. But, clothing is such a personal, fragile artefact. I like to feel fabrics. Mostly, it’s the colour and patterns, the warp and weft that draws me in. I have only poured over many fascinating remnants under glass in museums – from christening gowns, to shawls and mummies.

Visualising the colour and texture of fabrics and matching these to the clothing characters wear helps make them, and the story, more visual, more believable, more memorable.

The ‘fabric’ in this image might not only be white Samite, but also

  • a cloak for the wicked lead in Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen.’
  • the stone horse’s hide in the Asian folk tale about a magic brocade, when the horse is magically brought to life.
  • Sleeping Beauty’s coverlet
  • the magic tablecloth Mannannan spread before Cormac when he was in the Land of Faery
  • a dress for the woman in the moon
  • What do you imagine?

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Abstract

This week’s Photo Challenge was to turn the concrete and familiar into something new and mysterious.

Sources: Poem – Morte d’Arthur, http://www.bartleby.com/42/637.html

Wikiwand entry’Samite,’ https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Samite

All text (except that in italics) 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.

Walking Your Way: Hodja No. 6

Story characters often set out on a journey. Like many in Scottish folktales, they announce their departure. “Mother! Bake me a bannock and roast me a collop. I’m off to seek my fortune!” As Dick Whittington, Red Riding Hood or the Three Little Pigs they have a task, a goal to accomplish, in the hope of a better life. Even nursery rhymes set us up for the road.

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I had a friend, a people – watcher, and on sunny Saturdays, as we sat on the beach together, we would make up stories about people as they passed by, based on the way they walked.

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Often I do the same myself when people catch my eye This man was walking away after throwing keys into the Seine. I saw them, flung from his hand, and curve in the air. The back story (now a fad, thanks to a TV program) is that lovers have their names inscribed on a padlock. They lock it onto a bridge and throw the keys in the river as a symbol of their eternal love. ( My brother tells me that they’ve had to cut all the padlocks off one particular bridge in Scotland – the weight of so many was endangering the safety of the structure … so much for the stereotype of dour Scots!)

IMG_4698 Yet, here in Paris, he was on his own. Where was his partner? And he was plodding along, not strolling. Had they argued? Was he going to catch up with them. When you love someone, you can pick them out in a crowd by the way they walk …There must be another story here. What do you think?

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Everyone walks differently. Actors know this. They can alter their body shape to add to their role. As a storyteller, I tend to gloss over the way a character walks in a story.

Let me see …  age would have to be a factor, as well as …

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what’s on their feet.

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or the ground underfoot could be tricky.

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Even the time of day can influence the way we walk our walk. When there’s no rush and you can stroll, saunter and enjoy the scenery.

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I have loved the freedom of walking since I was small. In this amazing world of ours, I am so glad I have feet and legs. Yes. Wings might have been handy. But to get from one place to the next you just step out putting one foot in front of the other, slowly, faster, softly, nimbly, steadily, appreciatively … and the world moves on as it does.

Once long ago, Nasreddin Hodja was working in his garden and a passer-by asked him, “How long will it take me to get to the next village following this road?” The Hodja didn’t answer. The stranger repeated the question but the Hodja just looked him up and down, a couple of times, and went back to his work. The man shrugged his shoulders, turned away, and continued walking. When he had gone a little way, the Hodja shouted after him, “You’ll get there in about two hours!” The man stopped in his tracks, turned and yelled back,“Why didn’t you say that before?” To which the Hodja replied “I couldn’t tell you how long it would take, until I’d seen the way you walked.” (Adapted)

PS. The last five posts have featured a Hodja story –  one more to go in my set of seven!

Source for walking tale: Özdemir, Nebi The Philosopher’s Philosopher Nasreddin Hodja.  Trans: M. Angela Roome. Ankara: Ministry of Culture and Tourism, 2011. Philosopher’s Philosopher: Nasreddin Hoja

All other 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





 

Character’s Clothes: Hodja No. 4

 To help the listener ‘see’ the character in a story,  it helps if I’m clear on what clothes each might be wearing : to know, at least, their shade and shape. Once upon a time, clothes were basically functional: allowed people to work in them. But the story’s setting (time, country, culture) and the character’s identity through action all come into play.

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*Early photo of Lana Turner learning to sword-fight wearing a tight corset in the movie At Sword Point (1952)

A recent exhibition in our city hall museum showed a collection of costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood. (What surprised me were how small the clothes actually were! I realised that, up on the screen, actors look enormous.) However, the workmanship, fabrics, designs and attention to detail was stunning. One of the conservators working on the exhibition said she thought this brought ‘the fairytale to life!’ Guess which actors played their part dressed like this?

A little red jacket over a long warm dress. Who do you think might have worn this? 1

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or this blue velvet jacket and jabot? 2

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Was she a sheer, femme fatale? 3

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Does the robe help show the character’s authority? 4

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Or is the dress is so plain … in order to show off how beautiful the wearer was? 5

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Or was that man devilishly handsome? 6

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Perhaps the clothes ‘made’ the lady? 7

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Here’s a story about how Nasreddin Hodja feels about clothes.

Sleeve, sup!

There was to be a great banquet in the town, and Hodja was invited. When the day came, it was such fine weather that he worked in the garden, before setting off for the palace.

Arriving in good time, he asked directions to the banqueting room. Several attendants walked past but did not help. They did look him up and down, as they went on their way.

At the huge table, when he found himself a seat, no waiter came near with refreshments.

Friends were surprised to see Hodja suddenly leave the table. He returned some time later, wearing his most elaborate robe. As platters were brought to him, he was seen to dip his sleeve into each dish, simpering “Do have some of this. How do you like that sauce, then? Mmmm.”

The other guests began to mutter that Hodja had surely gone mad.

Hearing this, Hodja laughed and said. “Oh, no, my friends. I’ve simply learned that, at this table, my robe is more important than I am.”

Costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood

Actors who wore them. 1. Katherine Hepburn in Little Women (1933) 2. Cary Grant in The Howards of Virginia (1940) 3. Claudette Colbert in Cecile B. DeMille’s Cleopatra (1935) 4.Richard Burton in Cleopatra (1965) 5. Grace Kelly in The Swan. 6. Yul Bryner? Marlon Brando? 7 Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl.

All text and photos (not *)  by Meg

Sleeve, Sup! adapted from ‘Eat, my fur coat, eat!”  in  KABACALI, Alpay. Nasreddin Hodja. 1992: 32.

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

Characters: Question the Details! Hodja No. 2

In popular children’s tales like “The Turnip” by Aleksei Tolstoy, we’re introduced to settings and characters through the barest of details. Often the characters are nameless.

Once upon a time, an old man planted a turnip..

I wonder what he looked like and what his wife called him – “Husband,” “Dearie,” or “Thomas?”

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© Meg Philp

What was he wearing? Did he have a favourite shirt that he wore all week?

What was he good at? What did he dislike?

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What was his favourite food? Was he fond of cooking?

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Did he have a favoured pet? What was it’s name? How did he treat it?

Up until the turnip appeared, what was he most proud of in his garden?

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Did he talk to the plants, or sing to them all? (Did they talk back?) Did he have a favourite garden song? (He did? He taught it to a friend who taught it to Pete Seegar.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u90qRE2F7CM

Answers to questions like these can make characters seem real. All those kinds of details add up. These invented answers don’t go into my telling of the story. While I may have them in my mind’s eye and in the way I feel towards them, I try to hold a sense of their personality as I tell. As I begin the story, they’re there, ready to participate in the tale, as large as life.

Of course, Nasreddin Hodja (A tricky character to understand, I’ve found, for he always had an answer to any question.) had heard the story of The Turnip. He liked to tell it dramatically to children in the square, extolling the virtues of vegetables, and engaging the audience in the action. The children loved acting out the tale over and over again.

One afternoon, after one such telling, he went home for a sack. Then he climbed over a neighbour’s wall, for he’d seen into their abundant garden, with its row upon row of leafy greens – beets, cabbage, kale.

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“Come to me, my beauties!” he cried, as he started quickly filling the sack. Half way up a row of kale,  his neighbour suddenly appeared at his back door shouting,  “What are you doing here!”

“That Shamal blew me here!” protested Hodja, holding his sides as he straightened up.

“I hear or see no wind! So who pulled up my vegetables?”

“Didn’t I have to grab what I could … to stop me from being blown away?”

“Oh yes? So how do you account for your sack being full of my vegetables?”

“Funny you should ask that. I was just pondering that myself … when you startled me by shouting so loudly.”

Without another word, Hodja took to his heels and vaulted over the wall – no mean feat for a man his age. He landed in a heap on the other side, unable to get up.IMG_1108

A group of children walking home from school, spied him lying there and ran up, calling, “Hodja! Here! Give us your hands. We know how to pull you up!”

[Adapted from Strange that you should ask …  In Shah, Idries. The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasreddin. Picador. 1975: 44.]

Shamal: a summer northwesterly wind blowing over Iraq and the Persian Gulf, often strong during the day, but decreasing at night. http://windlegends.org/windnames.htm

All other text and photos©MegPhilp

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

What are those characters saying?

A storyteller has to carry all the characters inside her self. She uses words, expression and imagination to make them real and come alive in a story.

What story characters say and then do, carries the plot along to a resolution. Not only that, but all the different ways they might speak make an impact on the meaning made.

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Statue of La Fontaine with the fox and the crow

Some stories have only two main characters like La Fontaine’s fable “The Fox and the Crow.”  The fox outwits the gullible crow through flattery. Fox will say anything to get that cheese. The crow feels stupid.

In some versions the fox is male and the crow is female. Here’s a version featuring Master Reynard and Mistress Crow http://www.eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/FoxCrow.shtml

Might crows be either gender, or maybe both? Flattery is a common human foible to help a person get what they want

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It’s what characters say and how they say it that is so loaded. ” How well you look today, my dear. Your beautiful feathers are so glossy. How finely chiselled is the nose on your noble head. If only we could cut the ties that bind and fly away together!” Hmm.

What characters look like and how they dress can give more clues as to what they might say. (Be wary with stereotypes.)

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The two of them may have known each other for long time and saying nothing says a lot.

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or like the Crow and the Fox, they have just met.

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They may both want the same thing and agree to share.

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But stories rely on conflict being resolved: finding solutions to problems.

Are they earnestly competing with each other? Is there money at stake? Might one be a poor loser?
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This argument stopped me in my tracks. I heard their angry voices first.

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As soon as I put the camera down, he took her arm, and kissed her and she kissed him back.

That’s one problem solved.

But wait, there’s more! Story characters keep on coming. Thank goodness.

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PS. Listen to this recording of actor Jonathan Pryce reading ‘The Fox and Crow’ aloud. He’s reading rather fast, for my liking, but he is using his voice like a storyteller. Listen to how his voice makes the characters come to life. He uses all the variations his voice can offer to sound ‘fox-like’ – pitch, tone, volume and timing.

Longer pauses and visualising the story, as you tell, helps listeners see the character and believe they are real, as well as keeping up with the action.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/schoolradio/subjects/english/aesops_fables/1-8/fox_crow

PPS. Doesn’t the birdsong, in the audio background, take you into the woods.

All text and photos by Meg

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