Wednesday, 24 January 2018
FOOD, FAMINE & FOLKLORE
Another foody Folklore Thursday, another Folklore Thursday of food...
It was unsurprising that the first tale which came to mind when we heard about today's foody theme was THE KNUCKER – but that would be because we already wrote that blog last September! So instead, we turn to the complete absence of food, and a tale which has been here in plain sight since we launched TALES OF BRITAIN at Glastonbury last August.
CADOC & THE MOUSE, besides being given away in PDF form on Twitter & Facebook before we launched, was selected as our Excerpt tale right here on the Unbound site – click back (not yet, we're writing here!) and click the excellently camouflaged 'Excerpt' tab, and you can read it in full... Or of course you could just click here.
That said, our 'finished' 77 tales are currently being copy-edited, and we have no idea how any of them will emerge from the process – we're trusting the folk going through our manuscript are lovely, and know a well-told tale when they read one, so hopefully little will change!
Cadoc & The Mouse is the tale of how a clever and kind-hearted lad saved a Welsh community from famine, discovering a secret horde of grain thanks to a tiny mouse – and so there's no denying that it's all about food, in a very intense way. We chose the tale as our Excerpt not because it's the best of the 77, but it's just a short, punchy and rather lovely little yarn – and in fact, in a way it's very unrepresentative of our stories, in that it centres on a 'Saint'...
The Welsh saint Cadoc was born in Monmouthshire at the end of the 5th century, and went on to become one of the most important figures in the Christian church of the time. But tales of saints was one category we were quite keen to minimise in this collection, because there are so many sagas about Christian martyrs, and so many of them cynically build on far older pagan legends; in the 21st century, we see it as our job to try to redress the balance after centuries of religious distortion – all those tiresome folktales about people playing cards with the devil on the sabbath being turned into construction materials, and similar soft-headed stories designed to keep the parish flock docile and obedient. As a proud salopian with a very Christian upbringing, I've attended services in tribute to St. Mildburh at Stoke St Milborough, and if we're lucky enough to get to publish a second volume, there are some courageous women protagonists within the lists of British saints, but as a rule, we do want to draw the line between ancient folklore and Christian teachings.
Interestingly (yes it is), there are other legends pertaining to Cadoc as a food provider – the grain stores in his parents' house was said to be magically filled on his birth. But the tale of his great rodential discovery at Coed Fenny Fach, near the village of Llanspyddid, as you can see from the photo above, does tie in to a wonderful spot on the map, well worth a Sunday outing to see if you can find any mice to follow. And if anything, by showing Cadoc as rational and scientifically minded in the way he saves the community from starvation, the tale is all about thinking for yourself, analysing evidence, and in short, quite the opposite of religious propaganda.
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