Happy Folklore Thursday, and welcome to the TALES OF BRITAIN campaign!
PLEASE join with us in creating and promoting this exciting new treasury of ancient tales from Scotland, Wales, England and the Isles.
Whether you love stories, or Britain, or both, or know anyone who would delight in a fresh anthology of British folklore, we see this as a movement to culturally re-unite the UK, from Land's End to John O'Groats, Anglesey to Thanet, in these fragile, Brexity times.
There's literally nothing remotely like this – it's a tourist guide to the most magical places in Britain, with a story for each spot on the map. But equally crucially, every tale has been retold for TODAY, not some past century. Oh, and the Number One thing? It's just enormous FUN.
The question remains... WHO THE BLINKING FLIP IS BROTHER BERNARD?
Let's ask the mercurial, kind-hearted and daft but occasionally irascible 7,777-year-old storyteller himself... He says, 'Who am I? Oh, for goodness' sake, it doesn't matter.'
And he's right, the teller of each of these 77 stories is totally irrelevant. What really matters is that each of these retellings are of the moment, they have each been fine-tuned in live performance, and thanks to the enjoyment and feedback of folk of all ages and flavours, every retelling is the version of the tale we need in the early 21st century. Does this mean the stories have been in any way cleaned up, bowdlerised, made 'politically correct'? We should hope not, what a story tells you is all in the way it's told, but every one of these Tales of Britain strictly respects and protects the original framework of every legend which has survived over the millennia: no whitewashing, just positive messages for everyone of any gender, persuasion and background.
Because, over the centuries, others have fiddled with and distorted our folklore, reflecting their own times, and we're left with layers and layers of different philosophies plastered over every tale – puritan religious teaching in particular is like knotweed in British folklore, and it takes careful work to tease out all the outdated moralising which has been added to the original mythology, and allow the oldest version of the yarn to shine through. By doing this, while aiming to be as funny, gripping and entertaining as possible, Brother Bernard and his little helpers hope to see the British treasury of tales survive into the next century, in better shape than ever before.
The other reason there's not a jot of importance in the question of Brother Bernard's identity is that there are NO alternative collections of British stories like this; Tales of Britain is unique, so needs no famous author's 'take' to distinguish it from others. Just this year, two of our greatest writers, Stephen Fry and Neil Gaiman, each tackle their own mythological obsessions, with Greek and Norse myths respectively. Both books are piping-hotly anticipated – not least by us – but they will need to be distinguished from countless other collections of Greek and Norse myths by the style and reputation of Fry and Gaiman, they are THEIR versions of those ancient stories, and no doubt all the better for it.
Of course, every one of Brother Bernard's stories also has its own style, depending on whether the tale is sad, funny, heroic, nasty or anything in between. Storytellers make decisions at the start of every sentence. But we present these Tales of Britain as the latest retellings, designed to appeal to the widest audience, of today. This style has many influences, but the two greatest are John Hurt's Storyteller (as scripted by Anthony Minghella) and Rik Mayall's Grim Tales (as scripted by Anthony Horowitz). The magic of Hurt and the joyful anarchic energy of Mayall hopefully come across in our retellings, not to mention the enthusiasm of Tony Robinson's Odysseus, the wry darkness of Dahl, the loopiness of Terry Jones, the alien perspective of Douglas Adams, and many of the usual suspects – CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, Alan Garner, Enid Blyton, Mervyn Peake, who were all hugely influenced by British folklore in the first place. Now we can celebrate the inspirations of these literary giants, but in their own right, at last!
So who does it matter who put the words down on paper? These Tales of Britain belong to us all, they are for everyone to enjoy, to read out loud, to reinvent and make their own. So Brother Bernard asks you personally, make them your own, and enjoy them, no matter who you are or where you live. Because they are not his stories. They are everyone's. They are yours.
Now, if you love British stories, please, SPREAD THE WORD! TALESOFBRITAIN.COM!
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