Tristan & Isolde: Britain's Greatest Love Story?
Wednesday, 7 February 2018
Happy lovey-dovey Folklore Thursday, sexed-up Tales-backers!
As fans of racist tunesmith Dicky Wagner will know well, Cornwall is the home of perhaps the greatest love story in mythology – those Italian kids in Verona be blowed. The legend of Tristan & Isolde is also a rather good testcase for the variety you'll find in our collection of 77 tales...
As we're proud to repeat, our greatest inspiration in our approach to telling entertaining stories is the silly anarchy of Rik Mayall's Grim Tales or Terry Jones' fairytales... but if every last story was played for laughs, it would be to do a disservice to sad legends like Babes in the Wood, The Kintraw Doonies, and indeed, Tristan & Isolde. Nobody would care about the tragedy of the love between this 6th century Cornish Knight and Irish Princess if we didn't take it seriously, and so you'll find our reworking of the old love story a hopefully genuinely moving romantic weepie, amidst the oddities and exciting yarns we have on offer.
The legend also presented something of an interesting quandary, as much of the action takes place, according to tradition, in Tintagel. Your author has a significant birthday coming up this summer, and can't wait to spend it exploring the area, wondering whether these were the walls from which Tristan jumped after his uncle King Mark found out about what his wife Isolde had been getting up to with young Tristan in the forest.
But as you have probably already clocked, Tintagel is far more obviously celebrated for its dubious links to Arthurian myth, as the site of his actual conception, and that's the main theme of any tourist visit – and we have chosen it in our collection as the site for The Sword In The Stone. (However, any Arthurian experts in Wales or Scotland harrumphing that THEY live near the real site where such-and-such an Arthur legend took place can relax – we also provide a list of alternative claimants to Camelot, Camelan, the castle of Uther Pendragon etc.)
We do stress the links between Tintangel and Tristan & Isolde, but plumped for Fowey as the location for our retelling, as the other place you can visit to feel shivers of connection to the 1,500-year-old doomed couple – because this is where you will find the Tristan Stone.
We blush to recall being told off by friends in recent years for urging them to sign an online petition against the moving of the Tristan Stone from a roadside outside Fowey when the 6th century gravemarker has been moved many times over the centuries, and has no ancient right to be wherever it is – there is no 'Dark Age' Knight buried beneath it, let alone two long-dead lovers with entwined hazel and honeysuckle trees growing from their shared coffin. Nonetheless, the inscription, translated as 'Drustan lies here, of Cunomorus the son, with the lady Ousilla' gives imaginative folkies a far stronger conviction of a potential historical basis for the tale than many legends can claim – Arthur especially.
Keep spreading the word about the first British folktale collection in decades, and until next week, this is one for all the lovers out there. Take it away, Dickie...
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