Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~Brunt Boggart

Lanzarote frontNow I’m in my 60s, I feel I can finally come out. I love books. That’s it. I love books. A long time ago, when the Storytelling Revival was gathering steam in the early 80s, it felt impossible to say such a thing if you wanted to be regarded as a storyteller. Everything had to be oral. And as an aspiring storyteller, you preferably had to be seen to come from a long tradition of ‘oral’ with a family culture of oral taletelling behind you.

I’ve always loved books. I love stories and storytelling too. But I also love books. Many of the stories I tell come from books. But of all the books I’ve read, only a minority were ones I deliberately picked up to look for storytelling material. During the last couple of weeks, however, a book I got sent to review for The School Librarian  unexpectedly turned out to be real storytelling stuff – a bit  like coming across a newly written Odyssey.

Brunt Boggart is the book in question. It’s the kind of book I’d like to read out loud to young people. Maybe I’d also like to read it to adults. The language is inventive but also direct. Its rhythms feel like those of spoken language. Names for things and people sound folkloric but freshly coined. What characters say is idiomatic and also spicy  like what you want in an oral story. Places and landscapes give the sense of being familiar, as if they’ve always been there and the underlying story is one whose theme is deep in all myth. It’s the search for the place where everything comes right.

Brunt Boggart – the story

Greychild is a boy who’s brought out of the forest when the boys-who-would-be-men of Brunt Boggart go into the forest to find and fight Wolf. Is he a wolf-boy? He’s certainly strange. Brought back into the village, he gets socialized. The girlen love him and plait flowers into his hair. But there’s something else inside Greychild. It’s a memory of his mother who, as he recalls, used to come into the forest to see and feed him until one day when she came no more.

Italian viewGreychild hears from the Pedlar who regularly comes through Brunt Boggart about a place called Arleccra. In the second group of this tapestry of tales, he sets off on the road to get to Arleccra where he is sure he will find his mother. If the people in Brunt Boggart were idiosyncratic, the people on the road are magical, capable of transforming into all kinds of otherness, then changing back to what they were before. Gradually it becomes clear from the many ongoing encounters that two of Greychild’s friends from Brunt Boggart, Crossdogs and his girlfriend Ravenhair, are now each following Greychild. It’s a reassuring thought. The road to Arleccra is long, the quest is hard.

Arleccra turns out to be a place of unending suffering and endless dreams. As I’ve written in my review of the book, it was when I got to this third part of Brunt Boggart that I began to wonder if the author’s inventiveness was simply too prolific. Many of the tales introduce people and ideas that don’t return. Some come back to Greychild, Crossdogs or Ravenhair. I began to long for these three to emerge more strongly. I wanted the story to reach a clear end. But I had to get to the last page before it did. Without explanation – and in a most magical way – we were suddenly back in Brunt Boggart. And now it felt clear that what we’d had to find was not the paradise that was being sought, not an answer to the quest, but real life. We had to come back into ourselves.

Do read it – and if you’ve got time,  please let me know what you think 

It’s aimed for teenagers. But it’s a most fascinating book and I think it will be read and enjoyed by a much wider age-range. Do try it. The web has nothing much to say about its author, David Greygoose, except that he’s a Liverpool poet. I think he will become well-known and I hope he writes more books. It’s wonderful storytelling stuff.

Brunt Boggart by David Greygoose is published by Hawkwood Books ( price £8.99.

P.S. My first photograph this week is of a strange bronze statue I saw in Lanzarote. It’s a statue of a dancer in mask and costume for a traditional Lanzarote dance. The second photo is an Italian landscape. Looking through my photo archive, its barely visible building up on the hill made me think of what it might be like to be on the way to Arleccra.

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