Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ The blackbird’s song

Know any stories about the blackbird? After racking my brain, I’ve concluded I don’t. But I’d like to. For this year, the blackbirds round us seem more beautiful than ever. With one pair out the front, one at the back, it feels like we’re surrounded by golden song – and it goes on from dawn to dusk. With some friends the other day, we all agreed. Yes, they said – and they weren’t all from round here – the blackbirds are especially brilliant this year. As good as the nightingale, two of us ventured. Maybe even better.

And that put me in mind of a story. You probably need no reminding. It’s the one about how the nightingale got its song. But at first it masquerades as the story of how the birds got their colours.

How the birds got their colours

P1060296One day long ago when the world was new, God sent a message to the birds to let them know that he’d soon be coming to give them colours. He even appointed a day and told them not to be late. The birds became very excited. On the day, they were ready and waiting, fascinated to know what these colours would be.

When God arrived with his suitcase, he got them all to line up. Then he opened his case, arranged his paints, picked up his brushes and began. You should have seen what he did – how beautiful he made them look and how different from each other in different combinations of reds and greens and yellows and blues.

After he’d finished, God was putting his things away when one little brown bird came hurrying up, all dishevelled and sad because he was late. God said he was terribly sorry: all his paints were used up by now, he had nothing left. When the little bird heard this, he was so distressed that God said he’d take another look just in case he could find a little something for him. ‘Ah yes,’ God said as he rummaged around. ‘Here is something, it’ll be just right.’

What God had found was a tiny spot of gold at the bottom of one of his pots. ‘Now open your beak,’ God told the little brown bird as he picked up the gold with one of his finest brushes. When the little bird’s mouth was open wide, God placed that tiny spot of gold right at the back of its throat. And ever since, that otherwise undistinguished little bird – it was the nightingale – has had gold in its song.

Gold in its song

P1060289And I’m glad to report that gold also appears in a song about love that is one of my favourite Welsh folksongs. OK, the gold in the song doesn’t belong to the blackbird. It belongs to the girl who is the true love of the person who asks the blackbird to be his go-between, taking his beloved his message of love. ‘Blackbird, will you go to my dear love in pursuit of my secret cause?’ In verse three of the song – and it’s one of those macaronic songs, Welsh and English lines interspersed – we’re told that the loved one’s hair is golden yellow:

Mae’i gwallt yn felyn aur
Just like a ring of gold

It’s a good image. Here in the thick of London, waking early like I’ve done today, it’s just like waking into a ring of gold.

But please, do you know any blackbird stories? And isn’t there a saying that says – hence my photos –  a song is more precious than jewels?




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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ The blackbird’s song”

  1. Jean Says:

    Dear Mary – Thank you for the nightingale story – a spot of gold – and the mention of the blackbird as a messenger – i like that.
    Even high in the hills i hear bird song – thrush, blackbird, pipits and the repetitive calls of finches and sparrows – also the poignant call of oyster catchers and curlews but all silenced when the buzzard circles the village or the red kites dance in the skies overhead.
    All spots of gold and more precious as you say.
    We have a mini goldrush up here at the moment since a goldpanner discovered a large nugget in the stream the other day – there they are all dressed up in wetsuits and waders – with all manner of buckets and sieves ripping up the stream banks – sifting the gravel and pebbles – for what . Sit still – stop and listen to the thrushes evening song – watch a sunset.
    Well that’s enough – Thank you as always for the blogs Mary .
    Love Jean xx

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