Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Red’

Storytelling Starters ~ Red

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

P1080350Red has been in my thoughts all week. It’s one of the colours of Autumn and, in the UK, Autumn is certainly here. There are lots of red berries in our local park  (a sign, some say, of a hard winter to come). And in our garden, the Sumach tree has turned the most stunning red it’s ever been.

So  red has been in my thoughts all week which is why the stories my blog offers this week are, first, a gorgeous little Irish story that was collected by Thomas Crofton Croker and, second, a tiny part from the  very first page of the very first story in the great medieval cycle of Welsh tales known as the Mabinogion. The fact that red figures in both is no surprise. Red is a colour traditionally associated with the supernatural in both Welsh and Irish literature.

Red socks: a tale from Ireland

Tom was on his way home from the fields when he saw a leprechaun in a hedge. As he watched, he saw the tiny creature reach down a drink of beer from a pitcher and then return to putting a heel-piece on a tiny shoe just the right size for his foot. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Yesteryear’s tales

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

ParrotOur Christmas card this year features our neighbourhood parrot. We’d never met him until the recent day when he was having an airing out on the street. Maybe it’s because of the brilliant redness of his feathers – for red is the colour of holly berries and also of Father Christmas’s robe – that we thought about him for our e-card. To go with the card and its greetings, here’s a parrot story I loved first hearing when I was a child and have always loved remembering since.

A very steep hill:

From the town of Fishguard where I was born, a very steep hill leads down to the beach which stretches across to the harbour in the small twin town of Goodwick. At one time, according to my Aunty Mali, the road to Goodwick went straight down over that very steep hill. So whether you walked or were driving a pony and trap, that is the way you had to go. And at the bottom of the hill, you’d pass by the little cottage which was owned by an old woman who kept a parrot that was a very good mimic. Often on days of good weather, she’d hang the parrot-cage outside her front door so the parrot could have an airing.

Well, up in Fishguard there was a man with a horse and cart who used to organise to take groups of people down to Goodwick on little jaunts to the beach. When it came time to go down the hill on any of these occasions, he’d pause his horse at the top of the hill so he could insert small wooden wedges to act as brakes on the wheels of the cart.

A very mischievous parrot:

On one particular occasion, the man had safely steered his horse down the hill from Fishguard with the cart full of laughing women who were on their way for an afternoon on the beach. At the bottom of the hill, he paused as usual to remove the wooden wedges from where he’d jammed them against the wheels. This time, the wedges had become extremely hot from the friction of the journey and while the man was working away to remove them from the wheels, the parrot started piping up. It had obviously recognised the horse and the noise it came out with was its excellent imitation of the clicking sound the horse’s owner always produced – an equivalent of Giddy-up – when he wanted to get the horse moving.

‘Giddy-up, giddy-up,’ clicked the parrot. And the horse obeyed at once, setting off at a rate of knots. Within seconds, the cart was swaying giddily from side to side, the women inside were screaming and sparks were flying out from the wheels of the cart. The horse’s owner had to run like mad to catch up with his horse and bring it to a halt before the cart went up in flames.

Naughty parrot! I loved hearing this story about him and also about what the parrot would say whenever a courting couple passed by, namely ‘Kiss ‘er, Kiss’er!’

A very warm wish:

Oh, the simple pleasures of yesteryear. I suppose these are the kinds of daft, lovely stories that often get remembered over Christmas dinners up and down the land when the older and younger generations get together. Maybe you’ll remember some yourself.

But whether you remember old stories or not, I do hope your Christmas will be happy and peaceful. Next week, after the Christmas days are over, I’ll probably be too well-fed and maybe too somnolent to write very much in this blog. Maybe there’ll just be a lovely Welsh view, who knows?

Happy Christmas! Nadolig Llawen!


Storytelling Starters ~ Red

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015

P1070651A note to readers is where I should begin this week.  Here it is. If any of you is in North Pembrokeshire on Friday 9th October, please come along to Castell Henllys where I’ll be doing what is described as an Author Tea – and hopefully selling some of my books.

Will there be red leaves and red berries in the lovely Castell Henllys glade, I wonder? I ask because red has been on my mind all week. Perhaps that’s because of all  the red, red leaves on the pavements round us in London. Or perhaps it was the red, red moon on the night of the eclipse? Or could it be the red jerseys of the Welsh Rugby team when they played and won against England? 

I can’t be sure. But what I do know is that just thinking about red has led to me remembering the red ears of the gleaming white hounds that accompany the Lord of the Underworld in the first branch of  the Mabin0gion, that most ancient and strange cycle of stories.  The red hounds appear there in a forest which could not have been far from Castell Henllys.

But red on my mind has also led to me remembering some very different things, for instance The Red Wheelbarrow, that extraordinary William Carlos Williams poem.  I wonder if you know it? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Red

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

The sumach tree is ablaze. The geraniums flare. Hips on the Handel Rose glisten in the brilliance of the morning sun. It feels both like summer is here and summer is passing at the very same moment. It’s been making me think red.

P1060958Red for the ears of the shining white hounds that Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, encounters on the sacred hill at Arberth in the First Branch of the Mabinogion. (I’m preparing the Third Branch for telling next Friday at the Storytelling Café in Llangollen.)

Red for the drops of blood that fall on the snow-covered window ledge when the princess in the story of The Sleeping Prince as retold by Alison Lurie in Clever Gretchen and Other Forgotten Tales pricks her finger with her needle and the bird in the tree outside her window alerts her to the mission she will undertake to go and waken a sleeping prince:

Gold and white and red
The Prince lies in his bed.

In Welsh and Irish tradition, white and red are the colours of the other world, the supernatural. But I’ve been seeing the red as the farewell of summer and the herald of autumn.  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Wintering Out 4

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Red is for Father Christmas’s costume. Red is for berries and for robin redbreast. And red is for my photos this week. Red stands out against grey skies and fresh snow. And red is for Red Internacional de Cuentacuentos, the international storytelling network which this week posted me a fascinating blog all about Mo Yan, the Chinese storyteller who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature 2012. Why it engaged me so much is that MoYan thinks of himself first and foremost as a storyteller.

‘I am a storyteller’

‘I am a storyteller. It is telling stories that earned me the prize,’ Mo Yan said in his speech to the Stockholm Academy when he was awarded the prize. He described in detail how his storytelling began. One day, as a child, he sneaked off to listen to a storyteller who came to his local marketplace. His mother was unhappy with him for forgetting his chores. ‘But that night, while she was stitching padded clothes for us under the weak light of a kerosene lamp, I couldn’t keep from retelling stories I’d heard that day. She listened impatiently at first, since in her eyes professional storytellers were smooth-talking men in a dubious profession. Nothing good ever came out of their mouths. But slowly she was dragged into my retold stories, and from that day on, she never gave me chores on market day …’

As repayment for his mother’s kindness and a way to demonstrate his memory, Mo Yan would retell the storyteller’s stories for her in vivid detail. And it wasn’t long before he began to embellish them and introduce other people’s stories too. And that was that: he never stopped. It makes a wonderful irony of his name which, translated, means ‘Don’t Speak.’

You can read Mo Yan’s full speech on the official website of the Nobel Prize:  When you get to the site, click on Literature Prize, Mo Yan and go to Nobel Lecture. It gives a real insight into the mind and life of a storyteller and, for me personally, makes me think yet again of the Chinese myth of the First Storyteller. This has been absolutely central to my own storytelling because it is about the way storytellers finds inspiration in the people and the world around them.

A journey for the imagination

Back to Father Christmas – that’s a journey for the imagination. This week, I’m repeating from last year my Going To See Father Christmas chant. This is an excellent way of taking children on an imaginary journey and finding what they’re looking for, then bringing them back home with the ability to think about that journey again and again. (more…)