Tips and Programs
Variations on Storycrafting: Thomas
Here is a bit of a challenge I thought you
Works In Progress: the On-Line Journal of
the Storytelling Arts would like to invite you to participate
in what we hope will be an interesting series of articles. We want
to explore the different ways in which storytellers approach and engage
in their art. To do this, we are sending a number of tellers the bare
bones version of a traditional folk tale (see below) and asking each
teller to explain how they would go about working up this story for
telling. More specifically: If you were to work this story up for
telling, how would you start? What questions would you ask? What aspects
or elements of the story catch your attention? What potential directions?
What research would you do? What would you start to work on first?
In short, give us a glimpse of how you go about crafting a tale. (It
is not necessary to actually work up a version of this tale, but if
you do, and would like to share that as well, we will run it as a
sidebar to your essay.)
We would like to get at least four or five
tellers participating, and would like the articles by the end of December,
so that we can post the project on the Works In Progress web site
in January. If you want to take part, please let me know.
And here's the tale. It is condensed from the
version found in Cyril Swinson's Twenty
Scottish Tales and Legends.
Thomas the Rhymer
Thomas of Ecrildoune lived in the south of Scotland. One summer's day, as he lay on the bank of the stream known as Huntly Burn, he heard the music of bells. Turning swiftly, he spied a beautiful lady riding on a horse. The horse was well arrayed and many bells hung from its harness; it was the music of these bells he had heard. The lady held the leashes of seven greyhounds and was obviously riding to the hunt. Thomas was so taken with her beauty that he could not rest till he met her. He leapt to his feet, and raced to intercept her.
At the Eildon Tree he waited as she rode up. At once he hailed her, pulling off his bonnet and bowing low. She told him that she was the Queen of Elfland. He began to speak sweet words to her, but she cautioned him not to continue, for if he did, her beauty would fade away, and she would be able to cast a spell over him. Yet Thomas would not stop. As she had warned, her beauty faded away, revealing her to be small and drab; her beautiful clothes but poor and simple stuff." Then she smiled and told him he must ride away with her to Elfland for seven years to live, and he had no choice but to obey.
He mounted up on her horse and away they rode.
For three days they rode in deepest darkness, until Thomas was weak
and faint from hunger. When he spoke of this, the lady turned her
horse until they came to a garden filled with all manner of fruit
trees. She plucked an apple from a tree and gave it to him, but cautioned
him that if he ate of it, for ever after, he would be unable to speak
anything but the truth. Thomas thought this a fearful fate, but was
too hungry to put aside the apple, and so he ate.
As they entered Elfland, she warned Thomas not to speak to anyone he met, lest her husband discover his identity and grow jealous. As they entered Elfland, the Queen's beauty returned upon her. They rode to her castle and were welcomed, and there Thomas dwelt for three days. When three days were done, the Queen took him home, where seven long years had passed. (Every seven years, one of the elfin court was taken away as tribute to Hell, and the Queen feared that Thomas would be chosen if she did not return him to his home.) Upon their parting, she gave Thomas the gift of prophecy and the gift of writing musical verses and the gift of a fairy harp.
Returned home after seven years, Thomas soon became known as True Thomas and Thomas the Rhymer, known throughout the land for his prophecies and his music.
Twice seven years passed. Then a group of knights passing by Ecrildoune saw a strange sight in the moonlight two snow white deer, a hart and a hind, passing through their camp. The knights went to Thomas to ask what the vision meant. He replied that "It shows me that I have spun my thread of life, and finished my race here." Taking up his harp, he walked out into the moonlight. The two deer came to meet him, and together they walked out into the night and Thomas was never seen again. To this day it is thought that the deer were the King and Queen of Elfland come to take Thomas back to their country with them forever.
Why I Hate Lady Ragnell Alan Irvine's article and the rebuttal it engendered.