Friday, March 8, 2019


No, nothing to do with the Old Testament. It's a Persian epic by Ferdowsi, three times as long as the Iliad, and composed at a time when the Normans [who were really Vikings] were still learning French, so between 977 and 1010 CE. It tells the story of Persia, the Age of Myth, the Age of Heroes, the Age of History, moving from Zoroastrianism to Islam with the Arab Conquest of 651.

Most of all, though, it's packed with stories. Love-stories. Heroic stories. Revenge. Monsters. Bravery. Treachery. Matthew Arnold took his epic poem Sohrab and Rustum from it in the 19th century. Surrounding countries, Georgia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Armenia pillaged it for tales and examples of heroism. Lavishly illustrated manuscripts were produced for all sorts of kings, emperors and princes.

Now, Madeleine Grantham has picked from its 50,000 couplets the stories of Bahram Gur, who is a historical figure to whom myths and legends have been appended. Adventure. Excitement. Novelty.

Come along and find out what it's all about on Thursday March 21st, starting at 7.30 at the Elm Tree, Hightown, Ringwood. Only a fiver for this widescreen epic!

Bahram Gur is entertained by musicians

Bahram Gur tramples Azadeh

Wednesday, February 20, 2019


Tomorrow, Thursday February 21st, Ian Tovey will be telling Trickster Tales at The ElmTree, Hightown, Ringwood, starting at 7.30 - if you're not there on time, Coyote will let down your tyres, Brer Rabbit will rip off your wipers, and I don't even want to think what Reynard will do to you!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018



Turkish Knights, Saint George, Death and Doctors, all under the bold direction of Paul Butler, a former Morris Man, will recapture the thespian delights of yesteryesteryesteryear in an under-rehearsed impromptu performance of the [genuine] Quidhampton Mummers Play. [May contain nuts.]

The picture below is for illustrative purposes only, and in no way guarantees the presence of the ingredients depicted. But it should be a lot of fun!

At The Elm Tree in Ringwood, BH24 3DY starting at 7.30pm on Thursday 20th December... get there early to have a few bevvies, without which it won't be nearly as enjoyable!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Mostly, storytellers have a particular niche. Some do tales of their own lives, or their family's history. Others dig deep into the treasure-chest of traditional stories. A few go to history in general,or particular events and lives.

Maddie will be interspersing maritime yarns with tales her father told her about his adventures at sea and in foreign ports. So be prepared for a few ups and downs on the ocean waves!

Thursday 19th July, Boston Tea Party, The Furlong, Ringwood, 19.30, £5 admission - and come early to buy coffee and cake!

And we're having a holiday in August, so see you in September!

Friday, April 27, 2018


Janet Goring will be coming all the way from Southsea on May 17th to tell us stories from round the world...
To celebrate her second headline appearance, we have a puzzle: how many Chinese can you count?
Twelve - or thirteen?

Tuesday, April 17, 2018


Spoiler alert! Gunther doesn't get his way!

“Brunhild Watching Gunther Suspended from the Ceiling on their Wedding Night”

John Henry Fuseli

Excerpt from The Nibelungenlied (c.1200) translated by A.T. Hatto:

“His attendants, both man and woman had left him. The chamber was quickly barred, and he imagined that he was soon to enjoy her lovely body: but the time when Brunhild would become his wife was certainly not at hand! She went to the bed in a shift of fine white linen, and the noble knight thought to himself: “Now I have everything here that I ever wished for’. And indeed there was great cause why her beauty should gratify him deeply. He dimmed the lights one after another with his own royal hands, and then, dauntless warrior, he went to the lady. He laid himself close beside her, and with a great rush of joy took the adorable woman in his arms.

He would have lavished caresses and endearments, had the Queen suffered him to do so, but she flew into a rage that deeply shocked him – he had hoped to meet with ‘friend’, yet what he met was ‘foe’!

‘Sir,’ she said, ‘you must give up the thing you have set your hopes on, for it will not come to pass. Take good note of this: I intend to stay a maiden till I have learned the truth about Siegfried.’

Gunther grew very angry with her. He tried to win her by force, and tumbled her shift for her, at which the haughty girl reached for the girdle of stout silk cord that she wore about her waist, and subjected him to great suffering and shames for in return for being baulked of her sleep, she bound him hand and foot, carried him to a nail, and hung him on the wall. She had put a stop to his love-making! As to him, he had all but died, such strength had she exerted.

And now he who had thought to be master began to entreat her, ‘Loose my bonds, most noble Queen. I do not fancy I shall ever subdue you, lovely woman, and I shall never again lie too close to you.’

She did not care at all how he fared, since she was lying very snug. He had to stay hanging there the whole night through to dawn, when the bright morning shone through the windows. If Gunther had ever possessed of any strength, it had dwindled to nothing now.

Friday, March 30, 2018


Fifty-one years ago, I read Das Nibelungenlied for the very first time, and was amazed. I thought mediaeval literature was cosy, funny, vaguely dirty stories - Chaucer, in other words. This definitely isn't. Nor, although some of the names are the same, is it Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, which is mythical, symbolic, heavy. This is a bit more like Icelandic sagas. Whatever you do is going to bring disaster. Laughing today, weeping tomorrow. One death now, many more in a while. The poem tells you that, all the time. Kriemhilt is beautiful - so bold warriors are bound to lose their lives because of her - and you keep on listening because you want to know exactly how and exactly why and what they said as it happened.

It's old, and it's dark, and the main characters shine as they move through it. There is loyalty, there is vengeance, there are two women in competition with one another. Sounds pretty modern to me!

But judgement, as always, lies with the listeners. Come. Listen. Judge.


Lisa Kenwright, who runs Mister Rook's Speakeasy in Frome, will be telling Goblin Fair, a tale of her own devising, on March 15th. [She knows what we're like, because she came and told her own version of Mister Fox on February 15th...]

On April 16th, Mike Rogers will be delving into his own past and bringing us his version of the Nibelungenlied, the earliest of the great German mediaeval epics, which he studied as a student, and which has never entirely left his mind. [Elements of it made their way into Wagner's mind, and contributed to Der Ring des Nibelungen - but so did a lot of other things! This is the real German mediaeval version, though it feels a lot older.]

On May 17th, Janet Goring, aka Bluebird the Storyteller, will be taking us Around the World in Eighty Minutes, so get your stopwatches out - but don't forget to listen...

On June 21st, Mike O'Leary will be Walking Around and Falling Over Stories, which is what he claims to do all the time - he is a well-travelled and much-loved fixture on the Southampton story-telling scene, with a vast range and repertoire, and this is the first time he has come to us. Let's hope he brings his fan-club!

We can only see so far into the future, so the last thing that is predictable is Madeleine Grantham on July 19th, with Blow the Man Down, which sounds definitely nautical! [Possibly even naughtical!]

Tuesday, February 27, 2018


Maddie set us off with The Beginning of the World, and told us how Men and Women eventually got to know each other, and found they could give one another pleasure.

Raph departed from the Valentine's theme completely, with a Chinese tale of two brothers, which begins with a miraculous dog that can pull a plough, and continues with the wicked brother destroying all he touches in his attempts to copy [and cheat] his sibling, until the monkeys take a final hand.

Ian, a new recruit, told us Tam Lin, the way he tells it, which was certainly a tale for Valentine's, full of passion and suffering and loyalty.

Lisa, our headline guest for March, came over to see how we did things in Ringwood, and gave us her version of Mister Fox, with a bit of anthropomorphism, or lycanthropy, depending on which way you look at it. She brought with her Leslie, from Frome, who told us about the origin of the fruit that is the shape of the human heart, the strawberry, and how it put an end to the quarrel between the First Man and the First Woman, and if that hadn't happened, where would we be?

Mike told a Kabyle story of the Nzemi, the Man Whose Trade Was Pleasing Women, a tale collected by Leo Frobenius in The Black Decameron. [Some of those present wished such a person could be made more generally available.]

Maddie gave us the wisdom of the rabbi's wife, which sorted out a potential problem for the newly-weds through food metaphors, while Raph remained resolutely unromantic with Coyote Steals a Blanket, and Ian took another view of other kinds of love with The Unicorn and the Single Wish.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018


Choice, choice, choice - so many out there, and which is the right one?

Or maybe you don't want to stop at one? Not even one at a time...

Even Darwin had to acknowledge that evolutionary changes in the area of increased sexual attraction don't always make practical sense.

We always make space for tellers from the floor, but this is one of those nights, like Halloween, when we welcome as many as possible to share stories. Go on! Give it a go! You know you've always wanted to!

And maybe you'll go away from the club with someone other than the person you came with...

Monday, January 8, 2018


Iron teeth are not just Stalinist dentistry. They are the sure sign of a Russian witch. Beware. Be very, very ware!

We are in Siberia. Home of Baba Yaga. Endless forests. Look at the picture. Birch trees, all identical, all different. No way to know your way. Only the noise of pursuit - unless it's just the trees in the wind. What do you think? Dare you believe it? Dare you not believe it?

Come with us. Come with our storyteller. She'll keep you safe. Probably. Nothing's certain, after all.

Except that you won't want to miss this evening... with Katy Cawkwell...

Tuesday, December 19, 2017



A story, of course. And a bit of magic. And a bit of tradition – a link with the past, with Christmases gone by.

Then you want Gawain and the Green Knight. It starts off at Christmas, in the court of King Arthur, where the King refuses to sit down and eat until he has seen a wonder. If the knights daren't grumble, their stomachs do.

But then, there rides into the hall where they're not yet dining a Green Man, on a green horse, with an axe in his hand, and he issues a challenge: which one of these knights is bold enough to strike a blow at him, in return for having a blow struck in return the following Christmas?

Only Gawain is foolhardy enough to risk his life to keep up the reputation of King Arthur's knights. But he thinks he's sorted the matter when he strikes off the Green Knight's head with one stroke of the axe: no return match!

However – and here's where the magic comes in – the Green Knight picks up his head, picks up his axe, mounts his horse, reminds Gawain of what he has sworn to do, and gallops off into the night.

Is this something new from Pixar, or Peter Jackson, or even Spielberg? No, it's in the theatre of your mind, in the cinema behind your eyes: it's a story – the oldest art in the world, before there was fire for them to see to paint in the caves.

And you can hear the whole of it told by Sarah Rundle, widely acclaimed professional storyteller for everyone, and not just children, at the Boston Tea Party in Ringwood, starting at 7.30pm on Thursday, December 21st, admission £5. Get there earlier if you want coffee and cake!

What a way to start Christmas!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017


How did he get from this                                    to this


to this                                                             to this?


Come along and find out on Thursday, 16th November!


Sunday, October 22, 2017



Halloween – when the unseen is all around us... but not the unheard, because we have stories to make the hair rise on the back of our necks!

Raph took us to China for both his tales. The late Mandarin Wang made a ghostly appearance, turning the spout of the tea-pot to point at his murderer! And later in the evening Lo Shin made a good bargain with his purchase of words from the Wise Man in the market. By heeding the advice he was given, he avoided death and disaster in a number of ways, and by repeating two simple phrases to the magistrate investigating the murder of Lo Shin's wife he was able to point the finger at the criminals guilty of it.

Maddie stayed more or less in Europe with two traditional tales: the Soldier and Death from Russia, with the magic sack, which you can read here ; and The Juniper-Tree, which you can read here [though I must point out that reading the texts is only a pale substitute for hearing the stories told.]

Janet told a version of the Lorelei story, the rock above the Rhine haunted by the spirit of the woman who killed herself over her faithless lover and then lures men to their deaths by the beauty of her song.

Mike told the tale of a deserted house, told to him by the grand-daughter of a woman who had worked there. It had belonged to a man who became so possessive of his wife that he shut her away from human contact. What happened next is left deliberately obscure: in any case, she vanishes, and he is inconsolable. In response to his weeping and prayers, she re-appears mysteriously. But for all his protestations he has not changed, so, according to the bargain he had made, as she returned to him, so he must go with her, and both vanish mysteriously. An archaeologist, drinking in the same pub, [where else does Mike get his stories?] relates the finding, by Wayland's Smithy, just up the hill from the deserted house, of two bodies from the 19th century, a man and a woman, the woman's skull damaged by a sharp blow, and yet her skeleton has its arms round the man, tight, very tight.

Mike finished the evening with Mary of Eling, the tale of a zombie in a churchyard to the east of Southampton Water.

Anne of Salisbury and Juliet of Frome listened – but who knows who else was present?

Friday, September 22, 2017



Janet Goring, aka Bluebird the Storyteller, came all the way from Portsmouth to tell us stories – and what a range of stories she has to offer!

She began with the tale of The Handsome Young Sailor and Betty Mundy, a full-bodied fairy lass who gave the aforesaid youthful and well-favoured tar three magic gifts, an ever-full purse, a travelling cloak, and a summoning horn, out of which he was swindled by a scheming princess from Stephen's Castle. Instead of reproaching her contrite swain, Betty showed him the secret of the nose-lengthening apples and the nose-shortening pears, by means of which he was able to recover the magic treasures, and, recognising that, as a man, he was not really fitted for responsibility, he agreed to place his future in Betty's hands, in recognition of which [and you can check the OS map if you don't believe this] Sailor's Lane leads to Betty Mundy's Bottom. [Mike O'Leary's book of Hampshire Tales contains a version of this story.]

Then Janet told us Why the Sky is Far Away, a Nigerian folk-tale which has been retold by Mary-Joan Gerson. She followed this with a Celtic story about a young mother whose baby is taken by the Sidhe, and who, with the advice of a wise-woman, manages to recover the child and live happily ever after.

Janet's second session began on a much more personal note, as she discovered and explored the fate of her great-uncle Henry Whitmore Turner in the First World War, and visited those acres of war-graves that stretch across France and Belgium, and saw the fields of corn where the plough still disinters remnants of humanity.

Finally, she told us how a travelling fellow found a wishing-well, and with his wish spread the well's powers into all the water that falls from the sky. Open your mouth when it rains – you may be lucky! [But – be careful what you wish for...]

In the third session, Raph told us of The Remarkable Coincidence, and then gave us The Sword and the Trumpet, in which communication triumphs over simple aggression. Maddie followed this with The Island where Dreams are Made, from the Western Isles. Alan shared his personal regret that he had not asked in more detail about his great-uncle's connection with the Angels of Mons, and told us that story. Jason, with an excellent crow-impersonation, gave us his own story, The Boy who Turned into a Bird, and Mike told his 10-day old story, The Truth about Nettles, to finish the evening.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Cliff, The Travelling Talesman, shared with us a pick'n'mix selection from his storybag. First came some tales from his Oy! Sunshine! tour, including Torch-Woman looking for her baby, as she also goes looking for food; the Inuit custom of 'dousing the lights', with all that implies, especially the male moon forgetting to eat as he pursues the female sun, and thus getting thin and pale as he crosses the sky. Then there were the rival sisters, one of whom fools the other into eating her own children. After that came the jakata tale which shows how we are all the instruments of karma, because it has no hands, and teaches us not to mess with quail, because they have long memories and many favours to call in. In the story of The Girl [headgear unspecified] Cliff is still looking for an ending that he finds both convincing and satisfying [though he did give us one]. Everybody loves Skeleton-Woman [especially with Cliff playing the drum], and nobody could resist the story of Amaterasu, which you can read here .

The third session saw Nicole make her debut as a storyteller, in a way which made everyone think she'd been telling for years. We were quite prepared to believe she was an old man from the Appalachians who wished he'd been stolen away by the Nunnehi when he'd been young [he had the chance...] and then he wouldn't have been old and creaky and cranky. You can read about the Nennehi here

No one could have followed that, but Maddie had to, and resorted to three Hodja tales [they always go round in threes, for self-protection] including The Washing of the Cat, the Bath-House, and the Sausage after which Raph told us how Coyote persuaded Mouse to exchange certain body-parts with him, and the consequences. Mike closed with Little Dog Turpie and the Hobiyahs, in Leila Berg's version, which you can find here:

Saturday, August 12, 2017


You may have seen Cliff before - he's been around a while, as even he will admit! He does the Wickham Festival, he's done The Larmer Tree, he's been at The Art House in Southampton, at The Barge Inn in Honey Street on the Kennet and Avon Canal, London, Reading, Cambridge, Salisbury, and all kinds of places in between.

And now he'll be in Ringwood on August 17th, tellling A Mixed Bag - all kinds of stories from his themed tours of the past few years, together with some that have never made it on to those programmes. There may be Tales of Ra from Egypt, there may be a Red Riding Hood variant, something from the Kalevala, The Padisha's Daughter Who Married a Donkey's Skull, Skeleton Woman...

The only thing predictable is that the stories will be worth listening to!

See and hear him now

Wearing a wide brimmed hat in a sun dappled forest, the Talesman leans in closely

Friday, July 21, 2017



Out of brightly coloured threads of narration and description Paul wove a dazzling tapestry of stories from the world of the Arabian Nights. Under the guidance of the old woman who looked after them, the orphans Masud and Miriam brought back the mysterious Bird from the land of Gibur to the Garden with the Fountain of Laughter and the Fountain of Tears, during which adventure it was the girl who saved the boy, and not vice versa – but after that, the bird just sat and watched the stars go by, until one day it said, “It is time!” and flew away.

Meanwhile, Hassan the Archer was taken on an expedition to find the Lost City of Iram by a Sheikh who knew a lot more than he did. They found it, but, of all the treasures there, they could only take a small box of red sulphur, which nevertheless had the power to transform everyday objects into gold and jewels. Riches and luxury were a poor compensation for Hassan, whose wife and children had mysteriously disappeared in his absence.

Suleiman the Magnificent's fascination with the Lost City of Iram enabled him [with the help of the Oldest Stork in the World] to find it under the desert sands, but all he could do then was contemplate it, until Death, the Destroyer of Friendships and the Breaker-up of Feasts, took him, and he was buried in the city he had sought, and the djinn covered it again with the sands they had removed at his behest.

All things change, and Mahmud the Merciful succeeded to the throne of his father, known as the Merciless, and found, in the depths of his father's prisons, an old man with a small box of red dust, who had refused to divulge its secret to the former ruler, and, even as the new sultan released him, so a large bird arrived in the city, followed by a young man and young woman, whose identity, gentle listeners, I'm sure you can guess.

As if all that hadn't been treat enough for an evening for the thirteen of us gathered in an upper room, John played guitar in our first interval, and the last session brought another five stories: Janet told The Businessman on Paradise Island, Alan told The Car and the Horses, Misha told The Fish in the Grass, the Buns in the Trees, and the Sausages in the Lake, Raph told The Slippers of Abu Kassim and Mike raced through The Princess with the Golden Hair from Howard Schwartz's Elijah's Violin.

Thursday, July 13, 2017


... and The Lost City of Iram, and many another Tale of the East will be brought to us on Thursday, July 20th, starting at 7.30 p.m., by Paul, one of our regular tellers, who also tells at Southampton and Salisbury Story Clubs.

Friday, May 12, 2017


The future is always subject to change, but we have fixed on some things:

In June, Maddie will tell us stories related to Trees.

In October, our regular in-house tellers, Maddie, Raph, Paul, Mike, Alan, Darren and any others we can attract, will celebrate Samhain, or Halloween, or whatever you want to call it, with a selection of stories appropriate to the season.

In November, we will again present Epic in an Evening, which this year will be the story of Hercules, from his birth to his death and his deification.

Who else will be coming, and what they will be telling, we'll let you know as soon as we do.