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: Yesterday, I was telling a marvelous tale of how the moon became round. And suddenly, as I reached the best bit, I couldn't remember what came next. I still can't. And staring at these expectant faces, I thought, what will I do when there are no more stories in me? When the well runs dry? What use is a storyteller without stories? And then I remembered a time when that was exactly what happened.
: Yes, yesterday I forgot a story. And that is why I went straight out and gave my supper to a beggar. Storyteller's Dog
: Our supper. The Storyteller
: Now of course, this will strike fools as foolish and wise men as wise. A fool eats his last potato, a wise man plants it. Apart from which everyone knows beggars are never what they seem.
: What's your trade, fool? It can be scratched on your gravestone. The Storyteller
: I am a teller of stories. A weaver of dreams. I can dance, sing, and in the right weather I can stand on my head. I know 7 words of Latin, I have a little magic...
[the guards lower their halberds to bar his way, The Storyteller gestures them to remove the weapons
] The Storyteller
: and a trick or two. I know the proper way to meet a dragon, I can fight dirty but not fair. I once swallowed thirty oysters in a minute. I am not domestic, I am a luxury and, in that sense, necessary.
: [to his dog
] If you itch, you can think of me.
: This morning a man blessed, by lunch a flea. This does not bode well for the evening. Unless I find my story, it's a boil in the oil...
: And so, Majesty, I have no story to tell. King
] But that's the best story I've ever heard
[claps his hands
: And me!
[cries and claps also
: And then I understood what the beggar had done: he'd given me a story. When I was a story short, he made me one.
: As for the cook, he threw out the pot of oil and kept the stone instead. Whenever a poor unfortunate came a-begging, he would make them a most delicious soup.
: So that's how a story was lost and then found. And it's still told today, for the king will hear no other. Only it's changed now, the wife comes back to the storyteller, the storyteller becomes king, you know how it is in stories. She was a lovely. Lovely red hair... Storyteller's Dog
: Are you hungry? I've got a bone somewhere.
: I am a teller of stories, a weaver of dreams. I can dance, sing, and in the right weather I can stand on my head. I know seven words of Latin, I have a little magic, and a trick or two. I know the proper way to meet a Dragon, I can fight dirty but not fair, I once swallowed thirty oysters in a minute. I am not domestic, I am a luxury, and in that sense, necessary.
: It begins a thousand miles from anywhere. After twenty years of war, with a soldier, an honest soul with nothing but a shilling in his pocket and three dried biscuits for the long trudge home...
: And the landlord roasted him the goose in cloven honey and brought it back with a bottle of best wine. And the soldier ate it all and sucked the bones and drank the wine and danced until the morning when he sank, swam, flopped into bed... Three days later he woke up and looked out of the window and there on the hill he saw a palace...
: These are devlish devils, and gamblers too. Soldier
: I think I'll take a closer look.
: But that's folly! The Storyteller
] Folly or not, the soldier goes, sack on his shoulder, whistle on his lips, into the palace. The Storyteller
: [the Soldier enters the empty palace, whistling
] And inside it's very quiet. As if the walls were holding their breath... and waiting.
: The devils rushed to Hell and slammed shut the doors for fear of being followed by the soldier and his sack. And they trembled and quivered and fumed, fumed, fumed. But the soldier had no time for devils. He was the toast of the town and the star of the Tzar. But howsoever life smiles on us, the last laugh is reserved for death...
: Oh... yes, everything is dandy with our friend the good soldier and his magic sack. Rewarded by the Tsar, he's a rich gentleman now, a husband, and a father and lives in the castle. Blessed, caressed and couldn't be better. Until one day, because fate is fickle, one day, because fortune is cruel, his son falls into a terrible fever.
: And so the soldier set up in his new trade as miracle man and travelled the world on a camel with his magic glass. Show him a sick man and he would hold up the glass. If Death sat at the foot of the bed, a quick splish, splash and up the invalid would sit, pouring out blessings. If Death stood staring at the other end, the soldier would shake his head solemnly and depart. And the relatives would mutter: 'What a pitty he came too late' and pay him all the same.
: Good, eh? Death a prisoner. The news whispered from one of the Tsar's fifty wives to the others spread through the town as fast as gossip, which is what it was, and nothing spreads faster. And within four-and-a-half minutes the whole town knew. And within seventeen minutes the whole country knew. And by the following morning it was the talking point of a thousand languages.
: So, nothing died? The Storyteller
: Nothing. The oddest battles. There were wars going on in most places and they were very strange. At the end of a day's carnage, flashing swords and explosions, the air thick with arrows and savage swoosh of axes, nobody had died... The armies would look at each others exhausted and intact. Duels at dawn went on 'til midnight when the rivals would go home confused. Crossed lovers would thrown themselves off cliffs... and have a long climb back.
: The soldier waited and waited an inch from paradise. Until after a long time, forgotten, he turned and walked slowly back to Earth. And for all I know he wanders still.
: Ten centuries ago a creature was born. Child of a terrible passion. Son of a queen, son of a bull. A creature so monstrous, Minos, King of Crete had this maze build to hide him. Every seven years there was a blood tribute paid to Crete. Every seven years a black-sailed ship came from Athens. Seven youths in their prime, seven pure maidens were taken as sacrifice. Brought here to the labyrinth, where every passage is a promise broken, Every way out is a way in and where the Minotaur's savage appetite for human flesh could be dealt with in the dark...
: [about Medea
] I don't like her, she's a witch. The Storyteller
: She was a witch, she was also a mother. And she knew Theseus. She knew nothing would stand in his way, not love, not fear, not a promise.
: As Ariadne came from the labyrinth, ran from monster left with its secrets, Theseus son of Aegeus sailed into Crete. And as the childen of Athens came before her, Theseus the hero stood defiant. As he saw her, as she saw him, the threads of their lives crossed. Tangled, knotted them together.
: [Theseus has defeated the Minotaur
] It lay there on the floor, bleeding to death. And Theseus stood above it with his sword. And as he watched, its huge jaws moved. And it seemed to him as if the sounds coming from them were almost human. Mother, it seemed to say, mother... father... brother... sister. Ariadne
: No... don't! Don't kill him. He's my brother.
: And Ariadne watched, pale as sin. Watched and waited for her new lord to join her. Waited for him to lie with her. And when the fire had died to its embers, when the wineskins were dry, when his feet could no longer carry him, Theseus came to her. And all night he promised her anything. Everything. The promise of a man to a woman. The promise his father had made to his mother... and broken.
: [about Aegeus
] His heart broke and he lept out into the dazzling light of the day into the sea, which ever after bares his name.
: Theseus, son of Aegeus, bullslayer, king of Athens. Many nights he would dream of wondering through the winding corridors of his palace. Looking as he had done once before for a monster to kill. But in the dream, it was always his mother, or his father, or his wife he killed. And when he caught his own reflection, he had the monster's face.
: At first it was wonderful. The Dog
: There's a "but" coming. The Storyteller
[the dog nods
: Now to say you wouldn't care when you want something is a dangerous thing. That woman wanted a baby so bad she could't care what she got.
: And Hans my hedgehog learned he was strange and he learned he was ugly and he learned to be sad and he learned the name that was given him: Child
: And when all was done, he went to his mother and she kisses him and then to his dad and hugged him. And the farmer knew for the first time how soft he was. They watched him until he was a faint smudge in the distance. And his mother felt a crack in her heart like a tiny pencil line. And each day after, the pencil line got thicker and thicker, and one day not long after, her heart split in half, and she died.
: Well, this king woke up the next morning after a night of the kind of dreams you only dream about. And he opened his eyes and almost yanked off his ear because he found himself under a tree which certainly wasn't where he'd fallen asleep. And more confusing: it was a tree from which he could see the edge of his kingdom. And he began to dance as only kings once lost and then found can dance: a jig, a jiggle-joggle and a leap.
: And so the princess who could not keep her promise won back her husband through looking without hope of finding and holding on for dear life. And in time her hair grew red again and there was another wedding all over, and we were both invited. And I told the best story there is to tell: a story which begins in hello and ends in goodbye. And for a gift, she gave me a shoe worn to nothing. And... here it is
[holds up an empty hand and chuckles
: Here we are, dearios, in the king's great hall. And lo and behold, a handsome storyteller has been summoned to court to entertain the royal family.
: I'm very good at this.
: [hearing a guard tell the king an army of animals is approaching the day after he reminded the king he'd have to give his princess to the Grovelhog
] Told you.
: There was one among the mourners whose heart was ice, whose soul was cold, whose smile was sly. Whose brain raced ahead to the day when the king would want to ease his loneliness. And the which, for witch she was, fixed her dry eyes on the king and schemed. Witch
: Mine... The Storyteller
: She schemed... Witch
: Mine, all mine. And you may well weep.
: And for a day and a night the princess ran, stumbled, fled untill she dropped. Dropped into a dead sleep. And when she woke she saw three ravens before her. Or perhaps she dreamt it, because they spoke to her. 'Sister,' they seemed to say, 'we are trapped, help us.' Princess
: How? How can I help you? The Storyteller
: 'You must keep silent. You must not speak to a single soul for three years, three months, three weeks, and three days. Only then can the spell be broken.' Princess
: Then I shall not speak.
: And the prince came back every day for a week. And the princess found she could smile again. A darling smile. A smile that wrapped all the way round her heart and his heart and squeezed them tight together. And the prince gave up speaking too, and they were content to simply sit and hug on that smile.
: The witch! But she was married to the other king! The Storyteller
: The other king was dead, poisoned. Storyteller's Dog
: Ow! The Storyteller
: Oh, no, the witch had a taste for kings now, for countries. For the princess was a thorn pricking at her ambitions. The princess could not speak, but she accused with her looks: Killer of my father, bewitcher of my brothers. And the witch knew she must have done with her. And so the battle began: the good princess and the wicked witch.
: And not a minute, it seemed, before there he was: a son, a boy. And the young mother would have given anything, everything to say his name, sing to him, whisper... But she couldn't, so she didn't.
: Where's the baby, darling? The Storyteller
: The princess didn't know and couldn't speak. And their baby was nowhere to be found. And the pain of it, intollerable. Until one night, she went to the garden and dug with her hands in the ground a small hole. And, bending to the earth, screamed with all her heart. Screamed and screamed her pain into the hole until morning. And it was better. And looking up to the sky she saw her brothers, the ravens circling above her. 'The days pass,' they seemed to say. 'Hold to your promise, hold to your promise.'
: And the girl who kept faith and had but one face for everyone was rewarded with sons and brothers and a sweetheart and a crown. And she practiced her smile until it was perfect.
: Yes, but it wasn't three years, three months, three weeks, and three whole days, was it? The Storyteller
: No, clever clogs. The princess spoke three minutes too soon. And because of that her youngest brother kept one wing forever. But he didn't mind, and nor do I and nor, my dear, should you.
: Daedalus, the master who designed this labyrinth. Whose mind produced these dizzy passages. Daedelus the genius, who invented ships which could sail under the sea, fireworks which would knock down a wall, lenses, that set together could see as far as the stars. Fantastic machines. He fell so far, he fell so far from grace he finished a broken man. Making the same little clay figure over and over: a child with wings. The Dog
: A child with wings? Who was that? The Storyteller
: The one thing Daedelus made he had no control of. The one thing he ever truly loved. Icarus, his son.
: Daedalus, the greatest crafstman in Greece, there was no one like him. He was born in Athens. The Dog
: Like us. The Storyteller
: And he learned the art of making from the godess Athena herself. But his greatest dream was to fly, to sour through the clouds like a bird. The Dog
: Is that why his son had wings? Did they both grow wings? The Storyteller
: No, no, they didn't. Poor Icarus had nothing so graceful as wings. Even his hands were awkward and clumsy.
: The gods play with us. Into Talos, his sister's boy, went all the joy of creation. A keen eye and a quick wit, as if the two boys had been born to the wrong parent. For Talos was the kind of son Daedelus had dreamed of.
: Talos fell, twisting and turning like a starfish. He fell so slowly through the air, it seemed to Deadelus he was falling forever, that he never going to land, that he was flying. Then the ground reminded him. It came to meet Talos and jolted him asleep. Daedalus
] What have I done?
: And people say Daedalus did use his brain. The maze he built to imprison the monster, the Minotaur, was designed like the brain itself. And a thousand years later, it still stands here. The Dog
: So was Minos pleased? The Storyteller
: Minos was cruel. Minos had two secrets: who the minotoar was and how to get out of the labyrinth. Now Daedelus knew both of them. When the monster was taken to its new prison, Deadelus and Icarus were locked in with it. Down there somewhere, in the heart of the labyrinth.
: [Daedelus is hugging his son
] You're squeezing me. We're not saying goodbye, are we? The Storyteller
: Daedelus clung to his son on the hill. Then he kissed Icarus and it seemed as if some great bird was feeding it's chick mouth to mouth, as birds do. Or that if Daedelus was willing his knowledge into his clumsy son.
: He died? The Storyteller
: He died. The Dog
: That's terrible. Why did he fly too high? He promised he wouldn't fly too high. The Storyteller
: I think when Talos dropped from the sad heights above Athens, Icarus was already falling. As if a single thread held them all together. Talos fell, Icarus fell, Daedelus fell.
: Water took his son from him, water killed the king. But there's no peace in vengeance, no rest in revenge. Daedelus survived, but sometimes he wished he hadn't. Sometims, as he sat in his workshop day upon day, staring at nothing, he wished he had gone back to Crete and a quick death, not the slow dying inside.
: A "boo" to the king! Storyteller's Dog
: Boo! The Storyteller
: And a hiss! Storyteller's Dog
: Sometimes people are born lucky. You imagine if they open their hands there'd be a little piece of sunshine. A personal piece. It lights them up. Everyone loves these people, they're lit up.
[blows out the candlelight in his hands
] The Storyteller
: Cats sit on their laps. Storyteller's Dog
: What? The Storyteller
: It's luck, it's a gift, it's a blessing, and therefore can't be undone. This is also true of prophesies.
: And it happened in a week with two Fridays that the cruel king heard of a prophesy. A child had been born reported his spies, a luck child. Poor as penants, rich as snow, the seventh son of a seventh son. Wize men prophesied this child would one day be king.
: Each one who came the same story: the Griffin, please, for love, for justice, for fame, for fortune. But always in the end for the Griffin's supper.
: I dare not think it possible you found the answer, but then you did come back... No one has ever come back. Lucky
: I have come back and I have the answer: the next passenger you have, give him your oar. Then your lot will be his, his freedom yours. Ferryman
: So simple...
[fights back tears
: so simple. The Storyteller
: And for the first time in years, centuries, hope fires the ferryman. A smile is forming in his mind, a tiny smile growing, getting ready to be born...
: Come on, come on, come on, can't we go any faster? Ferryman
: Oh, yes, sir, there is a way...
[gestures for the king to take over the ore
] The Storyteller
: Take it, he says, take it, take it... So if you come one day to a lake and there's an island and a ferry goes back and forth rowed by an old sad man, turn around. Griffins live there, you may never get off the boat. For the ferryman was once a wicked king who ignored a prophesy, whose heart was cruel. And nature, my dears, is a wize woman who pays us back, tit for tat.
: Sometimes people are born lucky. You imagine if they open their hands there'd be a little piece of sunshine. A personal piece. It lights them up. Everyone loves these people, they're lit up. Cats sit on their laps. Storyteller's Dog
: [looks up
: Terrible. That's a terrible story. The Storyteller
: What? Storyteller's Dog
: The baby died. What do you mean, what? The Storyteller
: Who said the baby died? *I* didn't.
: Orpheus and Eurydice. Two names that will always belong together. Two people who loved each other even beyond the shadow of death itself.
: When Orpheus played, the whole world wanted to move. It seemed that the roots of the trees would to haul themselves up from the Earth and dance to his rythm.
: Sometimes a story doesn't end with two people falling in love, it starts there.
: Orpheus wanted to keep her away from the untrimmed trees and the ragged depts of the forests because he knew who was there. The Dog
: Who was? The Storyteller
: Centaurs, fauns, satyrs, creatures given up to pleasure, hairy and unpredictable. The Dog
: Like me.
] The Storyteller
: Hairy, anyway.
[scratches the dog's belly
: There is almost no sound in Hades. The Dog
: They have a dog there, don't they? The Storyteller
: They have a three-headed dog, Cerberus, if you must know. But this isn't a story about dogs, this is the story of Orpheus, who went down into Hades itself to bring back his loved one.
: He was almost at the entrance to the cave that leads to Hades and he could hear the birds singing outside... The Dog
] And they walked out into the sunlight and were happily ever after? The Storyteller
: They didn't. They didn't.
[the dog sighs
] The Storyteller
: They didn't.
: It is always just when you think you have things in your grasp that you close your fingers and find they have gone. Because when we're in love it's our hearts that guide us and betray us all the time.
: On the whole, there's absolutely no need to be frightened of giants. Giants are gentle, perfectly harmless, very affectionate. Unless of coure, the giant has no heart in his body.
: Think of all kinds of unpleasant things and add 'giant' to them. And that's what you get when a giant has no heart. Such a giant once terrorized a country in the far north of the world near the very top. He'd hidden his heart, it gave him too much trouble, all those giant feelings. In it's place was a wasps' nest about to swarm.
: I've not eaten since winter came. Help me. Let me eat your horse, I'll eat it and be strong again. Trust me. The Storyteller
: But how can Leo trust anyone? He's trusted before and been betrayed. Storyteller's Dog
: That's right, that's right, let the wolf starve.
: Please, please, or I must surely die. Storyteller's Dog
: No, don't do it! Leo
: Eat your fill, and if you must, then afterwards eat me.
: An egg in a duck in a well in a church in an island in a lake in a mountain? Impossble!
: And where the giant fell, a hill grew. And in time, when much was long forgot, the place was still known as the Hill of the Heartless Giant.
: But do you know, Prince Leo lived to be a great age, became king, had 42 grandchildren and he told them all that tale. But in his story, the giant got back his heart and made amends for all his wrongs. Because you see, despite all that took place, a little boy once met a giant... and they became friends.
: [having found a statue of Medusa's head
] That face, it's horrible. Where does it come from? The Storyteller
: A long way away on a rock at the edge of the world, lived a woman with terrible claws, wings of bronze and breath as foul as corpses. Her hair was a nest of poisiones snakes. Hissing, alive. Catch her stare, and she could turn you to stone. Her name was Medusa. The Gorgon. Imagine her looking away and then starting to turn towards you. Slowly... slowly... Medusa
: Shall we turn and look at them, sisters?
: Is that it? The cap of invicibility? Nice! The Storyteller
: It's dogskin. The Dog
: I don't believe you! That cap of dogskin? That's disgusting. The Storyteller
: Well, it is. The Dog
: Who were these other Gorgons? You never mentioned three Gorgons. The Storyteller
: If I told the whole story your head would burst. There is no one story, there are branches, rooms, like this place. Rooms, corridors, dead ends.
: So the Oracle was wrong? The Storyteller
: What? The Dog
: Acrisius. The Oracle said Perseus would kill his grandfather and he didn't. The Storyteller
: I went to the Oracle once. Never ask. You never hear what you hope for.
: Oh, yes, oracles are true. Stories are true. There are monsters at the end of the world. There are looks that can kill. And who has not been petrified with fear? Ask Athena, warrior daughter of Zeus, weaver, maker of spiders. She will tell you the things I cannot. She will sing the praises of Perseus the hero, father of the Argus, the Gorgon-slayer.
: Trolls come at the bottom of the list of people you want as friends. They are revolting, trolls, they can't even stand each other. The troll in this story had a daughter, and she left home straight off. In her place the troll found an orphan. A young girl to wait on him hand and foot. But this girl had more in store than to do for a troll. Oh, no, she had a destiny.
: When word spreads of a lovely thing alone in a grand palace, well, they flocked to her, the suitors, in droves. Prince Lahdeedah of Here and Prince Lahdeedah of There. But they're a trifle to much Lah or a little too much Dee and, occasionally, plain Dah.
: You are my true bride. Anja
: Am I? Then let no one else ever kiss your cheek. Prince
: Never. Never ever. The Storyteller
: Never he says, never ever. But I'm sorry, hurt lurks, pain prowls, sorrow simmers. Storyteller's Dog
: Why, what happens, does the troll come back? Oh, no! The Storyteller
: No... well, yes, in a manner of speaking... yes, he does.
: And from that day, our lovers lived peacefully. Babies came to bless them and the sun forever shown. And they kept a statue of the lion, whom they both called the Thought Lion. And they told their children he could come alive in an instant if he wanted to, or if they ever needed him. But the children found that hard to believe.
: Beginning as I do at the beginning, and starting as I must at the start, let me show you fate through the round of this ring. The girl whose finger fits this ring, she'll become queen. The law decrees it. What a lucky girl, you might think, hm? Oh, no...
: The ceremony, when must it take place? Minister
: As soon as the preparations allow. Sapsorrow
: Then first find me a dress of the palest silk, the colour of the moon. I will not wed 'til I have it. Minister
: Very well, we will find this dress. The Storyteller
: The princess in her woe plans a plan and schemes a scheme. To find such a gown will take time and meantime, you must all help me.
: Two years later, a poor creature of fur and feathers tended geese in a king's garden. And scrubbed the pots in his kitchen, so that... Storyteller's Dog
] That's the princess! The Storyteller
: Princess of slops, yes. Princess of peeling, perhaps. Princess of the kitchen floor, certainly.
: Next day, a proclamation rings out around the palace: Storyteller's Dog
: The prince will marry the girl who fits the golden slipper. Feh! The Storyteller
: Well, she thinks, what was true of the finger, is true of the foot. She was cursed by the ring, can she be blessed with the slipper?
: [frightened of a spider
] Have ya killed it? The Storyteller
: Yes. Storyteller's Dog
: Promise? The Storyteller
: Promise. I popped it between my fingers. Come and see. It's quite a mess. Blech! Storyteller's Dog
: Good. Yuck! They're foul. they don't even know the meaning of the world bone. The Storyteller
: What a noodle you are, frightened of a little thing. Storyteller's Dog
: You're afraid of rats! The Storyteller
: Everyone's frightened of rats. They're rattish. That's normal. Why? Have you seen a rat?
: The second son of the second cousin of my second wife's second niece, who died, and left her husband, a tailor, two sons. The one good, the other good for nothing. And he was called Fearnot.
: And so the boy who set forth to learn what fear was, learned it at home. And he married his sweetheart, with her name and all and never left again. Mr. McKay told me that story a long time ago when I was very young and I didn't know the half of it.