Not long ago, I came upon one of those not-too-serious Facebook quizzes. It asked you various questions, and then worked out what occupation you should have had if you’d lived in the Middle Ages, I got ‘herbalist’ … which disappointed me slightly, for I’d much rather have been a Storyteller.
This person roamed around from village to village. He probably had another line, too … maybe a pedlar, or something. But, people looked forward to his visits, and his stories. In those days, most folk didn’t travel very far, and only a privileged few could read, so the storyteller was a source of both news and entertainment.
It’s probably from the storytellers that legends of the likes of King Arthur and Robin Hood sprang up … modelled on actual people, but lavishly embellished and embroidered over the years.
With the advent of first, the printed word and, more recently, instant mass communication, the art of storytelling almost died … apart from, of course, the telling of bedtime stories to tinies who cannot yet read. But, even those usually come from books, rather than tales passed down through the generations.
But, just before Christmas, English Heritage laid on a special treat for the Stonehenge Volunteers. We had mince pies and nibbles around an open fire in the Earth House, in the Ancient Technology Centre. The Earth House is a sort of meeting room, roofed with turf, and benches arranged amphitheatre-style around a central circular area within which the fire burns.
And, to entertain us, a Storyteller came, and, for an hour, regaled us with a recital of folk tales. I did make some recordings, but don’t want to reproduce them here. What I particularly noticed was a complete absence of ‘um-ing’ and ‘er-ing’ … as well as projecting his voice beautifully (either that, or the Earth House has really good acoustics!)
I don’t think I could do that … so, maybe, if I’d lived in the Middle Ages, I’d be better advised to stick to herbalising!