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True Thomas the Storyteller
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  • Westlake Village CA
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At 12:54am on September 30, 2008, Leslie Slape said…
Greetings! I am sorry I didn't see your post. Looking forward to talking with you Wednesday, but I'll ramble a bit here first.
I totally get your point. Much of what we do in the arts in the SCA is only a portion of what we intrinsically KNOW was done. Sometimes we're so anal about documentation that we fail to consider other possibilities. For instance, any mom knows that boy wear their pants out in the knees. Therefore the pants that are saved, if any, are the nice, stiff ones that were worn for Easter Sunday and probably never again. But the ones the boys loved, the ones they really used, were tossed out when they wore out. It would be easy for an archaeologist to conclude from the extant wardrobe that boys of our day only wore stiff, uncomfortable pants.
As far as storytelling in the SCA, I feel totally OK going with tales that have internal clues such as pagan elements (e.g. The Frog Princess). I'm not going to tell a tale that I am certain is modern, but I think there's a heckuva lot of period tales bouncing around in the mundane world. It's just a matter of trimming off a layer or two of modernity.
I taught an Ithra on "Stalking the Elusive Period Tale" that was pretty well received.
I also did a storytelling performance Ithra that had a good turnout. I'm sorry yours did not. Sounds like you should come up to An Tir.
In my opinion, walking up to strangers and entertaining them is what SCA storytelling is all about. Sure, I've done feasts and competitions and bardic circles, but I've had the most fun when I've entertained folks waiting in line, or helped a crowd pass the time waiting for court. I'm not the only An Tir storyteller who has done this.
I must admit, I haven't been active for awhile because my husband has bad allergies, so it's possible things have changed a little. My former apprentice Dame Guiliana is still active, and she shares my philosophy about telling and mentoring. If you ever make it to the Portland (Three Mountains) area, please give a shout.
At 1:12pm on September 24, 2008, Dusty Skye said…

Heyup! I think the last time I saw you was at the Riverside Dickens Festival a year or few ago!

Good greetings!
At 6:32am on September 17, 2008, Emma Alexander Arthur said…
Hi from Norway. I tried to access your website today - looks fascinating but couldn't get past the first page.
At 1:03am on September 9, 2008, True Thomas the Storyteller said…
Actually, I can find trad stories- certainly tristram and iseult is documentable, as is the tain, etc etc and the greek myths and so on. I guess my bone of contention is that there is no one to speak with authority on what I do. Want me to enter a pentathalon- fine, support me and my kid, and I'll go and learn ancient gaelic, and recite the tain. It may take about 10 years though, and no one in the room will bloody understand me. It's folklorist syndrome all over again. Many folklorists go in, nail down the story, analyze the motif, and archetypes, like a bug on display.
But ask that folklorist to actually tell the story, to make it relevant to an audience...ah...there's the rub. I was discussing mouth music with a Laurel- I said "it's pretty obvious it's been around for a while." She said- prove it. Fine, debate point for her. But I refuse to believe my culture and my history is defined by a bunch of bigoted monks (or romans or vikings or what have you.) and whatever texts managed to survive the ages. It was not the written word that inspired the sca, it was the spirit that the stories invoked. Living with people who put music in all aspects of their lives, it seems brain dead simple that dowdling, puerte bhueile or however you want to call it, existed before the 16th century. But it probably was never engraved or written down. But you don't see a lot of cider recipes, or other things that people just took for granted. At least out here, we have a bad case of Ivory tower syndrome. You are the first storytelling laurel I've ever talked to, and yay, thank god, you can actually tell! Woot! Not only can you tell, but you are aware of the larger storytelling world (the NSN, working paid gigs etc.) Out here, we seem to have no standard outside what "they" think- and when you try to nail that down- it all points back to documentation. But 90% of these "performers" can't sit down and work a group of kids (or won't). The don't walk up to a crowd of strangers and try to entertain them. And saddest of all- for the most part, they are not mentoring. Out here there is a literal disconnect between those who get out and perform for the wild free range audience, and those who only perform for captive audiences. The fyrecrawlers are getting fewer and fewer, and that's a shame, because these folks really are the ones carrying the spirit of the itinerant performer forward. (Yes classical performers are grand. But a little can go a long way.)

I tried to teach a class on coaching- (okay, I taught it, and the one student that came loved it.) but you would think that something like coaching/mentoring would be a critical part of how we as performers work on improving ourselves and others. Here I am, trying to pass on years of experience and the nuggets I've gleaned from various classes with Jay O'Callahan, Doug Lipman, and many others, at some cost to myself. And so on, and so on. During the concerts, I made friends with many bards from other areas. And for whatever reason, it just seemed that my area had some sort of mental blockage.
Sorry, I'm venting. It's been a while since I've actually spoken to a teller who spoke SCA and Telling. And you are a laurel- go figure ;) In any case, give me a call some time, or shoot me an e-mail. My website is, and my e-mail is there, and my phone too. This last war, I sat with kids at the fire and told brion boru and the pooka, the boy who drew cats, Farid M'bam, the ghost with one black eye, and a few others. And everyone enjoyed it. (Oh, and the wise Czarina is one of my favorites) I have a pretty extensive storytelling library- let me know if you are looking for something. I'm not real organized, but I am eclectic ;)
At 11:53pm on September 8, 2008, Leslie Slape said…
Duke Cariadoc isn't ours, unfortunately, He was just visiting. While he was here he taught a storytelling class at Ithra.
It's hard to find period tales, of course, because of the attitude against wasting precious paper to record tales that any peasant woman could tell you dozens of. Still, I have managed to find some that are documentably period, and I've learned to spot the period clues in others. For instance, there's a Russian saints tale, "Peter and Fevronia of Murom," very much like Tristan and Iseult, probably historically based on the life of Prince David of Murom, who ruled from 1203-1228. The couple had been venerated in Murom since the mid-15th C. I found this in "Medieval Russia's Epics, Chronicles and Tales" edited by Serge A. Zenkovsky. Now the interesting thing about this tale is that it's the root of the "clever peasant girl" type of tale. The boyars don't like Fevronia because she's a peasant and they want to kick her out. She says, "OK, but let me take one thing I desire." And that, of course, is Peter.
When I first began playing in An Tir I was a bawdy singer, but then I realized that storytelling wasn't being explored and I decided to do that instead. Lao began about the same time, telling Monkey tales, and she immediately inspired me. Storytelling in An Tir simply happened, driven by high-quality tellers like Lao. It's honored here. Several events offer storytelling competitions.
But yes, as you pointed out in another post, there are also the awful storytellers who bore everyone. We have them here, too.
At 9:57pm on September 8, 2008, Debra Olson-Tolar said…
Hi True! It's been a while. Hope all is well with you. Enjoyed reading your comments on the (un)Conference.
At 7:53am on September 8, 2008, Leslie Slape said…
Also, there's Duke Cariodoc, who tells tales as well as he does everything else. I met him at Thirty-Year and we shared tales around his fire.
At 7:46am on September 8, 2008, Leslie Slape said…
You ask if I know any Laurels who specialize in telling. In An Tir, we have Lao Tao-Sheng, who sadly has retired from telling, and then there's me and Dame Guiliana Benevoli. All of us earned our Laurels for storytelling. Lao was my mistress and I was Guiliana's.
At 9:01pm on April 12, 2008, Harlynne Geisler said…
How are you doing? I'm great (despite a current cold).

At 11:19am on April 8, 2008, Sean Buvala said…
Well, Estrella used to be in my backyard, now it has been moved out to the other side of the world. Sigh.



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