FolkWorld Issue 42 07/2010

Letters to the Editors

Tim Jennings & Leanne Ponder: The King and the Thrush

Jennings & Ponder, The King and the Thrush

Hey guys. We're a couple of American storytellers who perform traditional folktales in a style of overlapping, interlocking spoken word narration, with occasional Celtic music on harp and concertina. You reviewed our World Tales Live at Bennington College a very long time ago, called it "Brilliant." We continue to perform and record and develop our craft. We have new live-performance CD we'd like you to look at, The King and the Thrush, Tales of Goodness and Greed. The pieces are from Denmark, India, and the Ukraine; they're old but still seem to be talking about current events, over here, at least. These are stories we tell to a mixed-age audience, adults and children. A couple of them we would tell if it's mostly adults, a couple we would tell if it's mostly kids. The tales are all traditional folk, drawn from printed sources, adapted to our voices and with additional material by us.

I have a couple of questions, if you have a minute. If you don't, never mind, and I hope you enjoy the CD. The Grimms collected two kinds of tales, Marchen and Sage. We don't really have a good word for either-- Marchen is popularly translated as fairy tale, not a useful word for the kind of story we tell. English-speaking academic folklorists translate Sage as "legend" (eg "ghost legend" "urban legend" "UFO legend"), the other term they don't translate, they just say "Marchen." My questions are: Would you happen to know, is there a German word for storyteller, based on "marchen"? Could there be one? Marchenspieler would be tale-singer, I don't want that. And is there a word for traditional marchen, as opposed to modern, composed tale?

Best, Tim Jennings

Hello Tim. Märchen - fairy tale. Well, might be because Grimm's tales are usually supernatural stories. Otherwise we would simply say 'Geschichte' - story, tale. We use also the terms 'Fabel' (fable) and 'Erzählung' (account, narrative). What about folk-tale? There is also the word 'Volksmärchen', but I can't see any difference to 'Märchen', other than its anonymous by the people and oral tradition. Storyteller might translate as 'Märchenerzähler' or 'Geschichtenerzähler'. The latter is correct German, but actually I cannot recall that I ever heard it. I don't know if there is any living story-telling tradition in Germany. Probably not. Today we have book readings, poetry slams ... 'Märchenerzähler', 'Märchen erzählen' has two meanings today: (a) telling tales, (b) pulling someone's leg, I guess you call it telling a tall-tale ('Lügengeschichte'). 'Sage' is a legend, a myth, I think saga is also used in English. The latter sounds rather Scandinavian, but since a 'Sage' is supposed to be very old, it is the same Germanic story tradition. Best wishes, T:-)M

Thanks, Tom, for taking the time to respond to my question; that was very helpful. I've been feeling my way forward with this stuff for about 40 years, entirely as a performer. My aim has been to liberate the old oral tales-- 'Volksmärchen'-- from texts in which they mostly now exist in fossil form, and to return them to the world of living audio from which they sprang. There's surprisingly little real help for this, a few models encountered along the way have had to inspire a lot of work, first on my own, then with Leanne. Our current work, as you'll hear, is a step away from the old form, but I think presents the material in an honest manner. We try to take advantage of the possibilities that are available when you add a second voice, while retaining the compelling drive and focus of solo narration. I've been telling for a living since 1980, during the last big recession. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we stay afloat to the other side of this one.

"Folktale" is the right word, and it's the one we use, but it's not completely satisfactory; it refers to a variety of kinds and styles of anonymous oral narrative. Folklore scholars in the U.S. at one time (my reading's likely a little out of date) adopted the Grimms' terminology of "marchen" and "sage" to distinguish between two kinds of collectable tales of marvelous occurences. "Marchen" are understood by tellers and listeners to be fictional, and are enjoyed purely as works of art. They have a recognizable style & structure across a variety of cultures. "Sagen" are accounts of events that are said to have actually occurred, often in a particular place. They take much of their interest and power from their supposed reality, and tend to be a little spooky in feel. The incidents may be said to have happened a long time ago, in a specific castle or to a particular saint, or they may be relaTively recent, as in ghost encounters, gruesome murders, lovers' leaps, etc. Often the same tale is attached to multiple locations. I think U.S. folklorists now mostly use "legend" for this kind of thing, eg "ghost legend" "urban legend" "UFO legend." Leanne and I mostly stick with the Marchen. For one thing, we love them. For another, legends are mostly not so compelling unless they're presented as being true; like a classic stage magician vs a stage psychic, I prefer to be an *honest* liar.

Thanks again for your response to my query. Leanne and I hope you enjoy the CD, which has little to do with any of the above... Best, Tim Jennings

Tamburellisti di Torrepaduli: Taranta Taranta

We are really delighted to be on your site and proud that people can read those beautiful words on our music and on the group. We are already aired by major World Music Radios in your country, and now hope to be soon on tour in Germany. We do feel obliged for your review and want to tell you once more that we are honoured of all your attention, your time and all the professionality with which you took into consideration our music.

THANK YOU AGAIN and hope to be in touch. Kind regards, Canio Rosario Maffucci - A&R Director IWM (Italian World Music)

Jackie Tice: MorningSky Drum Song

Thank you so much for reviewing my CD, MorningSky Drum Song. I deeply appreciate that you reach into the independent artists pool to bring our music to a wider audience. I look forward to sending you my next release and will include your website address on the links page of my website!

All peace, Jackie Tice

Markus Segschneider: Woodcraft

Hello, how about a new pair of ears ? In the hopes that something passable will come out ...

Regards, Markus Segschneider

Cady Finlayson: Irish Coffee

Thank you so much for the review and letting me know that it came out. I might just make an Irish Coffee today to celebrate!

Best wishes, Cady Finlayson

David Rovics

David Rovics: How to Organize a Benefit Concert

When only a few people show up or the band sucks, a benefit concert can be demoralizing. But when done right it can accomplish a number of important goals. It can raise much-needed money for activist groups, energize and inspire your community, help your group do more outreach and networking with the broader community, and they can even help support artists! By my informal accounting, at least 90% of the progressive community could really get something useful out of this article. Please feel free to share it! You can find it on my Facebook pages and at:

David Rovics

Des Wade: Performers Wanted

Hi. I'm an Irish-born songwriter living in Adelaide, South Australia and, as I don't perform live, I'm looking for groups or artists who may be interested in performing my songs. I have written several songs with strong Celtic themes such as The Sign of the Claddagh which is on my site at There are samples of others on my site such as Oró Tír na nóg - about the magical Celtic Land of the Young – and Wings of Angels which has a line in the chorus as Gaeilge. Perhaps you, your friends or colleagues might be interested in listening to new, original material which has so far not been covered by other artists with a view to performance – or just for your enjoyment.

Slán, Des Wade

German Letters

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