My new book FOLK TALES OF SONG & DANCE published by The History Press is now available.

Price £13 from my web site, the THP direct, or all the usual outlets.

It’s hard back, 208 pages and about 50 stories of varying length. The theme of them all is music, song, dance and also the people who carry the songs and music—bards, travelling storytellers, folk singers etc.

The back cover blurb says:

“The life of the travelling musician hasn’t changed much over the millennia. Whether they are a prehistoric harper, a mediaeval fiddler or a modern guitar player, the experience is pretty much the same: there are times when everything goes well and others when nothing does.  But it’s not just performing that can go wrong – listening can also be dangerous! Can you stop dancing when you get tired or must you keep going until the music stops . . . if it ever does? What happens if it carries on past midnight? What if it turns you to stone?  Pete Castle has selected a variety of traditional tales from all over the UK (and a few from further afield) to enthral you, whether you are a musician, a dancer, or just a reader who likes to keep dangerous things like singing and dancing at arm’s-length.”


I’ll be doing two FREE! Zoom book launches where I’ll talk about the book, tell some of the tales, sing a few songs and probably have a Q/A session.

Book Launch 1 hosted by The History Press will be at 2.00pm on Tuesday 9 March

Book Launch 2 hosted by Tenterden Folk Festival will be 7.30pm on Thursday 25 March

For the Zoom log in details contact Pete stating which one you are interested in and he’ll send the link nearer the time. (The content will vary so you could come to both!)


Folktales of Song and Dance, by Pete Castle

Review by Lynne Cullen, Portland, Maine, USA (February, 2021)

While writing this review of Folktales of Song and Dance, by musician/storyteller Pete Castle, I have been listening to: ‘Ffarwel Ned Pugh’, ‘Jack Orion’, ‘Gallows Pole’ (the Led Zeppelin version), ‘Raggle Taggle Gypsy’, and The Violin Sonata in G minor (Devil’s Trill Sonata) by Giuseppe Tartini (1692–1770).

That’s part of what makes this book such fun.

The author has collected roughly fifty folktales, ballads, and lore from the British Isles and Ireland (with two exceptions). They share one thing in common: all are connected to music.

The collection opens and closes with a two-part tale of the legendary Welsh bard Glasgerion (in which a post-concert sexual assignation goes tragically wrong). The stories are organized by subject. For example: minstrels; underground tunnels; the faerie folk; the Devil; compulsive dancing, and musical instruments constructed from body parts (yes, that’s a thing).

The borders between folktales and folk music have always been porous. Some of the stories were originally ballads; other stories inspired ballads.

At the end of each tale, the author explains where he came by the story, and includes information about the songs and ballads, making it easy to find and enjoy the music online, or to play and sing the tunes yourself if you’re so inclined.

Thus there is an interactive quality which I found very entertaining, though the reader will get just as much pleasure from reading the book while sitting in a comfy chair.

The author begins each selection of stories-on-a-theme with a brief discussion of the history and possible origins of that theme. These little introductions are written in an intimate, conversational style, making the reader feel as though they are actually in the presence of an affable speaker in a pub or at a casual lecture.

The book has a beautiful, painted (or is it pastel?) cover by Katherine Soutar, and is peppered with quirky illustrations by the author.

I read the entire book in three hours; it was a brisk read, and never once was I in danger of being bogged down, bored or distracted.

I enjoyed the Afterword, in which the author proposes that folktales are still very much alive and constantly evolving, and that new stories are always being generated by experience. He elaborated on this idea with amusing anecdotes about his own adventures as a touring storyteller and bard.

In these days of restricted travel, I recommend this book as an excellent way to transport yourself to other times and places without having to leave the house. Once you can travel again, you may be eager to take yourself to the places from which the stories came.

I had a good journey.