Pete’s 4th book for The History Press’ folk tales series. This is a topic made for him!
The publisher’s blurb says: “Pete Castle has spent most of his life playing music and nearly as long telling tales. He has often been described as a ‘wandering minstrel’. He is a storyteller who sings half his stories which is, of course, the old way; the ancient bards often played instruments, sang and told stories. In this book Pete has gathered together a collection of traditional tales in which music calls the tune. Songs can get you both into and out of trouble; dancing can be a wondrous experience but don’t do it in the wrong place or at the wrong time; a musician can be a welcome guest but he can also be frowned on or hounded out of town. From Orpheus with his harp to Johnny B Goode and his guitar is not such a giant step!”
There is a wide selection of stories covering many hundreds of years. Most are from the British Isles but a few from further afield have crept in. Some are well known others should be new to you. (They were to Pete!)
“Pete writes as he talks—easy, relaxed and utterly engaging. I can hear his voice on the page. This book is good company.” Nicky Rafferty, storyteller
208 pages. Hardback. e-version available from The History Press website, Amazon etc
Glasgerion; Something to Tell ‘em; Sandy/Sandra; On Minstrels, Bards & the Like; Spencer the Rover; Blondel the Minstrel; Robin Hood and Alan-a-Dale; The Two Sisters; Binnorie; The Raggle Taggle Gypsies-O; Johnny Faa; Singing Sam of Derbyshire; The Old Wandering Droll-Teller of the Lizard…; The Mermaid and the Man of Cury; The Mermaid of Zennor; Ion the Fiddler; The Guitar Player; The Devil’s Trill; The Fox and the Bagpipes; Colkitto and the Phantom Piper; The Phantom Piper of Kincardine; Underground Music; Ffarwel Ned Pugh; The Fairy Harp; Dance Til You Drop; The Hunchback and the Fairies; The Legend of Stanton Drew; Jack and the Friar; Jack Horner’s Magic Pipes; The Bee, the Harp, the Mouse and the Bum-clock; Mossycoat; The Frog at the Well; Kate Crackernuts; Orange and Lemon; Hangman, or the Prickly Bush; Tom Tit Tot; Tiidu the Piper; The Pied Piper of Franchville; The Man Who Stole the Parson’s Sheep; Tapping at the Blind; Fill the House; The Show Must Go On; The Grove of Heaven; The Fiddler and the Bearded Lady; Joseph and the Bull; Bragi; King Orfeo; Dagda’s Harp; Etain and Midir; Glasgerion part 2; Jack Orion; The Devil’s Violin; Afterword: Into the 21st Century
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 Afterward, 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.
Review by Lynne Cullen (February, 2021)
Pete Castle’s new book is a delightful tug-of-war.
On the one side is a consummate performer- storyteller and balladeer. He comes away with some fluent, focussed and finely tuned inputs. I especially commend the Cornish offerings (eg ‘The Mermaid and the Man of Cury’), the Welsh tales (eg ‘Ffarwel Ned Pugh’ and ‘The Fairy Harp’), and the ballads, not least ‘Jack Horner’s Magic Pipes’ which must surely have been a broadsheet and/or chapbook classic.
Then at the other end of a firmly held rope is Pete Castle, editor, pundit and good crack. He brims over with information, anecdotes and informative titbits. Its like after the gig, when you get round a table with fellow performers to share a wealth of lore….till ale overtakes the learning.
Those two sides come together beautifully through Pete’s eye for ‘the song within the story’ – surely one of the greatest pleasures of oral narrative, and often a sign of genuine antiquity. Check out Pete’s song for ‘Mossycoats’, the backbone song in ‘Orange and Lemon’ (Orangie an Aipplie for the Scots), and the apparently simple songster who steals the show in ‘The Man Who Stole the Parson’s Sheep’.
I humbly submit though that Pete misses a trick with ‘The Hunchback and the Fairies’ as the Scots Traveller version- ‘Monday, Tuesday’- bubbles on a wee sang, the words of which are graciously extended to ‘Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday’. Still enough to get the little people toe-tapping at Midsummer!
You will get lots of enjoyment and good ideas from Pete Castle’s Folk Tales of Song and Dance. To coin a phrase, it offers an unbeatable blend of Fact and Fiction.
Chief Executive of TRACS (Traditional Arts & Culture Scotland)