The “A” List

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MabinogionAs Barra the Bard played the harp, the bride and groom giggled their way down the little path through the grass. Simplia blew them kisses and Sagacia tossed her little handful of oatmeal over their heads, cheering and whistling along with the other costumed wedding guests and a few stray renn fair attendees who had happened upon the ceremony.

“Yay! Yay!” Sagacia shouted inarticulately, but who heard? And, anyway, who cared?

“That’s one wedding I was glad to be A-listed for!” Simplia said. “I mean, how often do you get to put on your troll costume to go to a wedding!”

“Or your wizard’s hat!” Sagacia agreed. “And speaking of ‘A List,’ we should get busy on that list of sagas and epics and myths from all over the world that Eavesdropping in Evanston requested.

Just then the Simpletons saw Tarkabarka approaching, her quiver and bow strung over her shoulder.

“Sagas and epics and myths—Oh, my!” she chanted, holding out her arms to the Simpletons who each took her up on a hug. Then she went on:

I keep trying to come up with a definitive list of stories that storytellers should know (not tell, but be at least familiar with) but I keep running out of space. The easy answer would be “all of them” or “as many as humanly possible.” I am completely biased about epics, but I think epics are important on so many levels that storytellers should be familiar with as many as they can access in their language.

Adam Hoffman, dressed as the pied piper, had joined them just in time to hear of Tarkabarka’s efforts. Greetings were exchanged all around, then Adam spoke.

As for myths and epics, may I suggest Beowulf as translated by Seamus Heaney and the epic of Gilgamesh. My copy of Gilgamesh is by David Ferry, but I’m sure there are other good translations. Also, I’d suggest Monkey, translated by Arthur Waley. Monkey is actually an abridged version of the Chinese “folk novel” A Journey to the West by Wu Ch’Eng-En.

Sagacia and Simplia nodded energetically, and Tarkabarka added some inside information:

I have yet to find a good English translation for Journey to the West, a lot of them are old and convoluted. The Hungarian translation, on the other hand, is amazing! And let’s add Water Margin and Three Kingdoms while we’re at it.

By then, Barra had finished putting away her instrument and joined the company. Never at a loss for words, she also had some additions:

I am so glad you’re compiling this list! Having been brought up on my granny’s Scottish and Welsh (yes, including the Mabigoni; my favorite there was Bloddwedd Flowerface), it always irritated me in school that the only references to myth were Greco-Roman and Norse! Don’t forget the Irish Fionn tales, Cuchulainn, and so many others. Would Native Americans consider Gluskapi stories a cycle? Raven stories? Such a wealth of things to explore for many!

And Megan Hicks, catching up with the little group of storytellers commented, too.

Barra–good question about Gluskabe and Raven. …ditto for Iktomi and Coyote. There’s Copper Woman from the western side of this continent. Her stories qualify. I think.

Mary Grace Ketner, who’d been listening quietly chimed in.

Hold it, y’all! Every storyteller should definitely be familiar with the Arabian Nights, the classic Richard Burton version or the new one translated by Husain Haddawy. Or both. Oh, and The Canterbury Tales, too, but I couldn’t pick a translator for you. Anyway, it helps to read several versions in both prose and verse to get a good feel for it.

“Slow down!” Sagacia said. “I’m writing as fast as I can, but I can’t keep up.”

She held out her paper:

The “A” List

Beowolf—translated by Seamus Heaney
Gilgamesh–translated by David Ferry
Monkey—Translated by Arthur Waley from A Journey to the West by Wu Ch/Eng-En
Water Margin
Three Kingdoms
The Mabigonion
Irish Fionn Tales
Cuchulainn
Native American tales of Gluskabi, Raven, Iktomi, Coyote, Copper Woman
Arabian Nights—translated by Husain Haddawy or Richard Burton
The Canterbury Tales

And then she spoke: “Simplia and I were going to walk over to the Fairy Tale Lobby to post this question after the wedding,” she said. “Wanna come?”

“You can help us add to the list,” Sagacia added. “We’re off to a great start, but it’s not complete yet, and we ought to be able to give Eavesdropping in Evanston some of our favorite translators, too!”

Just now, dear reader, I couldn’t say exactly who it was who heard the call and answered, but it was a lively and colorful and noisesome group that headed down the path that led to the Fairy Tale Lobby to work on the list. You’re invited, too!