North From Centre
North From Centre (audio cassette) by Earthstory. Self-produced, 1996. $10 + $2 shipping.
Earthstory is a trio of tellers: folklorist Kay Stone, artist Mary Louise Chown, and classicist Jane Cahill. They are described, in the tape's liner notes, as "three women who work together to create a fusion of traditional tales and myths ...with stories of our ordinary lives.
The strength of this tape is in its stories. These are stories of strong women, from the tragic to the triumphant, based in the traditional. world,. but fimlly rooted in contemporary sensibility.
"The Face of Death," the first story on the tape, is a sympathetic look at the story of Medusa. After listening to it, I went to my collection to see how various books presented her, and found, out of the ten I had on hand, ony two which even mentioned how Medusa became a Gorgon. The others focused entirely on Perseus and his conquest of her. Earthstory's version begins. With Medusa as a beautiful woman, who incurs the wrath of Athene by lying with Poseidon in a sacred oak grove. Her transformation into a hideous creature whose very face causes death jeopardizes her own life, since she is mortal and could unwittingly kill herself by seeing her reflection. It is her immortal sisters, in this version, who take her away to protect her from herself and others. It is a wonderful interpretation of a classic story.
"Bones and Curious Girl" is really two stories, one a frame for the other. Two children come across bones which they assemble, bringing to life an old woman from whom they ask a story. The story which is told is "Curious Girl," Kay Stone's version of a little known Grimm Tale called Mother Trude.. Those of you who have read Dan Yashinsky's book Next Teller will recognize the story and remember Kay's introduction to it. When I first read [Mother Trudy], I was enraged !hat a girl who was merely curious (as I was) and disobedient, was turned into a log and burned by a witch...! began telling the story to see if there was something up its sleeve, and there was.
The other story on the tape, called 'The Three Walnuts" has elements of East O' The Sun, The Black Bull of Norroway, and Whitebear Whittington, among others. It is the tale of one of a trio of sisters, each of whom knows her mind and gets what she wants. This girl, too, gets what she wants, but loses it and must, through her own courage, persistence, and wit, regain it.
The tellers are quiet, intimate, and earnest in their tellings. Original music composed and performed by Dave Quanbury (guitar) and Rachel Stone (cittem) cleanses the palate between stories and sets the mood for what is to come.
The j-card on the tape folds out in order to accommodate the cover design by Mary Louise Chown. It is too bad that Earthstory did not make better use of the white space this afforded them on the inside. I would like to know who told which story, or which part of the story in the case of Walnuts, which was told by each in turn. Notes could have refered listeners to the traditional stories on which the adaptations were based, and could also have commented on why or how these adaptations evolved.
Order from M.L.Chown, 35 Cordova Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba R3N 029
Checking on availability June 2014
The Second Story Review, Vol 1, No. 3, September 1996