It’s All in the Telling

Assipattle: A story from the Northern Isles

The Madrone Girl

Caroline Baldock retells Cinderella Grows Up by Mary Medlicott

We all know the wonderful story of Cinderella, it has been retold and filmed and played in the theatre for many years. This one is my retelling of Mary Medlicott’s version which I loved telling on zoom to the many who listened. Shy of 10 minutes, listen to my presentation. You’ll love it.

Critique of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene

Edmund Spenser (1552 – 1599) created one of the longest allegorical poem in the English language. Its epic size and unfinished state in no way detracts from its brilliance. As a work of imagination, it stands alone. What Spenser tackled was immense, he created a series of relationships and adventures that roundly explore religion, philosophy, the power of suggestion, relationships, and more all through using the seven virtues and the seven deadly sins. He explores the same subjects as Albrect Aldorfer, in his George and the Dragon, he must have been well versed with Homer and Ovid and Chaucer, but it is beyond anything Chaucer tried to complete. He made his Queene, Gloriana not the central character but the connecting character through Prince Arthur, the Knight of Magnificence. He then explores through allegory the importance of good governance and poor wistful thinking.

The archaic language he employs can only be totally understandable when one realizes that he had to delve back into history to find the old words which have been lost to modern literature to express old ideas, a re-exploration of a magical past, unlike Shakespeare, who uses modern English, Spenser found subtle nuances by using the French and Latin words long since dropped from the common tongue.

Reading verse after verse, canto after canto, book after book (1-7) the sheer power of the descriptions woven into the fabric of the story is electrifying.

He reworks Greek myths, understanding them to perfection and adapting these classic stories weaving them into his epic. His battle scenes are terrifying and bloody and his description of Proteus with his horey beard encrusted with barnacles kissing the poor mistreated nearly raped Florimel is ghastly. His Britomart is a remarkable character who has a very important role to play in the whole epic as a woman masquerading as a man.

But underlying the narrative through the use of faerie he indulges his understanding of human nature and human failings. Suddenly in an underworld of myth and allegory we find ourselves, in the deeper recesses of the subconscious. We recognise the power of the mother to influence the child, the problem of purity and naivety as against wily wickedness which once revealed and understood becomes almost benign. The danger of thrall, of moving blindly in any direction for the wrong reasons, which of course Dante tackles by putting those who follow religion blindly, into the First Circle of Hell.

Spenser grew up in a time of terrible religious dogma and the burning of protestants under Mary. He was a protestant and luckily for him Elizabeth did her best to level the playing field and introduce a measure of tolerance. Perhaps that is why he made her the heroine of his poem. I also see Britomart as a kind of Elizabeth a virgin, the Knight of Chastity, but in the role of the Knight as Elizabeth was in the role of King. Also Britomart is able to walk through fire and rescue Amoret and is finally revealed through battle by her one sweet love, Artegal. A character much based on Elizabeth l. I feel the creation of Britmart balances the obvious in Gloriana, and compliments her character.

It is not clear if Elizabeth l read the poem, but she did give Spenser a pension of £50 a year, which was a great deal in those days and he did live latterly in Ireland where he married Elizabeth Boyle whose father was very wealthy.

What makes this poem perfect storytelling material is that is it steeped in that tradition. What is curious is that no one I know of is storytelling the epic. It has in its folds the very art of faerie and of traditional myth, it is perfect as an allegorical tale and also as a fast moving fiction.

Stories from my Racing Past

Part 1 The Horse’s Mouth

1976 Sandbanks

We are our memories, fragments of our lives, buried waiting to be woken. These pieces are precious jewels, but like husks they need to be found and the rust must be polished off, they must be examined for truth. They are the past crystalised in time. I gaze at them. These pieces need meaning without which they are formless. I take them and work them and fine them down and believe in them. I have polished them and put them together to form this story.

Some memories are vague, other are unforgettable, some memories are crystal clear others foggy. Some we hide forever unable to face them. Other memories guide us like beacons. Some have been corrupted by time or preference. Some are a hint of something like a perfume, a sense. Like smoke from a log fire, candles on a Christmas tree, a owl hooting, a full moon. These tiny pieces of our lives are so precious.

I put my hand inside and pulled out cameos of my life. I turned them around, I gazed at them, I fingered them, I took those crystallized pieces of the past and gradually placed them here and there until a pattern restored the rest of my memory, then I took the pattern and forged it, I scraped it and cleaned off the rust, I polished the iron of my soul, I deciphered the messages, I washed and cleaned the edges and knitted them all together and so here it is, the picture, this is my story.

I was working for Louie Dingwall, né Foote. She was born in 1893. My story begins in 1976, when she was 83. Her stable yard, house and filling station were on Sandbacks in Dorset.



The story of endless magic.

We all know the wonderful story of Aladdin, it has been retold and filmed and played in the theatre for many years. The magic lamp and all that happens to Aladdin is familiar to us all. The joys of the story are contained in luscious descriptions of magical caves full of glittering treasures; of the grim uncle who takes Aladdin across the desert to get him to retrieve the lamp that of course does not belong to him and the resulting adventure. His discovery of the power of the lamp, is a lovely allegory of the use and abuse of power. His passion for the beautiful Princess and his wooing of her is another departure in delightful magic. Of course the uncle turns up again after Aladdin has built him self a magic Palace overnight. The story shows us the power of magic inside a story and the road to potential ruin which can be turned around if one only has the courage to believe in oneself.

This version is however rather different. I have bought it up to date. I have taken characters in our own world and woven them into the story. You will recognize them. I use the magic of good decisions and clever management of money to show how a real fortune can be amassed. I also created a pre-story that I have never told, rebuilding a past for Aladdin. So that when I told the Aladdin I knew where he had come from and who is father was.

I can thoroughly recommend re-building stories that have been with us for centuries for today’s audience. It is great fun and can touch the spot.

Iron John as told by Caroline Baldock