Stories shape people

Joos van Cleve, ‘Madonna of the Cherries’, Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery (discussed here https://wp.me/s2oNj1-cherry)

Inverted Commas 20: Ribbons of space-time

People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.
Stories exist independently of their players. If you know that, the knowledge is power.


Stories, great flapping ribbons of shaped space-time, have been blowing and uncoiling around the universe since the beginning of time. And they have evolved. The weakest have died and the strongest have survived and they have grown fat on the retelling […] stories, twisting and blowing through the darkness.

‘Witches Abroad’

“Stories are important,” Terry Pratchett wisely wrote, but he recognised that narratives are very much chicken-and-egg issues. Unconsciously we grow up playing out scripted roles: we are a good child or a naughty one, we sense we’re masters of our fate or else forever fated, we’re loved or we’re rejected. Some of us are princesses in disguise, others ugly sisters; some feel they are the knight in shining armour, others the dragon. For every one born with a silver spoon in their mouth countless others will hear resonances in Albert King’ s lyrics: “Born under a bad sign, been down since I began to crawl. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

You would think that a creative writer would claim credit for coming up with original plots, that they were the one shaping stories; but Pratchett knew that he was just recycling or repurposing existing blueprints, because stories do indeed exist independently of their players.

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Christmastide in Camelot

Sir Gawain and King Arthur, with (below) the Green Knight [British Library] http://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/08/sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight-online.html
Sir Gawain and King Arthur and (below) the Green Knight after Gawain had done the deed (British Library)
http://blogs.bl.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2012/08/sir-gawain-and-the-green-knight-online.html

This king [Arthur] lodged at Camylot over Krystmasse with many a fair lord, the best of men, those noble brothers in arms all worthily of the Round Table, fittingly with fine revelry and care-free pleasures. On very many occasions they tourneyed there; these noble knights jousted very gallantly, and afterwards rode to court to dance and sing carols. For the feast was the same there for the whole fifteen days, with all the meat and mirth that men could devise.

Such raucous fun and merriment to hear, noise by day and dancing by night, all was utmost joyousness in halls and chambers with lords and ladies as best delighted them. With all the joy in the world they abode there together, the most famed knights save Christ himself and the loveliest ladies that ever lived, and the comeliest king reigning, for all these fair folk in the hall were in the prime of their life.

The most fortunate under heaven, the king the greatest in temperament — it would now be hard to describe so sturdy a host on that hill.

• Literal translation of an extract from the 14C poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the unique manuscript of which is in the British Library.

Christmastide — which runs from Christmas Day to Epiphany (January 5th) — represents the original Twelve Days of Christmas; this traditionally marked the seasonal turnaround after the dark days of midwinter. To the medieval mind a legendary Arthurian court would naturally have celebrated it too.

Also known as Yuletide, this was a time when, in historic times, carollers would go round wassailing, wishing neighbours and drinking their health from a wassail bowl. However, unlike with this Arthurian Christmas, there wouldn’t usually be an offer from a Green Knight to chop his head off, so long as he could do the same to you a year and a day later …

In the words of the Gloucestershire Wassail I wish you, my fellow bloggers, the very best for this holiday season, with a promise to resurface sometime between Christmas and the New Year:

Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail too;
And God bless you and send you a Happy New Year
And God send you a Happy New Year.