Tips and Programs
The King and the Lamp
In her most illuminating introduction to this delightful and remarkable collection of traditional narratives from the traditions and culture of Scotland's Traveler folk, folklorist, collector, and storyteller Barbara McDermitt verbally paints a most eloquent portrait of the true importance and vitality of the art and role of the storyteller in the larger context of Traveler history, and the continued use of storytelling to instill Traveler values from one generation to another. This is, in essence, what makes this book much more than just an anthology of twenty-six unconnected and disparate tales, as worthy as such a volume would be in any case, but a truly priceless glimpse into a tradition that, until the late 1950s was hardly known even within Britain itself, and even less so outside the United Kingdom. If Traveler raconteurs are said to be among the very best in Britain today, then Duncan Williamson is acknowledged to be one of the true masters of the Traveler tellers in this narrative fraternity of excellence. Anyone who has been truly blessed with the good fortunate to hear this masterful ballad singer and yarnspinner knows that he or she has been in the presence of a wordsmith of the highest quality and that when listening to Williamson, a door is opened into a magical world of wonders and treasures beyond description.
In a sense, this
collection could be said to be the "best" of
Duncan Williamson, because all these tales have been included in
eight previously published volumes of stories from his truly incredible
repertoire, which by all accounts numbers well
In their simple and yet powerful verbal imagery and very turn of phrase, each tale is a microcosm of how Travelers have lived for centuries, how they have kept their culture and traditions alive and from generation to generation, and how they have managed to cope with modern life and the outside world. If this collection is a tribute to the abilities of Williamson as a raconteur, it is also a tribute to those who have gone before. As it is, the entire volume has been dedicated to Williamson's own grandmother, Bella McDonald, a master teller in her own right, many of whose tales Williamson so well remembers from his own childhood. McDermitt's introduction is well worth the reading; so, too, is Linda Williamson's afterward. In their own special manner, both McDermitt and Williamson give a perfect and magical symmetry to this delightful collection of some of the best tales to be found an this or any other side of a Traveler encampment. Whether it is a Faerie legend, a "Burker," story from Traveler history, a Jack tale, or a barnyard animal fable, this collection, from beginning to end, smacks most resoundingly with one encompassing concept: Barrie Mooskins, a Traveler term meaning, what else, a very good story. And that is indeed what the Williamsons have given story lovers here: a very good bunch of stories, and a lot more besides. Folks, this is as good as it gets --no brag, just fact.
posted September 2003
Why I Hate Lady Ragnell Alan Irvine's article and the rebuttal it engendered.