Shakespeare’s debt

We shall never know just how much Shakespeare owed to an older England, already passing away in his time, of storytelling and ballad singing. It is possible that some of his plots that we trace to books, and that he perhaps verified in books, first came to him from fireside storytellers.

Frank Walsh Brownlow, Two Shakespearean Sequences: Henry VI to Richard II and Pericles to Timon of Athens, London: The Macmillan Press, 1977 p. 122.

Illustration inspired by initial letters in medieval manuscripts

Something peculiar and special to those who ponder and reflect


Tales which those of note pass round during discourses on moonlit nights and amid the breezes of the late hours of the night and the fragrant odours of the flowers –the inclusion of them in sermons, and their consideration from every aspect in the viewing of accounts of those former ages, is something peculiar and special to those who ponder and reflect.

From “A History of the Western Sanhaja” by Shaykh Sidya Baba (deceased in 1924) of the Awlad Abyayri (Mauritania), from H. T. Norris, Saharan Myth and Saga, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972, p. 161
Illustration inspired by a rock art painting in the Eastern Cape, South Africa

God has planted this gift for singing in my heart


When I asked one of the most successful singers [of tales] with whom I became acquainted whether he could sing this or that song, he replied to me:  ‘I can sing any song there is because God has planted this gift for singing in my heart. He supplies my tongue with the word without my having to search for it. I have not learned to sing any of my songs; everything gushes out of my insides, out of myself.


Wilhelm Radloff (mid 19th century-1918), quoting a Kirghiz epic, in “Samples of Folk Literature from the North Turkic Tribes” translated by Gudrum Böchter Sherman with Adam Brooke Davis, Oral Literature, 5: 84; this is a part of Radloff’s book Aus Sibirien, published in Leipzig, 1854
Illustration inspired by a design of the Navajo people