Category Archives: Uncategorized

Malaysian Miracle Baby Survived Tsunami in Penang

Life’s a beach.

On Friday night I sampled the amazing night light displays of China’s third largest city. I was invited on a cruise along the Pearl River in Guangzhou with the staff of British School Guangzhou. A great end to a phenomenal Book Week shared with authors Adam Bushnell and Kathryn White.

Sunday evening ended with a sundowner at the Miami Beach Bar in Penang with teacher Ashley Byrne and colleagues from St. Christopher’s International Primary School.

While swapping stories about stowaway bullfrogs, monkeys in schools and the world’s longest snakes (a python 7.5 metres long was found just a few miles from where we were sitting)
I was told the tale of the story of a young girl who was sitting with her family behind me.

S. Thulaasi – the Miracle Baby of Boxing Day tsunami

Thulassi at Miami Cafe, Penang

Sundown with Ashley Byrne and colleagues from St. Christopher’s, Penang.

China PiG

Packing case for another Adventure in Storyland. Off to China for a week at British School Guangzhou and then a couple of weeks tale telling and collecting in Malaysia.

Taking the skeleton of this tale with me and looking forward to putting flesh on its bones.

Working Script for ‘The Dragon’s Pearl’.
Performance storytelling- Mash Up, Cut and Paste rendition

Legend location: Near the River Min in the province of Sichuan in China
Date: Pre 2018. Dates of earliest versions yet to be discovered.

They say Xiao Sheng lived with his mother in a little town in Sichuan beside the River Min. Every morning he cut the wild grass outside his house. His mother sold it at the market and, on her way home she bought rice and tea and flour for dumplings.

One summer there was a terrible drought. All the grass outside Xiao’s house wilted and died.

‘Whatever shall we do? ‘ said his mother. ‘The rice jar is almost empty.’

‘Don’t worry, mother,’ said Xiao. ‘I’ll find some grass for you to sell.’

He put on his boots and trudged out to the forest. All day long he looked for a patch of tall grass. But the summer heat seemed to have killed everything. There was not a blade of green grass to be had anywhere. Xiao went back home.

‘Have you found any grass?’ asked his mother.

‘No,’ said Xiao sadly …

Part of Saviour Pirotta’s version from Stories from China published by Wayland Publishers Ltd in 1999

From his suitcase the storyteller takes out a thunder roarer and fills the room with a loud rumble.

That night they were awoken by a roar in the sky above their little house. The ground trembled as if an earthquake was about to swallow it down and their rooms shook as if in the grip of a whirlwind. Mother and son held on to each other for dear life.

In the morning the grass outside the kitchen is tall and green. This they cut and sell at market and buy rice. Next day the grass has grown once more. Why? How? After Xian Sheng harvests with his sickle once more his mother tells him to search the ground for clues. Clawing like a badger into the earth he finds a tiny round ball the size of a mistletoe berry. It’s white with a tinge of green. He hands it to his mother who tells him it is a dragon’s pearl.

She tells her son that her grandmother once told her a story about magical dragon’s pearls. Unfortunately she can’t remember most of the tale because she fell asleep halfway through.

They drop the pearl into the rice jar to keep it safe.

Later, to their great surprise the jar, which had been nearly empty, now brimmed with rice, and the lovely pearl sat on the top, gleaming in the morning light. ‘Mother, come quickly,’ he called.

When she saw this miracle, she rejoiced. ‘We will eat a big bowl of rice in celebration,’she said. This they did. ‘Let us put the pearl back as it was,’she said.

The next morning, to their great joy, they found the jar was full once more.

‘This is a magical pearl,’said the mother. ‘We must care well for our treasure.’ That night she put the pearl in the money box. The next morning the box was overflowing with coins. That night they placed the pearl inside the oil jar. In the morning, the jar overflowed with oil.

The mother and her son no longer had any worries. Whatever they needed, the pearl created for them.

Extract from>tell-me-a-story

The couple shared their good fortune with their friends and neighbours. ‘Bring your rice bowls,’ they’d call in the mornings. ‘Fill them, and your bellies.’
Most people were grateful for this kindness but a few were jealous.
Early one morning three women and two men broke into their house and woke up Xiang Shen and his mother. They demanded to know where their good fortune had come from.

‘ Don’t tell them about the dragon’s pearl in the cupboard,’ shouted Xiang Shen.
The robbers rushed towards the cupboard while the boy dashed to the rice jar and pulled out the dragon’s pearl.

‘If you want it here it is,’ he taunted.
They turned in time to see the dragon’s pearl disappear down Xiang Sheng’s throat.
‘No,’ they cried.

‘No,’ shouted his mother.

‘Argh!’ screamed Xiang Shen.

His throat burned, his stomach churned. His belly bulged, buttons popped from his night shirt. His arms shot out sideways, flapping wildly. His nose turned into a snout. His skin to scales and a tail thrashed behind him.

He burst through the door and perched in a tree, a rumbling sound filled the sky. The neighbours rushed out to witness the commotion.
They saw the mother and the robbers looking at a dragon in a tree. The wind began to howl and the sky darkened.

‘Look’, an old man shouted. ‘Dragons from the east.’

Hundreds of mighty dragons slowly flew towards them. With each wingbeat lightning flashed, thunder rumbled.

Rain began to fall. The people lifted their faces feeling the water falling towards the parched earth.

‘The rains have come! The rains have come!’ they cheered.

They splashed in the puddles forming on the ground.

The dragons swooped down to the little town and flew around the tree. Xiang Sheng was caught up in the current and was lifted up in a whirlwind of scales and wings and tails.

‘ No,’ he cried, ‘leave me here. I don’t want to go with you. I don’t want to be a dragon.’

‘You’ve swallowed a dragon’s pearl. There is no choice. Come with us to the mountains. You will be a dragon for evermore .’

Sadly, Xiang Sheng waved goodbye to his mother.

He dived down and hovered above the people of the little town. His mother called up to him, ‘I’m so sorry Xiang Shen. I should have stayed awake and listened to my grandmother’s story. Then I’d have warned you never to swallow a dragon’s pearl.’

Her son bid farewell flying backwards, waving slowly. His wing tips dipped beneath the rising waters brought by the torrential rain and the waterfall of his tears. Twenty eight times he waved goodbye before turning to join the dragon’s heading east.

Tellabrations in São Paulo

Tellabrations at Graded School

On this latest adventure I’ve told a suitcase full of stories from around the world including a couple of Brazilian tales I’ve had in my repertoire for ages: Sambele, the story of a very cheeky monkey and The Wings of a Butterfly, about a young girl who lives in the Amazonian rain forest who transforms into a butterfly before becoming a woman. Sambele is well known in Brazil but no-one in the Brazilian schools knew the second tale. In fact it’s quite common for me to share tales that are indigenous to the host country and few, if any in the audience have heard or read the tale before.

Being the story detective I am, I always make a point of finding out about some of the favorite and well known stories of the people and places I visit. And so, for your delectation and bemusement, I present to you a cast of curious characters from the imaginations of the past and present peoples of Brazil.



Saci Pererê, usually referred to as Saci, is probably the most enduring character in Brazilian mythology; there’s even a Saci appreciation society, and some Brazilians call Halloween Sacilloween or Saci Day instead. Every Brazilian child knows that Saci is a one-legged black boy who smokes a pipe and wears a red cap that gives him magical powers, but his origin is uncertain — he’s most likely a combined product of indigenous and Afro-Brazilian lore. Descriptions of his powers and behavior also vary; he may be able to appear or disappear at will, sometimes materializing in a cloud of smoke, or to create and move around in whirlwinds.

The more kid-friendly versions of the Saci legend describe him as a mischievous but entirely benign character who likes to play tricks, but there are some more sinister versions in which he takes great pleasure in frightening and tormenting people — usually hapless travelers lost in the woods. It’s also said that he rides across the countryside on horseback on full-moon nights, and that it’s possible to trap him in a bottle and even domesticate him, because when his red cap is taken away, all his powers go with it.

Boto Cor de Rosa

The Legend of the Pink Dolphin

According to the legend, a pink dolphin comes out of the Amazon river at night during Festas Juninas (June Festivities). With its special power, it becomes a handsome, tall, strong, young man dressed in white clothes. He wears a white hat to cover the blow hole that remains in the top of his head. He is a very charming and seductive man who dances well and goes to parties in search of beautiful, unaccompanied, young women. He invites the ladies for a walk around the river bank where they make love and he usually gets them pregnant. The next morning he slips back into the river and turns into a pink dolphin again.

Even today, in the north of Brazil, babies born out of wedlock or without a known father are called the children of the pink dolphin.

(Thank you to Caio Henrique Gomes da Silva for bringing this character to my attention.)

The Curupira

Protector of the rainforest

The Curupira is one of the most fantastic and popular creatures produced by Brazilian folklore. Its appearance varies from region to region but is usually three feet tall, with a hairy body fire-red hair on its head. Its teeth are blue or green,it has big pointed ears and its feet are turned backwards: the heels are in front and the toes are at the back. He’s a forest being that protects trees and animals and is often seen riding on a collared peccary. If you hear thudding sounds in the woods, you can be sure they are the Curupira knocking the tree trunks to learn if the trees are healthy or sick. This guardian of the forest punishes those who damage trees and hunt more than they can eat. With whistles, noises, and false tracks, it makes those who destroy nature become lost in the woods.

Curupira is a product of the indigenous imagination; in 1560, José de Anchieta, a Jesuit educator who had a soft spot for native peoples, wrote in a letter:

It is known, and by everyone’s mouths, that there are certain demons that the brasis [his term for native Brazilians] name Curupiras, that often haunt Indians in the woods and lash, hurt and kill them. Some of our brothers give testimony of this, having seen those killed by it. That’s why Indians have the custom of leaving bird feathers, fans, arrows and other similar things, as a kind of offering, on the top of the highest hills when threading certain trails that lead, through rough paths, to the heart of those lands. They ask curupiras with fervor that no harm is done to them.



Cuca is sort of a Brazilian take on the bogeyman — or rather, bogeywoman. She started out as Coco, an Iberian ghoul that would supposedly devour misbehaving children; in Portugal the character morphed into a female figure, Coca, over the years. In Brazil she became Cuca, and while by some accounts she’s a hideous old hag, most often she’s described as a witch with long blond hair and an alligator-like body — and yes, she still takes away kids who behave badly.



The Kibungo is the frequent protagonist of many tales of oral literature in Bahia state, located in the Northeast of Brazil.

This character is bad, always hungry, treacherous and cowardly.

This ogre has an opening in the middle of his back. The opening gets bigger when he bends his head forward and closes when he raises his head again. His stomach is there, and it is there he puts children and women, which he swallows without eating. Victims can be rescued through this hole as the Kibungo can be killed by stabbing, shooting or severe beating.

The Kibungo stories were brought to Brazil by the Bantu slaves.

But to end on a slightly lighter note I leave you with

The Wuwuru

The Wuwuru of the Murity Grove

Not sure if this character is male, female or trans, but it wanders through the murities gathering fruit to eat. If someone else takes too many fruits, Wuwuru tickles them to death.

Murity groves are found in low areas of dry land. During February and March the ripe fruit fall to ground and these attract animals like tapirs, peccaries, deer, wild pigs, agoutis, quitipurus, spotted cavies, armadillos and monkeys. Birds such as curassows, toucans, tinamous and macaws also enjoy these delicious delights.

On this trip I had the good fortune to be invited to share tales at The British College of Brazil, St.Francis College and Graded School.

That’s it for now folks. My next foray in foreign lands will be to China and Malaysia in April and to Mexico in October.

What’s in the suitcase Mr. PiG?

Clive in India

Adventures in Storyland continue courtesy of Authors Abroad. Telling tales in International Schools in Bangalore, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Inadvertantly brought back a bullfrog in my suitcase from Myanmar in September. A cobra from India in November?

Here’s the first tale I’ll tell …

Untold Stories

A rich farmer kept a servant who worked for him in the fields. One day they went together to a distant village to visit the farmer’s son and his wife. On the way they stopped at a little hut by the roadside. After they had eaten their supper, the farmhand said, “Tell me a story.” But the farmer couldn’t be bothered and went to sleep. His servant lay awake. He knew that his master had four stories which he was too lazy to tell.

As the man slept, the four stories came out of his belly, sat on his body, and began to talk to each other. They were angry. “This selfish man,” they said, “knows us very well from childhood, but he will never tell anyone about us. Why should we go on living uselessly in his belly? Let’s kill him and go to live with someone else.” The farmhand pretended to be asleep, but he listened carefully to everything they said.

The first story said, “When the man reaches his son’s house and sits down to eat his supper, I’ll turn his first mouthful of food into sharp needles, and when he swallows them they’ll kill him.”

The second story said, “If he escapes that, I’ll become a great tree by the roadside. I’ll fall on him as he passes by and kill him that way.”

The third story said, ” If that doesn’t work, I’ll be a snake and run up his leg and bite him.”

The fourth story said, “If that doesn’t work, I’ll bring a great wave of water as he is crossing the river and wash him away.”

The next morning the man and his servant reached the son’s house. His son and daughter-in-law welcomed him and prepared food and set it before him. But as the farmer raised the first mouthful to his lips, his servant knocked it out of his hand, saying, “There’s an insect in the food.” When they looked, they saw that all the rice had turned into needles.

The next day the farmer and his servant set out on their return journey. There was a great tree leaning across the road, and the servant said, “Let’s run past the tree.” As they ran past it, the tree fell with a mighty crash and they just escaped. A little later, they saw a snake by the road, and the servant quickly killed it with a stick. After that they came to the river and as they were crossing, a great wave came rushing down, but the servant dragged his master to safety.

They sat down on the bank to rest, and the farmer said, “You have saved my life four times. You know something I don’t. How did you know that was going to happen?” The farmhand replied, “If I tell you I’ll turn to stone.” The farmer said, “How can a man turn to stone? Come on, tell me.” So the servant said, “Very well, I’ll tell you. But when I turn to stone your grandchild must crawl around me three times and I’ll become a man again.”

So the servant told his story and he was turned to stone, but the farmer left him there and went home. After some time, the daughter-in-law heard about it and she took her child and watched it crawl three times around the stone statue and the servant came to life again.

The servant did not return to his master. He became a storyteller touring around the villages, and this was the first story he told.

Based on a story in Folktales from India, edited by A M Ramanujan published by The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

Lady Howard’s Coach

For an unhappy Halloween hit play button below …

My ladye hath a sable coach,

And horses two and four;

My ladye hath a black blood-hound

That runneth on before.

My ladye’s coach hath nodding plumes,

The driver hath no head;

My ladye is an ashen white,

As one that long is dead.

“Now pray step in,” my ladye saith,

“Now pray step in and ride.”

I thank thee, I had rather walk

Than gather by thy side.

The wheels go round without a sound

Or tramp or turn of wheels;

As cloud at night, in pale moonlight,

Along the carriage steals.

I’d rather walk a hundred miles

And run by night and day

Than have the carriage halt for me

And hear the ladye say:

“Now pray step in, and make no din,

Step in with me and ride;

There’s room I trow, by me for you,

And all the world beside.”

Lyrics collected by the Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould, Songs of the West 1891.

Song recorded by Bill Johnson and myself many moons ago.

The Toad From Mandalay

Stowaway in my Speedos

Hello, and hello again.

So, guess what I found when unpacking my suitcase after a tale telling trip to Myanmar? Yep, this little critter. It had stowed away in my Speedos.

I’ve just spent a week sharing stories and running creative writing workshops at International School Yangon, Dulwich College Star City and Dulwich College Yangon and before heading to the airport I swam at the Oasis Country Club and whilst drinking cocktails poolside, left my swimming shorts on a stone to dry. It was then a toad slipped into my Speedos while I was sipping mojitos.

Imagine my surprise when opening my suitcase back in the UK and spying my Speedos pulsating. Steady! At first I feared a rat or a snake, so was suitably relieved to find it was only a toad that had stowed away in one of the pockets.

Burmese toad seeking asylum in UK

My first thought was to put it in a Jiffy bag and post it back to Myanmar. After all, if it had survived being smothered in a pair of chlorinated swim shorts in a tightly packed suitcase chucked into the hold of the plane to Dubai and then transferred to the Emirates’ Airbus to London Heathrow it could survive anything.

But then I thought that would be too cruel as perhaps it was fleeing from fundamentalist Buddhists and seeking asylum in UK.

It’s currently in quarantine in my flat, safely ensconced in a fish tank perched on Granny O’Leary’s old oak table with basic provisions : a flower pot house nestled on a bedding of compost teeming with worms, slugs and woodlice; a peanut butter jar lid replenished daily with rainwater.

After a trawl of the internet using Noodle search engine it seems that our foreign visitor is a banded bullfrog (Kaloula pulchra) and is also known as the chubby frog, Asian painted frog, rice frog, or bubble frog.

The Exotic Animals department at Paignton Zoo has been notified by email and telephone but so far have failed to respond to this amphibian’s airline antics. My eldest son, Ollie has let his mates on social media know about the toad’s travels. They think it’s hilarious and he’s keen to take the wanderer under his wings if necessary.

Oh, by the way, even though it’s called a frog, actually it’s a toad.

And before we say goodbye, the name of the toad is – Speedo.

Last night in Myanmar at the Oasis Country Club,Yangon Toad slipping into Speedos while I’m sipping mojitos

Tall Tales in Myanmar

Shwedagon Pagoda, Yangon

Off to Myanmar this Friday thanks to Authors Abroad. I’ll be telling tales at the International School Yangon and at Dulwich College. I’ll kick off the tour with my own re-telling of the old Burmese story – The Tall Tales, based on the version below.

There once lived three brothers who were known throughout the land for the tall tales they told. They would travel from place to place telling their strange stories to whoever would listen. No one ever believed their tales and all who heard them would cry out with exclamations of disbelief.

One day while travelling very far from home the three brothers came upon a wealthy prince. The prince was dressed very elegantly and bedecked in jewels such as the three men had never seen in their lives. They thought how wonderful it would be to have such possessions so they devised a plan whereby they could use their storytelling ability to trick the prince out of his belongings.

They said to the prince: “Let’s tell each other stories of past adventures and if anyone should doubt the truth of what the other is saying then that person must become a slave to the others.” Now the brothers had no use for a slave but if they could make the prince their slave then they could take his clothes because they would then belong to them.

The prince agreed to their plan. The brothers were sure they would win because no one had ever heard their stories without uttering cries of disbelief. And so they found a passer-by and asked him to act as judge in the matter. All sat down under the shade of a tree and the storytelling began.

The first brother stood up to tell his tale. With a smile on his face he began to speak: “When I was a young boy I thought it would be fun to hide from my brothers so I climbed the tallest tree in our village and remained there all day while my brothers searched high and low for me. When night fell my brothers gave up the search and returned home. It was then that I realized that I was unable to climb down the tree. But I knew I could get down with the help of a rope, so I went to the nearest cottage and borrowed a rope and was then able to climb down the tree and return home.”

When the prince heard this ridiculous story he did not make a comment but merely stood and waited for the next story to begin. The three brothers were quite surprised but were sure that the second story would not be believed by the prince. And so the second brother began his tale: “That day when my brother hid from us I was searching for him in the forest. I saw something run into the bushes and thinking it was my brother I ran in after it. When I got into the bushes I saw that it was not my brother but a huge hungry tiger. He opened his mouth to devour me and I jumped inside and crawled into his belly before he could chew me up. When inside I started jumping up and down and making loud, fierce noises. The beast did not know what was happening and became so frightened that he spit me out with such force that I traveled several hundred feet through the air and landed back in the middle of our village. And so though I was but a young lad I saved our whole village from the fearful tiger, because never again did the beast come near our village.”

After this story the prince once again made no comment. He merely asked that the third story begin. The three brothers were quite upset by this and as the last brother began his tale he had quite a frown upon his face. But he was still quite determined to make up a story so absurd that the prince could not this time help but doubt its truthfulness. And so he began his tale: “One day as I was walking along the banks of the river I saw that all the fishermen seemed quite unhappy. I inquired as to why they seemed so sad. They therefore informed me that they had not caught one fish in a week and their families were going hungry as a result. I told them that I would try and help them. So I dove into the water and was immediately transformed into a fish. I swam around until I saw the source of the problem. A giant fish had eaten all the smaller fish and was himself avoiding the fishermen’s nets. When this giant saw me he came toward me and was about to devour me, but I changed back to human form and slashed the fish open with my sword. The fish inside his belly were then able to escape. Many swam right into the waiting nets. When I returned to shore many of the fish were so thankful that I had saved them that they returned with me. When the fishermen saw all these fish jumping onto shore after me they were indeed pleased and rewarded me abundantly.”

When this story was finished the prince did not doubt a word of it. The three brothers were quite upset, but at least they knew that they would not doubt the words of the prince. And so the prince began his tale: “I am a prince of great wealth and property. I am on the road in search of three slaves who have escaped from me. I have searched high and low for them as they were very valuable property. I was about to give up the search when I met you three fellows. But now my search is ended because I have found my missing slaves, because you gentlemen are they.”
When the brothers heard these words they were shocked. If they agreed to the prince’s story then they were admitting that they were his slaves, but if they doubted what he said then they lost the bet and became his slaves anyway. The brothers were so upset by the cleverness of the prince that they said not a word. The passer-by who was judging the contest nevertheless declared that the prince had won the wager.

The prince did not make slaves of these men but instead allowed them to return to their village with the promise that they would never tell tall tales again. And the three brothers were thereafter known throughout the land for their honesty and truthfulness.

Favorite Folktales From Around The World edited by Jane Yolen. Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library.

The Tall Tales: I.K. Junne, Floating Clouds, Floating Dreams: Favorite Asian Folktales
( Garden City, N..Y.: Doubleday, 1974), pp. 3-5.

Rhiannon And The Baby Unicorn

Performance storytelling at Powderham Castle

A toad of a man was Sir Brangwen.
Squat neck
Runny eyes
Belly so large
He never spied his boots as he waddled through the castle.

Couldn’t close mouth for tongue too big
Jaws ever moving like a cow chewing cud
Showers of spittle sputtered with every word uttered.

Simon Widsith? – detained in the dungeon.
Widsith’s wife? – a slave in the kitchen
Their daughter, Rhiannon? – more or less an orphan.

Rhiannon, sweet Rhiannon
As pretty as a daisy, as brave as a lion.

Wolves, bears, boars roamed the forests
Dragons and basilisks once had too.

The Fat Toad King of the Castle sent Rhiannon to search for truffles.
(An explanation of truffles, I sense you deem necessary, for those unfamiliar blah,blah,blah … .)

Digging like a badger, clawing the soil, she unearthed bugs and slugs and broken jugs but not a single tasty truffle.

Beneath oak, beech and birch, hazel and ash she toiled to no avail.
Until, a ghost, a white shadow trotted from the dark woods.
A pony? A horse?
It pawed at the ground and then looked at the girl.
It nickered and neighed, swung its head and shook its mane
And beckoned her over.

She saw a truffle the size of a baby’s head.
Rhiannon grubbed it from the ground
Then stroked the creature’s long white nose.

Between the ears she saw a bump
There was a little lump
The beginnings of a horn.
It was a baby unicorn.

It nuzzled her shoulder
She patted its warm white neck.
They sank down to the forest floor
Its head resting in her lap
And she began to sing:

Oh, my baby, baby unicorn,
With your little bumpity bumpity bumpity bump
With your little lumpity lumpity lumpity lump
With your little humpity humpity humpity hump.

Oh, my baby, baby unicorn,
Your bumpity bump, your lumpity lump, your humpity hump
Will one day be a long sharp horn.

The lullaby sent them slumbering.

Rhiannon awoke alone but the truffle was beside her.
She skipped back to the castle and presented it to Sir Brangwen.

But did he praise her for the truffle treasure?
He drooled and he slobbered and he sent a spray of spittle showering Rhiannon with the command to bring a larger one tomorrow.

Which she did.

For same as before, the unicorn appeared and revealed a truffle the size of a cannonball, before listening to the lullaby and slipping off to sleep.

When Rhiannon skipped back to the castle and presented the truffle to Sir Brangwen he wondered how it was she’d found the largest truffle he’d ever seen and she replied, by chance.

But his suspicions aroused and after commanding her with a shower of spittle to bring an even bigger one tomorrow and curtly dismissing her, he called Cuthbert from the shadows and ordered him to follow her tomorrow.

And the next day Cuthbert reported that at first he’d thought it was a little horse that had found a truffle the size of a rabbit, but when it reclined with Rhiannon in the forest glade and she sang a lullaby, he’d realised it was not a little horse at all … but a baby unicorn.

The news of this made Sir Brangwen almost choke on his oversized tongue.

He looked at the wall above the fireplace.

The head of a wolf next to the head of a boar.
The head of a boar next to the head of a dragon.
The head of a dragon next to the head of a basilisk.
The head of a basilisk next to the head of a cockatrice.
The head of a cockatrice next to the head of a … unicorn?

Yes, there was room for one of those.

Saddle my steed! He croaked.

Black stallion, red eyes, nostrils billowing steam.

Cuthbert knelt on all fours and Sir Brangwen stepped on his back and clambered onto the charger.

Hunting spear aloft, he galloped from the cobbled courtyard across the drawbridge into the wildwood.

Rhiannon and the unicorn are woken from sylvan reveries by the screeches of birds, the howls of wolves and the growls of bears. Crashing trees thunder in their ears. A great toad of a man bearing a spear atop a jet black stallion greets their eyes.

Run little unicorn. Run we all say.
But Rhiannon will not flee – our hero brave,
Will not leave, she’ll stay.

The young unicorn flees
But Rhiannon, pretty as a daisy, brave as a lion
Stands before the charging tempest.

Stop! Toes into earth
Halt! Her heart tough as oak
Cease! Her will strong as iron
Desist! Her body like a mountain

He does not stop
He does not halt.
He does not cease
He does not desist.

He charges straight at Rhiannon
and knocks her aside.

Onwards he thunders into the darkness into the darkness into the darkness

And then,





Then the trees begin to sway,
the leaves begin to dance
and the birds of the forest sing
as on the first day of spring.

Rhiannon picks herself up from the floor
And turns to sound of a horse’s hooves.

A white charger bears Sir Ivor
Son of Brangwen.
Straight and true as an arrow
As kind as his father is wicked.

‘Rhiannon is it?
I have returned and heard of the evil deeds of my father.
Where is the scoundrel?’

She points into the deep forest and Sir Ivor rides onwards finding his fallen father on his back with eyes closed and a gaping wound in his belly.

And so we have the death of a tyrant, the end of an era.

Later that day, Simon Widsith is freed from the dungeon and his wife released from the castle kitchen.

Rhiannon and her parents are re-united at last. All three wrap their arms around each other and her mother wonders what happened to Sir Brangwen.

Rhiannon looks up and says just these four words,

‘ Unicorns have parents too.’


Señorita Cucaracha

Story dedicated to la cucaracha living in microwave in my apartment in Buenos Aires

When Catalina the Cucaracha reached the age of 14 days she decided it was about time she found a partner. She wasn’t going to marry just anyone though, oh no. It didn’t matter to her if he was handsome or not, but he certainly had to be kind and understanding.

She put on her best dress of the finest brown onion skin and slipped her six dainty feet into the dinkiest little red chilli peppers and set off on her way.

The first prospect she met was Santiago the Scorpion.

‘Hola, Señor Scorpion, would you like to marry me, for I might like to marry you ?’

‘Buenos dias, Señorita Cucaracha, I would like to be your husband indeed. Let us be married straight away.’

‘Wonderful,’ she replied, ‘please bring me a cup of coffee to seal the deal.’

But when she was given the cup of coffee, she let it slip from her fingers and the coffee stained Señor Scorpion’s six brown sandals.

‘Why, you clumsy cockroach,’ he spat, ‘ if you were my wife you wouldn’t ever do that again in a hurry!’

‘Well, no need to worry about that, for if you’re that bad tempered I won’t be married to you anyway.’

And off she scuttled.

The second prospect she met was Alberto the Armadillo.

‘Hola, Señor Armadillo, would you like to marry me, for I might like to marry you ?’

‘Buenos dias, Señorita Cucaracha, I would like to be your husband indeed. Let us be married straight away.’

‘Wonderful,’ she replied, ‘please bring me a cup of coffee to seal the deal.’

But when she was given the cup of coffee, she let it slip from her fingers and the coffee stained Señor Armadillo’s shiny black boots.

‘Why, you clumsy cockroach,’ he screamed, ‘ if you were my wife you wouldn’t do that again in a hurry!’

‘Well, no need to worry about that, for if you’re that bad tempered I won’t be married to you anyway.’

And off she scuttled.

The third prospect she met was Pablo the Puma.

‘Hola, Señor Puma, would you like to marry me, for I might like to marry you ?’

‘Buenos dias, Señorita Cucaracha, I would like to be your husband indeed. Let us be married straight away.’

‘Wonderful,’ she replied, ‘please bring me a cup of coffee to seal the deal.’

But when she was given the cup of coffee, she let it slip from her fingers and the coffee stained Señor Puma’s brand new trainers.

‘Why, you clumsy cockroach,’ he growled, ‘ if you were my wife you wouldn’t do that again in a hurry!’

‘Well, no need to worry about that, for if you’re that bad tempered I won’t be married to you anyway.’

And off she scuttled.

Along the way she met Ignacious the Iguana and Coco the Caiman but they were just as bad tempered as the others.

Poor Catalina, she was going to be 15 days old tomorrow and felt she’d spend the rest of her life alone.

But just then, who came along bouncing a ball on his head, but Messi the Mouse.

‘Hola, Señor Mouse, would you like to marry me, for I might like to marry you ?’

‘Buenos dias, Señorita Cucaracha, I would like to be your husband indeed. Let us be married straight away.’

‘Wonderful,’ she replied, ‘please bring me a cup of coffee to seal the deal.’

But when she was given the cup of coffee she let it slip from her fingers and the coffee stained Señor Mouse’s football boots.

‘Oops a daisy,’ he squeaked, ‘accidents will happen. If you were my wife I wouldn’t even mind if you spilt coffee on my football shirt. I’ll go and get you another one.’

‘Well, no need to worry about that, for if you’re as kind and understanding as that we should get married straight away.’

And they did and they were and the priest was a cat.
There’s nothing to add, so that is that.

The Diving Friar

The Diving Friar of Lima

El Salto del Fraile – The Diving Friar

Legend has it that in Peru, around the 1860’s a noble Marquis was left to take care of his young daughter Clara, after his wife passed away. The Marquis hired a nanny to take care of his daughter and she brought with her, her son Francis, who was three years older than 12 year’s old Clara.

Over time Francis and Clara fell in love, and she became pregnant, which caused a real upheaval in the society of Lima at that time. The Marquis, obfuscated and offended by such an outrage, ordered that Francis be locked in a convent and become a friar. As for Clara, he decided to bring her back to Spain.

The day of the departure, Clara was filled with sadness because of the separation from Francis. When the ship was in front of the cliffs, Clara took a telescope with the intention of finding her beloved, since his mother had told her he would be there that afternoon to wish her farewell.

Suddenly, she was able to see him, standing on top of the highest rock, waving the cape he had removed from his head. A minute later he dived from the highest point of the cliff to the ferocious ocean below and attempted to swim to his love. Alas, the sea overwhelmed him and he drowned. Upon witnessing this, Clara threw herself into the ocean to join her sweetheart.

This tragic story has become a well known known legend in Lima and in memory of this misunderstood love, a restaurant called “El Salto del Fraile”, specialising in Peruvian cuisine was built near that infamous cliff.

Now each day, if enough people are there to pay, a man dressed in Franciscan robes, stages the friar’s dive into the sea from a high rock in front of the restaurant.

Sunset in Lima