Tiverton’s Medieval Fayre – The Feast of St James – Saturday 14th July 2018


Here be Unicorns and Dragons.

I’ll be telling some rollicking tales of medieval magic and mayhem throughout the day.

Rhiannon and the Unicorn

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 the top of 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.’



Archie Lea
Archie Lea liked archery
He loved his bow and arrow.
Stan did not, unfortunately
Because he was a sparrow.
© Clive PiG

Percy Veer
Percy Veer
Won the cup
For never ever giving up

Not so fast
Often last
Sometimes worse
Never first

He’d be lapped
Every lap
Every relay
He’d delay

Every hurdle
Was a hurdle
But …

In a sprint
He would not stint
He’d try and try
And try and then
He’d trip and fall
And rise again

Lost in the triathlon
They sent out a search party
They found him
In a marathon
But hale and hearty

The best he ever
Came was fourth
He’d never worn a medal
No bronze, no silver nor no gold
But now he’s got some metal

Yes, Percy Veer
Won the cup
For never ever giving up.

Presented to him by his mum
Percy was so chuffed

He stood upon the podium
And held the cup aloft.
© Clive PiG

Heart School

At Art School
In Hartlepool
A love affair began

When Ann drew Andrew
And Andrew drew Ann

2B pencils
Held in each left hand
Sketched a pair of portraits
One of Andrew
One of Ann

Andrew’s nose was straight
But Ann drew it really wonky
Andrew drew Ann’s teeth
As if she were a donkey

Her wheelchair he portrayed
As a chariot of gold
And even though he had long hair
She made his head bald

Their sketchbooks were soon filled
With oodles of doodles,
Squiggles and splats
One of their masterpieces
Was of three cowpats

Only they could recognise
The pictures on the pages
But all the other students guessed
Their love would last for ages.
© Clive PiG

Peru & Argentina 2017 DreamOn Productions

JUNE – JULY 2017
A brace of tales collected in South America.

El Salto del Fraile – The Diving Friar A Peruvian Legend

The Diving Friar of Lima

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

La Guitara. A dramatic tale from Argentina

My guitar souped up for South America by Lee Hodges.

Here’s a melodramatic Argentinian tale for next leg of tour with http://dreamonproductions.com/ in Buenos Aires. Will substitute the killing of the woman by the evil man with the sting of a scorpion being the cause of death.

Once upon a time there was a gaucho named Froilan who lived on a ranch far from people. Solitude was his only companion. Alone he met one dawn after another and one twilight after another. Alone, with his horizon of sky and land.

He was accustomed to his loneliness, but when the dark night covered the countryside and he slept, a woman inhabited his dreams. So often and so strongly he dreamed, that at last one day he met her. The woman was Violeta, a beautiful and gracious creole lady who looked at him with enormous eyes.

With the presence of Violeta, he no longer had dark nights, only a road illuminated by the eyes of the woman he so loved. His life had been transformed, and now he met the dawn as well as the twilight accompanied by the soft caresses of Violeta, by her sweet voice and by her tender gaze.

One afternoon when Froilan had left for town, an evil stranger arrived. On seeing the beautiful woman alone he decided to take advantage of her. Violeta resisted with all her force and screamed for help. Nearing home, Froilan heard her cries in the distance. He galloped as fast as possible and arrived in time to join in a ferocious fight with the attacker. Froilan was able to rescue the wounded Violeta, but it was too late. The despicable man had mortally wounded his lover and she was bleeding to death.

Desperately, he clutched his lover’s body in his arms, all the while weeping and screaming. “So many things I did not get to tell you! What can I do with all these words clogging my throat.” Then, exhausted by the fight, the pain and the tears, he laid his head against hers
and thus slept, remembering her caresses.

When daylight came, he awoke to the sound of a mysterious music and found in his arms a box in the form of a woman, instead of the body of his lover. With this he sang all the rest of his life, caressing the strings as if they were his beloved, speaking all the words which had been accumulated in his throat.

And thus was born the guitar, to caress with music, to relieve sorrows, and in order that those pent-up words might be released.

Retold by Paula Martin in Pachamama Tales published by World Folklore Series.

Hijinks In Jordan

School's out in Z'atari
School’s out in Za’atari

Just finished wonderful week in Jordan courtesy of the British Council and Authors Abroad.

Day 1
Thrown in at the deep end with performances to invited schools at the Children’s Museum in Amman. Pupils had little English, I had no translator. But you know me – gestures and rhythm can supercede language any day of the week.
That evening ran teacher training course on my Top Ten Tale Telling Tips.

Teacher training at British Council, Amman
Teacher training at British Council, Amman

Day 2
More teacher training at a couple of state schools on outskirts of Amman – one for boys and one for girls. Stark contrast between the two. Teachers in girls’ school enthusiastic and focused; those in boys’ school tired and demoralised.(Mind you, they had classes of fifty pupils on the site of a former Palestinian refugee camp).

Teachers at Zarqa with classes of 50
Teachers at Zarqa with classes of 50

Day 3
Za’atari Refugee Camp.
Minibus trip north along highway with road signs for Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Jordanian helicopters and fighter jets hovering and zooming above imperious camels in the rocky desert.
Six hundred thousand Syrian refugees live at Za’atari. Kidzmania and I entertained a couple of hundred of them. They amazed and astounded us.
These displaced children were such fun to be with. They were joyous and sparky and polite. An honour and a pleasure to be amongst them.

Some of the six hundred thousand at Za'atari
Some of the six hundred thousand at Za’atari

Day 4
Zaha Centre, Amman
Nick Bilbrough from Totnes and Clive PiG from Ashburton hear the tale of Tanbouri read to us by Areej from Amman from her mobile device as we drive to the colourful Zaha Centre for today’s shift. Tanbouri has a pair of shoes he wants to get rid of, but every time he throws them away they come back to haunt him. It’s a cracking story from the Arabian Nights and I’m going to add it to my repertoire.
Later in the day in the middle of The Singing Toad I ask a child what would be their first wish out of three … ” Free Palestine!” is the response.

At the Zaha Centre
At the Zaha Centre

Day 5
Turkish coffee and dates with the Principle at a military school for girls, followed by two shows and a teacher training session. Then the fun really begins. A marvellous magician appears in the playground and astounds us all.

Last show of week at Shoman Foundation. Big thanks to Joseph Field at British Council for booking me, to Areej who sorted the shenanigans and to Farah for her fab translations of my wordy ways.

With Farah Samman - a fab translator and communicator
With Farah Samman – a fab translator and communicator

And finally …

THIS WEEK’S STORY Three Little PiGs or Three Little Pixies?

This is the first published version of what was to become The Three Little PiGs.


THE FOX AND THE PIXIES Dartmoor, England.

There was once a fox, who, prowling by night in search of prey, came unexpectedly on a colony of pixies. Each pixy had a separate house. The first he came to was a wooden house.

“Let me in, let me in,” said the fox.

“I won’t,” was the pixy’s answer; “and the door is fastened.”

Upon this the fox climbed to the top of the house; and having pawed it down, made a meal of the unfortunate pixy.

The next was a “stonen” house.

“Let me in,” said the fox.

“The door is fastened,” answered the pixy.

Again was the house pulled down, and its inmate eaten.

The third was an iron house. The fox again craved admittance, and was again refused.

“But I bring you good news,” said the fox.

“No, no,” replied the pixy; “I know what you want; you shall not come in here tonight.”

That house the fox in vain attempted to destroy. It was too strong for him, and he went away in despair. But he returned the next night, and exerted all his fox-like qualities in the hope of deceiving the pixy. For some time he tried in vain ; until at last he mentioned a tempting field of turnips in the neighborhood, to which he offered to conduct his intended victim. They agreed to meet the next morning at four o’clock.

But the pixy outwitted the fox; for he found his way to the field, and returned laden with his turnips long before the fox was astir. The fox was greatly vexed, and was long unable to devise another scheme, until he bethought himself of a great fair about to be held a short way off, and proposed to the pixy that they should set off for it at three in the morning.

The pixy agreed. But the fox was again outwitted; for he was only up in time to meet the pixy returning home with his fairings: a clock, a crock, and a frying pan. The pixy, who saw the fox coming, got into the crock and rolled himself down the hill ; and the fox, unable to find him, abandoned the scent and went his way. The fox returned the next morning; and finding the door open went in, when he caught the pixy in bed, put him into a box, and locked him in.

“Let me out,” said the pixy, ” and I will tell you a wonderful secret.”

The fox was after a time persuaded to lift the cover; and the pixy, coming out, threw such a charm upon him that he was compelled to enter the box in his turn; and there at last he died.

Source: English Forests and Forest Trees: Historical, Legendary, and Descriptive (London: Ingram, Cooke, and Company, 1853),
pp. 189-90.
The anonymous author of this account does not give it a title.
Katherine M. Briggs includes a version of this story in her A Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, part A,
vol. 2 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1970), pp. 528-30.

China & Malaysia 2018 Authors Abroad

April – May 2018


This Dragon’s pearl

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 https://www.uexpress.com>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.


Cruising on the Pearl River

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, Malaysia with teacher Ashley Byrne and colleagues from St. Christopher’s International Primary School.

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


A tale about a tail

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.


Story on back of menu in Penang


Thulassi at Miami Cafe, Penang

Mission in Moscow

The World Is Just A Great BiG Onion


Moscow seems so far away? That’s because it is. It would take me 33 hours to drive the 1,970 miles between Ashburton to the Russian capital – 31 hours if there’s no traffic. Phew, thank goodness I flew there and back.

What do you call a flying pig? Pigasus.

That was me. Two weeks at The International School Moscow courtesy of Authors Abroad. The school put me up at the Grand Marriot – ten minutes from Red Square – and I signed and sold 250 copies of PiG’s Tales. Can’t be bad.

Cherry Reds in Red Square

Had a great time telling Magical Myths and Laughable Legends and sharing my Top Ten Tale Telling Tips with the pupils and parents, teachers and support staff during the day, but in the evenings and at the weekend I roamed the Russian streets between monumental buildings, battled the crowds beside the Bolshoi and stared at silent statues –
Marx, Lenin, Pushkin, Tchaikovsky, Mayakovsky and Bulgakov waited patiently for my footfall.

Pilgrimage To The Master and Margarita Bulgakov Museum