Monday, May 29, 2017

Wise crabs, sweet crabs, grumpy crabs (Following folktales around the world 27. - Trinidad and Tobago)

Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

Today we begin our Caribbean cruise!

Crick-Crack!
Trinidad and Tobago Folk Tales
Eaulin Ashtine
U.W.I. Extra-Mural Department, 1966.

The book contains nine folktales, all collected and re-told by a local author who wanted to help the children of Trinidad and Tobago become familiar with the stories of their own cultural tradition, rather than just reading fairy tales from Europe. The tales show a lot of similarities with African and South American traditions, and even some European connections, reflecting the cultural diversity of the islands. They were a very enjoyable read, and it clearly shows that they would be even more entertaining in spoken word.

Highlights
Frigate bird
One of my favorite tales in the book was How Pelican got his beak. It featured several local birds such as the Booby, the Frigate Bird, and of course the Pelican, and described how a group of them managed to trick the haughty Frigate Bird into giving up his very practical beak to Pelican. (It was good to see a frigate bird again, after several tales about them from Oceania).
The powerful story of Young Nelson and Old Nelson was about a great old bull who ruled the pastures in tyranny, killing all young bull calves. The forest animals helped a pregnant cow get away, so that a young bull could grow up, and take revenge on the tyrant.
On a lighter note, How Agouti lost its tale told about Dog who tried to infiltrate a party reserved for horned animals only (by wearing fake horns), and how he was outed by Agouti.

Connections

How Tortoise's shell was cracked was familiar from some South American cultures. It featured Tortoise who wanted to be a bird, and flew up to the sky wearing feathers, to join a party - but was kicked out when he proved to be rude and greedy. In Madam Crab loses her head, an old witch captured a girl, and would only let her go if she guessed her name - which she did, with the help of Old Madam Crab (similar to the Rumpelstiltskin stories, except the name here was En-Bois-Chinan).
Crabs also featured into my favorite story from the book, How crab's shell got cracked. This was basically a Frau Holle story, except instead of girls there was a kind crab (Mamselle Sweet) and an unkind crab (Mamselle Sour). I really loved this one.
The local trickster is Compare Rabbit, who usually tricks Compare Tigercat. In one story, he managed to make Tiger believe that he could wither animals simply by looking at them. Talk about a superpower.

Where to next?
To Grenada! (Which is not the same as Granada, and also not the same as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which will be the next stop after)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Enter Anansi! (Following folktales around the world 26. - Suriname)

Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!

It's Anansi time!!!


Suriname folk-lore
Melville J. Herskovits - Frances S. Herskovits
Ams Press, 1969.

This book was first published in 1936, and it definitely carries the signs of its time ("Notes on the culture of the Paramaribo Negroes"). It is quite heavy, being almost 800 pages long. The upside is that it is a folklore publication, which managed to dodge the judgmental tone, reporting facts and observations instead, about the culture, beliefs, and customs of the black population (of African descent) of Paramaribo and its region. The folktale chapter contains almost 150 stories in mirror translation, along with ample footnotes (including sources for other variations of each tale), an introduction to the storytellers, and multiple versions of certain stories collected and published side by side.
The introduction chapter on folklore and folk belief was just as fascinating. There was an entire section on the meanings of head kerchiefs tied in different ways, and the stories they told by each variation. I also read about such intriguing things as the mati (a birthday party organized to celebrate lesbian relationships), the trefu (individual food-related taboos that people inherited from their parents), the various souls each person has, and the personal gods that regulated their life and their worship (which, interestingly, could be of African descent, but also local indigenous gods). In the back of the book, there are chapters of dreams, riddles, sayings, and musical notes for the songs inserted into the folktales.

Highlights


With this book, we arrive to the home turf of Anansi the Spider! More than half of the tales were Anansi stories, and the entire folktale chapter was traditionally labeled as Anansi-tori (Anansi stories), a common name for tales in general.
I was very excited to find several Anansi stories that I have not encountered before. For example, Lies hurt more than a wound featured Anansi proving the title proverb by (quite literally) smearing a king's reputation. In Monkey's urine is sweet, he tricked Tiger into drinking monkey pee repeatedly (poor monkey did not fare well in the process). There was a fun story where Anansi competed in eating hot peppers to win a princess' hand, and another one where his wife enchanted kitchenware so that it would run away from her greedy husband. I especially loved the story where Anansi pretended to be American, putting on a hilarious fake accent, in order to be welcomed as a special guest to a feast. In another story, he pretended to be an angel. Spider-angels for the win.
If course there were also cool stories that did not feature Anansi. For example, in Plot to Cook Goat, Tiger and Dog captured a goat for dinner - but Dog felt sorry for it, and helped it get away. In Animal Gratitude and Human Duplicity, a hunter rescued a Rat, a Snake, and a Human Being. Guess which one betrayed him, and who saved him, in the end...

Connections


Orlando Jones as (an amazing) Anansi
in Starz's new American Gods show
Most of the well-known, classic trickster tales appeared in the book, many of them in several variations. Of course we had the Tar Baby, the tug-o-war between Elephant and Whale, the Magic Rock, Riding Tiger and Escape by Switching Places (see also: Br'er Rabbit in the Uncle Remus tales), Eating Tiger's intestines (as opposed to balls or tail, in other versions), and the Feast of Anansi and Tortoise, where they mutually tricked each other.
Of course, once again, we had a race-running tale (Tortoise vs Deer), and also the Contest of the Birds about who can fly the highest (won by Hummingbird hitching a ride on Eagle's back). There was also a version of King Midas' ears, featuring Anansi and the unusual beard of a Pharaoh, and a version of the fairy tale known as Filomena from Haiti, where the cruelty of a stepmother comes back to harm her own children.
The second half of the tale collection featured a lot of classic fairy tale types. I found a close variation on the story that I know as Marie Jolie from J. J. Reneaux's Cajun folktales. There were also local variants for Cinderella, the Magic Flight, the Extraordinary Companions, Beauty and the Beast, Rumpelstiltskin (Akantiudu), the Marks of the Princess, and even the tale I know as the Canary Prince from Italy.

Where to next?
Next week, we are entering the Caribbean! Starting with Trinidad and Tobago.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Speak Story Series, Shepherdstown, WV

I could not have asked for a more perfect goodbye performance for my American experience.

Four days before leaving the USA, and after six years spent studying, traveling, and performing in this vast and fascinating country, I was invited to tell stories in the Speak Story Series of Shepherdstown, WV, courtesy of Adam Booth. I said yes, and I am glad I did. As far as gigs go, this one was pretty close to ideal.

I flew to West Virginia from Ohio; Adam drove me from the Baltimore airport to Shepherdstown. It was a beautiful drive, and I happily immersed myself one last time in Appalachia. Shepherdstown itself is an enchanting place, with a pretty, historic main street, a university, good food, and lots of extremely friendly people. They are used to storytellers visiting, and that makes them great hosts - and an even better audience.

Both of my performances happened on the same day. In the morning I visited the Morgan Academy, a small local school where seventy children, from the ages of five to fourteen, piled into the building's main room to hear my stories. It was an interesting system for a performance: After the first story, the little ones left, and after the second, the next youngest group left too, until I was left with the older kids, whose attention span was longer. I told Hungarian folktales - Princess Hide-and-Seek, Kingdoms of Ice and Fire, Bird with the beautiful voice - because they are fit for wider age groups (for the last one, I asked if a scary story was okay, to which they all yelled YEEES!). The kids had a lot of great questions, and seemed to enjoy the stories; the biggest compliment, however, was that they asked for an encore. One little girl wanted to know what the most popular folktale was in Hungary, and after I tried to shorthand-explain Son of the White Horse, I eventually just asked if they wanted to hear it. The answer was a resounding YES, so I told a fourth story, and had great fun with it. Bonus point: This folktale type also exists as an Appalachian Jack tale. I was told by the teachers that the kids have never asked for an extra story before. This is the best kind of compliment.
(I also loved that the school had its own ducklings and chickens, hatched and raised by the students right there in the hallway.)

The evening concert took place on a theater stage downtown, and was attended by more than a hundred people. I was happy to discover that there were several people in the audience who were Hungarian, or of Hungarian descent. It is a treat to be far away from home, and yet telling to people who have a personal connection to the culture I come from. My set consisted of all Hungarian folktales - stories from my upcoming book, Dancing on Blades, told a hundred years ago by Transcarpathian storyteller Pályuk Anna. I selected my favorites. I told Three princesses and a ring, which is a funny and lovely tale about a king who is too willing to give his daughters away for treasure; then I told the Cheerful Prince, which was Anica's kinder, more feminist telling of Rumpelstiltskin (with a good mother-in-law). Next, I decided to tell Mistress Tuberose, because my hosts told me they had an upcoming Garden Tour event, and I assumed I had a audience of gardeners. I did. The story worked like a charm, and at the moment where the cruel father tears up the flowers his daughter has planted, the entire audience gasped in horror as one.
I ended my set with Pályuk's version of The twelve dancing princesses. It is my favorite telling of that tale, and one that is kinder to the princesses than all others I have read. When I have time to tell it fully and comfortably, it is a fantastic experience.
This audience also had a lot of questions. I spend almost another half an hour on stage, answering them one by one; once they ran out, and I was presented a gift basket by the organizers, I still stayed for a long time, signing books and talking to friendly, curious people.

The trip only took three days, but I'll treasure the memory for a long time. I hope I will be back one day, and visit Shepherdstown again. Every storyteller dreams of performances like this.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Of Women and Jaguars (Following folktales around the world 25. - Guyana)

Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!


Guyana legends
Folk tales of the indigenous Amerindians
Odeen Ishmael
Xlibris Corporation, 2011.

This book contains 50 tales from the oral traditions of Guyana's indigenous peoples (who make up about 10% of the population). It is a well-selected collection; no story is too long, too short, or too convoluted to enjoy, and the fifty of them together show the diversity of the country not only culturally, but also in terms of natural habitats, from mountain to seashore, from savannas to rainforests. I was a little disappointed that the stories were not tagged with the name of the peoples they belonged to, and that the black-and-white photos were of very low quality. Still, it was good to get visual aid for the various animals, objects, and landmarks mentioned in the tales. The book also has a very useful glossary at the end.

Highlights

My favorite story in the book was the simple yet powerful legend of Bat Mountain, in which an old woman defeated a giant, man-eating bat, and at the expense of her own life saved everyone else.
I also loved the tale of The girl who was once a monkey. It started out as a classic animal bride story - up to the point where the husband began mistreating his wife, and she ran away with her child. Fleeing, she came to a river she could not cross, and called out to her people - the monkeys on the other side all worked together to bend a tree down over the river, and help her return to them. A similarly powerful message to women was the legend of The woman who defeated two tigers (and it was very typical how no one believed her heroic deed when she returned home).
I found the story of Kororomanna and the Hebus amusing. Hebus are forest spirits, usually nocturnal; in this case they were small, hairy, noisy, and had eyebrows so bushy that if they wanted to look up, they had to stand on their heads. Most often they were hostile to people, but they were occasionally known to help those in need.
From a folkloristic standpoint, the legend of the Haiarri root was fascinating. The root was originally a boy, whose power was to stand in water, and make the fish faint and float to the surface. The plant has the same power now - fishermen use it for a better catch. I also appreciated the fact that I found the first, lovely albeit sad legend about the birth of the manatee of my journey in this book.

Connections

I found many similarities to the tales in last week's Venezuelan collection - no wonder, since several tribes whose traditions are included actually exist on both sides of the border. I found familiar tales about people descending from the sky (and a pregnant woman getting stuck); the World Tree that bore all kinds of fruit; two girls rescuing the Sun; a water goddess marrying a fisherman; the birth of the Victoria Regia flower; and there was, as usual, a flood myth too. I especially liked the stories about the World Tree - they spoke volumes about the sharing of resources, the importance of life, and the disastrous consequences that can occur when some greedy person chops the tree down for personal gain (great themes for environmental storytelling).
I was reminded of North American indigenous myths by two stories that involved stealing fire. In one, Hummingbird stole it from the jaws of Caiman, while in the other a boy managed to snatch some embers from a mountain spirit's fire, and pass them on to his friends. I also recognized other indigenous motifs in Tiger's yellow eyes flying out of his head, and the story in which Possum and Tortoise had a fasting contest (Possum lost by dying of hunger). This latter one reminded me of tales from the Andes where Condor and Fox have a contest in who can last longer in the cold.
Once again, there is no folktale collection without a race between animals. This time, it was Tiger (Jaguar) versus Tortoise. The fun part is, they also had a hunting contest (which Tortoise won with a trap), and a body-painting contest which Tortoise simply won because he painted Jaguar's coat so beautifully.
The local trickster (with several stories) is Koneso, the rabbit.

Where to next?
Suriname!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

We are all weird sometimes (A to Z Challenge reflections)

This was by far my most successful A to Z Challenge yet! My blog hit an all-time high in visits (more than 8,000 hits over any other month before), and people left over 500 comments on my posts! I also gained new followers, both on the blog and on the Following folktales around the world Facebook page. My three most popular posts were Lobsters Mistaken for Norwegians (this one won by a huge margin), Person transformed into anthill, and Poisonous white hair in eyebrow. In terms of blog traffic, this month was definitely a win.
(Find all 26 posts here)

This was the first year we did the Challenge without a list. As a co-host, I found this very comfortable. I liked posting my link every day, and writing witty (heh) one-liners to lure people in. I also enjoyed others doing the same, and it was good to know that if someone posted a link, their blog was definitely active. It seemed like the new system inspired people to not only link, but also promote and "pitch" their daily posts, which in turn made me want to go and read more of them.



As for the theme itself: I really enjoyed working my way through the Motif Index. I think every storyteller should do it at least once. Apart from the motifs I chose for my posts, and the runner-ups, I also ended up looking up various other stories, and expanding my storytelling repertoire.
Here are some things I learned:

1. The Motif Index is far from perfect. I found various mistakes in references, as well as misinterpretations of motifs, and even the occasional mistranslation or two. Thompson tended to look at stories through a particular lens, and sometimes the names he gave to motifs do not reflect the meaning of the story at all. Which takes me to my second realization:

2. Things that sound weird out of context actually make sense within the story. It is easy to read a motif title and go "Whaaaaaat the...?!" - but that is mostly due to Thompson's whimsical titles. Once you go and read the actual tale, more often than not the WTF element makes perfect sense, and reveals its actual meaning. Which leads to:

3. The same motif can mean very different things in different cultures. This is one of the big limitations of Thompson's index: He tends to put things under the same number, even if (like in the mouse story) they have very different meanings or messages in context. Which also reveals another problem:

4. The motif index needs to be expanded to include cultures Thompson did not explore. While the sources of the original index are very diverse, they by no means include all cultures or all stories in the world. When folklorists publish indexes (such as this one), they often have to expand on Thompson's numbers, since some of them are too vague, and some are too specific, to be universal.
(A good update on the index, for practicing storytellers, is Margaret Read MacDonald's Storyteller's Sourcebook.)

And finally, but most importantly:

5. The folktales of the world are a lot more diverse, varied, colorful, and rich, than most people would ever imagine. It is time that we acknowledged that, and looked beyond making blanket statements such as "folktale princesses are always damsels in distress!" or "there are no pregnant woman heroes in folklore" (heard the latter one from a storyteller). Or maybe we should stop re-adapting the same 5 fairy tales over and over and over again?...
There is a story for pretty much everything and anything out there. Of course the oral tradition is an ever changing, ever expanding, living thing, so if there is no story for one particular situation - wait a few generations, and there will be!

I never intended this series to say "Folktales are weird." My goal, which I hope I accomplished, was to say "Folktales are gloriously strange and intriguing and creative, and we should all be more familiar with them!" Our ancestors had wisdom, but they also had a great sense of humor, and they knew how to make a (sometimes sarcastic) point about the world and the human condition - messages that cross temporal and cultural boundaries. Quoting Kevin Kling, one of my favorite American storytellers: "Kindly rely on the strangeness of others!"


And talking about the strangeness of others: 
Here are some of my favorite themes from this year!


Here is a princess on a turtle,
because why not :)
Sara C. Snider's Magical and Medicinal Herbs (I learned a lot from this one!)
Sophie Duncan's Dragon Diaries (I absolutely adored all of her dragon stories!)
Deborah Weber's Pronoia theme (I learned a lot of new, lovely words and concepts)
C. D. Gallant-King's Weird Canadian Facts and History (See, Canadians can be weird too!)
Emily Bloomquist's Life in Ecuador (Ecuadorians can be weird too)
Pamela and Ken's Highland Days of Fun (and the Scottish too)
Sharon Himsl's Female Scientists Before Our Time (which I adored!)

Sarah Zama's Film Noir theme (which I learned a lot from!)
Anna Tan's whimsical Princess Stories (which made me giggle a lot)

There were, of course, many, many others. If you want to go back and read them, you can do so by visiting the comments sections of the posts on the main blog.


Thank you all for making A to Z such a great experience this year! And yes, I already have a theme in mind for 2018... See you all next April!

Sea Above, World Below (Following folktales around the world 24. - Venezuela)

Today I continue new blog series titled Following folktales around the world! If you would like to know what the series is all about, you can find the introduction post here. You can find all posts under the Following Folktales label, or you can follow the series on Facebook!


Kuai-Mare
Mitos aborígenes de Venezuela
Maria Manuela de Cora
Editorial Oceanida, 1957.

A lovely, colorful, eloquent collection of indigenous myths and legends. The book is divided into chapters by culture, and I think it says a lot about it that by the time I finished reading, my copy was full of post-it notes and reminders for the stories I want to go back and read again. The book comes with a bibliography and a glossary, but more importantly, it is full of gorgeous, little known stories.

Highlights


Right in the first chapter I was enchanted by the world image of the Guarauno people: They called the sky the Sea Above, where the blue was the water, and the clouds are mountains and islands above it. People climbed down on ropes from there to feast on the fruits of our world, until a pregnant woman got stuck in the whole they used as an entrance, and no one could go either way anymore... Mirroring the world above is the World Underwater, the realm of the water spirit Nabarao, who rules over the rivers, mangroves, and all their creatures. There was a lovely story about one of his daughters marrying a mortal man, and taking him to visit the strange world under the river. When the girl left her home to live with her husband, she was accompanied by her pet shark in the form of a black dog, and refused to eat any fish, since all of them were her relatives.
I was similarly enchanted by the Taurepan-Arekuna-Kamarakoto myth of the World Tree, which bore all the different kinds of fruit there are at once. There were multiple stories about it, from when it was first found, until the day it fell (most world trees tend to do so). From the same people came one of the best tales in the book, The Two-headed Condor, where a mortal married the daughter of the vulture in the sky. His father-in-law gave him all kinds of classic fairy tale tasks, which he accomplished with the help of various unusual animals: Dragonflies helped him dry a lake, worms to break up a rock, the weaver bird to make a roof, and ants to build a bench.
Similarly awesome was the legend about the Electric Eel's rebellion against the Good Spirit. Humans were created as punishment for the animals that took part in the rebellion; therefore, humans don't eat any of the Good Spirit's helpers, such as toads, vultures, and hawks.

There was a beautiful Chaima legend about the Guácharo caves, where the souls of the deceased exist in the forms of rocks and crystals, keeping company with thousands of oilbirds that don't like the light. Similarly intriguing, but less elegant, was the chapter about the Kanaima, the spirit of vengeance among the Caribes.

Connections

The Guarauno myth about the Lord of the Sun told about a brave girl who stole the sun from a greedy man who kept it hidden. She did not only return the Sun to the sky, but also tied it to a turtle to slow it down... The first part of the story reminded me of North American indigenous stories (Raven steals the light), while the second half was similar to how Maui lassoed the Sun. There was also a tale about Darkness being kept hidden until someone foolishly let it out; I recently read a similar tale from Brazil. Echoed in several stories around the world was The mosquito who turned into a man (who married a woman just to be able to suck her blood in peace). The evil husband was burned in the end, but from his ashes millions of obnoxious insects were born. After Colombia, I found another flood myth here (from the Tamanaco) where humans were recreated from the nuts of the moriche palm. And, of course, there was a legend featuring vagina dentata; this time, like in Paraguay, the reason for the danger was the bunch of tiny piranhas that lived inside the woman's vagina...

Where to next?
Guyana!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Northlands Storytelling Conference 2017. - The highlights

Northlands has been my Midwestern home away from home ever since I first visited the conference in 2008. Now, after 9 years and 5 more conferences, I was painfully aware that 2017 was going to be my last visit for a while. I could not have wished for a better goodbye.
The conference, thanks to the New Voices scholarship, turned into a mini-reunion: I got to meet up with three amazing friends and former classmates from the ETSU Storytelling program - Danielle Bellone, Joshua Sellers, and Ingrid Nixon. The conference had a schedule packed with all kinds of events and happenings, but we still found plenty of time to hang out and talk.

This year's workshops were fascinating, and heavy on the cultural possibilities and responsibilities of storytelling. Jasmin Cardenas' workshop on Theater of the Oppressed was an intense and immersive experience where we got to play a lot of games, and participate in various activities that brought the techniques to life. Robert and Nancy from Eth-Noh-Tec presented a wonderful, discussion-filled workshop on cultural appropriation in storytelling, which is a vital topic for our art form, and very important to keep talking about (even though there are no blanket permissions or decisive conclusions). I did not take part in them, but there was also a panel on Truth and Story (led by Laura Packer, Jeff Doyle, and Loren Niemi), and a workshop on the culturally relevant classroom by Susan O'Halloran. Northlands really made an effort this year to highlight cultural diversity and artistic integrity.
On a lighter note, Ingrid Nixon's Story evolution workshop applied the theory of evolution to oral storytelling, and we had great fun re-telling Little Red Riding Hood in various shapes and forms. I also got a lot out of Bob Kann's three-hour intensive course on the business of storytelling, where he shared minute details about his thirty-three year career as a full-time professional storyteller. We talked honestly about pricing and income (a topic artists tend to be allergic to), as well as promotion and marketing. Bob is a lovely, friendly person, and he offered up a wealth of useful tips.

This year's keynote speaker for the conference was Antonio Rocha. It was lovely to meet him again in person, and spend time talking about various things. As usual, Sunday morning offered a workshop slot for friendly conversation with the keynote, so that we could ask all our questions and talk about whatever we wanted to talk about with Antonio. It was great fun.

Of course workshops are not the only thing offered at Northlands. There are also showcases on each day of the conference, featuring a variety of stories and storytellers. Especially memorable this year (to me) were Barbara Schutzgruber (who sang her own version of an awesome ballad about a woman tricking her lover), Jean Bolley (who told a chilling and captivating historical story about a family stuck in a lighthouse all winter), Sue Searing (who combined the Boyhood of Fionn Mac Cool with a story from her own life), Jeff Doyle (who told a hilarious personal story about coming to terms with his mother's dating life), Yvonne Healy (who turned a personal story into a horror tale before we notice she was not telling the truth), Pete Griffin (who told about a wild wolf in Alaska, and how people thought they could make friends with it), and, of course, Eth-Noh-Tec, whose hilarious and very timely telling of Kingdom of Fools was followed up by the gorgeous and lyrical tale of the Bird of Happiness, the closing performance of the conference on Sunday.

Next to the official showcases, we also had other performance events. Friday evening featured a one-hour Fairy Tale Swap, where anyone could tell a tale if their name was drawn from the basket. We were so good at keeping with our time limits that every single name got drawn, and more than ten people got to take the stage. I told The Cheerful Prince, a Hungarian version of Rumpelstiltskin from my upcoming book, and people seemed to really enjoy it, mostly for the figure of a kind and clever mother-in-law.
Following the swap, we were treated to a late night Fairy Tales for Adults room concert (a performance that took place in someone's hotel room, with more than thirty people crammed inside and sitting cheerfully on every possible surface, nursing glasses of wine) by Danielle Bellone, Laura Packer, and Loren Niemi. Danielle and Laura are this year's recipients of the J. J. Reneaux Mentorship Grant, and they are a match made in heaven. The concert featured gorgeous re-tellings of classic fairy tales; Laura's version of Jack and the Beanstalk with a female Jack and her connection with the giantess, as well as Danielle's lyrical rendition of the Norwegian folktale of the Lindworm, left me completely breathless.
I also had a chance to present a fringe performance Saturday evening. I brought Roses in the Mountains, my show of medieval German legends of Dwarves and Men, to the conference, and I had the privilege to perform it for an enthusiastic audience of storytellers. This was my second time doing the whole show, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Definitely a keeper.

Since the theme of this year's conference was Storytelling: The other superpower, I got to throw a Superhero Social on Saturday afternoon, for people to play and relax a little before the evening events (I got tagged as the resident expert on the topic, due to my book). People got capes and masks, and I played snippets of superhero-related music they had to guess for prizes. I also brought some Story Cubes, and brave volunteers could roll some dice and invent new superpowers they could pitch to the audience. I love playing improv games with storytellers - they throw themselves into play with full commitment, and come up with the best ideas. The superhero social ended up being a blast, and people were telling me how much fun they had even the day after.

I said a lot of goodbyes at Northlands this year - but even though it was my last visit for a while, I am sure it was not my last one ever. And I know that whenever I return, people will still be just as friendly, and open, and fun, as they have been all these years.

See you all on the road!