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PETE CASTLE - Where Dragons Soar

PETE CASTLE - Where Dragons Soar
The History Press ISBN: 9780750961868

Tradition: it’s more than song and dance or an old tune, or even a seasonal gathering. Maybe, before there was music, if you can imagine such a time, people used to sit around fires, listening to individuals speak. You know the type; those who knew things, had heard the strangest tales, and wanted to share them. The art of the storyteller is ancient indeed, if mostly confined to books nowadays. Pete Castle is a storyteller, a Derbyshire man who keeps the oral tradition alive, accompanying himself (when cats permit) with music as he plies his tales around the country. Along the way he’s picked up many a story concerning animals from all edges of the British Isles, ancient and modern, mythical and real, and with this in mind, Where Dragons Soar (And Other Animal Folk Tales Of The British Isles) is a uniquely illustrated collection of British stories where animals play significant parts.

The book comprises chapters which gather tales of similar animals together; dragons, cats, dogs, hares, frogs and several fish, and even a selection of the more exotic. Many of the stories are short, some just a few lines, so it’s an easy book to pick up and dip into, but you’ll find that Pete has segued stories together as any storyteller might do in person; with little asides on how the tale chose him, or going off on tangents to explain a detail before starting the tale proper. Some of the legends might be familiar to everyone, such as those of Gelert, silkies, or the various dragons, but many are not - or maybe, like the Pied Piper of, umm, Franchville, you’ve heard someone else’s version. You see, these asides bring an extra depth to the stories; Pete’s stories include a little myth-busting, just so you know where the stories are coming from, where they might have been on the way, and maybe even where they’re going. There are even a few that feel almost anecdotal, if, of course, you believe that horses know more about cars than the storyteller...

This isn’t just a book of folk tales. I read several of those in my youth, collections of dry pages and dusty tales, made safe for children’s eyes, hardly a reference in sight, and no indication that ‘other versions’ existed.
Where Dragons Soar is suitable for all ages, but where it differs is that it’s a book of folk tales with footnotes included, for that is how a storyteller’s stories are told.

Andy Piper

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This album was reviewed in Issue 115 of The Living Tradition magazine.