Author Topic: The Greatest Story Ever Told  (Read 2087 times)

Jubal

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The Greatest Story Ever Told
« on: August 13, 2015, 09:56:36 PM »
The Greatest Story Ever Told

There was once a storyteller – at least, everyone thinks there was – who wanted to tell the greatest story ever told. He was a very great storyteller, and he lived in a large town in Norfolk, not far from where the fens, the sea, and the dry land all meet.

But he had a problem. Every time he tried to write a better and better story, he felt he was getting distracted. There were always people, and markets, and churchbells and horses and the crackling of fires and the thudding of hammers; he was never happy.

He did his best; he told stories, and grew quite famous for it. Crowds came to hear him tell of heroes like Beowulf and Hereward, like Tammin or King Arthur or Robin Hood – but he always wanted more peace, to do something bigger and better and greater than ever he had done before.

At last he came upon a solution. He would go away from the bustle of his town to places that were quieter. So he moved on, closer to the edges of the fens – there were villages there, smaller and sleepier, with taverns and firesides to tell stories at.

People still came to hear his stories, and all of them said they were wonderful. He told stories of dragons, of witches, of Black Shuck and Will ‘o the Wisp, of Kett of Wymondham and King Henry (precisely which King Henry was, as it so usually is in England’s history, frequently unclear).

But still he was dissatisfied. All these stories were better than ever, but still seemed to be lacking something. Perhaps he was still not finding enough peace and quiet – even in the villages, sheep bleated and babies cried, songs roared out from the alehouses and  hay-carts rattled down the street.

So once again he came to a solution. He went out into the fenland, the little places perched on rises in the land among the reeds and the water. Little clusters of houses, of fishermen and bird-catchers, wandering the barely raised pathways that appeared and vanished with the rise and fall of the water; perhaps this was where he could write the greatest story ever told.

He told stories there, to a person or two at a time, nestled by a fireplace or out in the open air. He told magnificent stories – great epic tales of his own devising, with beasts so fantastic and yet so brilliantly created that you could almost believe yourself to be staring them down. He created heroes and heroines and paladins and princes, so brave and so brilliant that little children slept sounder at night and old men felt younger again.

But for a third time, it never seemed enough. Something still seemed to be missing from what would make a story perfect, something he needed that seemed to be getting less and less even as he got better and better at his craft.

And so, a third time, he came upon a solution. He left the little places, the quiet houses, and went further out to the wilderness, the heart of the fens where the reeds sway and the ground is soft. There are places there where nobody goes but the water-vole and the moorhen, the swan and the dragonfly.

Some people say that there, alone with the birds, he created the greatest story ever told. A story that you still hear in snatches on a summer breeze, or rustled in the autumn reeds. A story you might catch a little of in the cry of a wading-bird or the cool sound of a fenland stream. A story that was missing the one thing he had never realised it needed; a human ear to hear the human voice.

Perhaps, out there in the fens, he did tell the greatest story ever told. Perhaps he said nothing at all.

Nobody will ever know but the water-voles, and I have not yet got them to tell me.


Tellers' Notes
This story I like particularly because it feels more rooted than some of my other tales into a more familiar (and yet unfamiliar, as it's clearly set in the past) landscape. It feels very like a folk tale and is rooted in places I know, the implication being that the initial town is King's Lynn. The rooting of it does in some ways help to drive the core message home - I think stories that sound like they're set in very real terms and places can sometimes conjure things into people's minds more easily, as they require less willing suspension of disbelief. Of course this tale is malleable to the setting of the teller - any sufficiently remote and inhospitable region, and its wildlife, could be substituted if someone else wants to pick this up and tell it.
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

HemingwayGames

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Re: The Greatest Story Ever Told
« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2015, 02:57:41 PM »
Thanks for the story, Jubal. I'm wondering whether the greatest story that was told that day in the wilderness was actually the story in this thread.. The heading actually reminded me of Tenacious D's "The Best Song In The World...tribute"

Jubal

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Re: The Greatest Story Ever Told
« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2015, 05:02:32 PM »
Haha  :D

And yeah, that would be rather meta - though stories about storytelling for storytellers to tell are quite meta in the first place!
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HemingwayGames

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Re: The Greatest Story Ever Told
« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2015, 10:31:22 PM »
The title reminded me of Tenacious D's "Greatest Song in the World...tribute" :)

Jubal

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Re: The Greatest Story Ever Told
« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2015, 11:36:27 PM »
Yes, that was what the "haha" above referred to - I know it well thanks to certain old school friends!
The duke, the wanderer, the philosopher, the mariner, the warrior, the strategist, the storyteller, the wizard, the wayfarer...

HemingwayGames

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Re: The Greatest Story Ever Told
« Reply #5 on: August 15, 2015, 04:06:53 AM »
Sorry mate, didn't realise I had repeated myself.