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History of Storytelling - Part 1

Traditional Tales - Part 2

Story for Schizophrenia - Part 3

Changing Meaning - Part 4

The Storyteller's Art - Part 5

Enchanting Bird 1 - Part 6

Enchanting Bird 2 - Part 7

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The Enchanting Bird

Anyway, here in brief summary form (I know several long versions that can take up to an hour to tell) is the main part of one of my own all time favourite fairy stories. For publishing purposes, the copyright of this ‘arrangement’ of the traditional plot is mine, so at least consult me on sources if you want to reproduce it in a text.

But you’re very welcome to take it off the page and adventure with it and make as much oral use of it as you like, because I reckon there’s a fair amount in there, both in terms of plot and incidental motifs. And, unlike Ely and Enoch, that is me talking.

The Enchanting Bird


Two brothers and a sister each set off in turn to find the Enchanting Bird of Truth. They are orphans left in the woods as babies and brought up by charcoal burners, so now they want to find out about their origins.

Well, the oldest brother sets out, leaving a knife to be watched over. If it rusts, he’s in danger; if blood appears on it, he is dead. He stops in a city and finds out from a storyteller telling tales in the market place that there is a mountain twenty one days’ march away. On this mountain, it seems that the Enchanting Bird of Truth perches. To reach it, he must follow the ‘heart road’ and not leave it, though he may look to the right or the left at wonders he may see as he passes.

When he reaches the shadow of the mountain, however, he must look straight ahead and up towards the bird and not be distracted. The huge white bird will look back at him, fixing him with a fierce gaze. At its feet on the mountain peak are two piles of dust, one white and one blue. If he looks away, the bird will fly up into the air and drop the blue dust on him and he will turn to a blue stone on the mountainside, where he will stay forever unless someone rescues him.

But if he manages to get all the way to the top without being distracted, then the bird will drop white dust on him and he will have the truth and the bird itself will turn into a white sparrow and perch on his shoulder. This is what the storyteller tells him and he listens, but he doesn’t listen to the story the storyteller tells that day in the market place.

He’s too busy preparing and then setting off on the heart road, which he follows, seeing to his amazement to the right and the left of that path enchanted gardens, flying palaces, dragons, giants and all kinds of strange things. He stays on the road and reaches the mountain, but as soon as he steps into the shadow and begins to climb, voices are calling out to him all around, begging him to turn this way or that.

What’s more, the bird seems huge and its eyes seem to burn him and, in the end, he’s unable to resist turning his head as a voice offers a short cut. Instantly, the bird flies up and drops the blue dust and he turns to a blue stone.

Next, The Enchanting Bird - Part 2

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