Odds Bodkin Tells Love Stories at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA

Down through the ages, certain stories have tried to capture the mysterious relationship between women and men––everything from Samson and Delilah to Antony and Cleopatra.  Plenty of lesser-known cultural attempts at capturing what trust and love mean are out there, too.

For Worlds Apart: Tales for Lovers, I’ve chosen two of my favorites from the lesser known side of folklore. A haunting, swelling musical theme on Celtic harp tuned to resemble a Japanese koto underlies The Crane Wife, the first tale in the final show of a series at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA this coming Sunday afternoon at 4:30 pm.

Osamu is a poor and lonely sail maker who can’t afford a wife. Living alone in his hillside hut above a salt grass marsh, he often sees the white cranes landing in the wind. He marvels at how it seems to be held in their wings. But when a fierce storm blows a white crane into his door, leaving it stunned, he sees one up close after he brings it inside, nursing it back to health. The bird’s black, shining eyes gaze up at him until he sets it free.

But the season of storms is not over, and a second tempest brings a frantic knocking on his door. Astonished to find a beautiful young woman standing there, soaked and shivering, he lets her in. The mysterious Yukiko will not tell him where she comes from, but she does not wish to leave, either, and so becomes Osamu’s wife.

All is well until they run out of food and she offers to weave him a magic sail to sell in the village, a sail that whispers wind itself and can propel a ship in calm air. Her one condition: never look at her as she works at the loom behind her privacy screen. At the heart of their relationship is her trust in him that he’ll never do it and look. Does he? Come see the show and find out what happens.

The second tale, The Dame Ragnell, originally written in the 14th Century, asks the universal question, “What does a woman desire most?” Sir Gromer, a dark knight who will kill King Arthur unless he can answer it, demands that the King solve it in a year’s time or die. Once he starts to think about it, Arthur falls into a depression. There are just too many answers. He has no clue.

Enter Sir Gawain, Arthur’s best friend and the handsomest of the Round Table men. He’s the most eligible bachelor at Camelot. The ladies-in-waiting have hot flashes as he walks by. They’re all in love with him.

Gawain laughs at the question and says, “I think it best to ask a woman, sire. Or many. We’ve got a year. Let us ride out and ask women everywhere what they desire most, even in foreign lands. Surely an answer will occur again and again. Tell that to Sir Gromer, my liege, and you’ll be free of this.”

Hopeful and excited, Arthur rides out in one direction with a book in which to write down the answers, and Gawain rides off in another. They interview thousands of women, of all classes, and write down their answers. But after the year is nearly out, Arthur and Gawain grow despondent. There are just too many answers. There isn’t one that stands out.

In three days Sir Gromer will cut off Arthur’s head  and Arthur’s code of honor obligates him to die––he’s given his word––unless he can answer the question. Alone, Arthur rides to the glade in Inglewood Forest where it all began and the most hideous woman Arthur has ever beheld appears on a fine pony. The Dame Ragnell knows the answer and will tell Arthur in time to save his life, but for a price. Sir Gawain must marry her of his own free will.

From there, the story becomes hilarious and very moving. Hope to see you there.

Tickets are here.

2017 Adult Storytellings at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA

Jan. 8: Odin and Thor Battle the Frost Giants: Viking Adventure Myths

Two epic Viking myths wrapped in little-known lore (Thursday is Thor’s Day; Wednesday is Wotan’s Day) told by Master Storyteller and Musician Odds Bodkin. First, Thor Meets the Frost Giants, a tale of magic and illusion as Thor and Loki journey to Utgard, capital city of their enemies. Then, The Mead of Poetry, the long tale of Odin’s search for the blood of his best friend who’s been murdered, his blood brewed into a wisdom-bestowing elixir. Told with 12-string guitar scores and Celtic harp musings, with character voices and vocal effects. Seating at 5:00 pm. Show begins at 5:30 pm.

 

Tickets $15 table seating, $10 bar seating. Get your tickets here. Continue reading “2017 Adult Storytellings at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA”

Beowulf: The Only One/Listening Sample

Beowulf: The Only One, an Odds Bodkin epic storytelling audio with music, will be published at http://www.oddsbodkin.net/shop/ Thanksgiving Day 2016. The 65-minute audio is a new bardic telling of the ancient Viking tale, the oldest known piece of literature in English.

With character voices for Beowulf, King Hrothgar of the Danes, Unferth, Wyglaf and Grendel the monster and his mother, the tale is scored throughout with original music on 12-string guitar.

The download is priced at $14.95.

Enjoy this audio sample! 3:25 minutes.

Odds Bodkin Stories Worldwide

Two recent download purchases at my digital store have come from Krackow, Poland and Beijing, China. That’s very interesting to me. Even in these far flung (at least from America) locations, people out there know the value of intelligent listening for their children. And themselves.

They know, as a mom who wrote me recently stated, “Thank you for writing about tough topics but remembering that humor is important, too. Thank you for being someone my kids could use to help explain the world but never told them what to think. Thank you for talking about doing the right thing, even if it is hard, but never beating anyone over the head with the morality.”

In all the lines in her lengthy letter here, those three sentences meant the most to me.

Visit the shop and buy some MAGIC COINS as a gift for kids or adults. Recipients can visit and choose which titles they like at their convenience. Latest new releases include Strings in the Clouds, a calming 6-minute composition on Celtic harp and strings. Good music to listen to while working on complicated things.

Thanks for listening!

Odds Bodkin

Beowulf: The Only One is coming out on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 24th, 2016, American time zone. I have no idea what time that is in Beijing or Krakow, but I hope those customers enjoy it, too!

The Love Gift of Stories

Is your child or grandchild a good imaginer?

Build your child’s imagination away from the screen now. Save $74 on Odds Bodkin’s amazing audio stories with music from world cultures. 10 classic story collections plus epics––The Myth of Hercules, The Hidden Grail, David and Goliath and the 4-hour Odyssey! All for $99.

Coming soon! BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE. A heroic tale brought to life in spoken word and music.

If you know Odds Bodkin’s works, share with a friend! Buy now and download any time. All titles available individually as well.

All Collections + Bundle

 

 

TALES OF THE LAND! A Family Concert in Lafayette, CO on Nov. 2

Driving 12-string guitar music, rhythmic and elemental, joins the sound of a hammer striking rock to open Tales of the Land, a public family performance at Angevine Middle School in Lafayette, Colorado on Nov. 2 at 6:30 pm. The first of four stories, this is a Japanese samurai tale, The Stonecutter. Enabled with powers of Nature, a human being misuses them, bringing droughts and floods to a helpless Earth.

Next, a tale from Africa. Hungry and thirsty animals stare up a giant tree at fruits filled with food and water. Only when the tree’s name is spoken will it drop its precious fruits. But remembering the name proves difficult for many animals who try. Told with African thumb piano, hilarious voices and water droplet sound effects, The Name of the Tree is one of my best family stories ever.

Next, I’ll bring out a Celtic harp leant to me for my Colorado tour by Dave Kolacny of Kolacny Music in Denver. Thanks, Dave! Always generous over my years of visiting the Front Range. The story is about Kelsa, a young woman who refuses to work with flax to make linen. It smells terrible when soaked and Kelsa can’t standing spinning. But when the Queen is misinformed––believing that Kelsa loves to spin––Kelsa’s head is on the line unless she can do it. That’s when the three strangest looking beings she’s ever seen appear in a beam of moonlight. Lush, fun harp music combined with crazy funny voices will have you laughing at The Full Moon Spinners.

For the finale, the most outrageous of all my participatory tales, Finn MacCool and the Big Man. It’s so much fun to play the Irish rhythms in this story on 12-string, mostly because the audience gets the beat right away and joins in. Not only that, they learn a crazy chant that we all roar out as Finn, his wife Una and Gall the Hairiest Fenian outwit the biggest man any of them have ever seen.

Tales of the Land is sponsored by Martin Ogle of Entrepreneurial Earth and the Parent Engagement Network.

There is no child who won’t have a great time at this show, not to mention a whole lot of bemused parents, especially with the magical lanterns that will fill the auditorium. If you’re out in the Denver area, mark your calendar! Tell your friends. This is a very special show!

Tickets are $10 or $39 for families (4-6 family members) and you can get them here.

The Most Astonishing, Smart and Beautiful Letter I’ve Ever Received from a Mother

This post came in yesterday on Facebook from Valorie Gamer Osterman.

Thanks, Valorie!

 

Dear Odds,

Forgive me while I faint. My daughter is home visiting, and I just told her you had written me. The house is ringing with her squeals of joy! We are a family who treats you as a rock star, stalking your schedule, pouncing upon new recordings, and checking the internet for news of you. Living in Seattle, we lived too far away to enjoy a live performance but now my eldest is at Eastman School of Music so once again, we are stalking your schedule to make it to a live performance.

I did not write the article but feel free to quote my comments about it. The article was written by Diane Levin of Wheelock College in Boston.

Music is important but humans fought to speak for a reason. Music may move the soul but stories create and shape the soul. Music moves the emotions but stories help us understand them. Storytelling is a rare skill these days with so much TV and radio being formulaic rather than original. Finding those who can still tell a story is a rare find. Finding those who can tell a good story AND make great music is priceless!

You are, indeed, an enduring legacy in my household. “Drip, drip, drip” is often used as the punchline in a family story to denote that it is one to remember and share. In the transition from audio cassette to CD, we had to forgo many of the stories because I could no longer find copies. When my then 16-year-old daughter saw a tape-to-mp3 converter, her first thought was to find your old stories so we could listen again. When I saw you were going to debut “Beowulf” on the East Coast, I encouraged all my NY/MA friends to come but when I said I was going to buy a copy, my kids insisted I had to wait until Christmas so we could all listen together. My eldest will be 25 so I think that means we’ve been listening to you for 22 years at this point!

We are a very plugged-in family and never far from electronics and screens. I credit our car rides filled with stories from you and Jim French Productions for a large reason why my kids never turned on their walkmans/ipods/laptops in the car. It wasn’t just the stories, it was the situations and characters you brought to life. Unlike most music, the stories you tell invite conversation, discussion, and analysis so as we drove from school to sports to drama to dinner to dance and finally home, we listened and, more importantly, we talked. As the kids got into the car, I’d ask “Talk, stories, or music?” If a kid had a long day, a few stories would rejuvenate them and they’d start to tell me about their day.

It’s those conversations that were the play in their minds. Not only did the stories engage their minds in ways books and screens didn’t, they presented the option of stopping the story, talking about some aspect of it – often in the context of something they’d learned or were experiencing – and then listening to the rest of the story. Given the wide range of stories you tell, we could always find connections between what was going on in our lives with some character or situation in one of your stories. Sometimes when a kid was wrestling with something, they’d pick a story they wanted to hear, stop the story somewhere, then talk about what was bothering them.

So, thank you. Thank you for years of stories and coming back to give us new ones. Thank you for writing about tough topics but remembering that humor is important, too. Thank you for being someone my kids could use to help explain the world but never told them what to think. Thank you for talking about doing the right thing, even if it is hard, but never beating anyone over the head with the morality. Most importantly, thank you for providing a role model for my kids that storytelling is just as important today in our era of smart screens as it was when we lived in caves. At one point when one of my kids and I were just irritated with each other, they suggested we go for a car ride and listen to some stories. An hour later, we came back talking again and laughing.

Mission accomplished, sir. Mission accomplished.

Sincerely,
Valorie
————

Artist’s Note: Valorie proceeded to purchase a $99 All Collections Bundle at our download store. Bless her heart. I hope to meet her someday. And her kids.

TALES OF THE MOON at the Peabody Essex Museum on 10/15

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA, known as the PEM, is one of the finest mid-sized museums in the world, and this October 15th, for their Lunar Imaginings Opening Day Festival, I’ll be in Morse Auditorium at 11:00 a.m. with a very special show, Tales of the Moon.

The Twenty-Seven Wives of the Moon is a Hindu tale of how Soma, the Moon, asks Daksha, a powerful god and sage, to marry twenty-seven of his beloved daughters. “Twenty-seven wives?” Daksha responds, dubious Soma can treat each one equally. Soma insists he can do it, and what follows involves Ganesha, the Elephant-Headed God, Shiva the Destroyer and his wife, Parvati, and a host of other gods. Not to mention twenty-six angry wives. How it all works out, and how Soma survives to ride his chariot past the twenty-seven mansions of the stars is the tale itself, and in places is hilarious. I perform it with a sitar-tuned 12-string guitar and voices.

Spinners of the Moon is from Germany and is even funnier. It’s a Grimm’s fairy tale told with Celtic harp about Kelsa, who hates to spin. In fact, she hates everything about flax and the linen that comes from it, in a very smelly process. Never having learned, she’s grabbed by the Queen with the promise that if she can spin a dungeon of raw flax into linen thread in three days, she’ll marry the prince, but if she fails, she’ll lose her head. Kelsa despairs until three of the strangest looking beings–a young woman, a mother, and a crone–appear in the full moon’s light and offer to spin it all if she makes them a promise. Each has an outsized bodily feature connected to spinning. The outcome is very funny, especially when the prince meets them.

The last tale, told with alto recorder, is The Monkeys and the Moon from Tibet. It’s a parable about what happens when we follow a bad leader. Considering the election, it will hit home. In a non-partisan way, of course.

Plus I’ll add all manner of lunar lore to fill things out.

Come enjoy the show!

 

 

 

The Young Imaginers

What makes modern kids intelligent and adaptable in such a rapidly changing world? What is a critical factor in the educational system that gets short shrift? I think it’s teaching kids to imagine, as a basic skill. Learning numbers is necessary, and we all need to learn them, but considering the amount of cheating going on––web assisted, in colleges across America––I would humbly submit that these cheating kids do so because they’re unappreciative of the hard work of learning, and the reason that learning is such hard work for them is because digital life has robbed them of something.

Native human imagination.

It doesn’t happen on a screen, but within the brain itself. The true nature of intelligence––the human ability to look around at the world, see what needs to be done for survival and imagine solutions––includes the inventiveness to make the inventions themselves that solve the problems. Even if those inventions are not machines or technology, but social processes.

Learning theories abound out there. Once long ago, during a Door to Imagination Workshop I was offering, a woman educator sat back, rather startled, and said, “What you’ve described here is a genuine learning theory.” I’ve never forgotten that. She was right, I think, in that the simple act of imagining builds neural nets in kids’ brains. It doesn’t really matter what they’re imagining, as long as they’re tapping this hidden gift they’ve all been born with. Imagination in childhood becomes creativity in adulthood. And vision. And drive. The stories don’t matter. The neural activity is what matters.

I’ve been in the business of telling stories to kids since 1982. It’s not that I’m trying to use fairytales, myths and legends to convince kids that those old stories are real, because they’re not, although they all carry ethical lessons. No, it’s because I know that archetypal stories carry a pulse that’s ancient and strong enough to get modern, digitally-distracted kids to imagine them in the first place.

Not by watching.

By listening.

When kids imagine, their brains light up, according to PET scans. The learning theory is to forge new, underutilized, under-myelinized neural connections to build their basic intelligence structures. Wasn’t there some presidential election where “the vision thing” was an issue?

It doesn’t matter what the kids become in life when they grow up. It’s how they approach whatever they become imaginatively, so they can run clear-eyed scenarios for their futures, take stock of what’s going on around them (we are in unique times, I must say) and use their creative minds to fix the problems and survive.

To explore samples of how this learning theory works, I invite you to visit the new www.oddsbodkin.net and purchase storytelling audios that appeal to you. I get letters from twenty-somethings all the time who grew up with my stories. Out of the blue they email me, thanking me for being turned into imaginers.

Maybe we can’t smell as well as dogs, but we can paint mind pictures across our potential futures. Dogs can’t do that. Nor, as far as we know, can any of the other beasts with whom we share our fragile, biologically crafted Earth.

That’s our burden as the supposedly smart ones, we humans.

Odds Bodkin

Odds Bodkin’s THE ILIAD:BOOK I Live Performance Video

Cushing Academy in Ashburnham, Massachusetts is a fine private high school on a hill, and I was privileged to appear there recently before the entire student body one morning. Invited to perform one of my favorite pieces for high school and university audiences, The Iliad: Book I, I had a great time. Along with my long-form telling of The Odyssey (available at my download shop), it’s my homage to Homer. Loving his epics as I do, and wishing that many more young people read them for their timeless messages, I modernize these ancient tales as audios with character voices, music and accessible English.

Only this time, the show was captured on video. Jay Sharron, Cushing’s Media Production Coordinator, shot the performance before a live audience.

It’s now available in four parts as a 322 mb download, mobile quality video.

Find it here!

 

THE MONSTER’S VOICE/Beowulf:The Only One

Beowulf, the oldest known work of English literature, is about a man fighting monsters. Beowulf fights three of them over the course of the story. The first is Grendel, an ancient demon who is terrorizing the Viking Danes. Since he has no powers of speech, to create a character voice for Grendel took some experimenting, but in this prototype recording of Beowulf: The Only One, my hour-long audio story coming out later this fall, you can hear Grendel growl a few times and catch a whiff of his theme music. He’s a beast.
Enjoy.

 

Music for BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE, a bardic audio story

Want to hear some nice 12-string guitar music? Just a minute or so, but it’s in the play bar. It’s called Heorot, and it’s the theme I play while describing King Hrothgar’s mead hall in my upcoming audio story, Beowulf: The Only One. Heorot is the name of the Danish king’s hall, and it’s a happy place (this music is contented and happy) until Grendel the Demon shows up and starts eating people.

See if you like it.

There are plenty of other themes in the tale, and I’ll put up a few more as time permits. Enjoy.

Odds Bodkin

You can find other themes that accompany my stories at www.oddsbodkin.net.