VOICE OF A MONSTER/Video

VOICE OF A MONSTER

I know it’s weird, but it’s fun. Enacting an eighteen-foot tall demon beast, Grendel. And playing his creepy music while doing it. A monster who eats Vikings, this Grendel cannot speak. He just feels. Essentially he’s a giant wolf who walks on two legs and no Dane can kill him because his fur repels all metal blades. It’s not until Beowulf arrives on a mission of mercy to rid an old king of the monster’s nightly visits that Grendel meets his match. Beowulf must use his bare hands in what I like to think, considering the limitations of storytelling, is a pretty darn good battle scene.

All in the mind’s eye.

Tomorrow night, Sunday March 11, 2018, I’ll be enacting Grendel and a host of other characters in my performance of BEOWULF: THE ONLY ONE at Grendel’s Den club on Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. Showtime is 5:30 p.m.

Come eat Viking food and drink strong spirits as you listen. A full evening of adult storytelling, this show is a bit too graphic for children. Still, as Beowulf says, “Fate often saves an undoomed man if his courage holds.”

Tickets

An Ancient Knowing of Trees

An Ancient Knowing of Trees

As modern people who with a chain saw can fell a sequoia eight feet thick in a few minutes, it’s hard to imagine the awe ancient people felt for big trees. Especially in a climax forest that stretched in Roman times from England’s north all the way to its south, covering all except hunting trails. To this day, the famed Sherwood Forest of Robin Hood remains a small patch of that vast woodland.

It was the same everywhere across the planet, of course, wherever trees grew. Different people walked beneath different ones, but it was the same awe. So it’s no surprise that myths honoring trees are universal.

In South America, the first palm tree grew from the body of a buried maiden. In India, trees were thought of as sentient beings. Living beneath massive oaks in Britain, the Druids were named after them, while further north, Vikings believed a giant ash tree held up the universe. Everything in the Garden of Eden was edible, except for the fruit of one tree. When the Buddha attained nirvana, he was seated beneath the Bodhi Tree.

To celebrate this parade of archetypes, I’ll be telling my best stories about trees for kids and parents this coming May 25th at Sunrise Ranch in Loveland, Colorado. Some tales are funny, filled with animal characters, while others run deeper. All are filled with characters, naturalistic sounds and music on 12-string guitar, Celtic harp and more.

It’s an ideal family show for any parent who wants their child to respect living things.

Check it out here and get your tickets early!

 

–Odds Bodkin

 

THANK YOU, DAVID MILLSTONE

Thank you, David Millstone.

“I’m writing to New England storytellers with a request,” David Millstone, a fifth grade teacher in Norwich, Vermont wrote many years ago. “Can any of you tell an episode from The Odyssey? The Sirens. The Cyclops. Calypso. Any episode will do.” I’m paraphrasing, but that was his basic request. I immediately wrote back (paper letter) and told him I could tell the whole thing.

I didn’t know the story at all.

To my delight, he wrote back and said I was hired. He was building an interdisciplinary unit around Homer’s great myth, and instead of asking his students to read a version, since Homer was a spoken-word artist, he’d like to introduce his students to the tale in this more authentic way.

My knowledge of The Odyssey was limited to a movie I’d seen as a kid starring Kirk Douglas, Ulysses. And having read Joyce’s take on the tale by the same name. I had three months to prepare. I got to work.

I’ll be telling THE ODYSSEY: BELLY OF THE BEAST, the early episodes of what ended up a 4-hour epic, for an adult audience at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA this coming Sunday night beginning at 5:30. Introduction with music on Celtic harp, then into the tale itself with a 12-string guitar accompaniment.

The 12-string not a lyre, but it does have more strings.

A few tickets remain.

ODIN AND THOR BATTLE THE FROST GIANTS Sunday Jan. 14 at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge MA

Adult storytelling this Sunday night!

Odds Bodkin returns to Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA to perform ODIN AND THOR BATTLE THE FROST GIANTS: VIKING MYTHS OF ADVENTURE on Sunday night, January 14th at 5:30 p.m., with seating commencing at 5:00 p.m.

 

Eat and drink adult beverages like a Viking, then hear two epic Viking myths wrapped in little-known lore (Thursday is Thor’s Day; Wednesday is Wotan’s Day). First, a tale of magic and illusion as Thor and Loki journey to the city of their enemies, the Frost Giants. Meet Thor, big, strong, slightly dim and lovable, along with Loki, everything Thor is not. You’ll hear full characterizations for these mythic characters, along with peasants and immense giants. And of course, a full score on 12-string guitar. Then, 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. Hear another 12-string, along with more music and voices for dwarves, a dangerous, lonely giantess, and Odin himself.

 

Plus little-known Viking lore explained as Odds plays the Celtic harp. Last year, this show sold out, so grab your tickets now! Only a few remain!

 

Adventure, humor and great acoustic music.

 

$15 table seating, $10 at the bar. Get tickets here.

Mahabharata Backstory: Births of the Pandava Brothers

Once Upon a Time in Ancient India…

 
Out hunting one day, King Pandu comes upon two deer copulating and against all wisdom shoots them both in their helplessness. When he approaches to retrieve his arrows, the stag is still alive and says, “For killing us in our moment of delight, I curse you. If ever you make love again, you will die in that instant.”

 
Pandu’s two new wives, princesses Kunti and Madri, are horrified upon hearing this but stay with him anyway. The three go to live in the forest. However, before she was married, an old hermit, covered in ashes, has told Princess Kunti that if she ever wants sons by the gods, to utter a certain mantra. And so one night, alone in her bed, she calls upon the Sun, Lord Surya, and to her amazement, he appears in her room. The next day she gives birth to a son and sets him floating down the Yamuna River, which flows into the Ganges. He is found by a couple and raised, becoming the greatest warrior who has ever lived.

 
But then, two years later, Kunti wants sons to keep, so she summons Lord Dharma, the God of Justice, and the next day gives birth to Yudisthira the Wise, the first of the Pandava Brothers. Next, Vayu, the Wind, fathers a son destined to be the strongest man in the world, Bhima. Lastly, Indra, the God of a Thousand Eyes, fathers Arjuna, destined to be the greatest archer of all. When Madri, Pandu’s other wife, sees this, she asks for the mantra and summons the Aswins, Physicians of the Gods, and produces the Pandava twins, Nakula and Sahadeva. And so the five Pandava brothers come into the world, all with heavenly fathers.

 
In Yudisthira at Heaven’s Gate, a tale I’ll be telling this Sunday, King Yudisthira, now old, must journey to Mt. Kailasa to die, entering the the gates of heaven there. The battle discussed in the Bhagavad Gita is long past. But Arjuna and Bhima won’t let him go alone. Nor will Draupadi, wife to them all. What happens during their journey, and what happens at the gates, is one of the most dramatic stories I’ve ever learned to tell. With full characterizations, it’s accompanied by sitar-tuned 12-string guitar. Come here it!

 
The show is Sunday April 9th at 8 pm at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA. Tickets are $20 and $10 and you can buy them here.

 
India’s Ancients: Tales from the Mahabharata and Beyond.

Eye of the Cyclops

He’s as tall as twelve men standing on one another’s shoulders. He sees the world through a single, malevolent eye in his forehead. Although tender with his own flocks, this giant shepherd is quite happy to tear men apart and eat them raw, spitting out the heads as slightly too crunchy. He’s Polyphemus the Cyclops, a character I’ve had fun portraying for years whenever I perform The Odyssey: Belly of the Beast, which I’ll be doing on April 2nd at Grendel’s Den in Cambridge, MA.
Some listeners find him quite sympathetic, they tell me. Perhaps that’s because to me, he’s a gigantic child of sorts, living a simple, solitary life until Odysseus and his men, searching for food, show up in his cave when he comes home. For some reason my right eye always closes and remains shut whenever this character speaks in his deep, roaring voice. Whatever I can see of the audience out there I see through my left eye, often with retinal projections of blood veins, which are actually mine, not fictional in any way. Stage lights cause this strange effect.
Call it solidarity with the most renowned cyclops of myth!

 

Tickets to the Grendel’s Den show are available here.

StoryEarth: Naturalist Martin Ogle and Odds Bodkin Live

When our kids ask about life’s origins, what do we tell them? What do we tell ourselves?

 

Few peoples or tribes on Earth have lived without an origin story. The Algonquin Native Americans believed that North America was created on the back of a giant turtle in the sea with some magic cloud soil. Many people in our own country believe that God created the Earth in six days, about 6,400 years ago, and that men walked with dinosaurs. Meanwhile the ancient Greek poet Hesiod was of the opinion that the first being was a Titan named Gaia who abruptly appeared and with her 12 Titan children set about creating the stars, the moon, day and night and all the other features of Nature.

 
Since ancient times, humankind has come a long way. With science and technology we’ve evolved immense new eyes and ears such as telescopes and seismographs. No longer do we think Thor in Asgard is hurling thunderbolts during thunderstorms because we understand electricity and use it every day. When a hurricane slams us we don’t think a sea god is angry; no, we can see the tropical depression swirling toward our coasts from our satellites. When volcanic pressures build toward an eruption, micro-quakes swarm across our seismographs to warn us of the danger. We can even listen with radio telescopes to the throbbings of deep space. Still, despite all this science, if we forget the mysteries and needs of the human spirit––and that means a story folks can understand that squares our faith with what we’re seeing around us––we may neglect what needs to be done to sustain life on Earth. We’ve been doing that for quite some time. Maybe all we need to do is update our old stories with some solid science. Sacred Stories 2.0.

 
Up until now, we’ve been looking up at the mysterium tremendum––the “tremendous mystery” in which we live––but for the first time ever, we humans can look down upon our planet. You can now go online and see all the winds circulating around the Earth, or the ones that were doing so about an hour ago, since it takes that long to update the Earth Wind Map software. It’s pretty close to real time. You can see the coastal storms, the typhoons, the giant circulations of wind around Antarctica, how breezy it is in your neighborhood, all of them updated from sensors floating at sea and the work of land-based weather watchers. Tell me I’m crazy but looking at this makes me feel religious. It gives me a sense of my planet in a way the ancients could not perceive. NASA has done the same beautiful thing with ocean currents, the drivers of climate. Whether you think humans are causing global warming or not, at least here before your eyes is the vast convection mechanism that is, for whatever reasons, heating up like a pot of boiling water.

 
On November 9th, 2016 at 7:00 pm I’ll be onstage at the University of Colorado’s Sustainability, Energy and Environment Complex in Boulder with a dear friend, Martin Ogle. Using some storytelling on my part and some science on his, we’re going to explore whether we humans need to update our basic story about the mysterium tremendum. And how we might do that.

 
The show is called StoryEarth and info and tickets are available here. We hope you’ll join us for a fun show and a fascinating discussion, you included!

 

StoryEarth is sponsored by PEN, the Parent Education Network and Entrepreneurial Earth.

 

Odds Bodkin