Stories always find their own way of being told. Like the rugged shoulders of a mountain, the graceful curve of a river or the rings that mark each year in the life of an old oak tree - stories lean forward to whisper their secrets to those with ears to hear.
In Ireland, those stories have been handed down from generation to generation for centuries. In times when the written word was forbidden, the folk memory seemed to sharpen its edge even more keenly and people learned to listen, to look and to imagine. They heard the roar of Gods and Giants in the thunder of the sky, the music of fairies in the streams and, through the mist that hung on the hills and valleys, they saw the borders of an otherworld.
When the day of the printed word arrived, the story was taken from the ancient road of the voice to the clean whiteness of the page through the work of famous collectors like Hans Christian Andersen. The Grimm Brothers from Hanau in Germany were among those who turned an eye and an ear to Ireland and they translated the collected fairy tales of Thomas Croker. But significant as all of their achievements were in collecting many volumes of stories, these men would have been among the first to admit that a story should be heard rather than read.
This is one reason why today, in the early years of the 21st century, there is a great revival of interest in storytelling all over the world. It's as though a moment approaches when the people of our planet experience a universal eye strain in front of the relentless glow of television and technology. It's the coming of a time when minds feel a restlessness for individuality and jaded ears rebel against hearing the same story told in the same words by the same voice in every corner of the earth at the same moment. It is the time, once again, of the storyteller.
Harald Jüngst from Duisburg in the Ruhrgebiet of Germany is a storyteller whose life had taken him from one of the most industrialized corners of the world to the quiet remoteness of Donegal. In these places and on many roads in between, he has stopped to listen and learn, drawing on his experience as a musician and broadcaster to absorb some of the classic myths and legends of Ireland. He has an ear for the sound of language and his adaptations and translations of stories have been greeted with enthusiasm by children of all ages, from nine to ninety nine, through his many performances in Germany.
For those who might never have the chance to visit one of those performances and for those who would like to hear the tales again, this audio book steps in to fill the gap and will shorten many's a road. The adventures of giants like Finn Mac Cumhaill reveal that if you find yourself in a spot of bother, the invisible muscles of the brain can be just as important as the bulging muscles of the outer body in taking you out of trouble. Walk down the incredible time tunnel into a labyrinth of age in the story of Art Neart and Ceart and follow the heartbreaking journeys of the Children of King Lir. I could say more but I won't because the stories are waiting for you. And stories always find their own way of being told.
Colum Sands January 2005