Sing me the songs I delighted to hear, long ago, long, long ago...

The first storyteller was a hungry one.

A poor soul who sat at the edge of the group while the rest of the tribe devoured the mastodon, making merry over the success of the hunt. Our fledging storyteller wasn't a hunter or very useful to the tribe, and so usually got what was left of the offal or had to fight the dogs for bones. But that night he was very hungry. And the mastodon was very juicy, at least to judge from the fat running from the hunters mouths every time they took a bite. And the scent was dizzying. So, on an inspiration, the starving soul suddenly said,

"Yes, this was a good hunt. It reminds me of the Great Hunt of the fierce terrible One Tusk on the night of the red moon, long time ago."

Some other grunted, "Huh?"

Encouraged, the hungry one went on:

"Yes. It was a terrible night. Five brave hunters stalked big tusk's prints - prints big as ... two men together! They followed to the dark swamp, and crouched down in the grasses, and waited there..."

"And?" one of the diners urged.

"They saw big tusk was like no other they'd ever seen! High as a cliff, with eyes like a fire ..."

"And?" A fascinated listener paused mid-crunch.

"And... My mouth's too dry, I'm so hungry - I'm faint."

"Throw him meat. Go on!" the leader of the hunt demanded.

After a chomp, chew, and swallow, the tale went on. The words, primed by food, kept coming until the mastodon was shared out, and our bard, full at last.

For that night.

Because that was how the sequel was born....

But I'm not sure the first story teller was a man.

Listen to the most ancient fairy stories and folk tales. What was it third sons, vain princes and pretty goose maids all had to be most wary of? (Aside from ogres and dragons.)

Old crones. Poor aged and infirm females.

Why be afraid of feeble women?

Because if a hag was seen hobbling across a road or struggling with a load of wood, a wise person had better help her double quick, and be polite about it. Those who helped old biddies got three wishes, golden balls, jewels fell from their lips, they received all kinds of miraculous gifts.

But if they didn't ... terrible misfortune befell them. It was told, and retold: prince or pauper had better be nice to decrepit females. Because they might not be as helpless as they look.

Not old men.

Just old women.

Now, who do you think made up those stories?

Yup. I think that first story teller was a woman.

* I enjoy using fairy tales and referring to folk tales in my own books. Some are more apparent than others. One novella retells Sleeping Beauty, another restates Tam Lin. All my stories owe a huge debt to Cinderella, but so do all stories with happy endings. Its been said that sometimes the only difference between "Literature" and "Romance literature" is the happy ending. But what's so bad about feeling good?

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