I was introduced to the writing of Canadian storyteller, Joan Bodger, through this post on a blog called Pickle Me This by Kerry Clare. Intrigued by the post, I decided to look up some of Bodger’s titles in our library for our bedtime read, and selected her Tales of Court and Castle, illustrated by Mark Lang (Tundra Books, 2003). Here was a book that was instantly attractive to me — I’m fond of folk and fairy tales of all kinds — but I wasn’t so sure about how my daughter would take to them. The tales are very old — medieval, in fact — but told in a storyteller’s voice that is compelling and fresh. Mark Lang’s illustrations are marvelous. Appearing before each tale, they illustrate the tale’s most compelling aspect quite vividly. There’s quite a lovely image of the King and Queen in the tale, “The Warrior Queen,” lying side by side in bed arguing who is the greater of the two, and a very haunting image of Iron John standing in the forest in “Iron John.” For me, there were a lot of quiet aha moments of “So, that’s where this story came from!” especially in the cases of “Iron John,” the Tristan tales, and “To the Dark Tower” on which a famous Robert Browning poem is based. For my daughter, these tales were introductions to the magical world of the English tale with their mythical fairy worlds, inhabited by elves and forest spirits, and the like.
Joan Bodger was an interesting woman in and of herself, and her biography is a rich tale of its own. Canadian writer, Kathryn Kuitenbrower has written a compelling blog post on Bodger and her books here. Check it out for an in-depth account of a remarkable storyteller.