Posts Tagged Hugh Lupton


Car journeys are good for hearing stories.  This time it was The Adventures of Odysseus, in the marvellous telling of Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden. Travelling from Toulouse to Castres we listened to the first disk, and on the return one the second.

Page from the book, illustrated by Christina Balit

In the prologue Hugh Lupton explains how Paris, ruler of Troy got everyone involved in such an awful war:
or try this link.

Here’s Daniel Morden telling some of the story later on:

(These sound players either work very slowly or just don’t work for me, so for this second bit of story click here and click on the image of the CD to get to the audio more directly.)

Sam loved it. The only bit he didn’t like was that Argos, Odysseus’ faithful dog, dies when he sees his master return.

What we talked about afterwards was, what would you do? You have one golden apple, and three goddesses, Hera, goddess of Power, Athena, goddess of War and Wisdom, Aphrodite, goddess of Love. Who will you upset? Who will you please?

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the curing fox

It’s down below zero, late in the evening, the logs in the fireplace are glowing orange now. Snow is forecaste for tomorrow. Time for a tale. And so that it’s known that foxes aren’t always cunning and deceitful


Once upon a time there was a little girl, and one bitterly cold day she fell ill. She had a terrible cough and a rattling pain in her chest. Each breath she took was an effort. Her chest felt tight and sore. Her mother and father covered her with animal skins and blankets and kept her warm by the fire.

But she was getting worse and worse. She was breathing in short gulps, the colour drained out of her face and the light out of her eyes. Her mother called for old Duck Egg. She was a healer and she was old, old, nobody knew how old. Duck Egg came and went across to the girl. She bent down and gently lifted back the covers. Then she put her ear to the pale skin of the little girl’s chest, and listened. She listened for a long time. Then she sat up and spoke:

“I hear a she-fox walking, limping across the snow. I hear her footfalls on the crusty snow. Schaa, schaa. The fox is tired and weak. She has a long journey to make.”

The girl’s father said to Duck Egg, “Listen, I am a hunter. I will go and catch this fox and bring her back for you.”

And the old woman nodded and said, “Yes, bring the she-fox back here to the village.”

So the girl’s father strapped on his snow shoes and set off across the snow. Soon he found the tracks of a fox, its footprints and the swish of its tale over the snow. He followed the tracks all day, until, just before nightfall, he saw her, thin and tired, ahead of him.

Back in the village, Duck Egg listened to the girl’s chest again: “I hear the she-fox. The hunter is close; I can hear the sound of his snow shoes.”

The hunter kept on until it was too dark to go further, and then he stopped and made a fire. He warmed himself by the fire and close by the fox watched, its eyes shining in the darkness.

Back in the village the old woman listened again: “I hear a fire crackling, The hunter is sitting by his fire. The girl will be very hot tonight; she will have a fever.”

The hunter stayed up all night, staring into the fire; he was cold and tired, but he did not sleep. In the morning, at first light, he got up and began to chase the she-fox again. At last, he caught up with it and grabbed it. It was scared:

“Why have you chased me yestereday and today? I am tired and sick. Kill me now.”

“No, little fox, I will not kill you. There is a little girl who needs you.”

And the hunter took the fox back to his village in his arms, limp and thin, her heart beating fast.

Back in the village Duck Egg was listening carefully to the girl’s chest: “Her heart is beating very fast. The hunter is holding the fox and she is very frightened. He is on his way home.

It took a day and a night for the hunter to get home, and when he got home he went straight in to where his daughter was lying by the fire. Duck Egg was there. She smiled: “Give me the poor she-fox and bring some meat for it.”

She put the she-fox on the furs near the fire and the girl’s mother brought meat for it. The she-fox ate it up quickly, and then went to sleep. The girl slept too.

Old Duck Egg waited.

Then the girl and the fox woke up and opened their eyes at the same time.

picture by Niamh Sharkey

“Bring the fox more meat,” said Duck Egg. The mother brought she-fox more meat, and she ate it all up.

“Now open the door flap and let her go.”

So the father opened the door flap and let the she-fox go. The little girl watched as the she-fox ran out the village and disappeared into the whiteness. Its strength was back.

The girl was better too.

Old Duck Egg was quiet for a while, then she looked at the father and mother: “Answer me this: did the fox make the girl better, or did the girl make the fox better?”


I’ve retold this, checking my source now and then, Tales of Wisdom and Wonder, retold by Hugh Lupton (who seems to get regular mention here) and illustrated by Niamh Sharkey. Hugh Lupton tells it much better, but it’s getting late, and cold…

This is the first book that Niamh Sharkey illustrated. It’s interesting to see her talking about it here:

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the hunter’s five sons

There was once a hunter who had four sons. His wife was pregnant and could feel the fifth kicking inside her. ‘This will be another strong son,’ she said.

Now, one day the hunter went into the forest with his spear and his bow and his quiver full of arrows.

But he didn’t come back. That night the four sons and their mother stayed up and waited, but he didn’t come back. For the next week they cried.  After a week they stopped crying. And after a month they forgot about the hunter.

After another month the fifth son was born.

He grew up fast. Soon he was crawling. And after that walking.  And then he began talking. His fist words were, ‘Where’s my daddy?’ Those were his first words, ‘Where’s my daddy?’

The mother said to her other sons, ‘We have forgotten your father. You must go into the forest and search for what you can find.’

So they went into the forest, and it wasn’t long before they found their father’s spear on the ground. A little later they found the quiver full of arrows, and then the bow. And then they found his bones scattered all around.

The first son said, ‘It’s lucky that I have the power to bring bones back together.’

And he did. He made his father’s bones come back together to make the shape of a skeleton.

The second son said, ‘It’s lucky that I have the power to put flesh and skin on top of bones.’

And there was flesh and skin on the bones, their father’s body lying on the ground.

The third son said, ‘It’s lucky that I have the power to put life into a body.’

The heart inside the body began to beat and the lungs to breathe.

The fourth son said, ‘It’s lucky that I have the power to make a body move.’

And their father sat up and looked around, confused. ‘Where am I?’ he said.

‘You were dead,’ they said, ‘but now you are alive.’

And so their father went back home with them, and on the way he found his bow and quiver full of arrows and his spear. The family was together again.

After that the hunter got a piece of hardwood and cut it into shape and began to carve it. He carved the shapes of animals into it, fish, birds and animals that walk on the ground. When he had carved it he polished it, until he was satisfied with his work.

‘I will give this carving,’ he said, ‘to the one who saved me.’

‘That should be me,’ said his wife, ‘for I sent your sons to find you.’

‘That should be me,’ said his fist son, ‘for I brought your scattered bones together.’

‘It should be me,’ said the second son, ‘for I put flesh and skin on your bones.’

‘It should be me,’ said the third son, ‘for I put life into your body.’

‘It should be me,’ said the fourth son, ‘for I put movement into your body.’

‘No,’ said the hunter. ‘It will be my fifth son, for he asked about me when all of you had forgotten. A man is only truly dead when no-one remembers him.’

# – # – # – # – #

I’m telling you this tale that I read to Sam the other night from Freaky Tales From Far and Wide by Hugh Lupton. He had it from storyteller Jan Blake. The carving pictured is hanging in our house; Pam bought it in Zambia.





– added March 2013 –


here it is told by the man himself:

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the long way round

The Pedlar of Swaffham

Long ago there was a pedlar, a man who travelled about selling his wares, by the name of John Chapman who lived in Swaffham, a small country town in Norfolk.Now this pedlar had a dream that if he went to London Bridge he would hear news greatly to his advantage. Only when the dream was repeated the next night did he act on it, and packing his bag, he and his dog walked to London.He found his way to London Bridge early one morning and stood there waiting for the promised news.
The hours passed, and eventually a shopkeeper who had been watching him just standing there gave in to his curiosity and walked across and asked if he needed help.The pedlar told him of his dream, and the shopkeeper laughed, saying that if he had believed in dreams he would be in a place called Swaffham, where ever that was, digging up gold under the apple tree of a man called Chapman, but that he didn\’t believe in dreams and that the pedlar should go back home and carry on with his life. The pedlar thanked the man for his advice, and made his way back home.  Upon reaching home, he dug under his apple tree and found a small pot filled with gold coins. He put the coins away and cleaned the pot, finding a strange inscription. As he couldn’t understand the inscription he put the pot on his stall and life carried on.A few weeks later a wandering monk passed the stall and spotted the inscription on the pot. He asked the pedlar if he knew what it said, and when the pedlar said no, the monk translated it for him…‘Under me doth lie, another richer far than I’When the monk had gone, the pedlar quickly dug under the apple tree again, much deeper this time, and eventually found a much larger pot again filled with gold.   Soon after, the inhabitants of Swaffham decided to rebuild the church, and were very surprised to find the pedlar offering to pay for the north aisle and the tower.

I read the story in this book by storyteller Hugh Lupton, but I’ve taken the tale from the Web.

pedlar of swaffham

Here’s how Hugh Lupton begins it:

“Once upon a time there lived a man called John Chapman. He was a pedlar by trade, and he tramped the streets, lanes and roads, he tramped the highways and the by-ways of England, selling pins and mirrors, ribbons and reels of thread, knives and scissors, pills and ointments and ballad sheets. And wherever he went, he would take his little dog with him, running at his heels…”

Hearing that there is a statue of John Chapman in Swaffham, with the words ‘Even dreams can turn to gold” carved into the stone base, Sam asks “Is the cottage still there? If it was we could go and see if there was still any gold there!”

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best and worst


Between heaven and earth there flies a red bird that is always wet. Can you tell me what it is?
There are 32 white stools ranged around the long red room where this old gossip lives.

Hugh Lupton’s  riddle book has a great Cuban tale in it that he heard from Mimi Barhélemey, called The Best and the Worst in All the World. I was pleased to discover that it is a descendant of a much older story told about Aesop:

Aesop, a slave to Xanthus on the island of Samos, was ordered one day to arrange the meal for a large banquet. He was to provide the choicest dainties that money could buy.
When the guests arrived they were treated to a starter of tongue, served with a variety of excellent sauces. The guests of course made a few jokes about this. But when the next course was tongue too, they were puzzled. And when the third and fourth courses turned out to be tongue too puzzlement turned to perplexity. Xanthus was embarrassed and turning to Aesop angrily demanded an explanation.
‘Didn’t I tell you to provide the best meat you could find?’
‘What could be better than the tongue?’ said Aesop. ‘It is the tongue that teaches and enlightens, the tongue that praises and entertains, it is the tongue that strikes bargains and makes promises.’
The guests liked what Aesop said and good feeling was restored to the meal.
Xanthus spoke up: ‘Well, perhaps all of you could do me the favour of coming again for another meal tomorrow?’ And turning to Aesop he added, ‘This time could you arrange a meal with the worst meat you can find?’
The guests liked the idea and returned the following evening. And, to their confusion, nothing but tongue was served again.
Xanthus seemed angry. ‘How,’ he said, ‘can you serve up tongue as the best possible meat one day, and then the worst meat the next?’
‘What,’ replied Aesop, ‘can be worse than the tongue? What evil is it not involved in? Violence, injustice and fraud are all debated and resolved upon and communicated by the tongue. It is the ruin of empires, cities and friendships.’
The guests were pleased by what Aesop had said, and pleaded with Xanthus to appreciate the wisdom of his slave.

I like the Aesop story, even though there is a slight feel of a sermon about it.
The characters in the Mimi Barthélemy version are crocodiles. It is spiced with riddles like the ones above. And it is, as the real Aesop of course was, more lyrical:

“It is the tongue – that can lull a baby to sleep, that can fill the ears and the heart with love and delight, that can make peace between two warring armies and can lead the world into truth. Truly it is the best thing of all.”

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the snake of dreams


The illustrious storyteller Hugh Lupton retells this story in his book of riddles. We read it tonight again, after I tried to tell it and got mixed up.

Many years ago – and it was neither my time nor your time – there lived a great king.

And one night that king dreamed a strange dream.

He dreamed that a fox was hanging by its tail from the ceiling above his golden throne, a red fox, snarling and snapping, suspended by its red brush.

When the king woke up he called all of his advisers and wise men.

“What could be the meaning of such a dream?”

But they all shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders and not one of them could find an answer to that question. So the king ordered every grown man and woman in his kingdom to gather before the palace.

“Surely”, he thought to himself, “there must be someone in this great country who can unriddle my dream.\”

So the people came from north, south, east and west. And among the many there was one, a simple farmer who lived among the mountains far in the north. As he travelled towards the king’s palace he came to a narrow pass between two mighty mountains, and curled in the dust of the road there was a snake. As the farmer drew close the snake lifted its thin head:

“Aaaaaah, traveller, stop, and tell me, where are you going?”

The story continues here.

(It’s followed by an essay, which is, well, an essay.)

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