Friday, February 20, 2009

Queen Berta and King Pippin, yet again

I'm giving a house concert of "Queen Berta and King Pippin" tomorrow. Am I working on the story now? No. I'm simultaneously stalling and chastising myself for not working on it. This is my pattern. I know it, it happens often with large projects, and yet...

Still, I did work on "Queen Berta and King Pippin," a.k.a. "Berte aus grans pies" or "Berthe aux grands pieds," intensively while I was in Belgium. Because I didn't have performances every day, I set myself the task of translating the story into English. I began this two years ago, working from the Old French (OF). That was before I dug up the Modern French (MF) version (published in 1897, and delivered by mail from Belgium, coincidentally). I read the whole thing several times and slogged through translating about half of the OF. The last time I studied OF was 26 years ago.

I didn't need to prove to myself that I could translate the OF. What I wanted most was the story, so I worked on the translation from MF. Adenet Li Rois, the author of this Medieval work wrote it originally in verse. The MF version was in prose. Much easier. In both, there's lots of repetition, likely because the story was intended to be read aloud and that way the listeners could have a short reminder of where the reader left off in the previous session.

I did it! I finished on the Wednesday before I came home, fortunate as my friend had warned me that she wouldn't take me to the airport if I wasn't finished (my sweetie at home, when I told him this on the phone, said something along the lines of, "Ahem. I'll come get you in that case").

It was incredibly satisfying to get to the last page (165 in the book, translated to 70 in a single-spaced Word document), to chapter CXLIV.

Before I finished the translation, I told it twice in Belgium, also at Marie's kitchen table. You might remember that I told the story last year at the Going Deep Long Traditional Story Retreat, and I told it a few other times. Each telling gets a little richer.

I'm planning to run through it tomorrow morning, possibly on a walk where I can't interrupt myself to do laundry or bake bread or vacuum the living room or engage in any number of other stalling techniques.


Granny Sue said...

Oh lord. That is a project, Priscilla! And a very cool one. Ihope I'll get to hear you tell it sometime.

Sorry you were late to the conversation on Storytell about your own question! It hit me at one point that I should email you and let you know we were talking about it. It made a very good thread, and as usual one with no resolution. Which is probably as it should be.

PriscillaHowe said...

Granny Sue,
Thanks so much for taking the conversation to Storytell--great discussion!