Tristan and Iseult, A Medieval Classic
An epic tale of good luck, bad choices, giants, dragons, fools, betrayal and of course, Romance.
Some stories are meant to last. Tristan and Iseult was first written down between 1160-1190 by Beroul (French poet) and around 1173 by Thomas of Britain, originally from the oral tradition, probably from a Celtic tale.
Sir Thomas Malory folded this story into the Arthurian legend, in Le morte d’Arthur (1469). Many other versions have been written and told in various languages and styles, including Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde.
As a storyteller, I perform without notes or script, with only the images in my mind to prompt me. I use Le roman de Tristan et Iseut by Joseph Bédier (1864-1938) as my base; there is a nicely readable translation by Hilaire Belloc, The romance of Tristan and Iseult .
I have taken liberties: some scenes are omitted, others expanded, and there are slight anachronisms, all in the service of the story. Stories live and change in the process of telling.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Next week I'll go back to Salina, KS for a couple more days of a school residency. Though I don't yet have my schedule, I expect to visit two sixth grade classes (11-12 yr olds) to tell Tristan and Iseult.
Debbie, the teacher, is a big fan of this story. She was as disappointed as I was when the extremely bad movie came out in 2006. I won't go into my rant here.
I do love this story. I've told it on the radio (KOPN-FM in Columbia, MO), at the Going Deep Long Traditional Story Retreat, twice at the Johnson County Juvenile Detention Center, at the Smoky Hill River Festival, in solo shows at the Union Pacific Depot in Lawrence and at house concerts. I almost told it in Mexico last year, but it didn't quite fit the schedule.
This is my longest piece, clocking in at about 95 minutes. I'll try to get a good recording of it this time--the last time I got a halfway decent audiorecording was many years ago, not for want of trying. What is it about the story that stymies technology? Is it because it was first written down in the 1100s?
Here's the text of the program for the shows at the Depot:
Time to go refresh my memory of this fantastic epic!