Did you ever play a game of whispers when you were a child? You would sit in a circle, and
one person would whisper the story to the person next to them, they would tell the next
person, then they would tell the next person, until the story got back to the first person. Do
you remember how the story would change as each of the whisperers would add their own
spin? Given the chance, would you play that game now?
Daniel Morden, a Welsh storyteller and author, tells us that he is one of the whisperers of
Celtic folk tales. He says:
“I don’t know who started the game. I know it started long ago, when birds would make their nests in old men’s beards. I don’t know if anything of the original whisper has survived. I do know that people don’t remember boring stories. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people have taken part in the game. Everyone who played tried to make the whisper exciting or memorable. So these stories have been made by many imaginations” *
Celtic folk stories are the kinds of stories that most people know, but don’t know that they
know. Ever heard of the infamous ‘Jack’? He swapped his cow for some magic beans and
slayed a giant. What about King Arthur, whose story is entwined with medieval Cornish
History. The Scottish selkies and Welsh dragons, you’ve heard the whispers before.
The old whisperers were gypsies, travellers, fiddlers and drollas, travelling from towns to
taverns storytelling for their suppers. Some would work odd jobs (jack of all trades) during
the day before moving on. Some notable characters are Anthony James of Cornwall, Abram
Wood of Wales, Ossian who was dubbed the Scottish Homer, who told Irish and Scottish
stories and was despised by such authors as Samuel Johnson. Since the Celtic revival of the
1800’s, however, very few of the whispers have been whispered. They were cemented in
written texts and left that way, with very few exceptions. The same cannot be said of Greek
myths, Norse legends and the Egyptian pantheon, whose whispers are whispered so loudly
The whispers were carried across the globe, particularly in the West Northern hemisphere,
but also into Africa, South America and some parts of Asia thanks to the mining culture. We
have a long and diverse history, with Barbary pirates from North Africa, a once thriving
Jewish community from the Middle East, and the vital global trades port of Tintagel,
according to the Chinese pottery that has recently been discovered there which has been
dated back to the 5th Century.
In contemporary society, and thanks to digital culture, we can share stories across the globe
in an instant. There are podcasts, vlogs, blogs, online streaming for films and television,
instant music sharing and much more. If we chose to, we could create a virtual hearth
where we could come together as independent entities and create a community of old
fashioned storytellers in a new era. That’s how we shine new light through old windows.
You don’t need a stranger on a blog post to give you permission to do it.
* From ‘Weird Tales from the storyteller,’ P. 7-8.
This is a call to arms. When whispers stop being whispered, the wind that carries them dies
and the stories are left stuck in time. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Celt or not, you can
whisper wherever you are. You’ll probably find similar stories in every culture; that’s how
humans bond, through food and stories. You have permission (although be careful of
copyright and plagiarism) to put your own twist in the whisper, cherry pick the best bits and
string them together, mix the lime with the coconut. These are our stories, ripe for the
And so to end as we began, with a quote from Daniel Morden:
“These stories belong in the air, between a mouth and some ears. I hope that if you enjoy them, you’ll have a go at telling them, or at least reading them aloud. As Abram [Wood] would have said, That is all. Find out more if ye wish!”**
** From ‘Dark Tales From The Woods,’ P ix
Guest post by Froshie Evans
Froshie Evans is a PhD Candidate, writer and filmmaker from Cornwall. Her PhD is focused on revolutionising the way we interact with folk tales by utilising digital media and technological communication. She is available through her instagram at @froshie.evans.writer for writing and @thecelticcocktail for her research.