Recently, I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm currently reading a book on French folklore that I initially couldn't find in any shops that I knew in France. I looked round Paris, Toulouse and our patch in the southwest with no joy. So I fished around the resellers on the net and tracked it down. It's called Mysterious Locations and Legends of Our French Regions - Sites mystérieux et légendes de nos provinces françaises - and it's a cracker. Take a bow, Jean-Paul Ronecker.Greg Mosse graduated in Drama and English from Goldsmiths College, University of London. He has published works of science fiction, children’s stories and commercial and literary translation and is an experienced editor and creative writing teacher. Learn more about his Secrets of the Labyrinth at the publisher's website.
The book is organized – as you would expect – regionally, so you can seek out places that you know. Many of the tales are similar – there are probably too many White Ladies and elusive dancing flames, but that is hardly the author's fault. That's what the people say they saw. And some of the mysterious tales are surprisingly contemporary.
But the reason I like the book - and others like it, including the wonderful Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable - is because I believe that the urge to write stories is deeply etched in our mental make-up. I believe it comes from the brilliant pattern-seeking, problem solving capabilities of the human brain. When we are not busy working out - as we did for millions of years - when might be the safest time to visit the water hole and which parts of which plants we can consume, our imaginations explore the physical world, looking for reasons why things are as they are. In Australia, of course, the aboriginal people call them dreamtime stories, from the days when they were imagining how it was that their physical environment came to be.
Of course, in subtle and sophisticated ways, this is what contemporary authors outside of the oral tradition are doing. But I like the back-to-basics, belt-and-braces access afforded by these ancient tales. Perhaps someone should set up a new blog, compiled from brand new dreamtime stories - contemporary folk tales, if you will ...