Imaginary Worlds, Real Stories

Imaginary Worlds, Real Stories

Terry Pratchett

I am not a folklorist, but I am a vast consumer of folklore–an end user, if you like. I think about folklore in the same way that a carpenter thinks about trees, although a good carpenter works with the grain of the wood and should endeavour to make a table that will leave the tree glad that it became timber.

I am an author. I am, by the crude yardstick of sales, an immensely successful one. I’m quite happy with that yardstick. The author’s prime task is to be read. The book in question may have many fine qualities, but if it cannot persuade the reader to read past page one they are going to go unnoticed. The story cannot exist in one mind alone, otherwise it’s just a very complex dream. It has to be told.

In fact, it is truer to say that I am a journalist by inclination and training. A proper journalist, I may add, who was taught by men who knew their craft and can still recall his shorthand when the need arises. This is in contrast to the other sort, who go straight from university into a column on an upmarket daily, one of those with a little picture of them at the top, where they can primp and posture in their little play street without being knocked down by real life. It sounds like the Victorian era when I talk about it now, but I was an indentured apprentice and I was in there at the death of hot metal and I still think that a Linotype machine is a more amazing creation than a computer.

I know a number of authors who trained as journalists first. It can mess up your style, we’ve agreed, but it does give you a tendency to turn in things on time, check your spelling and remember above all that writing is a collaborative process to which the reader also brings something.

It is particularly good training for a genre author.

It’s quite hard to explain the difference between a genre author and, well, a normal one, especially if you take the view that there are rather more genres around than serious literary editors would care to admit. But the collaborative aspect is prominent; those sitting in the circle of firelight while the story is told are not passive listeners, but believe they have some rights in the story and that the story itself is a window into another world with a quasi-existence of its own. Kill off a popular character or make one behave against what the reader considers is their nature, and you get Letters from Fans. Genre editors often acquire fans, a word deriving from fanaticus, meaning “of or belonging to the temple,” although I’m grateful to the Oxford English Dictionary for adding that it refers to a possessor of “excessive and mistaken enthusiasm.” There was also a reference in my Latin dictionary to “orgiastic rites.” These have not so far been part of my experience, although some younger fans have occasionally persuaded their mothers to send me a slice of their birthday cake.

I think I write fantasy. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then you might as well stick an orange in its bottom and eat it with green peas.

Most of my books, some twenty-four in fact, are set in the largely imaginary world of Discworld. I say “largely imaginary” because of course it has that slight air of solidarity that mythology brings to an image; the idea that the world goes through space on the back of the turtle, as the Discworld does, is found in many cultures. It is either very old indeed or we just naturally have a turtle-shaped hole in our consciousness. It’s most developed in Hindu mythology; I don’t recall ever learning about it, it being one of those things you grow up knowing without any apparent source, but it’s an image that often appears in books of popular astronomy and I suppose I must have got it from one of them when I was a child.

Some years ago, when Salman Rushdie was having his bit of trouble with the Ayatollah, a large Indian family turned up at a book signing of mine in Wolverhampton. Did I know, the mother asked, that the world turtle is part of Hindu mythology? Er, yes, I said … er … did they mind? They beamed and said no, that was fine, and now would I sign their books?

Most of the action in the books takes place on the surface of the disc-like world. Although on the face of it the world is populated by men, dwarfs, trolls, dragons, witches, wizards and so on, the way they act and interact can be, I hope, curiously familiar to the reader. They tend to act from motives we can understand; they tend to be people we think we may have met. My witches, in particular, tend to act like your granny … but more about them in a moment. The world is magical, not simply in the sense that people in pointy hats can wave their hands and go “shazoom!” in the real expectation of getting results, but in the way it works.

For what Discworld is, more than anything else, is … logical. Relentlessly, solidly logical. The reason it is fantasy is that it is logical about the wrong things, about those parts of human experience where, by tactic agreement, we don’t use logic because it doesn’t work properly. On Discworld all metaphors are potentially real, all figures of speech have a way of becoming more than words.

The leading city of Ankh-Morpork, for example, has a special Bureau of Weights and Measures and, as with those in this world, it keeps a number of standard physical units for the purposes of testing and comparison. It’s just that they’re not the kind of units with which we are familiar….

There may be found, for example, the standard blunt stick that many things are better than a poke in the eye with, the pot of pitch against which the blackness of things may be tested, and the actual newt used in testing for drunkenness.

Metaphors and similar sloppy language have caused so much trouble in the city’s history, though, that a former ruler banned this sort of thing completely and large areas of literature had to be re-written, leading to stuff like, “My strength is as the strength of ten because my heart is a large organ that pumps blood around my body.”

Only on Discworld, perhaps, would a group of slightly-drunken toga-clad philosophers actually try to race a tortoise against a hare. When one novice philosopher proposed to his seniors that, logically, an arrow could not actually catch up with and hit a running man (because, of course, by the time it got to where he is now he would have moved further on, and so on) they told him to start running and picked up their bows. He was in fact proved right, although the hypothesis was amended to add that the arrows would not hit the running man only if the archers had been in the pub since lunchtime.

The roots of all this started to burrow into the soil when I was given a copy of The Wind In The Willows at the age of ten. Up until then it had never occurred to me that reading could be anything other than a chore, but I read that book in a day, and I wanted a lot more. In a week or two, I went from a child who barely read anything to a child who would read anything, and was trying to read everything.

There wasn’t a lot of fantasy in my local library. This was in the late Fifties, you understand, and I don’t think we had a very good Fifties in this country. A nasty, drab, furtive decade, it seems to me in retrospect. This is because only one major country is allowed a decent decade at any time. America got the Fifties–all those juke boxes, rock ‘n roll and Cadillacs with fins–and over here we had to fill up the ten years after 1949 with a sort of re-heated Forties. In fact we weren’t even allowed any Sixties until 1964, when we were allowed to keep them until they were exported to the West Coast of the USA in 1968. To be honest, they only happened to about 250 people in London, in any case. The rest of us read about them, and picked up the pieces.

I read my way through what the local library did have like a chainsaw. So fast was I reading, in fact, that I read my way into the mythology and folklore section without realising it. George Ewart Evans, Margaret Murray, Lady Gregory, J. G. Frazer … I was travelling too fast to stop, and I piled into the folklore shelves like an out-of-control juggernaut.

I suspect that for many of us a major chapter opened in our lives when we discovered the pleasures of reading. Of course, there are minor problems. I wasn’t the only person I know who ended up with a rather bigger vocabulary of understanding than of speech. For years I thought that a certain humanoid monster was an “ogree”; I mentioned this to a distinguished friend of mine who admitted that, for years, another word for “ghost” was mentally pronounced by him as “perhantom.”

Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable was a major discovery. I still have the second-hand copy I bought in a local bookshop for ten-and-sixpence; I may have been the only twelve year old to read through it, end to end, for the dark pleasure of realising that the world is a fascinating and complicated place. Even now, when I have been able to afford one of life’s true pleasures–bookshelves high enough to require a library stool–and have been asked to write the preface to the Brewer’s Millennium Edition, it is still the first and last resort in matters of a mythical nature.

So for years my regular reading of folklore went hand-in-hand with a taste for science fiction and fantasy and, I have to say, outlived them. I was very fortunate. Perhaps one of the librarians had a particular interest in folklore. There seemed to be a lot. The Opies, of course, and a whole lot of those rather trite, tourist-orientated folklore books, but The White Goddess was there, too, and I particularly remember being impressed by Dermot Mac Manus’s The Middle Kingdom, which headed straight for my subconscious and stayed there.

There was no pattern to this. I just chose the books that looked interesting. I tended towards folklore rather than mythology, because gods seemed rather dull and stupid and in any case mythology just seemed to be the folklore of the winners.

What was going on, I now realise, was the stealthy laying down of the coal measures I was subsequently to mine as a professional author. I can’t remember where I first heard of the Dunmow Flitch, or the King of the Bean, or the Horseman’s Word, or the Hunting of the Wren … in a sense, I’ve never not known them.

I can remember my father telling me about the treacle mines at Bisham, near Marlow, when I was about eight. I used to watch closely from the back of the car when we passed through the village, in case I saw the treacle lorries. I recall considering the matter in much the same way as small children think about Father Christmas and we think about world peace–the deep suspicion that it can’t possibly be real is almost overwhelmed by a fervent hope that it might be true.

By the logic of Discworld, incidentally, treacle mines seem quite reasonable. We know that if time and geology crush a herd of dead dinosaurs, you get oil. If you flatten a swamp, you get coal. So, if an inundation sweeps across a vast field of primitive sugar cane, you surely end up with a rich underground reserve of, yes, treacle. In some areas this would solidify and subsequently be mined as pig treacle, or hokey-pokey, great sticky seams in the rock, but your real prospector would surely comb the wilderness for signs of the true liquid gold. A pretty good one would be an area where the animals no longer have any teeth, of course.

Probably the one aspect of the series that truly capitalises on all that reading is the kingdom of Lancre, which I suspect is a somewhat idealised version of the little fold in the Chiltern Hills where I grew up, stirred in with the western area of the Mendips where I spent a great deal of my adult life in a cottage which had previously belonged to Violet Alford’s brother. It was there that I once heard an old man in a cider house refer to a fox as Reynard, quite unselfconsciously. There I wandered around the fields looking for the Wimblestone, which comes alive at night, and once I heard the ghost of the horse which used to be tethered outside the back door. Well, it was three a.m., there was the sound of a horse outside, I knew about the ghost, and I wasn’t about to spoil a good story by checking. I am a journalist, after all.

Lancre is, as it were, solid folklore. It is a constitutional monarchy, and its largely peasant population are loyalists to a man. People often misunderstand that word, but it means that while they perceive their duty to be loyal to the monarch, they also clearly perceive it as his duty to be loyal to them. In short, they “won’t be druv.”

The true power in the kingdom, however, lies with the witches, of which three or four feature in some of the books. Magic on Discworld lies, as I said, mostly in the nature of the environment; the witches use broomsticks, certainly, but mostly their power is derived from a zest for life, a clear-headed grasp of psychology, a gift for natural medicine, and an absolute refusal to be overawed by any situation.

Right from the start my main three fell into a natural trio–young Magrat, kind, well-meaning and wet; Nanny Ogg, plump, motherly and experienced (as she says, she’s had a lot of husbands, and three of them were her own), and Granny Weatherwax, crabby, sharp and proud. I am quite proud of Granny, who was cut out by nature to be a powerfully bad witch and is simply too proud to be one and generates from this internal conflict a sort of creative anger.

The land they live in is folklore made solid. There are caves underneath which, of course, go everywhere. There is an earthwork known as the Long Man, whose generally configuration can best be left to the imagination.

There are several stone circles, one of which is of course a gateway to another world. There is even a famous lone standing stone. It is more accurately a stone circle consisting of one stone which, in obedience to the general superstition in these matters, cannot be counted. When it feels that someone is looking at it in a calculating way, it hides in the peat bog.

In odd corners of Lancre can be found the original “place where the sun does not shine,” a deep hollow in the ground from which occasionally emerge a variety of things, all of which have, of course, been put where the sun does not shine.

I did not, to be frank, have to work hard at this. It was like picking apples from a low tree. Twenty years of assiduous reading just overflowed. Long before “horse whispering” become widely publicised because a rather narcissistic actor thought he’d like to star in a film, I found the following unfolding in the early pages of the Discworld book Witches Abroad, dealing with one minor character who was a blacksmith:

To his glowing forge were brought the stud stallions, the red-eyed and

foam-flecked kings of the horse nation, beasts with hooves like soup-plates

who had kicked lesser men through walls. But Jason Ogg knew the secret of

the mystic Horseman’s Word, and he would go alone into the forge, politely

shut the door, and lead the creature out again after half an hour,

newly-shod and strangely docile. [1]

Jason Ogg is also, incidentally, the leader of the Lancre Morris Men, up in the mountains where morris dancing is a dangerous sport. I’ve always had the true Englishman’s genetic distrust of morris dancers, being especially wary in any pubs with an invitingly large car park around early May, and I was a little surprised to find myself beginning the book Reaper Man like this:

The Morris dance is common to all inhabited worlds in the multiverse.

It is danced under blue skies to celebrate the quickening of the soil

and under bare stars because it’s springtime and with any luck the carbon

dioxide will unfreeze again. The imperative is felt by deep-sea beings who

have never seen the sun and urban humans whose only connection with the

cycles of nature is that their Volvo once ran over a sheep.

It is danced innocently by raggedy-bearded young mathematicians to an

inexpert accordion rendering of Mrs Widgery’s Lodger and ruthlessly by such

as the Ninja Morris Men of New Ankh, who can do strange and terrible things

with a simple handkerchief and a bell.

And it is never danced properly.

Except on the Discworld, which is flat and supported on the backs of

four elephants which travel through space on the shell of Great A’Tuin, the

world turtle.

And even there, only in one place have they got it right. It’s a small

village high in the Ramtop Mountains, where the big and simple secret is

handed down across the generations.

There, the men dance on the first day of spring, backwards and forwards,

bells tied under their knees, white shirts flapping. People come and watch.

There’s an ox roast afterwards, and it’s generally considered a nice day

out for all the family.

But that isn’t the secret.

The secret is the other dance.

And that won’t happen for a while yet.

The book closes, after various adventures among the living and the dead, with the following:

In the village in the Ramtops where they understand what the Morris

dance is all about, they dance it just once, at dawn, on the first day of

spring. They don’t dance it after that, all through the summer. After all,

what would be the point? What use would it be?

But on a certain day when the nights are drawing in, the dancers leave

work early and take, from attics and cupboards, the other costume, the

black one, and the other bells. And they go by separate ways to a valley

among the leafless trees. They don’t speak. There is no music. It’s very

hard to imagine what kind there could be.

The bells don’t ring. They’re made of octiron, a magic metal. But

they’re not, accurately, silent bells. Silence is merely the absence of

noise. They make the opposite of noise, a sort of heavily textured silence.

And in the cold afternoon, as the light drains from the sky, among the

frosty leaves and in the damp air, they dance the other Morris. Because of

the balance of things.

You’ve got to dance both, they say. Otherwise you can’t dance either.

I was surprised–perhaps I shouldn’t have been–to be contacted after that by various morris sides who, after reading the book, had tried dancing the Dark Morris in November, wearing black. One gentlemen said it was a very strange and chilling experience which he would not willingly repeat. As a result of the book there is now a traditional Lancre Stick and Bucket Dance competition at a South of England folk festival, It’s traditional in a way that modern folklorists will readily comprehend; it’s been done once before.

Perhaps the most enjoyable character to write for is Nanny Ogg, the aforementioned second witch. She’s a character who had become so very clear in my mind that I think I may have met her. She’s dumpy, totally without shame, manipulative and has got one of those minds that can see the punchline of a dirty joke long before anyone else and greets it with a laugh you could scare werewolves with. And yet she’s also, in a strange way, a highly moral person; it’s just that she doesn’t confuse morality with strait-laced cowardice and want of adventure. She has an idiosyncratic grasp of language, because it’s the way my granny often used to talk, and yours too, I suspect: “If you go to other people’s funerals they’ll be sure to come to yours,” and “a double-entendre can only mean one thing.”

With some assistance, I have tried to bring her to life in a sort of fantasy diary of a country lady, called Nanny Ogg’s Cookbook, and the first two sentences do, I think, give a flavour of her character:

Not a day goes past but I’m glad I was born in Lancre. I know every inch of

the place and every one of the people, an’ I look out over its mountains,

hill, woods and valleys and I think: “That young couple have been in that

spinney rather a long time, I shall have to have a word with her mam.”

And I was very grateful to my reading when it came time for Nanny Ogg to write a section on Etiquette with Witches. Nanny Ogg does, as it were, make a good living out of other people’s understanding of folklore. She does not prey on the gullible; she conspires at their understanding of how a well-ordered world should work:

This is really quite straightforward. Witches are very lucky people to

know, especially happy witches. When you meet a small dumpy witch, it is

good luck to offer her a drink.

If you happen to be baking and a witch comes calling–and it’s amazin’ly

occult, the way a witch turns up when you happen to be baking–it’s good

luck to give her a few scones, a bun or two, or maybe a whole cake to take

away.

If you want a cow who milks well, it’s good luck to have some of the

milk sent round reg’lar to the local witch. It’s amazin’ how rare it is for

that kind of cow to give trouble.

When you are brewing, a good beer will keep well if a jug or two is

dispatched to the local witch. She will be too polite to refuse.

Beware of bad luck caused by throwing away old clothes, which may be

used by occult forces to put an evil ‘fluence on you. Have ’em sent around

to the local witch for disposal, especially if there’s any decent lace or

fine linen with a bit of wear left in it (you wouldn’t believe the trouble

occult forces can cause with that kind of stuff, it’s amazin’). It’s no

trouble.

At Hogswatch, the keepin’ qualities of your bacon and ham can be

improved no end by sending a moderate portion around to the local witch.

She will accept this modest burden.

Witches are always helpful if approached properly, and never ask for

anything in return. Incidentally, always remember that a proper witch has a

string bag somewhere about her person, so any object you ask her to take

away won’t be too big.

But perhaps I had most fun with the little piece I wrote as an accompaniment to the Map Of Lancre. Oh yes, one exists, and it is a beautifully illustrated thing. Almost unbidden, Nanny Ogg started to write a few notes on the local folklore, which of course resemble nothing that has ever happened in the real world …

A lady from the Ankh-Morpork Folk Dance and Song Society come up here one

summer and come to see me about what old folk customs and fertility rituals

and similar that we might have in Lancre. Well there’s only one fertility

ritual that I knows of and that’s the one that comes nat’raly but she says,

no, there’s got to be loads of folk stuff hanging on because I am writin a

book and I will give you this handsome silver dollar my good woman.

Well of course a dollar is not to be sneezed at so next morning I was

able to give her as much folklore as she could carry away. Of course I

din’t tell her much of the real stuff like the Dark Morris ‘cos she

wouldn’t get it right, and anyway the Obbyoss ain’t been seen for years

although sometimes the hunters say they hears it afar off in the woods, but

all the same it’s amazing what you can remember after a couple of pints,

such as:

THE LANCRE OOZER

The Oozer, attended by people dressed up as his Squeasers, dances from

house to house in every village on Old Hogswatch Eve until people gives

them money to go somewhere else. It is said that any maiden kissed by the

Oozer is sure to be pregnant before the year is out but this is an odds-on

bet in these parts anyway.

THE SLICE MUMMERS PRAY:

This is performed on the first Saturday after Marling Day, when the

characters of Old Hogfather, Death, Merry Hood and the White Knight perform

an age old ritual tellin’ of the death and resurrection of really bad

acting. This is the high spot of the Slice Fair and Revels. There is not a

lot to do in Slice. Well, not that isn’t mostly banned everywhere else.

THE SCOURING OF THE LONG MAN

This takes place about every twenty years in early May, when the men and

the married women go up to the Long Man and cut away all the bracken and

seedlings what have grown up since the last Scouring. Unmarried girls ain’t

allowed to join in but it’s amazin what a good view you can get from up a

tree and it you ain’t got brothers you can get an education right there and

then which will prevent surprises later in life. Someone who knows about

this stuff said the Long Man is just some old burial mounds, and I ain’t

arguing, har har.

When it’s decently dark there’s a pig roast and a sing song and then

people wander off and make their own entertainment.

THE LANCRE SEVEN-YEAR FLITCH

This is an old custom datin back to one Miscegenation Carter, who left

some money in his will to set it up to provide a flitch of bacon for the

deservin poor. It is held every five years. It is open to any man who has

been married for more that seven years to appear before the Flitch Court,

which consists of six old married couples, an swear that in that time he

has never had a cross word with his wife or regretted bein married. If he

does, he is then beaten near senseless with the flitch for lying, but

brought round with strong drink and the rest of the day is a fair. So far

no man has ever convinced the Court an the flitch is still the original one

which is hard as oak now.

That is about all I can recall for one dollar.

I did not study folklore any more than a butterfly studies flowers. I certainly wasn’t in any sense scholarly. But as a young writer–and a journalist, because journalists certainly think in terms of “story shapes,” as a useful means of compressing the complexities of a planning row or a crime into two hundred and fifty words–I started noticing patterns and similarities.

A theory that arose in my mind as a result of my reading, and later my writing, was that of narrative causality–the idea that there are “story shapes” into which human history, both large scale and at the personal level, attempts to fit. At least, a novelist would put it that way; it’s probably more sensible to say that we ourselves for some reason have the story shapes in our mind, and attempt to fit the facts of history into them, like Cinderella’s slipper–a case in point, in fact, since for generations we have been happy to accept the idea that the servants went out into what appears to be quite a large city to find a girl whose foot would fit, and as Nanny Ogg points out: “How many size seven narrow fit are there in one city? Seems a bit suspicious they go straight to the right house.” As a witch, of course, she is immune from stories–witches make stories for other people. And we like things in our stories that fit. We may have begun as homo sapiens but we have become homo narrans–story-making man.

I can hardly claim ownership of narrative causality, apart from the name, because it seems to me to be a statement of the obvious. In any case, in Discworld, it is such a wonderful tool for the writer. This is how I set it out in Witches Abroad:

Stories, great flapping ribbons of shaped space-time, have been blowing and

uncoiling around the universe since the beginning of time. And they have

evolved. The weakest have died and the strongest have survived and they

have grown fat on the retelling … stories, twisting and blowing through

the darkness.

And their existence overlays a faint but insistent pattern on the chaos

that is history. Stories etch grooves deep enough for people to follow in

the same way that water follows certain paths down a mountainside. And

every time fresh actors tread the path of the story, the groove runs

deeper.

This is called the theory of narrative causality and it means that a

story, once started, takes a shape. It picks up all the vibrations of all

the other workings of that story that have ever been.

This is why history keeps on repeating all the time.

So a thousand heroes have stolen fire from the gods. A thousand wolves

have eaten grandmother, a thousand princesses have been kissed. A million

unknowing actors have moved, unknowing, through the pathways of story.

It is now impossible for the third and youngest son of any king, if he

should embark on a quest which had so far claimed his older brothers, not

to succeed.

Stories don’t care who takes part in them. All that matters is that the

story gets told, that the story repeats. Or, if you prefer to think of it

like this: stories are a parasitical life form, warping lives in the

service only of the story itself. [2]

I arrived here tonight by way of a bookshop signing in Worthing a couple of years ago, when I was taking the opportunity to ask readers in the queue what magpie rhyme they knew. This was by way of being a reality check. An author who is in the habit of idly referring to things that everyone knows, had better make sure of what everyone actually does know. I was a little depressed to find that the only one most of them knew, if they knew one at all, was the one from the children’s programme “Magpie”–One for Sorry, Two For Joy … etc, which I’ve always thought a little insipid compared to the one I recall learning when I was a kid “One for Sorrow, Two for Mirth, Three for a Funeral, Four for a Birth…. “Funeral and birth in consecutive lines–there’s something pleasantly chilly about that.

And it turned out that Jacqueline [Simpson] was in the queue, and by the time I got home from that week’s leg of the tour quite a few pages had come off my fax machine. And then, without quite knowing how, I was down to do this talk.

I’ll finish by adding that the reality checks I do undertake often leave me depressed at how much has been forgotten….

A year or two ago, on a signing tour, the car happened to pass a sign to Great Dunmow. I mentioned the Flitch to the other occupants, all intelligent, apparently well-educated people, and they’d never heard of it. I found this actually difficult to take in. I’d just assumed it was part of what I think of as “white knowledge,” things that you never actually learn but which get insinuated into your brain by some kind of semi-genetic process. But my mail sometimes make me feel that I’m on a different planet, which I am to some extent, but I pride myself of having a strong attachment to this one.

I recall one email from someone in their late teens asking, “How did you come up with the idea of three witches and making one a crabby old lady, one a motherly type, and one very young and silly?” and I thought: how do I begin to explain? Maybe I should sent him a reading list? I run across practising pagans who haven’t heard of Graves’s The White Goddess and young adults who, although having apparently had some kind of religious instruction at their school, don’t know the connotations of the name Methuselah (well, one did–he thought it was a type of champagne bottle, which is strictly speaking correct). People write to me saying: how did you get the idea for this? And this? And I say–it’s really true, that really happened, people used to believe this, this really was an old custom. It’s terribly tempting to say: yes, I made it up. But given what humans beings have done, practised and believed in the last ten thousand years, it’s quite hard to make up anything new and it’s a shame to see the old stuff lost, since I doubt that a great deal of it is now electronic. If the signposts I can give can get a few people reading real books, and getting a feel for the depth of their society, then I think I’ll have done my job.

Notes

[1] Granny Weatherwax had once pressed him about this, and since there are no secrets from a witch, he’d shyly replied, “Well, ma’am, what happens is, I gets hold of ‘un and smacks ‘un between the eyes with hammer before ‘un knows what’s ‘appening, and then I whispers in his ear, I sez, `Cross me, you bugger, and I’ll have thy goolies on’t anvil, thou knows I can.'”

[2] And people are wrong about urban myths. Logic and reason say that these are fictional creations, retold again and again by people who are hungry for evidence of weird coincidence, natural justice, and so on. They aren’t. They keep on happening all the time, everywhere, as the stories bounce back and forth across the universe. At any one time hundreds of dead grandmothers are being whisked away on the roof racks of stolen cars and loyal alsatians are choking on the fingers of midnight burglars. Urban myths are alive.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Folklore Society

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group