from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Sunday, 20 September 2015

white hind 2: the booklet

For a year or two in the early nineties I earned part of my living as a storyteller in schools. I stopped, partly because I’m not a natural performer and it was hard to have the focus on me in such a context (workshops are quite different, as the focus is on the writing, not my telling) and partly because I have a rubbish memory for salient detail, and in a story that matters.

Of course, like any novelist I am a storyteller; and in fact I seem to remember crucial aspects of story more accurately these days as an infrequent teller. I just do it better on paper, or 'paper'.

I also don’t think of myself as a short story writer, but looking back over more than three decades now I see that I’ve written quite a lot of short stories, and that most of the ones I’ve sent out into the world have been published or won awards or prizes.

The stories of mine that have stuck in my memory tend to be the ones that are riffs on archetypal or mythic themes, and these too tend to appeal to others. At some level we recognise eternal human themes that speak to our own lives. Many of these have magical elements.

So my contemporary story about Merlin won the Geoffrey Ashe Award from the Library of Avalon many years ago; my story about a selkie, or seal-woman, won a prize in a QWF competition in the early 90s; a new telling based on the Mermaid of Zennor, the playing out of masculine and feminine principles in our culture through various mermaid and/or melusine tales, took another prize. But all this was last century, so it’s with some pleasure and surprise that I find myself picking up that thread again.

Storytelling has been part of our cultural history for many thousands of years; it’s how we make sense of our lives, explore purpose, understand meaning and remind ourselves that we are not alone.

The reason I’m mentioning this is because my telling of the White Hind tale, another magical and recurring motif that, like the seal stories, combines an archetype for the feminine and the soul with a relationship to a specific animal, has now come out as a small booklet (maybe 15 pages) with several beautiful illustrations by Alexi Francis, who’s also designed the whole thing.

This is a tale that recurs over and over in the folk mythology of Britain and other northern European countries, and (as someone who has twice encountered white deer) I love it. The deer, as in many animal tales, is a kind of go-between: a shamanic helper, or shapeshifter. In the case of my story, as a white deer she is representative, perhaps, of the abundance that comes into a masculine-oriented person or culture if the feminine principle can be not only  respected, but also incorporated. 

The telling in this booklet incorporates a resolution that I hadn’t come across before hearing it from the lips of a Dartmoor storyteller, Mavis Hewitt, some time last winter so, although the story is not uncommon and the way it unfolds archetypal, there is a particular twist in this version for which I should credit Mavis.

You can revisit the story here, and buy the little book for £4.50 including p&p (GB only; £5.50 the rest of Europe) via Paypal (enter my email address into Paypal to buy it; the usual email format for roselle [at] fire in the head [all hyphenated], and it’s dot co dot uk at the end). Please make sure you add your land address.

Everyone who’s seen it loves it; we think it would also make a great stocking filler.

We are talking about a series. A boxed set maybe even? Watch this space, as they say.


  1. How wonderful, Roselle, I shall look forward to seeing and reading it. Deer are magical – it's a thrill to see them in our garden in winter even if they do eat everything! I also empathise with 'being better on paper' and not being 'a natural performer'.
    From Miriam, xx

  2. Thank you, Miriam! I'm pleased with the illustrations, and it was good to revisit a magical tale. Lovely that they visit your garden - we occasionally have roe, curled up under the yew at the very top. xx


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