Sunday, October 12, 2008


I am just back from another hero worshipping expedition. It’s a funny thing, really, to write this down, given that until I reached the age of fifty I took holidays, and educational trips, but never, ever hero worshipping pilgrimages. It was back in the days before I heard Tim tingle tell the story of the Trail of Tears in Bellingham Washington. It was before I heard Elizabeth Ellis tell the story of her mother’s death in Jonesborough Tennessee. It was before I heard Carmen Deedy tell stories of her father in Denton Texas.

Last week I made a second pilgrimage to Jonesborough, the home of the mother of all storytelling festivals. Ten thousand people go to that event. It lasts three days. On the Saturday they simultaneously operate six tents, each capable of holding 1,800 listeners, and you have to get to your tent half an hour early to guaranty a seat.

When you make your plans for Jonesborough you think, “Oh I will surely get bored. I’ll take some time away from the festival. I won’t be able to hear stories for three days solid.” But when you get to Jonesborough, you can’t bear to miss an hour, even if your back is killing you, even if you are freezing, which is what makes it more like a pilgrimage than an educational event—or a vacation. .

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