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Richard Marsh, a storyteller living in Dublin and a member of the Dublin Yarnspinners, has travelled all over the place telling stories, and this certainly bears fruit. After several volumes of Irish tales and his own version of Irish medieval epics, he now introduces us to Spanish and Basque ballads and legends. He goes far back in history, back into pre-Christian times – and lets it all end in the present, with a tale about King Juan Carlos’ missing watch. But the larger part of the stories, of course, deals with the fight against the Moors and about the Reconquista – and a quite a few stories show the scene as seen with the eyes of the Moors.
We meet old friends equally known from Germany’s treasure of tales, like Charlemagne and his paladine Roland – the one of the Rolandsbogen, known from so many wine-dripping Rhinesongs (in the Spanish tales however he dies in the fight against the Sarazens and never returns to the Rhine). Of course also the great Hero El Cid, the one Schiller wrote about, is important here. But we are not likely to forget others we meet here, like the Seven Princes of Lara or Jaun Zuria, an early Basque lord, who is said to have come over from Ireland.
All of these things, ballads as well as stories, are presented with their historical background, and we also hear which parts can be proven and which obviously are only legends – and how some stories or episodes were an inspiration to the masterworks of Spanish literature, like Cervantes’ Don Quijote. Apart from that we learn amazing things – like that we cannot insult a proud Spaniard any worse than by throwing a cucumber filled with blood at him!
In short, this is a book which we absolutely need to take along on our next journey to Spain – and those among us who don’t happen to be going to Spain soon can simply enjoy Richard Marsh’s art of storytelling.