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Singing Bones

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Singing Bones is a podcast that looks at the origin of fairy tales, the bare bones of stories. Follow the your favourite tales from their beginnings, discover new tales you've never heard, and re-discover stories you thought you knew.

Singing Bones is a podcast that looks at the origin of fairy tales, the bare bones of stories. Follow the your favourite tales from their beginnings, discover new tales you've never heard, and re-discover stories you thought you knew.
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Singing Bones is a podcast that looks at the origin of fairy tales, the bare bones of stories. Follow the your favourite tales from their beginnings, discover new tales you've never heard, and re-discover stories you thought you knew.




The Red Shoes

Illustration by Kay Nielsen Hans Christian Andersen's classic and violent tale is looked at through the lens of the man who wrote it, and the 1948 film which changed the way we see it today. From Denmark to dance via the Devil we explore the iconic red footwear. Music by Kai Engel. To learn more about him and his wonderful music please check out Read the tale Previous Episodes



Illustration by Kay Neilsen This week we look at the tale of the girl with the impossibly long hair, from it's ancient roots to the court of Louis XIV and the fascinating woman who recorded the version of the tale we know. Featuring Rapunzel expert Kate Forsyth author of the books Bitter Greens and The Re-birth of Rapunzel: A mythic biography. Music is by Kai Engel Learn more about Kate Forsyth and her books here Read Terri Windling's amazing essay on Rapunzel here Read the tales


The Wild Swans

Illustration by Jennie Harbour The story of a girl who saves her brothers from a curse that turns them into swans is older than you think. Swan have been symbols of royalty, purity, and love in many cultures. Here we trace the stories of people who transform from swans to humans from Ireland to Japan, Norway to Russia. Find out about Clare's show West of The Moon at Read The Tales


Illustration by Edward Gorey Rumpelstiltskin is a story about spinning and names. We look at the traditions in making of yarn in fairy tales and how the history of the textile trade is woven into an older story of breaking a bargain with a devil, or a goblin, a man that has no name but who can fix any problem in the world. Read The stories Watch The Story (coming soon)

Asbjørnsen and Moe

Episode fourteen is about the Norwegian fairy tale collectors Asbjørnsen and Moe. Famous for their rigour, their poetry, and their expression of their national culture. Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe recorded tales such as The Three Billy Goats Gruff, East of The Sun West of The Moon, The Princess on The Glass Hill, as well as many others filled with trolls, hulder, and Ash-Lads. The two men were best friends and lived extraordinary lives and deserve to be as well known worldwide...


The Little Mermaid Part 2

Illustration by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite The Little Mermaid is a famously dark and melancholy fairy tale. This week we look at the stories that inspired Hans Christian Andersen stories of sirens, of Undine, and Eastern European rusalka and the scary watermen known as Vodnik. We also talk to two real mermaids about what it is like to really be a mermaid! With Mermaid Jessica Pearl and Mermaid Amelia we look at modern mermaid culture and the pros and cons of Disney romanticism. Music this...


The Little Mermaid Part 1

Illustration by Jennie Harbour Part one of two traces the history of The Little Mermaid, from Ancient Goddesses of love and fertility to folk stories of love and marriage, slavery and gender politics. This episode focuses on selkies, finfolk, and Sea Kings, with an interview with Finn O'Branagáin, talking about the power of these stories. Next week we look at sirens, rusalka, and talk to some real live mermaids. To read more about Finn O'Branagáin's play click HERE Music by Kai Engel,...


Ali Baba and 1001 Nights

Illustration by Walter Crane To tell the history of Alibaba is to tell the story of the "Arabian Nights" stories. From a 14th Century Syrian text called 1001 Nights the European world fell in love with Middle Eastern wonder stories. AliBaba has long captured imaginations worldwide, with its themes of family, goodness and treasure. But where did it arrive from? Is it Arabic, Greek, or possibly completely composed by a European in love with the city of Baghdad. Music by ¡para!helion To...


Twelve Dancing Princesses

Illustration by Sheilah Beckett The Twelve Dancing Princesses or The Shoes That Were Danced To Pieces, are stories of fairy kidnapping and possession. In this episode we look at the stories of the fey, the she, elves, devils, peri, and all sorts of wicked spirits that wisk young maidens and lads away to their magic kingdoms where they do nothing but dance. From Iceland to India the stories of fairy kidnappings and those that rescue them talk to us about sin, sleep, and dance. Music by...


Little Red Riding Hood

Illustration by Divica Landrova Cover of "Lil' Red Ridin' Hood" by The Brooke To read more about werewolves look here and here. To read Jack Zipes find his book here. Read The tale Little Red Gallery



Illustration by Winslow Hollow "Be bold, be bold, but not too bold." Bluebeard is one of the most gruesome and dark stories of the fairy tale cannon. Before true crime or horror stories people told the story of the serial killer with the un-naturally blue beard, and the many wives he murdered. Before we had the term serial killer we called repeat killers Bluebeards', and the real men from history who inspired the tale are considered some of the most vicious in history. In this episode we...


The Brothers Grimm and Sisters Wild

The statue of the brothers in Kassel The Brother's Grimm are synonyms with fairy tales. Yet most people do not know how they collected their tales, or more importantly who they collected them from. Born in a time of war and shifting borders and fearing a loss of national identity the brothers sought to record all fairy tales in German. Their sources were mostly young women, sisters who shared the Grimm's passion for folktales and yet they were not credited as the brothers were, Matt Damon...


The Singing Bone

Paper cut illustration by Clare Testoni The Singing Bone is one of the oldest folk tales and is often considered a bridging point between folk tales and ghost stories. With origins going back 2200 years to China and Africa it continues to live in folk and country songs. Telling the sad tale of brothers and sisters killing each other, and only the dead siblings enchanted bones telling the truth of their fate. Read and listen to the tales here Singing Bones Gallery


The Sleeping Beauty

Illustration by Jennie Harbour Sleeping Beauty is one of the darkest and most erotically charged tales and this weeks episode is not suitable for those that simply want to hear the picture book story. From origins in Icelandic and French folklore through to the forgotten second act of Perrault and Basile's versions of Sleeping Beauty you have to be brave to court the princess asleep in the woods. It's a dark and thorny path. Read The tales Sleeping Beauty Gallery


Jack and The Beanstalk

Giants are our fears and foes made large, Jack and The Beanstalk comes from a history of the small against the strong. It is what remains of a lost tradition of boys own adventure tales. In this episode we follow our fears from Goliath, to Norwegian independence, through to British colonialism and freudian psychoanalysis. Read more about Jeffrey Jay Fowler and his upcoming work. Music by Dave Depper and Will Bangs Read the stories Gallery of Giants


Snow White

Illustration by Jennie Harbour for My Book of Favourite Fairy Tales, 1921 Snow White is one of the best known tales, how and why did it become so? In Episode three we look at poisoned Baronesses, Persephone and Hades, pantomime, and early cinema. Looking at the dark story of jealousy and blossoming beauty. Music for this episode by the wonderful Musk Ox. Read Snow White and Similar tales Snow White Gallery Snow White silent film (1916)


The Pied Piper

In episode two we look into the only fairytale that does not start 'once upon a time' but rather 'in 1284'. The mystery of what happened to the children of Hamlin has fascinated Johann Goethe, Robert Browning, and troubled the minds of historians for hundreds of years. We look at the historical background of The Pied Piper of Hamlin and how a true event became bound up with a tale of rats, pipers, and magic mountains to be the tale we know today. Henry Marsh, wood engraving, from the...


Beauty and The Beast

Illustration by John Batten for European Folk and Fairy Tales, New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1916 In our first episode I unlock the history of Beauty and The Beast, from Roman myth through to modern tale the Animal Bridegroom has fascinated and repulsed us for over a thousand years. For who could ever love a beast?.... Music from the album Woodfall by Musk Ox read the original tale Beauty and The Beast Gallery