Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Modern Novelist, King George and a family Christmas

Like many writers I have been obsessed with story from  my earliest.days. Now this week, with the rush of bright goods in the shops and flood of Christmas films on TV, it is clear to me that even in 2014, in a busy novelist's life,  Christmas is coming.

Grandma and Grandad
More stories about them HERE
in my memoir The Romencer 
And today into my head, almost unbidden, drums  a rhyming song that my Grandma used to sing to us at Christmas time. This song has been bedded in there in my mind since before I could talk. Its powerful narrative addresses as much murder vengeance, healing,and redemption as would suit any modern novel. Its clear story arc and a powerful use of dialogue are a model for any modern novelist.

In the many years since I first learned the song at my Grandmother’’s knee - with my writer-researcher head on -  I have discovered that this song-story has been handed down  from the Middle Ages, voice to voice, through pure oral tradition in the form of a Mummer’s Play. It has only been latterly written down.

There are many versions of the tale, some of which include Father Christmas as a narrator alongside Saint George, a dragon and  Turkish knights as the enemy. The good doctor is always there to raise the dead with his little bottle of pills or potions. And Jack is often there as the victim to be raised from the dead. The versions vary from region to region but in essence they are  deeply similar. 

Of course I prefer the song-story I first heard at my grandmother's knee.

Here is our family version of the song-story, word for word as I remember it. 
Our version seems to start in the middle

In steps King George
‘King George is my name.
With sword and pistol by my side
I hope to win the game.’
‘The Game, sir?’
‘The Game sir!’
‘Take your sword and try sir!’
‘My sword sir?’
‘Your sword sir.’
‘Oh dear oh dear what have I done?
I’ve killed my father’s only son.’
‘Send for the doctor!’
‘Send for the doctor!’
In come good old Doctor Brown
The best old doctor in the town.
‘What can you cure?’
‘A dead man to be sure.
I have a little bottle in my inside pocket
that goes Tick Tack! Rise up dead Jack!’

‘Oh my brother’s come alive again we’ll never fight no more
We’ll be the greatest brothers than we ever were before.
So with a pocket full of money and a barrelful of beer
We wish you a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.'

Source; Wetherill family oral tradition

See one the many other versions HERE  

If you want to read more about her HERE is an extract from my Memoir The Romancer



  1. I've not heard that one, but our family have our own tradition of handed down, slightly odd, stories.

  2. Thanks for you comment Patsy. I feel that every family has its own unique map of stories that gets handed down from generation to generation. It's a dynamic process that probably goes back hundreds of years.



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