Once Upon a Time

This is a story about oral storytelling, in which Bard, who has brought joy to the village he lives in by playing with words, falls silent, and is only stirred into action again by music played by Ballad, the musician. The next new story begins with the title, or perhaps simply the word, ‘End’.

I found the story rather problematic, a shame given its potential power. There is, perhaps, much to discuss regarding why Bard falls silent, as this isn’t made clear. For example, whilst words are brought to him, the expectation to create may have become too much.

Indeed, the dependency of the village and their inability to make stories themselves (with the implication that only Bards can do this) is also a puzzle. That only specific individuals are capable of creation, whilst others are solely the audience, also has implications for the readers, who, like the villagers are seemingly positioned as passive consumers, rather than creators, of culture.

The silence of the Bard dominates a number of double-page spreads in the centre of the book where the focus is the rooftops of the village, a series of images which, like the rest of the book, make lovely use of shades of blue. Indeed, all the images and text are in blue, something which the text suggests may reflect a life without story.

Another art book translated by Tate, which reflects the institution’s views of the potential of the picturebook form. Whilst interesting, it is not immediately engaging.