Pedlar of Swaffham
How a man became rich through a dream – a popular Norfolk legend
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Like many English places, the Norkfolk town of Swaffham is proud of the folklore which actually happened there. This tale is one of the best known English legends, and not surprisingly the town’s website makes much of it. Here is a photograph from Swaffham church (15th century) showing the pedlar, John Chapman, who subsequently paid for the tower to be built.
Perhaps just as unsurprisingly for storytellers, the same story (AT-motif 1645) is attached to many other towns, not only in Britain but around the world. The Grimms in Deutsche Sagen place it on the bridge in Regensburg, as well as noting its connection to Lübeck.
Wikipedia cites Rumi’s version from the 13th century.
Ashliman gives a total of 16 versions. However, I have been sent several others, including “The man who bought a dream”, collected as far apart as Japan and Surinam, Dutch Guiana.
Clearly a tale which cannot be tied down to just one place.
The recording was made at the Darmstadt Lions Club, where I told tales connected to the topic of Heimat (home country).
(The occasional background noise is from the other room of the restaurant – and not the wonderfully attentive Lions audience!)
The video clips here are all amateur quality, shot in various theatres.
Their intention is just to show the range of my storytelling and give a flavour of a live performance.
Permission is granted for use in non-commercial educational contexts.
The videos are © Richard Martin.
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For those who are teachers: Telling stories in the classroom: basing language teaching on storytelling