Mara Freeman,
Celtic Tales of Birds & Beasts
(Chalice, 1996)

"The Prince, the Fox & the Sword of Light" tells of a prince and his evil stepmother. The stepmother curses him and sends him on a quest to collect a magic falcon, but he curses her to stand on the rooftop facing whichever way the wind blows until he returns. The prince immediately runs into trouble because the falcon lives with a five-headed giant. This story reminds me of the movie Shrek. It immediately caught my heart and had me eagerly anticipating the next twist of action.

"The Selkie" will tear at your heart. It is the story of a selkie -- a shapechanger who lives sometimes as a human, sometimes as a seal -- that was captured by a fisherman and forced to marry him. Even though she had two children and seemed settled, she was never happy. It is hard to decide which one to feel the most sympathy for.

"The Legend of the Oldest Animals" will tickle your soul as it relates the tale of a widowed eagle who decides to take a widow owl as his mate. But he does not want to create any children and sets about learning the age and history of the owl. His journey takes him from one animal to the next, always being sent to a still older animal. Their stories are thrilling.

"The Black Wolf" is about a hot-tempered farmer who lost some cattle and encountered a strange family during his search for the cattle. This story reminds us that we should spend more time doing good deeds.

"The Children of Lir" tells of the children of a king whose second wife hated her stepchildren and devised a plan to get rid of them. She turned them into four wild swans and left a curse on them that could only be broken by a specific druid at a specific time.

Gerry Smids does an outstanding job of setting music to these stories. It works your emotions with precise timing through speed, volume and a variety of instruments. The sound effects are superb, conjuring images of the action and characters.

This collection is straight Celtic folklore at its best. Mara Freeman is marvelous as a storyteller. She takes this ancient art into the level of the bard -- the highest form of storyteller in any age.

I cannot possibly praise this CD enough. It is definitely one of the top story collections on the market today!

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 24 January 2004

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