[Bards] From Eleanor Fairchild - on Eisteddfod

Cathy Polakoff cathy.polakoff at comcast.net
Thu Jan 8 06:21:19 PST 2004

To Duchess Willow de Wisp:

As one who was actually at Eisteddfodd, but who is not a renowned bard 
myself, I would like to point out that my documentation (the first I've 
ever done in anything) was a total of four paragraphs for two pieces. Also, 
I did not feel there was anything the least unfair in the judging of this 
competition. Those that progressed did so because they were qualified to 
based on excellent performances, and Antonia won because she deserved it. 
If you had a bad experience in the past, why not give it another try? You 
might be surprised.

Secondly, for those of us who are looking for examples, mentors and guides 
as we stumble along learning the art of bardcraft, you're manner, My Lady, 
can occasionally be a little intimidating. I know you value accuracy, and I 
appreciate that. I have received complements from you in the past for my 
work, and been highly flattered, as your reputation preceeds you. But I 
wonder if you aren't perhaps expecting a little too much? It would seem the 
object of documentation is not a thesis but a brief explanation, and the 
object of performance is to both educate and entertain. So, for example, 
your piece by Bertain de Born could be documented simply by saying who he 
is, when he lived and wrote, and in what language, and showing a reference 
from a reputable source that the piece you are doing is his. You would not 
need to prove the translation is correct. Or, doing a Shakespearean piece 
would require only that you reference a reputable source showing this piece 
was written by Shakespeare. Since we all know who he is and when he lived, 
it wouldn't be hard to do, but I would guess you would also need to verify 
when the piece was written, as some of his stuff is out of period.

I apologize sincerely if this offends you, as I truly do not mean to. 
However, as one who now writes for a living, I know I have talent with the 
written word, but if I didn't already know this, I might be afraid to try 
barding after reading your missive. Please try to remember that not all of 
us have the experience you do, and if education is your goal (and it is a 
noble one), then you must let the students make some mistakes in order for 
them to learn.

Ly. Anna bat Chaim
At 06:17 PM 01/07/2004 -0600, you wrote:
>Greetings from Duchess Willow de Wisp
>I didn't complete mainly because I did not have the documentation. Story
>telling is hard to document because it is an oral art form and once you
>write it down it becomes a written art form. I did not have the time to
>study the necessary anthropology to trace story telling back as far as I
>could. Also to do it justice it would be about 15 pages of  peer reviewed
>articles. To reproduce this differently for each piece I might feel like
>performing was more than I was up to. I also get a little pissed off at
>the unfairness of the judging form used in Ansteorra. If I do a piece  by
>Bertain de Born translated by a expert in the field. I can't just state
>that. I have to do more. I am not an expert on Old French. I can not
>evaluate the translation. I have to trust my expert. If I want to do a
>sonnet by Shakespeare I have to write a paper on him. I have to state
>elegantly on why he  is period. Now if I am writing a original sonnet I
>can start with the assumption that Shakespeare is period and compare his
>work and mine. I do not have to defend Shakespeare I only have to defend
>my piece as to being Shakespearean like.  Because the second form of
>documentation has a easier form , it can be more impressive. Original
>work documentation  get more points, doing period work is rewarded less
>than original work.
>Also there is the matter of the judges. You can  write the best piece of
>Bullshit that have even been put out. I have seen it. That doesn't mean
>your  piece reflects your documentation. I remember a Arts and Science a
>long time ago. A lady put out a piece of documentation that supported
>traditional story telling. Then she did her piece in a style that
>reflected modern styles The Laurels were so impressed with the story that
>they give her full points. When I discussed the documentation with her
>she told me she knew that those Laurel didn't know a thing about folklore
>so she just wrote to educate them. When we reach the level of Kingdom
>Eisteddfod I don't believe we should be educating the judges. I think if
>the judges can't tell the differences between period and non -period work
>they should not be the judges. If we want to live up to the ideals of
>authenticity we should limited pieces to period works and period styles,
>with supporting documentation if necessary.  Hamlets's speech would not
>need documentation for heaven sake, but original work based on it would.
>An old poem from the 600 AD talking about Hector's balls might need to be
>verified.(A bard used such a story for 3 years before he finally read the
>intro. and discovered that it was a modern book.) We could make the
>Eisteddfod sort of a contest of judged work. If you can not support it,
>it is not preformed. Don't give points for the quality of the
>documentation, just take things away if it is not there.
>I believe in the A&S and I believe in the documentation system there, but
>the Eisteddfod was set up to do something different than the A&S. The
>Eisteddfod is last existing vestige of the old Ansteorra. In the old days
>we believed in studying the pre-17th world by creating a construct of a
>feudal land and we would take roles reflecting this land. With our
>individual studies we would teach each other by our interaction
>(role-playing). The performers were a vital part of the system.
>Performers would interject information about the culture we were studying
>the same way performers interjected data in the time periods we were
>studying. I have a period book that tells squires that they should listen
>to storytellers telling tales about great knight if they want to learn
>about knighthood. The original bards who set up the Eisteddfod did so to
>promote the highest values of performing. It and the local Eisteddfod
>were set up to promote a class of performers who treasured the historical
>ideals of Ansteorra and had the skills to make period works and period
>styles fun and entertaining to the people of Ansteorra. If you look at
>the winners of the kingdom Eisteddfods you will discover many of them
>have made period works and period styles fun for us all. Robin, Pendaran,
>Antonio make late period works come alive. Harold Boderson and Cedrick
>have thrilled us with early works. You folks have asked for my chivalric
>stories when you were drunk. You must like them. The way the Eisteddfods
>are being run now promotes entertaining. When we look at other kingdoms
>whose "kingdom bards" con\competitions follow the A&S format we see
>scholars, who don't entertain, winning, not performers who can open
>windows into the past. I think we need different format to promote
>different things. No one contest or format can do everything but when we
>put them all together we get a better whole.
>Duchess Willow de Wisp
>former Premier Bard
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