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TROUBADOUR (troo-buh-door)

So, what is a troubadour and how does he know these stories?

During Medieval Times a traveling minstrel was called a troubadour. He told stories, wrote poems and sang songs to delight his audiences. He was paid with bags of gold, precious gems or other means of currency, depending on the affluence of his host. He traveled from village to village entertaining and gathering material for what he wrote. This was the troubadour’s way of remembering his experiences so he could share at the next event. The subjects of the songs were romantic love, usually unrequited, and feats of valor by the knights. The knightly code of honor was a popular theme, telling how knights were to conduct themselves. Writers, like Wordsworth, might start their poems with ‘There was a time when…” which morphed into ‘Once upon a time…” for our fairytales.

Mostly, troubadours entertained kings and queens in castles or noblemen in fine establishments. They were held in high esteem and were sometimes as highly thought of as a knight, riding prancing steeds and dressed in costly array.

Since most troubadours were members of the castle staff and under the protection of the king, they could travel safely with the knights of the realm. A troubadour was an important figure in the traveling party. His songs could calm the restless knights preparing for battle, sing songs that would invite peaceful slumber and compose ballads heralding the mighty exploits of the knights. He could act as an ambassador from the kingdom he represented to a neighboring one, preparing the path for goodwill and harmony.

Our troubadour named Ra-me is a teenager just starting out to entertain whose first invitation is to perform at a castle. He doesn’t have a great deal of courage, and he is clad in humble garb, riding a mule and playing a simple lute.

In the book The Patchwork Princess, the Adventures of Ra-me the Traveling Troubadour, he experiences all of this plus a dragon and a problem that may keep him from his bag of jewels. He must add a little magic to overcome this difficulty if the dragons don’t attack him first.

Ra-me can expect to be fascinated when he gets the invitation to play at King Lister’s castle in Parkingham. Ra-me can look forward to seeing many things: Maybe a fortress with battlements on top, a drawbridge, beautiful princesses, brave knights, banquet tables laden with sumptuous food.

What he learns, we hear him tell his friend Falstaff upon his return from the latest adventure. We see him gain self-confidence with each escapade. But, his first composition is a clumsy attempt to share his triumph at the kingdom of King Lister.

Fairy tales were a huge part of my childhood. These stories served as companions that kept my imagination thriving while growing up. Medieval knights were my particular interest. Quite subjectively, medieval fairy tales possess a sense of class and creativity that is seldom seen in many stories nowadays. Reading them opens a portal to a world filled with history and magic.

As a child, I spent many hours of every day reading fairy tales. The sensational reading experience that fairy tales used to bring me is best summarized in the words of Terri Windling: “Fairy tales were not my escape from reality as a child; rather, they were my reality – for mine was a world in which good and evil were not abstract concepts, and like fairy-tale heroines, no magic would save me unless I had the wit and heart and courage to use it widely.”

Eventually, my fondness of fairy tales fostered within me a distinct yearning for writing. I soon developed a passion for storytelling, which came to fruition only in the later years of my life. From being a mere wanderer in the different worlds of the fairy tale books I have read, I became a Connie S. Arnold fan, children’s author of medieval fairy tales – an unyielding storyteller of history and magic in a prevailing era of science fiction. There are several reasons why I (and perhaps, most authors of the genre) still choose to write fairy tales.

Fairy tales provide commentaries on the society

Fairy tales are commonly thought to be stories of adventures for children’s consumption. Indeed, the largest audience of magical folklore are the young ones. However, aside from merely talking about kings, queens, fairies, and dragons, fairy tales can also be socio-political. Sometimes, they provide commentaries on the society that do not only allow readers to be imaginative, but also to be critical.

The best example of a classic fairy tale with socio-political commentaries would have to be Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve’s Beauty and the Beast. For one, Beauty and the Beast is different from other fairy tales because it deviates from the superficial depiction of love that is commonly seen in classical tales such as Snow White and Cinderella. In Beauty and the Beast, the female protagonist does not fall in love with a handsome young prince, but with a beast. Together, their story tells a tale of love that sees beyond the physical beauty. It focuses on people’s inner ability to love and nothing else.

Aside from not being superficial, Beauty and the Beast also has a pinch of feminism in its story. Belle, the female lead, is portrayed as a distinctive woman who does not conform to the conventional depiction of women in classical fairy tales. Unlike the other female protagonists, she is intelligent and assertive. While all the other women in her village are devoting their time to looking pretty, Belle is reading her books – quite a bold portrayal especially at a time when the value of women was entirely anchored on their faces and physique.

Fairy tales touch readers at a profound level

Fairy tales are not just stories of adventures, fantasies, and magic. Fairy tales are also stories of meaning. They provide readers with something to believe in. Meaning and profundity are what distinguishes fairy tales from most of storytelling nowadays. Compared to many modern-day narratives that are often bland, monotonous, and shallow, fairy tales touch readers at a profound level. They work on the unconscious, helping people navigate through the challenging periods of their lives. To put it simply, fairy tales are teachers.

Just like all the other children, fairy tales were also my childhood staple. It is in magical folklore that I learned about many valuable lessons in life – as G. K. Chesterton once said, fairy tales do not just teach children that dragons exist. They also tell children that dragons can be killed. This is the kind of life lessons that I kept in mind while writing my book series, The Adventures of Ra-Me, the Traveling Troubadour. However, instead of killing dragons, my storytelling teaches readers that dragons can also be our friends.

Fairy tale stories are timeless

Finally, the timeless nature of magical folklore is one of the reasons why I choose to write fairy tales. The depth, wit, and wisdom of these stories seem to never die down. They remain consistent and firm all throughout the centuries. Even in the modern era when science fiction is attempting to take over the literary world, the essence of fairy tales remains in the hearts of many readers. This is particularly evidenced in the way fairy tales remain popular and in demand for re-making.

Before becoming a fan of Connie S. Arnold, author of The Adventures of Ra-Me, the Traveling Troubadour, I was just a mere reader astonished by the way fairy tales could simultaneously excite me and touch my heart in the most profound way. This is the magic of fairy tales. They can be entertaining without having to give in to the shallow. Until its magic runs out, it is necessary to continue writing fairy tales.

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