Names issue | seeking storytellers advice

By Limor Shiponi

I have made up my mind to tell the story Culhwch ac Olwen from the Mabinogion. I heard it told by Michael Harvey several years ago and it was a stunning performance. The story is lovely and complicated just the way I like stories. Michael masters the Welsh – at least to my ears. Embedded in the text there are two long-long lists of names of all sorts of beings, which are quite hilarious. In Welsh, yes…

Most times, storytellers will not wave their talent in your face. The better position for a teller is slightly behind the story, not in front of it. However, this time Michael ‘went for the gold’ as they say in the Olympics. Every time a list appeared he took a slight pause and leaped elegantly into what resembles the x son of y son of z son of someone else chapters in the Bible. He went for clear diction, fluency of memory and accumulating speed – to leave us breathless in admiration for his virtuoso ability.

Big Chapeau.

So now, I want to tell the story in Hebrew and I’m facing two dilemmas: Pronunciation and a very long list of names that do not fit into any kind of local context. It seems to me that even if I’ll learn how to pronounce well, local ears will not be able to grab the names’ gravity. It might be like listening to Gibberish with no intonation.

Obviously, I’ll learn the main characters’ names, without the fear of falling out of context. But what about the rest? What about names of places that mean nothing to my audiences? That cannot help advance the plot in their imaginations? I’d rather state the function of that place than name it.

Any similar experiences out there? Advice?

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