Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Glory Bells

Sometimes the best plot devices come to us from myths, legends and lore of old. Many are oral accounts of history, some are the storyteller's explanation of natural and supernatural forces, and some are based on the obsessions of the storyteller. These obsessions often translate into what we now call theme. The best tales, the ones we remember, are written based on an obsession the author feels strongly about.

So now you’ll read a retelling of one of those old tales from days of yore. It’s so old in fact that I’ve had trouble finding an original source, though it was told to me countless times while I was growing us. You’ll find the theme is as old as man. Through greed we can be our own worst enemies. But for now, simply enjoy. And if you find a way to use it in one of your books, then I will be happy.

Brightly colored shields lined the sides of the Viking ship causing it to glitter in the sunlight. Its sail, painted with bold stripes, created bright patches of color against the sea. The Viking sailors were in a happy mood. They were warriors on their way to conquer and plunder. They roared with jubilation when the lookout shouted, “Land ahead!”

As the ship neared the English coast, one of the men cried out, “Listen! I hear the sound of bells. Where does it come from?”

Each man stopped in his rowing. They strained to catch the faint, sweet tones that floated out over the restless waters. “It’s easy to see where the bells are,” said Thorlund the leader. He pointed to a church that stood on the top of a distant hill. “They are in that tower,” he said. “And I want them. They will bring a good price back home.”

The cliffs rose high and rocky. On the top, stood the beautiful, graceful church. The Vikings beached their ship and dashed madly up the cliff and at last reached the bell tower. There was no one to stop them.

The bells were not easy to take, however. The men had to hammer, and tug, and pull before they could loosen the bells from their posts. At last the plunder was stowed away on the ship. The Vikings boasted to each other of their deed.

“It would be a great pity to save the bells just for ringing,” said one. “We could melt them down and make them into spears and swords for the metal is sound.”

So they talked on and on about possibilities. None noticed the sun was slowly setting and the sky was growing dark. The ship was some distant from the shore when a sudden mighty wind swooped down upon the small craft and the colorful sail was torn from the mast. Giant waves now towered above the ship. The wind screamed and howled about the Vikings like a pact of wounded wolves.

The storm had come so swiftly that the warriors were confused and frightened.

“What shall we do?” one cried.

“We are lost!” screamed another.

“Back to shore!” shouted Thorlund. “Put back to shore at once!”

“But where is the shore?” the helmsman asked. “It’s so dark I can’t see.”

“The bells! The church bells could have guided us!” another cried. “But they are gone from the tower and we ourselves took them.”

The fury of the storm increased. Lightening flashed. Thunder rolled. Rain came down in torrents. There was a dreadful crash. Then the wild wind whipped the waves into a giant whirlpool. The once-proud ship was sucked into the very center of the whirling waters.

The storm passed quickly. The sea grew calm and the sun gently brushed away the dark clouds. Not once trace of the ship or its crew could be found.

Now people who know this legend say that the bells can still be heard today. They say that every evening at sunset the beautiful sound of bells can be heard over the water. And that is the story of the Glory Bells of Whitby.

Assignment (You didn't think I'd let you off too easy, did you?):
Identify five things that make you really angry and that you would like to see changed. Things that you are or could become obsessive about. Review or read your last book or current work in progress. Does the theme stem from one of your top five issues? Sometimes obsessions are good things. They make you/your writing unforgettable.