Jana’s Studio : Interview with Bertie

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Jana studio

Stornory's editor, Jana Elizabeth, interviews Bertie about our new series of Herodotus's Histories and what else is coming up on Storynory.

Look out for our new section, Jana's Studio, which is coming very soon to Storynory.

This is Jana Elizabeth. Welcome to Jana’s Studio where I will bring you updates, music, interviews, audio stories and even share with you a little background about Storynory, which has been bringing you free stories since 2005. I’m Storynory’s editor and you may have noticed me answering comments on the website and perhaps heard my singing voice on our recent music.

I am joined now by my special guest, Bertie, the founder of Storynory and the writer of all our stories.

Bertie: Thanks for inviting me, Jana!

Jana: So Bertie, you’ve started your own series about Herodotus and his Histories of Ancient Greece and Persia. Can you tell me why you decided to put in a personal appearance after all these years?

Bertie: Well I think our narrators have got a skill that I don’t have when it comes to storytelling and character voices. But Herodotus is different. His Histories are factual, and they’ve been part of my life for many years. A long time ago I read them in the original ancient Greek, when I was studying at Oxford, and since then I spent a while working for the BBC doing factual reporting, and so I just felt that I would like to read them myself.

Jana: Ok that makes sense. I'm going to put you on the spot now. Could you give us an extract?

Bertie: Ok well this isn’t actually Herodotus’s words but a direct quote from the Persian emperor Cyrus the Great, whom Herodotus writes about. It’s written on a stone which you can see in the British museum and it is a proclamation after he conquered the city of Babylon - an event which is also described in the Bible because he freed the Jews and let them back home.

“I am Cyrus, king of the world, great king, mighty king, king of Babylon, king of the universe, After entering Babylon in peace, amidst joy and jubilation I made the royal palace the centre of my rule. The great god Marduk, who loves Babylon, with great magnanimity, established (it) as (my) destiny, and I sought to worship him each day.”

I just love hearing the actual words of people who inhabited the world that we now think of ancient.

Jana: Captivating Thankyou! We are more used to hearing stories about talking birds and space travelling dogs, so why is Storynory branching into factual programmes?

Bertie: I think we have always had an educational side to what we do. We’ve done Greek and Norse myths, and adapted stories from all over the world, and we do poems which have some challenging language. So parents tell us that their children have really good vocabularies partly because they listen to our stories, and I think history is a natural extension of that educational mission.

Jana: What do you find so fascinating about Herodotus?

Bertie: His personality is really engaging. Although he wrote two and a half thousand years ago, he has a chatty style that sounds lively and fun, even today. He is well travelled, and very interested in people and their stories and their traditions, the more quirky the better, and that human quality will always be endearing.

Jana: That's interesting. So Herodotus was born two and a half thousand years ago. Well that makes him even older than you Bertie! What was the world like then?

Bertie: Herodotus was from Greece, which was a place that was just exploding with ideas and creativity, sometimes it seems like the Greeks invented pretty much everything including plays, philosophy, democracy - you name it - but the great power was the Persian Empire, which had conquered what we now call Turkey, as well as Babylon in modern Iraq, and Syria, and Egypt. The Greeks called the Persians barbarians because their language sounded to them like Barba barba ba - but Herodotus got to know the Persians and their incredible civilisation, and he tells us their customs and their history; for instance how Cyrus the Great built up his empire.

Jana: So what is the biggest thing that Herodotus tells us?

Bertie: His tour of the ancient world, and the many fascinating stories he digs up for us all builds up the climax when the Persians try to invade Greece, and we hear about battles such as Marathon - when the Greek messenger ran all the way to Athens from the scene of the battle and died just after telling the result - that’s where we get the word for the long distance race - Marathon. And we hear about the battle of Thermopylae or the Hot Gates where three hundred Spartan soldiers held off the entire Persian army - and the battle of Salamis where the Athenian Navy fought the Persian ships. These are all heroic and exciting stories.

Jana: Sounds fantastic Bertie. So am I right in understanding that Herodotus is an ‘extra special’ on Storynory? And can you give the kids an idea about what other stories are in store for them? What else do we have coming up at end of this year?

Bertie: Yes that's right, Jana. ‘The Histories’ are something extra. This December we are bringing out a fun new series called ‘Uncle Christmas’, about Santa’s brother who rides a motor trike, and we will have some traditional Christmas songs sung by - er - oh yes by Jana.

Jana: Thank you for remembering that Bertie.

Bertie: And at the turn of the year will still be doing all our favourite series such as Astropup, Katie, Wicked Uncle and of course our newest edition, Birdy - the magical talking crow.

Jana: Super!
And of course all of this takes a massive amount of time, effort and expense, so if you can support us - please do consider making a small regular donation to Storynory via our new Patreon Page. You can find the link on our website. Also while you are visiting Storynory.com, look out for my new section called Jana’s studio. I am going to be posting all sorts of things, including audio, and songs but also written pieces about Storynory and a variety of things I feel will be interesting to kids and their families.

Bertie: Fantastic work Jana!
And don’t forget our Christmas Writing Competition! The deadline is December 15th 2017 and the details are also on the website.

Jana: Thank you yes, I’ve already been reading through some of the entries and as ever our listeners have some great stories of their own. Richard will be reading out the three winning stories here on Storynory over Christmas.

Thank you Bertie for taking time out of your busy schedule to join me in my studio and for your insights.

Bertie: Thank you Jana. Yes I'm very much looking forward to reading more episodes on Herodotus also known as the father of History, to Storynory and our fans. I will be doing one a week. I hope you all find it as interesting as I do. And please do feel free to leave comments or questions on the subject that I'll be happy to answer. Bye for now!

Jana: And that was Bertie joining me here at my studio on the subject of Herodotus and his Histories. And isn’t it lovely to hear the voice of Bertie at last?
Until next time, take care. From me, Jana at Storynory.com.