Fables in Fife

Wednesday 28 May 2014

Drs Chris Jones and Ian Johnson appear alongside the ‘Big Yin’ in the animated version of Scots fables translated by the Irish poet Seamus Heaney.

The app brings the fifteenth-century texts to life with animations and a modern translation read by Connolly alongside academic commentary from Chris Jones and the performance of the Older Scots original by Ian Johnson.

The pair also feature in the upcoming BBC 2 serialisation of the tales, which are illustrated by the animations featured in the app, which is currently being plugged by Apple in 36 countries as one their best new releases.

Billy Connolly recording for Seamus Heany: Five Fables

Seamus Heaney: Five Fables is an interactive app based on Heaney’s translations of Scottish poet Robert Henryson’s fables.  The five stories, which include The Two Mice and Preaching of the Swallow, survive from a body of work amounting to 5000 lines by the little-known medieval writer.

The involvement of two academics from the School of English at St Andrews is particularly appropriate as Henryson was thought to be closely associated with the Fife area during his time as a Scots makar (circa 1460-1500).

Passionate about reigniting interest in the Scots poet, Heaney was working on the project before he died in August 2013. A long-time friend and honorary graduate of St Andrews, the Irishman last visited the University to read Beowulf at a 600th anniversary conference organised by Dr Jones last summer.

Dr Jones was specially commissioned to write detailed academic notes for the project. He said, “Heaney has a real ear for the contours of Henryson’s verse. For various historical reasons the English spoken in the North of Ireland is quite close to Scots English and this harmony between the two poets’ idiolects, despite being separated by five hundred years and a sea, makes Heaney an ideal translator of Henryson.  He has a great affinity for the Henryson’s couthy wit.”

The app – which is going down particularly well in Argentina – was created by Touch Press, which previously produced T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land for iPad.

The makers say the app– which allows for the exploration of both original Scots and modern English versions in parallelsheds new light on the ancient stories.

Dr Johnson, who provides the “voice of Henryson” in Older Scots for the app, commented, “Henryson’s astonishing poetic imagination, his linguistic inventiveness, his practically-minded moral vision, and his sheer sense of fun make his versions of Aesop’s Fables something very special indeed — an appeal to heart and head and a great high point of Scottish literary tradition from which the likes of Robert Burns can learn a thing or two.

“For me, reading Henryson’s verses against Flickerpix’s superb animations was immensely enjoyable but also rather challenging. This was because the animations were made around Billy Connolly’s delightful narrating of Seamus Heaney’s version — and Billy quite often went at a cracking colloquial pace.

“Trying to keep Henryson’s exquisitely crafted verses and antique Scots vowels in time with The Big Yin and with what the characters were up to on screen was certainly a whole new kind of multi-tasking for this particular academic!”

Billy Connolly annimation for Seamus Heaney: five fables

The project was a partnership between Touch Press, Faber and Flickerpix and funded by The Ulster–Scots Broadcast Fund.

A clip is available online at http://vimeo.com/88443256


Note to editors:

The researchers are available for interview:

Dr Chris Jones: 01334 462673 or [email protected].

Dr Ian Johnson: 01334 462681 or [email protected].

For further information on the app visit: www.fivefablesapp.com or contact Tom Williams on 07909527361, 020 8749 3354 or [email protected].

Note to picture editors:

Screenshots from the app are available from the Press Office; contact 01334 46 2530.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews

Contact Gayle Cook, Senior Communications Manager on 01334 467227 or email [email protected].

Ref: Fables 280514


Category Public interest stories

Related topics

Share this story