By Tim Porteus

ONCE Upon a Hallowe’en:

So the boiler is back on, with the return of the familiar creaking and whining at night.

The nip in the air is telling our inner senses that winter is on its way, and the leaves, which have hung on longer this year it seems, are scattering themselves at our feet.

It’s such a beautiful time of year, especially in the crisp, nearly windless mornings we’ve been having, with wonders of nature all around us.

Is there anything more spectacular than a spider’s web covered in dew drops sparkling in the morning autumn sun?

Yet as I have said before, I have mixed feelings about this time of year.

The short days of winter when the land sleeps is not an easy time for people like me who need to be amongst nature.

Yet it is a cosy, sociable time, and a perfect season for sharing stories as Hallowe’en approaches.

I am working with some primary children on their stories for an event at the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.

Imaginations are weaving new tales and recreating old ones for their show called Once Upon a Hallowe’en.

Some have adapted tales from other parts of the world and placed them in Scotland.

Two young lads will tell the tale of the headless horseman of Roslin Glen.

“Am I allowed to do that?” asked the young lad, whose friend came up with the idea of using the story of the headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow, but they decided to change the name of the main character to Ichabod MacCrane and make him Scottish.

“Of course,” was my reply, “it’s actually what storytellers have always done, that’s why there are so many tales from different parts of the world which are similar in theme and storyline. A story can be what you make it, you can decorate it with your imagination.” I said.

It didn’t go unnoticed by the children that the story of Tam o’ Shanter is indeed not dissimilar to that of Sleepy Hollow, written by Washington Irvine in 1820.

The tale of Tam o’ Shanter was immortalised in Burns’s poem, but based on an old folk tale told to him.

Like many such tales we cannot really say from whom the original idea came, or indeed if for sure it didn’t really happen.

The east coast of America in the early 19th century had a strong Scottish contingent of migrants, and they will have taken with them their stories, legends and poetry.

It seems very likely to me that the terrifying chase of Ichabod Crane was inspired by that of Tam o’ Shanter.

And so the idea that two young lads from Scotland are now creating one more adaptation of this story, relocating the tale to a place they know and mixing it with local ghost stories and added humour, is music to a storyteller’s ears.

It’s what it should be all about, making our own tales, having fun and sharing our creations.

In a sense it’s what the dark nights and short days compel us to do, or at least what they used to.

I often have visions of Robert Burns’ mother, Agnes Broun, telling a transfixed Rabbie stories that he would later use and make famous.

Now we are more likely to be sat with our eyes stuck to a screen, plugged in and fed the same mass-produced version of what years ago was very likely created by the sparkle of young imagination.

I don’t want to sound like an anti-technology dinosaur, but I believe that in all things there is a balance, and we all love a good, personally told story.

It is such a privilege to work with these young people who feel the magic of their own creative imaginations, and it is just such creations that are the foundation of folklore tradition.

Other tales to be told by the children include Teachers Are Not Always What They Seem, A Guising Tale, Tam o’ Shanter told by Burns himself, and the legends of The Green Lady.

In all, the traditional traditions are mixed with original creative thought. And music, dance and even self-taught acrobatics will be part of the show.

In all this the children teach us grown-ups a lesson: Creativity is deep within us all.

We all find different ways to express it, and have different levels of confidence and ability, but we all have a creative shine in our soul in some way.

It is our job as parents, educationalists, teachers, family members or friends to nurture that shine, and make it bright.

It lights the world for us all.

So, as we prepare to dress up and get ready for Hallowe’en let us remember that it was originally a folk time, a time of coming together and sharing the last of the harvest.

It was the Celtic end of the year, and people peered into the darkness of the coming months, remembering their ancestors and their wisdom, which was needed to survive the dark, infertile winter.

No wonder the spirits of those passed on were invoked and both good and bad responded to the invitation.

No wonder tales were woven in the dark.

Now is the perfect time for you to weave your family tale.

What local old building, what bridge or ruin can be the location of a Tam o’ Shanter-like happening?

It’s about more than making an atmospheric, spooky tale to enjoy with our children.

It’s about creating a sense of connection to place, transforming a location into a legend.

Burns did that with Alloway Auld Kirk, you can do it too, perhaps not as famously as Burns, but one day it may become “pappa’s legend” or “grandma’s legend” , and that is more powerful than anything that has been made up by a famous writer.