31st December

The Miner

All the stories in the world originally came from one source, a mine in a remote and desolate place where only the story-miners lived. The stories came in many shapes and sizes – some heavy and bulky, some smooth and delicate, others sharp and awkward to hold – but they had one common property: something in each one shone, or glittered, reflecting light in its own special way.
The stories were dispatched, unrefined, across the world, to people who had no knowledge of the mine’s existence. When they came across one of the stories in their own locality, they assumed that it belonged to them.

Over many centuries the mine workings grew deeper and more complex. When one seam was exhausted, another was opened. Still, it became increasingly difficult to find and extract new stories. As this happened, the miners themselves grew fewer. The older generation died. Younger families left, seeking less demanding and more rewarding work. A time came when only one miner remained – a strong and skilful labourer, but the last of his kind. One day he came up from the mine empty-handed: there were no more stories down there.

Sad though he was to see the end of a long tradition, the miner was a realistic man. He collected his tools and personal belongings, and set off in search of a new occupation.

How long he walked is not recorded, but eventually he left behind the bleak landscape familiar to him, and travelled through a country of thick forests, green meadows, rushing rivers and cultivated fields. He passed through villages and towns and spent time in huge cities. And he began to notice – lying at the roadside, or marking the edges of flowerbeds in parks and gardens, or abandoned in heaps in disused warehouses – the same multiform stories that he had once mined. He collected several of the discarded ones, and used his tools to recut or polish them a little. Then he walked on, discreetly depositing them in pubs, churches, schools, theatres, places of work, places of play . . .

And when people came across one of these slightly altered stories, they picked it up and took it home, assuming that it belonged to them.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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