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Two-minute tales from history, myth and fiction, accompanied by word games, grammar games and writing practice, all based on traditional school textbooks.

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The Ugly Duckling
Music: Sir William Sterndale Bennett
It’s not where you came from that matters, it’s where you belong.
Based on a fable by Hans Christian Andersen
(1805-1875)

A MOTHER duck hatched a fine family of ducklings. Except for one. He was late in coming, and uncommonly large. He swam beautifully, but - such an ugly duckling! Even his quack sounded strange.

All the ducks in the yard pecked him and shunned him. ‘How ugly he is!’ some cried. ‘Like a turkey!’, sniffed others.

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Two Posts
The Emperor’s New Clothes
Music: Sir George Macfarren
A telling satire on fashionable thinking among the elite.
Based on a fable by Hans Christian Andersen
(1805-1875)

ONCE upon a time, some weavers arrived at court, and offered to make robes so fine that only men fit for the very highest offices could even see them.

The Emperor paid them handsomely, and they set to work.

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The Princess on the Pea
Music: English Folksong
A fastidious prince felt he deserved a girl of royal refinement, and he certainly found one.
Based on a fable by Hans Christian Andersen
(1805-1875)

ONCE upon a time, a prince decided to find himself a princess, or rather (as he told himself) a real princess.

For the princesses of the neighbouring kingdoms were not at all what he imagined a princess should be, and soon he was quite discouraged.

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AZ Index

See a complete A-Z List of all the stories on this website.

Featured Topic
Tagged ‘Anglo-Saxon History’ (43 posts)
page 1
1 The Bishop and the Chatterbox
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
One week into a Lenten retreat with the Bishop of Hexham, a boy’s miserable life is turned right around.
2 The Restoration of the Icons
By the early eighth century, sacred art was thriving in newly-Christian England, but in the East seeds of doubt and confusion had been sown.
3 ‘Filioque’
It started as an honest mistake, became a diplomatic standoff, and brought down an Empire.
4 The Synod of Hatfield
Pope Agatho reached out to the English church to help him make his case at an important Council in the Imperial capital.
5 The Arts of Fair Rowena
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Charles Dickens believed that Britain’s Saxon invaders gained power by force of arms – but not by weapons.
6 Birds of Paradise
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Northumbrian poet Cynewulf paints a word-picture of heaven and the seraph-band that swoops and soars before the throne.
page 2
7 Taste and See
Wonder spread through a Tyneside monastery after Bishop Cuthbert asked for a drink of water.
8 Lost Innocence
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
In the fourth century, Britain’s Christians acquired a taste for watering down the mystery of their message.
9 The Last Commandment
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Northumbrian poet Cynewulf imagines the farewell between Jesus and his Apostles, forty days after his resurrection.
10 The Battle of Nechtansmere
King Ecgfrith of Northumbria dismissed repeated warnings about his imperial ambitions.
11 St Erkenwald, Light of London
The seventh-century Bishop of London helped kings and clergy to shine Christian light into the darkness of mere religion.
12 The Six Leaps of Faith
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
The eighth-century English bishop and poet Cynewulf explores a prophecy from the Song of Solomon.
page 3
13 At Heaven’s Gate
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
The eighth-century English bishop and poet Cynewulf takes us to the threshold of God’s holy city, and gives us a choice.
14 Annunciation
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
Cynewulf reflects on the mystery of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary.
15 The Battle of Brunanburh
Athelstan confirmed himself as King of the English, and also reawakened a feeling that all Britain should be a united people.
16 St Chad and the Invisible Choir
Chad, the seventh-century Bishop of Mercia, seemed to be making a lot of music for one man.
17 St Cuthbert and the Phantom Fire
The Northumbrian saint warned of an enemy who would stop at nothing to silence the good news.
18 Cuthbert, the Bridle and the Book
One of England’s most precious artefacts, the Lindisfarne Gospels, was nearly lost at sea.
page 4
19 Gytha and Vladimir
Scandinavian tradition says that the daughter of King Harold was consort to one the great rulers of Kievan Rus’.
20 Gregory and the Slave Children
How some English slave children sparked the conversion of Britain to Christianity.
21 Vinland
Based on
The Saga of Eric the Red
Scandinavian warrior Leif Ericson was sent to bring Christianity to Greenland, but accidentally discovered North America instead.
22 Turning the Tide
By Henry of Huntingdon
(?1088-?1157)
King Canute enacted a memorable demonstration of the limits of government power.
23 The Last English King
The Normans conquered England in 1066, and the country would never be the same again.
24 Wulfstan and the Seal of Approval
Based on an account by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
William the Conqueror’s purge of the English Church was halted by a humble bishop and a dead king.
page 5
25 Terror in the Deep
Irish monk St Columba is credited with being among the first witnesses to the ‘Loch Ness monster’.
26 The Lessons of History
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
England’s first and greatest historian explains why history is so important.
27 St Bede of Wearmouth and Jarrow
The mild-mannered, artistic monk was nevertheless a founding father of the English nation.
28 Welcome to Micklegarth
After the Norman Conquest, thousands of worried Englishmen departed for a new life in the Byzantine world.
29 High Beneath Heaven’s Roof
By Cynewulf
(8th century)
The Cross of Christ speaks, and tells of the amazing transformation from sign of shame to sign of redemption.
30 St Aidan Returns King Penda’s Fire
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
When Penda tried to burn down Bamburgh Castle, St Aidan turned the pagan King’s own weapons against him.
page 6
31 Alfred Learns To Read
By Charles Dickens
(1812-1870)
Even as a child, King Alfred couldn’t resist a challenge.
32 King Edwin and the Hand of Destiny
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
Forced from his throne and threatened with murder, Edwin makes a curious bargain for his deliverance.
33 Caedmon Learns to Sing
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
A shy and unmusical stable-hand suddenly began to sing wise and moving hymns.
34 St Dwynwen
St Dwynwen was a 5th century princess regarded by some as Wales’s answer to St Valentine.
35 The Law of the Innocents
St Adamnán worked tirelessly to secure protection, rights and dignity for the women of Ireland.
36 The Alleluia Victory
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
How hard-pressed Christians on the Welsh border won a battle without bloodshed.
page 7
37 The Battle of the Winwaed
In 655, the future of England as a Christian nation hung by the slenderest of threads.
38 How Alfred Burnt the Cakes
By Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
A popular tale of scorched cakes and a scolded king.
39 The Hermit of Handbridge
By Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
King Harold died at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Or did he?
40 Edith and Edward
Based on an account by Charlotte Yonge
(1823-1901)
A King and Queen gentler than the times in which they lived.
41 The Calendar ‘English Style’
An English monk warned of a flaw in the world’s most widely-used calendar.
42 How St Benedict Biscop brought Byzantium to Britain
By Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
The chapel of Bede’s monastery in Sunderland was full of the colours and sounds of the far-off Mediterranean world.
page 8
43 St Hild and the Synod of Whitby
Based on an account by Saint Bede of Jarrow
(672-735)
The respected Abbess oversaw the English Church’s historic commitment to adopt Byzantine traditions.
which is ‘English Style’ ?

Word Play: Opposites

Suggest words or phrases that are opposite in meaning to the words below.

Night. Light. Last.
JB Cramer was one of the finest pianists of his day, though his reverence for Mozart made his own music more popular in the drawing room than the concert hall.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792-1822)
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley says that the pinnacle of political achievement is the government not of others, but of ourselves.
By John Keats
(1795-1821)
Poet John Keats speaks of the beauties of Autumn, her colours, her sounds and her rich harvest.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(1792-1822)
Poet Percy Shelley calls on November’s sister months to watch by the graveside of the dead Year.
Cut
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Make as many words as you can from the letters of a nine-letter word.
Polyword ‘Awake’
Make as many words as you can with the letters below. All your words must be at least four letters long, and must also include the highlighted letter. What’s the nine-letter word?

SEE how many words you can make using the letters below. All your words must be at least 4 letters long, and must include the letter (change).

We found commonly used words, plus one 9-letter word. Can you do better?

Use each letter only once. But if there are e.g. two As, you can used them both.

Don’t count proper nouns such as April, Zeus, or Newcastle (pretty much anything that has to be spelled with a capital letter at the start), or acronyms like HMRC.

Don’t just add -S for plurals or third person singular verbs, e.g. CAT → CATS or SPEAK → SPEAKS.

Note: You can find more Polywords and other games on our Nine Lives puzzle page, and most of our stories are accompanied by games with words, grammar and numbers.

More Puzzles
Changing one letter at a time, see if you can start with TOWN and finish with CITY.
Find the magic letter that can change three words into three different ones.
Do you know ‘well-worn route or habit’ (3 letters), and ‘naval officer’ (7 letters)?
Do you know ‘conclusive evidence’ (5 letters), and ‘perceptive realisation’ (6 letters)?
Do you know ‘stout’ (6 letters), and ‘gloat’ (4 letters)?
See if you can guess these words letter-by-letter.
A word-making and word-searching game with a dash of strategy to it.
top topics
History (379)
Fiction (82)

letters game

Make words from two or more of the tiles below. What is the highest-scoring word you can make?

Press enter or type a space to see feedback on your word.

More like this: High Tiles (Letters Game) Games with Words

numbers game

Work across from the number on the left, applying each arithmetical operation to the previous answer. What’s the final total?

Tip: Click any of the four inner squares to check your running total.

More like this: Maths Steps (Mental Arithmetic Game) Mental Arithmetic