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Oral traditions
passion
bohemiancoast
Or 'all knowledge is not contained on the internet' in fact. When I was a small child my father used to tell me bedtime stories. Some of them were poems. And one of our favourites was this...

"It was a dark and stormy night
The brigands they sat in their cave
The chief of the brigands arose, and he said
"Antonio, tell us a storio!"
And this is what he said.

"It was a dark and stormy night..."

Well, you get the idea. This could go on for some time. It's clearly a fairly widespread meme; the Ahlbergs wrote a book about it, for example.

M has just noticed that Googling for the version I learnt yields no results, though there's an instructive comment thread here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/today/listeners/openinglines.shtml in which various people ascribe it to their fathers or the Scouts.

So. Do you remember this from your childhood? What words did you use? Where were you, geographically, at the time?
I have noted before that despite the work of the Opies, the rhymes remembered and told by children (in playgrounds and around campfires) are not, by and large, well documented as a tradition.

I've heard the brigands version, but - in Oxfordshire, with parents technically from West London - we told it as
'Twas a daaaaaark and stormy night. The captain said "Tell us a story, Bosun*!" So the bosun said "'Twas a daaaaaark and stormy night!" Etc. On occasion it would be expanded to "..stormy night, and the wind was blowing a gale. The ship's captain said..." but no longer than that.

* When at 5 or 6 I read a book with a 'boatswain' in it, it took me about 3 minutes to figure out it was the same word. My parents were apparently somewhat scared by this leap of intuition. But forecastle/fo'c's'le puzzled me for months...

It was a dark and stormy night.
The captain turned to the first mate and said:
"Tell us a story."
The crew gathered together and the first mate began:
"It was a dark and stormy night..."

My dad was in the Navy in WW2 but I suspect he may have heard it before even that.

How about updating it with...

It was a dark and stormy night.
The Novacon members sat in the bar.
The Big Name Fan arose, and he said (in a Birmingham accent):
"Ian tell us a joke!"
And this is what he said...


It was a dark and stormy night, and the sailors said "Tell us a story Captain!" And this is the story he told... It was a dark and (etc etc)

PS We were in Derbyshire, but it was almost always told by my dad who was from Yorkshire.

(Deleted comment)
The version I know has a sing-song rhythm:

It was a dark and stormy night
And the Captain said to the Mate,
"Oi, Mate, tell us a yarn!"

And the yarn went something like this:
It was a dark and stormy night [repeat ad infinitum]

I suspect the 'Oi, Mate!' is very Sarf Lunnon.

Never heard of it - even from inamac with whom I have shared a house for a very long time.

South Yorkshire (Sheffield), paternal grandparents from Derbyshire (Matlock). (Mother and maternal parents from Germany, so not expected from them.)

Edited at 2011-10-22 12:04 pm (UTC)

Northern Ireland, 1960s:

It was a dark and stormy night, and the rain came down in torrents. I said to Antonio "tell us a tale", and the tale was this as follows....

Blimey! I never realised the torrents were in the Bulwer-Lytton version (link to TVTropes intentionally left out - why should everyone else have to risk losing an afternoon)

The Singing Kettle did a version. Children's entertainers, they did tapes of songs and songs-with-stories as well as live performances. The kind of thing that gets played over and over again on car journeys to keep kiddies happy.

... Also I totally thought this was posted by someone else. I expect you know who the Singing Kettle are!

Found after a quick Google...

"It was a dark and stormy night. I had just taken a creative writing course"

It was a dark and stormy night, so the Captain said to the Mate, "Tell us a story, Mate?", so the Mate began...

I think my father might have told this to me, or perhaps I heard it at school - it was certainly a long time ago, so I was probably in Edinburgh, but there's a lot of Anglo in my Scottish.

From my father, in the seventies, from the North East of England:

It was a dark and stormy night.
Three men sat in a cave.
One said, "Bill, tell us a tale!"
And Bill said...

Edited at 2011-10-24 07:55 am (UTC)

Nr Bristol with strong welsh influences

"It was a dark and stormy night
And the rain came down in torrents.
When the captain turned to the first mate and said
"Tell us a story".
The first mate began..."

My father told me this, and his version was the one about a ship. The last few lines were "And the captain said to the mate, 'Sam, spin us a yarn!' And this is the story the mate told..." I don't remember all the other lines.

My father probably got it either from the Scouts, or from his father (who was in the merchant navy for a while, but I doubt that's relevant). They both grew up in Birmingham. I was in Somerset when I heard it.

(Late to the party, but as nobody's come up with my exact version yet...)

It was a dark and stormy night, and the captain said to his men, "Jack! Tell us a story!" So he began...

It was a dark and stormy night.... (&c &c)

North Devon, mid to late 1970s.

It was a dark and stormy night,
and the robbers were in their den,
and the leader said to Antonio
'Antonio, tell us a story'

So Antonio began:


?

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