Storytellers weave francophone tales for English audience

Quebec may be just across the Ottawa River, but many anglophones living in the capital have a poor understanding of French Canada's rich history and culture.

Nicole Fournier and Janet LeRoy want to introduce a largely anglophone audience to French-Canadian lore

One of the stories presented Thursday at the NAC was Loup Garou, the story of a werewolf that troubles a tine Quebec village. (Shutterstock)

Quebec may be just across the Ottawa River, but many anglophones living in the capital have a poor understanding of French Canada's rich history and culture. 

That divide was the catalyst behind Nicole Fournier and Janet LeRoy's performances at the National Arts Centre Thursday, where the two storytellers — Fournier a francophone and LeRoy an anglophone born in Quebec City — spent an evening telling both new and traditional French stories, translated for an English audience.

The night was part of the Ottawa Storytellers'  2017-2018 Speaking Out series.
Janet LeRoy, an anglophone born in Quebec, says learning French-Canadian stories helped her get in touch with her culture. (CBC)

"What's beautiful about it is they come from across the river, these stories. It's not like they're coming from cultures far, far distant," LeRoy told CBC Radio's All in a Day, noting that many English speakers in the audience would be hearing the stories for the first time.

LeRoy spins traditional myths of French Canada, stories she said connect her for her French ancestry. She told two stories, Loup Garou and The Legend of Marguerite de la Roque de Roberval Thursday.

LeRoy said she hopes telling the tales on stage helps them come alive for audiences.
Nicole Fournier says the inspiration for some of her stories comes from years working for the Coast Guard. (CBC)

"Each person in there will experience the story differently. It's unique to themselves," she said. "They're going to create pictures in their head from the words that I share."

Fournier, who uses the stage name Capitaine Bonnefemme, writes her own tales, many inspired by 11 years working on ice breakers as an engineer for the Canadian Coast Guard. Thursday was the first time she recited those stories, called Pi-Louis the Ice Surfer and The Legend of the Lost Flag, in English. 

"It's a great privilege ... to share my culture," Fournier noted. 

"It's always fantastic to carry the people with you, and bring them where you want to be and meet emotions and happy endings as well."

Myths, legends and traditions. 10:25