Saturday and Sunday afternoon on the island, storytellers from various cultural backgrounds including Irish, Kenyan, Persian, Muslim and Jewish will read published stories, recite from memory or craft tales on the spot.

Waterloo Region native Sarah Granskou never intended to become a storyteller. But at Trent University, she "got in cahoots" with her oral history professor and grew skeptical of modern reliance on the written word.

She subsequently turned down a $40,000 scholarship in favour of moving to Norway and to live with the Sami reindeer herders of the North. Granskou wanted to learn Scandinavian languages and recover the culture of her ancestors.

"I had to learn poems, songs and fiddle tunes eye-to-eye without the vices of the written word," she says. "It was a very sacred, life-changing experience."

One of the first tasks she set for herself was to memorize a medieval song with 52 verses.

"I got thinking about how this survived and the mental resources it would take," she says.

She also worked on Norwegian farms and lived among the Inuit. Along the way, Granskou learned to play the jaw harp, willow flute and eight-string Hardanger fiddle and composed new lyrics for established Scandinavian melodies. "I was carrying that oral culture into a contemporary realm."

Back home in Waterloo Region, Granskou lost the use of her arms temporarily, during a lengthy illness. Unable to write or play fiddle, she spent hours talking to herself and composing the stories she now performs as a contemporary "Canwegian" skald, or Nordic bard.

"The beauty of stories is their ability to move and touch you in such a way that you don't need to define what you're learning. It doesn't have to be a lecture," she says.

She brings her repertoire of rhyming tales about fantastical trolls and family experiences to the children's tent Saturday and Sunday, along with a four-pointed red hat and boots made of reindeer fur.

I am reminded of the many storytellers who would rush out into the backwoods in Finland in the mid nineteenth century in an effort to meet with the last surviving oral storytellers (some of whom had a repertoire of tens of thousands of lines of verse) and learn from them.

At the moment I am jealous of the children in Victoria Park, who will be listening to Scandinavian tales tomorrow.