Then I discovered myths, wonder tales and fairy lore: ordinary life went on but I was diving to the bottom of the sea with weights on my feet to pick the flower of immortal life and then losing the magic elixir to a passing snake – for ever; I was dipping my finger in dragon’s blood and tasting it and then finding I could listen in on the conversation of the birds and hear what animals were saying; I was saving my numerous brothers who had been turned into swans by knitting them shirts made from nettles which I’d spun into thread with blistered, burning fingers; with Electra I was helping murder her father – I could go on, but these are the kinds of stories that kept me reading under the covers with a torch, stories that every culture created long before print or even, perhaps, writing itself.

Marina Warner