This week I’ve been living in Verulamium.  My theatre group put on a new play about St Alban – our very own saint. To bring him to life we had to get inside the minds of 3rd century Britons, because, if the people aren’t real, a play will be just a pageant.

Very little is known about St Alban, and even less about his partner in saintliness, St Amphibalus, though both of their shrines can be found in the Abbey. The stories about them date from many centuries after the events they describe, so we had plenty of scope for imagination. I invented a passionate and conflicted wife for Alban and gave the Roman governor who executed him (who is a historical character) a whole backstory.

So while much of the story is invention, it is not untrue. It talks of universal human experience . It’s important, in this era of fragile truth, to distinguish between stories that may be fables, but which illustrate or reflect deeper truths, stories which are grounded in observed or researched fact, and stories that are made up to distort the truth and manipulate minds.

We all have a moral duty to do this, and never more so than now.

But how to tell the difference between a fable, a truth and a lie?

I would ask one question:

Who benefits and what is damaged, if I take this story as gospel?

Readers who submit articles must agree to our terms of use. The content is the sole responsibility of the contributor and is unmoderated. But we will react if anything that breaks the rules comes to our attention. If you wish to complain about this article, contact us here