Searching for stories that appeal and that I’d want to tell is like hunting for treasure. Lately, I’ve been searching for stories and images about treasure.
I’ve had loan of a carefully wrapped 1919 collection of Hindu tales that Anne’s mother used to read aloud to her sister and she. They would talk about every story afterwards.
This one is about a Brahmin, a much- revered holy beggar, who hoards the money and jewels he is given and then, to keep it safe, buries it all in the forest. When he discovers it’s been stolen, he announces he will starve himself to death, unless his treasure is returned! His treasure is returned when the king of that district cleverly finds the thief, whom he then pardons but whom the Brahmin will not. The story sets up the need to talk about it more by ending thus –
Every one who has read this wonderful story would, of course, want to know what became of him after that, but nothing more is told about him.
Stories need to be talked through, mulled over, repeated and given to someone else.
As I was walking a treasure to school on Wednesday, she talked about how, as part of Book Week celebrations, a teacher had come dressed as a pirate. “She had lots of gold in a box, “she said. “Of course, it wasn’t real,” she added, sounding a bit disappointed.
Remember being excited as a kid by the notion of a treat kept in a special place you weren’t allowed to go?
I used to be impressed by these cars … never drove one!
A 13th century poet, Rumi, told of a poor man of Baghdad who had the same dream on several nights, telling him to go to Cairo where he would find treasure in a certain quarter, at a certain spot. He followed that dream, made the long journey, only to be captured by the night patrol while begging for food. He confessed to his captor why he had come to Cairo, who then admitted he’d had ignored a similar dream. His dream had told of treasure buried in Baghdad, in a certain street, in a particular house yard. As he listened, the captive realised it was in his garden! As soon as he was set free, the poor man hurried home to find his treasure. What did he find?
There’s a more recent (2007) Palestinian version of that ancient story called The Farmer Who Followed His Dream in a children’s collection by Sonia Nimr. (I included this map of it in my last post.)
It was when I told my version of the story again to a live, adult audience that the ending changed. A stranger came up and said how much they liked it. A regular grinned and whispered across to me as I sat down, “Vintage Meg!”
The meaning made hangs on the storyteller’s intonation.
Without changing the final words, I’d said them differently, for I was feeling and seeing what his treasure truly was when he reached home – family and children.
Treasure, for me, is the same … and includes my extended family – the dear people I have as friends.
In Cairo Dreaming of Baghdad, In Baghdad Dreaming of Cairo in Delicious Laughter: Rambunctious Teaching Stories from the Mathnawi of Jelaluddin Rumi. Versions by Coleman Barks. Athens, Georgia. Maypop Books, 1990.
A Royal Thief-Catcher in MITRA, S.M. (trans) Hindu Tales from the Sanskrit. Adapted by Mrs Arthur Bell. London Macmillan, 1919. pp 30 – 45.
The Farmer Who Followed his Dream in NIMR, Sonia. Ghadder the Ghoul and Other Palestinian Stories. London, Francis Lincoln, 2007. pp23 – 27.
All text and photos (except last one) by Meg
Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.