Six Ways to help Listeners ‘twig’ to your Telling.

Storytellers work at many levels

1. Be clear on the setting of the tale. (Map out the story, search images or info online.)

2. See the action in your imagination. Dwell on your favourite scene – the one that hooked you in the first place. Can you make it more alive?

3. Clear up any details or facts in the plot you’re not sure of.

4. Include listeners in the story. Ask them a question or wonder aloud yourself. Make them curious about the outcome.

5. Add fun where possible. This is entertainment!

6. Feel the emotions as they occur, as the story carries you along.

……………………………

Remember that a story told is a give-away, a gift that you hope is passed on.

See if you can find the ways I’ve tried to do this in a story I’m learning to tell.

IMG_6917

Here’s my written version of an Xmas story I’ve adapted from a 1992 adaption of The Mice and the Christmas Tree by Pat Thomson in A Stocking Full of Christmas Stories, which is a 1956 adaption of the story in the collection Little Old Mrs Pepperpot, which Alf Proysen expanded on from his carol Musevisa (Mouse Song) he composed in 1946. He was one of  Norway’s most famous writers, poets and playwrights. The song has since become part of their Jul tradition.

The Christmas Tree Mice. Adapted by M.Philp 2018

Long ago and far away, in a village in the heart of Norway, lived a family of house mice. There was Ma, Pa, Grandma Mouse and seven mousekins, all snug in their home in the pantry wall of an old red house. Each winter the mice celebrated Yuletide just like people did. They got their home ready for Christmas Eve, swept the dust out using their tails, put out good food, got dressed in their best, gave presents and sang around the tree.

IMG_6906 (1)

At a nod from Ma, Pa Mouse would roll in an old pine-cone and decorate it with cobwebs. The mouse-children then lined up in order beside their tree and Ma presented each of them with a nut. Then, as a special treat, she went down the line, holding a piece of dark chocolate under each nose, so they each had a good long sniff at heaven.

Next, the mice all caught hold of each other’s tail and circled their tree, dancing and singing all the songs they knew. After that, they played Blind Man’s Bluff until ‘Lights out’ and time for bed.

IMG_6698

But one year, the youngest child squeaked into the dark “No! No! We don’t’ want to go!”

“Don’t be silly,” replied both parents. “We’ve all had our Good Jul. Now off you go to sleep, the lot of you!”

The eldest child refused and explained that they all wanted to dance around that really big tree in the front room of the house. Only yesterday he’d seen it through a crack in the skirting board and had told the others how beautiful it looked.

Ma Mouse choked and coughed. She reminded them how dangerous it was to go into those giant rooms.

“Not … if they’re all fast asleep!” stressed the littlest mouse, looking at Pa with shining eyes.

“Oh well, … it is Christmas,” declared Pa looking at  Ma. “Follow me, children!” Off they set. Ma brought up the rear, calling “Mind you go carefully and very quietly.” Grandma decided to stay behind and finish knitting her scarf.

IMG_6903

One after the other they quickly crept along, inside the walls of the house till they emerged from the crack in the skirting board. There was the tree reaching to the rafters. “Ooh … aah” they sighed. “Oh, it’s lovely … and so tall! ”

“That’s a Norwegian Spruce for you!” announced Pa. The mischief of mice then skittered by the wall till they sat beneath the wondrous tree. The littlest mouse whimpered to the eldest “But … where are the stars you saw? You said there were lots of sparkling stars all over.”

Meanwhile, Ma Mouse had arrived at last at the opening but couldn’t get through because of her big tummy. She was breathless and grabbed a cord to steady herself. Suddenly, the tree lit up with twinkling stars.

The rest of the family crept around the tree admiring those magic lights, the tinsel; the strings of flags. They even clambered among the pile of boxes underneath. I don’t know who it was found the truck first, but soon all the children were in the back and Pa was in the cab. Imagine their squeals of delight when it started to move and Pa drove them across the room to Ma who pleaded “Children. Not so much noise! Someone will hear!”

They all waved to Ma as the truck went past and then squealed at it veered towards the door, which suddenly clicked open. Each mousekin jumped and clung to their neighbour. As the truck swerved away, a fat brown cat walked in, carrying its tail high.

Pa drove straight back behind the tree. When they came round the other side, there sat the cat on the mat. Pa turned the wheel hard round and drove faster. The wheel stuck there!  Each time the truck came round the tree, the cat made swipes with his paw as it zoomed past. The mice froze with fear in the back.

Oh no! The truck began to slow down! Pa drove in among the boxes. As soon as it came to a stop, he yelled “Everybody out! Up the tree!” Little grey bodies scampered up the trunk and hung on to the highest branches for dear life.

Cat Below pulled at the mat with her claws and squinted up. “Come on down,”she sighed impatiently. “Tonight is not the time for catching.”

“Oh no, we won’t!” shouted the eldest mouse, clinging to a star. “You’ll pounce on us and torment us. We know what cats do.”

“Not tonight!” sighed the cat, looking at her clean claws and then up at these new ornaments. “Christmas Eve is the only time I’m kind to mice!”

The mice froze again as she slowly stretched and got up, walked to the door and called back, “Better watch out … if I see you tomorrow … !” The mice held their breath. Then the door closed and she was gone.

IMG_6904

When the family were safely back in their little home, Ma Mouse made all the children promise not to go up to the big house again, to always do as they were told and never to give cheek to the cat. They promised, with their front paws crossed behind their back.

Then one by one, each mousekin took from their pocket, some little strips of tinsel, or a Norwegian flag, wisps of wool, snippets of ribbon and thin silver stars. These they proudly hung on their own cone tree.

And so it was from that night on and ever after, the mice had a fine Yule tree and a  happy story to tell their own children every Merry Christmas.

IMG_6920

[Dedicated to LC, my Lucky Cat]

All text and photos by Meg. Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Sources

‘The Mice & the Christmas Tree’ by Alf Proysen (adapted) in A Stocking Full of Christmas Stories collected by Pat Thomson. London, Transworld, 1993. pp109 -118.

[Pat Thomson has written over 50 books, great to read aloud. Look out for them in libraries]

Mice Word list

I learned a lot about mice here! A collection of mice can be a trip, horde or a mischief!

Alf Proysen: Norwegian poet, playwright, musician, author & songwriter

Mrs Pepperpot stories

Christmas in Norway (includes choir singing Proysen’s song (Musevisa)

PS. Spot the mistake in one of the photos. Happy Days!

A Japanese Twist

This week’s Photo Challenge Twisted didn’t mean much till I found this photo I’d taken in my local Sushi Bar ( I did move the figurine, just a tad.)

The women’s twisted hair and that knotted Obi sparked a rewrite of a traditional folktale I’ve been working on –

Long, long ago in Old Japan there was a young man who loved his old father dearly. Not long after his son’s wedding, the old man died and the young man withdrew into his work as he grieved for his father.

Early one morning, he brought his wife in to show the piles of baskets he had made and said he must go to the  market. She helped him stack them on his back and waved him off on his walk to the nearest town. She felt pleased to see him at last like his old self again. Such fine, strong weaving attracted many buyers so he sold out quickly. and made a good profit. Before returning home, the shy young man had time to wander the stalls.

An array of silver objects caught the light. He had never seen anything like these before. The Gaijin vendor signalled they were delicate and would break if dropped. He nodded as the young man gingerly picked up the nearest. One glance and he was amazed … for there was his father looking at him.

“Oh father!” he muttered, lifting his eyes to the sky, “What are you doing here in the town?” No voice spoke from the clouds. Was this some kind of magic? Looking around him, he wondered why his father had come back to see him.  He quickly bought the object, tucked it safely in his belt and anxiously hurried home.

As soon as he got there, he placed his precious find in the family shrine and said nothing of it to his wife. From that day on, he prayed fervently each dawn and dusk.

Naturally, his young wife noticed how much time he spent praying. One day, after her husband had gone off to gather more bamboo, she looked inside the shrine and gasped. There, she surprised a lovely young woman who looked back at her. She quickly closed the door … only to look again several times through the  day. The woman was always there.

As soon as her husband came home, she turned on him angrily. and pointed to the shrine “How dare you bring home another woman! You worship her! How could you do this to me?”

“What woman?” her husband stammered. “That is my dear departed father in there!” He rushed to to make sure. Yes … there was his father, looking worried. As he stepped back with a sigh of relief, his wife pushed past and grabbed the disc . One triumphant look and she handed it back saying “That is not your father … that is a jealous young woman!” Then she hurried away.

They argued till they were speechless and miserable. After a sleepless night, the young man suggested they talk to the wise nun who lived in the village temple.

One look at the pair and the nun ushered them in.  She listened with a kindly smile while they took turns to tell their part of the story. When tears had been shed and both were finally still, the nun stretched out a hand for the source of their troubles. After she studied its smooth surface, she exclaimed. “Goodness! This woman has repented and become a nun. It’s best that she remain here, for a time, in the temple.” Then she opened a wooden chest beside her, put in their mirror and closed the lid.

It did not take long for the news of the arrival of a wonderful glass to go round the village. The young couple laughed together when they, in their turn, heard the story  from a friendly neighbour. How mistaken they had been! How foolish! How marvellous!

Next morning, they found their furoshiki -swathed mirror on the doorstep and both agreed it should be hung by their door so anyone might look in at it. The tale of the mirror spread to many districts. The young couple gained status as the first family in that village to own one and they were not the last … to see their truth …  in a mirror.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Twisted

A Japanese Twist©2018Meg Philp

Adapted from ‘The Mirror’ by BANG, Garrett, Men from the Village Deep in the Mountains. New York, Macmillan, 1973: 67- 9.

Some of the sources consulted

Japanese Bamboo weaving 

Japanese Historical Timeline

Japanese Mirrors

Mirror (See History)

Sacred Mirror: Japanese Imperial Regalia

All text  and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License and is also Copyright © under Australian Law.