Let Me Show You the World — Longreads

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It’s New Year’s Day, Story Lovers.

Perhaps you have some time to consider this marvellous article about the art of storytelling. It takes 16 mins to read. Author Iman Sultan explains why and how

The time has come to reclaim Shahrazad’s voice, resonating through centuries, and experience once again the power of a good story..

Almost everything you think you know about Aladdin is wrong.

via Let Me Show You the World — Longreads

My own hard copy set of The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night Volumes I – IV. is rendered into English from the literal and complete French translation of Dr. J.C. Mardrus by Pwys Mathers , 2nd edition. London, Routledge, 1964.

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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[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!

Finding Your Treasure

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.

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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.

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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.

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Many a good story is shared over a cuppa. What a pot! There is a story there.

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?

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I used to be impressed by these cars … never drove one!

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A ‘Leaper’ bonnet mascot from an older Jaguar car.

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?

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Plovers’ eggs which did eventually hatch, grow and fly the nest in a local park.

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.)

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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.

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A new grandson for a longtime friend.

References:

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.

 

 

 

 

Story Maps and Spirals: Retelling

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During my last storytelling session at a local school, teachers were keen for me to show the students the maps I draw to help me retell a story.

These are working documents. The first map is for a Palestinian story. Like many folk tales, the protagonist leaves home on a quest. They solve their problem and return home with new understanding, having learned from their experience.

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In more complicated stories, I find drawing spiral maps helpful. This story map is about the break-up of a friendship,

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In retelling, I need the routine to make a stable base for the story. Tone of voice is crucial to set the mood for a good story and for the suspense that will come. When we’re introduced to a character and nothing out of the ordinary happens, then they’re stuck in a same old routine – not much of a story.

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Jack Maguire in his book ‘Creative Storytelling’ said it this way .

“Another fundamental of a good children’s story is that the plot revolves around an element of tension.” (1985:51)

A good story spirals into action, moving from ‘The Way it Was’ to ‘The Way it is Now’

Life can go up or down in half a second. Often a trigger / jolt / problem shifts characters out of their ordinary ways. Then more problems and possibilities arise.

Characters’ actions and speech build the tension either up to a better, satisfactory, resolution or down to an unhappy, unsatisfying one.

The ending must pull everything together.

Sometimes a story spiralling upward is funny. Moving this spiral clearly shows how the teller has been ‘winding up’ the audience, especially when kids don’t get the punch line of the joke, at first. ‘Shaggy Dog’ stories are a classic of this type.

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Source of quote

Jack Maguire. 1985 Creative Storytelling: choosing, inventing and sharing tales for children. New York, McGraw-Hill.

All text (except quote) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is  Copyright © under Australian Law.

Mangoes: WPC Growth

In Queensland, luscious mangoes signal our summer holiday season over the New Year. So juicy and delectable, they are best eaten leaning over the kitchen sink!

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A few years ago, my neighbour’s Bowen Mango tree used to produce so many mangoes, she couldn’t give them away … so she had it lopped!

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Whenever I see a mango tree, I remember an Indonesian story retold by storyteller Helen East. My version goes something like this –

One still, summer’s night the moon shone full on a tall, dark mango tree. Cicadas suddenly ceased chirping  and listened. Disgruntled voices were drifting up from the tree’s roots  “After all,” they complained, ” we do all the work and get none of the attention or thanks!”

They muttered on about how hard it was deep down in the dark earth, holding the whole tree fast, while keeping water moving up to the trunk, the branches, those leaves and all that fruit.

“Look at that lazy trunk, just standing there!” they yelled, looking up.

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Hearing this the trunk yelled back “ Not, so! My job is constant strain. Holding all this tree together in wind and storms is much harder. If I break, we all die. You forget too that I carry all the food back and forth to all parts. I’ve also had limbs chopped off for firewood, bark stripped by foraging animals: the pain of it all.”

Then the trunk added “It’s those leaves just hanging there, dancing in the breeze. I wish that was all I had to do!”

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Surrounding branches swayed in disagreement. They thought differently.

“How little you know, “ whispered the leaves in chorus. “ All day long we convert energy from the sun sharing it with the whole tree. We’re up all night releasing air for the tree while it rests. We shelter you all from too much sun. Heavy rains often tear us down.You wouldn’t want to have our job. Look at the fruits, all they do is hang around, grow fat and glow with pride when they’re ripe. There’s the kind of job we’d like!” they sighed.

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The fruits held their tongue at first. They knew it was because of their existence that this tree was valued. Then they indignantly pointed out how badly treated they were, often ripped off before they were ripe or gnawed at by bats and rats.

“We have the worst of all – such a short life. Though prized by humans, many of us can be left to rot at the base. The rest have to give ourselves up to be eaten, pulped, sliced and worse…”

A deep voice broke through the babble.

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“Enough! … I spend a long time waiting for my fruit to ripen,” said the husky stone.

“We fall together. If I am cast aside and land on good earth, we go on. When I dry out, I force my case to split open so the seed can begin to grow into a sapling. I remake all of you from my core when a root descends and a shoot ascends. Trees like us have flourished for thousands of years. We all have our part to do in the growing …”

Just then,  a woman came softly into the garden to look at the moon so the tree fell silent. And the cicadas began their rhythmic nocturne once again.

Growth

Sources – Story adapted from Helen East’s retelling “The Heaviest Burden” in  BRAND, Jill, BLOWS, Wendy & SHORT, Caroline. The Green Umbrella: stories, songs, poems and starting points for environmental assemblies. London, Black, 1991:93.

Mango – Wikiwand article

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 also Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

Passing Through: Weekly Photo Challenge

In,

over,

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through,

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(Oops! Missed some.)

and out.

Read this many years ago. Presume it’s from the Sufi tradition of teaching stories.

Years ago, a young backpacker set off travelling to new places.

Arriving in an distant city, he learned that a famous sage was speaking that night in the great hall. The young man decided to go along. An audience of over a thousand people heard the sage talk and many were as inspired as he was. They gathered outside in the square to talk late into the night about what they had heard and to plan their future.

Over the next two days, the traveller asked everyone he met how he might meet the sage in person. Three days later, he was taken to the place where the man had lived all his life. He rang the bell tentatively.

Stepping in the doorway, the young man noticed the home’s bare walls and basic furniture. The sage came forward and greeted him warmly. Together they sat by the fire to drink tea and talk.

After some hours, the traveller stood to thank his elder and bid him farewell. His host was curious to know what was had surprised him the most.

“You are so famous. People shower you with gifts. I expected you to live in grand style. ”

“You arrived with only a backpack!” retorted the sage.

“Yes, but I am only passing through,” muttered the young man.

“So am I,” replied his host.

Transient
All text and photos © Meg Philp are protected by Australian Copyright Law. If you wish to use any images. Please contact me thru Comments. Pass the story on. Thanks.

PS. And then there’s the song a Canadian teacher sang to me on the verandah of the Migrant Hostel in 1975 – the chorus is stuck in my mind.

 “Passing through, Passing through, … Glad that I ran into you, Tell the people that you saw me passing through.”

Google now tells me it was written by Richard Blakeslee and sung by Pete Seeger! … Learn something new every day!

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Rocamadour: Ritual Wanderlust

For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have stopped in this gorge on their way through France to the Santiago Di Compostela. There’s a shrine to a Madonna here.

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When we’ve come this far, we may as well keep going along the only street.

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Buildings cling to the canyon walls, while a castle crowns the crest.

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How do we get up there? Where are we?

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Climb more stairs at the castle, past the clock tower which begins to toll the hour. Shakily, step out onto the ramparts to get a better view: a sense of where we are in the world.

DSCF0593Looking down, there’s the Sanctuary with its basilica and chapels. Put one foot in front of the other. Go in and light a candle. Sit. Go back in time. Read the words on a mural ” Aimer, Evangeliser, Servir.” (To love, to proclaim, to serve.) Sit still in the space.

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Later, we followed the sheltered path, down past the 14 Stations of the Cross, where millions have walked before.  We talked of history and how fortunate we are to live now.

….

I’ve taken a while putting this post together. ‘Wanderlust’ doesn’t seem the right word to me. I’m more of a WanderLuck person.  Now, especially with my camera, I notice good fortune more that ever.

When I was travelling in 88, setting out as a storyteller for the first time, I was given a copy of an Armenian story by New York storyteller Diane Wolkstein. She wanted me  to write it out again in my own way. It felt like a test. I did a fearfully poor job of it then. Years later I realised what a significant tale it is.

….

Here’s a shortened version of what I read then in Virginia Tashjian’s collection “One There Was And Was Not.” Like most stories, it’s so much better told, face to face –

One there was and was not, a man who walked off in a temper one morning to find God. He was a poor farmer who’d struggled all his life. He wanted to tell God, once and for all how unfair his life had been.

On the way he met a ravenous, skinny wolf who wanted him to ask God why he was always so hungry, then a beautiful, rich woman, who was so lonely and next, a huge tree by a riverbank withered and thirsty. Each listened to his complaints, without judgement, and requested that he ask a similar question of God on their behalf. The man agreed and went on his way.

He met God sitting on a rock in the middle of nowhere. The man asked for answers for those three he’d met on the way. When God heard his complaint, he agreed with the fellow and gave him the gift of luck.

On the journey back, the man reiterated the solution to each character as he had been told … but was in too much of a hurry to dig up the treasure choking the tree roots and rejected the rich woman’s proposal. He had to get back home for he had been given the gift of luck.

And the wolf’s god-given solution ? ” Soon he would meet a very foolish man and once he had devoured him, only then would his hunger be truly satisfied!”

(I’ll leave you to imagine the ending.)

Thanks for your time.

All text and photos by Meg©2017

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Wanderlust

References

Rocamadour

Shrine

How Mary Medlicott “twigs” on her Storyworks Blog

Here’s a great example of how Story “twigs” your imagination.

Mary is a longtime storyteller and author of several  compilations of stories and more. I have been following her blog for over a year now … and I learn so much.

Reblogged here with permission. Thanks, Mary

Thursday night, we went to see King Lear in the Royal Shakespeare Company production at the Barbican. It was hard and long and brilliant and Anthony Sher was a completely believable and utterly moving Lear. As his three daughters responded to his request to tell him how much they loved him, it was immediately clear…

via Storytelling Starters ~ Dear as Salt — Mary Medlicott’s Storyworks Blog

Story Told on a Tree of Life.

Here are images of a story carved in Western Red Cedar that’s not mine to tell. It belongs to the Coast Salish People. You will have to use your imagination, Dear Reader, as you look up the pole to piece a story together which makes sense to you.

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The tale starts and the bottom and ends at the top.

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The characters, human and animal, are in the order they appear in the narrative …

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… from the diligent warrior, all the way to the runaway couple at the top.

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The images of frog, heron, the Creator, octopus, and a canoe are split so they wrap around the pole and can be seen from both sides. That frog’s split/shared tongue symbolises a betrayal – the failure to keep a secret / a broken promise.

This story pole or legend pole stands in the grounds of the University of Victoria. (The label ‘totem’ is incorrect for it is an Objibwe word.) It marks the territory of the Coast Salish People of the Pacific NorthWest.

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I was in Victoria BC. for the conference ‘Narrative Matters 2016.’ My first session was right here on the UVic campus- “Vertical Narrative: Reading History in a Coast Salish Pole” – led by the Director of the U.Vic’s Legacy Art Galleries.

The pole was completed in 1990 by master carver Charlie Elliott, of the Tsartlip First Nation, in negotiation with local elders. It faces east, towards Cadboro Bay because this traditional story is set there.

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The warrior has his arm around his wife to protect her, but to no avail.

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Look up at the top. Can you see a black stone, a type commonly found in Cadboro Bay, embedded between the pair? This gives a clue re the couple’s fate.

This cultural message is regarded by the First Peoples as a true story. They regard Western Red Cedar as the Tree of Life.

…..

All text and photos by Meg Philp.

Curve
Look Up

For more info see
https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Charles_W._Elliott

Click to access 2009-11-17-Coast-Salish-Fast-Facts.pdf

http://www.firstnations.de/development/coast_salish.htm

 

 

 

Jubilant Days: WPC

Of all the photos I’ve ever seen, my favourite is a b&w image taken by Henri Cartier – Bresson in Paris, on the Rue de Mouffetard in 1954 – a scruffy, small boy carrying a large bottle of wine under each arm, gets the admiration of others in the street as he struts home, head held high, jubilant. For a long time, I had this poster.

At an exhibition of Cartier-Bresson’s work at the Queensland Art Gallery in 2011, I copied down his quote on the back of my ticket stub.

Life isn’t made up of stories that you cut into slices like an apple pie. There’s no standard way of approaching a story. We have to evoke a situation, a truth; this is the poetry of life’s reality. H.C-B.

Perhaps this is a ‘jubilant’  image – this photo of a Scotsman at a wedding. He had just  piped the couple out after the ceremony. Here, he is heading for the Wedding Reception.

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This photo isn’t one of mine: the camera was. Does there need to be more people in the frame to make it jubilant?

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I did ask the piper what was the purpose of those drones in a set of bagpipes – after all, they make such a dismal noise. He replied that without the drones he might as well be playing the piano.

“You just have to live and life will give you pictures.” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

All text (except those in italics) by Meg. Photo by G. McQueen

Poster sale http://www.ebay.com/itm/RUE-MOUFFETARD-PARIS-1954-16×20-/321696915618

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Jubilant