Sharing the living art of storytelling   Phone Jenni 0403 328 643

Resources

If you love storytelling as much as I do, you may enjoy these resources which include some of my favourite websites, video links and recordings. Now it’s time to embark on your own storytelling journey!              

Storytelling Courses

Find my storytelling courses (live and online) at my programs page as well as the Southern Cross University Storytelling Unit I teach in.

Newsletter

To stay posted on storytelling events, subscribe to my newsletter.

Colouring in sheet

Blank story tree image for kids to colour in here 

 

Story radio and podcasts 

Radio

‘The Apple Seed’ Storytelling  Show at BYU Radio: high quality 60 min episodes created daily and all episodes can be listened to online. Jenni’s stories have been featured on many episodes and they also created an episode featuring Jenni  including an interview with Jenni recorded on January 29, 2014.

The Heart of the StoryBay FM 99.9 You can stream the show live onBayFM at 12pm every Wednesday (AEST) or listen anytime to their podcasts. Or for the inner ear, read through the stories presented in each episode.

Now Hear This http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/nowhearthis/ABC Radio National Story Slam, Sydney NOW HEAR THIS is a night of people coming together to hear and tell personal, true stories. The winning stories will be played across ABC radio.

Podcasts

  1. The Moth http://themoth.org/10 Storytelling podcasts: (in no particular order)
  2. StoryCorps http://storycorps.org/
  3. This American Life http://www.thisamericanlife.org/
  4. Porchlight Storytelling Series http://porchlight.libsyn.com/
  5. The Teller and the Tale http://www.thetellerandthetale.com
  6. Leo Sofer’s “Stories of the Journey Home” http://www.storiesofthejourneyhome.com/
  7. Snap Judgment http://snapjudgment.org/podcast
  8. Everything is Stories eisradio.org
  9. True Story http://truestorytime.org/
  10. Eric “Brother” Wolf’s “The Art of Storytelling” http://www.artofstorytellingshow.com/ Podcasts and articles. Fantastic! Includes interviews with Jack Zipes, Jay O’Callahan and a wonderful cross section of US and international tellers, including an interview on ‘Australian storytelling’ with me (Jenni Cargill-Strong) and Christine Carlton (President NSW Storytelling Guild).

(Thanks to Michael Williams for the story podcast list above.)

 

Story video 

Jenni’s Story Tree You Tube channelJenni Cargill-Strong

Painless Presentations http://youtu.be/HvL0fDgAUpg Southern Cross University (Australia) filmed me talking about ways to use nervous energy to your advantage when giving a presentation of any kind, including storytelling.

Mem Fox Hints for voice, pace, pausing and eyes for storyreading which are also relevant for storyreading A read aloud lesson

“Children Tell Stories” You Tube, trailer for a wonderful resource book on teaching children to tell stories. An award-winning 288 page book by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, comes with a companion DVD showing demonstrations of storytelling use in classrooms, as well as 25 printable stories. This is the textbook I use to tutor the Storytelling unit at Southern Cross University, Lismore.

Diane Ferlatte http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCzWu7jRvck&feature=related

at the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, TN .

Nancy Wang and Robert Kikuchihttp://www.ethnohtec.org/videos/

Yngojo or ‘Ethnotec’- kinetic storytelling theatre based in San Fransisco. View sample clips from their beautiful video “Fools, Frogs and Folktales” of Asian tales on their website.

Storylab www.storylabx.tumblr.com

A delightful website to sample a variety storytellers who have been recorded on You-Tube. You can see and hear live performances, displaying a variety of styles, usually in live performance situations. Recordings are slightly variable in technical quality, but still worthwhile.

The Moth www.themoth.org

The ‘moth’ alludes to people attracted to stories (like lights). This site includes recordings of 5-12 minute personal stories recorded live. The emphasis is on people telling crafted personal stories about their most exceptional experiences.

 

Storytelling Websites 

Folklore and Mythology, Electronic Texts by D. L. Ashliman, Lots world folktales- very well indexed. http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/folktexts.html

Folklore and Mythology Resources http://www.supersummary.com/folklore-mythology-guide/

Mem Fox “And Do it Yourself” Fantastic step by step ideas for enlivening story reading and also useful for storytelling http://www.memfox.net/reading-magic-and-do-it-like-this/ 

Storyteller Net http://www.storyteller.net/ Stories to read and listen to – plus articles on stories and storytelling.

Karen Chase, Catch the Story Bug: Fantastic resource of story links: http://www.storybug.net/

The Healing Story Alliance For a therapeutic stories and discussions of their applications (FANTASTIC SITE!!) http://www.healingstory.org/

Jackie Baldwin (US) Story Lovers World http://www.story-lovers.com Jackie has a radio show too and a runs the Story Telling Awards competition.

Jeff Gere http://www.jeffgere.com  Talk Story Radio Show podcasts with hours great listening. Also info on Talk Story Festival Hawaii,

Australian Museum Indigenous Australia http://www.dreamtime.net.au/dreaming/storylist.htm (stories in text audio and video format.)

Fractured Fairy Tales http://www.theaterseatstore.com/fractured-fairy-tales (Site suggested by Jake Baranowski).

Recommended Books

Baldwin, Christina. (2005) Storycatcher: Making Sense of Our lives through the Power and Practice of Story, New World Library, Novato.

Beckingham, Adrian. (1989) Stories that Crafted the Earth, Gothic Image Publications, Glastonbury, 2005.

Column, P & Campbell, J (1972) The Complete Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Introduction by Padraic Colum and Commentary by Joseph Campbell. Random House.

Campbell, Joseph. (1993) The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Fontana Press, London. “A brilliant examination through ancient hero myths, of man’s eternal struggle for identity.”

Denning, Stephen. (2001) The Springboard: How Storytelling Ignites Action in Knowledge-Era Organizations, Butterworth-Heinemann.

Hamilton, Martha & Weiss, Mitch. (2005) Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom, Richard. C. Owen Publishers, New York. http://beautyandthebeaststorytellers.com/btn-cts.php

Louv, Richard. (2012) The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age, Alonquin Books of Chapel Hill, New York.

Mellon, Nancy. (1992) Storytelling and the Art of Imagination, Element, Rockport, USA. This is a great one to help with making up stories using the folktale motifs and structures. There may be a newer edition. ISBN 1-85230-339-5 http://www.bodyeloquence.com/

Mellon, Nancy. (2008) Body Eloquence: The Power of  Myth and Story to awaken the Bodies Energies Nancy’s newest book explores how stories resonate with the whole human body. She explores Chinese meridian theory, yogic practices, and the vital links between the human organs, personality development, and storytelling. www.bodyeloquence.com

Niemi, Loren &  Ellis, Elizabeth. (2001) Inviting the Wolf In: Thinking About Difficult Stories, August House, Little Rock.

Pearmain, Elisa. (2006) Once Upon a Time: storytelling to teach character and prevent bullying: Lessons from Multicultural Folk Tales for Grades K-8, Character Development Group, Greensbooro, NC, USA.www.CharacterEducation.com Library of Congress Number: 2007934445 FANTASTIC Resource!!

Perrow, Susan. (2008) Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour, Hawthorn Press, Gloucesteshire, UK.www.hawthornpress.com ISBN 1-85230-339-5 Susan is Australian and has Steiner teaching background. FANTASTIC Resource!! Her website is www.healingthroughstories.com

Pinkola Estes, Clarissa. (1992Women Who Run with Wolves: Contacting the Power of the Wild Woman, Rider, London.

Ragan, Kathleen. (1998) Fearless Girls, wise women and beloved sisters: heroines in folktales from around the world, Bantam Books, New York.

Sawyer, Ruth. (1942) The Way of the Storyteller. A great storyteller shares her rich experience and joy in her art and tells eleven of her best-loves stories, Penguin New York. (Still a classic!)

Sobel, David. (1996) Beyond Ecophobia: Reclaiming the Heart of Nature Education, The Orion Society and The Myrin Institute, Great Barrington.

Starhawk, Baker, D, Hill, A (2000) Circle Round: Raising Children in the Goddess Traditions, Bantam Books, New York.

Wolkstein, Diane and Kramer, Samuel Noah. (1983) Inanna Queen of Heaven and Earth, Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer, Harper and Row, New York.

Zipes, Jack is a prolific academic on folktales. Read anything he has written, but my favourite is

Zipes, Jack. ed,  (1993) The Trials and Tribulations of Red Riding Hood, Routledge, New York. Red Riding Hood tales through history, including the oldest known:’ The Grandmother’s Tale’.

 

Storytelling through Southern Cross University (S.C.U.) 

Storytelling Unit, School of Education, Southern Cross University, Lismore. Course starts October each year.

Jenni is a member of academic staff at SCU where she works with external students who learn storytelling online each Summer session.

You can watch the introductory lecture to Storytelling ENG00355 here, which is offered through the School of Education at Southern Cross University. It is open to enrolments from other faculties and other campuses. The focus is storytelling in a classroom context. The unit was originally written by Susan Perrow, author of many storytelling books, including “Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour”. Dr Karen Hawkins then significantly updated the course with digital content and assessments. We use Hamilton and Weir’s book “Storytelling for Children” and Collins and Cooper “The Power of Story” as texts. I have added a series of short video’s demonstrating storytelling techniques and we also embedded videos from the web- some from labx. It is a basic introduction aimed at educators, though we have had psychology, marketing and law students also. Students create a digital story and then film themselves telling to a small group of children. The course runs from from October to February, during Session 3, which is our Summer.

Stories to read 

Scheherazade.tif

Scheherazade and The Thousand Nights And One Nights

This is a guest post by good friend Teeya Blatt, member of ‘The Byron Circle of Tellers’. She wove this exquisite version for our concert at the live performance night ‘ Tintenbar Upfront’.

To read Teeya’s introduction to storytelling for adults go the blog post. To read more about Scheherazade, read

It is recorded in the chronicles of the things that have been done of time past that
there lived once, in bygone ages and times, a most powerful king, who
reigned of the Islands of India and China. He had two sons, and when he died, he set them
up each in their own dominions, the elder, who’s name, Shehriyar, means ‘king’ or ‘sultan’,
was given the larger part of the kingdom, of course. Kings Shehriyar and his younger
brother, Shahzeman ruled justly over their respective subject, and enjoyed the utmost
prosperity and happiness, for a space of time.

There are many stories about the two brothers which I may tell you another time, but
for now, suffice it to say that a rumour came to the ear of the Sultan Shehriyar, a terrible
rumour that involved his most beloved and wondrously beautiful wife.

He didn’t want to believe it was true, so King Shehriyar arranged to see for himself,
and rather than going to court to attend to his kingdom, he hid one day behind a latticed
window in his bedroom, and looked onto the garden outside. Soon, the gate to the courtyard
opened, and there entered 20 damsels and 20 slaves and among them his own wife, the
Queen. They all came to sit by the fountain, and the girls and the slaves proceeded to disrobe and sat down together. Then the Queen called out, “O Messoud!” and there came to her a
most beautiful black slave, who embraced her and she him, and then they ceased not from
kissing and clipping and clicketing and carousing until the day began to wane.
Even when the courtyard had emptied, in the dusk of twilight, Shehriyar was still at
his window, paralysed and enraged. What he had seen tore away at all that was soft in him.
His heart caved in on itself, became a hard know in the cavity of his chest, and he was filled
instead with a hot lust for vengeance.

He called for his Vizier and had him go to the Queen and behead her and her lover.
The Vizier, of course, asked no questions, simply went to do his masters bidding.
The King meanwhile, went to the harem, and he unsheathed his own sword and in the
rage of his indignation, he slew them all – all the damsels who had caroused alongside his
wife.

That very night, King Shehriyar bid his vizier, “Bring me a maiden suitable to marry!”
And the King went into the maiden, and in the morning he bid his vizier, “Take her away and
behead her!” which the vizier duly did.
This he did again the next night, and the next, and the next.
And the vizier was sore bereft but kept this well hidden, lest it be his head that the
king called for.

The King, the Sultan, ceased not to do thus for three year, till the land was stripped of
maidens, and all the women and mothers and fathers wept and cried out against the king,
cursing; and those that had daughters left fled with them, till at last there remained one day
not a single girl in the city apt for marriage.

And on that day, the king bid his vizier bring a suitable maiden, the vizier nodded his
head, but was very anxious, as there were no marriageable girls left in all the land. Now it so happened that the vizier had two daughters, who he had managed to keep
safe during these troubled years. The elder, Scheherazade, was of great wit, and had read all
the stories of the kingdom, and the neighbouring kingdoms. She knew the histories of kings
past and present, she had memorized the poetry and lore of her land and of lands far off, and
when she saw her father’s troubled demeanour, although she guessed at its reason, she asked
him what was troubling him.

The vizier did not respond, for he did not want to involved his beloved daughter int he
goings on at court, but she pressed him until he told her, and she responded, “Be anxious no
longer, my father, and offer me this night for marriage to the king!” Her father refused and
Scheherazade argued, and the vizier refused, but Scheherazade was adamant, and in the end
he relented, and Scheherazade began preparations for her marriage that night.
Besides all the things that women do to prepare for their wedding night, Scheherazade
took aside her younger sister, Dunyazade, and bid her thus, “My sister, after the king has
come into me and had his fill, and while we are lying in his bed, I bid you to say to me thus,
‘my sister, as we are awake, will you not tell one of your pleasant stories to while away the
watch?’ ” and Dunyazade promised to do just that.

And so came the night, and after the king went into her and had his fill, and while
they were lying in his bed, Dunyazade asked, “My sister, as we are awake, will you not tell
one of your pleasant stories to while away the watch?” and Scheherazade replied, “With all
my heart, if the king give me leave.” And as he was far from sleep, the King said, “Say on.”
And Scheherazade started her stories on the first night.

Here is where it is revealed to us that Scheherezade was a priestess of the psyche
secure in her craft, in her art. That she gave not the best of her tales the opening night, just
yet enough to pique the invalid king’s interest, is one of the subtleties of her craft. She told
her tale, and when Scheherazade saw that the night was becoming light, she stopped off her telling on the edge of a knife, and Dunyazade, her sister exclaimed, “My sister, that was a
most wondrous tale,” and Scheherazade answered, “It is nothing to how the tale ends, and I
will tell you more tomorrow night if the King let me live.” And the King, who wanted to
know the end of the story, said, “Let it be so.”

And on the second night, when the King Shehriyar had gone into her, and had his fill,
and they were lying in his bed, Dunyazade said, “My sister, as we are awake, will you not
complete the story you started last night, to while away the watch?” and Scheherazade
replied, “With all my heart, if the august king give me leave.” And as he was far from sleep,
the King said, “Say on.” And Scheherazade continued her story.

Scheherezade's sister Dunyazad

Scheherezade’s sister Dunyazad

And Scheherazade told until she espied the lightening of the sky and stopped her story
at the edge of a knife, and promised to continue the following night, if the King allowed her
to live. And the King, who was most interested and intrigued, agreed, saying, “Let it be so.”
This happened again on the third night, and the fourth and continued to happen for a
thousand nights and one night. Scheherazade told magical tales, mystical, adventurous. She
told tales of love, burlesque and erotica, she included historical tales, tales of brutality and
bliss, and interspersed to add depth, she even told poems.

The stories included genies and jinns, ghouls, sorcerers, magicians, legendary places,
and sometimes, a character in Scheherazade’s tale told other characters a story of his own,
and that story may have another one told within it, stories within stories within stories,
multilayered, rich and textured.

And in Scheherezade’s tales was depicted the whole range of human experience, from
the comical to the tragic,, the wondrous to mundane, the secular to mystical. In her telling,
nothing was rejected as common or unclean, all classes of people were represented; slave and
king, and courtier and countryman, pietist and free-thinker, ignorant and learned, wise and foolish, moralist and debauchee. In a word – Humanity – wise, obscene, and greater than
judgment.

Her narrative was sometimes poignant, sometimes humorous, but never a sentimental
reading of the human heart, and slowly, slowly was transferred to King Shehriyar’s morbid
intellect little by little (nevermore at a time than a self-righteous tyrant could assimilate), the
wondrousness of the kaleidoscope of life, until in the end, there was left nothing in the world
for him to resist or not to love. And within the stories, he saw his own story in perspective.
The stories, which was Life talking to him, wound its way underneath his self-righteous
indignation and released his heart from its stone prison.

Scheherazade, a master of her art, presented the Universe of story, or rather the
Universe as story. I have heard tell from the wise old storytellers that it is not humans who
tell stories, no no, it is us who are the characters in a large story, it is the story that tells us.
Scheherazade told her tales for one thousand nights and one night, and when she came
to the end of her stories, she had her three sons that she had in the meantime born to the king
brought to the room, and said to him, “My most august king, will you take away the mother
from these your three sons? I beg of you to spare my life.” And the King, whose heart had
been healed, had fallen in love with his wife, her wit and strategy, and he had already long
thought that he would not put her to death.

Thus we see that stories in One Thousand Night and One Night, brought about a death
– of the tyrant, and refreshment as man.
And now, I bid you all a wonderful life of stories and songs.

Note from Teeya: I have borrowed much from Joseph Campbell’s (1952) editing of the Thousand Nights and One
Night in The Viking Press version of this collection, The Portable Arabian Nights.

Teeya Blatt is co-host of the Heart of the Story on 99.9 BAY FM Radio with Annie Bryant.

Teeya is also creator and founder of “From Heroes Into Men: A Boy to Manhood Program for Communities”.
She has a website here.

baby-with-blue-eyesThe Blue Coat 
A Jewish folktale – closely based on the retelling by Hugh Lupton and adapted by Jenni Cargill-Strong. LISTEN and/or BUY here OR WATCH here.
Long ago in a cold country in Europe- a country where you need a very warm coat in the chilly months, a family had a little baby boy.
The grandfather of the baby was a tailor- someone who makes clothes for a living. He bought some beautiful warm blue cloth and he stitched a big cosy baby’s blanket for his grandson. With every stitch, the grandfather put his love into the blanket. When that baby boy was wrapped in that blanket he felt like he was being hugged, even when he was lying alone in his cot.
As the little boy grew, he learned to crawl and then toddle and then walk and wherever he went he would drag that beautiful blue blanket with him.
One day, his mother shook her head and waggled her finger and she said
“Dear, dear, dear, that baby’s blanket is nearly worn out!
We’d better get it fixed.”
So they took it back to granddad.
He lay it on the table,
got out his best scissors,
cut out the best parts and fitted them together,
piecing one part to another part,
until he had made him a beautiful blue coat!
————————————————————–
Oh that boy, he loved that blue coat!
He wore it in the sunshine, he wore it in the rain.
He wore it in the wind and he wore it in the snow.
He ran and jumped and skipped and twirled in it.
He splashed through the puddles and he rolled in the mud.
Until one day… his mother she shook her head and she waggled her finger and she said,
‘Dear, dear, dear. That blue coat is nearly worn out, we’d better get it fixed.”
So they took it back to granddad.
He lay it on the table,
got out his best scissors,
cut out the best parts and fitted them together,
piecing one part to another part,
until he had made him a beautiful
waistcoat!
————————————————————–
Repeat the part between the lines replacing coat with waistcoat,
hat; bow-tie; button!
Until he had made him a beautiful story- a story of The Blue Coat and
that boy told it to his friends and family…who told it to their friends and family, who told it to me.

Now I’ve just told that story to you, so now you can tell it to your friends and family-

the story of ‘The Blue Coat’.

Listen and/or buy here or watch here.

The Fairy at the Top of of the Christmas Tree

Long ago in the lands we now call Europe, before Santa Claus and even before baby Jesus, no-one celebrated Christmas yet. What people did celebrate was Mid-Winter’s Eve. Children got especially excited because they might meet the Queen of the Fairy- and even have a wish granted! Back in those olden days, there were many great forests and only a few human tribes. Deep in those forests lived the fairies. Now fairies love eating, they love dressing up, they love to sing and dance and they love to have parties. For each season and each time the seasons changed, they would have a big party.  But the party for Mid-Winter was one of the biggest.

As you have probably noticed, when Winter comes, the days get shorter and the nights get longer. But mid-Winter’s Eve is the exact time when the days get longer and the nights get shorter.  So the people and the fairies celebrated. Now the fairies, at least most of them, quite liked children because they were playful and funny.  So they would invite all the children of all the human clans and tribes to their mid-Winters Ball in the middle of the forest. The children dressed in their warmest clothes and thought a lot about the wish they would make.  This sometimes caused a lot of sighing, jiggling and twiddling of hair. The Queen of the Fairies knew that human children would get lost in the dark or trip over tangled roots and vines. So she asked the spiders to weave their webs from the outside of the forest in to the center, where the Queen sat on her magnificent, carved wooden throne. Then with a graceful wave of her wand she would turn the webs into threads of silver that sparkled under moonlight and starlight.

The children waiting at the edge of the forest with their parents knew then that they could make their way in. The older children helped the younger children. They waited as patiently as they could for their turn to meet the Queen. Some children took little presents for the Queen- even though they didn’t have to. Older children took little things they had made by hand during the long, dark Winter nights. Then as each child made it to the throne they would whisper a wish in the ear of the fairy. If she thought it was a good wish she would use her magic to help it come true.

Then the children were invited to stay for the party. The fairies would light a big bonfire. They put on a feast of delectable treats- pastries and cakes and sweet ambrosia drinks. After the feast, the musician and singers would begin. They made the kind of music that makes your heart sing. The children listened to the fairy harp and sweet singing at first and joined in when the dance music started. When it was time for the children to go home, the fairies would wave them goodbye. As the parents and other adults waited at the edge of the forest, they watched the flickering golden torches as the children made their way back out along the silvery webs.

They were remembering what it had been like back when they were children and they had gone to the fairies party. So that is why we bring a tree into our houses. Some part of us remembers those olden days and those wonderful Mid-Winter’s Balls. We bring a tree inside to represent the forest, we wrap silver or gold tinsel around the tree to remind us of the silver spiders’ webs,  flashing lights to remind us of the flickering golden torches, presents under the tree to remind us of the gifts of the fairy and a fairy on the top to remind us of the Queen of the fairies and those parties. Nowadays there are grown-ups who like to party and dance the night away in forests wearing fairy wings.They wear  their hair in bright colours or dreadlocks and sometimes wear fairy wings and they dance all  night long.   How do you visualise the Queen of the Fairies?

So when you put your tree out this year ready for mid-Winter -or mid-Summer here in the southern part of the Earth, remember to put a little food and drink for the fairy and remember to be on your best behaviour. You wouldn’t want to wake up as a frog on Christmas Day would you?

Listen to my retelling for FREE via Soundcloud or read a little more about the woman who gave me this story at my blog.

NB:  Feel free to read or tell it to your family- or create YOUR own version and let me know. Folk tales are dynamic and grow better with each retelling. Write a comment here or share your ideas on my FB storytree page. Happy Solstice!

 

The Perfect Heart

by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown

The Perfect Heart

Adapted by Jenni Cargill-Strong

There was once a place where all the people carried their hearts around in their hands. One young man boasted that he had the most perfect, beautiful heart of all. His heart certainly looked perfect with not a single flaw.

One day as a crowd gathered to admire his heart, a little girl said, “It is perfect, but it is not beautiful. You should see my grandma’s heart. It’s reeeaaaally beautiful!” The young man was not happy with the little girl, but he followed her to her grandma’s house. “Grandma could you please show this man your heart?”

The old lady looked calmly into the young man’s eyes. He began to feel like he was in an ancient forest. Then she opened her hands to reveal the ugliest heart he had ever seen. It was covered in scars that had lumpy edges. It had staples and holes in it.

“You’ve got to be joking!”, snorted the young man. “How could THIS be more beautiful than MY perfect heart?!”

“The reason there are so many marks on it” the little girl explained, ”is that whenever grandma loves someone, she gives them a piece of her heart. When they give her a piece of theirs in return, it never fits quite right so it makes a lumpy edge. See, here is my piece. Sometimes she gives a piece of her heart to someone who doesn’t give a piece in return and that is what the holes are from. Grandma says ‘Love is a risk.’ That is why I think my grandma’s heart is more beautiful. When I grow up, I want mine to be just like hers.”

The cover of my repurposed book

The young man grew quiet. The old woman pulled off a piece of her heart and offered it gently to the young man. ✪

That is most of the story of ‘The Perfect Heart’. 

What do you think happened next? Write your ending in the comments section- it can be as long or brief as you like! Then if you like, you could google the story and see how it usually ends. As a sometimes-English teacher I’d love to try this as a story starter with students. Read some contributed endings at my blog here.

Three fables for the times

 Told by Jenni at “March in March, Byron Bay” 

Watch the video of this performance here.

I want to offer some soul food in the form of stories, because it is easy to feel despairing in these challenging times. I am going to tell you three 1 minute fables, which I find helpful. Then I’ll weave them together at the end.

Jenni telling tales at March in March1. The Woman who Shouted

There once was a large city where the motto of the people seemed to be “What’s mine is mine  and what’s yours is mine.” It was like a city of two year olds. (Not my lovely two year old or  yours naturally- someone else’s two year old!) They were not only greedy, they were also cruel.

In all that large city, there was only one kind adult: an old woman who wandered the streets, shouting and pleading for the people to change their ways.

At first a few people listened. But after a while they decided she was just a mad old woman, so they stopped listening to her and went back to being just as greedy and cruel as ever. Nevertheless, that old woman kept walking the streets shouting and begging people to be kinder. One day a small boy ran up to the old crone and tugged on her skirt.

‘Excuse me,’ said the boy, in a gentle voice. ‘Haven’t you noticed, no-one’s listening to you?’

‘Yes, sweetheart, I know,” she replied and chuckled softly.

“Then, why do you keep shouting?” asked the boy.

“If I still shout my dear, it’s not so I can change them, it is so they don’t change me.”

 

[Adapted by Jenni from ‘The Sage of Sodom’, found at Donna Jacobs Sife’s site http://www.donnajacobsife.com/. Thanks to colleague Kate Laurence who reminded me about this tale www.katelawrence.com.au. ]

2. Elephant and Hummingbird (A Chinese folktale)

Elephant was walking along the jungle path, when she came across Hummingbird lying flat on her back with her dainty short legs stretched up into the air.

“Hummingbird, what are you doing lying down there on the ground? I could have stepped on you! Are you hurt?”

“No, Elephant, I’m not hurt. I heard that the sky is falling and I am ready to catch it with my feet.”

“Hummingbird, are you mad?” snorted Elephant. “Firstly, the sky can’t fall. Secondly, even if it did, how would your short, puny legs make any difference?”

“Elephant!” said Hummingbird, keeping her feet pushed up towards the sky, “I am doing what I can! When are you going to join me and do what you can do?!”

3. Good Luck, Bad Luck! (A Chinese folktale)

A farmer had an old horse to till his fields. But one day, that horse ran off into the hills. All the neighbours sympathized. “What bad luck,” they said.

The farmer said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later, the old horse returned from the hills with a herd of wild horses. This time the neighbours clapped the farmer on the back saying, “Oh, what good luck!”

He said, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

The following day, as the farmer’s son was trying to tame one of those wild horses, he was thrown off and his leg was badly broken in the fall. Everyone gathered and shook their head sadly, “Oh what terrible luck.”

But the farmer said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and they took away every able-bodied young man they found to fight in the Emperor’s latest war. When they saw the farmer’s son with his badly broken leg, they couldn’t take him. Now was that good luck or bad luck?

My prayer is that the ‘good luck’ or silver lining hidden within this draconian shift to the right in our country, is that it is catalysing this powerful grassroots movement. Whether we feel discouraged and whether we think we can win or not, like the old woman, we have to fight for what we believe in anyway. Right now we may feel like large group of hummingbirds, but if we persist, we could grow this movement until we are a stampede of elephants- a non-violent stampede of elephants of course!

 

                                          

 

More great folktales to read can be found at:

Donna Jacobs Sife website http://www.donnajacobsife.com/samples-of-original-stories/

D. L. Ashliman World folktales– well indexed. http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/folktexts.html

Storyteller Net Stories to read and listen to – plus articles on stories and storytelling  http://www.storyteller.net/

Karen Chase, Catch the Story Bug: Fantastic resource of story links: http://www.storybug.net/

The Healing Story Alliance For therapeutic stories and discussions of their applications. http://www.healingstory.org/ Read   text of Jenni’s story, ‘Shelley and Rustle’ there as well as an article about the story.

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