Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘All ages’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Easter Egg

Saturday, April 15th, 2017

What follows is a rhythmic, chant-like story from Russia which I came across in one of my box-files this week while riffling through them with Easter weekend in mind. It’s been in this blog before on two different occasions but I think it’s worth repeating. I can’t now remember where I found the tale. I do remember telling it – and with lots of accompanying sounds –  in storytelling sessions with children I once did at Somerset House to accompany a fabulous exhibition of Russian art and artefacts that was being held there. The exhibition included some of the gorgeously jewelled eggs made for a number of Russian tsars between 1885 and 1917 by Russian jeweller, Carl Faberge. (Sorry can’t get my computer to do the accent on this name.) Anyway, the egg  in my story is more mundane. But it makes a good tale.

The Easter Egg: a Russian tale

This is a story about a little Russian girl who lived with her father and mother right next to her grandmother’s farm. This little girl would often help her granny by feeding the animals or collecting the new-laid eggs. One day, just before Easter, her mother was making bread in the kitchen while her father, who was the local priest, was in the church preparing his Easter service.

Then this happened. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Kith and kin

Saturday, April 8th, 2017

Friends can be a great comfort in times of sadness. So can an awareness of nature, especially in a Spring as mild and lovely as this. The visit of two friends from New Zealand who came to stay this week made me fetch out a newspaper story I’d kept from last Friday. The story was from New Zealand. Its stirring headline had said, River is awarded same legal rights as a person.

Whanganui_River[1]The River: Te Awa Tupua

For a very long time, according to the newspaper story, the Maori tribe of Whanganui in the North Island has fought for the recognition of their river, Te Awa Tupua. The court case that ensued has finally ended with the granting of the same recognition to their river as to a human ancestor.  Thus, if someone now abuses or harms the river, it would be considered by the law as equivalent to harming the tribe. This judgement is of great importance in relation to such matters as water pollution. The wellbeing of the river has now been officially linked to the wellbeing of the people.

Wow! If only such a ruling could be extended to all of the world’s natural resources. It put me in mind of a Maori story which has long stayed in my mind. I believe it was my friend and colleague, Karen Tovell (Karen is that right?) who introduced me to it. It’s a story about a tree and it felt specially relevant to me on Wednesday morning this week when I woke to the rasping sound of a chain-saw somewhere in the gardens behind us. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Mind as Hold-all

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

21993900-oriental-umbrella-isolated[1]Links have been a major theme in this blog over recent weeks. And by links I mean the kinds of associations that make themselves felt between stories  and things that crop up in real life. But as I settled to think about this week’s posting, I began feeling very aware that, so much of the time, we have to simultaneously hold in our minds all kinds of things which have no apparent connection. Maybe a small link pops up between some of them, maybe no link at all. Yet with or without threads to connect them, we still have to keep these diverse things in mind. Namely, mind as hold-all.

A 100th birthday:

This week, for instance, my mind was full of my friend Ella who, this Wednesday, reached the grand age of 100. On her actual birthday, she hosted a party for about 60 friends and I know we all felt full of admiration as she stayed standing to receive her guests and when it came time to cut her cake, walked across to it without any help of a stick. Ella’s memory and pleasure in life are intact. What Paul and I had made to give her was a Dear Ella book, a small recognition of the many memories of times past and present which she has shared with us. 

Umbrellas:

But meantime I’d  also had to get serious about umbrellas. This was because, this coming Monday I’ll be doing a storytelling day in a London school where their  Arts Week is going to centre on the painting by Renoir known as The Umbrellas. My only regret about the booking is that, since I’ll be there at the very start of the week, I won’t learn what the children will have made of the theme by the end of it. But never mind. What stories to tell has made an interesting challenge. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The Story Stone

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Stone Crop 1Funny that. Whenever anyone has asked me what I’d try and save if my house was burning down, I’ve always replied, ‘My stones.’ In all shapes and sizes and colours, I have so many of them, picked up and brought home from walks over beaches. Yet on reflection, that’s a daft thing to say. If anything was to survive a fire, surely my many pebbles would be the things to do it.

Walking across a favourite Pembrokeshire beach on one of the brighter days this week, I started thinking about stones and pebbles all over again. Heart of stone, stone cold sober … stones are usually associated with coldness. Yet when you handle a pebble, it’s more likely to be warmth that you feel. Besides, the individuality of pebbles – size, shape, colour – warms your imagination. It’s  why I’ve often taken a bag of them on a storytelling visit to a school. For when you look at children looking at pebbles, it’s often as if they’ve never previously seen such things. Quite probably, many haven’t. Given the chance, they tend to look at them with enormous care, noticing their individual features – for sometimes a stone can look like a face, as if it has eyes to look back at you with. Or sometimes it may have cracks or holes that make it look like living things might hide inside it.

Besides, it’s rather nice to imagine that a stone can be alive, can even be hungry and have plenty to say. It’s why I’ve always liked telling children the following story which, as I recall, comes from South America.

The story stone: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Short and Sharp

Saturday, January 28th, 2017

P1050194A Long Run in Short Shorts has been getting some very nice things said about it. An old friend from University days made me laugh with her comment:

“You manage the shortness very impressively.”

To encourage you to get hold of the book – and there’s plenty of copies left – here are some comments that arrived from people in the storytelling world:

“I’m savouring each story. It’s rather like unwrapping another chocolate – I’ll just have one more…”
Dr Hilary Minns, lecturer and storyteller, Warwick University

“These written versions of your personal stories have also challenged me to stand by the stories I tell, because of what they mean to me … their values are part of me.”
Meg Philp, professional storyteller, Brisbane, Australia

“Each story has made so many pictures and provoked memories of my own.”
Jean Edmiston, professional storyteller, Scotland

Such comments are enough to warm anyone’s heart – even when, this week, it has been so cold. In keeping with the weather here in London, here are two very short, sharp stories. I think I remember that the first one comes from North America (which, of course, is in all of our conversations right now): (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Voices Beyond Division

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

cofThe concert I went to on Thursday evening opened with a story – one of those timeless types of stories with an underlying meaning. The concert was  in St James’ Church, Piccadilly and filled with parents and supporters of all the young people taking part. It was appropriately named Voices Beyond Division. The aim was to proclaim the need and desire for peace in the Middle East.

I can’t retell the story fully because it contained four words I don’t know from four of the languages of the Middle East. Essentially, though, this is it: 

A bunch of grapes

Four people who’d found themselves travelling together came to a market in a busy town. Between them they had a little money but no shared language and, faced with the market, each said what he’d most like from the market to eat, naming what he wanted in his own language. But what if their money did not stretch to four different things? Soon they started to squabble, each determined to have what he wanted.

Then another man came along. Hearing what each of the travellers wanted, he stopped their squabbling by saying he’d go and buy it for them. There’d be enough money, he assured them. So he went into the market and when he returned he had with him a huge bunch of grapes. For that is exactly what each man had wanted. They’d used four different words to name it but what they’d all asked for was grapes. 

Same thing: four different languages. And as the storyteller put it, the message of this story can be applied more deeply. Often what we want is the same thing though we may say it differently depending on our language. Bringing together people of different languages and faiths, this particular concert was all about a shared desire for peace.

Voices Beyond Division (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Health and Hope

Saturday, December 24th, 2016

P1080475 

Dear friends, this is to wish you a Happy Christmas and a healthy and hopeful New Year. The photo above was taken this week on Whitesands Beach in North Pembrokeshire. The two children in it are standing on a rock which I’ve been seeing since my own childhood. Last year, a storm had scoured out so much sand from the beach that we saw how huge the rock is when you can see all of it.  We saw the very bottom of it. By now, it is just that smallish hump of stone again. I like to think that Dewi Sant, the Patron Saint of Wales, must have seen this rock too. When I think about him, I like to remember that, at the end of his life, he told his friends to remember to do the little things. What he meant, I think, was to remember the kindnesses we can all do. This feels like an important message to us all amid the upheavals and horrors of our world today. I pass it on with my best wishes and love. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Taking a risk

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

apple-star[1]I took a bit of a risk on Thursday evening. We were giving the second in our Enchantment series of Songs and Stories concerts at Pepper’s in Fishguard. This was Winter Enchantment. During the second half, I was going to do two readings – one from A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, the second the hilarious Twelve Thank-You Notes of Christmas, originally written by I’ve no idea who.

But in the first half, I’d decided to tell three short stories. The third was Baboushka, the poignant story of Russia’s Mother Christmas. (Put Baboushka into the Search box on the left of this blog; you’ll come up with my posting for December 17, 2011).  The second story was The Pointing Finger which I recounted here a few weeks ago on November 5, 2016.  The first was the story I call Star Apple.

Star Apple was a risk because I think of it as a story for children. But this was an audience of adults. Granted, I’ve told it at this time of the year to any number of teachers’ or parents’ workshops. ‘It’s a great story to tell to children,’ I say. ‘It’s easy to remember. It has the great advantage that it needs a prop (always a help because it gives you something to focus on). Besides it is about a star – and that is very seasonal as we think about Christmas.’

Why I decided to take a risk on it at Winter Enchantment is that the story is simple and magical and I thought some of my audience might be inspired to retell it at family gatherings over Christmas. Why not be ready with a story to entertain whoever is present? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Dear as Salt

Saturday, November 19th, 2016

P1080434Thursday 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 what devastating effects would follow from what the youngest of them said.

Given the harsh immediacy of those early scenes, I suppose it was odd but also inevitable given the way the human brain works (or perhaps it’s just storytellers or maybe just me!) that, during them and later, a story I used to tell was hovering somewhere in my brain. The following morning, I looked it up.

Dear as Salt is a story from Bologna. It appears in Italian Folktales, the wonderful collection made by Italo Calvino.  As exhilaratingly daft as Lear is tragic, it’s a story I used sometimes to tell during the years when I was storytelling at Somerset House in London. In times long past, Somerset House was where the Salt Office was housed. So in my programmes of stories of the place itself, I usually included one or other story of salt. Hence Dear as Salt which, like King Lear, also begins with a king asking his three daughters to tell him how much they love him. In the Shakespeare play, the results are devastating. And in Dear as Salt? Well let me briefly tell you the story.

Dear as Salt: an Italian folktale

A king challenged his daughters: ‘ You don’t love me!’ The eldest said, ‘I do. You’re as dear to me as bread.’ The middle one replied, ‘You’re as dear as wine.’ The youngest said, ‘As dear as salt.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The power of perfume

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

P1080432This week on an afternoon walk, I passed the two bushes in my photos. The first is lavender, the second I’m not sure of. But from each, a beautiful perfume came out. Each made me think. ‘If only I could somehow encode that perfume and send it out on my blog this week.’ Might that ever be possible? Perhaps – but I’m sure it wouldn’t be as good as the real thing.

Then I started to wonder. ‘Do I know any stories where perfume is important?’ The question made a good accompaniment to my walk as it started to rain.

Perfume from India:

First I thought about the story of Ganesh, the Hindu god. When his mother Parvati made him, her husband Shiva was away and she was lying in her bath, scraping off the soaps and creams she’d  applied to her body. From the little ball she rolled them into, she began to mould a little boy. The little boy quickly became alive and immediately began to grow. By the time his father returned, the boy was guarding the door of the bath-house. Of course, his father did not know who he was and, angry at seeing an intruder claiming to be Parvati’s protector, he summarily cut off the boy’s head.

And the rest – how the boy then gained his elephant head and became the much-honoured Ganesh –  is, according to your taste, a matter of religion, myth or story. There’s nothing specifically about perfume in it. But I reckon that, as Ganesh is the god that helps people with their problems, he is undoubtedly perfumed with kindness. (more…)