Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Chants and songs’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s in a story?

Saturday, July 15th, 2017

What’s in a story? Things that are normally hidden? Things of remarkable beauty? Keys to the future? One of my main occupations at present is writing a book about doing stories  with Early Years children. It’s a subject I’ve thought about a lot about over the years because I’ve done so much of it, not only with children themselves but with their teachers and parents too.  Writing the book has been bringing back to my mind all kinds of little tales. Here are three.

Story One:

This story was reported to me by my storyteller friend, Debbie Guneratne. It’s about an incident that occurred to her some time ago during a period when she was in Australia, working in a hospital for children.

One day, she started telling a little boy in the hospital the story of The Yellow Blob. Debbie had heard this particular tale (it’s one I created) on a storytelling course I’d been running. The little boy was a child who didn’t speak and his attention span was very poor. So Debbie was delighted to see that he kept listening intently as he heard how the Yellow Blob lived in an entirely yellow world until one day when he climbed to the top of a yellow hill and saw a blue lake below.

Suddenly at this point of the story, and much to Debbie’s regret, a nurse turned up to take the little boy for some treatment he was due to receive. Debbie was naturally very sorry he hadn’t been able to stay to hear the end of the story. Come the end of the day, however, Debbie was on her way out of the hospital when she heard a voice calling her name. Turning round, she saw the nurse hand in hand with that same little boy standing at the top of the hospital steps.

‘Debbie, stop,’ the nurse called out. ‘He wants to hear the end of the story.’ (more…)

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 ~ Time of contrasts

Saturday, December 17th, 2016

EightIt’s a time of contrasts. On the one hand is the thought of coming days of peace and enjoyment. On the other, my mind is abuzz, thinking not only of things that have to be done but also about people who are in trouble, people fleeing bombardment, who haven’t got a home to be at home in, who haven’t got enough to eat, who haven’t got any money to buy things  – people like the woman I met on the street the other day. When she asked for some money for something to eat, I asked what she was hoping to get. ‘Anything,’ she said. ‘You know you can get a packet of crisps for 20p. Sometimes I get four packets. They make me feel full for the whole day.’

Then I had to start thinking about this week’s posting. What could I possibly write about? What my mind settled on – needs must! – is something merry and participative for children, namely the Christmas chant I created some years ago. It’s based on Going On A Bear Hunt, the traditional chant I’m sure you all know. Just change the words a bit and this is how my Christmas chant turns out: 

Going to See Father Christmas: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Encapsulating honeysuckle

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

P1070435I wish I could encapsulate the honeysuckle growing in the next street from me and somehow include it in this blog so you could smell it as you read. Maybe some day that’ll become possible. Meantime Iron-Age forts have been on my mind.

Why Iron-Age forts? Because next Monday I’m doing some storytelling training for guides at Castell Henllys, the Iron-Age fort in North Pembrokeshire. It’s the only such place which today has roundhouses on the exact site of the ones that were there back then.

The length of time:

What strikes me, thinking about that long-ago time is the very length of the time from then to now. And how can you possibly get that across? Almost as hard as electronically encapsulating the honeysuckle, the challenge reminds me of how I once had to try to make a class of 10-year old Stevenage children conscious of Ancient Egypt at the same time as taking into account their other current project – Ourselves Now.

Miraculously – for the results were fantastic – I got the idea of giving the children some sense of the passage of time by coming up with memories from each year of their lives and then creating hieroglyphs to represent them like the hieroglyphs from Ancient Egypt they’d already been learning about. This led on to them making memory charts and this then led to them telling their personal stories and deciding (this was entirely their own idea!) to punctuate each of the 10 years for which they had stories with the sound of a gong.

What the Iron-Age had: (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Duck Confit

Saturday, March 21st, 2015

P1070169Ducks in Brockwell Park this week made me laugh. I love it when they go tail up, head down, orange legs flapping like mad. Then when the eclipse was occurring this Friday morning, I thought about Earth’s dependence on the Sun. Although only a small darkening happened, the birds in the garden went quiet and it felt strangely cold.

After the eclipse, I found myself plunged – this upcoming Blog in mind, no doubt –  into the characteristic mode of the storyteller. Down inside, you start digesting and sorting all kinds of stuff that may have gone into your mind in the past. Then suddenly up come findings – stories, poems, odd bits of memory. And the magic is that, somehow, the findings are all linked in some way.

So here are three items from my cosmic soup of yesterday morning accompanied by two photos of those Brockwell Park ducks. I hope you enjoy the mixture and see the links between the items. For me as a storyteller, they bring the additional pleasure of realising that, between them, they have something to offer for all ages.  

1. Five Little Ducks (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Moon tales in verse

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

Moon tree compress 2You must have seen that enormous perigee moon that glowed so brightly down at us a week or two back. The perigee comes when the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth and this recent perigee moon made me think about the moon stories and poems I know. For me, it’s always worked well to add poems into the mix when I’m storytelling. So this week, here are two moon poems I’ve often brought out. The first (origins unknown) was told me ages ago by a friend. It’s an extremely daft little verse and I’ve been known to quote it, as it were out of the blue, to anyone I happen to be with on any brightly moon-lit night. Because it’s so daft, it must be uttered with full romantic zest up to and including the very silly end. I hope it amuses your friends.

Moon, oh moon with thy beautiful face
Who encloses us all in thy gentle embrace,
Your lovely face is oft in my mind
But when, ah oh when, shall I see thy behind?

 

My second moon poem, Silver, was composed by Walter de la Mare. It’s full of such delicate imagery that many times I’ve felt inspired to sing it to a setting I made. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Gibberish

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Summer holidays coming up has reminded me of several alphabet games we used to play as kids – in the car coming back from the beach, in the caravan before going to sleep. It feels like a good idea to share them. You may be able to use them too.

Going Away:  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Eggy Tale

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

 

Happy Easter – and here’s my Easter gift to you: a Russian rhyming story about an egg. I put it into this blog for Easter 2012 but I think it’s worth repeating (with a repeating photograph too).

The story:

Bunny and hornIn grandmother’s shed
Lived a speckled hen.
On the day of my story, it laid an egg.
The egg rolled down
From shelf to shelf
Until in the end it found itself
In a little keg made of aspen wood
In a dusty corner where the donkey stood.
A mouse ran by too near the keg,
Wiggled his tail, and broke the egg!
At this great catastrophe
The farmyard donkey began to cry,
The fat old pig let out a sigh,
A startled chicken rose to fly;
The gateposts shrieked,
Bunny and hornAll doors creaked,
The milk-churn leaked;
And the priest’s daughter,
The little girl in my story,
Carrying water
Broke her bucket.

All in a dither
She came to her mother
And said:
Mother, mother, have you heard the news?
In grandmother’s yard
Lives a speckled hen.
Today, she laid an egg;
The egg rolled down
Bunny and hornFrom shelf to shelf
Until in the end it found itself
In a little keg made of aspen wood
In the dusty corner where the donkey stood.
A mouse ran by too near the keg,
Wiggled his tail, and broke the egg!
At this great catastrophe
The little donkey began to cry,
The fat old pig let out a sigh,
A startled chicken rose to fly;
The gateposts shrieked,
All doors creaked,
The milk-churn leaked;
And I, the priest’s daughter,
The little girl in this story,
Bunny and hornCarrying water,
Broke my bucket.

When she heard this story,
The wife of the priest
Dropped her yeast
And seeing her dough fall to the floor
She headed straight
Through the churchyard gate
And said:

Husband, husband, have you heard the news?
In grandmother’s shed
Lives a speckled hen.
Today, she laid an egg;
The egg rolled down
Bunny and hornFrom shelf to shelf
Until in the end it found itself
In a little keg made of aspen wood
In the dusty corner where the donkey stood.
A mouse ran by too near the keg,
Wiggled his tail, and broke the egg!
At this great catastrophe
The little donkey
Began to cry,
The fat old pig let out a sigh,
A startled chicken rose to fly
The gateposts shrieked,
All doors creaked,
The milk-churn leaked;
And our dear daughter,
Bunny and hornThe little girl in this story,
Carrying water,
Broke her bucket.
And I, your wife,
Dropped my dough to the floor!

When he heard all this,
The holy priest with a terrible look
Tore the pages out of his book
And scattered them on the floor.
And do you know what happened then?
The wind came and blew the pages across the farmyard into the river
And the river-waters carried them off
And that’s why I can’t tell you any more of the story.

Happy Easter!

Storytelling Starters – Recycling

Saturday, March 9th, 2013

Recycling has to happen quite often when you’re a storyteller. Stories have to be re-made, themes and ideas adapted to the present need. This is partly because motifs in stories are, by nature, constantly recycling themselves, reappearing in some other similar form, maybe in a new story you’re making. Partly, too, it’s because you’d never have enough time or energy or imagination to make everything completely new every time.

So in Session 2 of my parents’ storytelling course at Kensington Palace this week, some recycling had to go on.

Item 1: name game

First there was another name game. We’d had one last week but this week a few new parents had joined. It was important to re-establish the friendly, inclusive atmosphere we’d created in Session 1. This week’s name game was one I’ve used many dozens of times before. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Wintering Out 4

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Red is for Father Christmas’s costume. Red is for berries and for robin redbreast. And red is for my photos this week. Red stands out against grey skies and fresh snow. And red is for Red Internacional de Cuentacuentos, the international storytelling network which this week posted me a fascinating blog all about Mo Yan, the Chinese storyteller who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature 2012. Why it engaged me so much is that MoYan thinks of himself first and foremost as a storyteller.

‘I am a storyteller’

‘I am a storyteller. It is telling stories that earned me the prize,’ Mo Yan said in his speech to the Stockholm Academy when he was awarded the prize. He described in detail how his storytelling began. One day, as a child, he sneaked off to listen to a storyteller who came to his local marketplace. His mother was unhappy with him for forgetting his chores. ‘But that night, while she was stitching padded clothes for us under the weak light of a kerosene lamp, I couldn’t keep from retelling stories I’d heard that day. She listened impatiently at first, since in her eyes professional storytellers were smooth-talking men in a dubious profession. Nothing good ever came out of their mouths. But slowly she was dragged into my retold stories, and from that day on, she never gave me chores on market day …’

As repayment for his mother’s kindness and a way to demonstrate his memory, Mo Yan would retell the storyteller’s stories for her in vivid detail. And it wasn’t long before he began to embellish them and introduce other people’s stories too. And that was that: he never stopped. It makes a wonderful irony of his name which, translated, means ‘Don’t Speak.’

You can read Mo Yan’s full speech on the official website of the Nobel Prize:  When you get to the site, click on Literature Prize, Mo Yan and go to Nobel Lecture. It gives a real insight into the mind and life of a storyteller and, for me personally, makes me think yet again of the Chinese myth of the First Storyteller. This has been absolutely central to my own storytelling because it is about the way storytellers finds inspiration in the people and the world around them.

A journey for the imagination

Back to Father Christmas – that’s a journey for the imagination. This week, I’m repeating from last year my Going To See Father Christmas chant. This is an excellent way of taking children on an imaginary journey and finding what they’re looking for, then bringing them back home with the ability to think about that journey again and again. (more…)