Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Folktales’ Category

Storytelling Starters ~ Marking the day

Saturday, February 29th, 2020

At least it’s not raining on this extra Leap Day – at least not yet. Tomorrow is St David’s Day and, in memory, that was always a day of celebration when, at school, we girls all wore a daffodil pinned to our jackets and the boys wore leeks (which they’d diligently chew almost to nothing over the course of the day).

To celebrate St David’s Day every year in St David’s, an Eisteddfod is held in the City Hall. Eistedd in Welsh means sitting and fod (mutated here from bod) means being. So yesterday, two days in advance of the day itself, there we were, Paul and me, sitting in St David’s City Hall as two of the hall-full of people ready to participate in a whole day of competitions of many kinds, among them reciting and dancing and singing alone or in groups. Paul and I won a number of prizes – alas, no firsts – and so came home with a handful of little prize-bags made from the beautiful woollen cloth donated by Tregwynt Woollen Mill.

The tradition:

Evidently, the first known Eisteddfod took place in Cardigan in 1176 under the aegis of the Lord Rhys. It’s a tradition that has persisted all over Wales, though not necessarily on St David’s Day. For many, many youngsters it becomes the route to a future in musical performance or, since prose and poetry competitions are usually included – literary success. Bryn Terfel is just one of the many performers who rose to success in this way. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ What’s new?

Saturday, February 15th, 2020

The Three Bears is so familiar to me as a children’s story that I felt quite delighted when I was recently asked to do a staff training workshop at a London nursery called Les Trois Oursons. It made me think about children’s stories as they are told in languages other than English.

On Thursday when I went to do the training, I found myself surrounded by a wide diversity of Nursery staff including French, Ghanaian and Chinese. We had a grand time (and, for me, it felt like getting back to normal, this being the first such workshop I’d done for a while following  my period of ill-health).  First, I got us doing a number of simple rhymes and chants together, foremost among them Little Bear on the Long Road and Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle. Then I told the folk story of The Tiger and the Mouse and got the workshopees (new word?) retelling it to each other in whatever language they liked.

After that, one of the things  I appreciated most was the comments that were made about storytelling as the people in the workshop had experienced it (or not) when they were children. For one Chinese woman, there’d been no storytelling at all and no story books either. But for several who’d grown up in West Africa, there’d been the regular experience of gathering in the open air and at night to listen to stories being told, usually with great drama. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ That tree is ours.

Saturday, December 7th, 2019

Making lists, I thought, would be my subject here today. For there have been too many lists in my life of late. Jobs to do round the house. Christmas presents to be bought. People to whom to send emails about my new book, The Uses of ‘a’.

But early this morning, lying in bed awake and feeling overwhelmed by my lists, my mind turned instead to trees. I think this was due to a visit yesterday from storyteller friend, Helen East. As we sat in the kitchen drinking Lemon and Ginger tea, Helen began talking about  the time that she’d spent in Kerala a few years ago. Then she told us a Kerala story, a terrific story about the kindness of a tree. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Oh Moon!

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

The recent anniversary of man’s first landing on the moon must be the reason why, of late, I’ve made an extra special point of looking up at the moon when it’s full. It brings to mind an array of moon memories.

For instance, I think about the friend in Wales who, long ago, was given the nickname, Moon – partly, no doubt, because his first name begins with M but also, surely, because of the roundness of his face and the companionable way he smiles.

A little moon ditty:

And then again, seeing a full moon in the sky gets me recalling the little verse a friend once taught me. It’s especially good for retelling because of the expressiveness of voice it invites:  (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Hair

Saturday, August 31st, 2019

If you cut your hair, I’ll cut you out of my will.’ I was often in receipt of this threat or promise while I was a child. It was my Aunty Mali who’d say it. Not really an aunt but a family friend, she became a powerful influence in my life. Eventually I made a big storytelling piece about her called Travels with My Welsh Aunt.

Aunty Mali:

A music teacher and always smart (handbag and hat when she went out), Aunty Mali herself had long hair which in the day would be wound into a bun. But each night before getting into bed (and this I know from all the times I stayed with her), she’d comb out her hair with much care and ceremony and then (it’s something I’ll never forget) she’d carefully remove any hairs that had got into the brush, twist them together into a piece of tissue paper and then place the twist of tissue-paper in the waste-bin. ‘Your hairs are like your thoughts,’ she’d say. ‘You must look after them with care and never throw them to the winds.’ (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Picking yourself up

Saturday, August 3rd, 2019

Remember that moralising tale? A young woman is on her way to market. Over her arm is a basket of eggs, in her head is a whirligig of plans. She’ll sell the eggs for a very good price (they’re beautifully big and brown and farm fresh). Then she will have money. MONEY! And with that money, she’ll be able to do so much. Like choose the best cake in the cake-shop window and eat it sitting in the sun. Or buy a new pair of sandals –  and if not sandals because they’d cost too much, certainly new ribbons for her hair. Oh, so many things she could do. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ The human touch

Saturday, June 8th, 2019

Remembering stories can be a comfort when you’re poorly. And, dear readers, have I felt poorly since the third of my third chemo treatments. Still, I’m halfway through bar the shouting and that’s something worth holding onto.

A story that came to my mind when I couldn’t get back to sleep very early one morning this week is one that needs the best part of an hour for the telling and it’s one that I love. It comes from the Arabian Nights. Here it is in brief.

A story with a human touch:

The third of the three children of a king is a girl. With her brothers she has grown up in the home of the king’s gardener not knowing who she is by birth. The children’s mother was imprisoned long ago because of lies that were told against her, the gardener is poor but loving and the three children he took on as his own are leading a sheltered life not knowing who they really are. An important feature of that life is the gardener’s beautiful garden. It is a place of peace and refuge. Why should anything change? (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Tiger!

Saturday, May 25th, 2019

Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

This verse is just the first in the wonderful poem by William Blake which was one of my father’s favourites. He used to recite it to all his secondary school English classes.

It’s a poem that surely makes anyone who hears or reads it feel incredibly aware of the power and beauty of the tiger. And tigers have been in my mind over the last few days following the death of Judith Kerr, author of the hugely-loved children’s picture-book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea. I first got to know that book during the first four years of what would become my storytelling life. A leaflet on the notice board of Brixton Library had led to my applying for a job on the Lambeth Libraries Storytelling Scheme. How different my life would have been if I hadn’t got that job. Very part-time and very badly paid, it involved doing picture-books with young children in various Lambeth centres during the mornings and telling stories to older children in the afternoons. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Frog talk

Saturday, May 18th, 2019

Human minds! You see something, it reminds you of more. Since yesterday, it’s been frogs for me.

The frog in the park:

 

Going for a walk in Brockwell Park, all part of my recovery programme (and thanks to everyone for good wishes) we were greeted near the entrance by a very large wooden frog, arms endearingly outstretched towards us. Of course, this frog  brought back to my mind all kinds of stories (well, it would, wouldn’t it?).

One was of Lil who used to live down the road with her sister Sarah. Lil would call out to you on the street, ‘Ere, Missis Whatsisname?’ Then she’d follow up with something like, ‘Yer got no idea what ’er upstairs as gorn an done now.’ On one occasion she came to my door and quietly murmured, ‘Sarah says as can you come down and get the frog (frog as in frawg) outa the kitchen.’ Of course I went armed with rubber gloves and a bucket. I remember it well.

Then there’s the little frog folk-tale I used to tell.

 

Frog talk:

(more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Recycling

Saturday, May 4th, 2019

It’s my second chemotherapy session on Tuesday. I do not look forward to it or its aftermath. But some nice things keep the spirits raised: kindnesses from friends, the freshly blooming Mary Rose in the garden, the pleasure of the Great Tit at finding our bird feeder tubs have been refilled and, of course, stories.

Where’s the creativity?

Whenever I read about the state of schools across the country – how some teachers are voluntarily buying food or books for children with money from their own pockets or, just as bad or worse,  how so many teachers feel that all emphasis on creativity has been lost as a result of focus on exams – I find myself wanting the children to have more stories. Young people are disillusioned, turned off, self-harming, depressed. I want them to hear stories, do self-motivated work that is based on stories, talk about stories, tell their own stories. Who is a storyteller to say this should happen? Well, all of us storytellers who’ve seen what powerful effects it can have. Particularly this last week, I’ve been recalling the attention and engagement that  hundreds of children have shown to the daftly innovative stories of Shemi Wâd.

The story that follows is one I found in the handwritten book of Shemi stories I was recently lent. The stories in it were written down by Bili John who had himself known Shemi since boyhood. He wrote down the stoies in Welsh.  The one that follows is in my English version.

The big clock and the tricycle:

One day Shemi dug out from his garden a wooden box that contained what looked like the wheels of a clock. Shemi had never seen anything quite like these wheels before. They were very big – as large as saucers – and without more ado, he got ready to use them to make a clock. (more…)