Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Archive for the ‘Animal stories’ Category

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:

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Storytelling Starters ~ Cat-you-like

Saturday, March 30th, 2019

Are you familiar with the story of how the cat got its purr? I was reminded of it while thinking about the elegant black, beautiful cat who came up to our room  in my husband’s arms a couple of days ago. Paul had been out on the doorstep, talking with our neighbour. Meantime, our front door was open, the cat emerged as if from nowhere and promptly walked into our house. Paul followed it in, picked it up and brought it up for my admiration.

Wow! The cat was obviously ‘owned’ – if ever a cat can be owned – with a smart collar and bell. He was in the most beautiful condition and at once I was reminded of all our past cats and how I’d like to have a cat again. After the death of Minky, our last lovely cat, we felt we couldn’t replace him with another. Then time went on and, several years later, we remain catless. Perhaps that beautiful black cat will bring about a change here. Who knows?

How the cat got its purr: the story

Meantime, that story of how the cat got its purr has winkled its way back into my mind. The story tells of how one of the animals, perhaps it was cat, somehow got hold of a big beautiful drum. Whoever he was, he loved to play it and when he did so at parties, the other animals were full of envy of the sounds it made. So envious did the other animals become that one of them – was it fox? – wanted to get it for himself. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Smorgasbord

Saturday, May 5th, 2018

That word smorgasbord always suggests outside eating to me, a delicious-looking range of dishes set out on a summer-time table strewn with flowers. A couple of sunny days this week suggests that, despite all the indications, spring and summer might actually be on their way. Some smorgasbording might occur!

So here’s a kind of storytelling smorgasbord to go with the imagined food.

1. Sharing stories

Did you know it’s National Share-a-Story Month? Among all the other National Thises and National Thats, I hadn’t specifically registered it until alerted by the delightfully efficient Marketing Manager at Jessica Kingsley Publishers who has been handling my new book. Might I do a piece on story-sharing to go on their blog? Answer: Yes of course I will. Story-sharing is so right up my street, it’s in my house and in my study and in my heart. The irony is, of course, that National Share-a-Story Month is organised by the National Federation of Children’s Book Groups. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ On reflection

Saturday, August 5th, 2017

Looking anew at a story in the light of new information can cause a bit of reflection. This happened to me this week. I’d been looking through my files of stories and had come across one I like a lot that I’ve sometimes told to younger children. It’s about a tiger and a mouse and you very likely know it already.

The Tiger and the Mouse:

So this tiger is marching through the forest when he almost trips over a little mouse.

‘Ha,’ says the tiger. ‘You got in my way. I’m going to eat you up.’

‘Oh, don’t do that,’ the little mouse replies. ‘You never know, one day I might be able to help you.’

‘You? Help me?’ blares the tiger. ‘You’re very small and weak. I’m very big and strong. How could you ever help me?’

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Storytelling Starters ~ Magic eyes

Saturday, May 13th, 2017

P1000058Cast up onto the pebbles this week on one of my Pembrokeshire beaches were lots and lots of dead crabs – big ones, small ones, ferocious-looking ones, ones that made me go Oooh. I took quite a few photos with my new camera, bought because the zoom on the old one had broken, and the sight of the crabs through the camera lens reminded me of a story I’ve always loved telling to Primary-age children. I first came across it many years ago in Twenty Tellable Tales by the excellent American storyteller, Margaret Read MacDonald. In this collection, the stories are set out almost like poems making it easy to see those chant-like parts that are often repeated and where an audience can join in.

It’s the removable eyes in this story that got me. Children also love them, especially when you make spectacle eyes with your hands, moving them out in front of you and then back again as you do crab’s magic chant. Such eyes, Margaret Read MacDonald points out in her notes on the story, are usually associated with Native American Indian culture. However, it’s from South America that this tale appears to have come. Here it is more or less as I tell it except that this is in shortened form. The elaborations and exaggerations I leave to you.  (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 – Where Words Can Take You

Saturday, February 4th, 2017

Walking across Green Park a few days ago, a friend and I were bemoaning how dusk comes too early at this time of the year. Then we cheered up by reminding ourselves that, by now, the days are already drawing out.

CockerelA journey of words:

Cam ceiliog is the phrase that was always used by the mother of my Welsh friend, Beryl. No sooner had the shortest day gone by than she’d be reminding us how, from now on, the days would be drawing out. Cam ceiliog is Welsh for the cockerel’s step, the general inference being that, while the days get longer only bit by bit, we can all be certain that the steps do happen.

On our walk through Green Park, the Welsh phrase caused some discussion. Could there be any connection with the Scottish word, capercaillie which so brilliantly summons up the idea of stepping? Next day – for the friend in question was the renowned translator, Margaret Jull Costa – I got an email from her elucidating this question. Any connection between ceiliog and capercaillie? ‘No,’ she said, detailing the relevant etymologies, ‘no connection at all.’

However, word-expert and word-forager as my friend is, I received another email from her a day or two later. This one referred to the fact that, on our walk,  I’d happened to say that ceiliog, the Welsh word for cockerel, reminded me of Kellogg’s, the company that makes Cornflakes and so many other breakfast cereals.

Ah now! Margaret had pursued this link and was now writing to tell me it wasn’t just me that had seen a connection between that Welsh word for cockerel and Kellogg’s. Someone else had done exactly the same quite a few years ago: none other than the world-famous harpist, Nansi Richards, who died back in 1979. Evidently, during a harp-playing tour in the United States, Nansi Richards had at one point visited the home of Will Kellogg who, at the time, had been looking for a marketing emblem for his company.

And what had he finally chosen? Why, a cockerel. And why did he choose it? Well, according to the story, because Nansi Richards had told him how his surname, Kellogg, reminded her of the Welsh word, ceiliog. So that’s how the cockerel became the Kelloggs emblem and although Wikipedia says the story may be apocryphal, I like it – and even more so  because that same Wikipedia entry led me to another intriguing association. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Red

Saturday, October 15th, 2016

P1080350Red has been in my thoughts all week. It’s one of the colours of Autumn and, in the UK, Autumn is certainly here. There are lots of red berries in our local park  (a sign, some say, of a hard winter to come). And in our garden, the Sumach tree has turned the most stunning red it’s ever been.

So  red has been in my thoughts all week which is why the stories my blog offers this week are, first, a gorgeous little Irish story that was collected by Thomas Crofton Croker and, second, a tiny part from the  very first page of the very first story in the great medieval cycle of Welsh tales known as the Mabinogion. The fact that red figures in both is no surprise. Red is a colour traditionally associated with the supernatural in both Welsh and Irish literature.

Red socks: a tale from Ireland

Tom was on his way home from the fields when he saw a leprechaun in a hedge. As he watched, he saw the tiny creature reach down a drink of beer from a pitcher and then return to putting a heel-piece on a tiny shoe just the right size for his foot. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Spiders etc.

Saturday, October 8th, 2016

Spider ornamentOdd how things happen, isn’t it? On Thursday evening, we went to a concert at the Union Chapel in Islington. I hadn’t been there for a million years – and it’s a beautiful place with a fascinating history. Way back then, my visit was to hear the wonderful Welsh singer and harpist, Siân James (with whom I once did a storytelling performance). Now it was to hear the equally wonderful Portuguese fado singer, Claudia Aurora.

One of Claudia’s songs on Thursday was all about insects. She introduced it with a heartfelt (and very funny) account of how she cannot bear SPIDERS and how she’d found a HUGE spider on one of her curtains and was TERRIFIED until her neighbour came to the rescue.

So there I sat as she was speaking, my mind ranging over the subject of spiders – all the cobwebs currently on my windows, for it’s definitely been the spider season, and how, when someone tells me how they hate spiders, I often briefly recount that North American Indian story which is such a brilliant reminder of our human foibles. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Poems can be stories too

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

My husband has been singing Scottish folk-songs. Two friends from New Zealand have just been on holiday to Scotland’s West Coast and loved it. Their trip included Oban, which is where one of my grandfathers came from. And yesterday talking with my Scottish storyteller friend, Jean Edmiston (she sent a lovely comment on last week’s blog), we talked a lot about the sense of place and how powerful it is when you’re storytelling.

A poem from Arisaig:

P1010525It must have been all those Scottish connections that made me remember a poem I once came across. It was hanging on the wall of a pub or café (I can’t remember which) in Arisaig one time we were up on that same West Coast. I wrote it down and afterwards I told the story of it and read it out to classes of children on a number of storytelling occasions. Once with an especially responsive class of ten-year-olds, we somehow got the idea of doing the poem with sound effects. I remember auditioning volunteers for all the many different sounds in the poem – the gulls, the whimper, the grey dog running. Then we performed it, me reading the words, them doing the sounds. They were wonderful. It still brings a thrill to my spine to recall it.

So this week, I’m quoting the poem in full because it’s one of the most haunting poems I’ve ever come across and so evocative of a sense of place. Also it affirms the truth that stories come in many forms, including in poems. But first let me expain the background to it’s story. According to a note that accompanied the poem where it hung on that wall in Arisaig,  it so happened that at the time of the Highland Clearances at Rhu Arisaig – and the Highland Clearances were where crofters were cleared off the land by land-owners – one of the families that were evacuated by boat accidentally left behind a favourite collie. Afterwards,  it was often said locally that, at dusk on certain evenings,  the ‘grey ghost’ searches the shore. 

The Grey Dog of Rhu Arisaig – by Roy Ferguson (more…)