Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

New encounters

After the ceaseless activity of our week in Toronto, we are now coming to the end of my birthday week in the quieter surroundings of Lakefield. The Autumn colours have been gorgeous, a beautifully patterned snake soaked up the last of the sunshine on one of the trails we walked. But these last days have been greatly shadowed by news from New Zealand of the massive stroke that has been suffered by one of our dearest friends. We await more news. The distance from here to there feels immense. 

Storytelling has figured during this last week in an unexpected new way. Wherever I’ve come into contact with First Nation people – in their communities, centres, shops or books – I’ve been struck by the indications of the importance to them of storytelling. Their stories are a central part of their current efforts to gain proper respect for their rights and their culture.

First Nation peoples

I’ve needed to take on board the term First Nation peoples. Through my storytelling life of telling, hearing and looking for stories, I’ve always called them North American Indian peoples. I think about the Haida story of Raven bringing the sun to the world, the Snohomish story of Lifting the Sky and so many others.  Now I see comparisons between our struggle in Wales to ensure full recognition of the Welsh language, culture and ways of life. I see too the wider implications of what storytellers here, there and everywhere are trying to do.

In a week, you can only begin to get a sense of things. Conversations with people in the Lakefield area have shown me that oral storytelling is little known or not known at all around here except among the First Nation people. One of my strongest encounters with it here came in the form of a novel that was given to me by some friends in Toronto. It’s called Medicine River and it’s by Thomas King, a writer I’d never heard of before. Thomas King is of Cherokee and  Greek descent, quite a heritage for a storyteller. Medicine River brings into life a community of people who know each other, accept each other, tell stories about each other. When I came to the end of it I felt bereft of the characters in it and their care for each other and the country around them.

We beetled into Lakefield village to go to the bookshop (which is also a wool shop). Wonderful! There was another Thomas King novel on the shelves. I now realise that he’s published a lot, stories for children as well as books for adults.Will I be able to get them in the UK? I shall find out. Meantime, thinking of the place of oral storytelling in our world today, Paul and I were much amused when, passing one of the banks in Lakefield, we saw the huge sign in the window: Instant Teller!

See you next week.


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