Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Body Parts / Hand 2

This week, I’ve been struck by the number of Olympic athletes emphasising  that they could never have achieved what they have without the support of the team around them. Working together: that ‘s the moral and it was the theme of my story last week. This week, I’ve got another favourite Hand story with a similar theme. It’s called Five Companions and, in my experience, it works especially well with children. What gets the children is the idea that in one hand – their own hand! – there can be such a diversity of strengths and that when these are combined, there’s no end to what a hand can do. But of course there are two sides to the potential: hands can work for good or for ill. Whenever I tell the story, I try to let that  fact be seen.

Five Companions: the background

It’s not always essential for a storyteller to know where a story began. Sometimes, you hear a good story and never find out where it originated. Sometimes, as time passes, you forget where you got it. And sometimes, if you do check back with your source after many times of telling the story, you realise – as I did with Five Companions that you’ve made a few changes along the way.

The story of the Five Companions originally comes from Burma – and, to be honest, I did have to look back through my files of printed sources of stories in order to check that fact out. When I read through my copy, I immediately saw that I’d adapted the tale in one or two ways. I’d made small changes to some of the characters’ names. I’d also given more emphasis to the fact that hands can be responsible for bad deeds as well as good ones.

Five Companions: a hint on telling

Before starting the story don’t reveal that this is a story about your own hand. Let that be discovered when the story has ended.

Five Companions: the story

Once there were five brothers. They roamed round the country together looking for good things they could do.

The first of the brothers was Stumpy. He was short and solid and strong and he was the group’s leader.

The second brother was Pointer. He didn’t like to see wrongdoing and, if he did, he’d point it out with his finger and challenge whoever was responsible to put it right. Sometimes, as a result, he’d get into a fight.

The third brother was the tallest. That’s why he was called More-Than-The-Others.

The fourth brother was Treasurer. He looked after their funds.

The fifth brother was the smallest and youngest. The others called him Little Brother.

One day, the five brothers came to a kingdom where people looked very unhappy. The Five Companions observed how they were being shoved around and thrown to the ground and treated very badly. They decided to find the kingdom’s ruler and see if they could put things right. Stumpy banged on the gates of the palace, Pointer demanded that they be let in and when the gates were opened, Pointer argued with the guards who immediately arrested them and took them to the palace.

When the Five Companions were taken in front of the king, they immediately began laying their complaints before him. Pointer was the one who spoke up first and when the others joined in, the king became very angry and commanded that they be dragged off to jail.

At once More-Than-The-Others snapped into action and soon the Five Companions had fought back so hard that the king was in chains and they Five Companions had gained control.

Now was their chance to put things right in that land. But first, they agreed, they must decide which of them would be the king. At first they said it should be Stumpy: he was their captain and the one who led the way. Then they thought it should be Pointer: he was the one who was boldest in his challenge. But hadn’t More-Than-The-Others led them into the fight? Surely he was the one who should be king. Yet Treasurer was the one who could sort out the money and for ruling a kingdom that is very important. Or perhaps it should be Little Brother? He was the smallest and gentlest and the others would be there to help him.

They argued for hours over who it should be. But in the end they decided that, since they could all liked working together, they’d form a team and rule the land jointly.

And if you look at your hand – and girls, I’m coming to you – you’ll immediately see you have a team of joint-rulers too. Stumpy of course is your thumb, the one that says ‘This is the way’. Pointer is the finger that points out what you think or see and sometimes may get you into quarrels. More-Than-The Others is your middle finger and it’s usually the longest. Treasurer is the finger we could call the richest because it usually wears the ring. Little Brother is the shortest, thinnest finger and the one with the least strength on its own.

So you too have five faithful companions to serve you and if they work well together, they will doubtless win you a happy future with many golden deeds to do on the way.

Five Companions: my idea for the future

Doing this Blog, it occurred to me that, if and when I tell this story again, I might change the characters from boys into girls.

Of course, that will mean a complete change of names. What about the ones in the picture?

Bossy-boots, Princess, Big Girl, Money Bags and Little Sister.

It’ll be fun to try it out.

Next Week:  My last Blog in this series will probably be about Mouth.

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