Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Crab for your tea

IMAG3051‘Did you bring anything back from your holidays?’ It’s a good question for inviting stories from children as well as adults. But beware! Whatever little treasures you acquired yourself, they’re likely to remain in your home for a very long time. They start off precious and they go on being precious and they also add to the stuff you’ll one day feel you need to get rid of. Take my word for it. I know.

Meantime, I remain dazzled by the sun-bleached crab shell I picked up from one of my Pembrokeshire beaches on one of my forays back home from London. Its delicacy and intricacy capture my admiration every time I look at it. It has the additional attraction that  it reminds me of one of my favourite Shemi stories.

Shemi’s stories are ones that children of all ages get absolutely hooked by. The fact that Shemi was real – he died in 1897, a well-known tall-tale-teller in his locality (North Pembrokeshire) and by all accounts much-loved – only adds to the huge attraction. So here’s that particular tale of his of which I’m reminded by my crab-shell. You can find it in a fuller version under the title, Crab Meat for Supper, in my book Shemi’s Tall Tales. (And you can order Shemi’s Tall Tales from me if you wish by clicking on My Publications on my website).

Shemi and the Enormous Crab

One day when he was out fishing, Shemi pulled a huge big sewin out of the river. But as soon as he’d hauled it up onto the river-bank, a great big heron flew down and swallowed it whole. Shemi shouted at the heron: not only had his sewin disappeared into the heron’s gullet, his fish-hook had gone there as well. 

Unfortunately, the more Shemi shouted at it,  the more the heron took fright and suddenly it flew off  into the sky, heading for the Irish Sea. And because Shemi kept hold of his fishing rod, he went flying up in the air as well.

crab_meat_for_supperUp and down the heron flapped until, after a very long time, it finally got near land. Far down below him, Shemi could see a big black rock looming up. When the heron flew down and collapsed on this rock, Shemi fell straight after him. But instead of ending up with his boots on firm ground, Shemi fell so hard he tumbled over the edge of the rock and somersaulted into the sea.

As Shemi was floundering about, wondering how to get out of the water, a giant crab happened to come swimming by. Without a moment’s hesitation, Shemi climbed onto its back. And do you know, he rode that crab across the ocean as if he was riding a horse. ‘Giddy-up, boy,’ he kept on calling. And that’s how Shemi got back home to Goodwick.

Sadly, the crab was completely exhausted by the time it crawled up onto Goodwick beach. As Shemi climbed off its back and looked down, it looked sadly up at Shemi as it breathed its last breath. At first, Shemi felt rather sorry for it. But when he looked again, it began to dawn upon him what double luck it had brought him.

For do you know what Shemi was thinking? Yes, indeed. Shemi had suddenly realised what a good supper that enormous crab could provide for his and his neighbours’ supper that night.

That wasn’t exactly the end of the story, either. Next time Shemi’s mate, Dai, went to call on Shemi to suggest another fishing trip, Shemi took him out to the yard. ‘Got something to show you,’ he said. It was the shell of the giant crab. Shemi had nailed it across the top of his pig-sty to make a nice tidy roof for his new little pig.  

So that’s it. And as we say where I come from, ‘And if you don’t like it, you can go to Wales to mend it. ‘

P.S. The picture above of Shemi riding the crab is one of Jack Jones’s marvellous illustrations in Shemi’s Tall Tales

P.S.S. What follows below is the comment on last week’s blog sent in by Hilary Minns. I’m copying it here because although I haven’t had a chance to follow it up yet (just back from holiday!) I know if Hilary suggests it, it will be worth it. 

Hilary’s comment: ‘Mary’s thoughts on the power of creativity are a reminder of Professor Ken Robinson’s inspirational 20-minute talk at the TED Conference in 2006. (Youtube Ken Robinson TED lecture will get you there). Well worth a google. 

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