Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Doing Something

Last week I was carefully putting my eggs in the basket called Doing Nothing. By this week these eggs, one by one, are being carefully moved into the basket called Doing Something. I still am not persuaded that Doing Something is invariably better than Doing Nothing. But if the Something is identified as reading to children then I’m all for it. Besides, I’m very glad to see that, as recorded in a piece in the Guardian this week, so is famous footballer and generally good person, Marcus Rashford.

Furthermore, reading to children is usually a habit that gets passed on. Happily, I read in an email I received this week that the three year old son of one of my God-Daughters, is currently absorbed in a book – The Big-wide-mouthed-toad-frog – that I edited and gave his mother 30  years ago when she herself was a child. Thus do good story-books get passed on and loved all over again. Indeed, I recall that some of the story-books I loved the most as a child were ones that, in the process of being passed on, had become far less than pristine in their appearance.

Of course, I hasten to add – but then I would, wouldn’t I? – that telling (rather than reading) stories to children is very fine too. There’s a new kind of attention that gets given. I well remember a nephew of mine interrupting in a mystified tone when I was telling him and his younger brother a story when he was a child of about nine years old: ‘What is this? Is this a tape-recording or something?’ Since we were sitting together at the kitchen table at the time and presumably my mouth was moving in the process of speaking, I’m not quite sure what he was driving at apart from the obvious fact that having a story told to him rather than read was evidently an entirely new experience for him.

But I do know that  stories that get passed on by word of mouth sometimes get taken up by a family as if becoming their own story. Perhaps the very process of taking possession of a story is easier and more natural when it’s not a story that’s in between covers. A told story, one might say, is as free as the wind. In fact, in the little note-book on stories and storytelling that I keep by my desk, I’ve recorded the following as a Bushman saying|:

A story is like the wind; it comes from a far-off quarter and we feel it.

To finish, here’s a thought about stories that  I’ve quite possibly put in this blog before but I think it’s well worth repeating. It comes from a work by I.B. Singer called Naftali and the Storyteller and His Horse, Sus:

When a day passes it is no longer there.
What remains of it? Nothing more than a story.
If stories weren’t told or books weren’t written,
Man would live like beasts – only for the day.
Today, we live, but by tomorrow today will be a story.
The whole world, all human life, is one long story.

P.S. Here are three photos of some very lovely roses currently blooming in our garden. Perhaps, roses are also like stories. They grow, they bloom and then they are gone – unless they are in some way recorded.

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Doing Something”

  1. Annalee Curran Says:

    Oh dear! A whole week has passed since I read this blog and this week’s is already in my inbox, but I so wanted to send a message in response to this one about telling stories and how children distinguish between the reading and the telling of stories. I think I was a fairly good reader of stories to my children as they were growing up, but they would regularly say, as though a little bored with the reading, “But, Mum, please tell us a story “with your mouth”.” This, for them meant a story told and not read. I wish I had had you at my side then, Mary, because I would find myself tongue-tied sometimes after the “Once upon a time…” if I had to come up with a story on the spot. But there was always a fall-back: a story my mother had told me “with her mouth” when I was little and which I, in turn told to my children. Even although they heard it quite often, it still qualified as a “with your mouth” story and just recently, I told it ” with my mouth” on zoom to my youngest grandchild in Rwanda! I have to admit that I have now actually written that story down, not to stop the handing on of “mouth telling”, but as a way of my mother (who is now 100!) being remembered by the generations to come!
    Thank you, Mary, for this blog of yours and touching on something so important!

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