Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Gold

When you think about it, it’s sometimes very hard to say what makes a particular topic come to your mind. For instance, I have no idea what started me thinking about nightingales this morning. Not blackbirds but nightingales. Or perhaps instead of nightingales (plural) I should say nightingale (singular). For to my knowledge I’ve only ever encountered one. And it was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

My personal experience:

It was on the island of Iona off the north-west coast of Scotland. Paul and I were visiting Oban on the mainland (my maternal grandfather hailed from Oban). In the course of our visit, we took a trip across to Mull and thence on to Iona where we were able to spend a few days staying in a remote little guesthouse where, each night, our host would call upstairs to say that the electricity was about to go off because he was about to turn off the generator.

On one of our walks on the island, we heard the nightingale before we saw it. That was not surprising. It’s not physically a very noticeable bird. But its song is arresting. Glorious golden runs of sound spiral into the air, one after another without pause. We stood and listened entranced before eventually continuing our walk. On our return, there it was again – a single nightingale on a branch of a small rather threadbare tree. It sang and sang as if it would sing eternity into being.

A nightingale story:

As I thought about that nightingale this morning – and I really have no idea why I did – I wondered if I knew any story about a nightingale. Mindful that I’d be writing this blog later on, I was really hoping I could bring one to mind. Here’s what I remembered.

It was the day when God decided it was time to give the birds their colours. He set out his palette of many different shades and then called all the birds together. Then, one by one, he had each bird come forward and, after taking a good look at it, he decided what colours to give it. He gave the robin its lovely red breast, he dressed the magpie in smart black and white. And so he went on deploying the many different colours of his palette. Eventually he thought he’d finished.

But just then, one small bird turned up late. This little bird had received none of God’s special colours. What was God going to do? When he looked at his palette, he saw, as he feared, that almost all his colours had gone, finished. But then he remembered a tiny little tube he’d brought in which was one tiny amount of gold.

God called the small bird to him and asked the little creature to open its beak. Then, squeezing that tiny amount of gold onto the tip of his paintbrush, he placed the gold on the little bird’s throat just inside its open beak.

Ever since then, that little bird – and it’s the bird we call the nightingale – has produced the most golden of all bird songs.

PS: My top photo today is of course of a blackbird for the blackbird also has a most beautiful song. The shy little robin in the bottom photo is one who often used to come by on one of our stays in Wales.

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Gold”

  1. Jean Says:

    Dear Mary — love the story of the nightingale and so will the Care Home residents I’m storytelling to next week — I chose birds as this month’s theme (so wonderful to hear the birds singing away again)– and as I’m rereading ‘The Owl Service’ I thought I’d tell the story of Blodeuwedd — also seagulls will feature — having fun researching — so much wonderful bird folklore to choose from. Thank you for the blogs and thinking of you with lots of love and best wishes Jean xx

  2. Meg Philp Says:

    Dear Mary.
    Thanks for reminding me of this great story. I went to my bookcase and found Richard Adam’s version in his “The Iron Wolf and Other Stories” and took delight in reading it again. What also caught my eye were his comments on the Fly-leaf –
    “Authors need folk-tales in the same way as composers need folk-song …. the story stands forth at its simple irreducible best. They don’t date any more than dreams, for they are the collective dreams of humanity.”
    You are a marvel – telling us just the right story at the right time. I’m going to retell it too this week.
    All the Best from Meg

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