Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Laughter and tears

Many bluebells“The world is very beautiful and it’s very sad I will have to die.” So said the grandmother of José Saramago whose house on Lanzarote we recently went to see. The grandmother was very old when she said that to him and he was still a child. I feel I know what she meant for this week, down in Wales, the hedgerows, the sky, the bird-song, the bluebells – all have been so beautiful, I can’t bear the thought of ever leaving them.


Tears are close to laughter and they’ve both been present several times in recent days. Tears were there after the Memorial Service to our friend Simon Hoggart in which the whole gathered throng were kept constantly laughing by the many tributes to him, all in some way or other recalling his sense of humour.

Tears have been there too on hearing about the illness of a number of friends. Yet, as I said, tears and laughter often come close together. Two people have remarked on this to me in the last few days. One was speaking in general about storytelling when he said, “If you can get them laughing at the beginning, you can get them crying at the end.” Then a member of the Welsh class in St David’s which had invited me to go and talk to them about storytelling this last Wednesday made a similar point with a vivid personal recollection. In Botswana back in the mid-60s, he said, people in the place where he was living would gather every Friday evening beneath a very big tree (same tree each week) and they’d listen to the storyteller (same storyteller each week, a man who wore a jacket with many medals on it). At first, they’d be uproariously laughing. By the end, they’d often be weeping.


The path to the seaIt’s no bad thing. Tears bring out our humanity, our fellow-feeling for each other.

But the laughter is important too. I got lots during my talk in St David’s on Monday about Shemi the storyteller – but then his stories are extremely funny just as there’s something very moving about the details of his life. 

There was laughter too at the Welsh class on Wednesday when I found myself recounting that little story – really just an old joke – about the chicken and the frog.

I’ve told this little snippet of a story countless times to audiences of children and of adults. Often it helps bridge the gap that seems to exist in some people’s thinking whereby they imagine that stories exist only in books.

The chicken and the frog

A chicken goes into the local library. “Book … book …book …book,” says the chicken, making the usual chicken noise and busily flapping her wings. 

The librarian, an unflappable woman with good community awareness, goes off to fetch the chicken a book. (An eggcyclopaedia, maybe?)

She stamps it and tucks it under the chicken’s wing. “Book …book …book …book …” says the chicken proudly.

Then the chicken goes off down the road. Down the road, she comes across a frog.

“Book … book … book …” boasts the chicken.

 “Redit,” the frog replies.


At the seaNow, for goodness sake, when you tell that story, please remember not to have the frog say, “Ribik,” which is what frogs usually say in stories. If the frog says “Ribik,” there’s no joke. Also please remember to practise your chicken and frog noises first.

But I hope you do tell the story and find it as useful as I have done.


My photos this week are of the glorious bluebells I passed on the path to the sea through my local Pembrokeshire woods. 


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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Laughter and tears”

  1. Liz Richards Says:

    Love this blog Mary, It is quite true about sadness and laughter. In my Mum’s funeral a few weeks ago the service was so beautiful and so funny as the vicar told stories of the comical things Mum would say and do .We all had tears of sadness and laughter. We are only here for a short time and in that time we have to pack in as much as we can .When my Mum was poorly I found out my daughter was expecting, so one life ends and another begins.
    I tell stories to the Grandchildren and talk to them about every thing I can think of .
    What they like the most is of stories of what I did as a child .Lovely seeing you the other day Take care and keep blogging Liz x

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