Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Magic eyes

P1000058Cast up onto the pebbles this week on one of my Pembrokeshire beaches were lots and lots of dead crabs – big ones, small ones, ferocious-looking ones, ones that made me go Oooh. I took quite a few photos with my new camera, bought because the zoom on the old one had broken, and the sight of the crabs through the camera lens reminded me of a story I’ve always loved telling to Primary-age children. I first came across it many years ago in Twenty Tellable Tales by the excellent American storyteller, Margaret Read MacDonald. In this collection, the stories are set out almost like poems making it easy to see those chant-like parts that are often repeated and where an audience can join in.

It’s the removable eyes in this story that got me. Children also love them, especially when you make spectacle eyes with your hands, moving them out in front of you and then back again as you do crab’s magic chant. Such eyes, Margaret Read MacDonald points out in her notes on the story, are usually associated with Native American Indian culture. However, it’s from South America that this tale appears to have come. Here it is more or less as I tell it except that this is in shortened form. The elaborations and exaggerations I leave to you. 

Little Crab and his Magic Eyes:

Little Crab had a magic trick. He loved going down to the sea and trying it out. You see, when Crab  got to the sea, he’d say:

CrabPaulMagic eyes, magic eyes,
Go sailing out over the sea.

And they did. Then Crab could see lots of things, all kinds of things, under the sea. (Of course, children readily come up with these.)

Then, after a while, he’d make his eyes come back:

Magic eyes magic eyes,
Come sailing back to me.

And they did. (And of course, the trick is such fun that you must do it several times over.)

Crab liked trying out his trick every day. (So now you must repeat it again.) 

But one day when he was down at the sea, Jaguar happened to come along. (Not the car, the creature.) When Jaguar saw Crab doing his magic trick, he wanted Crab to do the same thing for him. (Jaguar can have a powerful voice.) But Crab said, ‘No, I can’t do it for you. It’s my trick.’ And when Jaguar persisted, Crab said he wouldn’t do it for Jaguar because, if he did, the Oonkaloonka fish might come up from the bottom of the sea and swallow Jaguar’s eyes.

Jaguar insisted until Crab agreed. Then Crab adapted his chant to suit:

Jaguar’s eyes, Jaguar’s eyes,
Go sailing out over the sea.

CrabshellWhen they did, Jaguar thought this was wonderful. He insisted that Crab do it again. But this time, the Oonkaloonka fish came up from the bottom of the ocean and, one by one, swallowed Jaguar’s eyes. (Hand actions help.)

Now Jaguar could see nothing at all. He howled in rage. (You can go to town with this.) ‘Get me back my eyes. Get me back my eyes.’

Crab was so frightened, he ran away and hid under a stone (which is where he still hides today).

But, shortly after, Vulture came by and when Vulture heard Jaguar crying, he thought he might be able to do a clever deal with Jaguar that could bring him some good fortune. So he asked what Jaguar would do for him if he managed to get Jaguar his eyes. Jaguar said that, if Vulture did that, whenever he killed an animal, he would always leave some of the meat for the Vulture family.

So Vulture flew away (and you can get your audience to mime this). He flew up and over the mountains till he came to the juniper tree with its beautiful blue berries. There, he picked the two biggest, best berries and, carrying them in his sharp claws, he flew back to Jaguar.

Jaguar was still moaning (and you can elaborate this) until Vulture popped those berries into the places where his eyes had been. And they worked!

Now Jaguar could see again, he was so happy that, ever since, he has fulfilled his promise. Whenever he has made a kill, he leaves some of the meat for the Vulture family.

As for Crab, he’s still hiding under his stone except that he still likes practising his magic trick. So every day, he comes out from under his stone and goes down to the sea and does his chant.

Magic eyes, magic eyes,
Go sailing out over the sea.

When he’s seen what he wants, he makes them come back. And if you go down to the beach at the right time, you might just see him practising his magic trick.

 PS: Two of those many crabs on Newgale beach bag the first two photos today. The other is that crab shell we brought back another time – even as it fades, it remains one of the treasures of the house.

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One Response to “Storytelling Starters ~ Magic eyes”

  1. Meg Says:

    Hi Mary.
    Such a good story. Have had a lot of fun with it too!

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