Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Mouth No. 1

Welcome this week to my new blog and website banner. About time too, you might say! My hair has been short and silver ever since it grew back following my four months of chemotherapy treatment in 2010. It’s taken me till now to update myself. Many thanks to those that have helped – Dominick Tyler for the new photo, Olwen Fowler for the new banner, Tim Howe for amending the website and my lovely husband Paul for his constant support.  A big kiss to each of them!

There are numerous excellent stories about Mouth. Next week and the week after I’ll be giving you two of my favourites.

This week, however, I thought I’d do something new, which is to start on the Mouth theme with some sayings and quotations about it. The ones below are all drawn from the stocks of items that I keep in mind for throwing into a storytelling session or workshop where one of them becomes appropriate. Proverbs, sayings, interpretations, quotations: I find they can prove of interest to all types of audience, children and adults. They are like juicy little extras to savour in the tasting.


I especially like this chewy saying:

Stories are not there to be believed; they’re there to be eaten.

And here’s another which suits my taste because, like me, it comes from Wales:

And this story went from mouth to mouth so that one day my Grandmother learned it, and it’s from her that I heard it.

The first saying comes from Michel Hindenoch, one of the storytellers behind the storytelling revival in France. The second is a traditional way of ending a story which was included by storyteller Sam Cannarozzi (who lives in France) in When Tigers Smoked Pipes, his collection of story beginnings and endings which the Society for Storytelling published in booklet form in 2008. A most useful and fascinating resource it is too, even though I say it myself as one who participated in the editing of it.


As to the symbolism of Mouth, the following is a highly digested summary from an encyclopaedic work entitled Ariadne’s Clue, A guide to the Symbols of Humankind, which was written by Anthony Stevens:

Mouth: The body’s portal of entry and exit for breath, food, and according to many traditions, the soul. The mouth is symbolic of its functions – speech, eating, devouring, and predation. The mouth of a monster or dragon represents the jaws of Hell, the organ responsible for swallowing the sun at dusk and vomiting it up again at dawn. As the ‘mouthpiece’ of the soul, it has the power to praise or blame, create or destroy, to lie or tell the truth. When gagged it is a symbol of secrecy: the lips are sealed.

A good quote:

And finally here’s what I think is a touchingly recognisable idea about Mouth that appeared in a Danish novel, The Liar, which was written by Martin A. Hansen. The Liar is a story in the form of a diary by a teacher in a school on the remote island of Sandø. In this section, we have arrived at the last lesson of the day and the teacher has invited the children to come and sit on the floor in the corner of the schoolroom. As usual, the schoolroom is filled with weird and wonderful things to focus the children’s interest and on this occasion, there is a dog sledge. (Alas, Health and Safety would probably have a fit if this happened in any of our schools today!). And now the teacher starts to tell the assembled children a story:

The sun makes the schoolroom sultry. There is a smell of smoldering peat, stuffed birds and dried marine animals from the museum over our heads – a hanging press of strange things found on land and sea – and a smell of rye bread, fat, and cold meat from the open mouths of the children. Their mouths are open, you know, because we are off on a long journey, and the mouth, as the doorway of the imagination, must stay open when the mind travels.

How often have I seen that myself, both in children and in adults. You’re in the middle of a story and, right there in front of you, you see the evidence of what Martin Hansen describes – the open mouths that tell their own story of the journeys of the mind and the imagination.

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