Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Natural justice

P1060289This coming Monday, I’ll be at St Stephens Primary School in Shepherds Bush. They’ve asked me back over several years as part of their Arts Week and I’m looking forward to it. The children there really appreciate stories and among the ones I’m thinking of telling are some I’ve told to classes there in the past. (Children everywhere seem to love picking up on stories they’ve heard from you before).

One of the new tales I’m planning to tell is one I’ve hardly ever told before. Which age-group I’ll tell it with will depend on atmosphere and how things go at the time. First, let me give you an idea of the story. Then I’ll outline some of my thoughts on how and why I might tell it. 

The characters of the story:

1. An old woman (very poor and very kind)
2. The Little Red Rooster (he belongs to the old woman)

3. The Turkish Sultan (very greedy, very mean and so fat that the pantaloons he wears are enormous
4. The Sultan’s servants (numerous, faceless and obedient)P1070114

The plot of the story:

The Little Red Rooster finds a diamond button when rooting around.
The Turkish Sultan happens to see it and gets his servants to grab it and put it in his treasure box.
The Little Red Rooster, outraged, is determined to get it back. He asks and asks and, by dint of what he does, he finally succeeds.

The story’s key feature:

The Little Red Rooster has a magic stomach. He employs the magic in the following ways:

When he’s thrown into a well at the Sultan’s command, he tells his magic stomach to swallow all the water.
When he’s thrown into a fire, he tells his magic stomach to let out the water and put out the flames.
P1060296When he’s thrown into a beehive, he tells his magic stomach to swallow all the bees.
When the Sultan finally stuffs him down his pantaloons in order to squash him to death by sitting on him, he tells his magic stomach to let out the bees into the Sultan’s pantaloons.

The end of the story:

Justice is finally done: the bees sting the Sultan so badly, he tells his servants to let the Little Red Rooster have his diamond button back.

But in such a story, it’s only fair that justice is extended way beyond the absolutely necessary. So when the servants leave the Little Red Rooster alone in the Sultan’s treasure vault to collect his diamond button, he tells his magic stomach to swallow all the Sultan’s treasure.

Then when he goes home, he makes the treasure come out of his stomach and gives it to the old woman. She, being kind and conscious of others, shares it with all her impoverished neighbours.

Things I might do with this story:

To encourage participation, I’ll probably introduce it by asking what noises might be heard in the following circumstances:Necklace compress

a. If something is thrown into a well.
b. If a big fire is burning
c. If you stood near a beehive
d. If bees were stinging your bottom

To encourage children to start joining in, I’ll certainly employ a choric effect when telling, for instance what the Little Red Rooster says:

Come my Empty Stomach
Do your magic trick
Drink all the water in this well.

Come my Full Stomach
Do your magic trick
Spit out the water and put out the fire.storybag-1

To get the children thinking, I’ll ask various questions but without seeming to do so. For instance, when we get to the Sultan’s treasure box, I’ll  start enumerating possibilities about what’s in it – diamonds …rubies? … and when I pause, the children will probably start contributing their own ideas. This technique is good for extending vocabulary. It also encourages children to see the scenes of a story in their own imaginations.

Why I’m thinking of telling this story:

It’s clever and funny and I think it embodies a good sense of natural justice (much needed in the world today.)

 PS: My photos this week are of some items of ‘treasure’ I might well take with me to St Stephens in what I call my Story Bag.

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4 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Natural justice”

  1. Jean Says:

    Love it – made me smile – I’m sure the children will love it too – and I can just imagine the happy pandemonium reenacting a bee stung bottom. Have a great storytelling day Mary x

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Dear Jean, laugh they did, especially at the bee-singing of the bottom. Thanks so much for your good wishes for the day, it went really well. Mary x

  3. Meg Says:

    Ah yes. This is an old favourite of mine too. The kids love it. You’ll have a great time. I’ve noticed that younger kids love to rub their tummy as they they chant ” Come my magic stomach …” I do like your idea of the old woman sharing the treasure with her neighbours – a satisfying ending all round. Cheers! Meg

  4. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Always so nice when another storyteller likes and tells a story you tell too. The story certainly went down well today. Mary

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