Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ On reflection

Looking anew at a story in the light of new information can cause a bit of reflection. This happened to me this week. I’d been looking through my files of stories and had come across one I like a lot that I’ve sometimes told to younger children. It’s about a tiger and a mouse and you very likely know it already.

The Tiger and the Mouse:

So this tiger is marching through the forest when he almost trips over a little mouse.

‘Ha,’ says the tiger. ‘You got in my way. I’m going to eat you up.’

‘Oh, don’t do that,’ the little mouse replies. ‘You never know, one day I might be able to help you.’

‘You? Help me?’ blares the tiger. ‘You’re very small and weak. I’m very big and strong. How could you ever help me?’

‘Try me and see,’ says the little mouse.

Well, the tiger decides to spare the mouse (but just for now) and off he goes in his lordly fashion. Not long later, however, some hunters come into the forest, see the tiger and catch him. First they bind the tiger’s legs. Second, they tie the tiger to a tree. Then away they go to fetch their truck, confident of getting loads of money for this lordly creature when they put it up for sale.

While the hunters are away, it so happens that the little mouse comes by and hears the low moans of the tiger. ‘Help! help!’

When the mouse reaches the tiger, she sees what a plight he is in and at once she offers her help. ‘Remember? I promised to help you and now I will.’

So the mouse sets to work and, before very long, she has nibbled her way through all the ropes that are pinning the tiger down. Now the tiger is free and very contrite.

‘Thanks,’ said the tiger, ‘you kept your promise and from now on, you’ll always be my friend.’

And that’s the end of the story – except that, of course, there are lots of tigers in the forest (though many less than there used to be) and, unfortunately, when the little mouse is next spotted by a tiger, it’s likely to be quite another tiger that does the spotting. Furthermore, there are lots of little mice in the world and there’s no way of knowing that the tiger’s promise applies to them all.

And on further reflection: 

So this touching little tale has its darker sides. But it was another kind of thought about it that cropped up in my mind in the course of this week. I’d been reading a thought-provoking book about Emily Dickinson. (Yes, I’m still mad about her poems and, indeed, today am a visitor at a study group that meets once a month to read and talk about her work.)

This particular book – Emily Dickinson, Woman Poet by Paula Bennett – looks at Emily Dickinson’s work from a female-centred point of view and shows how, in many of her poems, especially in talking of herself and nature, she reveals a powerfully feminine stance. She often writes about tiny creatures such as bees and small birds. She writes about flowers, uses imagery of pearls. She writes about herself as small. But she does not belong to the usual sort of 19th century woman poet who is domestic and devoted. Emily Dickinson is passionate and strong and absorbed by thinking about spirit and soul.

Well, I don’t quite know why but that book made me start thinking again about that little mouse, so powerfully confident of her own powers and not unafraid to say so. Maybe I should now reflect on the story of the tiger and the mouse (and possibly many others too) as a confrontation between the unthinkingly powerful male and the differently powerful, self-aware female.

Yet I have to admit that looking at The Tiger and the Mouse in that different way is not likely to change my response when a mouse appears in my kitchen which is something that happened on two consecutive evenings last week. No, I definitely do not think well of mice – at least, not in my kitchen.

PS: In the absence of any photos of real tigers or mice, I’m making do with two stock images.

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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ On reflection”

  1. Meg Says:

    Another timely tale, Mary.
    Was wondering if you’d post on my walk this morning.
    Now I’m at breakfast, here it is, and here you are.
    Mouses have such tiny voices. (I know it’s mice but it sounds such a sharp word.) You have to be very quiet to here them.
    Just like that voice inside when you’re trying to decide which way to go.
    Thank you for reminding me.
    Kind Regards

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Yes, I’m still here despite several reappearances of my kitchen mouse, each time causing me to want to run away. Your comment about the tininess of such creatures’ voices has made me remember a set of children’s stories I wrote now many years ago. The main character was a tiger mouse. He could be quiet and small when he wanted, big and loud and fierce when he needed. Just as you say at the end of your message, thanks for reminding me! Very good wishes, Mary

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