Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Questions

Here’s a question. What would you do if someone you thought of as a very good friend brought you a present of two identical apples and when you gavMany apples compresse one of these apples to your dog (who loved apples), your dog instantly fell down dead? What would you do with the other apple?

That is the question which the prince in The Parrot and the Tree of Life is obliged to answer.

The Parrot and the Tree of Life:

The prince in the story did not hesitate for a moment. He answered the question without hesitation by taking  hold of the friend and wringing her neck. Then he took hold of the second apple and threw it out onto the grass outside his throne room, banning anyone from going near it.

Over the succeeding years, an apple tree grew where the second apple had fallen and this tree bore the most delicious-looking fruits. Of course none of the prince’s courtiers would eat them because they were banned from doing so. The  tree became known as The Tree of Death. However, when an aged couple who were the prince’s gardeners felt they wanted to die together, they decided to go the tree. There, they took an apple each and ate it.

But the elderly couple didn’t die. Instead, amazingly, they changed into the lovely young people they once had been. And as to what happened after that, I suppose the answer is as obvious as the question. Desiring to become young again too, the courtiers and the prince went to the apple tree and ate its apples. The same thing happened to them as to the aged couple and the tree then became known as The Tree of Life.

And that, in essence, is the story of The Parrot and the Tree of Life except for letting you know what you may already have guessed – that the friend who brought the apples to the prince was not a person but a parrot. Yet does it really make any difference that the friend was a parrot? After all, this parrot had been devoted to the prince for years and he loved her so much that when she’d asked him if he would allow her to go away for six months so she could visit her native land, he had assented even if with some reluctance. And after she’d spent those months rearing a family with a mate that she found, he was very pleased to see her back.

So the questions continue. Why was the prince so suspicious when he took the gift his parrot had brought him that he threw that first apple to his dog? Granted, this particular prince never ate any food at all until he’d first tested it out by giving a portion to some other living being just in case it was poisoned. So you could say he was acting as normal. Yet hadn’t the parrot proved herself a very dear and wise friend over the course of many years? Why didn’t he trust her?

Now the questions proliferate. Wasn’t the prince proved right in not trusting even a very dear friend? Wouldn’t he have died if he’d eaten the first apple? Or was it perhaps his lack of trust that somehow turned the apple poisonous?

Or is there something even more strange going on in this story? Is the moral contained in the story the idea that death ceases to be an issue when you accept it – that, in a sense, acceptance of death brings you a renewal of life? And would anyone at all really wish to go back to youth again when they were reaching the end of their life?

ParrotSo, yes, it’s a very strange story and, yes, it raises many questions. One that is asked by the prince’s courtiers within the story concerns the difference between the two apples. How did one prove poisonous and the other life-giving? Well, the prince’s soothsayers resolve this by deciding that the answer must have had something to do with where the parrot had obtained the apples. Evidently, she’d obtained them from an enchanted tree when, on her way back from her sojourn in her native land, she visited the Garden of the Fairies. So the soothsayers decided that it was in the Garden of the Fairies that the answer to the mystery of the apples must lie. They said that, obviously, in the Garden of the Fairies the first apple must have been licked by a venomous snake and it was the snake’s saliva that had poisoned the apple.

Soothsayers are useful beings. Once the prince was provided with this explanation of what had happened, he erected a magnificent shrine to his parrot and after that the parrot was adored there both by him and by all in the land.

The value of questions:

I can’t remember ever telling The Parrot and the Tree of Life to anyone at all. Yet the story does stay in my mind. Apart from anything else, it serves as a kind of reminder to me of why, especially when telling stories to children, it’s important to acknowledge that questions lie within so many stories. It has been my practice whenever possible to allow children the time after a story has ended to ask any questions they want to ask or simply to say anything they want to say about the story they’ve heard. It’s true, of course, that the storyteller may also have an opinion but then so can everyone else.


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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Questions”

  1. Swati Kakodkar Says:

    Thought provoking blog and a wonderful story! Thank you so much for sharing!

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Dear Swati, how very lovely to hear from you. I’m pleased and touched that you liked that story. As to your separate email, I’ve been wanting to reply. But for some reason, my email system broke down this week. I’m waiting to get it fixed. So I’ll hope to be writing soon. All the best, Mary

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