Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Response

Without response, where would we storytellers be? I’d probably shrivel like the dried-up brown leaf that was on my doorstep the other morning, blown there no doubt by the winds of the previous night.

Rainbow scarf 5On Wednesday this week, I was at St Peter’s C of E Primary School in Ravenscourt Park. This was a new school for me except that its new head teacher used to book me at St Stephen’s School in Shepherd’s Bush where she previously worked. Some responses occurred in the course of the day which have stayed in my mind.


In my session for the Years 3 and 4 classes, I brought out my Rainbow Cloth (I often do). It brought some lovely responses, for instance that, if it transformed, it could become butterfly wings. I also told the story of how and where I’d bought it. ‘It comes from Africa,’ I began and in the small pause that followed, my eyes were drawn to two boys, both black, who were sitting together near the back. During my pause, one boy turned to the other, nodding slightly as if to say, ‘That’s like you.’ And at once, the other boy smiled with a look of such affirmation that I don’t want to forget it.


A second incident brought the different kind of response that comes out in quiet questions. For the Years 5 and 6 classes, I’d come prepared to tell the beautiful Chinese story of The Magic Tapestry. Perhaps I’ll tell it here fully another time. Suffice it to say right now that it involves the youngest brother of three brothers making a difficult journey to the Dragon King’s Palace to try and retrieve a large tapestry picture his mother has made. The scene in the tapestry is of a very beautiful house with very desirable gardens (in fact, the kind of place where anyone might like to live) and it appears that the Dragon King has stolen it.

P1080107When the youngest brother finally gets to the Dragon King’s palace, he confronts the Dragon King (who turns out to be very obliging). He also falls in love with the Dragon King’s daughter who is one of the young women who are out in the garden making a copy of the tapestry. Clearly, she in turn falls in love with him so it’s no real surprise (well, it is!) when he gets back home with his mother’s tapestry and it magically turns into a real life place when it is unrolled. And who does the youngest brother find in the gardens, kneeling beside the lake in the gardens? Well, it’s the Dragon King’s daughter. So of course the youngest brother gets married to her and everyone lives happily ever after (except for the two older brothers).

So I was very interested by the quiet questions of a number of children, mainly girls, who came up to me as the session ended. If the youngest brother and the Dragon King’s daughter had children, they wanted to know, what would their children be like? More like the Dragon King or like the youngest brother? And what was the Dragon King like exactly?


Questions are an indication of thinking. I like them. And isn’t it interesting how things you say can resonate? Like things you bring to show, the link can sometimes be completely by chance. On the day of my visit to St Peter’s, the Year 6 children were doing lots of papier-maché work. And what were they in the process of making? Dragons! I hadn’t known that in advance. Yet in my story-bag, to go with my story, was a little bronze dragon emblem I’d recently been given. When I passed it around, children looked at it with great attention. ‘Is it gold?’ was one question. Then one boy expressed great concern. ‘This dragon’s only got three legs!’ I pointed out that, in true heraldic style, one of the dragon’s legs is raised before him. The boy looked reassured.


My choice of story had proved a happy one. In the incidental talk after The Magic Tapestry, I mentioned the dragon that is on the Welsh flag and how,P1080102
on Saturday, I’d be wearing my dragon socks to watch the England vs Wales Six Nations Rugby Match on the TV. ‘It’s going to be a tough game,’ I said. The Year 6 teacher nodded in profound agreement. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’ll be there at Twickenham. I’ve got a ticket.’

Last but not least

I cannot finish without drawing your attention to the wonderful comment on last week’s Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle story that came from Swati this week together with a great set of photos of the pictures that were drawn of it by children in her story group. It’s just so lovely to know that a story that works so well in the UK can also bring such great results with children in Bangalore.

PS: Well, the photos speak for themselves: my Rainbow Cloth, my little bronze dragon and my husband in his dragon socks.


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5 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Response”

  1. Swati Kakodkar Says:

    Thanks Mary for the acknowledgement.
    I have shared this blog with the parents who I am sure will be happy to know that their child’s art has received appreciation all the way from UK.

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Dear Swati, it is just so lovely thinking of you telling the parents of your Story Group of children about us being in touch. I feel a growing sense of connection with you all in Bangalore. My thanks. Mary

  3. Fiona Says:

    Dear Mary and Swati (and Hilary)
    How lovely to hear of this story being told all around the world. As soon as I saw the heading ‘Best story ever (for young ones) I knew it must be Mrs Wiggle and Mrs Waggle. I do agree! I learnt it years ago from our dear friend Tony Aylwin and have told it countless times ever since .. most recently at Christmas when a Syrian family, now safely re-located here in Wales, came to celebrate Christmas at my friend’s house and she asked me to come to share some stories on Christmas Eve, I chose stories with plenty of visual support, as I know myself that listening to a story in your second language can be a challenge. Among the stories I told was ‘Wig and Wag’. Although my two listeners were 11 and 10 years old, they really enjoyed joining in with the story. Alis way of ‘following up ‘ the story was to draw the two little people in biro on my thumbs and then take loads of wobbly photos of them using my phone. I think that using technology helped him to feel ok that it wasn’t babyish to listen to this story
    I love your ending, by the way, when they both think ‘How nice it is to have a friend’., I haven’t ever thought of making it explicit in that way. Thank you for that.
    Good wishes

  4. Meg Says:

    Hello Mary. I’m always fascinated to hear about your storytelling experiences.

    Am struck again by the coincidence of good stories being told in different parts of the world. I started telling the ‘Magic Brocade’ story last year. Its a version I got from Cathy Spagnoli’s book ‘Asian tales and teller” Her story is set in China but the weaving is carried off by the fairies of Sun Mountain. The rest of the plot is the same. I told it to adults, and one woman still raves about it! It is such a visual, powerful tale.

    I’m working in a project in a little school nearby and we got around to talking about given names and their meaning. One shy new boy suddenly announced that his meant “God of Rain.” My response was automatic – “Well, we’re glad you’re here!” They’re all excited now about finding out more about each other.

  5. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Hello Meg. And I’m always fascinated to hear about your storytelling experiences too. It brings a wonderful sense of a storytelling community, far-flung but working in similar ways and, as you say, often with similar stories. I hope we can all get strength from that. All the best, Mary

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