Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ The human touch

Remembering stories can be a comfort when you’re poorly. And, dear readers, have I felt poorly since the third of my third chemo treatments. Still, I’m halfway through bar the shouting and that’s something worth holding onto.

A story that came to my mind when I couldn’t get back to sleep very early one morning this week is one that needs the best part of an hour for the telling and it’s one that I love. It comes from the Arabian Nights. Here it is in brief.

A story with a human touch:

The third of the three children of a king is a girl. With her brothers she has grown up in the home of the king’s gardener not knowing who she is by birth. The children’s mother was imprisoned long ago because of lies that were told against her, the gardener is poor but loving and the three children he took on as his own are leading a sheltered life not knowing who they really are. An important feature of that life is the gardener’s beautiful garden. It is a place of peace and refuge. Why should anything change?

Well, an old woman comes by. After being fed by the sister, by now a beautiful young woman, the old woman describes how the garden can become the loveliest in the whole wide world. What now lies ahead is epic, a quest that will be fulfilled only with the finding and bringing home of Bulbul al Hazar the Talking Bird, a branch of the Singing Tree and a vial of Golden Water. But the challenge will also finally bring about not only the transformation of the garden into the loveliest in the world but the restoration of the children’s mother to her true position as the king’s wife, the punishment of those who calumniated her, the honouring of the gardener for the love he has given the children and great happiness for the sister. 

To cut a long story short, it’s the sister, Farizad,  who succeeds in the quest. Each of her brothers has tried. But on the terrible mountain where the treasures are to be found, their failure has ensued from the very human fault that, assailed by horrific noises in trying to ascend the mountain, each in turn has looked back to try and see what  was making the noises. So each was transformed into a lifeless rock. But when the sister goes, she displays that little bit of human intelligence which is one of the reasons I love the story. Even as she begins her ascent of the mountain,  she stuffs the equivalent of cotton wool into both her ears. This means she does not hear the hideous noises. Thus she is able to continue her ascent and on the mountain top succeed in finding the Talking Bird, the Singing Tree and the Golden Water.  Happily, as she descends the mountain, she does what the Talking Bird tells her to do. Thus her brothers  become human again as she sprinkles Golden Water on the lumpen rocks all round her. So, too, do all the other young men that have been similarly transformed.  And then, back home, the changes can occur that begin with the garden becoming the loveliest in the world and end with the recognition of the wrongs that were done and the restoration of justice.

That significant detail:

That’s it. Of  course in such a long and complex story, the stuffing of cotton wool into the ears of the person who must remain undistracted to be able to do what she is determined to do is only one small detail. But in a way you could say it is the most significant detail of all. Certainly it’s one that resonated with me in the early hours of a morning when all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.

So that’s my story for this week. I hope that if you don’t know it already, you can look it up and that, if you do, you enjoy it too.

In the version I know, the story appears as The Tale of Farizad of the Rose’s Smile in Stories from The Arabian Nights retold by Naomi Lewis

PS: Prompted by Farizad of the Rose’s Smile, my photos this week are, of course, of some of the roses in my garden. The top one is the Mary Rose. The bottom one is the Paul’s Scarlet.

PSS: My great thanks to all readers who have written with kind good wishes. They are deeply appreciated.

Tags: , , , ,

3 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ The human touch”

  1. Annalee Curran Says:

    Thank You, Mary for that lovely and profound story. May YOU find the appropriate cotton wool whenever you need it!

  2. Pam Says:

    Thank you for this lovely story Mary. It isn’t in any of the two 1001 nights books I have, so I have ordered the book you mentioned; retelling by a female author will be a bonus. It was probably capok she put in her ears – we used to have mattresses stuffed with it when I was a child in Africa.
    I hope you are feeling better soon. At least you have stories to keep you company on wakeful nights!

  3. Meg Philp Says:

    Hi Mary. Just found this story and read it for myself. Haven’t touched The Arabian Nights for many years. Lovely to be given this story to enjoy. The garden is so wondrous. Your roses too. Thank you for being such a tenacious, regular blog poster… a modern Shahrazad.
    Best Regards, Meg.

Leave a Reply