Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Wintering Out 4

Red is for Father Christmas’s costume. Red is for berries and for robin redbreast. And red is for my photos this week. Red stands out against grey skies and fresh snow. And red is for Red Internacional de Cuentacuentos, the international storytelling network which this week posted me a fascinating blog all about Mo Yan, the Chinese storyteller who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature 2012. Why it engaged me so much is that MoYan thinks of himself first and foremost as a storyteller.

‘I am a storyteller’

‘I am a storyteller. It is telling stories that earned me the prize,’ Mo Yan said in his speech to the Stockholm Academy when he was awarded the prize. He described in detail how his storytelling began. One day, as a child, he sneaked off to listen to a storyteller who came to his local marketplace. His mother was unhappy with him for forgetting his chores. ‘But that night, while she was stitching padded clothes for us under the weak light of a kerosene lamp, I couldn’t keep from retelling stories I’d heard that day. She listened impatiently at first, since in her eyes professional storytellers were smooth-talking men in a dubious profession. Nothing good ever came out of their mouths. But slowly she was dragged into my retold stories, and from that day on, she never gave me chores on market day …’

As repayment for his mother’s kindness and a way to demonstrate his memory, Mo Yan would retell the storyteller’s stories for her in vivid detail. And it wasn’t long before he began to embellish them and introduce other people’s stories too. And that was that: he never stopped. It makes a wonderful irony of his name which, translated, means ‘Don’t Speak.’

You can read Mo Yan’s full speech on the official website of the Nobel Prize:  When you get to the site, click on Literature Prize, Mo Yan and go to Nobel Lecture. It gives a real insight into the mind and life of a storyteller and, for me personally, makes me think yet again of the Chinese myth of the First Storyteller. This has been absolutely central to my own storytelling because it is about the way storytellers finds inspiration in the people and the world around them.

A journey for the imagination

Back to Father Christmas – that’s a journey for the imagination. This week, I’m repeating from last year my Going To See Father Christmas chant. This is an excellent way of taking children on an imaginary journey and finding what they’re looking for, then bringing them back home with the ability to think about that journey again and again.

The chant is based on Going On A Bear Hunt. You can hear me telling it on my website: click on Main Site Home in the top left hand corner of this page. When you’re on the site, click on Listen to A Story in the menu on the left. This will take you to a track originally on my CD of children’s stories now sold , but without that track, with my book, Stories for Young Children and How To Tell Them (also see My Publications).

Going To See Father Christmas

We’re going to see Father Christmas, Christmas, Christmas.
Oh what a chilly day!
I’m not scared! I’m not scared!

 Oh look … it’s a busy supermarket with everyone doing their Christmas  shopping!

We can’t get over it, we can’t get under it,
We’ll have to push through it.

Repeat the basic rhyme until:

 Oh look … a frozen lake!

We can’t get over it, we can’t get under it,
We’ll have to slide across it.

Repeat adding a wall of ice, then:

Shh! Can you hear the sound of reindeer bells?
Can you see a lighted window?
It’s Father Christmas’s House.

Let’s tiptoe over and look in.
Shh! There’s Father Christmas’s reindeers.
Shh! There’s Father Christmas wrapping presents.

Look, he’s wrapping a present for me!
Quick! We’ll have to get home before he reaches our house.

Then run home, going back through the actions:

Back through the wall of ice.
Over the frozen lake.
Through the supermarket…. only a few people left.
Quick! Into the house. Up the stairs. Jump into bed.

 Oh, here’s mum!

‘Mum, we’ve been to see Father Christmas …. and he’s got a Christmas present for me!’

Happy Christmas Everyone!

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