Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Storytelling Starters ~ The Path of Light

Saturday, December 7th, 2013

Christmas is coming, the goose is getting fat and it’s time to tell some good winter stories, the sort that give us the kinds of symbols we need at this time of the year. Light in the darkness. Kindness to others. The beauty of giving presents. Getting together and making good cheer.

So between now and Christmas, I’ll be doing what I usually do – reminding myself of some of the stories I’ve found it good to tell in the lead up to Christmas.

My story today is really about the power and comfort of light. It has no specific link to Christmas. Yet it feels as if it fits. For as my South African god-daughter noticed when she came here the first time – it was what made her feel the British winter was special – lights in the darkness are magical things. Candle-light, firelight, the sparkle and dazzle of Christmas lights in the trees – even the Oxford Street lights this year, lights within giant white snowballs, are enough to bring a sense of wonder and cheer.

So here it is, a Chinese story about a young man who gets lost in the darkness on his way home after finishing work late one very cold winter night. The young man is called Kuan Lo and my name for the story  is The Path of Light.

The Path of Light

It was very cold and very dark and very late when Kuan Lo started walking home. Worse still, when Kuan Lo was crossing the moor that he had to cross in order to get home, he suddenly realised he didn’t have a clue where he was. Somehow or other, he’d lost his way. Then, just as he was wondering what he could possibly do, he saw the flames of a fire ahead and from the same direction came the sound of laughing voices.

When Kuan Lo reached the fire, he saw a most surprising sight. Sitting very comfortably on the ground round the fire were a whole lot of big men. They looked just like wrestlers usually looked and Kuan Lo felt a little bit worried. What if they started to fight him?

Instead when the men saw him, they called out in the friendliest way. ‘Come and have a drink with us!’ So Kuan Lo sat down and at once they were all chatting and laughing. The men were extremely sympathetic when Kuan Lo said he was lost and then after a while, they said they’d like to show him a trick that they had. Kuan Lo wondered what they were going to do.

Well, each one of the wrestlers stood up – they were very big men with big, fat stomachs – and in an instant they were climbing on each other’s shoulders, one after the other, until they’d made a high tower of people. It seemed to reach up to the stars. Kuan Lo looked up at it in amazement. Then, oh dear, it started to wobble and suddenly the tower of people was falling. And it fell, but very slowly and gently, until it was lying flat on the ground.

But when Kuan Lo looked where the tower had fallen, he saw no people, just a long path of white light. At once, the path of white light began moving slowly, gradually, over the moor. Kuan Lo was amazed and started to follow. And do you know what? That path of white light took him all the way home. It didn’t seem to take long to get there and when Kuan Lo saw his own little house, he felt very glad and grateful. ‘Those wrestlers made a path of light and it’s brought me safely home,’ he said to himself as he opened his front door and stepped inside. ‘I’ll never forget them’.  And he never did. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Wintering Out 4

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

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. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Wintering Out 1

Saturday, November 24th, 2012

The evenings are getting darker and I’m starting a new series of postings. Wintering Out is the title and it starts with Dark, Dark Tale, a Story Chant that’s great with children and also with adults as a piece of fun in workshops. Next week and in the run-up to Christmas, I’ll bring other seasonal tales and chants into the mix.

Storytelling in Education: good news and bad news 

But first, to continue my recent theme of Storytelling in Education, let me give you my week’s good news and bad news. Both came in the same email from a Literacy Adviser in Pembrokeshire for whom I’ve done loads of work in the past, including a series of extended teacher courses. On one of those courses, now quite a few years ago, I told the Pembrokeshire legend of Skomar Oddy and I remember how much it appealed to one of the teachers. The children in her class  loved this particular story and she based lots of writing and art work on it.  Well, my Literacy Adviser’s email told me that when she recently went into that school, there was a whole new fresh display on the Skomar Oddy story. This was music to my ears. It shows that teachers who fall in  love with storytelling can make really good use of it year after year and that a good story never goes out of fashion.

The bad news was that, in these current times, there’s no longer any central funding in Pembrokeshire for the kind of storytelling in education work that I did so much of there. It’ll now be down to individual schools. That’s it – at least until people realize once more how important it is to fund this kind of work! Another worrying and retrograde step.

Dark, Dark Tale: a Story Chant for Winter

Once upon a time there was a dark dark wood.
In the dark dark wood, there was a dark dark path.
Along the dark dark path, there was a dark dark gate.
(Shall we go in through the gate?)

Behind the dark dark gate was a dark dark garden.
In the dark dark garden, there was a dark dark house.
In the dark dark house, there was a dark dark door.
(Shall we go in through the door?)

Behind the dark dark door, there was a dark dark hall.
Along the dark dark hall, there was a dark dark room.
In the dark dark room, there was a dark dark box.
(Shall we open it up?)

Oh my goodness! What was that? (more…)