Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘clocks’

Storytelling Starters ~ Arresting time

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

The Tide Clock in our Welsh house tells us what to expect. It opens up in advance an important aspect of the view we’ll see when we get to the beach, clarifying what will be there in regard to the margin between land and sea. When we were kids, we didn’t need it. Frequent experience created a tide clock in each of our minds. Get out of school, rush home for swimming things, meet on the square to run down the hill to the quayside and already, as we went, we’d know what to expect. We’d know because we’d been there before. Yesterday. And the day before that. So we’d know where the tide would be and, more important, if it would be good for jumping into it off the quay wall.

Time moves on


Storytelling Starters ~ Time to tell

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Do I dare call myself a storyteller? Hallowe’en is a popular time for storytelling. Yet I absolutely hate Hallowe’en – not because of the spectres, witches, zombies and demons but because of the commercialisation. Fancy-dress clothes get hired, kids run round knocking on doors, then look at you blankly when you appear, not sure what to say or quite why they’re there.

Baba Yaga

I don’t like Hallowe’en but I like Baba Yaga, the ugly old hag of Russian fairytale. She seems entirely the sort of ambivalent character we could do well to remember at this time of the year. A creature who inhabits the shadows, she lives in the depths of the forest in a hut with chicken legs that spins endlessly round. To get in to the hut, indeed to survive Baba Yaga at all, you have to know the correct thing to say. According to Afanas’ev, the Russian story-collector, she uses her very long nose to poke the fire and her sharpened iron teeth to devour young, tender victims.

But it’s often possible to outwit Baba Yaga. In fact, sometimes you feel she’s got something extremely insightful about her – for if you have courage and a good, kind heart, she ultimately respects it and will spare you. And when she spares you, you will afterwards be all the stronger for it.


Last week, I encountered Baba Yaga when I went with one of my god-daughters to see a play called HAG at the Soho Theatre in London. Produced by The Wrong Crowd company, the play generally followed the pattern of Vasilisa the Beautiful, one of the most well-known of Baba Yaga stories. It made strong use of puppets but was by no means aimed at young children. From its hilariously satirical approach to the stepmother character and her two mocking daughters (these were shown as a bodiless, twin-headed puppet), I could sense how it would appeal to the teenage audiences for whom it’s apparently at least partly intended. The play’s main character is a sweet-natured girl whose mother has died. With so heartless, vain and cruel a stepmother, she has in consequence to face some of the worst demons this world can throw up.

Coming out of HAG, it was particularly nice to encounter a large group of young women who, it turned out, had been brought to see the play by their English teacher. They had obviously got a lot from it.

So let me recommend Baba Yaga stories for audiences young and old. Plenty can be found on the Internet and, for young children, there are a number in picture-book form. In these, quite suitably for the age-group, Baba Yaga is usually presented simply as a witch who has to be fled. HAG reminded me that Baba Yaga’s significance can be more complex and, as such, her appeal far wider.

And meantime remember your clocks …

Yes, do remember to turn your clocks back on Saturday night or Sunday morning.

I well remember the occasion when Paul and I were in Italy on holiday and, over several days towards the end of our holiday, were surprised to notice that our hotel dining room was virtually empty each time we turned up there for dinner. Not until the morning that we left did we understand why.

Because of the earliness of our departure, we’d organised with the hotel-owner the night before that he would be up early in the morning to sort out our bill. We got up. He wasn’t there. Indeed, he had to be sent for and when we finally saw him coming up the road, he was still doing up his trousers and repeatedly calling out ‘Mama Mia’ in a long-suffering voice as if he couldn’t quite believe what these mad British people were up to. Shortly afterwards, we realised why. Days before, the clocks had gone back. We’d been completely oblivious.

Got any similar stories? The theme’s a good one for story-sharing. (more…)