Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Posts Tagged ‘Philip Pullman’

Storytelling Starters ~ Tellable tales

Saturday, September 14th, 2013

It’s great to come across a new collection of extremely tellable tales. Girls, Goddesses and Giants by Lari Don (A & C Black) has just this week come into my hands as one of a lovely pile of books I’ve been sent to review for School Librarian magazine. Chris Brown, the magazine’s long-term Books Editor, is just about to retire from that position. He’s done a marvellous job over all of the years. I shall miss him. He always seems to know what books I will value receiving.

Girls, Goddesses & Giants addresses a continuingly important need in stories, namely for strong girl heroines. When I was growing up, I always identified with the young men who were the usual fare in the hero department. Heroines were in shorter supply. Whenever a brave prince was rescuing a kidnapped princess doomed to be sacrificed to a voracious dragon, I became the sword-wielding prince as well as the princess.

Lari Don is not only an author. She’s a practising storyteller too. She has felt the same strong need. And as she says in notes at the back of her book (these include helpful hints on adapting stories to suit your own style), she has felt compelled to satisfy it even while actually being in the middle of telling to an audience of children. The 12 stories in her collection come from all over the world. One of my favourites is a Cameroonian tale, Mbango and the Whirlpool. It brought back to my mind Philip Pullman’s point, made in the interview I quoted a week or two back, that a main reason why children love folktales and fairytales is their belief in justice. They want to see fair play being done. (more…)

Storytelling Starters ~ Advocacy

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

With the new school year in England and Wales on the verge of beginning, it was heartening to read Philip Pullman talking about fairytales in a Guardian newspaper interview last weekend.

Grimm Tales for Young and Old comes out in paperback from Penguin Classics on 5 September. It’s Pullman’s retelling of 50 of the Brothers Grimm stories. The Guardian interview was occasioned by the forthcoming publication and the best thing about it for me was that Pullman not only encourages the reading of such stories with children – indeed, he thinks it is vital. He is a terrific advocate of telling them too.

Oral storytelling needs this kind of advocacy. The telling of stories is not a new piece of technology that would inevitably get huge publicity and become desired as the next have-to-get thing. It’s been there over all the centuries of human development. But, sad to say, its enormous and magical power is currently receiving insufficient recognition in the educational world. For anyone who employs it with children – as Pullman himself used to do when he was a Middle School teacher in Oxford – its positive effects quickly become apparent.

Children have an enormous sense of fair play and, according to Pullman, this is the central reason for the appeal of the fairytale to them. Fairytales see that justice gets done. Besides, fairytales have a direct no-nonsense approach to story: there’s never any hanging about, action and event are all-important. This, too, makes them appealing to children. But that’s not the end of the potential of the fairytale for them.

When Philip Pullman was training teachers at Westminster College, Oxford ( where in years gone by I used to give storytelling workshops) he would encourage students to ‘get a few stories into their heads well enough to tell them to a class without referring to the book.’ His Guardian interview attests to the effect on children of doing this: they attend to stories that are told and, years hence, will remember being told them. (more…)