Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Regenerating

I’ve never been an assiduous follower of Doctor Who. But down in Wales with a guest who loves it, we did watch the Christmas episode. It contained a wonderful example of regeneration as Peter Capaldi who has been the twelfth doctor spiralled through turning circles of time and space to become the thirteenth, a woman played by Jodie Whittaker.


Regeneration is a good theme for this point of the year. At the end of this particular year, it feels especially apt when so many people I’ve talked with have confessed that, for them too, 2017 has felt like a year we want to see the back of.

So, much like Doctor Who spiralling into a new emanation, images of regeneration have been swishing round in my mind. Wasn’t there a girl sent out into the woods by a cruel stepmother who had demanded to be brought strawberries for supper? What ever was the girl to do? It was the depth of winter, the end of the year, and not the time for strawberries (except in supermarkets!).  Rescue came in the bitter night when she met a man in the woods who brought her to a blazing fire around which sat a ring of men of all ages from very old to very young. And didn’t those men stand and chant the year forwards, regenerating winter into summertime so that the poor girl was then able to gather the strawberries her cruel stepmother required?

Of course that wasn’t the end of the story. The cruel stepmother still had to get her comeuppance. But here it will suffice to give a sense of how, in story at least, the end of a year can bring its own hope of renewal.

A Chinese tale:

And isn’t there that Chinese story in which a poor young civil servant was wending his way home across the moor after a very long day’s work followed by the merriment of New Year’s Eve? As I remember it, this young man felt especially tired because it was such a long way home. But then he saw the flames of a fire and, reaching the blaze, he discovered a whole lot of very big, very fat-bellied men, all sitting at their ease round the fire. The men turned out to be Sumo wrestlers who’d been performing in the nearby town. They invited the young man to come and join them and after they’d given him ale to drink and made him feel cheery,  he told them he’d like to do something for their amusement.

So the young man went off  into the darkness and imitated the calls of numerous birds. These calls were so life-like that the Sumo men were  astonished. Where had he learned to make these calls? In turn, full of admiration, the Sumo wrestlers said they’d do a special trick for him. Rising to their feet on the instant, they began making a ladder into the sky, man after man on another’s shoulders until they seemed to make a great white ladder that rose high into the night sky.

Then – oh no! –  as the young man watched, the ladder began  to sway and fall. But it didn’t fall to the ground with a crash. Rather, fallen, it had become what looked like a long white road. And when the young man followed this road, he found himself at home in no time at all with a happy smile on his face and a great sense of anticipation about what the new year would bring.

A story for 2018:

After a lot of swirling, the afore-mentioned images of regeneration have spiralled around in my mind to create a new story about a young girl who was trudging her way home after a long, tiring evening serving suppers at a café in town. Instead of Sumo wrestlers – for this new story might happen anywhere – this young girl happened upon a bunch of merry-looking women, all sitting around a fire, laughing and sharing delicious things to eat and telling each other stories – sad stories, hard stories, funny stories, romantic stories, stories of persistence and stories of adventure. And after a good long while, instead of any nonsense about making a ladder into the sky, these women simply said they’d be glad to walk their new friend home. Of course, by the time she was home and had got to bed, the young woman’s head was full not only of wonderful tales but of a great sense of camaraderie and hope for the future. And that’s when she knew exactly what she was going to do. She was going to change her life and become a storyteller too!

With such a tale, I’d like to send good wishes to every reader of this blog in the hope that not only will your New Year be a year of good stories for you but that your respect for the power of stories will inspire others too. It’s my feeling that the world around us needs it.

PS: The photos are two of my favourites from walks on Whitesands Beach this week, my personal good news for 2018 being that my gammy leg is now starting to let me take walks again. Hooray!


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