Mary Medlicott, Storyteller and Author - Storyworks

Storytelling Starters ~ Stories for Younger Children No. 4

Next Saturday’s blog will start a new series. So far, I haven’t decided the subject. Anything you’d like to see? Please jot a note in the Comment box at the end of this blog and I’ll try to respond.

Next Thursday, March 1st, it’s going to be World Book Day, St David’s Day and my next WIPs meeting all on the same day. World Book Day speaks for itself – a day to celebrate the book, it’s usually a busy one for authors and storytellers. St David’s Day, in case you don’t know already, is the national day of Wales. It marks the death of our Patron Saint. As for WIPs, that’s a group of us who meet every couple of months to present something creative we’ve each been working on. Among us are singers, pianists, an oboe player, writers, a composer of music and a sculptor. Next Thursday, I’m planning to do a story set in Wales.

Here meantime is another Welsh story, the last in my series for younger children and an ideal story for telling next week.

The Door In The Mountain

Once there was a girl who loved singing and running. One day when she was playing hide and seek with her friends, she ran away from the rest to look for a place to hide and came across a door in the mountain. The door was ajar and she went inBehind the door was a tunnel and at the end of the tunnel was sunlight. So Betsy Bankhouse – for that was her name – crept through the tunnel until she came out on the other side and there she discovered she was in a new world that she’d never seen before.

As she looked round, Betsy saw a big blue lake and in the middle of the lake she saw an island. She desperately wanted to go there and when she got down to the edge of the lake, she saw exactly what she needed. It was a boat.

So Betsy got in and rowed that boat across the water till she came to the island. As she started climbing out, she noticed there were lots of little people looking out at her from the reeds. They said, ‘Welcome to our island, Betsy Bank-house.’ ‘That’s funny,’ thought Betsy, ‘how did they know my name?’

Betsy thought the little people must be the fairy folk, the Tylwyth Teg. They seemed very pleased to see her. They took hold of her hands and took her to a place in the middle of the island where they were having a party. Betsy ate delicious food and listened to toe-tapping music and, when she’d finished eating, she danced until she was tired. Then she said she’d go exploring.

‘That’s alright,’ said the little people. ‘Except don’t pick anything on our island, Betsy.’

So Betsy went exploring and soon she came across a daffodil wood. There were hundreds of daffodils there and she badly wanted to pick one. But which one? All of them were so bright and lovely. She looked for the biggest and the best and then – she couldn’t help it – she picked it.

But as soon as Betsy picked that flower, she remembered what the little people had said. She remembered, too, about her friends playing hide-and-seek on the mountain. They would surely be looking for her by now. And then she thought about home. She should be getting back for supper. So still holding the daffodil, Betsy began to run. On her way back to the lake, the little people saw her. They shouted at her and waved their fists at her: ‘You picked a flower on our island, Betsy!’ they shouted. They sounded very, very cross.

Betsy got to the lake and got in the boat and rowed back across the water. Then she climbed up to the tunnel and went back through it and when she got out the other side, she couldn’t see any sign of her friends. So she ran back home, still carrying the flower.

‘Where have you been, Betsy?’ her mother said. ‘Not telling!’ said Betsy, feeling a bit embarrassed.

 ‘And where did you get that flower, Betsy?’ her mother asked her. ‘Not telling!’ said Betsy again. And she didn’t tell her mother, not for ages. But what she did do was fetch a bottle of water and when she’d put that daffodil into the bottle, she stood it in the middle of the kitchen table.

After that, two surprising things happened. One is that the daffodil did not wither and die – not for ages and ages. The other is that, although Betsy went back the very next day to look for the door in the mountain, she couldn’t find it. However hard she looked and however often she tried, she never ever found it again.

But she never ever forgot that daffodil either or the time when she had found it.

Why I’ve chosen this story:

Well, as I said, March 1st is St David’s Day and the daffodil is one of the two national emblems of Wales. The other one is the leek. On St David’s Day when I was at school, boys usually came to school wearing leeks, girls came to school with daffodils on their lapels. During the day, the daffodils would wilt and the boys would chew through their leeks until there was almost nothing left. On the day, too, my school in St David’s would all troop down to the Cathedral for a service in the morning and, in the afternoon, there would be an Eisteddfod, a whole series of competitions in singing and reciting and choral singing and dancing. Whether on your own or in a group, the performing would be very exciting and also a bit nerve-racking.

Hints on telling the story:

The story allows plenty of opportunities for making it come alive with sound and action. Younger children respond to these.

What about singing Betsy’s favourite song? (You choose what it should be!)

What about rowing a virtual boat with the children?

What about getting the children to pretend to be all those cross little people, shouting at Betsy as she runs off with the daffodil that she’s picked?

And by the way, what about changing Betsy’s name and giving her a name of your own choice? I call her Betsy Bank-house because there’s a Bank-house in St. David’s and in Wales it’s still common to call people after the name of the house or farm where they live.

What children like about the story:

Often children come away from this story with the idea that – this very weekend – they might go looking for a door in the mountain. I love that. I love the fact that they can feel so inspired.

Children also love coming up with their own ideas about why the door in the story vanished. In my experience, it’s better not to ask them – or at least to wait a bit. Someone will invariably volunteer a reason after a bit of a pause. Then the ideas and reasons begin to flow. They make for fantastic discussions of morality and ethics.

The dilemma of the story:

It’s one of those stories – there are so many – that present children with one of life’s inescapable problems. If Betsy hadn’t picked that flower, would she have found that door again? If she hadn’t been unable to go back, would she have remembered the event as vividly as she did? Maybe we have to overstretch ourselves, breaking the rules in some way or other, in order to learn what experience is and the conflicts it can present.

Follow-up activities:

This is a brilliant story for story-mapping. Ask children to make a picture of the whole world of the story and see what you get.

For teachers who like getting children to brainstorm ideas for new stories, this story presents an ideal opportunity. For where do you think that door in the hillside might have gone when it disappeared? Like the pot in the Hak-Taks story last week, it could presumably have turned up somewhere else – like here! Who might find it? What might they find behind it? What could they bring back from their adventure? The possibilities are interesting.

Next week:   

 As I said at the start, next week will be the start of a  new series. Anything particular you’d like me to deal with? Any ideas or requests, please tap them into my Comment Box.

And if you want more stories for younger children, you could always purchase my books: Stories for Young Children and How to Tell Them, or The Little Book of Storytelling. You can get both direct from me, postage free. Either send me a cheque or pay via PayPal.  Just go onto my website and click onto See My Publications. You’ll find them there. You might also enjoy Listen to a Story.


You can also read occasional blogs by me on the Early Learning HQ website.  Early Learning HQ offers hundreds of free downloadable foundation stage and key stage one teaching resources. It also has an extensive blog section with contributions from a wide range of early years professionals, consultants and storytellers. For details of the Society for Storytelling, click here.


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2 Responses to “Storytelling Starters ~ Stories for Younger Children No. 4”

  1. Steph Bent Says:

    Hi Mary,
    I met you at your storytelling evening at Waterstones book shop a month or ago. ( fantastic evening ) I was wondering if you knew any stories about ‘hero/heroines. I am storytelling and crafting for Black History Month with a school in Dulwich in October. I’d like to start the workshops with a story and thought you might know some that were suitable for both ks1 and 2 .

    Best wishes

  2. Mary Medlicott Says:

    Hi Steph, I’ve replied separately with some suggestions in response to your question in your Comment. Great to know you’ll be storytelling for Black History Month. All the best, Mary

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