The stories that we heard as small children, were usually folktales and fairy stories. Tales that our parents and their parents heard when they were young, passed down through the generations.
Folktales were stories of hopes and dreams, of encounters with giants; wicked witches and goblins that inflict harm. Or kind fairies and dragons who restore peace and order.
These were our first experiences of life's changing patterns and through which we were able to know good from evil; kindness from cruelty and the difference between ambition and despair.
Because most of these folktales and fairy stories were created before many people
could read or write, they had to be passed on by word of mouth,
consequently they were never the same twice in the telling. Each
storyteller placing his emphasis in the areas he felt would create the
best response or deliver the important message.
THE ORAL STORYTELLER OF TODAY
In that respect, the oral storyteller of today performs in exactly the same way; It is essentially the difference between listening to a 'Teller of Tales' and hearing someone reading a story from a book. The oral storyteller shapes his tale according to the way he feels and in response to the manner in which his audience is reacting.
The modern day storyteller of course, in addition to re-telling the tales that he has heard others tell, also knows many of the folktales that were told long ago. They are all now available in books!
Because of this huge availability, we all have access to a vast storehouse of folk tales passed down from different cultures and translated from their original languages. Our potential repertoire of stories is far greater than that of the storytellers of the past who were only able to pass on the tales that they themselves heard from others.
ORIGINAL FOLKTALES AND FAIRY STORIES
We have the original fairy stories written by Denmark's
the collected folktales of
of Asbjornsen and Moe and others, as well as the romantic folktales from the Middle and Far East. So with this great wealth of material, you are able to consider:
WHAT STORIES CAN YOU TELL?
Our advice is to begin with the tales that you grew up with! The stories that you were told when young and have never forgotten. Do not despise the 'Old favourites', "Little Red Riding Hood" and "The Three Little Pigs" are still great stories.
Walt Disney was no fool, he knew that "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was a winner. Fifty years later, Disney produced "Aladdin" and "The Sleeping Beauty". Audiences flocked to see them and loved them! because THEY WERE OLD FAVOURITES!
HERE ARE SOME ADDITIONAL DEDICATED WEBSITE LINKS THAT YOU MIGHT LIKE TO EXPLORE:
Joseph Jacobs - Celtic Fairy Tales
If like me, you prefer collecting your stories in books, you will find most anthologies of folk and fairytales available from Amazon.com.
One of the stories that I regularly tell to children is,
It is from the Brothers Grimm collection. In my
telling, I make a slight alteration in order to accommodate a little bit
of business at the end.
Hear it live!
You can hear my interpretation of this story on the C.D. "The Adventures of a Lucky Bean - and Other Tales for Children" recorded live at a Scottish Primary School in February of 2004.
for more information.
Fractured Fairy Tales.
Jenna Mathis of Morrow County Community Center has recently written to me, drawing my attention to the subject of 'Fractured Fairy Tales'. These are stories that appear to follow the traditional pattern until fairly early into the story, when the reader discovers that all is not what it seems! 'Shreck' is an obvious example, where the Ogre is seen to be the hero, the princess is anything but beautiful and the handsome prince is the 'bad guy'!
It is a fascinating concept and certainly one to set the wheels of your imagination in a spin!
Jenna tells me that she has a nine year old student named Max who has been studying the topic, and having also visited my 'Folktales' page, thinks that I should include a link to a website that talks in some detail about Fractured Fairy Tales! I agree with him!
Here is the very website, enjoy the exploration and Thank you, Max! Keep up the research!
Further thoughts on Fractured Fairy Tales
It is only after considering this concept that it occurs to me that I have for some time (unaware until now of the term, 'Fractured fairy tales') indulged myself with a similar idea, concerning 'The Frog Prince'. Even as a youngster, I was never satisfied with the undeserved reward of marriage to a 'handsome prince' to the selfish and unkind princess. And so I re-wrote the ending, creating in my view, a more satisfactory conclusion. Here is the original Brothers Grimm story:
The Frog Prince.
One fine evening a young princess put on her bonnet and clogs, and went out to take a walk by herself in a wood; and when she came to a cool spring of water with a rose in the middle of it, she sat herself down to rest a while. Now she had a golden ball in her hand, which was her favourite plaything; and she was always tossing it up into the air, and catching it again as it fell.
After a time she threw it up so high that she missed catching it as it fell; and the ball bounded away, and rolled along on the ground, until at last it fell down into the spring. The princess looked into the spring after her ball, but it was very deep, so deep that she could not see the bottom of it. She began to cry, and said, 'Alas! if I could only get my ball again, I would give all my fine clothes and jewels, and everything that I have in the world.'
Whilst she was speaking, a frog put its head out of the water, and said, 'Princess, why do you weep so bitterly?'
'Alas!' said she, 'what can you do for me, you nasty frog? My golden ball has fallen into the spring.'
The frog said, 'I do not want your pearls, and jewels, and fine clothes; but if you will love me, and let me live with you and eat from off your golden plate, and sleep on your bed, I will bring you your ball again.'
'What nonsense,' thought the princess, 'this silly frog is talking! He can never even get out of the spring to visit me, though he may be able to get my ball for me, and therefore I will tell him he shall have what he asks.'
So she said to the frog, 'Well, if you will bring me my ball, I will do all you ask.'
Then the frog put his head down, and dived deep under the water; and after a little while he came up again, with the ball in his mouth, and threw it on the edge of the spring.
As soon as the young princess saw her ball, she ran to pick it up; and she was so overjoyed to have it in her hand again, that she never thought of the frog, but ran home with it as fast as she could.
The frog called after her, 'Stay, princess, and take me with you as you said,'
But she did not stop to hear a word.
The next day, just as the princess had sat down to dinner, she heard a strange noise - tap, tap - plash, plash - as if something was coming up the marble staircase, and soon afterwards there was a gentle knock at the door, and a little voice cried out and said:
Then the princess ran to the door and opened it, and there she saw the frog, whom she had quite forgotten. At this sight she was sadly frightened, and shutting the door as fast as she could came back to her seat.
The king, her father, seeing that something had frightened her, asked her what was the matter.
'There is a nasty frog,' said she, 'at the door, that lifted my ball for me out of the spring this morning. I told him that he should live with me here, thinking that he could never get out of the spring; but there he is at the door, and he wants to come in.'
While she was speaking the frog knocked again at the door, and said:
'Open the door, my princess dear,
Then the king said to the young princess, 'As you have given your word you must keep it; so go and let him in.'
She did so, and the frog hopped into the room, and then straight on - tap, tap - plash, plash - from the bottom of the room to the top, till he came up close to the table where the princess sat.
'Pray lift me upon chair,' said he to the princess, 'and let me sit next to you.'
As soon as she had done this, the frog said, 'Put your plate nearer to me, that I may eat out of it.'
This she did, and when he had eaten as much as he could, he said, 'Now I am tired; carry me upstairs, and put me into your bed.' And the princess, though very unwilling, took him up in her hand, and put him upon the pillow of her own bed, where he slept all night long.
As soon as it was light the frog jumped up, hopped downstairs, and went out of the house.
'Now, then,' thought the princess, 'at last he is gone, and I shall be troubled with him no more.'
But she was mistaken; for when night came again she heard the same tapping at the door; and the frog came once more, and said:
'Open the door, my princess dear,
And when the princess opened the door the frog came in, and slept upon her pillow as before, till the morning broke. And the third night he did the same. But when the princess awoke on the following morning she was astonished to see, instead of the frog, a handsome prince, gazing on her with the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen and standing at the head of her bed.
He told her that he had been enchanted by a spiteful fairy, who had changed him into a frog; and that he had been fated so to abide till some princess should take him out of the spring, and let him eat from her plate, and sleep upon her bed for three nights.
'You,' said the prince, 'have broken his cruel charm, and now I have nothing to wish for but that you should go with me into my father's kingdom, where I will marry you, and love you as long as you live.'
The young princess, you may be sure, was not long in saying 'Yes' to all this; and as they spoke a brightly coloured coach drove up, with eight beautiful horses, decked with plumes of feathers and a golden harness; and behind the coach rode the prince's servant, faithful Heinrich, who had bewailed the misfortunes of his dear master during his enchantment so long and so bitterly, that his heart had well-nigh burst.
They then took leave of the king, and got into the coach with eight horses, and all set out, full of joy and merriment, for the prince's kingdom, which they reached safely; and there they lived happily a great many years.
I changed the ending. As I mentioned earlier, it seemed to me totally unacceptable that after everything she had done to reject the frog, she should be rewarded with marriage to a handsome prince and a 'Happy Ever After' conclusion.
And so in my version, on the final night, the frog asks for a kiss on the lips - and at the precise moment that their lips meet, the princess herself
turns into a frog!.
They then both hop down the stairs, out through the front door and off to the bottom of the garden, where they remain together until the end of their days!
And quite right too!
TWO SCOTTISH FOLKTALES
I have been recently reading a book entitled, “Tales of Ayrshire”, in which there are over fifty stories and, having once lived in Ayrshire, some of the tales were familiar to me. Others were not. The book was written by Anna Blair and published in 1983.
Since it is now out of print, I have sought Ms. Blair’s permission to share some of the stories with you. She has graciously consented and the first two below are from her book.
In giving her permission, she modestly adds that they belong to the people of Ayrshire and her contribution is only in setting the stories down. I think that her input is far greater than that. She has written in a style that makes them extremely readable and more importantly - memorable.
An extract from the back cover notes reads: ‘Anna Blair has travelled the length and breadth of the county to collect many of its folk-tales; some she heard from old people with long memories, others were gleaned from ancient manuscripts. Most were either fragmentary or were recorded in a number of differing versions, and the author has reconstructed the former and having taken the highlights of the variations among the latter, re-written them in the form that seemed to make the most authentic and rounded stories.’
She has certainly written the tales with great care and affection, and where appropriate, much humour. So here is the first tale:
Perhaps it would be helpful to those not familiar with the locality to know that Stewarton has for hundreds of years, been famous in Scotland for the making of a particular kind of hat or 'bonnet'. Not unlike the famous hat worn by Robert Burns' legendary 'Tam O'Shanter'.
The Shifting of Stewarton Kirk