Monday, October 28, 2013

Not the Three Little Pigs! How a fractured fairy tale came to be!

Part of the art of storytelling is working on the fly: improvisation.  Storytellers do it all the time.  As a live performer, especially working with kids, you get people calling out every once in while, making some comment and you have the choice to ignore it, or acknowledge it, or work it into the story.  Sometimes people want to share their own story, and if we did not have time limits and were not being paid to tell stories, we could listen to all the stories people had to offer, all day long but we can't.  Sometimes people jump up to join in (class clown)! Some people have something to offer.
Art by Simon Brooks, Copyright 2014

This weekend I went to perform at a birthday party. I was told the theme was Spiders and having spoken with 'mom' I had a few other stories ready for the party too.  One was the English story of the Three Little Pigs. When I arrived it was a chilly but beautiful evening. The sun was about to set.  The family had made a canvas sheet for the kids to sit on and there was a rocking chair under the tree with some lanterns above it for me. The canvas had a spider web on it. So of course I open with the story of how Ananzi Received Stories. I did another story which I had discussed with mom and was about to start another requested story, The Three Little Pigs.  One of the birthday girls' friends said: "Because it is a spider party, could you tell it a spiders?" And because she asked so nicely, without thinking I immediately said: "Yes." And then started the tale. I left aside the whole notion of spiders building webs, there was no way I could 'write out' or eliminate the three different houses in that moment. Then came the huffing and puffing.  Birds cannot huff. I am not sure wolves really could, but we will let that pass. Birds really can't.  So this bird kind of coughed and then got a passing wolf to help. Birds also cannot smell. Fact. So how can the bird follow the scent of the spider? Ah! The spider left a fine thread for the bird to follow to the next house! No more wolves helping out - wings! It used it's wings to knock the house down. Great! Bird follows the two silver threads to the house of bricks etc etc. Then I followed and ended with Ananzi's Hat Shaking Dance! It was such a great night and I have to say I could have spent the whole evening telling tales to that family and the birthday girls' friends.

For the full story of  The Three Little Spiders go to my website: > Free Stuff, scroll down and click on link to Story and click on the image of the Raven!

There is something very satisfying about being challenged, rising to the challenge, and making it work.  The kids loved it and even helped the story along. Storytelling shows by example that the imagination is a powerful thing, that knowing how to create with storytelling gives strength to the imagination. Without imagination, one could never think out of the box and the Three Little Pigs would be just that - The Three Little Pigs, and we would have no "Little Bad Wolf and Red Riding Hood" or "The True Story of the Three Little Pigs" and one of our favourites at home, "The Three Little Wolves and the Big, Bad Pig."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - or is it?

I read a lot.  I read for pleasure (currently into the fabulous 'Life' by Keith Richards and James Fox), many of which get added to the list of books I have read so far this year here on my blog.  I read many anthologies and collections of folktales and fairy tales and poetry too (which I do not list due to the number!), and also for my audio book work (which can be seen on!  But I am also a photographer.  I studied photography at at the Hereford College of Art on Folly Lane in Hereford and it was my only income for a good number of years as I made a living taking photographs, trying to tell stories with a shot or series of photographs.  I also love artwork of many kinds and have a passion or a love of sorts for graphic design and illustration work.

So, when I go dumpster diving at libraries, or rummage through things left at the transfer station or at yard sales, I often look for book titles either to read, to admire, or yes, strip.  Strip?  Sometimes there are books which are beginning to go moldy but which have great illustrations in them or photographs, or they have great covers.  Some of the old and molding books get stripped of all their pages and I made journals from the covers (I am still trying to perfect these.  It is fun to write in an old book legitimately)!  Sometimes I remove the pictures only and leave the books in the dumpster.  Bringing home books going moldy is not an option.

I have a collection of artwork from many books and one day I will do a project with some of them. Sometimes illustrations get pasted on to or in letters to friends or family, but recently  when I was looking at some illustrations there seemed to be a little disconnect between the caption under the image and the image itself.  Mostly it had to do with the expressions on the character's faces. One struck me in particular from Sir Walter Scott's "Quentin Durward', a book I admit I have never read!  It looks like a love scene.  The heroine, or damsel in distress, has her hands clutched (by Quentin) over her heart.  As she looks at her presumed lover, she is quoted as saying: "Durward!  Is it you? Then there is some hope left." But looking at her face she seems, well, not so convincing. And my 11 year old inner self took over and I thought, 'she's looking up his nose and there is something up there!' I began to look more carefully at the expressions of the characters in the other illustrations and sure enough there were grounds to play and speech and thought bubbles came to my mind.
The above was the first of four I, er, messed around with.  The others will be going up on my Facebook account.  In each I have left the original caption.  Now look closely at our heroine's face.  Does it really say "there's hope" or does it say "I am slightly uncomfortable here" with the look in her eyes and raised shoulders?

And so I ask: if a picture can speak a thousand words, what is it REALLY saying?

To see the other pictures I have re-captioned, visit my Facebook page!  They will be going live over the next few days!