The Natural Storyteller: Wildlife Tales for Telling
by Georgiana Keable
reviewed by Kate Haines for Greenfinder
Georgiana Keable, the author of ‘The Natural Storyteller: Wildlife Tales For Telling’, has been a key figure in the rebirth of storytelling in both Norway and England. She founded the Norway Storytelling Festival in 2004 and now teaches storytelling at Oslo University.
This collection of short stories encompasses enthralling tales from India, Scandinavia, Africa, Russia, Afghanistan and England and include story maps, story skeletons and riddles alongside each tale to aid the narrator’s memory in the retelling of the tales. Extension activities are also included with some of the stories so would be useful for teachers, librarians or forest school leaders.
Reading through these stories I was struck by their simplicity, warmth and compelling characters and was intrigued to learn that a question Georgiana is asked time and time again by teachers and parents is ‘Why aren’t you telling stories about real life, council estates and smart phones instead of talking animals, trees and flowers?’ Interestingly she is never asked this question by children.
Hugh Lupton points out in the foreword that ‘Nothing has really changed. Just like our ancestors, we still depend on the generosity of the land. We may no longer live by fields and forests but our lives are interwoven with the lives of insects, plants, animals and birds. Emotionally we are no different-greed, kindness, anger, courage, jealousy and love inhabit us just as they inhabited our ancestors.’
‘The Perfect Pot’ was one of my favourites and is a simple, heart warming tale about an Indian woman carrying water to her home each day with two pots, one a perfect specimen and a second one that is cracked and leaks half its load every day.
The story ends with the cracked pot asking its mistress why she uses the pot day in day out when it leaks so much water. Her mistress asks her to look at the path she walks each day and to look at the flowers that grow on one side of the path. ‘I dropped flower seeds on your side of the path and everyday you sprinkle them with water, I could have always bought a new pot but you are perfect for the job. The flowers give joy to many a heart and home’
There are many other beautiful and uplifting stories in this anthology but not all of them have happy endings. ‘The Puffin’ is a dark tale that doesn’t end well despite the protagonist repenting of her sins. However poignant stories like this one would certainly create a different storytelling experience for children that are perhaps used to conventional fairy tales where everyone lives happily ever. I’m sure this tale would create much discussion and consternation amongst little listeners which I’m sure is the author’s intention.
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