Do you recall stories by the fire? Snuggling up together, keeping warm, listening so carefully you could hear a pin drop? I bet you still remember those moments now and cherish them. As you were listening, you may never have realised that memories were being made as the stories weaved their magic, and laughter rose, fear crept and maybe even, tears fell.
Next week is National Storytelling Week and as I sit by the fire on this wet windy night, I wanted to share and jot down my thoughts about us as storytellers, story weavers, dreamers and to give some practical ideas of how storytelling can be brought to life in our homes, especially during this time of remote learning and lockdown.
As humans, we have an innate interest, need and want for stories. Whether it is reminiscing on the past, continuing traditional tales of your culture, heritage and family beliefs, retelling stories you were told when ‘you were wee’, or indeed the poisonous weave of the gossip monger who loves to idly create, twist and conjure – despite the harm they may be doing. Either way, storytelling, story weaving and the magic of stories is in our DNA, our make-up and our interest in curiosity.
When I was growing up, I used to love listening to my Granny McGuinness telling her stories - ghost stories. I’d heard them over and over again, but still, I wanted more. Never was the house so quiet and us so engaged than when we sat around when would tell a yarn. And I can still picture those moments now as she told us about the heel, the sailor & his pipe and the banshee, of course! At her wake, all of her grandchildren stayed up all night retelling those stories and laughing. They are still told today. Equally, I used to love snuggling up to my dad and his deep voice at bedtime when he’d tell us another made-up-right-there-and-then instalment of ‘The 4 Johns’. Later, we would take over that role and tell our own stories to the younger ones, all because he invested the time, many, many nights before, modelling the magic of how stories are told, weaved and created.
Storytelling is an art. It’s the knowing your audience, knowing when to pause, or when to ask a question. It’s knowing when to quieten your voice or to get louder, quicker… or to be silent. It’s an craft that’s as old as time but today, with the distraction of screens – big and small – the beauty of the story and gazing into the fire could be a little bit lost? Perhaps, but it should never be forgotten. Because storytelling is healing. It’s making memories, it’s humorous. It brings people together through a tapestry of time, tears, laughter, remembering, dreaming about who we are, who we were and who we want to be. Storytelling is powerful.
Here are some ideas of how you can ignite a love for telling stories in your house this week.
For the family:
Question Jar: Tell the Story
Ask each person in your family to put a question in a jar. Examples include:
What is your most vivid memory as a child? Tell the story…
If you could go back to one day in time, what day would that be and why? Tell the story…
What was the funniest thing that’s ever happened you?
Tell me when you feel in love (with another human or it could be an animal)
What was the most adventurous thing you have done?
When have you felt most scared?
What is your biggest regret?
Would I lie to you?
This is a fun one. Write down 3 interesting statements about yourself. Two will be true, one will be false. Tell a story about one of the true statements!
I lived in a blue house growing up.
I once saved a person from drowning.
I chased a rainbow and found better than a pot of gold.
Rekindle old stories:
Sit by a fire or candle-light and tell a story that you were told as a child. It could be scary, a fairy-tale or one that you recall being told yourself.
For the tiny tale makers…
Go for a walk and pick up little things you see along the way that symbolise your journey. When you come home, lay out the objects on the ground or on the table and recount what you did and where you went. Now, add little bits in – for example, add a picture of a troll under the leaves and maybe a Gruffalo footprint beside the stick. Then, retell the story using connectives like SUDDENLY, IN A FLASH, OUT OF THE CORNER OF MY EYE, YOU’LL NEVER BELIEVE IT BUT…, WITOUT ANY TIMETO LOOSE.
This can equally be done on pieces of paper. Together, make a list of: (for example…)
Find stones and draw a simple outline of each thing on them. Put the stones or pieces of paper into 3 separate bowls or bags separated by Character, Place or Object.
Make up a story bringing all of the 3 elements together. Add more if you need more ideas. Can you make alternate endings?
Have fun! Have a laugh! The sillier with this game, the better!
If you do any of the above, it would be wonderful to hear how it went! I would LOVE to hear from you.
Most of all, enjoy the magic of the togetherness, security and laughter that it all brings. We are the storytellers, the story weavers, the dreamers and make-believers.