Saturday, November 3, 2007

Storytelling at WVU, Storytelling at Home

It's Mountaineer Week at West Virginia University! Once again I was invited to tell stories for the Family Fun Day. I brought puppets to help with the telling, and here I am just beginning to set up for the show. For this event, I planned a program of participatory and puppet stories, expecting an audience of children and parents.

We had a great time. About 70-80 parents, children and curious adults attended, plus many who stopped to listen to a tale and then moved on. The hour passed quickly. We got to visit briefly with storyteller Joann Dadisman, son Aaron and his family and Aunt Dora before heading home to do more visiting, this time with our Virginia granddaughters.

Awesome Blossom the Possum, ready to tell stories

I think other storytellers probably wonder, as I often do, if what we do has meaning, if it will be passed on after we're gone. I sing a lot of ballads with my storytelling, and I love those old melodies. but I wonder sometimes if they have meaning to others.

Tonight I had a least a partial answer. When I got home we sat in the log room by the fire. The kids wanted stories, scary stories of course, their favorite kind.

Then Hannah said, "Sing Pretty Polly." She loves that ballad and I bet I've sung it to her a hundred times (links are close to the way I sing these ballads, but probably not exact). I obliged, but as I sang I realized I wasn't singing alone--four granddaughters were singing along with me. They knew all the words!

Then Allison asked for Railroad Boy, and again I had several more singing with me, stronger this time because they'd been singing it at home. Then Little Omie Wise, same thing.

When we quit singing they wanted more stories, so I told Wicked Jack and Rindercella, two of their favorites. They knew the plot and many of the words, but even so their faces were alive with delight.

I can't tell you how this makes me feel. To hear these young voices singing old songs is rich with meaning for me. To see them feeling the old emotions, identifying with the pathos is to see the songs reborn. And to see their faces alight as they listen to stories that have been told for generations is to realize that these tales still have meaning--and humor!--for another generation.

Maybe one of them will be a storyteller in the future. Maybe one will become a folklorist. Or maybe not. But they will have the stories and the songs, and I think they will share them with the next generation.

What more can I ask?

1 comment:

Mike said...

And so it carries on, that is how it is supposed to work, I reckon.

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