Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Storytelling Trip: Day 6 in Lewisburg

We said goodbye to the General Lewis Inn after a fine breakfast, packed up the car and headed to the last performance of the trip, Lewisburg Elementary School.
I'd been here last year, and the response from the students was terrific. The teacher who arranged the visit wanted stories to complement Heritage Week activities, so I prepared Appalachian stories and ballads for three sets.

Although many stories can span age groups as far as interest, content and enjoyment, there are differences in cognitive development between certain age groups and stories must be selected to recognize those differences. For example, tall tales (also known as "lies" in the mountains) go right over the head of children younger than 8 or 9 years old--younger children think that the fantastic events are true! Actually, I've had children as old as 12 ask after a telling of my Turpentine Tales, "Is that really true?" My stock answer: it's as true as you believe it is. And that's the truth.

Often, however, I will discuss the elements of a tall tale with the students after a telling, noting the source of the stories I tell and what makes them a tall tale. I also encourage them to tell the story at home, and go over the "bones" of one of the tales so they have the sequence of events to tell it later in their own words. For that's what a storyteller does--we don't memorize a story (except in very few cases)--we learn the bones, the sequence of events, get to know the characters and then tell the tale in our own words.

Those words may vary from telling to telling, based on the age of the listeners, the time limits we face and the vocabulary of the story. For example, if I say 'head of the holler" would you know what I meant? It's not likely, unless you've spent some time in the hills. So I may have to offer a definition embedded in the story, or use a different term.

I love the look on this girl's face--sharing a moment of the story with her neighbor. I often do the same, turning to share a moment of the story with someone, whether friend or stranger. Somehow it increases the pleasure to see the acknowledgement of the moment in someone else's eyes.

In Lewisburg, we enjoyed Sody Saleratus told with bear and squirrel puppets and student volunteers, the Kettle Song with lots of audience participation, the Skunk Song, the story of Mud with my raccoon puppet, the Courting Song, and Lazy Jack with the K-1 students. The 2-3 grade students heard Sody Saleratus, The Devil's Nine Questions (ballad), Jack and old Fire Dragaman and The Headless Woman of Briar Creek. Then 5th and 6th heard the song Knocked Him in the Head, Jack and Old Fire Dragaman, and the ghost stories Wizard Clipp and Burnt House, along with the ballads The Devil's Nine Questions and Lord Lovell. (Jack stories, I find, bridge all ages, child to senior citizen.)

The trip was exhilarating and affirming. Kids do need to hear stories. Adults want to listen too. Everyone wants to be connected, to share the sense of community that develops in every storytelling audience, to the memories of youth and the culture we live in. It's not about age, race, socio-economic level or location. It's about joining together to remember, to listen, and to relax in the safety of the age-old art of storytelling.

And so, our stories ended, we journeyed home, taking a few more shots as we traveled. Pictures help retain memories, and memories develop into stories. And the stories go on.


Anonymous said...

I love the pic of you two leaving the inn. Despite the focus, it captures you well.

Granny Sue said...

Larry actually took the photo--sometimes he doesn't wait for the camera to focus, or pushed the "flower" button by accident. He's a newbie at taking pictures with the digital camera, but he's learning. I posted the photo anyway (strange man and all!) because Larry really liked it, and had it not been for the focus, it would have been a great shot. Ah well. Life isn't perfect--and that fuzziness is something photographers do all the time to make people look younger!

Tipper said...

Just makes me wish you could visit my girls' school!

bluemountainmama said...

so when are you coming to our library? :)

Granny Sue said...

I wish I could too, Tipper. I bet we'd had a great time. Send me the name of their school and I'll send a brochure. you never know...

blue, I was all over your area last summer, but no gigs scheduled there so far this year. I'll let you know if any materialize. It was so fun, especially because I was able to take George's kids with me, and they helped tell the stories.

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