On Monday 14 May we were fortunate enough to have a visit from Victor Davidson, teacher librarian at Birong Girls High School in New South Wales. Victor has a strong passion for storytelling and uses stories to engage student learning. Victor, presenting to some of our Year 7 students, told us:
"The oral traditions of folk tales have pedigrees that stretch back into the mists of time when old people sat around the fire telling stories to their children, not just to entertain them but to transmit their cultural values. In historical times when literacy became a means of recording stories many stories were written down and became a vehicle for modern listeners to reinterpret for their own times as well as providing historical context. "
In the session he delivered, he examined with the students how everyone tells stories that are often really just gossip. He went on to explore and perform three stories from three ancient traditions:
1) The Grimm Brothers in Germany published the Aschenputtel story as a variant of Cinderella in 1812. It has substantial variations from the Charles Perrault version of 1697 but the common factor is trying on shoes.
2) The ancient Chinese story Mengjiang Nu is an examination of the grief of a woman whose husband has died while building the Great Wall. There are many variations but the key theme is the way we cry in times of grief.
3) The 1,001 Nights is a collection of stories that were written down in a number of places in Iraq and Lebanon over many centuries. The framing story deals with how a young woman called Scheherazade tells stories to hypnotize a cruel king by making him want to listen to stories to "find out what happens next" and cure him of his cruel and jealous nature. One of the stories is Aladdin who must escape from a wicked magician and gain control of a lamp which contains a powerful genie.
During the performance, we were happy to see students on the edge of their seats listening and wondering themselves to "find out what happens next". We know not all stories end happily ever after but the process of storyteller enhances the perceptions of both teller and listener. "