Stories

Here are a few of the stories I tell. You can also listen to them for free and then buy at my Bandcamp page, or watch some stories via YouTube. Folk tales are dynamic and grow better with each retelling. Read or tell them to others. Create YOUR own version. Write a comment or share your version on my FB Storytree pageIf you feel you want some support developing your storytelling skills, sign up for a storytelling course or book me to coach you via phone, skype, FB time or Zoom.

The Difference between Heaven and Hell

Listen to this story here. 

Adapted from a version in Elisa Permaine’s book, ‘Once Upon a Time’. This folktale can be set in many different countries.

Long ago in Japan, there lived an old woman who had a wish. She wished more than anything to see for herself the difference between heaven and hell. The monks in the temple kindly agreed to grant her request. They put a blindfold around her eyes, and said, “First you shall see hell.” They lead her along winding paths for what seemed like hours.

When the blindfold was removed, the old woman was standing at the entrance to a great dining hall. The hall was full of tables and people were seated around them. The tables were all piled high with delicious foods of all kinds! Her mouth watered as delicious fragrances wafted towards her nose.

But when she looked closely at the people, she saw that they were horribly thin and their faces were grey and unhappy. Each person held chopsticks. The chopsticks were three feet long! They were so long that the people in hell could reach the food on those platters, but they could not get the food back to their mouths.

As the old woman watched, she heard their hungry, pained cries. “I’ve seen enough,” she cried. “Please let me see Heaven.”

And so again the blindfold was put around her eyes, and the old woman heard, “Now you shall see heaven.” They lead her along winding paths for what seemed like hours.

When the blindfold was removed, the old woman was confused. For there she stood again, at the entrance to a great dining hall, filled with tables piled high with the same lavish feast. And again, she saw that there were people sitting just out of arm’s reach of the food with those three-foot-long chopsticks.

But as the old woman looked more closely, she noticed that the people in heaven looked healthy and well-fed. They had rosy cheeks and chatted with each other happily as they ate. Laughter filled the air.

And soon the old woman was laughing too, for now, she understood the difference between heaven and hell.

The people in heaven were using those long chopsticks to feed each other.

Listen to my recording of The Difference between Heaven and Hell via Bandcamp here. 

Three fables for the times

Told by Jenni at “March in March” Rally, Byron Bay. Watch the live telling here.

 

 

I want to offer some soul food in the form of stories because it is easy to feel despairing in these challenging times. I am going to tell you three 1 minute fables, which I find helpful. Then I’ll weave them together at the end.

 

1. The Woman who Shouted

Adapted by Jenni from ‘The Sage of Sodom’, found at Donna Jacobs Sife’s site https://www.donnajacobsife.com/.

There once was a large city where the motto of the people seemed to be “What’s mine is mine  and what’s yours is mine.” It was like a city of two-year-olds. (Not my lovely two-year-old or yours naturally- someone else’s two-year-old!) They were not only greedy, but they were also cruel.

In all that large city, there was only one kind adult: an old woman who wandered the streets, shouting and pleading for the people to change their ways.

At first, a few people listened. But after a while, they decided she was just a mad old woman, so they stopped listening to her and went back to being just as greedy and cruel as ever. Nevertheless, that old woman kept walking the streets shouting and begging people to be kinder. One day a small boy ran up to the old crone and tugged on her skirt.

‘Excuse me,’ said the boy, in a gentle voice. ‘Haven’t you noticed, no-one’s listening to you?’

‘Yes, sweetheart, I know,” she replied and chuckled softly.

“Then, why do you keep shouting?” asked the boy.

“If I still shout my dear, it’s not so I can change them, it is so they don’t change me.”

 

2. Elephant and Hummingbird (A Chinese folktale)

Elephant was walking along the jungle path, when she came across Hummingbird lying flat on her back with her dainty short legs stretched up into the air.

“Hummingbird, what are you doing lying down there on the ground? I could have stepped on you! Are you hurt?”

“No, Elephant, I’m not hurt. I heard that the sky is falling and I am ready to catch it with my feet.”

“Hummingbird, are you mad?” snorted Elephant. “Firstly, the sky can’t fall. Secondly, even if it did, how would your short, puny legs make any difference?”

“Elephant!” said Hummingbird, keeping her feet pushed up towards the sky, “I am doing what I can! When are you going to join me and do what you can do?!”

 

3. Good Luck, Bad Luck! (A Chinese folktale)

A farmer had an old horse to till his fields. But one day, that horse ran off into the hills. All the neighbours sympathized. “What bad luck,” they said.

The farmer said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

A week later, the old horse returned from the hills with a herd of wild horses. This time the neighbours clapped the farmer on the back saying, “Oh, what good luck!”

He said, “Good luck? Bad luck? Who knows?”

The following day, as the farmer’s son was trying to tame one of those wild horses, he was thrown off and his leg was badly broken in the fall. Everyone gathered and shook their head sadly, “Oh what terrible luck.”

But the farmer said, “Bad luck? Good luck? Who knows?”

Some weeks later, the army marched into the village and they took away every able-bodied young man they found to fight in the Emperor’s latest war. When they saw the farmer’s son with his badly broken leg, they couldn’t take him. Now was that good luck or bad luck?

My prayer is that the ‘good luck’ or silver lining hidden within this draconian shift to the right in our country, is that it is catalysing this powerful grassroots movement. Whether we feel discouraged and whether we think we can win or not, like the old woman, we have to fight for what we believe in anyway. Right now we may feel like a large group of hummingbirds, but if we persist, we could grow this movement until we are a stampede of elephants- a non-violent stampede of elephants of course!

 

BabyThe Blue Coat 

WATCH The Blue Coat here. LISTEN and/or BUY here.  A Jewish folktale – closely based on the retelling by Hugh Lupton. 

 

Long ago in a cold country in Europe- a country where you need a very warm coat in the chilly months, a family had a little baby boy.

 The grandfather of the baby was a tailor- someone who makes clothes for a living. He bought some beautiful warm blue cloth and he stitched a big cosy baby’s blanket for his grandson. With every stitch, the grandfather put his love into the blanket. When that baby boy was wrapped in that blanket he felt like he was being hugged, even when he was lying alone in his cot.

 As the little boy grew, he learned to crawl and then toddle and then walk and wherever he went he would drag that beautiful blue blanket with him.

 One day, his mother shook her head and waggled her finger and she said

“Dear, dear, dear, that baby’s blanket is nearly worn out!

We’d better get it fixed.”

 So they took it back to granddad.

He lay it on the table,

got out his best scissors,

cut out the best parts and fitted them together,

piecing one part to another part,

 until he had made him a beautiful blue coat!

————————————————————–

 Oh that boy, he loved that blue coat!

 He wore it in the sunshine, he wore it in the rain.

He wore it in the wind and he wore it in the snow.

He ran and jumped and skipped and twirled in it.

He splashed through the puddles and he rolled in the mud.

 Until one day… his mother she shook her head and she waggled her finger and she said,

‘Dear, dear, dear. That blue coat is nearly worn out, we’d better get it fixed.”

 So they took it back to granddad.

He lay it on the table,

got out his best scissors,

cut out the best parts and fitted them together,

piecing one part to another part,

until he had made him a beautiful

waistcoat!

————————————————————–

 Repeat the part between the lines replacing coat with waistcoat,

hat; bow-tie; button!

Until he had made him a beautiful story- a story of The Blue Coat and

 that boy told it to his friends and family…who told it to their friends and family, who told it to me.

Now I’ve just told that story to you, so now you can tell it to your friends and family-

the story of ‘The Blue Coat’.

WATCH here. LISTEN and/or BUY here.                                      

 

 

The Perfect Heart

Author Unknown, Source Unknown. Adapted by Jenni Cargill-Strong

There was once a place where all the people carried their hearts around in their hands. One young man boasted that he had the most perfect, beautiful heart of all. His heart certainly looked perfect with not a single flaw.

One day as a crowd gathered to admire his heart, a little girl said, “It is perfect, but it is not beautiful. You should see my grandma’s heart. It’s reeeaaaally beautiful!” The young man was not happy with the little girl, but he followed her to her grandma’s house. “Grandma, could you please show this man your heart?”

The old lady looked calmly into the young man’s eyes. He began to feel like he was in an ancient forest. Then she opened her hands to reveal the ugliest heart he had ever seen. It was covered in scars that had lumpy edges. It had staples and holes in it.

“You’ve got to be joking!”, snorted the young man. “How could THIS be more beautiful than MY perfect heart?!”

“The reason there are so many marks on it” the little girl explained, ”is that whenever grandma loves someone, she gives them a piece of her heart. When they give her a piece of theirs in return, it never fits quite right so it makes a lumpy edge. See, here is my piece. Sometimes she gives a piece of her heart to someone who doesn’t give a piece in return and that is what the holes are from. Grandma says ‘Love is a risk.’ That is why I think my grandma’s heart is more beautiful. When I grow up, I want mine to be just like hers.”

The young man grew quiet. The old woman pulled off a piece of her heart and offered it gently to the young man. ✪

What do you think happened next? Write your ending. 

The Fairy at the Top of the Christmas Tree

Long ago in the lands we now call Europe, before Santa Claus and even before baby Jesus, no-one celebrated Christmas yet. What people did celebrate was Mid-Winter’s Eve. Children got especially excited because they might meet the Queen of the Fairy- and even have a wish granted! Back in those olden days, there were many great forests and only a few human tribes. Deep in those forests lived the fairies. Now fairies love eating, they love dressing up, they love to sing and dance and they love to have parties. For each season and each time the seasons changed, they would have a big party.  But the party for Mid-Winter was one of the biggest.

As you have probably noticed, when Winter comes, the days get shorter and the nights get longer. But mid-Winter’s Eve is the exact time when the days get longer and the nights get shorter.  So the people and the fairies celebrated. Now the fairies, at least most of them, quite liked children because they were playful and funny. So they would invite all the children of all the human clans and tribes to their mid-Winters Ball in the middle of the forest. The children dressed in their warmest clothes and thought a lot about the wish they would make.  This sometimes caused a lot of sighing, jiggling and twiddling of hair. The Queen of the Fairies knew that human children would get lost in the dark or trip over tangled roots and vines. So she asked the spiders to weave their webs from the outside of the forest in to the center, where the Queen sat on her magnificent, carved wooden throne. Then with a graceful wave of her wand she would turn the webs into threads of silver that sparkled under moonlight and starlight.

The children waiting at the edge of the forest with their parents knew then that they could make their way in. The older children helped the younger children. They waited as patiently as they could for their turn to meet the Queen. Some children took little presents for the Queen- even though they didn’t have to. Older children took little things they had made by hand during the long, dark Winter nights. Then as each child made it to the throne they would whisper a wish in the ear of the fairy. If she thought it was a good wish she would use her magic to help it come true.

Then the children were invited to stay for the party. The fairies would light a big bonfire. They put on a feast of delectable treats- pastries and cakes and sweet ambrosia drinks. After the feast, the musician and singers would begin. They made the kind of music that makes your heart sing. The children listened to the fairy harp and sweet singing at first and joined in when the dance music started. When it was time for the children to go home, the fairies would wave them goodbye. As the parents and other adults waited at the edge of the forest, they watched the flickering golden torches as the children made their way back out along the silvery webs.

They were remembering what it had been like back when they were children and they had gone to the fairies party. So that is why we bring a tree into our houses. Some part of us remembers those olden days and those wonderful Mid-Winter’s Balls. We bring a tree inside to represent the forest, we wrap silver or gold tinsel around the tree to remind us of the silver spiders’ webs,  flashing lights to remind us of the flickering golden torches, presents under the tree to remind us of the gifts of the fairy and a fairy on the top to remind us of the Queen of the fairies and those parties. Nowadays there are grown-ups who like to party and dance the night away in forests wearing fairy wings. They wear their hair in bright colours or dreadlocks and sometimes wear fairy wings and they dance all night long. How do you visualise the Queen of the Fairies?

So when you put your tree out this year ready for mid-Winter -or mid-Summer here in the southern part of the Earth, remember to put a little food and drink for the fairy and remember to be on your best behaviour. You wouldn’t want to wake up as a frog on Christmas Day, would you?

Listen to my retelling for FREE via Soundcloud or read a little more about the woman who gave me this story at my blog.

More great folktales to read can be found at:

Donna Jacobs Sife website https://www.donnajacobsife.com/samples-of-original-stories/

L. Ashliman World folktales– well indexed. https://www.pitt.edu/~dash/folktexts.html

Storyteller Net Stories to read and listen to – plus articles on stories and storytelling  http://www.storyteller.net/

Karen Chase, Catch the Story Bug: Fantastic resource of story links: https://www.storybug.net/

The Healing Story Alliance For therapeutic stories and discussions of their applications. https://www.healingstory.org/ Read text of Jenni’s story, ‘Shelley and Rustle’ there, as well as an article about the story.