The Three Little Pigs – a simple tabletop puppet play

House of Straw

“Straw? But a straw house won’t be strong,” said Tiny pig.

“Strong takes too long!” cried Big Pig. “And I want to play!”

So she gathered up the straw and built herself a fine house of straw and ran out to play.

House of Sticks

Little Pig looked around and saw sticks fallen everywhere under the trees.

“I’ll build my house from sticks,” she said.

“Sticks? But a stick house won’t be strong,” said Tiny pig.

“Strong takes too long,” laughed Little Pig. “And I want to play!”

House of Bricks

Tiny Pig walked into town and came back with a pile of bricks. He started to build. Slowly, steadily, the house came up and one sunny day it was finished.

 

(We didn’t have a wolf but we did have a tiger who came to visit…)

The Three Little Pigs

“Ow!” yelled Tiger. “That pot is too hot, I’ve hurt my bottom!”

He ran back as fast as he could to his home in the deep dark woods, far, far, away and he never came back!

 

 

StoryHug Summer Woodland Workshop No.1

Woodlands are full of possibility…

Dacres Wood
Dacres Wood

In the morning we invented people to inhabit the woods:

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…like Baba Yaga in her hut on chicken legs:

Baba Yaga and her Hut in the Woods - (source unknown)
Baba Yaga and her Hut in the Woods – (source unknown)

We made puppets of our people and made a story together:

Once upon a time there was a girl who met a fairy who invited her to a fairy party, but the fairy flew too fast ahead and soon the girl was lost. She walked and walked until she came to a hut… Did she knock on the door? Of course, she did! And was there a fierce old woman inside who might be a witch? Yes, there was!

Several of the children were quite sure that the girl should avoid the hut.

“But she would stay lost in the woods,” I protested.

So, anxiously together we persevered – just as heroes and heroines do in stories, moving deeper into discomfort and danger, probing the unseen and unknowable – and seeing in our watchful fearful progress into the story how to have faith striving to meet challenges and overcoming obstacles to where a place of greater contentment and security awaits.

The storyteller’s daring in exploring the continents of unknown tales gives their child listeners the bravery to face the world. For storytelling takes courage to reach out to the new… uncertainty is always creative.

Horst Kornberger, ‘The Power of Stories’

In the afternoon we made people who changed bodies and changed places – like the Goose Girl and her maid (‘The Goose Girl’, Brothers Grimm) whose story I told later.

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Legs, heads, bodies were swapped (as in Consequences) and strange new characters emerged

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Where would such people live? Of course there were many possibilities…

Dacres Wood Nature Reserve
Dacres Wood Nature Reserve

 

Paper Birds and some Spontaneous Storytelling

paper birds
“Birds can fly into your stories, bringing a sense of upliftment and airy freedom… Invite the benevolence of birds into your story world.” Nancy Mellon
Grow Mayow Community Garden

In the lovely Grow Mayow Community Garden we made birds to hang near our story circle.

the sweetest participantsbeautiful petal paper birdmaking birds

The birds watched over us as I began a story with a wooden girl, some chocolate coins and a paperweight bird…

storytelling props

… and they inspired a fabulous tale of a girl finding golden coins in the forest and a bird that helps her when she is transformed into a little dog.

the Story Circle
Photo: Nicola Ferris

The story grew and grew with the big clever children and the tiny ones joining together with incredible suggestions, me following, linking scenes, all of us gently probing forward into our unfolding adventure. This is the point in all of our Story Hug workshops where I see the children most completely engaged – adults too, so present in the moment of making our story. And while the writer in me searches for the plot and a convincing ending, I know now to hold back and trust that a story made with the free, unbounded minds of children can fly – anywhere! The story will always reach further, higher than it ever would have.

Such is the joy of spontaneous storytelling – and its challenge – riding the unexpected and binding the sparks, the shining offerings of ideas into a satisfying whole.

hanging birds

“…story-makers leave the familiar ground of the known, the security of established tales and premeditated plots. They put all their trust in the new, the unknown and unexpected.… practise on children – they are your best audience. They know that a fresh tale comes straight from the heart. They relish the moments of imaginal bonding, the meeting of what is most creative in us.”

Horst Kornberger The Power of Stories

Story Hug Magazine

magazine

Our first ever issue of Story Hug Magazine! For sale in our new shop! On the theme of Masks. The magazine opens up into a printed sheet to cut up…

cut out

Colour in…

colour

Make…

craft

… and play!

play pieces

There’s an illustrated story to read and learn and tell:

storybook

A template for a mask with lots of ideas for making your own:

ideas

People to dress up and use in stories you invent:

story making

play

You can buy the magazine at our workshops or in our shop !

 

 

Forests, Fairies and Magical Beings at the Wild Things Weekend in Mayow Park Community Garden

cafe
photo: GrowMayow (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grow-Mayow-Community-Garden-Project)

In blazing unexpected sunshine at the beautiful Mayow Park Community Garden we gathered to make story props…

garden, Mayow Park Community Garden Mayow Park Community Garden Writing Hut, Mayow Park Community Garden

…we made trees of recycled card, leaves, flowers, herbs…

recycled tree tree for story forest

…and we made magical people to hang in the branches of an enchanted wood:

elf in fine clothes elf for story

These were to be our ‘props’ for our storytelling session later, and it was fascinating to see the care and concern and intensity of focus that went into the fixing of each petal of a fairy skirt:

dancing fairy for story

…the fine detailed drawing of a wizard:

wizard

… the carefully considered contribution of a trio of imps based on the young artist and his two brothers:

three imps playing chequers

The fact that these beautifully unique creations were to be used in our stories seemed to lend a deeper significance to them, the children looked so pleased with their work and so proud as I arranged the little handmade forest and hung the magical beings on branches, and they were very deeply engaged in the stories we made together.

pasting leaves

Working with our hands and the imagination is a way into the deeper quiet where story parts lie; people and places waiting for their stories to be woven, to be spoken out loud into the open.

story circle

audience with miniature forest
photo:GrowMayow(http://growmayow.blogspot.co.uk)

At the end, the children sat on their logs in our story circle under the trees, looking thoughtful and dreamy, still lingering in the world we had made together, gazing up at the magical folk above us in the trees…

fairy with poppy petal skirt fairies in the forest

…before running back into the sunshine to play!

storytelling friends

The Storytelling Hut

storytelling hut sign emerson college

Last year I discovered the Storytelling Hut at Emerson College. Through the garden, down the path, behind a hedge…

storytelling hut path emerson college

It is simply a large wooden shed…

storytelling hut entrance emerson college

with rugs…

storytelling emerson college

and cushions…

storytelling hut labyrinth cushion emerson college

it seems normal enough but… it is filled with magic!

The last time I was there I learned to tell stories to children. This year I returned to learn techniques for telling stories to adults. Just as before, a weekend spent among warm generous storytellers and expert insightful teachers opened new doors into a story, the Brothers Grimm tale of Jorinda and Joringel, that I have been intrigued by recently.

Jorinda and Joringel illustrated by Adrienne Adams
Jorinda and Joringel illustrated by Adrienne Adams

In among the strange and fantastical elements of Jorinda and Joringel: a deep dark forest, young lovers inexplicably saddened by a beautiful sunset, a young woman turned into a nightingale imprisoned in a wicker cage by an old fairy who communes with angels – quite unexpectedly I glimpsed myself and saw reflections of my own story. A time of restriction and frustration was lit up with a quiet new light and I was able to consider it with greater compassion while held in my desire to tell a true and better story.

storytelling at emerson college gardens

Somewhere in any story that one is drawn to, there are reflections of one’s own true self, sudden flashes of understanding lighting up unseen truths and gently revealing them. In the wondrous space of the hut and alone in your room afterwards, a story can lead on and on, revealing new questions and bringing out answers that arise as if from nowhere.

It is no surprise that many describe their time at the School of Storytelling as ‘transformational’. This is the true magic of the hut. It enables one to open, to find meaning in ancient tales, discover new ones and to hear anew those stories we carry deep in our selves.

storytelling hut arch emerson college garden

Thinking about the Goose Girl: Storytelling and story making at the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve

story for syria
Photo: Fiona McDonald Joyce

With Spring just about to begin we spent a beautiful day at the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve to raise money for Syria – an event organised by the wonderful Fiona McDonald Joyce.

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I told the story of The Goose Girl  but before that the children  made a story together choosing a character (person, animal or magical creature), an object and a second character from the Goose Girl: Princess, Hat, Horse.

princess, hat, horse

An astonishing tale resulted, of a horse that put on a magical hat which gave him spots, and a princess who tries to help him! So different from the tale of the princess setting off into the woods to go to her prince, and the maid who attempts to usurp her. The maid succeeds in deceiving everyone and is deposed only when the princess speaks out and tells her truth, her story.

But why would a princess agree to a lowly maid’s demands? Why would she fear her so much as to exchange clothes and her horse and even promise not to speak the truth when they reached their destination? This question has always niggled me – I found it difficult to accept that she did it through fear, and as I worked with the story, preparing to tell it, I suddenly understood: the princess agreed because she didn’t think for one moment that an explanation would ever be needed! After all, she had always been a princess and where she came from, everyone had known who she was. And she fully expected it to be the case when she and the cunning maid arrived at the new kingdom.

What a shock for her to realise that mostly people tend only to see one’s surface, to note only symbols and signs; they do not see beyond what is presented to them. One cannot hide one’s true self and hope to be discovered. Even the King, more perceptive than the others, needed to have the truth told to him, to be given the full story.

To reach our desires, our goals, the life we secretly want for ourselves, we must speak our truth. And like the King with his ear pressed to the stove pipe, we must listen well, and we must hear it.

The Goose Girl by Margaret Evans Price
The Goose Girl by Margaret Evans Price

Vasilissa the Beautiful: The doll as talisman, magical friend and inspiration. Our first Story Hug workshop

Vasilissa peg dolls

Our first Story Hug workshop was based around the idea of the doll as talisman, magical friend and inspiration. The children made beautiful peg dolls with drawn-on coloured-in clothes, all wrapped up against the cold in a soft felt shawl.

storytelling at The Montage cafeWe then made up a story together using the doll and the figures of a girl and an old woman that I have been carving: the same story elements as in the old Russian tale of Vasilissa the Beautiful. However a very different story resulted- a surprisingly macabre one for a group of angelic-looking children: the old woman ended up trying to eat the girl for supper!

Vasilissa at Baba Yaga's Hut- Ivan Bilibin
Vasilissa at Baba Yaga’s Hut- Ivan Bilibin

Luckily there was a happier ending in the story of Vasilissa the Beautiful which tells of a girl, Vasilissa, who is given a magical doll by her dying mother. The doll helps Vasilissa in times of need, and shows her the way to defeating her evil step-mother and Baba Yaga the sorceress.

Baba_Yaga riding in her mortar - Ivan Bilibin
Baba Yaga Riding in her Mortar – Ivan Bilibin

It was wonderful to see the children so absorbed in the making of their own story and listening to an ancient one, leaving clutching the tiny wooden dolls they had brought to life themselves. Hopefully these have led to more stories…