Ena and Tib and their House in the Woods – An Interactive Puppet Show

First we made Woodland Creatures… IMG_2676

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…then we had a story: ‘In Dacres Wood there lived two tiny children: Ena and Tibs…

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…They lived in a little wooden house under the trees. At first, the house had nothing inside:

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“Waaa! Where will we sit to eat?” cried Ena.

“Where will we sleep? Waaaa!” cried Tib.

But Old Man Elf had left them a bag full of furniture.’

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The bag went around our little circle and one by one, a chair, a table, a bunk bed were brought out and carefully put in place by the children: a bedroom upstairs, a kitchen-diner downstairs – such sureness in these little homemakers, such care as they made a cosy little home for Ena and Tibbs to eat a supper of sausages, eggs and baked beans

I had wondered if involving the audience in arranging props might not be a distraction, instead it seemed to pull them in closer into the reality of the tale. The magic of a dolls house, however simple! The real and the imagined blur so seamlessly.

Soon there was a party attended by the Woodland Creatures:

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And the story went on, until a little Gnome baby had been reunited with his lost cradle and finally went to sleep while his Gnome Mama had a nice cup of hot chocolate and sat gazing at the milky white moon as the night grew quiet over Dacres Wood.

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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!

 

 

How to make: a Woodland Tabletop Puppet Show

tabletop puppet show

What you will need:

a long stick

blanket

hamper, square basket, small suitcase

scarves and shawls in different sizes and colours to include: green (fields, hills, mountains), brown (paths, ground, mountains), blue (rivers, sea)

dolls, soft animals, wooden figures

props: sticks, stones, acorns, pinecones, doll furniture, clothes and accessories as required by your story

Instructions:

1.Find a spot with space for rugs or ideally logs for seating.

a perfect spot

2.Prop or tie the stick across two trees and drape over a blanket to act as a back drop:

backdrop

Hold the blanket in place with clothes pegs:

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3.Create your tabletop using the baskets, hamper or suitcase:

create table top

4.Cover with shawls and scarves:

green shawl

5.Cover characters to be met later in the story so they can be revealed as the story progresses:

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6.Arrange your set. Keep it minimal. Place any props in sequence under the scarves or behind the stage so you can reach for them easily.

7.Tell your story… and enjoy!

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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

A book for World Book Day: Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden

 

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden (1961 edition) Illustrated by Jean Primrose
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden (1961 edition) Illustrated by Jean Primrose

The book our daughter chose to take to school this year was Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden, a story of a motherless little girl, Nona, and two Japanese dolls – all three lonely, miserable, displaced and searching for home. In lovingly creating a Japanese dolls house for the two dolls, Nona finds belonging and acceptance among family and friends in her own new home.

peg doll house

Inspired by Nona we made a little two-room house (out of fruit tea boxes) for our two peg dolls made during a doll-themed Story Hug workshop.

 

illustration by Gary Blythe
Miss Happiness and Miss Flower by Rumer Godden (2006 edition) Illustrated by Gary Blythe

There is something deeply satisfying about making a house for a doll, (however simple!). Perhaps it is the making of a whole other world, or a way of discovering an ideal and practising creating the one true home we search for from our earliest days.

If you are lucky enough to find the 1961 edition of Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, as well as the wonderful illustrations by Jean Primrose you will get plans for the dolls house at the back – so you can make your own! The latest edition unfortunately omits the plans, but it is a wonderful story nonetheless. The sequel, where the dolls meet another little Japanese doll and another little girl is cheered up, is Little Plum.

Little Plum by Rumer Godden. Illustrated by Jean Primrose
Little Plum by Rumer Godden. Illustrated by Jean Primrose
Little Plum by Rumer Godden. Illustrated by Jean Primrose
Little Plum by Rumer Godden. Illustrated by Jean Primrose

 

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 !

 

 

Making Masks – Story and Craft at Grow Mayow Community Garden

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We made masks in the community garden from cereal packets, petals, leaves, sticks, herbs and old egg boxes.

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Such great teamwork! And what joyful and unique results:

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I told the story of the Thief and the Mask – the extraordinary case of a man becoming his mask.

The Thief and the Mask - an illustration from Story Hug Magazine: Masks
The Thief and the Mask – an illustration from Story Hug Magazine: Masks

An old Chinese tale, it involves a thief who is forced to act like a handsome, kind, honest, intelligent man because of a mask, only to find that after a year of pretence he has become just such a man.

The story made me think of the storyteller mask I wear each time I sit in the lovely warm circle of responsive open minds and hearts, able to lose the fear of my story not being enough, of not connecting with anyone… one of the many strange and wonderful ways in which storytelling transforms, providing us with a way of sharing a part of ourselves and of being together; a magical mask to grow beneath and beyond.

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

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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:

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… 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