The Art of the Story-Teller
by Marie L. Shedlock
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The effect of the story need not stop at the negative task of correcting evil tendencies. There is the positive effect of translating the abstract ideal of the story into concrete action.

I was told by Lady Henry Somerset that when the first set of children came down from London for a fortnight's holiday in the country, she was much startled and shocked by the obscenity of the games they played amongst themselves. Being a sound psychologist, Lady Henry wisely refrained from appearing surprised or from attempting any direct method of reproof. "I saw," she said, "that the 'goody' element would have no effect, so I changed the whole atmosphere by reading to them or telling them the most thrilling medieval tales without any commentary. By the end of the fortnight the activities had all changed. The boys were performing astonishing deeds of prowess, and the girls were allowing themselves to be rescued from burning towers and fetid dungeons." Now, if these deeds of chivalry appear somewhat stilted to us, we can at least realize that, having changed the whole atmosphere of the filthy games, it is easier to translate the deeds into something a little more in accordance with the spirit of the age, and boys will more readily wish later on to save their sisters from dangers more sordid and commonplace than fiery towers and dark dungeons, if they have once performed the deeds in which they had to court danger and self-sacrifice for themselves.

And now we come to the question as to how these effects are to be maintained. In what has already been stated as to the danger of introducing the dogmatic and direct appeal into the story, it is evident that the avoidance of this element is the first means of preserving the story in all its artistic force in the memory of the child. We must be careful, as I point out in the chapter on Questions, not to interfere by comment or question with the atmosphere we have made round the story, or else, in the future, that story will become blurred and overlaid with the remembrance, not of the artistic whole, as presented by the teller of the story, but by some unimportant small side issue raised by an irrelevant question or a superfluous comment.

Many people think that the dramatization of the story by the children themselves helps to maintain the effect produced. Personally, I fear there is the same danger as in the immediate reproduction of the story, but by some unimportant small side issue raised by an irrelevant question or a superfluous comment.

Many people think that the dramatization of the story by the children themselves helps to maintain the effect produced. Personally, I fear there is the same danger as in the immediate reproduction of the story, namely, that the general dramatic effect may be weakened.

If, however, there is to be dramatization (and I do not wish to dogmatize on the subject), I think it should be confined to facts and not fancies, and this is why I realize the futility of the dramatization of fairy tales.

Horace E. Scudder says on this subject:

"Nothing has done more to vulgarize the fairy than its introduction on the stage. The charm of the fairy tale is its divorce from human experience: the charm of the stage is its realization in miniature of human life. If a frog is heard to speak, if a dog is changed before our eyes into a prince by having cold water dashed over it, the charm of the fairy tale has fled, and, in its place, we have the perplexing pleasure of legerdemain. Since the real life of a fairy is in the imagination, a wrong is committed when it is dragged from its shadowy hiding-place and made to turn into ashes under the calcium light of the understanding."[43]

I am bound to admit that the teachers have a case when they plead for this reproducing of the story, and there are three arguments they use the validity of which I admit, but which have nevertheless not converted me, because the loss, to my mind, would exceed the gain.

The first argument they put forward is that the reproduction of the story enables the child to enlarge and improve his vocabulary. Now I greatly sympathize with this point of view, but, as I regard the story hour as a very precious and special one, which I think may have a lasting effect on the character of a child, I do not think it important that, during this hour, a child should be called upon to improve his vocabulary at the expense of the dramatic whole, and at the expense of the literary form in which the story has been presented. It would be like using the Bible for parsing or paraphrase or pronunciation. So far, I believe, the line has been drawn here, though there are blasphemers who have laid impious hands on Milton or Shakespeare for this purpose.

There are surely other lessons, as I have already said in dealing with the reproduction of the story quite apart from the dramatization, lessons more utilitarian in character, which can be used for this purpose: the facts of history (I mean the mere facts as compared with the deep truths), and those of geography. Above all, the grammar lessons are those in which the vocabulary can be enlarged and improved. But I am anxious to keep the story hour apart as dedicated to something higher than these excellent but utilitarian considerations.

The second argument used by the teachers is the joy felt by the children in being allowed to dramatize the stories. This, too, appeals very strongly to me, but there is a means of satisfying their desire and yet protecting the dramatic whole, and that is occasionally to allow children to act out their own dramatic inventions; this, to my mind, has great educational significance: it is original and creative work and, apart from the joy of the immediate performance, there is the interesting process of comparison which can be presented to the children, showing them the difference between their elementary attempts and the finished product of the experienced artist. This difference they can be led to recognize by their own powers of observation if the teachers are not in too great a hurry to point it out themselves.

Here is a short original story, quoted by the French psychologist, Queyrat, in his "Jeux de l'Enfance," written by a child of five:

"One day I went to sea in a life-boat—all at once I saw an enormous whale, and I jumped out of the boat to catch him, but he was so big that I climbed on his back and rode astride, and all the little fishes laughed to see."

Here is a complete and exciting drama, making a wonderful picture and teeming with adventure. We could scarcely offer anything to so small a child for reproduction that would be a greater stimulus to the imagination.

Here is another, offered by Loti, but the age of the child is not given:

"Once upon a time a little girl out in the Colonies cut open a huge melon, and out popped a green beast and stung her, and the little child died."

Loti adds:

"The phrases 'out in the Colonies' and 'a huge melon' were enough to plunge me suddenly into a dream. As by an apparition, I beheld tropical trees, forests alive with marvelous birds. Oh! the simple magic of the words 'the Colonies'! In my childhood they stood for a multitude of distant sun-scorched countries, with their palm-trees, their enormous flowers, their black natives, their wild beasts, their endless possibilities of adventure."

I quote this in full because it shows so clearly the magic force of words to evoke pictures, without any material representation. It is just the opposite effect of the pictures presented to the bodily eye without the splendid educational opportunity for the child to form his own mental image.

I am more and more convinced that the rare power of visualization is accounted for by the lack of mental practice afforded along these lines.

The third argument used by teachers in favor of the dramatization of the stories is that it is a means of discovering how much the child has really learned from the story. Now this argument makes absolutely no appeal to me.

My experience, in the first place, has taught me that a child very seldom gives out any account of a deep impression made upon him: it is too sacred and personal. But he very soon learns to know what is expected of him, and he keeps a set of stock sentences which he has found out are acceptable to the teacher. How can we possibly gauge the deep effects of a story in this way, or how can a child, by acting out a story, describe the subtle elements which one has tried to introduce? One might as well try to show with a pint measure how the sun and rain have affected a plant, instead of rejoicing in the beauty of the sure, if slow, growth.

Then, again, why are we in such a hurry to find out what effects have been produced by our stories? Does it matter whether we know today or tomorrow how much a child has understood? For my part, so sure do I feel of the effect that I am willing to wait indefinitely. Only, I must make sure that the first presentation is truly dramatic and artistic.

The teachers of general subjects have a much easier and more simple task. Those who teach science, mathematics, even, to a certain extent, history and literature, are able to gauge with a fair amount of accuracy by means of examination what their pupils have learned. The teaching carried on by means of stories can never be gauged in the same manner.

Carlyle has said:

"Of this thing be certain: wouldst thou plant for Eternity, then plant into the deep infinite faculties of man, his Fantasy and Heart. Wouldst thou plant for Year and Day, then plant into his shallow superficial faculties, his self-love and arithmetical understanding, what will grow there."[44]

If we use this marvelous art of story-telling in the way I have tried to show, then the children who have been confided to our care will one day be able to bring us the tribute which Bjornson brought to Hans Christian Andersen:

Wings you gave to my Imagination, Me uplifting to the strange and great; Gave my heart the poet's revelation, Glorifying things of low estate.

When my child-soul hungered all-unknowing, With great truths its need you satisfied: Now, a world-worn man, to you is owing That the child in me has never died.



The following questions have been put to me so often by teachers, in my own country and in America, that I have thought it might be useful to give in my book some of the attempts I have made to answer them; and I wish to record here an expression of gratitude to the teachers who have asked these questions at the close of my lectures. It has enabled me to formulate my views on the subject and to clear up, by means of research and thought, the reason for certain things which I had more or less taken for granted. It has also constantly modified my own point of view, and has prevented me from becoming too dogmatic in dealing with other people's methods.

QUESTION I: Why do I consider it necessary to spend so many years on the art of story-telling, which takes in, after all, such a restricted portion of literature?

Just in the same way that an actor thinks it worth while to go through so many years' training to fit him for the stage, although dramatic literature is also only one branch of general literature. The region of storyland is the legitimate stage for children. They crave drama as we do, and because there are comparatively few good story-tellers, children do not have their dramatic needs satisfied. What is the result? We either take them to dramatic performances for grown-up people, or we have children's theaters where the pieces, charming as they may be, are of necessity deprived of the essential elements which constitute a drama—or they are shriveled up to suit the capacity of the child. Therefore, it would seem wiser, while the children are quite young, to keep them to the simple presentation of stories, because with their imagination keener at that period, they have the delight of the inner vision and they do not need, as we do, the artificial stimulus provided by the machinery of the stage.

QUESTION II: What is to be done if a child asks you: "Is the story true?"

I hope I shall be considered Utopian in my ideas if a say that it is quite easy, even with small children, to teach them that the seeing of truth is a relative matter which depends on the eyes of the seer. If we were not afraid to tell our children that all through life there are grown-up people who do not see things that others see, their own difficulties would be helped.

In his "Imagination Creatrice," Queyrat says:

"To get down into the recesses of a child's mind, one would have to become even as he is; we are reduced to interpreting that child in the terms of an adult. The children we observe live and grow in a civilized community, and the result of this is that the development of their imagination is rarely free or complete, for as soon as it rises beyond the average level, the rationalistic education of parents and schoolmasters at once endeavors to curb it. It is restrained in its flight by an antagonistic power which treats it as a kind of incipient madness."

It is quite easy to show children that if one keeps things where they belong, they are true with regard to each other, but that if one drags these things out of the shadowy atmosphere of the "make-believe," and forces them into the land of actual facts, the whole thing is out of gear.

To take a concrete example: The arrival of the coach made from a pumpkin and driven by mice is entirely in harmony with the Cinderella surroundings, and I have never heard one child raise any question of the difficulty of traveling in such a coach or of the uncertainty of mice in drawing it. But, suggest to the child that this diminutive vehicle could be driven among the cars of Broadway, or amongst the motor omnibuses in the Strand, and you would bring confusion at once into his mind.

Having once grasped this, the children will lose the idea that fairy stories are just for them, and not for their elders, and from this they will go on to see that it is the child-like mind of the poet and seer that continues to appreciate these things; that it is the dull, heavy person whose eyes so soon become dim and unable to see any more the visions which were once his own.

In his essay on "Poetry and Life" (Glasgow, 1889), Professor Bradley says:

"It is the effect of poetry, not only by expressing emotion but in other ways also, to bring life into the dead mass of our experience, and to make the world significant."

This applies to children as well as to adults. There may come to the child in the story hour, by some stirring poem or dramatic narration, a sudden flash of the possibilities of life which he had not hitherto realized in the even course of school experience.

"Poetry," says Professor Bradley, "is a way of representing truth; but there is in it, as its detractors have always insisted, a certain untruth or illusion. We need not deny this, so long as we remember that the illusion is conscious, that no one wishes to deceive, and that no one is deceived. But it would be better to say that poetry is false to literal fact for the sake of obtaining a higher truth. First, in order to represent the connection between a more significant part of experience and a less significant, poetry, instead of linking them together by a chain which touches one by one the intermediate objects that connect them, leaps from one to the other. It thus falls at once into conflict with common-sense."

Now, the whole of this passage bears as much on the question of the truth embodied in a fairy tale as a poem, and it would be interesting to take some of these tales and try to discover where they are false to actual fact for the sake of a higher truth.

Let us take, for instance, the Story of Cinderella: The coach and pumpkins to which I have alluded and all the magic part of the story, are false to actual facts as we meet them in our every life; but is it not a higher truth that Cinderella could escape from her chimney corner by thinking of the brightness outside? In this sense we all travel in pumpkin coaches.

Take the Story of Psyche, in any one of the many forms it is presented to us in folk-story. The magic transformation of the lover is false to actual fact; but is it not a higher truth that we are often transformed by circumstance, and that love and courage can overcome most difficulties?

Take the Story of the Three Bears. It is not in accordance with established fact that bears should extend hospitality to children who invade their territory. Is it not true in a higher sense that fearlessness often lessens or averts danger?

Take the Story of Jack and the Bean Stalk. The rapid growth of the bean stalk and the encounter with the giant are false to literal fact; but is it not a higher truth that the spirit of courage and high adventure leads us straight out of the commonplace and often sordid facts of life?

Now, all these considerations are too subtle for the child, and, if offered in explanation, would destroy the excitement and interest of the story; but they are good for those of us who are presenting such stories: they provide not only an argument against the objection raised by unimaginative people as to the futility, if not immorality, of presenting these primitive tales, but clear up our own doubt and justify us in the use of them, if we need such justification.

For myself, I am perfectly satisfied that, being part of the history of primitive people, it would be foolish to ignore them from an evolutionary point of view, which constitutes their chief importance; and it is only from the point of view of expediency that I mention the potential truths they contain.

QUESTION III: What are you to do if a child says he does not like fairy tales?

This is not an uncommon case. What we have first to determine, under these circumstances, is whether this dislike springs from a stolid, prosaic nature, whether it springs from a real inability to visualize such pictures as the fairy or marvelous element in the story present, or whether (and this is often the real reason) it is from a fear of being asked to believe what his judgment resents as untrue, or whether he thinks it is "grown-up" to reject such pleasure as unworthy of his years.

In the first case, it is wise to persevere, in hopes of developing the dormant imagination. If the child resents the apparent want of truth we can teach him how many-sided truth is, as I suggested in my answer to the first question. In the other cases, we must try to make it clear that the delight he may venture to take now will increase, not decrease, with years; that the more one brings to a thing, in the way of experience and knowledge, the more one will draw out of it.

Let us take as a concrete example the question of Santa Claus. This joy has almost disappeared, for we have torn away the last shred of mystery about the personage by allowing him to be materialized in the Christmas shops and bazaars.

But the original myth need never have disappeared; the link could easily have been kept by gradually telling the child that the Santa Claus they worshiped as a mysterious and invisible power is nothing but the spirit of charity and kindness that makes us remember others, and that this spirit often takes the form of material gifts. We can also lead them a step higher and show them that this spirit of kindness can do more than provide material things; so that the old nursery tale has laid a beautiful foundation which need never be pulled up: we can build upon it and add to it all through our lives.

Is not one of the reasons that children reject fairy tales this, that such very poor material is offered them? There is a dreary flatness about all except the very best which revolts the child of literary appreciation and would fail to strike a spark in the more prosaic.

QUESTION IV: Do I recommend learning a story by heart, or telling it in one's own words?

This would largely depend on the kind of story. If the style is classic or if the interest of the story is closely connected with the style, as in Andersen, Kipling or Stevenson, then it is better to commit it absolutely to memory. But if this process should take too long (I mean for those who cannot afford the time to specialize), or if it produces a stilted effect, then it is wiser to read the story many times over, let it soak in, taking notes of certain passages which would add to the dramatic interest of the story, and not trouble about the word accuracy of the whole.

For instance, for very young children the story of Pandora, as told in the "Wonder-Book" could be shortened so as to leave principally the dramatic dialogue between the two children, which could be easily committed to memory by the narrator and would appeal most directly to the children. Or for older children: in taking a beautiful medieval story such as "Our Lady's Tumbler," retold by Wickstead, the original text could hardly be presented so as to hold an audience; but while giving up a great deal of the elaborate material, we should try to present many of the characteristic passages which seem to sum up the situation. For instance, before his performance, the Tumbler cries: "What am I doing? For there is none here so caitiff but who vies with all the rest in serving God after his trade." And after his act of devotion: "Lady, this is a choice performance. I do it for no other but for you; so aid me God, I do not—for you and for your Son. And this I dare avouch and boast, that for me it is no play-work. But I am serving you, and that pays me."

On the other hand, there are some very gifted narrators who can only tell the story in their own words. I consider that both methods are necessary to the all-round story-teller.

QUESTION V: How do I set about preparing a story?

Here again the preparation depends a great deal on the kind of story: whether it has to be committed to memory or rearranged to suit a certain age of child, or told entirely in one's own words. But there is one kind of preparation which is the same for any story, that is, living with it for a long time, until one has really obtained the right atmosphere, especially in the case of inanimate objects. This is where Hans Christian Andersen reigns supreme. Horace Scudder says of him: "By some transmigration, souls have passed into tin soldiers, balls, tops, money-pigs, coins, shoes and even such attenuated things as darning-needles, and when, informing these apparent dead and stupid bodies, they begin to make manifestations, it is always in perfect consistency with the ordinary conditions of the bodies they occupy, though the several objects become, by the endowment of souls, suddenly expanded in their capacity."[45]

Now, my test of being ready with such stories is whether I have ceased to look upon such objects as inanimate. Let us take some of those quoted from Andersen. First, the Tin Soldier. To me, since I have lived in the story, he is a real live hero, holding his own with some of the bravest fighting heroes in history or fiction. As for his being merely of tin, I entirely forget it, except when I realize against what odds he fights, or when I stop to admire the wonderful way Andersen carries out his simile of the old tin spoon—the stiffness of the musket, and the tears of tin.

Take the Top and the Ball, and, except for the delightful way they discuss the respective merits of cork and mahogany in their ancestors, you would completely forget that they are not real human beings with the live passions and frailties common to youth.

As for the Beetle—who ever thinks of him as a mere entomological specimen? Is he not the symbol of the self-satisfied traveler who learns nothing en route but the importance of his own personality? And the Darning-Needle? It is impossible to divorce human interest from the ambition of this little piece of steel.

And this same method applied to the preparation of any shows that one can sometimes rise from the role of mere interpreter to that of creator—that is to say, the objects live afresh for you in response to the appeal you make in recognizing their possibilities of vitality.

As a mere practical suggestion, I would advise that, as soon as one has overcome the difficulties of the text (if actually learning by heart, there is nothing but the drudgery of constant repetition), and as one begins to work the story into true dramatic form, always say the words aloud, and many times aloud, before trying them even on one person. More suggestions come to one in the way of effects from hearing the sounds of the words, and more complete mental pictures, in this way than any other—it is a sort of testing period, the results of which may or may not have to be modified when produced in public. In case of committing to memory, I advise word perfection first, not trying dramatic effects before this is reached; but, on the other hand, if you are using your own words, you can think out the effects as you go along—I mean, during the preparation. Gestures, pauses, facial expression often help to fix the choice of words one decides to use, though here again the public performance will often modify the result. I strongly advise that all gestures be studied before the glass, because this most faithfully recording friend, whose sincerity we dare not question, will prevent glaring errors, and also help by the correction of these to more satisfactory results along positive lines. If your gesture does not satisfy you (and practice will make one more and more critical), it is generally because you have not made sufficient allowance for the power of imagination in your audience. Emphasis in gesture is just as inartistic—and therefore ineffective—as emphasis in tone or language.

Before deciding, however, either on the facial expression or gesture, we must consider the chief characters in the story, and study how we can best—not present them, but allow them to present themselves, which is a very different thing. The greatest tribute which can be paid to a story-teller, as to an actor, is that his own personality is temporarily forgotten, because he has so completely identified himself with his role.

When we have decided what the chief characters really mean to do, we can let ourselves go in the impersonation.

I shall now take a story as a concrete example, namely, the Buddhist legend of the "Lion and the Hare."[46]

We have here the Lion and the Hare as types—the other animals are less individual and therefore display less salient qualities. The little hare's chief characteristics are nervousness, fussiness, and misdirected imagination. We must bear this all in mind when she appears on the stage—fortunately these characteristics lend themselves easily to dramatic representation. The Lion is not only large-hearted but broad-minded. It is good to have an opportunity of presenting to the children a lion who has other qualities than physical beauty or extraordinary strength (here again there will lurk the danger of alarming the nature students). He is even more interesting than the magnanimous lion whom we have sometimes been privileged to meet in fiction.

Of course we grown-up people know that the Lion is the Buddha in disguise. Children will not be able to realize this, nor is it the least necessary that they should do so; but they will grasp the idea that he is a very unusual lion, not to be met with in Paul Du Chaillu's adventures, still less in the quasi-domestic atmosphere of the Zoological Gardens. If our presentation is life-like and sincere, we shall convey all we intend to the child. This is part of what I call the atmosphere of the story, which, as in a photograph, can only be obtained by long exposure, that is to say, in the case of preparation we must bestow much reflection and sympathy.

Because these two animals are the chief characters, they must be painted in fainter colors—they should be suggested rather than presented in detail. It might be well to give a definite gesture to the Elephant—say, a characteristic movement with his trunk—a scowl to the Tiger, a supercilious and enigmatic smile to the Camel (suggested by Kipling's wonderful creation). But if a gesture were given to each of the animals, the effect would become monotonous, and the minor characters would crowd the foreground of the picture, impeding the action and leaving little to the imagination of the audience. I personally have found it effective to repeat the gestures of these animals as they are leaving the stage, but less markedly, as it is only a form of reminder.

Now, what is the impression we wish to leave on the mind of the child, apart from the dramatic joy and interest we have endeavored to provide? Surely it is that he may realize the danger of a panic. One method of doing this (alas! a favorite one still) is to say at the end of the story: "Now, children, what do we learn from this?" Of this method Lord Morley has said: "It is a commonplace to the wise, and an everlasting puzzle to the foolish, that direct inculcation of morals should invariably prove so powerless an instrument, so futile a method."

If this direct method were really effective, we might as well put the little drama aside, and say plainly: "It is foolish to be nervous; it is dangerous to make loose statements. Large-minded people understand things better than those who are narrow-minded."

All these abstract statements would be as true and as tiresome as the multiplication table. The child might or might not fix them in his mind, but he would not act upon them.

But, put all the artistic warmth of which you are capable into the presentation of the story, and, without one word of comment from you, the children will feel the dramatic intensity of that vast concourse of animals brought together by the feeble utterance of one irresponsible little hare. Let them feel the dignity and calm of the Lion, which accounts for his authority; his tender but firm treatment of the foolish little Hare; and listen to the glorious finale when all the animals retire convinced of their folly; and you will find that you have adopted the same method as the Lion (who must have been an unconscious follower of Froebel), and that there is nothing to add to the picture.

QUESTION VI: Is it wise to talk over a story with children and to encourage them in the habit of asking questions about it?

At the time, no! The effect produced is to be by dramatic means, and this would be destroyed any attempt at analysis by means of questions.

The medium that has been used in the telling of the story is (or ought to be) a purely artistic one which will reach the child through the medium of the emotions: the appeal to the intellect or the reason is a different method, which must be used at a different time. When you are enjoying the fragrance of a flower or the beauty of its color, it is not the moment to be reminded of its botanical classification, just as in the botany lesson it would be somewhat irrelevant to talk of the part that flowers play in the happiness of life.

From a practical point of view, it is not wise to encourage questions on the part of the children, because they are apt to disturb the atmosphere by bringing in entirely irrelevant matter, so that in looking back on the telling of the story, the child often remembers the irrelevant conversation to the exclusion of the dramatic interest of the story itself.[47]

I remember once making what I considered at the time a most effective appeal to some children who had been listening to the Story of the Little Tin Soldier, and, unable to refrain from the cheap method of questioning, of which I have now recognized the futility, I asked: "Don't you think it was nice of the little dancer to rush down into the fire to join the brave little soldier?" "Well," said a prosaic little lad of six: "I thought the draught carried her down."

QUESTION VII: Is it wise to call upon children to repeat the story as soon as it has been told?

My answer here is decidedly in the negative.

While fully appreciating the modern idea of children expressing themselves, I very much deprecate this so-called self-expression taking the form of mere reproduction. I have dealt with this matter in detail in another portion of my book. This is one of the occasions when children should be taking in, not giving out (even the most fanatic of moderns must agree that there are such moments).

When, after much careful preparation, an expert has told a story to the best of his ability, to encourage the children to reproduce this story with their imperfect vocabulary and with no special gift of speech (I am always alluding to the normal group of children) is as futile as if, after the performance of a musical piece by a great artist, some individual member of the audience were to be called upon to give his rendering of the original rendering. The result would be that the musical joy of the audience would be completely destroyed and the performer himself would share in the loss.[48]

I have always maintained that five minutes of complete silence after the story would do more to fix the impression on the mind of the child than any amount of attempt at reproducing it. The general statement made in Dr. Montessor's wonderful chapter on "Silence" would seem to me of special application to the moments following on the telling of a story.

QUESTION VIII: Should children be encouraged to illustrate the stories which they have heard?

As a dramatic interest to the teachers and the children, I think it is a very praiseworthy experiment, if used somewhat sparingly. But I seriously doubt whether these illustrations in any way indicate the impression made on the mind of the child. It is the same question that arises when that child is called upon, or expresses a wish, to reproduce the story in his own words: the unfamiliar medium in both instances makes it almost impossible for the child to convey his meaning, unless he is an artist in the one case or he has real literary power of expression in the other.

My own impression, confirmed by many teachers who have made the experiment, is that a certain amount of disappointment is mixed up with the daring joy in the attempt, simply because the children can get nowhere near the ideal which has presented itself to the "inner eye."

I remember a kindergarten teacher saying that on one occasion, when she had told to the class a thrilling story of a knight, one of the children immediately asked for permission to draw a picture of him on the blackboard. So spontaneous a request could not, of course, be refused, and, full of assurance, the would-be artist began to give his impression of the knight's appearance. When the picture was finished, the child stood back for a moment to judge for himself of the result. He put down the chalk and said sadly: "And I thought he was so handsome."

Nevertheless, except for the drawback of the other children seeing a picture which might be inferior to their own mental vision, I should quite approve of such experiments, as long as they are not taken as literal data of what the children have really received. It would, however, be better not to have the picture drawn on a blackboard but at the child's private desk, to be seen by the teacher and not, unless the picture were exceptionally good, to be shown to the other children.

One of the best effects of such an experiment would be to show a child how difficult it is to give the impression one wishes to record, and which would enable him later on to appreciate the beauty of such work in the hands of a finished artist.

I can anticipate the jeers with which such remarks would be received by the Futurist School, but, according to their own theory, I ought to be allowed to express the matter as I see it, however faulty the vision may appear to them.[49]

QUESTION IX: In what way can the dramatic method of story-telling be used in ordinary class teaching?

This is too large a question to answer fully in so general a survey as this work, but I should like to give one or two examples as to how the element of story-telling could be introduced.

I have always thought that the only way in which we could make either a history or literature lesson live, so as to take a real hold on the mind of the pupil at any age, would be that, instead of offering lists of events, crowded into the fictitious area of one reign, one should take a single event, say in one lesson out of five, and give it in the most splendid language and in the most dramatic manner.

To come to a concrete example: Supposing that one is talking to the class of Greece, either in connection with its history, its geography or its literature, could any mere accumulation of facts give a clearer idea of the life of the people than a dramatically told story from Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles or Euripides?

What in the history of Iceland could give any more graphic idea of the whole character of the life and customs of the inhabitants than one of the famous sagas, such as "The Burning of Njal" or "The Death of Gunnar"?

In teaching the history of Spain, what could make the pupils understand better the spirit of knight-errantry, its faults and its qualities, than a recital from "Don Quixote" or from the tale of "The Cid"?

In a word, the stories must appeal so vividly to the imagination that they will light up the whole period of history which we wish them to illustrate and keep it alive in the memory for all time.

But quite apart from the dramatic presentation of history, there are very great possibilities for the short story introduced into the portrait of some great personage, insignificant in itself, but which throws a sudden sidelight on his character, showing the mind behind the actual deeds; this is what I mean by using the dramatic method.

To take a concrete example: Suppose, in giving an account of the life of Napoleon, after enlarging upon his campaigns, his European policy, his indomitable will, one were suddenly to give an idea of his many- sidedness by relating how he actually found time to compile a catechism which was used for some years in the elementary schools of France. What sidelights might be thrown in this way on such characters as Nero, Caesar, Henry VIII, Luther, Goethe!

To take one example from these: Instead of making the whole career of Henry VIII center round the fact that he was a much-married man, could we not present his artistic side and speak of his charming contributions to music?

So much for the history lessons. But could not the dramatic form and interest be introduced into our geography lessons? Think of the romance of the Panama Canal, the position of Constantinople, as affecting the history of Europe, the shape of Greece, England as an island, the position of Thibet, the interior of Africa—to what wonderful story-telling would these themes lend themselves!

QUESTION X: Which should predominate in the story—the dramatic or the poetic element?

This is a much debated point. From experience I have come to the conclusion that, though both should be found in the whole range of stories, the dramatic element should prevail from the very nature of the presentation, and also because it reaches the larger number of children, at least of normal children. Almost every child is dramatic, in the sense that it loves action (not necessarily an action in which it has to bear a part). It is the exceptional child who is reached by the poetic side, and just as on the stage the action must be quicker and more concentrated than in a poem—than even a dramatic poem—the poetical side, which must be painted in more delicate colors or presented in less obvious form, often escapes them. Of course, the very reason why we must include the poetical element is that it is an unexpressed need of most children. Their need of the dramatic is more loudly proclaimed and more easily satisfied.

QUESTION XI: What is the educational value of humor in the stories told to our children?

My answer to this is that humor means so much more than is usually understood by this term. So many people seem to think that to have a sense of humor is merely to be tickled by a funny element in a story. It surely means something much more subtle than this. It is Thackeray who says: "If humor only meant laughter, but the humorist profess to awaken and direct your love, your pity, your kindness, your scorn for untruth and pretension, your tenderness for the weak, the poor, the oppressed, the unhappy." So that, in our stories, the introduction of humor should not merely depend on the doubtful amusement that follows on a sense of incongruity. It should inculcate a sense of proportion brought about by an effort of imagination; it shows a child its real position in the universe and prevents hasty conclusions. It shortens the period of joy in horse-play and practical jokes. It brings about a clearer perception of all situations, enabling the child to get the point of view of another person. It is the first instilling of philosophy into the mind of a child and prevents much suffering later on when the blows of life fall upon him; for a sense of humor teaches us at an early age not to expect too much: and this philosophy can be developed with cynicism or pessimism, without even destroying the joie de vivre.

One cannot, however, sufficiently emphasize the fact that these far- reaching results can be brought about only by humor quite distinct from the broader fun and hilarity which have also their use in an educational scheme.

From my own experience, I have learned that development of humor is with most children extremely slow. It is quite natural and quite right that at first pure fun, obvious situations and elementary jokes should please them, but we can very gradually appeal to something more subtle, and if I were asked what story would educate our children most thoroughly in appreciation of humor, I should say that "Alice in Wonderland" was the most effective.

What better object lesson could be given in humorous form of taking somebody else's point of view than that given to Alice by the Mock Turtle in speaking of the Whiting

"You know what they're like?"

"I believe so," said Alice. "They have their tails in their mouths— and they're all over crumbs."

"You're wrong about the crumbs," said the Mock Turtle. "Crumbs would all wash off in the sea."

Or when Alice is speaking to the Mouse of her cat, and says:

"She is such a dear quiet thing—and a capital one for catching mice—-" and then suddenly realizes the point of view of the Mouse, who was "trembling down to the end of its tail."

Then, as an instance of how a lack of humor leads to illogical conclusions (a condition common to most children), we have the conversation between Alice and the Pigeon:

ALICE: "But little girls eat quite as much as serpents, you know."

PIGEON: "I don't believe it. But if they do, why then they're a kind of serpent, that's all I can say."

Then, as an instance of how a sense of humor would prevent too much self-importance:

"I have a right to think," said Alice sharply.

"Just about as much right," said the Duchess, "as pigs have to fly."


The following stories do not form a comprehensive selection; this I have endeavored to give in the List of Stories. The stories given are chiefly taken from my own repertoire, and have been so constantly asked by teachers that I am glad of an opportunity of presenting them in full.

I regret that I have been unable to furnish many of the stories I consider good for narration, but the difficulty of obtaining permission has deterred me from further efforts in this direction.


Then Sturla got ready to sail away with the king, and his name was put on the list. He went on board before many men had come; he had a sleeping bag and a travelling chest, and took his place on the foredeck. A little later the king came on to the quay, and a company of men with him. Sturla rose and bowed, and bade the king "hail," but the king answered nothing, and went aft along the ship to the quarter-deck. They sailed that day to go south along the coast. But in the evening when men unpacked their provisions Sturla sat still, and no one invited him to mess. Then a servant of the king's came and asked Sturla if he had any meat and drink. Sturla said "NO." Then the king's servant went to the king and spoke with him, out of hearing, and then went forward to Sturla and said: "You shall go to mess with Thorir Mouth and Erlend Maw." They took him into their mess, but rather stiffly. When men were turning in to sleep, a sailor of the king's asked who should tell them stories. There was little answer. Then said he: "Sturla the Icelander, will you tell stories?" "As you will," said Sturla. So he told them the story of Huld, better and fuller than any one there had ever heard it told before. Then many men pushed forward to the fore-deck, wanting to hear as clearly as might be, and there was a great crowd. The queen asked: "What is that crowd on deck there?" A man answered: "The men are listening to the story that the Icelander tells." "What story is that?" said she. He answers: "It is about a great troll-wife, and it is a good story and well told." The king bade her pay no heed to that, and go to sleep. She says: "I think this Icelander must be a good fellow, and less to blame than he is reported." The King was silent.

So the night passed, and the next morning there was no wind for them, and the king's ship lay in the same place. Later in the day, when men sat at their drink, the king sent dishes from his table to Sturla. Sturla's messmates were pleased with this: "You bring better luck than we thought, if this sort of thing goes on." After dinner the queen sent for Sturla and asked him to come to her and bring the troll-wife story along with him. So Sturla went aft to the quarter- deck, and greeted the king and queen. The king answered little, the queen well and cheerfully. She asked him to tell the same story he had told overnight. He did so, for a great part of the day. When he finished, the queen thanked him, and many others besides, and made him out in their minds to be a learned man and sensible. But the king said nothing; only he smiled a little. Sturla thought he saw that the king's whole frame of mind was brighter than the day before. So he said to the king that he had made a poem about him, and another about his father: "I would gladly get a hearing for them." The queen said: "Let him recite his poem; I am told that he is the best of poets, and his poem will be excellent." The king bade him say on, if he would, and repeat the poem he professed to have made about him. Sturla chanted it to the end. The queen said: "To my mind that is a good poem." The king said to her: "Can you follow the poem so clearly?" "I would be fain to have you think so, Sir," said the queen. The king said: "I have learned that Sturla is good at verses." Sturla took his leave of the king and queen and went to his place. There was no sailing for the king all that day. In the evening before he went to bed he sent for Sturla. And when he came he greeted the king and said: "What will you have me to do, Sir?" The king called for a silver goblet full of wine, and drank some and gave it to Sturla and said: "A health to a friend in wine!" (Vin skal til vinar drekka). Sturla said: "God be praised for it!" "Even so," says the king, "and now I wish you to say the poem you have made about my father." Sturla repeated it: and when it was finished men praised it much and most of all the queen. The king said: "To my thinking, you are a better reciter than the Pope." Sturlunga Saga, vol.ii, p.269.


In the grey beginnings of the world, or ever the flower of justice had rooted in the heart, there lived among the daughters of men two children, sisters, of one house.

In childhood did they leap and climb and swim with the men children of their race, and were nurtured on the same stories of gods and heroes.

In maidenhood they could do all that a maiden might and more—delve could they no less than spin, hunt no less than weave, brew pottage and helm ships, wake the harp and tell the stars, face all danger and laugh at all pain.

Joyous in toil-time and rest-time were they as the days and years of their youth came and went. Death had spared their house, and unhappiness knew they none. Yet often as at falling day they sat before sleep round the hearth of red fire, listening with the household to the brave songs of gods and heroes, there would surely creep into their hearts a shadow—the thought that whatever the years of their lives, and whatever the generous deeds, there would for them, as women, be no escape at the last from the dire mists of Hela, the fogland beyond the grave for all such as die not in battle; no escape for them from Hela, and no place for ever for them or for their kind among the glory-crowned, sword-shriven heroes of echoing Valhalla.

That shadow had first fallen in their lusty childhood, had slowly gathered darkness through the overflowing days of maidenhood, and now, in the strong tide of full womanhood, often lay upon their future as the moon Odin's wrath lies upon the sun.

But stout were they to face danger and laugh at pain, and for all the shadow upon their hope they lived brave and songful days—the one a homekeeper and in her turn a mother of men: the other unhusbanded, but gentle to ignorance and sickness and sorrow through the width and length of the land.

And thus, facing life fearlessly and ever with a smile, those two women lived even unto extreme old age, unto the one's children's children's children, labouring truly unto the end and keeping strong hearts against the dread day of Hela, and the fate-locked gates of Valhalla.

But at the end a wonder.

As these sisters looked their last upon the sun, the one in the ancestral homestead under the eyes of love, the other in a distant land among strange faces, behold the wind of Thor, and out of the deep of heaven the white horses of Odin, All-Father, bearing Valkyrie, shining messengers of Valhalla. And those two world-worn women, faithful in all their lives, were caught up in death in divine arms and borne far from the fogs of Hela to golden thrones among the battle heroes, upon which the Nornir, sitting at the loom of life, had from all eternity graven their names.

And from that hour have the gates of Valhalla been thrown wide to all faithful endeavour whether of man or woman. JOHN RUSSELL Headmaster of the King Alfred School.


Christopher was of the lineage of the Canaaneans and he was of a right great stature, and had a terrible and fearful cheer and countenance. And he was twelve cubits of length. And, as it is read in some histories, when he served and dwelled with the king of Canaaneans, it came in his mind that he would seek the greatest prince that was in the world and him he would serve and obey.

And so far he went that he came to a right great king, of whom the renown generally was that he was the greatest of the world. And when the king saw him received him into his service and made him to dwell in his court.

Upon a time a minstrel sung tofore him a song in which he named oft the devil. And the king which was a Christian man, when he heard him name the devil, made anon the sign of the cross in his visage. And when Christopher saw that, he had great marvel what sign it was and wherefore the king made it. And he demanded it of him. And because the king would not say, he said, "If thou tell me not, I shall no longer dwell with thee." And then the king told to him saying, "Alway when I hear the devil named, I fear that he should have power over me, and I garnish me with this sign that he grieve not nor annoy me." Then Christopher said to him, "Thou doubtest the devil that he hurt thee not? Then is the devil more mighty and greater than thou art. I am then deceived of my hope and purpose; for I supposed that I had found the most mighty and the most greatest lord of the world. But I commend thee to God, for I will go seek him to be my lord and I his servant."

And then he departed from this king and hasted him to seek the devil. And as he went by a great desert he saw a great company of knights. Of which a knight cruel and horrible came to him and demanded whither he went. And Christopher answered to him and said, "I go to seek the devil for to be my master." And he said, "I am he that thou seekest." And then Christopher was glad and bound himself to be his servant perpetual, and took him for his master and lord.

And as they went together by a common way, they found there a cross erect and standing. And anon as the devil saw the cross, he was afeard and fled, and left the right way and brought Christopher about by a sharp desert, and after, when they were past the cross, he brought him to the highway that they had left. And when Christopher saw that, he marvelled and demanded whereof he doubted that he had left high and fair way and had gone so far about by so hard desert. And the devil would not tell him in no wise. Then Christopher said to him, "If thou wilt not tell me I shall anon depart from thee and shall serve thee no more." Therefore the devil was constrained to tell him, and said "There was a man called Christ which was hanged on the cross, and when I see his sign, I am sore afeard and flee from it wheresomever I find it." To whom Christopher said, "Then he is greater and more mightier than thou, when thou art afraid of his sign. And I see well that I have laboured in vain since I have not founden the greatest lord of all the earth. And I will serve thee no longer. Go thy way then: for I will go seek Jesus Christ."

And when he had long sought and demanded where he should find Christ, at last he came into a great desert to an hermit that dwelled there. And this hermit preached to him of Jesus Christ and informed him in the faith diligently. And he said to him, "This king whom thou desirest to serve, requireth this service that thou must oft fast." And Christopher said to him, "Require of me some other thing and I shall do it. For that which thou requirest I may not do." And the hermit said, "Thou must then wake and make many prayers." And Christopher said to him, "I wot not what it is. I may do no such thing." And then the hermit said unto him, "Knowest thou such a river in which many be perished and lost?" To whom Christopher said, "I know it well." Then said the hermit, "Because thou art noble and high of stature and strong in thy members, thou shalt be resident by that river and shalt bear over all them that shall pass there. Which shall be a thing right convenable to Our Lord Jesus Christ, whom thou desirest to serve, and I hope He shall shew Himself to thee." Then said Christopher, "Certes, this service may I well do, and I promise to Him for to do it."

Then went Christopher to this river, and made there his habitation for him. And he bare a great pole in his hand instead of a staff, by which he sustained him in the water; and bare over all manner of people without ceasing. And there he abode, thus doing, many days.

And on a time, as he slept in his lodge, he heard the voice of a child which called him and said, "Christopher, come out and bear me over." Then he awoke and went out; but he found no man. And when he was again in his house, he heard the same voice, and he ran out and found no body. The third time he was called, and came thither, and found a child beside the rivage of the river: which prayed him goodly to bear him over the water. And then Christopher lift up the child on his shoulders and took his staff and entered in to the river for to pass. And the water of the river arose and swelled more and more. And the child was heavy as lead. And always as he went further the water increased and grew more, and the child more and more waxed heavy: in so much that Christopher had great anguish and feared to be drowned. And when he was escaped with great pain and passed the water, and set the child aground, he said to the child, "Child, thou hast put me in great peril. Thou weighest almost as I had had all the world upon me. I might bear no greater burden." And the child answered, "Christopher, marvel thou no thing. For thou hast not only borne all the world upon thee; but thou hast borne Him that created and made the world upon thy shoulders. I am Jesus Christ, the king to whom thou servest in this work. And that thou mayest know that I say to thee truth, set thy staff in the earth by the house, and thou shalt see to-morrow that it shall bear flowers and fruit." And anon he vanished from his eyes.

And then Christopher set his staff in the earth and when he arose on the morrow, he found his staff like a palm-tree bearing flowers, leaves and dates. From THE LEGENDA AUREA TEMPLE CLASSICS.


Once upon a time a Welshman was walking on London Bridge, staring at the traffic and wondering why there were so many kites hovering about. He had come to London, after many adventures with thieves and highwaymen, which need not be related here, in charge of a herd of black Welsh cattle. He had sold them with much profit, and with jingling gold in his pocket he was going about to see the sights of the city.

He was carrying a hazel staff in his hand, for you must know that a good staff is as necessary to a drover as teeth are to his dogs. He stood still to gaze at some wares in a shop (for at that time London Bridge was shops from beginning to end), when he noticed that a man was looking at his stick with a long fixed look. The man after a while came to him and asked him where he came from.

"I come from my own country," said the Welshman, rather surlily, for he could not see what business the man had to ask such a question.

"Do not take it amiss," said the stranger: "if you will only answer my questions, and take my advice, it will be of greater benefit to you than you imagine. Do you remember where you cut that stick?"

The Welshman was still suspicious, and said: "What does it matter where I cut it?"

"It matters," said the questioner, "because there is a treasure hidden near the spot where you cut that stick. If you can remember the place and conduct me to it, I will put you in possession of great riches."

The Welshman now understood he had to deal with a sorcerer, and he was greatly perplexed as to what to do. On the one hand, he was tempted by the prospect of wealth; on the other hand, he knew that the sorcerer must have derived his knowledge from devils, and he feared to have anything to do with the powers of darkness. The cunning man strove hard to persuade him, and at length made him promise to shew the place where he cut his hazel staff.

The Welshman and the magician journeyed together to Wales. They went to Craig y Dinas, the Rock of the Fortress, at the head of the Neath valley, near Pont Nedd Fechan, and the Welshman, pointing to the stock or root of an old hazel, said: "This is where I cut my stick."

"Let us dig," said the sorcerer. They digged until they came to a broad, flat stone. Prying this up, they found some steps leading downwards. They went down the steps and along a narrow passage until they came to a door. "Are you brave?" asked the sorcerer; "will you come in with me?"

"I will," said the Welshman, his curiosity getting the better of his fear.

They opened the door, and a great cave opened out before them. There was a faint red light in the cave, and they could see everything. The first thing they came to was a bell.

"Do not touch that bell," said the sorcerer, "or it will be all over with us both."

As they went further in, the Welshman saw that the place was not empty. There were soldiers lying down asleep, thousands of them, as far as ever the eye could see. Each one was clad in bright armour, the steel helmet of each was on his head, the shining shield of each was on his arm, the sword of each was near his hand, each had his spear stuck in the ground near him, and each and all were asleep.

In the midst of the cave was a great round table at which sat warriors whose noble features and richly-dight armour proclaimed that they were not as the roll of common men.

Each of these, too, had his head bent down in sleep. On a golden throne on the further side of the round table was a king of gigantic stature and august presence. In his hand, held below the hilt, was a mighty sword with scabbard and haft of gold studded with gleaming gems; on his head was a crown set with precious stones which flashed and glinted like so many points of fire. Sleep had set its seal on his eyelids also.

"Are they asleep?" asked the Welshman, hardly believing his own eyes.

"Yes, each and all of them," answered the sorcerer. "But, if you touch yonder bell, they will all awake."

"How long have they been asleep?"

"For over a thousand years."

"Who are they?"

"Arthur's warriors, waiting for the time to come when they shall destroy all the enemy of the Cymry and re-possess the strand of Britain, establishing their own king once more at Caer Lleon."

"Who are these sitting at the round table?"

"These are Arthur's knights—Owain, the son of Urien; Cai, the son of Cynyr; Gnalchmai, the son of Gwyar; Peredir, the son of Efrawe; Geraint, the son of Erbin; Ciernay, the son of Celhddon; Edeyrn, the son of Nudd; Cymri, the son of Clydno."

"And on the golden throne?" broke in the Welshman.

"Is Arthur himself, with his sword Excalibur in his hand," replied the sorcerer.

Impatient by this time at the Welshman's questions, the sorcerer hastened to a great heap of yellow gold on the floor of the cave. He took up as much as he could carry, and bade his companion do the same. "It is time for us to go," he then said, and he led the way towards the door by which they had entered.

But the Welshman was fascinated by the sight of the countless soldiers in their glittering arms—all asleep.

"How I should like to see them all awaking!" he said to himself. "I will touch the bell—I must see them all arising from their sleep."

When they came to the bell, he struck it until it rang through the whole place. As soon as it rang, lo! the thousands of warriors leapt to their feet and the ground beneath them shook with the sound of the steel arms. And a great voice came from their midst: "Who rang the bell? Has the day come?"

The sorcerer was so much frightened that he shook like an aspen leaf. He shouted in answer: "No, the day has not come. Sleep on."

The mighty host was all in motion, and the Welshman's eyes were dazzled as he looked at the bright steel arms which illumined the cave as with the light of myriad flames of fire.

"Arthur," said the voice again, "awake; the bell has rung, the day is breaking. Awake, Arthur the Great."

"No," shouted the sorcerer, "it is still night. Sleep on, Arthur the Great."

A sound came from the throne. Arthur was standing, and the jewels in his crown shone like bright stars above the countless throng. His voice was strong and sweet like the sound of many waters, and he said:

"My warriors, the day has not come when the Black Eagle and the Golden Eagle shall go to war. It is only a seeker after gold who has rung the bell. Sleep on, my warriors; the morn of Wales has not yet dawned."

A peaceful sound like the distant sigh of the sea came over the cave, and in a trice the soldiers were all asleep again. The sorcerer hurried the Welshman out of the cave, moved the stone back to its place and vanished.

Many a time did the Welshman try to find his way into the cave again, but though he dug over every inch of the hill, he has never again found the entrance to Arthur's Cave.



There was once a stone-cutter whose name was Hafiz, and all day long he chipped, chipped, chipped at his block. And often he grew very weary of his task and he would say to himself impatiently, "Why should I not have pleasure and amusement as other folk have?"

One day, when the sun was very hot and when he felt specially weary, he suddenly heard the sound of many feet, and, looking up from his work, he saw a great procession coming his way. It was the King, mounted on a splendid charger, all his soldiers to the right, in their shining armour, and the servants to the left, dressed in gorgeous clothing, ready to do his behests.

And Hafiz said: "How splendid to be a King! If only I could be a King, if only for ten minutes, so that I might know what it feels like!" And then, even as he spoke, he seemed to be dreaming, and in his dream he sang this little song:

"Ah me! Ah me! If Hafiz only the King could be!"[51]

And then a voice from the air around seemed to answer him and to say:

"Be thou the King."

And Hafiz became the King, and he it was that sat on the splendid charger, and they were his soldiers to the right and his servants to the left. And Hafiz said: "I am King, and there is no one stronger in the whole world than I."

But soon, in spite of the golden canopy over his head, Hafiz began to feel the terrible heat of the rays of the sun, and soon he noticed that the soldiers and servants were weary, that his horse drooped, and that he, Hafiz, was overcome, and he said angrily: "What! Is there something stronger in the world than a King?" And, almost without knowing it, he again sang his song more boldly than the first time:

"Ah me! Ah me! If Hafiz only the Sun could be!"

And the Voice answered:

"Be thou the Sun."

And Hafiz became the Sun, and shone down upon the Earth, but, because he did not know how to shine very wisely, he shone very fiercely, so that the crops dried up, and folk grew sick and died. And then there arose from the East a little cloud which slipped between Hafiz and the Earth, so that he could no longer shine down upon it, and he said: "Is there something stronger in the world than the Sun?"

"Ah me! Ah me! If Hafiz only the Cloud could be!"

"Be thou the Cloud.

And Hafiz became the Cloud, and rained down water upon the Earth, but, because he did not know how to do so wisely, there fell so much rain that all the little rivulets became great rivers, and all the great rivers overflowed their banks, and carried everything before them in swift torrent—all except one great rock which stood unmoved. And Hafiz said: "Is there something stronger than the Cloud?"

"Ah me! Ah me! If Hafiz only the Rock could be!"

And the Voice said:

"Be thou the Rock."

And Hafiz became the Rock, and the Cloud disappeared and the waters went down.

And Hafiz the Rock, saw coming towards him a man—he could not see the face. As the man approached he suddenly raised a hammer and struck Hafiz, so that he felt it through all his stony body. And Hafiz said: "Is there something stronger in the world than the Rock?

"Ah me! Ah me! If Hafiz only that Man might be!"

And the Voice said:

"Be thou—-Thyself."

And Hafiz seized the hammer and said:

"The Sun was stronger than the King, the Cloud was stronger than the sun, the Rock was stronger then the Cloud, but I, Hafiz, was stronger than all." Adapted and arranged by the Author.

TO YOUR GOOD HEALTH. (From the Russian)

Long long ago there lived a King who was such a mighty monarch that whenever he sneezed everyone in the whole country had to say, "To your good health!" Everyone said it except the Shepherd with the bright blue eyes, and he would not say it.

The King heard of this and was very angry, and sent for the Shepherd to appear before him.

The Shepherd came and stood before the throne, where the King sat looking very grand and powerful. But however grand or powerful he might be, the Shepherd did not feel a bit afraid of him.

"Say at once 'To my good health'!" cried the King.

"To my good health," replied the Shepherd.

"To mine—to mine, you rascal, you vagabond!" stormed the King.

"To mine, to mine, Your Majesty," was the answer.

"But to mine—to my own!" roared the King, and beat on his breast in a rage.

"Well, yes; to mine, of course, to my own," cried the Shepherd, and gently tapped his breast.

The King was beside himself with fury and did not know what to do, when the Lord chamberlain interfered:

"Say at once—say this very moment, 'To your health, Your Majesty,' for if you don't say it you will lose your life," he whispered.

"No, I won't say it tell I get the Princess for my wife," was the Shepherd's answer.

Now the Princess was sitting on a little throne beside the King, her father, and she look as sweet and lovely as a little golden dove. When she heard what the Shepherd said, she could not help laughing, for there is no denying the fact that this young shepherd with the blue eyes pleased her very much; indeed, he pleased her better than any king's son she had yet seen.

But the King was not as pleasant as his daughter, and gave orders to throw the Shepherd into the white bear's pit.

The guards led him away and thrust him into the pit with the white bear, who had had nothing to eat for two days and was very hungry. The door of the pit was hardly closed when the bear rushed at the shepherd; but when it saw his eyes it was so frightened that it was ready to eat itself. It shrank away into a corner and gazed at him from there, and in spite of being so famished, did not dare to touch him, but sucked its own paws from sheer hunger. The Shepherd felt that if he once removed his eyes off the beast he was a dead man, and in order to keep himself awake he made songs and sang them, and so the night went by.

Next morning the Lord Chamberlain came to see the Shepherd's bones, and was amazed to find him alive and well. He led him to the King, who fell into a furious passion, and said:

"Well, you have learned what it is to be very near death, and now will you say, 'To my very good health'?"

But the Shepherd answered:

"I am not afraid of ten deaths! I will only say it if I may have the Princess for my wife."

"Then go to your death," cried the King, and ordered him to be thrown into the den with the wild boars.

The wild boars had not been fed for a week, and when the Shepherd was thrust into their den they rushed at him to tear him to pieces. But the Shepherd took a little flute out of the sleeve of his jacket, and began to play a merry tune, on which the wild boars first of all shrank shyly away, and then got up on their hind legs and danced gaily. The Shepherd would have given anything to be able to laugh, they looked so funny; but he dared not stop playing, for he knew well enough that the moment he stopped they would fall upon him and tear him to pieces. His eyes were of no use to him here, for he could not have stared ten wild boars in the face at once; so he kept playing, and the wild boars danced very slowly, as if in a minuet; then by degrees he played faster and faster, till they could hardly twist and turn quickly enough, and ended by all falling over each other in a heap, quite exhausted and out of breath.

Then the Shepherd ventured to laugh at last; and he laughed so long and so loud that when the Lord Chamberlain came early in the morning, expecting to find only his bones, the tears were still running down his cheeks from laughter.

As soon as the King was dressed the Shepherd was again brought before him; but he was more angry than ever to think the wild boars had not torn the man to bits, and he said:

"Well, you have learned what it feels to be near ten deaths, now say 'To my good health'!"

But the shepherd broke in with:

"I do not fear a hundred deaths; and I will only say it if I may have the Princess for my wife."

"Then go to a hundred deaths!" roared the King, and ordered the Shepherd to be thrown down the deep vault of scythes.

The guards dragged him away to a dark dungeon, in the middle of which was a deep well with sharp scythes all round it. At the bottom of the well was a little light by which one could see, if anyone was thrown in, whether he had fallen to the bottom.

When the Shepherd was dragged to the dungeon he begged the guards to leave him alone a little while that he might look down into the pit of scythes; perhaps he might after all make up his mind to say, "To your good health" to the King.

So the guards left him alone, and he stuck up his long stick near the wall, hung his cloak round the stick and put his hat on the top. He also hung his knapsack up beside the cloak, so that it might seem to have some body within it. When this was done, he called out to the guards and said that he had considered the matter, but after all he could not make up his mind to say what the King wished.

The guards came in, threw the hat and cloak, knapsack and stick all down in the well together, watched to see how they put out the light at the bottom, and came away, thinking that now there was really an end to the Shepherd. But he had hidden in a dark corner, and was now laughing to himself all the time.

Quite early next morning came the Lord Chamberlain with a lamp, and he nearly fell backwards with surprise when he saw the Shepherd alive and well. He brought him to the King, whose fury was greater than ever, but who cried:

"Well, now you have been near a hundred deaths; will you say, 'To your good health'?"

But the Shepherd only gave the answer:

"I won't say it till the Princess is my wife."

"Perhaps, after all, you may do it for less," said the King, who saw that there was no chance of making away with the shepherd; and he ordered the state coach to be got ready; then he made the Shepherd get in with him and sit beside him, and ordered the coachman to drive to the silver wood.

When they reached it, he said:

"Do you see this silver wood? Well, if you will say 'To your good health,' I will give it to you."

The shepherd turned hot and cold by turns, but he still persisted:

"I will not say it till the Princess is my wife."

The King was much vexed; he drove further on till they came to a splendid castle, all of gold, and then he said:

"Do you see this golden castle? Well, I will give you that too, the silver wood and the gold castle, if only you will say one thing to me: 'To your good health.'"

The Shepherd gaped and wondered, and was quite dazzled but he still said:

"No, I will not say it till I have the Princess for my wife."

This time the King was overwhelmed with grief, and gave orders to drive on to the diamond pond and there he tried once more:

"You shall have the all—all, if you will but say 'To your good health.'"

The Shepherd had to shut his staring eyes tight not to be dazzled with the brilliant pond, but still he said:

"No, no; I will not say it till I have the Princess for my wife."

Then the King saw that all his efforts were useless, and that he might as well give in; so he said:

"Well, well, it is all the same to me—I will give you my daughter to wife; but then you really must say to me, 'To your good health.'"

"Of course I'll say it; why should I not say it? It stands to reason that I shall say it then."

At this the King was more delighted than anyone could have believed. He made it known all through the country that there were going to be great rejoicings, as the Princess was going to be married. And everyone rejoiced to think that the Princess who had refused so many royal suitors, should have ended by falling in love with the staring- eyed Shepherd.

There was such a wedding as had never been seen. Everyone ate and drank and danced. Even the sick were feasted, and quite tiny new-born children had presents given them. But the greatest merrymaking was in the King's palace; there the best bands played and the best food was cooked. A crowd of people sat down to table, and all was fun and merrymaking.

And when the groomsman, according to custom, brought in the great boar's head on a big dish and placed it before the King, so that he might carve it and give everyone a share, the savoury smell was so strong that the King began to sneeze with all his might.

"To your very good health!" cried the Shepherd before anyone else, and the King was so delighted that he did not regret having given him his daughter.

In time, when the old King died, the Shepherd succeeded him. He made a very good king, and never expected his people to wish him well against their wills: but, all the same, everyone did wish him well, because they loved him.


There was once a cock who grew so dreadfully proud that he would have nothing to say to anybody. He left his house, it being far beneath his dignity to have any trammel of that sort in his life, and as for his former acquaintance, he cut them all.

One day, whilst walking about, he came to a few little sparks of fire which were nearly dead.

They cried out to him: "Please fan us with your wings, and we shall come to the full vigour of life again."

But he did not deign to answer, and as he was going away one of the sparks said; "Ah well! we shall die, but our big brother, the Fire will pay you out for this one day."

On another day he was airing himself in a meadow, showing himself off in a very superb set of clothes. A voice calling from somewhere said: "Please be so good as to drop us into the water again."

He looked about and saw a few drops of water: they had got separated from their friends in the river, and were pining away with grief. "Oh! please be so good as to drop us into the water again," they said; but, without any answer, he drank up the drops. He was too proud and a great deal too big to talk to a poor little puddle of water; but the drops said: "Our big brother, the Water, will one day take you in hand, you proud and senseless creature."

Some days afterwards, during a great storm of rain, thunder and lightning, the cock took shelter in a little empty cottage, and shut to the door; and he thought: "I am clever; I am in comfort. What fools people are to top out in a storm like this! What's that?" thought he. "I never heard a sound like that before."

In a little while it grew much louder, and when a few minutes had passed, it was a perfect howl. "Oh!" thought he, "this will never do. I must stop it somehow. But what is it I have to stop?"

He soon found it was the wind, shouting through the keyhole, so he plugged up the keyhole with a bit of clay, and then the wind was able to rest. He was very tired with whistling so long through the keyhole, and he said: "Now, if ever I have at any time a chance of doing a good turn to that princely domestic fowl, I well do it."

Weeks afterwards, the cock looked in at a house door: he seldom went there, because the miser to whom the house belonged almost starved himself, and so, of course, there was nothing over for anybody else.

To his amazement the cock saw the miser bending over a pot on the fire. At last the old fellow turned round to get a spoon with which to stir his pot, and then the cock, waking up, looked in and saw that the miser was making oyster-soup, for he had found some oyster-shells in an ash-pit, and to give the mixture a colour he had put in a few halfpence in the pot.

The miser chanced to turn quickly round, while the cock was peering into the saucepan, and, chuckling to himself, he said: "I shall have chicken broth after all."

He tripped up the cock into the pot and shut the lid on. The bird, feeling warm, said: "Water, water, don't boil!" But the water only said: "You drank up my young brothers once: don't ask a favour of me."

Then he called out to the Fire: "Oh! kind Fire, don't boil the water." But the fire replied: "You once let my young sisters die: you cannot expect any mercy from me." So he flared up and boiled the water all the faster.

At last, when the cock got unpleasantly warm, he thought of the wind, and called out: "Oh, Wind, come to my help!" and the Wind said: "Why, there is that noble domestic bird in trouble. I will help him." So he came down the chimney, blew out the fire, blew the lid off the pot, and blew the cock far away into the air, and at last settled him on a steeple, where the cock remained ever since. And people say that the halfpence which were in the pot when it was boiling have given him the queer brown colour he still wears. From the Spanish.


There lived once, in Russia, a peasant and his wife who would have been as happy as the day is long, if only God had given them a little child.

One day, as they were watching the children playing in the snow, the man said to the woman:

"Wife, shall we go out and help the children make a snowball?"

But the wife answered, smiling:

"Nay, husband, but since God has given us no little child, let us go and fashion one from the snow."

And she put on her long blue cloak, and he put on his long brown coat, and they went out onto the crisp snow, and began to fashion the little child.

First, they made the feet and the legs and the little body, and then they took a ball of snow for the head. And at that moment a stranger in a long cloak, with his hat well drawn over his face, passed that way, and said: "Heaven help your undertaking!"

And the peasants crossed themselves and said:

"It is well to ask help from Heaven in all we do."

Then they went on fashioning the little child. And they made two holes for the eyes and formed the nose and the mouth. And then— wonder of wonders—the little child came alive, and breath came from its nostrils and parted lips.

And the man was feared, and said to his wife: "What have we done?"

And the wife said: "This is the little girl child God has sent us." And she gathered it into her arms, and the loose snow fell away from the little creature. Her hair became golden and her eyes were as blue as forget-me-nots—but there was no colour in her cheeks, because there was no blood in her veins.

In a few days she was like a child of three or four, and in a few weeks she seemed to be the age of nine or ten, and ran about gaily and prattled with the other children, who loved her so dearly, though she was so different from them.

Only, happy as she was, and dearly as her parents loved her, there was one terror in her life, and that was the sun. And during the day she would run and hide herself in cool, damp places away from the sunshine, and this the other children could not understand.

As the Spring advanced and the days grew longer and warmed, little Snegourka (for this was the name by which she was known) grew paler and thinner, and her mother would often ask her: "What ails you, my darling?" and Snegourka would say: "Nothing, Mother but I wish the sun were not so bright."

One day, on St. John's Day, the children of the village came to fetch her for a day in the woods, and they gathered flowers for her and did all they to make her happy, but it was only when the great red sun went down that Snegourka drew a deep breath of relief and spread her little hands out to the cool evening air. And the boys, glad at her gladness, said: "Let us do something for Snegourka. Let us light a bonfire." And Snegourka not knowing what a bonfire was, she clapped her hands and was as merry and eager as they. And she helped them gather the sticks, and then they all stood round the pile and the boys set fire to the wood.

Snegourka stood watching the flames and listening to the crackle of the wood: and then suddenly they heard a tiny sound and looking at the place where Snegourka had been standing, they saw nothing but a little snow-drift fast melting. And they called and called, "Snegourka! Snegourka!" thinking she had run into the forest. But there was no answer. Snegourka had disappeared from this life as mysteriously as she had come into it. Adapted by the author.


The river was so clear because it was the home of a very beautiful Water Nixie who lived in it, and who sometimes could emerge from her home and sit in woman's form upon the bank. She had a dark green smock upon her, the colour of the water-weed that waves as the water wills it, deep, deep down. And in her long wet hair were the white flowers of the water-violet, and she held a reed mace in her hand. Her face was very sad because she had lived a long life, and known so many adventures, ever since she was a baby, which was nearly a hundred years ago. For creatures of the streams and trees live a long, long time, and when they die they lose themselves in Nature. That means that they are forever clouds, or trees, or rivers, and never have the form of men and women again.

All water creatures would live, if they might choose it, in the sea, where they are born. It is in the sea they float hand-in-hand upon the crested billows, and sink deep in the great troughs of the strong waves, that are as green as jade. They follow the foam and lose themselves in the wide ocean—

"Where great whales come sailing by, Sail and sail with unshut eye;"

and they store in the Sea King's palace the golden phosphor of the sea. But this Water Nixie had lost her happiness through not being good. She had forgotten many things that had been told her, and she had done many things that grieved others. She had stolen somebody else's property—quite a large bundle of happiness—which belonged elsewhere and not to her. Happiness is generally made to fit the person who owns it, just as do your shoes, or clothes; so that when you take someone else's it's very little good to you, for it fits badly, and you can never forget it isn't yours.

So what with one thing and another, this Water Nixie had to be punished, and the Queen of the Sea had banished her from the waves.[52]

"You shall live for a long time in little places where you will weary of yourself. You will learn to know yourself so well that everything you want will seem too good for you, and you will cease to claim it. And so, in time, you shall get free."

Then the Nixie had to rise up and go away, and be shut into the fastness of a very small space, according to the words of the Queen. And this small space was—a tear.

At first she could hardly express her misery, and by thinking so continuously of the wideness and savour of the sea, she brought a dash of the brine with her, that makes the saltness of our tears. She became many times smaller than her own stature; even then, by standing upright and spreading wide her arms, she touched with her finger-tips the walls of her tiny crystal home. How she longed that this tear might be wept, and the walls of her prison shattered! But the owner of this tear was of a very proud nature, and she was so sad that tears seemed to her in no wise to express her grief.

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