HOW TO TELL STORIES TO CHILDREN
AND SOME STORIES TO TELL
BY SARA CONE BRYANT
GEORGE G. HARRAP & CO. LTD.
2 & 3 PORTSMOUTH STREET KINGSWAY W.C.
Books for Story-Tellers
UNIFORM WITH THIS VOLUME
How to Tell Stories to Children And Some Stories to Tell. By SARA CONE BRYANT. Tenth Impression.
Stories to Tell to Children With Fifty-Three Stories to Tell. By SARA CONE BRYANT. Seventh Impression.
The Book of Stories for the Story-Teller By FANNY COE. Fourth Impression.
Songs and Stories for the Little Ones By E. GORDON BROWNE, M.A. With Melodies chosen and arranged by EVA BROWNE. New and Enlarged Edition.
Character Training A Graded Series of Lessons in Ethics, largely through Story-telling. By E.L. CABOT and E. EYLES. Third Impression. 384 pages.
Stories for the Story Hour From January to December. By ADA M. MARZIALS. Second Impression.
Stories for the History Hour From Augustus to Rolf. By NANNIE NIEMEYER. Second Impression.
Stories for the Bible Hour By R. BRIMLEY JOHNSON, B.A.
Nature Stories to Tell to Children By H. WADDINGHAM SEERS.
* * * * *
MISS MAUD LINDSAY'S POPULAR BOOKS
Mother Stories With 16 Line Illustrations.
More Mother Stories With 20 Line Illustrations.
THE RIVERSIDE PRESS LIMITED, EDINBURGH GREAT BRITAIN
To My Mother
THE FIRST, BEST STORY-TELLER THIS LITTLE BOOK IS DEDICATED
The stories which are given in the following pages are for the most part those which I have found to be best liked by the children to whom I have told these and others. I have tried to reproduce the form in which I actually tell them,—although that inevitably varies with every repetition,—feeling that it would be of greater value to another story-teller than a more closely literary form.
For the same reason, I have confined my statements of theory as to method, to those which reflect my own experience; my "rules" were drawn from introspection and retrospection, at the urging of others, long after the instinctive method they exemplify had become habitual.
These facts are the basis of my hope that the book may be of use to those who have much to do with children.
It would be impossible, in the space of any pardonable preface, to name the teachers, mothers, and librarians who have given me hints and helps during the past few years of story-telling. But I cannot let these pages go to press without recording my especial indebtedness to the few persons without whose interested aid the little book would scarcely have come to be. They are: Mrs Elizabeth Young Rutan, at whose generous instance I first enlarged my own field of entertaining story-telling to include hers, of educational narrative, and from whom I had many valuable suggestions at that time; Miss Ella L. Sweeney, assistant superintendent of schools, Providence, R.I., to whom I owe exceptional opportunities for investigation and experiment; Mrs Root, children's librarian of Providence Public Library, and Miss Alice M. Jordan, Boston Public Library, children's room, to whom I am indebted for much gracious and efficient aid.
My thanks are due also to Mr David Nutt for permission to make use of three stories from English Fairy Tales, by Mr Joseph Jacobs, and Raggylug, from Wild Animals I have Known, by Mr Ernest Thompson Seton; to Messrs Frederick A. Stokes Company for Five Little White Heads, by Walter Learned, and for Bird Thoughts; to Messrs Kegan Paul, Trench, Truebner & Co. Ltd. for The Burning of the Ricefields, from Gleanings in Buddha-Fields, by Mr Lafcadio Hearn; to Messrs H.R. Allenson Ltd. for three stories from The Golden Windows, by Miss Laura E. Richards; and to Mr Seumas McManus for Billy Beg and his Bull, from In Chimney Corners.
INTRODUCTION PAGE The Story-teller's Art Recent Revival The Difference between telling a Story and reading it aloud Some Reasons why the Former is more effective 11
THE PURPOSE OF STORY-TELLING IN SCHOOL
Its immediate Advantages to the Teacher Its ultimate Gifts to the Child 19
SELECTION OF STORIES TO TELL
The Qualities Children like, and why Qualities necessary for Oral Delivery Examples: The Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, The Old Woman and her Pig Suggestions as to the Type of Story especially useful in the several primary Grades Selected List of familiar Fairy Tales 43
ADAPTATION OF STORIES FOR TELLING
How to make a long Story short How to fill out a short Story General Changes commonly desirable Examples: The Nuernberg Stove, by Ouida; The King of the Golden River, by Ruskin; The Red Thread of Courage, The Elf and the Dormouse Analysis of Method 67
HOW TO TELL THE STORY
Essential Nature of the Story Kind of Appreciation necessary Suggestions for gaining Mastery of Facts Arrangement of Children The Story-teller's Mood A few Principles of Method, Manner and Voice, from the psychological Point of View 93
SOME SPECIFIC SCHOOLROOM USES
Exercise in Retelling Illustrations cut by the Children as Seat-work Dramatic Games Influence of Games on Reading Classes 117
STORIES SELECTED AND ADAPTED FOR TELLING
ESPECIALLY FOR KINDERGARTEN AND CLASS I.
Nursery Rhymes 133 Five Little White Heads 134 Bird Thoughts 134 How we came to have Pink Roses 135 Raggylug 135 The Golden Cobwebs 138 Why the Morning-Glory climbs 142 The Story of Little Tavwots 143 The Pig Brother 145 The Cake 148 The Pied Piper of Hamelin Town 149 Why the Evergreen Trees keep their Leaves in Winter 156 The Star Dollars 159 The Lion and the Gnat 161
ESPECIALLY FOR CLASSES II. AND III.
The Cat and the Parrot 168 The Rat Princess 172 The Frog and the Ox 175 The Fire-Bringer 176 The Burning of the Ricefields 179 The Story of Wylie 182 Little Daylight 186 The Sailor Man 199 The Story of Jairus's Daughter 201
ESPECIALLY FOR CLASSES IV. AND V.
Arthur and the Sword 204 Tarpeia 208 The Buckwheat 210 The Judgment of Midas 211 Why the Sea is salt 213 Billy Beg and his Bull 221 The Little Hero of Haarlem 233 The Last Lesson 238 The Story of Christmas 243
THE CHILD-MIND; AND HOW TO SATISFY IT
A short List of Books in which the Story-teller will find Stories not too far from the Form in which they are needed 247
Not long ago, I chanced to open a magazine at a story of Italian life which dealt with a curious popular custom. It told of the love of the people for the performances of a strangely clad, periodically appearing old man who was a professional story-teller. This old man repeated whole cycles of myth and serials of popular history, holding his audience-chamber in whatever corner of the open court or square he happened upon, and always surrounded by an eager crowd of listeners. So great was the respect in which the story-teller was held, that any interruption was likely to be resented with violence.
As I read of the absorbed silence and the changing expressions of the crowd about the old man, I was suddenly reminded of a company of people I had recently seen. They were gathered in one of the parlours of a women's college, and their serious young faces had, habitually, none of the childlike responsiveness of the Italian populace; they were suggestive, rather, of a daily experience which precluded over-much surprise or curiosity about anything. In the midst of the group stood a frail-looking woman with bright eyes. She was telling a story, a children's story, about a good and a bad little mouse.
She had been asked to do that thing, for a purpose, and she did it, therefore. But it was easy to see from the expressions of the listeners how trivial a thing it seemed to them.
That was at first. But presently the room grew quieter; and yet quieter. The faces relaxed into amused smiles, sobered in unconscious sympathy, finally broke in ripples of mirth. The story-teller had come to her own.
The memory of the college girls listening to the mouse-story brought other memories with it. Many a swift composite view of faces passed before my mental vision, faces with the child's look on them, yet not the faces of children. And of the occasions to which the faces belonged, those were most vivid which were earliest in my experience. For it was those early experiences which first made me realise the modern possibilities of the old, old art of telling stories.
It had become a part of my work, some years ago, to give English lectures on German literature. Many of the members of my class were unable to read in the original the works with which I dealt, and as these were modern works it was rarely possible to obtain translations. For this reason, I gradually formed the habit of telling the story of the drama or novel in question before passing to a detailed consideration of it. I enjoyed this part of the lesson exceedingly, but it was some time before I realised how much the larger part of the lesson it had become to the class. They used—and they were mature women—to wait for the story as if it were a sugarplum and they, children; and to grieve openly if it were omitted. Substitution of reading from a translation was greeted with precisely the same abatement of eagerness that a child shows when he has asked you to tell a story, and you offer, instead, to "read one from the pretty book." And so general and constant were the tokens of enjoyment that there could ultimately be no doubt of the power which the mere story-telling exerted.
The attitude of the grown-up listeners did but illustrate the general difference between the effect of telling a story and of reading one. Everyone who knows children well has felt the difference. With few exceptions, children listen twice as eagerly to a story told as to one read, and even a "recitation" or a so-called "reading" has not the charm for them that the person wields who can "tell a story." And there are sound reasons for their preference.
The great difference, including lesser ones, between telling and reading is that the teller is free; the reader is bound. The book in hand, or the wording of it in mind, binds the reader. The story-teller is bound by nothing; he stands or sits, free to watch his audience, free to follow or lead every changing mood, free to use body, eyes, voice, as aids in expression. Even his mind is unbound, because he lets the story come in the words of the moment, being so full of what he has to say. For this reason, a story told is more spontaneous than one read, however well read. And, consequently, the connection with the audience is closer, more electric, than is possible when the book or its wording intervenes.
Beyond this advantage, is the added charm of the personal element in story-telling. When you make a story your own and tell it, the listener gets the story, plus your appreciation of it. It comes to him filtered through your own enjoyment. That is what makes the funny story thrice funnier on the lips of a jolly raconteur than in the pages of a memoir. It is the filter of personality. Everybody has something of the curiosity of the primitive man concerning his neighbour; what another has in his own person felt and done has an especial hold on each one of us. The most cultured of audiences will listen to the personal reminiscences of an explorer with a different tingle of interest from that which it feels for a scientific lecture on the results of the exploration. The longing for the personal in experience is a very human longing. And this instinct or longing is especially strong in children. It finds expression in their delight in tales of what father or mother did when they were little, of what happened to grandmother when she went on a journey, and so on, but it also extends to stories which are not in themselves personal: which take their personal savour merely from the fact that they flow from the lips in spontaneous, homely phrases, with an appreciative gusto which suggests participation.
The greater ease in holding the attention of children is, for teachers, a sufficient practical reason for telling stories rather than reading them. It is incomparably easier to make the necessary exertion of "magnetism," or whatever it may be called, when nothing else distracts the attention. One's eyes meet the children's gaze naturally and constantly; one's expression responds to and initiates theirs without effort; the connection is immediate. For the ease of the teacher, then, no less than for the joy of the children, may the art of story-telling be urged as pre-eminent over the art of reading.
It is a very old, a very beautiful art. Merely to think of it carries one's imaginary vision to scenes of glorious and touching antiquity. The tellers of the stories of which Homer's Iliad was compounded; the transmitters of the legend and history which make up the Gesta Romanorum; the travelling raconteurs whose brief heroic tales are woven into our own national epic; the grannies of age-old tradition whose stories are parts of Celtic folk-lore, of Germanic myth, of Asiatic wonder-tales,—these are but younger brothers and sisters to the generations of story-tellers whose inventions are but vaguely outlined in resultant forms of ancient literatures, and the names of whose tribes are no longer even guessed. There was a time when story-telling was the chiefest of the arts of entertainment; kings and warriors could ask for nothing better; serfs and children were satisfied with nothing less. In all times there have been occasional revivals of this pastime, and in no time has the art died out in the simple human realms of which mothers are queens. But perhaps never, since the really old days, has story-telling so nearly reached a recognised level of dignity as a legitimate and general art of entertainment as now.
Its present popularity seems in a way to be an outgrowth of the recognition of its educational value which was given impetus by the German pedagogues of Froebel's school. That recognition has, at all events, been a noticeable factor in educational conferences of late. The function of the story is no longer considered solely in the light of its place in the kindergarten; it is being sought in the first, the second, and indeed in every standard where the children are still children. Sometimes the demand for stories is made solely in the interests of literary culture, sometimes in far ampler and vaguer relations, ranging from inculcation of scientific fact to admonition of moral theory; but whatever the reason given, the conclusion is the same: tell the children stories.
The average teacher has yielded to the pressure, at least in theory. Cheerfully, as she has already accepted so many modifications of old methods by "new thought," she accepts the idea of instilling mental and moral desiderata into the receptive pupil, via the charming tale. But, confronted with the concrete problem of what desideratum by which tale, and how, the average teacher sometimes finds her cheerfulness displaced by a sense of inadequacy to the situation.
People who have always told stories to children, who do not know when they began or how they do it; whose heads are stocked with the accretions of years of fairyland-dwelling and nonsense-sharing,—these cannot understand the perplexity of one to whom the gift and the opportunity have not "come natural." But there are many who can understand it, personally and all too well. To these, the teachers who have not a knack for story-telling, who feel as shy as their own youngest scholar at the thought of it, who do not know where the good stories are, or which ones are easy to tell, it is my earnest hope that the following pages will bring something definite and practical in the way of suggestion and reference.
HOW TO TELL STORIES TO CHILDREN
THE PURPOSE OF STORY-TELLING IN SCHOOL
Let us first consider together the primary matter of the aim in educational story-telling. On our conception of this must depend very largely all decisions as to choice and method; and nothing in the whole field of discussion is more vital than a just and sensible notion of this first point. What shall we attempt to accomplish by stories in the schoolroom? What can we reasonably expect to accomplish? And what, of this, is best accomplished by this means and no other?
These are questions which become the more interesting and practical because the recent access of enthusiasm for stories in education has led many people to claim very wide and very vaguely outlined territory for their possession, and often to lay heaviest stress on their least essential functions. The most important instance of this is the fervour with which many compilers of stories for school use have directed their efforts solely toward illustration of natural phenomena. Geology, zoology, botany, and even physics are taught by means of more or less happily constructed narratives based on the simpler facts of these sciences. Kindergarten teachers are familiar with such narratives: the little stories of chrysalis-breaking, flower-growth, and the like. Now this is a perfectly proper and practicable aim, but it is not a primary one. Others, to which at best this is but secondary, should have first place and receive greatest attention.
What is a story, essentially? Is it a text-book of science, an appendix to the geography, an introduction to the primer of history? Of course it is not. A story is essentially and primarily a work of art, and its chief function must be sought in the line of the uses of art. Just as the drama is capable of secondary uses, yet fails abjectly to realise its purpose when those are substituted for its real significance as a work of art, so does the story lend itself to subsidiary purposes, but claims first and most strongly to be recognised in its real significance as a work of art. Since the drama deals with life in all its parts, it can exemplify sociological theory, it can illustrate economic principle, it can even picture politics; but the drama which does these things only, has no breath of its real life in its being, and dies when the wind of popular tendency veers from its direction. So, you can teach a child interesting facts about bees and butterflies by telling him certain stories, and you can open his eyes to colours and processes in nature by telling certain others; but unless you do something more than that and before that, you are as one who should use the Venus of Milo for a demonstration in anatomy.
The message of the story is the message of beauty, as effective as that message in marble or paint. Its part in the economy of life is to give joy. And the purpose and working of the joy is found in that quickening of the spirit which answers every perception of the truly beautiful in the arts of man. To give joy; in and through the joy to stir and feed the life of the spirit: is not this the legitimate function of the story in education?
Because I believe it to be such, not because I ignore the value of other uses, I venture to push aside all aims which seem secondary to this for later mention under specific heads. Here in the beginning of our consideration I wish to emphasise this element alone. A story is a work of art. Its greatest use to the child is in the everlasting appeal of beauty by which the soul of man is constantly pricked to new hungers, quickened to new perceptions, and so given desire to grow.
The obvious practical bearing of this is that story-telling is first of all an art of entertainment; like the stage, its immediate purpose is the pleasure of the hearer,—his pleasure, not his instruction, first.
Now the story-teller who has given the listening children such pleasure as I mean may or may not have added a fact to the content of their minds; she has inevitably added something to the vital powers of their souls. She has given a wholesome exercise to the emotional muscles of the spirit, has opened up new windows to the imagination, and added some line or colour to the ideal of life and art which is always taking form in the heart of a child. She has, in short, accomplished the one greatest aim of story-telling,—to enlarge and enrich the child's spiritual experience, and stimulate healthy reaction upon it.
Of course this result cannot be seen and proved as easily and early as can the apprehension of a fact. The most one can hope to recognise is its promise, and this is found in the tokens of that genuine pleasure which is itself the means of accomplishment. It is, then, the signs of right pleasure which the story-teller must look to for her guide, and which it must be her immediate aim to evoke. As for the recognition of the signs,—no one who has ever seen the delight of a real child over a real story can fail to know the signals when given, or flatter himself into belief in them when absent.
Intimately connected with the enjoyment given are two very practically beneficial results which the story-teller may hope to obtain, and at least one of which will be a kind of reward to herself. The first is a relaxation of the tense schoolroom atmosphere, valuable for its refreshing recreative power. The second result, or aim, is not so obvious, but is even more desirable; it is this: story-telling is at once one of the simplest and quickest ways of establishing a happy relation between teacher and children, and one of the most effective methods of forming the habit of fixed attention in the latter.
If you have never seen an indifferent child aroused or a hostile one conquered to affection by a beguiling tale, you can hardly appreciate the truth of the first statement; but nothing is more familiar in the story-teller's experience. An amusing, but—to me—touching experience recently reaffirmed in my mind this power of the story to establish friendly relations.
My three-year-old niece, who had not seen me since her babyhood, being told that Aunt Sara was coming to visit her, somehow confused the expected guest with a more familiar aunt, my sister. At sight of me, her rush of welcome relapsed into a puzzled and hurt withdrawal, which yielded to no explanations or proffers of affection. All the first day she followed me about at a wistful distance, watching me as if I might at any moment turn into the well-known and beloved relative I ought to have been. Even by undressing time I had not progressed far enough to be allowed intimate approach to small sacred nightgowns and diminutive shirts. The next morning, when I opened the door of the nursery where her maid was brushing her hair, the same dignity radiated from the little round figure perched on its high chair, the same almost hostile shyness gazed at me from the great expressive eyes. Obviously, it was time for something to be done.
Disregarding my lack of invitation, I drew up a stool, and seating myself opposite the small unbending person, began in a conversational murmur: "M—m, I guess those are tingly-tanglies up there in that curl Lottie's combing; did you ever hear about the tingly-tanglies? They live in little girls' hair, and they aren't any bigger than that, and when anybody tries to comb the hair they curl both weeny legs round, so, and hold on tight with both weeny hands, so, and won't let go!" As I paused, my niece made a queer little sound indicative of query battling with reserve. I pursued the subject: "They like best to live right over a little girl's ear, or down in her neck, because it is easier to hang on, there; tingly-tanglies are very smart, indeed."
"What's ti-ly-ta-lies?" asked a curious, guttural little voice.
I explained the nature and genesis of tingly-tanglies, as revealed to me some decades before by my inventive mother, and proceeded to develop their simple adventures. When next I paused the small guttural voice demanded, "Say more," and I joyously obeyed.
When the curls were all curled and the last little button buttoned, my baby niece climbed hastily down from her chair, and deliberately up into my lap. With a caress rare to her habit she spoke my name, slowly and tentatively, "An-ty Sai-ry?" Then, in an assured tone, "Anty Sairy, I love you so much I don't know what to do!" And, presently, tucking a confiding hand in mine to lead me to breakfast, she explained sweetly, "I didn' know you when you comed las' night, but now I know you all th' time!"
"Oh, blessed tale," thought I, "so easy a passport to a confidence so desired, so complete!" Never had the witchery of the story to the ear of a child come more closely home to me. But the fact of the witchery was no new experience. The surrender of the natural child to the story-teller is as absolute and invariable as that of a devotee to the priest of his own sect.
This power is especially valuable in the case of children whose natural shyness has been augmented by rough environment or by the strangeness of foreign habit. And with such children even more than with others it is also true that the story is a simple and effective means of forming the habit of concentration, of fixed attention; any teacher who deals with this class of children knows the difficulty of doing this fundamental and indispensable thing, and the value of any practical aid in doing it.
More than one instance of the power of story-telling to develop attentiveness comes to my mind, but the most prominent in memory is a rather recent incident, in which the actors were boys and girls far past the child-stage of docility.
I had been asked to tell stories to about sixty boys and girls of a club; the president warned me in her invitation that the children were exceptionally undisciplined, but my previous experiences with similar gatherings led me to interpret her words with a moderation which left me totally unready for the reality. When I faced my audience, I saw a squirming jumble of faces, backs of heads, and the various members of many small bodies,—not a person in the room was paying the slightest attention to me; the president's introduction could scarcely be said to succeed in interrupting the interchange of social amenities which was in progress, and which looked delusively like a free fight. I came as near stage fright in the first minutes of that occasion as it is comfortable to be, and if it had not been impossible to run away I think I should not have remained. But I began, with as funny a tale as I knew, following the safe plan of not speaking very loudly, and aiming my effort at the nearest children. As I went on, a very few faces held intelligently to mine; the majority answered only fitfully; and not a few of my hearers conversed with their neighbours as if I were non-existent. The sense of bafflement, the futile effort, forced the perspiration to my hands and face—yet something in the faces before me told me that it was no ill-will that fought against me; it was the apathy of minds without the power or habit of concentration, unable to follow a sequence of ideas any distance, and rendered more restless by bodies which were probably uncomfortable, certainly undisciplined.
The first story took ten minutes. When I began a second, a very short one, the initial work had to be done all over again, for the slight comparative quiet I had won had been totally lost in the resulting manifestation of approval.
At the end of the second story, the room was really orderly to the superficial view, but where I stood I could see the small boy who deliberately made a hideous face at me each time my eyes met his, the two girls who talked with their backs turned, the squirms of a figure here and there. It seemed so disheartening a record of failure that I hesitated much to yield to the uproarious request for a third story, but finally I did begin again, on a very long story which for its own sake I wanted them to hear.
This time the little audience settled to attention almost at the opening words. After about five minutes I was suddenly conscious of a sense of ease and relief, a familiar restful feeling in the atmosphere; and then, at last, I knew that my audience was "with me," that they and I were interacting without obstruction. Absolutely quiet, entirely unconscious of themselves, the boys and girls were responding to every turn of the narrative as easily and readily as any group of story-bred kindergarten children. From then on we had a good time together.
The process which took place in that small audience was a condensed example of what one may expect in habitual story-telling to a group of children. Once having had the attention chained by crude force of interest, the children begin to expect something interesting from the teacher, and to wait for it. And having been led step by step from one grade of a logical sequence to another, their minds—at first beguiled by the fascination of the steps—glide into the habit of following any logical sequence. My club formed its habit, as far as I was concerned, all in one session; the ordinary demands of school procedure lengthen the process, but the result is equally sure. By the end of a week in which the children have listened happily to a story every day, the habit of listening and deducing has been formed, and the expectation of pleasantness is connected with the opening of the teacher's lips.
These two benefits are well worth the trouble they cost, and for these two, at least, any teacher who tells a story well may confidently look—the quick gaining of a confidential relation with the children, and the gradual development of concentration and interested attention in them.
These are direct and somewhat clearly discernible results, comfortably placed in a near future. There are other aims, reaching on into the far, slow modes of psychological growth, which must equally determine the choice of the story-teller's material and inform the spirit of her work. These other, less immediately attainable ends, I wish now to consider in relation to the different types of story by which they are severally best served.
First, unbidden claimant of attention, comes
THE FAIRY STORY
No one can think of a child and a story, without thinking of the fairy tale. Is this, as some would have us believe, a bad habit of an ignorant old world? Or can the Fairy Tale justify her popularity with truly edifying and educational results? Is she a proper person to introduce here, and what are her titles to merit?
Oh dear, yes! Dame Fairy Tale comes bearing a magic wand in her wrinkled old fingers, with one wave of which she summons up that very spirit of joy which it is our chief effort to invoke. She raps smartly on the door, and open sesames echo to every imagination. Her red-heeled shoes twinkle down an endless lane of adventures, and every real child's footsteps quicken after. She is the natural, own great-grandmother of every child in the world, and her pocketfuls of treasures are his by right of inheritance. Shut her out, and you truly rob the children of something which is theirs; something marking their constant kinship with the race-children of the past, and adapted to their needs as it was to those of the generation of long ago! If there were no other criterion at all, it would be enough that the children love the fairy tale; we give them fairy stories, first, because they like them. But that by no means lessens the importance of the fact that fairy tales are also good for them.
How good? In various ways. First, perhaps, in their supreme power of presenting truth through the guise of images. This is the way the race-child took toward wisdom, and it is the way each child's individual instinct takes, after him. Elemental truths of moral law and general types of human experience are presented in the fairy tale, in the poetry of their images, and although the child is aware only of the image at the time, the truth enters with it and becomes a part of his individual experience, to be recognised in its relations at a later stage. Every truth and type so given broadens and deepens the capacity of the child's inner life, and adds an element to the store from which he draws his moral inferences.
The most familiar instance of a moral truth conveyed under a fairy-story image is probably the story of the pure-hearted and loving girl whose lips were touched with the wonderful power of dropping jewels with every spoken word, while her stepsister, whose heart was infested with malice and evil desires, let ugly toads fall from her mouth whenever she spoke. I mention the old tale because there is probably no one of my readers who has not heard it in childhood, and because there are undoubtedly many to whose mind it has often recurred in later life as a sadly perfect presentment of the fact that "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." That story has entered into the forming consciousness of many of us, with its implications of the inevitable result of visible evil from evil in the heart, and its revelation of the loathsomeness of evil itself.
And no less truly than this story has served to many as an embodiment of moral law has another household tale stood for a type of common experience. How much the poorer should we be, mentally, without our early prophecy of the "ugly ducklings" we are to meet later in life!—those awkward offspring of our little human duckyard who are mostly well kicked and buffeted about, for that very length of limb and breadth of back which needs must be, to support swan's wings. The story of the ugly duckling is much truer than many a bald statement of fact. The English-speaking world bears witness to its verity in constant use of the title as an identifying phrase: "It is the old story of the ugly duckling," we say, or "He has turned out a real ugly duckling." And we know that our hearers understand the whole situation.
The consideration of such familiar types and expressions as that of the ugly duckling suggests immediately another good reason for giving the child his due of fairy lore. The reason is that to omit it is to deprive him of one important element in the full appreciation of mature literature. If one thinks of it, one sees that nearly all adult literature is made by people who, in their beginnings, were bred on the wonder tale. Whether he will or no, the grown-up author must incorporate into his work the tendencies, memories, kinds of feeling which were his in childhood. The literature of maturity is, naturally, permeated by the influence of the literature of childhood. Sometimes it is apparent merely in the use of a name, as suggestive of certain kinds of experience; such are the recurrences of reference to the Cinderella story. Sometimes it is an allusion which has its strength in long association of certain qualities with certain characters in fairydom—like the slyness of Brother Fox, and the cruelty of Brother Wolf. Sometimes the association of ideas lies below the surface, drawing from the hidden wells of poetic illusion which are sunk in childhood. The man or woman whose infancy was nourished exclusively on tales adapted from science-made-easy, or from biographies of good men and great, must remain blind to these beauties of literature. He may look up the allusion, or identify the reference, but when that is done he is but richer by a fact or two; there is no remembered thrill in it for him, no savour in his memory, no suggestion to his imagination; and these are precisely the things which really count. Leaving out the fairy element is a loss to literary culture much as would be the omission of the Bible or of Shakespeare. Just as all adult literature is permeated by the influence of these, familiar in youth, so in less degree is it transfused with the subtle reminiscences of childhood's commerce with the wonder world.
To turn now from the inner to the outer aspects of the old-time tale is to meet another cause of its value to children. This is the value of its style. Simplicity, directness, and virility characterise the classic fairy tales and the most memorable relics of folklore. And these are three of the very qualities which are most seriously lacking in much of the new writing for children, and which are always necessary elements in the culture of taste. Fairy stories are not all well told, but the best fairy stories are supremely well told. And most folk-tales have a movement, a sweep, and an unaffectedness which make them splendid foundations for taste in style.
For this, and for poetic presentation of truths in easily assimilated form, and because it gives joyous stimulus to the imagination, and is necessary to full appreciation of adult literature, we may freely use the wonder tale.
Closely related to, sometimes identical with, the fairy tale is the old, old source of children's love and laughter,
THE NONSENSE TALE
Under this head I wish to include all the merely funny tales of childhood, embracing the cumulative stories like that of the old woman and the pig which would not go over the stile. They all have a specific use and benefit, and are worth the repetition children demand for them. Their value lies, of course, in the tonic and relaxing properties of humour. Nowhere is that property more welcome or needed than in the schoolroom. It does us all good to laugh, if there is no sneer nor smirch in the laugh; fun sets the blood flowing more freely in the veins, and loosens the strained cords of feeling and thought; the delicious shock of surprise at every "funny spot" is a kind of electric treatment for the nerves. But it especially does us good to laugh when we are children. Every little body is released from the conscious control school imposes on it, and huddles into restful comfort or responds gaily to the joke.
More than this, humour teaches children, as it does their grown-up brethren, some of the facts and proportions of life. What keener teacher is there than the kindly satire? What more penetrating and suggestive than the humour of exaggerated statement of familiar tendency? Is there one of us who has not laughed himself out of some absurd complexity of over-anxiety with a sudden recollection of "clever Alice" and her fate? In our household clever Alice is an old habituee, and her timely arrival has saved many a situation which was twining itself about more "ifs" than it could comfortably support. The wisdom which lies behind true humour is found in the nonsense tale of infancy as truly as in mature humour, but in its own kind and degree. "Just for fun" is the first reason for the humorous story; the wisdom in the fun is the second.
And now we come to
THE NATURE STORY
No other type of fiction is more familiar to the teacher, and probably no other kind is the source of so much uncertainty of feeling. The nature story is much used, as I have noticed above, to illustrate or to teach the habits of animals and the laws of plant-growth; to stimulate scientific interest as well as to increase culture in scientific fact. This is an entirely legitimate object. In view of its present preponderance, it is certainly a pity, however, that so few stories are available, the accuracy of which, from this point of view, can be vouched for. The carefully prepared book of to-day is refuted and scoffed at to-morrow. The teacher who wishes to use story-telling chiefly as an element in nature study must at least limit herself to a small amount of absolutely unquestioned material, or else subject every new story to the judgment of an authority in the line dealt with. This is not easy for the teacher at a distance from the great libraries, and for those who have access to well-equipped libraries it is a matter of time and thought.
It does not so greatly trouble the teacher who uses the nature story as a story, rather than as a text-book, for she will not be so keenly attracted toward the books prepared with a didactic purpose. She will find a good gift for the child in nature stories which are stories, over and above any stimulus to his curiosity about fact. That good gift is a certain possession of all good fiction.
One of the best things good fiction does for any of us is to broaden our comprehension of other lots than our own. The average man or woman has little opportunity actually to live more than one kind of life. The chances of birth, occupation, family ties, determine for most of us a line of experience not very inclusive and but little varied; and this is a natural barrier to our complete understanding of others, whose life-line is set at a different angle. It is not possible wholly to sympathise with emotions engendered by experience which one has never had. Yet we all long to be broad in sympathy and inclusive in appreciation; we long, greatly, to know the experience of others. This yearning is probably one of the good but misconceived appetites so injudiciously fed by the gossip of the daily press. There is a hope, in the reader, of getting for the moment into the lives of people who move in wholly different sets of circumstances. But the relation of dry facts in newspapers, however tinged with journalistic colour, helps very little to enter such other life. The entrance has to be by the door of the imagination, and the journalist is rarely able to open it for us. But there is a genius who can open it. The author who can write fiction of the right sort can do it; his is the gift of seeing inner realities, and of showing them to those who cannot see them for themselves. Sharing the imaginative vision of the story-writer, we can truly follow out many other roads of life than our own. The girl on a lone country farm is made to understand how a girl in a city sweating-den feels and lives; the London exquisite realises the life of a Californian ranchman; royalty and tenement dwellers become acquainted, through the power of the imagination working on experience shown in the light of a human basis common to both. Fiction supplies an element of culture,—that of the sympathies, which is invaluable. And the beginnings of this culture, this widening and clearing of the avenues of human sympathy, are especially easily made with children in the nature story.
When you begin, "There was once a little furry rabbit," the child's curiosity is awakened by the very fact that the rabbit is not a child, but something of a different species altogether. "Now for something new and adventuresome," says his expectation, "we are starting off into a foreign world." He listens wide-eyed, while you say, "and he lived in a warm, cosy nest, down under the long grass with his mother"—how delightful, to live in a place like that; so different from little boys' homes!—"his name was Raggylug, and his mother's name was Molly Cottontail. And every morning, when Molly Cottontail went out to get their food, she said to Raggylug, 'Now, Raggylug, remember you are only a baby rabbit, and don't move from the nest. No matter what you hear, no matter what you see, don't you move!'"—all this is different still, yet it is familiar, too; it appears that rabbits are rather like folks. So the tale proceeds, and the little furry rabbit passes through experiences strange to little boys, yet very like little boys' adventures in some respects; he is frightened by a snake, comforted by his mammy, and taken to a new house, under the long grass a long way off. These are all situations to which the child has a key. There is just enough of strangeness to entice, just enough of the familiar to relieve any strain. When the child has lived through the day's happenings with Raggylug, the latter has begun to seem veritably a little brother of the grass to him. And because he has entered imaginatively into the feelings and fate of a creature different from himself, he has taken his first step out into the wide world of the lives of others.
[Footnote 1: See Raggylug, page 135.]
It may be a recognition of this factor and its value which has led so many writers of nature stories into the error of over-humanising their four-footed or feathered heroes and heroines. The exaggeration is unnecessary, for there is enough community of lot suggested in the sternest scientific record to constitute a natural basis for sympathy on the part of the human animal. Without any falsity of presentation whatever, the nature story may be counted on as a help in the beginnings of culture of the sympathies. It is not, of course, a help confined to the powers of the nature story; all types of story share in some degree the powers of each. But each has some especial virtue in dominant degree, and the nature story is, on this ground, identified with the thought given.
The nature story shares its influence especially with
THE HISTORICAL STORY
As the one widens the circle of connection with other kinds of life, the other deepens the sense of relation to past lives; it gives the sense of background, of the close and endless connection of generation with generation. A good historical story vitalises the conception of past events and brings their characters into relation with the present. This is especially true of stories of things and persons in the history of our own race. They foster race-consciousness, the feeling of kinship and community of blood. It is this property which makes the historical story so good an agent for furthering a proper national pride in children. Genuine patriotism, neither arrogant nor melodramatic, is so generally recognised as having its roots in early training that I need not dwell on this possibility, further than to note its connection with the instinct of hero-worship which is quick in the healthy child. Let us feed that hunger for the heroic which gnaws at the imagination of every boy and of more girls than is generally admitted. There have been heroes in plenty in the world's records,—heroes of action, of endurance, of decision, of faith. Biographical history is full of them. And the deeds of these heroes are every one a story. We tell these stories, both to bring the great past into its due relation with the living present, and to arouse that generous admiration and desire for emulation which is the source of so much inspiration in childhood. When these stories are tales of the doings and happenings of our own heroes, the strong men and women whose lives are a part of our own country's history, they serve the double demands of hero-worship and patriotism. Stories of wise and honest statesmanship, of struggle with primitive conditions, of generous love and sacrifice, and—in some measure—of physical courage, form a subtle and powerful influence for pride in one's people, the intimate sense of kinship with one's own nation, and the desire to serve it in one's own time.
It is not particularly useful to tell batches of unrelated anecdote. It is much more profitable to take up the story of a period and connect it with a group of interesting persons whose lives affected it or were affected by it, telling the stories of their lives, or of the events in which they were concerned, as "true stories." These biographical stories must, usually, be adapted for use. But besides these there is a certain number of pure stories—works of art—which already exist for us, and which illuminate facts and epochs almost without need of sidelights. Such may stand by themselves, or be used with only enough explanation to give background. Probably the best story of this kind known to lovers of modern literature is Daudet's famous La Derniere Classe.
[Footnote 1: See The Last Lesson, page 238.]
The historical story, to recapitulate, gives a sense of the reality and humanness of past events, is a valuable aid in patriotic training, and stirs the desire of emulating goodness and wisdom.
SELECTION OF STORIES TO TELL
There is one picture which I can always review, in my own collection of past scenes, though many a more highly coloured one has been irrevocably curtained by the folds of forgetfulness. It is the picture of a little girl, standing by an old-fashioned marble-topped dressing-table in a pink, sunny room. I can never see the little girl's face, because, somehow, I am always looking down at her short skirts or twisting my head round against the hand which patiently combs her stubborn curls. But I can see the brushes and combs on the marble table quite plainly, and the pinker streaks of sun on the pink walls. And I can hear. I can hear a low, wonder-working voice which goes smoothly on and on, as the fingers run up the little girl's locks or stroke the hair into place on her forehead. The voice says, "And little Goldilocks came to a little bit of a house. And she opened the door and went in. It was the house where three Bears lived; there was a great Bear, a little Bear, and a middle-sized Bear; and they had gone out for a walk. Goldilocks went in, and she saw"—the little girl is very still; she would not disturb that story by so much as a loud breath; but presently the comb comes to a tangle, pulls,—and the little girl begins to squirm. Instantly the voice becomes impressive, mysterious: "she went up to the table, and there were three plates of porridge. She tasted the first one"—the little girl swallows the breath she was going to whimper with, and waits—"and it was too hot! She tasted the next one, and that was too hot. Then she tasted the little bit of a plate, and that—was—just—right!"
How I remember the delightful sense of achievement which stole into the little girl's veins when the voice behind her said "just right." I think she always chuckled a little, and hugged her stomach. So the story progressed, and the little girl got through her toilet without crying, owing to the wonder-working voice and its marvellous adaptation of climaxes to emergencies. Nine times out of ten, it was the story of The Three Bears she demanded when, with the appearance of brush and comb, the voice asked, "Which story shall mother tell?"
It was a memory of the little girl in the pink room which made it easy for me to understand some other children's preferences when I recently had occasion to inquire about them. By asking many individual children which story of all they had heard they liked best, by taking votes on the best story of a series, after telling it, and by getting some obliging teachers to put similar questions to their pupils, I found three prime favourites common to a great many children of about the kindergarten age. They were The Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, and The Little Pig that wouldn't go over the Stile.
Some of the teachers were genuinely disturbed because the few stories they had introduced merely for amusement had taken so pre-eminent a place in the children's affection over those which had been given seriously. It was of no use, however, to suggest substitutes. The children knew definitely what they liked, and though they accepted the recapitulation of scientific and moral stories with polite approbation, they returned to the original answer at a repetition of the question.
Inasmuch as the slightest of the things we hope to do for children by means of stories is quite impossible unless the children enjoy the stories, it may be worth our while to consider seriously these three which they surely do enjoy, to see what common qualities are in them, explanatory of their popularity, by which we may test the probable success of other stories we wish to tell.
Here they are,—three prime favourites of proved standing.
THE STORY OF THE THREE LITTLE PIGS
[Footnote 1: Adapted from Joseph Jacobs's English Fairy Tales (David Nutt, 57-59 Long Acre, W.C. 6s.).]
Once upon a time there were three little pigs, who went from home to seek their fortune. The first that went off met a man with a bundle of straw, and said to him:—
"Good man, give me that straw to build me a house."
The man gave the straw, and the little pig built his house with it. Presently came along a wolf, and knocked at the door, and said:—
"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."
But the pig answered:—
"No, no, by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin."
So the wolf said:—
"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in."
So he huffed, and he puffed, and he blew his house in, and ate up the little pig.
The second little pig met a man with a bundle of furze, and said:—
"Good man, give me that furze to build me a house."
The man gave the furze, and the pig built his house. Then once more came the wolf, and said:
"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."
"No, no, by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin."
"Then I'll puff, and I'll huff, and I'll blow your house in."
So he huffed, and he puffed, and he puffed and he huffed, and at last he blew the house in, and ate up the little pig.
The third little pig met a man with a load of bricks, and said:—
"Good man, give me those bricks to build me a house with."
The man gave the bricks, and he built his house with them. Again the wolf came, and said:—
"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."
"No, no, by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin."
"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in."
So he huffed, and he puffed, and he huffed, and he puffed, and he puffed and huffed; but he could not get the house down. Finding that he could not, with all his huffing and puffing, blow the house down, he said:—
"Little pig, I know where there is a nice field of turnips."
"Where?" said the little pig.
"Oh, in Mr Smith's field, and if you will be ready to-morrow morning we will go together, and get some for dinner."
"Very well," said the little pig. "What time do you mean to go?"
"Oh, at six o'clock."
So the little pig got up at five, and got the turnips before the wolf came crying:—
"Little pig, are you ready?"
The little pig said: "Ready! I have been and come back again, and got a nice potful for dinner."
The wolf felt very angry at this, but thought that he would be a match for the little pig somehow or other, so he said:—
"Little pig, I know where there is a nice apple-tree."
"Where?" said the pig.
"Down at Merry-garden," replied the wolf, "and if you will not deceive me I will come for you, at five o'clock to-morrow, and get some apples."
The little pig got up next morning at four o'clock, and went off for the apples, hoping to get back before the wolf came; but it took long to climb the tree, and just as he was coming down from it, he saw the wolf coming. When the wolf came up he said:—
"Little pig, what! are you here before me? Are they nice apples?"
"Yes, very," said the little pig. "I will throw you down one."
And he threw it so far that, while the wolf was gone to pick it up, the little pig jumped down and ran home. The next day the wolf came again, and said to the little pig:—
"Little pig, there is a fair in town this afternoon; will you go?"
"Oh yes," said the pig, "I will go; what time?"
"At three," said the wolf. As usual the little pig went off before the time, and got to the fair, and bought a butter-churn, which he was rolling home when he saw the wolf coming. So he got into the churn to hide, and in so doing turned it round, and it rolled down the hill with the pig in it, which frightened the wolf so much that he ran home without going to the fair. He went to the little pig's house, and told him how frightened he had been by a great round thing which came past him down the hill. Then the little pig said:—
"Ha! ha! I frightened you, then!"
Then the wolf was very angry indeed, and tried to get down the chimney in order to eat up the little pig. When the little pig saw what he was about, he put a pot full of water on the blazing fire, and, just as the wolf was coming down, he took off the cover, and in fell the wolf. Quickly the little pig clapped on the cover, and when the wolf was boiled ate him for supper.
THE STORY OF THE THREE BEARS
[Footnote 1: Adapted from Joseph Jacobs's English Fairy Tales (David Nutt, 57-59 Long Acre, W.C. 6s.).]
Once upon a time there were Three Bears, who lived together in a house of their own, in a wood. One of them was a Little Small Wee Bear, and one was a Middle-sized Bear, and the other was a Great Huge Bear. They had each a pot for their porridge,—a little pot for the Little Small Wee Bear, and a middle-sized pot for the Middle-sized Bear, and a great pot for the Great Huge Bear. And they had each a chair to sit in,—a little chair for the Little Small Wee Bear, and a middle-sized chair for the Middle-sized Bear, and a great chair for the Great Huge Bear. And they had each a bed to sleep in,—a little bed for the Little Small Wee Bear, and a middle-sized bed for the Middle-sized Bear, and a great bed for the Great Huge Bear.
One day, after they had made the porridge for their breakfast, and poured it into their porridge-pots, they walked out into the wood while the porridge was cooling, that they might not burn their mouths, by beginning too soon to eat it. And while they were walking, a little girl named Goldilocks came to the house. She had never seen the little house before, and it was such a strange little house that she forgot all the things her mother had told her about being polite: first she looked in at the window, and then she peeped in at the keyhole; and seeing nobody in the house, she lifted the latch. The door was not fastened, because the Bears were good Bears, who did nobody any harm, and never suspected that anybody would harm them. So Goldilocks opened the door, and went in; and well pleased she was when she saw the porridge on the table. If Goldilocks had remembered what her mother had told her, she would have waited till the Bears came home, and then, perhaps, they would have asked her to breakfast; for they were good Bears—a little rough, as the manner of Bears is, but for all that very good-natured and hospitable. But Goldilocks forgot, and set about helping herself.
So first she tasted the porridge of the Great Huge Bear, and that was too hot. And then she tasted the porridge of the Middle-sized Bear, and that was too cold. And then she went to the porridge of the Little Small Wee Bear, and tasted that: and that was neither too hot nor too cold, but just right; and she liked it so well, that she ate it all up.
Then Goldilocks sat down in the chair of the Great Huge Bear, and that was too hard for her. And then she sat down in the chair of the Middle-sized Bear, and that was too soft for her. And then she sat down in the chair of the Little Small Wee Bear, and that was neither too hard nor too soft, but just right. So she seated herself in it, and there she sat till the bottom of the chair came out, and down she came, plump upon the ground.
Then Goldilocks went upstairs into the bed-chamber in which the Three Bears slept. And first she lay down upon the bed of the Great Huge Bear; but that was too high at the head for her. And next she lay down upon the bed of the Middle-sized Bear, and that was too high at the foot for her. And then she lay down upon the bed of the Little Small Wee Bear; and that was neither too high at the head nor at the foot, but just right. So she covered herself up comfortably, and lay there till she fell fast asleep.
By this time the Three Bears thought their porridge would be cool enough; so they came home to breakfast. Now Goldilocks had left the spoon of the Great Huge Bear standing in his porridge.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN AT MY PORRIDGE!" said the Great Huge Bear, in his great, rough, gruff voice. And when the Middle-sized Bear looked at his, he saw that the spoon was standing in it too.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN AT MY PORRIDGE!" said the Middle-sized Bear, in his middle-sized voice.
Then the Little Small Wee Bear looked at his, and there was the spoon in the porridge-pot, but the porridge was all gone.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN AT MY PORRIDGE, AND HAS EATEN IT ALL UP!" said the Little Small Wee Bear, in his little, small, wee voice.
Upon this, the Three Bears, seeing that someone had entered their house, and eaten up the Little Small Wee Bear's breakfast, began to look about them. Now Goldilocks had not put the hard cushion straight when she rose from the chair of the Great Huge Bear.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN SITTING IN MY CHAIR!" said the Great Huge Bear, in his great, rough, gruff voice.
And Goldilocks had crushed down the soft cushion of the Middle-sized Bear.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN SITTING IN MY CHAIR!" said the Middle-sized Bear, in his middle-sized voice.
And you know what Goldilocks had done to the third chair.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN SITTING IN MY CHAIR AND HAS SAT THE BOTTOM OUT OF IT!" said the Little Small Wee Bear, in his little, small, wee voice.
Then the Three Bears thought it necessary that they should make further search; so they went upstairs into their bed-chamber. Now Goldilocks had pulled the pillow of the Great Huge Bear out of its place.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN LYING IN MY BED!" said the Great Huge Bear, in his great, rough, gruff voice.
And Goldilocks had pulled the bolster of the Middle-sized Bear out of its place.
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN LYING IN MY BED!" said the Middle-sized Bear, in his middle-sized voice.
And when the Little Small Wee Bear came to look at his bed, there was the bolster in its place; and the pillow in its place upon the bolster; and upon the pillow was the shining, yellow hair of little Goldilocks!
"SOMEBODY HAS BEEN LYING IN MY BED,—AND HERE SHE IS!" said the Little Small Wee Bear, in his little, small, wee voice.
Goldilocks had heard in her sleep the great, rough, gruff voice of the Great Huge Bear; but she was so fast asleep that it was no more to her than the roaring of wind or the rumbling of thunder. And she had heard the middle-sized voice of the Middle-sized Bear, but it was only as if she had heard someone speaking in a dream. But when she heard the little, small, wee voice of the Little Small Wee Bear, it was so sharp, and so shrill, that it awakened her at once. Up she started, and when she saw the Three Bears on one side of the bed, she tumbled herself out at the other, and ran to the window. Now the window was open, because the Bears, like good, tidy Bears as they were, always opened their bed-chamber window when they got up in the morning.
Out little Goldilocks jumped, and ran away home to her mother, as fast as ever she could.
THE OLD WOMAN AND HER PIG
[Footnote 1: Adapted from Joseph Jacobs's English Fairy Tales (David Nutt, 57-59 Long Acre, W.C. 6s.).]
It happened one day that as an old woman was sweeping her house she found a little crooked sixpence. "What," said she, "shall I do with this little sixpence? I will go to market, and buy a little pig."
On the way home she came to a stile; but the piggy wouldn't go over the stile.
So she left the piggy and went on a little further, till she met a dog. She said to him, "Dog, dog, bite pig; piggy won't go over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the dog wouldn't bite piggy.
A little further on she met a stick. So she said: "Stick! stick! beat dog! dog won't bite pig; piggy won't go over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the stick wouldn't beat the dog.
A little further on she met a fire. So she said: "Fire! fire! burn stick! stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the fire wouldn't burn the stick.
A little further on she met some water. So she said: "Water! water! quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the water wouldn't quench the fire.
A little further on she met an ox. So she said: "Ox! ox! drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the ox wouldn't drink the water.
A little further on she met a butcher. So she said: "Butcher! butcher! kill ox; ox won't drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the butcher wouldn't kill the ox.
A little further on she met a rope. So she said: "Rope! rope! hang butcher; butcher won't kill ox; ox won't drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the rope wouldn't hang the butcher.
A little further on she met a rat. So she said: "Rat! rat! gnaw rope; rope won't hang butcher; butcher won't kill ox; ox won't drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the rat wouldn't gnaw the rope.
A little further on she met a cat. So she said: "Cat! cat! kill rat; rat won't gnaw rope; rope won't hang butcher; butcher won't kill ox; ox won't drink water; water won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the cat said to her, "If you will go to yonder cow, and fetch me a saucer of milk, I will kill the rat." So away went the old woman to the cow.
But the cow refused to give the milk unless the old woman first gave her a handful of hay. So away went the old woman to the haystack; and she brought the hay to the cow.
When the cow had eaten the hay, she gave the old woman the milk; and away she went with it in a saucer to the cat.
As soon as it had lapped up the milk, the cat began to kill the rat; the rat began to gnaw the rope; the rope began to hang the butcher; the butcher began to kill the ox; the ox began to drink the water; the water began to quench the fire; the fire began to burn the stick; the stick began to beat the dog; the dog began to bite the pig; the little pig in a fright jumped over the stile; and so the old woman did get home that night.
* * * * *
The briefest examination of these three stories reveals the fact that one attribute is beyond dispute in each. Something happens, all the time. Every step in each story is an event. There is no time spent in explanation, description, or telling how people felt; the stories tell what people did, and what they said. And the events are the links of a sequence of the closest kind; in point of time and of cause they follow as immediately as it is possible for events to follow. There are no gaps, and no complications of plot requiring a return on the road.
A second common characteristic appears on briefest examination. As you run over the little stories you will see that each event presents a distinct picture to the imagination, and that these pictures are made out of very simple elements. The elements are either familiar to the child or analogous to familiar ones. Each object and happening is very like everyday, yet touched with a subtle difference, rich in mystery. For example, the details of the pictures in the Goldilocks story are parts of everyday life,—house, chairs, beds, and so on; but they are the house, chairs, and beds of three bears; that is the touch of marvel which transforms the scene. The old woman who owned the obstinate pig is the centre of a circle in which stand only familiar images,—stick, fire, water, cow, and the rest; but the wonder enters with the fact that these usually inanimate or dumb objects of nature enter so humanly into the contest of wills. So it is, also, with the doings of the three little pigs. Every image is explicable to the youngest hearer, while none suggests actual familiarity, because the actors are not children, but pigs. Simplicity, with mystery, is the keynote of all the pictures, and these are clear and distinct.
Still a third characteristic common to the stories quoted is a certain amount of repetition. It is more definite, and of what has been called the "cumulative" kind, in the story of the old woman; but in all it is a distinctive feature.
Here we have, then, three marked characteristics common to three stories almost invariably loved by children,—action, in close sequence; familiar images, tinged with mystery; some degree of repetition.
It is not hard to see why these qualities appeal to a child. The first is the prime characteristic of all good stories,—"stories as is stories"; the child's demand for it but bears witness to the fact that his instinctive taste is often better than the taste he later develops under artificial culture. The second is a matter of common-sense. How could the imagination create new worlds, save out of the material of the old? To offer strange images is to confuse the mind and dull the interest; to offer familiar ones "with a difference" is to pique the interest and engage the mind.
The charm of repetition, to children, is a more complex matter; there are undoubtedly a good many elements entering into it, hard to trace in analysis. But one or two of the more obvious may be seized and brought to view. The first is the subtle flattery of an unexpected sense of mastery. When the child-mind, following with toilful alertness a new train of thought, comes suddenly on a familiar epithet or expression, I fancy it is with much the same sense of satisfaction that we older people feel when in the midst of a long programme of new music the orchestra strikes into something we have heard before,—Handel, maybe, or one of the more familiar Beethoven sonatas. "I know that! I have heard that before!" we think, triumphant, and settle down to enjoyment without effort. So it is, probably, with the "middle-sized" articles of the bears' house and the "and I sha'n't get home to-night" of the old woman. Each recurrence deepens the note of familiarity, tickles the primitive sense of humour, and eases the strain of attention.
When the repetition is cumulative, like the extreme instance of The House that Jack Built, I have a notion that the joy of the child is the pleasure of intellectual gymnastics, not too hard for fun, but not too easy for excitement. There is a deal of fun to be got out of purely intellectual processes, and childhood is not too soon for the rudiments of such fun to show. The delight the healthy adult mind takes in working out a neat problem in geometry, the pleasure a musician finds in following the involutions of a fugue, are of the same type of satisfaction as the liking of children for cumulative stories. Complexity and mass, arrived at by stages perfectly intelligible in themselves, mounting steadily from a starting-point of simplicity; then the same complexity and mass resolving itself as it were miraculously back into simplicity, this is an intellectual joy. It does not differ materially, whether found in the study of counterpoint, at thirty, or in the story of the old woman and her pig, at five. It is perfectly natural and wholesome, and it may perhaps be a more powerful developing force for the budding intellect than we are aware.
For these reasons let me urge you, when you are looking for stories to tell little children, to apply this threefold test as a kind of touchstone to their quality of fitness: Are they full of action, in close natural sequence? Are their images simple without being humdrum? Are they repetitive? The last quality is not an absolute requisite; but it is at least very often an attribute of a good child-story.
Having this touchstone in mind for general selection, we can now pass to the matter of specific choices for different ages of children. No one can speak with absolute conviction in this matter, so greatly do the taste and capacity of children of the same age vary. Any approach to an exact classification of juvenile books according to their suitability for different ages will be found impossible. The same book in the hands of a skilful narrator may be made to afford delight to children both of five and ten. The following are merely the inferences drawn from my own experience. They must be modified by each teacher according to the conditions of her small audience. In general, I believe it to be wise to plan the choice of stories much as indicated in the table given on page 64.
At a later stage, varying with the standard of capacity of different classes, we find the temper of mind which asks continually, "Is that true?" To meet this demand, one draws on historical and scientific anecdote, and on reminiscence. But the demand is never so exclusive that fictitious narrative need be cast aside. All that is necessary is to state frankly that the story you are telling is "just a story," or—if it be the case—that it is "part true and part story."
At all stages I would urge the telling of Bible stories, as far as is allowed by the special circumstances of the school. These are stories from a source unsurpassed in our literature for purity of style and loftiness of subject. More especially I urge the telling of the Christ-story, in such parts as seem likely to be within the grasp of the several classes. In all Bible stories it is well to keep as near as possible to the original unimprovable text. Some amplification can be made, but no excessive modernising or simplifying is excusable in face of the austere grace and majestic simplicity of the original. Such adaptation as helps to cut the long narrative into separate units, making each an intelligible story, I have ventured to illustrate according to my own personal taste, in two stories given in Chapter VI. The object of the usual modernising or enlarging of the text may be far better attained for the child listener by infusing into the text as it stands a strong realising sense of its meaning and vitality, letting it give its own message through a fit medium of expression.
[Footnote 1: Stories from the Old Testament, by S. Platt, retells the Old Testament story as nearly as possible in the actual words of the Authorised Version.]
The stories given in pages 133 to 246 are grouped as illustrations of the types suitable for different stages. They are, however, very often interchangeable; and many stories can be told successfully to all classes. A vitally good story is little limited in its appeal. It is, nevertheless, a help to have certain plain results of experience as a basis for choice; that which is given is intended only for such a basis, not in the least as a final list.
CERTAIN TYPES OF STORY CLASSIFIED
FOR KINDERGARTEN AND CLASS I.:
Little Rhymed Stories (including the best of the nursery rhymes and the more poetic fragments of Mother Goose) Stories with Rhyme in Parts Nature Stories (in which the element of personification is strong) Nonsense Tales Wonder Tales
FOR CLASSES II. AND III.:
Nonsense Tales Wonder Tales Fairy and Folk Tales Fables Legends Nature Stories (especially stories of animals)
FOR CLASSES IV. AND V.:
Folk Tales Fables Myths and Allegories Developed Animal Stories Legends: Historic and Heroic Historical Stories Humorous Adventure Stories "True Stories"
The wonder tales most familiar and accessible to the teacher are probably those included in the collections of Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. So constant is the demand for these that the following list may be found useful, as indicating which of the stories are more easily and effectively adapted for telling, and commonly most successful.
It must be remembered that many of these standard tales need such adapting as has been suggested, cutting them down, and ridding them of vulgar or sophisticated detail.
From the Brothers Grimm:
The Star Dollars The Cat and the Mouse The Nail The Hare and the Hedgehog Snow-White and Rose-Red Mother Holle Thumbling Three Brothers The Little Porridge Pot Little Snow-White The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids The Sea Mouse
Little Tiny The Lark and the Daisy The Ugly Duckling The Seven Stories of the Snow Queen The Flax The Little Match Girl The Fir-Tree The Red Shoes Ole Lukoeie Monday Saturday Sunday The Elf of the Rose Five Peas in a Pod The Portuguese Duck The Little Mermaid (much shortened) The Nightingale (shortened) The Girl who trod on a Loaf The Emperor's New Clothes
Another familiar and easily attainable type of story is the classic myth, as retold in Kupfer's Legends of Greece and Rome. Of these, again, certain tales are more successfully adapted to children than others. Among the best for telling are:
Arachne Pandora Midas Apollo and Daphne Apollo and Hyacinthus Narcissus Latona and the Rustics Proserpine
[Footnote 1: A well-nigh indispensable book for teachers is Guerber's Myths of Greece and Rome, which contains in brief form a complete collection of the classic myths.]
ADAPTATION OF STORIES FOR TELLING
It soon becomes easy to pick out from a collection such stories as can be well told; but at no time is it easy to find a sufficient number of such stories. Stories simple, direct, and sufficiently full of incident for telling, yet having the beautiful or valuable motive we desire for children, do not lie hidden in every book. And even many of the stories which are most charming to read do not answer the double demand, for the appeal to the eye differs in many important respects from that to the ear. Unless one is able to change the form of a story to suit the needs of oral delivery, one is likely to suffer from poverty of material. Perhaps the commonest need of change is in the case of a story too long to tell, yet embodying some one beautiful incident or lesson; or one including a series of such incidents. The story of The Nuernberg Stove, by Ouida, is a good example of the latter kind; Ruskin's King of the Golden River will serve as an illustration of the former.
[Footnote 1: See Bimbi, by Ouida. (Chatto. 2s.)]
The problem in one case is chiefly one of elimination; in the other it is also in a large degree one of rearrangement. In both cases I have purposely chosen extreme instances, as furnishing plainer illustration. The usual story needs less adaptation than these, but the same kind, in its own degree. Condensation and rearrangement are the commonest forms of change required.
Pure condensation is probably the easier for most persons. With The Nuernberg Stove in mind for reference, let us see what the process includes. This story can be readily found by anyone who is interested in the following example of adaptation, for nearly every library includes in its catalogue the juvenile works of Mlle. de la Ramee (Ouida). The suggestions given assume that the story is before my readers.
The story as it stands is two thousand four hundred words long, obviously too long to tell. What can be left out? Let us see what must be kept in.
The dramatic climax toward which we are working is the outcome of August's strange exploit,—his discovery by the king and the opportunity for him to become an artist. The joy of this climax is twofold: August may stay with his beloved Hirschvogel, and he may learn to make beautiful things like it. To arrive at the twofold conclusion we must start from a double premise,—the love of the stove and the yearning to be an artist. It will, then, be necessary to include in the beginning of the story enough details of the family life to show plainly how precious and necessary Hirschvogel was to the children; and to state definitely how August had learned to admire and wish to emulate Hirschvogel's maker. We need no detail beyond what is necessary to make this clear.
The beginning and the end of a story decided upon, its body becomes the bridge from one to the other; in this case it is August's strange journey, beginning with the catastrophe and his grief-dazed decision to follow the stove. The journey is long, and each stage of it is told in full. As this is impossible in oral reproduction, it becomes necessary to choose typical incidents, which will give the same general effect as the whole. The incidents which answer this purpose are: the beginning of the journey, the experience on the luggage train, the jolting while being carried on men's shoulders, the final fright and suspense before the king opens the door.
The episode of the night in the bric-a-brac shop introduces a wholly new and confusing train of thought; therefore, charming as it is, it must be omitted. And the secondary thread of narrative interest, that of the prices for which the stove was sold, and the retribution visited on the cheating dealers, is also "another story," and must be ignored. Each of these destroys the clear sequence and the simplicity of plot which must be kept for telling.
We are reduced, then, for the whole, to this: a brief preliminary statement of the place Hirschvogel held in the household affections, and the ambition aroused in August; the catastrophe of the sale; August's decision; his experiences on the train, on the shoulders of men, and just before the discovery; his discovery, and the denouement.
This not only reduces the story to tellable form, but it also leaves a suggestive interest which heightens later enjoyment of the original. I suggest the adaptation of Kate Douglas Wiggin, in The Story Hour, since in view of the existence of a satisfactory adaptation it seems unappreciative to offer a second. The one I made for my own use some years ago is not dissimilar to this, and I have no reason to suppose it more desirable.
Ruskin's King of the Golden River is somewhat difficult to adapt. Not only is it long, but its style is mature, highly descriptive, and closely allegorical. Yet the tale is too beautiful and too suggestive to be lost to the story-teller. And it is, also, so recognised a part of the standard literary equipment of youth that teachers need to be able to introduce children to its charm. To make it available for telling, we must choose the most essential events of the series leading up to the climax, and present these so simply as to appeal to children's ears, and so briefly as not to tire them.
The printed story is eight thousand words in length. The first three thousand words depict the beauty and fertility of the Treasure Valley, and the cruel habits of Hans and Schwartz, its owners, and give the culminating incident which leads to their banishment by "West Wind." This episode,—the West Wind's appearance in the shape of an aged traveller, his kind reception by the younger brother, little Gluck, and the subsequent wrath of Hans and Schwartz, with their resulting punishment,—occupies about two thousand words. The rest of the story deals with the three brothers after the decree of West Wind has turned Treasure Valley into a desert. In the little house where they are plying their trade of goldsmiths, the King of the Golden River appears to Gluck and tells him the magic secret of turning the river's waters to gold. Hans and Schwartz in turn attempt the miracle, and in turn incur the penalty attached to failure. Gluck tries, and wins the treasure through self-sacrifice. The form of the treasure is a renewal of the fertility of Treasure Valley, and the moral of the whole story is summed up in Ruskin's words, "So the inheritance which was lost by cruelty was regained by love."
It is easy to see that the dramatic part of the story and that which most pointedly illustrates the underlying idea, is the triple attempt to win the treasure,—the two failures and the one success. But this is necessarily introduced by the episode of the King of the Golden River, which is, also, an incident sure to appeal to a child's imagination. And the regaining of the inheritance is meaningless without the fact of its previous loss, and the reason for the loss, as a contrast with the reason for its recovery. We need, then, the main facts recorded in the first three thousand words. But the West Wind episode must be avoided, not only for brevity, but because two supernatural appearances, so similar, yet of different personalities, would hopelessly confuse a told story.
Our oral story is now to be made out of a condensed statement of the character of the Valley and of its owners, and the manner of its loss; the intervention of the King of the Golden River; the three attempts to turn the river to gold, and Gluck's success. Gluck is to be our hero, and our underlying idea is the power of love versus cruelty. Description is to be reduced to its lowest terms, and the language made simple and concrete.
With this outline in mind, it may be useful to compare the following adaptation with the original story. The adaptation is not intended in any sense as a substitute for the original, but merely as that form of it which can be told, while the original remains for reading.
THE GOLDEN RIVER
[Footnote 1: Adapted from Ruskin's King of the Golden River.]
There was once a beautiful little valley, where the sun was warm, and the rains fell softly; its apples were so red, its corn so yellow, its grapes so blue, that it was called the Treasure Valley. Not a river ran into it, but one great river flowed down the mountains on the other side, and because the setting sun always tinged its high cataract with gold after the rest of the world was dark, it was called the Golden River. The lovely valley belonged to three brothers. The youngest, little Gluck, was happy-hearted and kind, but he had a hard life with his brothers, for Hans and Schwartz were so cruel and so mean that they were known everywhere around as the "Black Brothers." They were hard to their farm hands, hard to their customers, hard to the poor, and hardest of all to Gluck.
At last the Black Brothers became so bad that the Spirit of the West Wind took vengeance on them; he forbade any of the gentle winds, south and west, to bring rain to the valley. Then, since there were no rivers in it, it dried up, and instead of a treasure valley it became a desert of dry, red sand. The Black Brothers could get nothing out of it, and they wandered out into the world on the other side of the mountain-peaks; and little Gluck went with them.
Hans and Schwartz went out every day, wasting their time in wickedness, but they left Gluck in the house to work. And they lived on the gold and silver they had saved in Treasure Valley, till at last it was all gone. The only precious thing left was Gluck's gold mug. This the Black Brothers decided to melt into spoons, to sell; and in spite of Gluck's tears, they put it in the melting pot, and went out, leaving him to watch it.
Poor little Gluck sat at the window, trying not to cry for his dear golden mug, and as the sun began to go down, he saw the beautiful cataract of the Golden River turn red, and yellow, and then pure gold.
"Oh, dear!" he said to himself, "how fine it would be if the river were really golden! I needn't be poor, then."
"It wouldn't be fine at all!" said a thin, metallic little voice, in his ear.
"Mercy, what's that!" said Gluck, looking all about. But nobody was there.
Suddenly the sharp little voice came again.
"Pour me out," it said, "I am too hot!"
It seemed to come right from the oven, and as Gluck stood, staring in fright, it came again, "Pour me out; I'm too hot!"
Gluck was very much frightened, but he went and looked in the melting pot. When he touched it, the little voice said, "Pour me out, I say!" And Gluck took the handle and began to pour the gold out.
First came out a tiny pair of yellow legs; then a pair of yellow coat-tails; then a strange little yellow body, and, last, a wee yellow face, with long curls of gold hair. And the whole put itself together as it fell, and stood up on the floor,—the strangest little yellow dwarf, about a foot high!
"Dear, me!" said Gluck.
But the little yellow man said, "Gluck, do you know who I am? I am the King of the Golden River."
Gluck did not know what to say, so he said nothing; and, indeed, the little man gave him no chance. He said, "Gluck, I have been watching you, and what I have seen of you, I like. Listen, and I will tell you something for your good. Whoever shall climb to the top of the mountain from which the Golden River falls, and shall cast into its waters three drops of holy water, for him and him only shall its waters turn to gold. But no one can succeed except at the first trial, and anyone who casts unholy water in the river will be turned into a black stone."
And then, before Gluck could draw his breath, the King walked straight into the hottest flame of the fire, and vanished up the chimney!
When Gluck's brothers came home, they beat him black and blue, because the mug was gone. But when he told them about the King of the Golden River they quarrelled all night, as to which should go to get the gold. At last, Hans, who was the stronger, got the better of Schwartz, and started off. The priest would not give such a bad man any holy water, so he stole a bottleful. Then he took a basket of bread and wine, and began to climb the mountain.
He climbed fast, and soon came to the end of the first hill. But there he found a great glacier, a hill of ice, which he had never seen before. It was horrible to cross,—the ice was slippery, great gulfs yawned before him, and noises like groans and shrieks came from under his feet. He lost his basket of bread and wine, and was quite faint with fear and exhaustion when his feet touched firm ground again.
Next he came to a hill of hot, red rock, without a bit of grass to ease the feet, or a particle of shade. After an hour's climb he was so thirsty that he felt that he must drink. He looked at the flask of water. "Three drops are enough," he thought; "I will just cool my lips." He was lifting the flask to his lips when he saw something beside him in the path. It was a small dog, and it seemed to be dying of thirst. Its tongue was out, its legs were lifeless, and a swarm of black ants were crawling about its lips. It looked piteously at the bottle which Hans held. Hans raised the bottle, drank, kicked at the animal, and passed on.
A strange black shadow came across the blue sky.
Another hour Hans climbed; the rocks grew hotter and the way steeper every moment. At last he could bear it no longer; he must drink. The bottle was half empty, but he decided to drink half of what was left. As he lifted it, something moved in the path beside him. It was a child, lying nearly dead of thirst on the rock, its eyes closed, its lips burning, its breath coming in gasps. Hans looked at it, drank, and passed on.
A dark cloud came over the sun, and long shadows crept up the mountain-side.
It grew very steep now, and the air weighed like lead on Hans's forehead, but the Golden River was very near. Hans stopped a moment to breathe, then started to climb the last height.
As he clambered on, he saw an old, old man lying in the path. His eyes were sunken, and his face deadly pale.
"Water!" he said; "water!"
"I have none for you," said Hans; "you have had your share of life." He strode over the old man's body and climbed on.
A flash of blue lightning dazzled him for an instant, and then the heavens were dark.
At last Hans stood on the brink of the cataract of the Golden River. The sound of its roaring filled the air. He drew the flask from his side and hurled it into the torrent. As he did so, an icy chill shot through him; he shrieked and fell. And the river rose and flowed over