Sunday, April 10, 2011

"It's A Little Bit Scary"

This batch of stories were told by the children back in late October and early November, right around Halloween, and spans a number of storytelling sessions. There are a few plain, old silly stories here, and several based on movies or TV programs, but the underlying theme, as one might expect, is scary things.

I find it fascinating how young children almost instinctively use stories to deal with the things that frighten or confuse them. It makes me wonder if the urge to create mythologies is an adaptive trait, so easily, readily and universally they engage with it. I certainly see how being the storyteller gives us mastery over our subject matter, allowing us to examine it one step removed from reality, and hopefully that allows us to better understand ourselves and our fears.

Sometimes the stories are rather grim, to my mind, and are left unresolved, but that may just be my years of experience with traditional stories that do resolve themselves with at least some glimmer of hope. It must be said, however, that none of these storytellers betrayed any signs that they themselves saw these stories as "grim." On the contrary, they told them in a rather matter-of-fact way.

It's about my dad. And my dad goed into a cave. And then in that cave there was a goblin. And then a bear. And then Charlie M. was in there. And then Teacher Tom was in there. And then the bear hitted everyone down. And then the flower came and throwed honey at him. And then the person came and killed everyone.  ~Lachlan
A monster shooted a knife through a dinosaur. Then there is a magic sword. And then a dinosaur took it. And then it was not very sharp. And he threw it on a house. And then it lighted the house on fire.  ~Orlando 
There was an invisible monster. It took over the world.  ~Max 
It called a monster truck ran over a ghost. Then a ghost comed in and ran over a ghost. Then a bad guy comed and killed him. Then he splashed into the water. Then he falled into a boat.  ~Charlie B. 

Often, however, there is what I would call resolution. In the first example, if I understand it correctly having not seen the movie, Charlie M. clearly borrowed the convention from the professional storytellers in Hollywood. It seemed to give him great satisfaction coming to an end like this. I remember him putting a period on it by saying decisively, "That's the end," then getting up and walking off.

My story's all about guns. So gun fired something made out of fireball. And he throwed them at bear. And he throwed them at Kung Fu Panda. And then throwed them at Tigress and Thai Wong. And then Thai Wong got them. ~Charlie M.

Sylivia's protagonists set out on the classic adventure to face their fears, do so, then return to the comforts and concerns of home, much in the style of many children's stories such as Where the Wild Things Are or Storm Boy.

It's all about one bat and a baby bat. One time they went into spooky woods. And then they saw a skeleton, spiders, ghosts and Jack-o-lanterns. They fly home so they don't be late for school in the other morning. ~Sylvia

In Connor and Charlie B.'s stories, the fearsome creatures are no match for heros.

About a scary, scary monster. It's a skeleton ate a monster. Then a ghost came. Then they start to decompose. It gets dark and the sun goes out. And then there's more. Well, somebody rode and ate up the monster and the skeleton and the ghost. Somebody ate the ghost, more monsters, and then more and more an more and more and more and more. ~Connor
A little kid gets lost. The monster comed and scared him. Then he said he was a nice monster. And a monster comed and a kid comed and spanked the monster. Then he told he was a nice monster. The clown got lost in the woods.  ~Charlie B.

Benjamin's fear is handled quite simply by the random occurrence of an apparently just universe.

It's about a truck ran over a ghost. It ran over a monster. Then it's done now. ~Benjamin

Max, however, takes matters into his own hands, literally turning a fearsome being into a harmless decoration.

My story is there once was a skeleton. He became alive. He came out of the water from his ghost ship. Then he came up to land. He saw a big house and decided to move in. When I woke up, he was standing in my bedroom. I didn't know what to say. And then I decided to make the skeleton and put him into wax for a Halloween decoration. ~Max

I think this is what's going on in many of these stories, really, even if they don't follow the conventions of beginning, middle and end. The kids are making jokes of their fears, much the way the ancient Greeks turned theirs into Olympic gods who were, after all, not much different from you and me, with the same faults and foibles. All of these stories were intended to make their audience laugh even though it might not be evident from the words alone.

It's about a ghost. A ghost hit a monster. And then a truck run over a box. And then a present came and bumped into a wheel. A tiger came. Hit a ghost. ~Ariya
It's all about monsters. A monster. A pump bumped into a monster truck. A car came and bumped into a sword. A bat ran over a ghost. ~Ariya 
It's a spooky spider. It bumped into a truck. And then a box came and bumped into a wheel. And then a person crashed into a truck. ~Charlotte
It's about a monster. A monster truck ran over a car. A car went over a truck. And a truck went over the ghost. And the ghost went over a people. ~Hisak
A monster bumped into a skeleton. And then a skeleton bumped into another skeleton. And then Batman put stuff in their stocking. Even candy! ~Lachlan 

Some of our storytellers want to address scary things, but don't really get around to it, like Benjamin does in these two efforts . . .

Mine is kinda scary. It's not too scary. A person came and bumped into a truck. And somebody got some paper. ~Benjamin
It's about a ghost and a witch and a dinosaur. My costume's a dinosaur. I'm kind of a meat eating dinosaur. It's a Halloween costume. It's a little bit scary. When they were alive they could eat people. The meat eating dinosaurs didn't eat people. The ones with the long necks are nice. A giraffe is like those dinosaurs sometimes. ~Benjamin

. . . or have the scary things fight amongst themselves without endangering the "innocent" . . .

It's about a wicked witch and a ghost. The witch swallowed the ghost. A shark came and ate the witch. The shark got swallowed by the ghost because he got out of the witch. ~Benjamin

. . . or simply acknowledge the scary things, while holding them off at a distance as Sadie does in her story . . .

The pony went to the party and went to see some pizza and some cake. And he had cupcake. And he had chocolate chips in them. The princess wanted to have a party with them. The princess had a party too. And but the wolf with sharp teeth went far away. ~Sadie

And some of them aren't about fears at all.

Everyone was taping the door so we don't go outside. And then Hisak cut all the tape open so we could go outside. And then everyone went outside to play. And then they were going inside to build with animal Legos. And then they went back outside. They went back inside. ~Hisak

A princess named Sleeping Beauty went in a castle. ~Sasha

It's a big giant that rolled over a car. ~Charlotte

A baby. She had a birthday and I had to squish her food. Well, we both had a birthday party. And then all of my friends had cake. Then we went home, brushed our teeth, and went to bed. ~Cora

There was a little kitten. And then the kitty ate some cheddar cheese. ~Jasper

It's all about light swords. There was a story of a robot named Wall-E. Then Wall-E the robot went on his tracks and saw a paper airplane in front of him and he ducked because it was  pointy on the front. Then he had to duck because there was a lot of paper airplanes. Then he had to find Eva because she was trapped by Moe and his friends. Well, any time he actually had to go on a felt board because he rescued Eva. ~Charlie M.

Dinosaurs. They went down a rocky hill. They were going to a party. ~Sylvia

The princess went to the the party with the ponies. And the fairy went to the party with the ponies too. ~Sadie

I like Sponge Bob a lot. He likes to laugh like that, "Ha, ha, ha!" Him has a snail that goes, "Meow," like a kitty cat. Sponge Bob: he's silly. ~Sasha

My story's mommy went into a rocket with lots of people in it. ~Jody

If you're interested in reading more of our stories, here they are in the order of appearance:

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Saya said...

I love what they say and your take on them, I can see the kids giggling to each others' stories. One of my children wanted to write a letter to his dad the other day, because he missed him... he started out the usual "dear dad, I miss you" then went on to say, "here's the funny part, Ms. Saya, 'I hope you get along with your friends and don't get in time-outs.'" and he started giggling uncontrollably, so did his friends who were listening to it around us.
I guess the idea of his dad who put him in time-outs sometimes, might get the time-outs from his boss, was funny to them.

I also like how they use random word like "decompose" in their stories. I can easily assume you were doing that pumpkin decomposing project around that time of story telling! :)

Barbara Zaborowski said...

I had a boy one time who used storytelling to process the unexpected death of a teen-age cousin he was close to. For several months, he told stories that explored traffic accidents and grief. We wrote them all down and sent copies home. And then, they faded away.

jenny said...

Only just thinking through this stuff myself Tom. Last week some of our kids were involved in a long and involved imaginative play about a witch that ate little children. Really dark themes and they were all so into it.

MullenAvenueWorkshop said...

I really enjoyed reading this Tom.

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