4/20/2007

Friday Tellers

On a good month, I have/get three storytelling gigs - Second Sat, Second Weds, Third Fri... sometimes, if the dates work out just right, they all fall in the same week...which is pretty exhausting actually...

But, today wrapped this month's series for me (the Guild will Tell one more time on Friday), and it went fairly well. R. gave a stunning performance of a tale she just learned today. I love her voice - richly Scots - and she uses her face and expressions to the fullest effect. D. told an odd little farm story which didn't come off quite as well as with a different audience, but that happens, so it was actually a relief to see a seasoned pro faced with having to change-up a story on the fly. B. was darling, getting everyone to do the sound effects for his tale, and K. did a terrific job with a story he had just researched today also. I think it's his equivalent of my Alitaptap story - built on bare bones but really rich with the telling.

I did the woodsman story again, third time round for this month, and the best I think. I took more time with the details of the story, but I still got the elements turned round a few more times than I would have liked. K. made the unfortunate observation that the water spirit I mention in the story, a diwata makes her appearance coming out of "da wata," ie. the river... It's going to take me a bit to recover from /that/.

Second time, though, that after a performance, the Tellers bullpen turned up that a story I'd told had versions in other cultures, which is cool, but always bears the question of how does it all connect? Are they the same story because of the theme or is it because there was a single origin from which the story spread?

It's the question folklorists love to mull around, creating statistical methods to show the likelihood of a story originating in one place and then adapted to later cultures. They look for the earliest recorded telling of the story, which unfortunately falls to pieces as far as showing 'original and authentic' given that most of the cultures in question and most of the time periods in question there's more oral tradition running around than written.

So, I've been looking at what it is about the way a certain story is told, what details are retold over and over, that might indicate how a culture views the world. In the woodcutter story, it's obvious that the main theme is the difference between an honest person and a dishonest/greed person. Basically a poor woodcutter loses the head of this one and only axe in river. The diwata comes and brings him a silver axehead asking if it is his, to which he refuses. She returns with a gold axehead and again asks if it's his, to which he again says no. Finally when she brings him his iron axehead, he confirms it is his and the diwata rewards him for his honesty by giving him the silver and gold axeheads to sell. He returns with his new found wealth, and does everything he dreams. A greedy neighbor over hears the tale, takes two axes, loosens the axeheads and goes to the river. He 'loses' both axeheads and the diwata offers him a silver and gold axehead, asking him if they are his. He says yes, and the diwata takes all the axeheads, accusing the man of lying.

Within, the story, however, there are places where Filipino values are shown - the woodcutter, when he receives the silver axehead, dreams of feeding his family for a year and finally fixing the roof of his humble home. When he receives the gold axehead, he dreams of buying a new house and sending his children to the best schools. Likely I could have extended the story to also include how the woodcutter shared his wealth with his village to help everyone have a more comfortable life. Then the second man's expectations could have been tailored more closely to the theme of greed, which in Filipino terms would be keeping his wealth to himself and using it to control others.

I need to look into that method of telling a bit more, try to understand what values I want expressed in the tales I tell and bring out those aspects more strongly.

I also look forward to perhaps doing a team telling with another Teller in the group. I've seen a few performances with two people telling a story together an it's really quite dynamic.

In the meantime, though, my attention is turning toward the reading next week in SF and to finishing the paper I'm writing. My mind, though is pretty distracted by what I need to get before I leave and what I want to get while I'm there. It's all I can do to just keep myself from buying everything that comes to mind with the justification that it's 'for the trip.'

...I wonder if I can find a good tale about shopping...

2 comments:

Snickering Corpses said...

OK, I have to admit the "da wata" joke would take me a while to recover from as well. Sometime you must remind me to tell you about the pink angels.

Speaking of angels, have you read Frank Peretti's "This Present Darkness" and "Piercing the Darkness"?

The axe head story is one I'm familiar with, and heard when I was a kid from some book or other. Don't ask me which one though. Between us, when we went to the library regularly, my mom and I used to check out from 100-200 books at a time. And a slightly smaller amount from the other, less-well-stocked library the following week. Of course, that was partly when she was homeschooling me, so many of the books were research books she checked out for teaching me.

But I'm familiar with the story. I want to say the version that I heard was Norse in origin, but I couldn't swear to it.

You're familiar with the story of Elisha and the axe head, aren't you? If not, I'll find you a reference for it.

Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor said...

I'd love to hear about pink angels! And likely so will my family.

I think I read Peretti's work years ago.

I remember similar trips to the library with my mom. Mom loved/loves libraries, mostly because when she was a kid, there weren't very many books available, so when she discovered American libraries, she really felt like she was in heaven! Book-love is definitely genetic.

As for the Axe story, it would make sense that the Norse would have a version. The Teller I who mentioned it said she'd heard versions where it was two princesses and jewels, and another with two farmers and a gold pot.

Elisha and the axe? Hrm... nope, I think I missed that one :)