More About the Faeries

Fairy Glen, Conway, Wales

Fairy Glen, Conway, Wales

I have written before about real faeries.  But you can never learn too much… and I have learned alot this month from the tales I will will be telling from The Welsh Fairy Book, by W. Jenkyn Thomas.  My roommate found this treasure once at Kaboom Books, and I happened to peruse it once on a rainy afternoon, and… well, let’s just say I learned alot.

Things you should know about Faeries and the Country of Faerie:

Those that have been to Faerie say it is always misty, gray weather there.

Those who have seen faeries usually discover them singing in a ring. Witnesses hear most beautiful music ever, and everyone is dancing.

Entryways to Faeirie are through the earth, through a door in the earth or underground tunnel.

Faerie people are not tiny like pixies, they are human sized… but small, with pale skin and dark hair.

Time is different in Faerie- you may be five minutes there, and five hundred years may have passed here.

Tea time with the Fair Folk

Tea time with the Fair Folk

Faeries are not “bad” or “good” but if you mess with them, you will be sorry.  They can steal your babies and substitute a faery child (changelings), they can take you to Faerie and you’ll never come back, and they can really mess with your cows, goats, butter, milk and basically anything to do with your cottage dairy industry.

Faeries turn into animals, and talk to them, and enchant them to do the faery’s will.

Faeries mostly eat milk flavored with spices, no meat.

Never call them Faeries- you might call one to you!  Just say “Fair Folk” or “Little People” to avoid ticking them off.  I really hope they don’t read blogs.

If they like you, they might shower your life with blessings such as a harp that always plays beautifully, a purse of gold, or a very prosperous cottage dairy industry indeed.

All you need to to make a Faery story are these facts, a mortal who gets into Faery and (hopefully) comes back again.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

A new puppet show- Twiggy

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Old Woman, gray goose, with Baby Twiggy in the bed, and the yarn-snake in the background.

For teachers of  young children like myself who are weary of apple crafts… to those of you trying to home school all Waldorf style… September in Houston can be frustrating.  Ain’t no apples.  Ain’t no crisp leaves.  Ain’t no harvest we can see.

But there are…. TWIGS!

I love dead sticks!

I love dead sticks!

A great story for autumn-not-autumn is “Twiggy”.  A Ukrainian tale, I first discovered this story about a twig that comes to life in the Acorn Hill book of Waldorf songs, circle games and stories, “Let us form a Ring“.  Basically, an old couple longs for a child.  The old woman finally just takes a stick and begins to love and care for it as if it were a baby.  One day the stick comes to life, and “Twiggy” the sweet little twig child learns who he can trust, and whom he shouldn’t.

I chose it to make a puppet show of because (as some of y’all may know) my deepest dreams are fulfilled when children play with sticks.  After the show, the children searched the playground for the perfect Twiggy, and made him boats and homes from little boxes.  They were so deeply in the moment and as happy playing with their Twiggys as they were with the plastic sand toys.

Of course, if you would like to tell this tale to young children, you don’t need to make a full on puppet show at all.  You can use just… a stick.  Anything can be a puppet.  As the wonderful Houston puppeteer David Caranza (of Caranza Puppets) says, a puppet is nothing but an inanimate object you seemingly make “come alive”.  So the old lady can be your finger, the goose your hand, the snake a bit of yarn (as my snake puppet is).  And the imagination of the tiny child will do the rest!

 

Sometimes a Girl Needs a Sword

Illustration by Trina Schart Hyman

Illustration by Trina Schart Hyman

“I cried when Rey picked up the light saber too. And it wasn’t because it was the greatest movie ever. It was because I’d been waiting thirty years and more for a girl to pick up a light saber, and I never even realized it before.”

My sister posted this on facebook last winter (here is the article she was responding to; it’s quite a good read).  It stuck in my mind this year as I was telling Saint George and the Dragon and one little student, a first grade girl, asked if George’s sword was like Rey’s.

Rey.

I haven’t seen Rey’s movie, but I remembered the words of my sister.  And I knew that little girl needed a dragon to slay!

I want to share with you The Serpent Slayer, a fantastic book all about warrior girls, pirate girls, clever women who trick the bandits out of treasure, sassy old women who outsmart the devil, and a gentle sun girl who saves and heals a dragon prince.  I would have loved this book when I was little.  I had a wonderful cozy rainy morning spending some time with it and my inner child.

It wasn’t like she didn’t know she was a hero.  She just never had the stories to match her own.  Well, now she does.

 

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PS. I’ve found little boys love stories with a girl hero just fine.  As long as there are pirates, dragons and monsters, the gender of the protagonist doesn’t seem to matter.

 

 

When the Storyteller meets the Dancer

How shall a Storyteller collaborate with a Dancer?

Well, first the Storyteller spins a story to a group of very imaginative kids, ages 7-11 years old.

The story is about two lands: one is the tropical paradise island of Lemuria, and the other is the crystal urban labyrinth of space-aged Atlantis.

After the story, she gives them paper and crayons to draw scenes from the story.  That’s an okay idea, but the kids explain to her that what they what they really need is to build.  Out come the magnet blocks.  The children begin to build the crystal structures, how they imagine the buildings of Atlantis to be.  It was the architecture that interested them most.

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Now the Storyteller’s work is done.  The kids transition into the dance studio with Amanda Barrett Hayes (who runs a lovely movement program for children, Moving-Body).  The Dancer.

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Amanda

 

Amanda asks the kids: “If you were in the streets of Atlantis, how would you move?  How would you move through this techno city?  Like a robot?  Fast? Slow?  Are there tunnels to crawl through? Are there crowds to get through?”

The kids begin to unroll yoga mats and lay them out like streets.  Techno music plays, and they begin to fly through space, and crawl, and roll, drop to the ground, spring up again, pivot, freeze, and turn.

 

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The song ends.

Now it is time for Lemuria.

The Dancer asks:

“How would you move if you were in Lemuria?  Through the sea, how do you dive, are there animals?”

She opens a magic box filled with color, and passes out silk veils to all the children.

Music.  A drumbeat, with a sprinkling of piano falling like petals.

The children begin to fly around the space with the silk and color, like butterflies.

And as for me,  the Storyteller, I have been watching this entranced.  And I know that tomorrow my story will have tunnels, and bridges, and animals, and children who move like butterflies.

*

This post is part of a series about my experiences collaborating with educators, artists and children at Whole Kids Summer Camp, Houston.

 

Five Beautiful Moments from Camp Today

 

tellingSPECIAL REPORT FROM Whole Kids Summer Camp!

SunBee Friends, I feel so blessed to be part of the amazing alchemy of imagination and magic that is going down at NiaMoves this week at Whole Kids Summer Camp.  I’d really like to share five things from today that were absolutely soaked in sunshine and sparkles and enchantment.  You see, it’s hard for me to explain to people about this camp when they ask me because it really is so multidisciplinary.  So perhaps these five jewels will help explain…

  1.  I told the beginning part of “The Crystal and the Whale”, a tale about two children got caught in a storm at sea!  Kids made journals and took some time to write and draw their responses to the story.  One girl mapped out the entire island.  Several showed me their interpretations of the famous “Warrior’s Tattoo” from the story.  Another showed me just what a girl with fins on her ankles and a gill on her forehead, like the main character, would look like.

2.  Theater teacher Gabriela Maya invited the kids to use sounds and movement to create the beginning of their play.  The children began with creating a storm: one was the spirit of the wind, another pair were seagulls pulling at each other’s wings, and another twirled like a spinning tornado.

The Beginning of a Storm!

The Beginning of a Storm!

 

3.  The plot thickens.  Some kids become animals on the island.  Another girl arrives: a human, but the storm gods do not like humans!  Drama.  There was definitely some drama.

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Pounding the floor with feet and hands to create thunder sounds.

4.  Outside, the children work with artist Holly Hudley to create a totem.  On REAL wood with REAL paint!  I dunno, it’s such a thrill when you get to work with a heavy material like actual wood- not cardboard pretending to be wood, but actual timber!

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5.  Speaking of high quality materials: we all screen printed our own T-shirts!  Screen printing is awesome…

 

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PS. Another thing that brought me joy today, although it was unconnected with the kids’ camp, was the contents of the recycling bin at Nia Moves.  Keep calm and kombucha on.

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You know you’re in the Houston Heights when…

The Crystal and the Whale (Stories for a Summer Camp)

One of my characters was inspired by Hawaiian girl surfer Ha'a Keaulana. Photograph by Paul Nicklen for National Geographic.

One of my characters was inspired by Hawaiian girl surfer Ha’a Keaulana. Photograph by Paul Nicklen for National Geographic.

“Could you make up a tale about a peaceful civilization?  What would that look like?”

This question was posed to me by Lisa Gale, who needed such tales for  this year for her wonderful Whole Kids Summer Camp (no relation to Whole Foods).  Lisa is a shamanic yogi who has tossed stories with shanakees in Ireland, and she knows a thing or two about magic.  Our camp theme this year was “tribal, or what makes a community.”

I had been reading Lost Lands by Lucy Cavendish, so my imagination went to the mythical “lost” cities of Lemuria and Atlantis and wove stories about how they might have been.  Two children from the tribal world of Lemuria wash up on the shores of the spaced-aged, tech-happy Atlanta and meet an Atlantean child.  Adventures ensue, including deep sea diving for pearls, crystal healing, riding a whale and a tsunami.

The whackadoodle yet fascinating Australian book about vanished undersea cities.

The wackadoodle yet fascinating Australian book about vanished undersea cities.

Other teachers are going to come in with playwriting, cooking, movement, dance, and art all inspired by the story.  The children will do the same, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.  I’m already brimming with questions to get them going: which would you rather live in, Atlanta or Lemuria?  I made these stories up based on what I imagine they were like… what do you think?  What if you could invent your own tribe and community and civilization?

I will be recording these stories and hope to have them on MP3 soon.  Thus I shall now say “to be continued…” I will update this post so it has some actual tales on it! The stories are conceived for kids 6 to about 9.  This will take me into the realm of recording technology where I have never traveled, but I figure if I can dream up the streets of Atlanta I can handle this!

Here is a bit of the magic that took place last year at Whole Kids Camp, which still has spots left.  Register here (when you click on the link, you gotta scroll down a bit).

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Storytelling

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Art installation: under the sea

 

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This looks like an innocent milk carton, but it’s actually the statue of a wicked empire with a deadly curse trapped inside.

 

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Using a sheet they painted the day before to create the underwater dragon’s cave!

Shadow Puppets in the World of Hans Christian Andersen

A SunBee mom lent me a lovely new edition of  The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen.  (Anyone who knows my love of vintage illustration will realize why I love this book!)  It’s also available at the Jung Center bookstore in Houston.  We are immersing ourselves in “The Ugly Duckling” and “Thumbelina” in SunBee this month.  Both are tales of a highly sensitive being who doesn’t fit in, but come spring time, each finds their place in the world.

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Thumblina (Illustration by Brooke Bailey)

Andersen’s tales are richly visual and have inspired many artists including myself.  So it seemed like a good time to try shadow puppets with the kids, which I have always wanted to do ever since learning the technique from artist Justin Dunford at Gina Vazquez’s wonderfully creative summer camp Flor y Canto several summers ago.  Justin’s materials were very simple: the sort of thin cardboard cereal boxes are made of, tape, and those very thin shish kebab sticks.  Because my kids are much younger than the kids at that camp, I used straws (less poky), animal foam stickers, doilies, and some stencils for the kids to trace.

You draw or trace your character on the cardboard, cut it out, and tape it on a straw.  So much for puppets.

For the theater, I used a packing box and white paper, and duct tape for the edges.  I got the idea from this link about how to make a simple theater. The only thing I changed: I kept a sort of “frame” around the “screen” to prevent the whole box from flopping over and taking a nap mid-performance.

 

 

The kids enjoyed this so much one rainy afternoon that we will be working on it all of March!  To the stage!

Friend. (Thumbelina illustration by Brooke Bailey)

Oh, Those Russians

Oh, snap!  SunBee friends, I am posting my January stories at the beginning of February!  That’s all right, because we have a bit more cold weather before us, and that is just perfect for Russian tales.  Also, I have the wonderful opportunity to share with you the kids’ reactions to these stories, as we have been telling them all month.

I focused on two Russian tales.  The first is the Firebird, also called Ivan, Firebird and Gray Wolf in the version I used.  This is appropriate because while the Firebird is a beautiful prize, the true heart of the tale is the young tsarevich Ivan’s relationship with Gray Wolf.  Gray Wolf can be dangerous if he wants to, but he chooses to help Ivan and oh, what a powerful, crafty, and wise friend to have on your side.

Gray Wolf by SunBee student

Gray Wolf by SunBee student

The children were fascinated by Gray Wolf.  I found this to be an especially popular story with boys: a youngest son, a difficult quest, and a REALLY badass helper on your side.  “This is the best story EVER,” declared one six year old.  (And he’s kind of a tough customer, I can tell you.)

Firebird in the Garden, by SunBee student

Firebird in the Garden, by SunBee student

I wanted a story with a girl protagonist after that, and remembered an image from a book I bought in college at a little Russian shop in a snowy street in Manhattan some fifteen years ago.  A young woman in a dark woods with a lighted skull… Vasalissa.

Vasalissa by Ivan Bilibin, circa 1900

Vasalissa by Ivan Bilibin, circa 1900

The story came up again recently when I was reading the incredible Women who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes.  A version of Vasalissa is in that book, and it really called to me.  Here is another story about a neglected young person.  Like Ivan, the pretty people in Vasalissa’s world are mean as rats, and the terrible scary being in the forest (in this case, the witch Baba Yaga) ends up being a powerful friend.  The children were fascinated by the descriptions of Baba Yaga’s house (that it stands on chicken legs and dances around is only the beginning!) We were stuck inside that day because of rain, and they were cranking out drawing after drawing of Vasalissa, the dark forest, the wise but wild witch.

Russian stories seem to me to have such a wealth of gorgeous visual images: the Firebird at night in a king’s garden, the girl with the skull in the woods, the yellow eyes of Gray Wolf, the broom of the witch made from the hair of “someone long dead.”  How delightful for these cold winter nights!  Enjoy.

PS. The following is, ahem, not for kids, but a special treat for you.  Rah rah!  Oh, those Russians…

More Trolls, and a Tomte Too

*(This blog post is a somewhat revised version of the same last year.)

This December we will be journeying to the cold forests of Sweden and learning about tomte and trolls.

tomten

A tomten is a little creature who lives in a farmhouse and protects the people and animals- the farm animals and wild animals- within it.  They are good spirits.  Our Little Kids will experience a puppet show based on the Astrid Lindgren classic.  I am so partial to this story because I grew up with it, my Grandma being Swedish.  It’s hushed, quiet, magical mood makes it a wonderful holiday story no matter which tradition you celebrate.  The recurring theme of a good being watching over the farm while all are sleeping comforts and calms children.  I am always struck by how quiet they are after this puppet show.

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Our Big Kids of the mature ages of 4-7 years old have expressed a love of adventure and danger so for these guys we will be learning about trolls.

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tales

This story is called “The Boy and the Trolls, or the Adventure” by Walter Stenstrom and it does follow the classic format of a youngest son who saves a princess who has been kidnapped by the trolls.  I told this story last year and it was the most popular tale I ever told, across the board, in all the classes.  I will be telling this old favorite again… but did you know there are also girl trolls?

changelings

There she is.  The wild troll girl, laughing!  Two babies- a troll princess and a human princess- are switched at birth.  A golden-haired, angelic (and rather goody-goody) Swedish princess raised in a troll family?  A cruel, wild troll princess raised in a civilized palace?  Wait and see what happens…

 

Remember November

 

The Autumn Blanket

The Autumn Blanket- the children made this!

Autumn Blanket is a great little story for our smallest friends because it is very simple, very repetitive, and very visual.  It is easy to make a simple puppet show just with a tableaux of leaves and a scarf.  Very little children love to watch and touch the objects that Mother Earth slowly adds to her blanket, help her place them on, and help her find new ones.

When working with very little children, I have to remember that what’s simple for me is still magical to them.  After all, they’ve only seen a few Novembers.  Sometimes it’s quite okay to be simple!

Mother Earth will also appear to us in another puppet show with her children.  The children have a big job to do in Spring, but as cold weather comes, it’s time to go underground and rest.

Mother Earth and her Root Children

Mother Earth and her Root Children

Thanksgiving was a Native American harvest celebration long before the pilgrims ever arrived and got invited, so that’s why I think it’s a beautiful month to sing songs and tell stories about this highly spiritual, sustainable and responsible culture.  In this story, a flood is coming and everybody saves something very important to take with them when they go inside to wait out the storm, knowing that everything will be washed away.  Only slow, awkward Turkey remembers the most important thing of all…

from "Navaho Folk Tales" by Franc Johnson Newcomb.  Illustrator unknown.

from “Navaho Folk Tales” by Franc Johnson Newcomb. Illustrator unknown.

Sources:

I have adapted the Turkey story from a lovely little book, Navaho Folk Tales by Franc Johnson newcomb, University of New Mexico Press, 1967.)  My adaption below:

Turkey and the Big Reed

The Autumn Blanket pdf

“Autumn Blanket” is by S. Perrow, from Autumn: A Collection of Songs, Poems and Stories for Young Children published by Wynstones Press

Mother Earth and her Root Children is in print!  In English!  Amazon.com

Also, many of my autumn songs come from this delightful book which I HIGHLY recommend.  It is one of the best sources I have ever used:

“A Journey Through Autumn” by Connie Manson