Thursday, February 08, 2007
One of the cardinal rules of storytelling is that you must like the story. Otherwise, it will make it more difficult to learn. It’s no fun practicing a story that you don’t think is marvelous.
I was recently hit over the head with this rule when attempting to adapt and learn a folktale for storytelling. I have a pen pal club that meets every month; they are writing to pen pals from various countries and states. We meet every month to discuss their letters (if they want to share), read stories, create a craft, and occasionally play a game. We cover a different country every month. January’s country was China, and February’s country is Ghana.
At the start of every program, I tell a folktale from that month’s country. I specifically chose Ghana because I wanted to tell an Anansi tale (the Anansi stories originated from the Ashanti tribe). I chose a tale that the author (not Eric Kimmel) specifically said originated in Ghana. After adapting it and attempting to learn it, I gave up. Adapting and learning stories is easier if there are certain things that are repeated, and this story was lacking in them. I love adapting and learning stories, and this time was no fun.
I let the story go and fell back on one of my favorite folktales, Anansi and the Moss Covered Rock. I performed in a puppet show version of the story; it’s tons of fun to act out, whether you’re reading the book aloud or if you’re telling it to an audience.
Who is this Anansi? In this story, Anansi is a spider (in other stories, he is human). Anansi is always finding new ways to get into mischief. He’s also lazy, which makes for interesting combinations. Anansi stumbles upon a strange moss-covered rock, at which he exclaims, “Isn’t this a strange moss covered rock?”
After a few tries, he figures out that uttering those words causes him to fall down (KPOM!) and pass out for an hour. Being Anansi, he immediately thinks of ways to use this for his own good. He tricks Lion out of his yams, Elephant out of his bananas, and several other animals out of their delicious food. For Anansi loves all sorts of fruit, but he is too lazy to pick them.
Finally, shy and unnoticed Little Bush Deer decides to give him a taste of his own medicine.
As I said, this story provides tons of opportunities to ham it up. It is a delight to read aloud or tell.
And saying KPOM! never gets old.
Eric Kimmel's other Anansi books are also fantastic and fun to read:
Anansi and the Magic Stick
Anansi and the Talking Melon
Anansi Goes Fishing
In fact, just check out all of our books by Eric Kimmel.
Dr. Kimmel's website is also pretty awesome. He's just an awesome guy.