Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Two new Grimm programs

On Monday, I stopped for fast food in Webb City, Missouri, on my way home from Joplin. One of the cashiers said to the other, "Hey, guess what I did before I came to work? I went to hear a lady telling fairy tales to kids!" 

I couldn't help myself. "Did you like it?" 

She barely looked at me, but answered. "Yeah, she was really good." 

I smiled, picked up my food and headed for the door. Suddenly she turned back to me. "Hey, she's the one! You told those stories!" She went on to tell the other cashier about the performance, "She had all these facial expressions and her hand gestures..." 

I laughed about that in the car for the next five minutes. 

Last spring, I had a call from Missouri Southern State University Institute of International Studies. Would I be interested in telling Grimm tales for two programs for MSSU's Germany Semester? I considered the request. There were a few stories collected by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm that I had been telling for years, but I didn't have a full program, let alone two. I don't take every job I'm asked to do, but if it will expand me creatively, I often say yes.

As you can see from the program, I named one show "Grimm for Grownups," and the other "Cheerfully Grimm." The first included some of the more sophisticated (and gory) stories. The second was suitable for kids. There are many nontraditional students at MSSU who have children, and they were welcome at the evening show. 

I began right away, reading through the collections on my shelf, and reading a biography of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.

In the end, I used two books as my main sources.  This one was translated anonymously in 1869 and contains a lot of the lesser-known stories, such as The Feather Bird (a Bluebeard variant) and The Six Swans

I took this paperback with me to Brazil and worked on the stories there. Normally I travel with fluff to read, but because I knew these programs were coming up, I only took this book. I read the tales in my hotel room and at breakfast, and I subjected Cris and Pati to my first attempts at telling them.

I also used this edition at home. It's absolutely beautiful, annotated tales with illustrations from many of the classic collections (Arthur Rackham, Kay Nielson, Warwick Goble, etc.).
Another great source for insight on these folktales is the Sur La Lune Fairy Tale site, especially the forum. 

What did I tell? In the first show, I told The Feather Bird, Maid Maleen (also called Jungfrau Maleen), Rapunzel, The Twelve Dancing Princesses and The Nix in the Mill. I didn't have time to tell The Six Swans, The Goose Girl or The Juniper Tree. In the evening show, I told The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids, Rapunzel, Rumpelstiltskin, The Fisherman and His Wife, The Frog Prince, The Shoemaker and the Elves, and The Cat and the Mouse and the Butter. I had also considered telling Little Red Riding Hood (there are two stories about her, believe it or not). 

I had a great time telling these stories. I was right--they did stretch me creatively. I'll add them to the list of programs I offer to schools and festivals.


Deb said...

What a great story! And how gratifying that must have been...

Have you read Bruno Bettelheim's The Uses of Enchantment? He explores the psychological importance of fairy tales. I believe I had to read it for a college social history course, and it was pretty interesting.


Cool. I agree with you about taking programs that stretch us creatively - Makes us work - but its worth it. That's for sharing your source books. Ellouise

Liz Warren said...

How cool is that? Pretty amazing that how happened to be there when she mentioned hearing a storyteller. Love that!

PriscillaHowe said...

And it wasn't even in the same town as the performance! It was one or two towns away!

Granny Sue said...

That is so cool, Priscilla. Don't you love it!

And now you've got me interested in the Grimm stories. I've told a few, but now my interest is piqued. I just ordered the first book listed on your site. I also have the Household Stories which is pretty neat.