Sunday, January 11, 2009
The Snow Maiden and the Five Laws of Storytelling
"Snegurochka" plate based on art by Boris Zworykin
My daughter's assistant-kindergarten teacher told the story of The Snow Maiden two days in a row. On Thursday, while I was typing, Lucia said to me, "I had tears in my eyes, but I didn't cry when my teacher told the story of the Snow Maiden." I looked over, and her eyes were brimming. I closed my computer, swooped her up, and encouraged her to talk about the story. She said, "I was so sad when the Snow Maiden melted. She comes back each year. Why am I crying?"
"You are moved by beauty," I said. I told her that had I listened to the story with her in class, I probably would have felt like crying too.
The next day, the assistant-teacher told "The Snow Maiden" again, and this time, Lucia wept openly. The main teacher told me that the other children looked at Lucia in wonder-- not critically, but with curiosity. We talked about how different stories move us in different ways. I told Lucia that The Clown of God and Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep always make me cry, every single time. "Those stories don't make me cry," she replied.
I cannot help but think of S. R. Ranganathan's Five Laws of Library Science. They are also applicable to storytelling, I think. Here are the laws as modified:
1. Stories are for use.
2. Every listener his or her story.
3. Every story its listener.
4. Save the listener's time (i.e. don't overexplain).
5. The story is a growing organism.