Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Her storytelling work encompasses all her skills as a performing artist, as she brings every aspect of a story to life. Her stories have been heard in such venues as the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the New Jersey Storytelling Festival, and in schools, libraries, bookstores, hospitals, radio and private events across the tri-state area. As an artist for Hospital Audiences Incorporated, Julie performs in halfway houses, drug rehabilitation centers and senior citizen homes.
Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Last week I told stories for nine groups of first graders: one in which a tortoise rides on eagle’s back, one in which a strange visitor arrives one body part at a time, one in which a wolf demands that a little girl sing to him, another in which a man’s doctor is none other than a python. Midway through the second day, I realized I had not yet heard that oft-asked question, “Is that true?”
These six and seven-year olds seemed entirely comfortable in the imaginative world of folk and fairy tale, where every story is really a story about the human condition, providing metaphors which do not have to be analyzed in order to be useful. They seemed to intuit that these traditional tales contain truth even if the events never happened.
As teachers and parents we want our children to value honesty and to be able to live in the everyday world where we cannot count on physical magic, understand the language of the animals, or witness a giant pumpkin’s sky-born seeds turning into stars.
Perhaps it was partly this desire to prepare children for “the real world” that was behind one teacher’s consternation when a boy in her class told me that his father had gone to a skeleton doctor (not an orthopedist, but a doctor that was a skeleton) and got better. “I forgot to tell you,” she quietly told me as I left the room, “He is always lying. He’s been referred to counseling.” Her concern for her student was palpable.
In the days since that session, I have found myself trying to “unpack” this brief episode. Many of us often feel the need to soften or stretch the truth, and we sometimes to go even further in both our discourses with others and our internal conversations. The stories told by this little boy, new to both the school and the community, may come from his need to be acknowledged and to fit in.
For me, his claims certainly confirmed that he had absorbed the story I’d just told, a folk tale from Zimbabwe called “Nyangara, the Python.” In the tale, a group of brave children accomplish a task from which the men of the village flee. They carry a chief’s doctor, a huge snake, down from his mountain cave and the very ill chief, gently tended by Nyangara, immediately regains his strength.
Coming to this story as an adult, I have always focused on the irrepressible innocent courage of the children, rather than on the magical powers of the snake. But I am guessing that the boy who spoke of the skeleton doctor was hearing something very important about a child/father relationship. In the tale, the chief refers to all of the kids as “my children” and prepares a great feast for them because they were able to do what the men were too frightened to do. It is clear that the children save the man’s life.
Though I know nothing of this student’s family, I do know how it feels to be able to make an ailing parent feel better. I vividly remember the months before my own father had the back surgery he so needed. I was seven, the oldest of five, living on a busy dairy farm. In school, I was a rather timid second grader. At home, I was the capable one who could feed and dress my baby twin sisters while my mother was out in the barn or keep my two other sisters occupied by reading to them. Nothing, however, made me feel as useful and as important as giving my dad a back rub. “Press hard,” he’d say as I leaned into the tight muscles along his spine. “That’s right. That helps.”
Now my father is 87. His heart is failing, his memory in shambles. Sometimes, instead of dutifully working on his checkbook or cleaning his kitchen, I tell him a story I’m working on. He is an attentive listener, still a thoughtful man, one who appreciates the truths wrapped up in the “lies” of the story. I am grateful.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
· enchanted woods
· a particular season
· a mirror
· a huntsman
· a prince
· magic killing objects
· coffin, sleep
· and of course, Snow White
Monday, July 30, 2012
Wishing on the Stars
By Storyteller,Maria LoBiondo
Serendipitous discoveries make travel all the sweeter and so it was when my daughter and I came upon a beautiful garden in an otherwise nondescript Tokyo neighborhood on our recent trip to Japan.
After watching turtles basking on rocks and carp swimming below as we crossed the bridge, my daughter settled down to sketch the scenery and I rested under a wisteria bower outfitted with picnic tables. On two sides of the structure bamboo branches festooned with multicolored streamers flapped in the breeze. On closer examination, the streamers had Japanese characters on them. Then I saw a table with markers, blank papers, and the invitation (thankfully in English as well as Japanese) to write a wish and attach it to a bough.
The simplest version of the Tanabata story is a how and why tale about two stars in the summer sky. But I had stumbled upon a more complex version in preparation for our trip when I read several Japanese folk tale collections as well as touring guidebooks.
“The Woman Who Came From Heaven” in Folktales of Japan edited by Keigo Seki (University of Chicago Press, 1963) includes the well-known motifs of wooing by stealing the clothes of a bathing girl and impossible tasks for a hero to fulfill, and ends with the two lovers becoming Altair and Vega.
What I noticed in this story as well as many of the folk tales was the sense of a more serious mood, sometimes mysterious and sometimes melancholy. Consider the well-known story “The Crane Wife,” in which the crane sacrifices herself for her husband and then flies away. In Margaret Read MacDonald’s Look Back and See: Twenty Lively Tales for Gentle Tellers (H.W. Wilson, 1991), “The Singing Turtle” dies in the story.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Monday, March 5, 2012
Friday, January 20, 2012
Hello, I am Julie Della Torre, Master Storyteller with Storytelling Arts, Inc. I have been working as a Professional Storyteller since 1985 and have 9 years of elementary school teaching experience along with the study of child development and curriculum. More information about our work in storytelling and education can be found on the Storytelling Arts website http://www.storytellingarts.net/
By far the site I visit the most is SurLaLune http://www.surlalunefairytales.com hosted by Heidi Anne Heiner. It is a site that is quite easy to use and I recommend you play in it and discover all it has to offer. The site has stories galore as well as essays, illustrations and so much more.
When you first open the site you immediately see on the left, an index of popular European fairy tales. Click on any one of these and wonders appear. The full text of the story is given with annotations. Another index appears on this new page and you can find a history of the tale, illustrations of the tale, similar tales from across cultures, modern interpretations, a bibliography and a book gallery. For some of the most popular tales there are links to other explorations of the tale.
But don’t stop there. Go back to the home page and across the top is another menu. Click on Introduction and a number of essays can be found. Yet another index pops up and you can go to discussions of such subjects as Disney and Fairy Tales, Women and Fairy Tales, a Guide for Teachers, and many more.
Speaking of discussions, the discussion board is a place to find out what storytellers, authors, folklorists, professors, and illustrators are thinking and working on in the field of fairy tales. There are current discussions as well as archives covering many topics of interest.
And there is more on the home page. Scroll down and you will find an empty box with ‘search’ beside it. Type in any word, for example, wind, or daisy, or self-control, and the whole of Surlalune will be searched for your topic. You may find annotations, or discussions, or illustrations. It is a very useful search engine.
And one more overlooked feature. Under the search engine is SurLaLuune Storytime. Here you will find ideas for preschool story programs developed around themes.
SuLaLune has recently introduced a blog to the site. I find it to be funky and eccentric. I go to it for fun, but am still trying to get used to it. You will find many reviews of new books, movies and movie trailers, advertising, allusions and the like, all related to fairy tales.
Story Lovers World
Another site I frequent is Story Lovers World hosted by Jackie Baldwin. This site is more for gathering ideas around themes, countries and educational levels. This site does not have stories available, but when I am working on programs, I find this site quite useful indeed.
The site is a little overwhelming and a bit more confusing than SurLaLune. That’s because there is just so much information tuck away in different places. Go to SOS Site Map (Searching Out Stories) http://www.story-lovers.com/listsofstories.htm and scroll down and down and down… You will find categories based around theme, age of audience, country, holidays, emotions, and many more. Keep on scrolling because the list is extensive. If you stop at a find at the top of the scroll, you may miss some very interesting stuff. If you wait to the end though, you will have forgotten what’s at the top.
When you click on an interest, you will find lists of books and stories, as well as ideas and discussions from other storytellers. Most of these discussions are from the popular listserv STORYTELL. My creative juices get flowing as I explore what other storytellers have chosen for a particular project.
Jackie Baldwin is a very generous storyteller and has complied stories, activities and books around such themes as water, winter, January and so forth.
Briefly, here are other sites that are bookmarked on my computer.
D.L. Ashliman’s Home Page: http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/ashliman.html
This is the site I go to for the text of stories.
Aaron Shepard’s Home Page:
All Aaron Shepard adaptations. But, he does have some good activities and some readers theatre that I send teachers to.
Generosity of Spirit: Myths and Folktales
This site is sponsored by the Fetzer Institute. I found it and used it when I was collecting stories to accompany a program on character education. I used some of the stories, but found that the stories listed made me remember other stories in my repertoire. A site to explore at least.
Texts of many books of myth and fairy tale.
Spirit of Trees
A beautiful site of folktales, myths, essays and poems of trees.