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How To Obtain And Maintain The Effect Of The Story

We are now come to the most important part of the question of story- telling, to which all the foregoing remarks have been gradually leading,

We are now come to the most important part of the question of story- telling, to which all the foregoing remarks have been gradually leading, and that is the effect of these stories upon the child, quite apart from the dramatic joy he experiences in listening to them, which would in itself be quite enough to justify us in the telling. But, since I have urged the extreme importance of giving so much time to the manner of telling and of bestowing so much care in the selection of the material, it is right that we should expect some permanent results or else those who are not satisfied with the mere enjoyment of the children will seek other methods of appeal—and it is to them that I most specially dedicate this chapter.

I think we are of the threshold of the re-discovery of an old truth, that dramatic presentation is the quickest and the surest method of appeal, because it is the only one with which memory plays no tricks. If a thing has appeared before us in a vital form nothing can really destroy it; it is because things are often given in a blurred, faint light that they gradually fade out of our memory. A very keen scientist was deploring to me, on one occasion, the fact that stories were told so much in the schools, to the detriment of science, for which he claimed the same indestructible element that I recognize in the best-told stories. Being very much interested in her point of view, I asked her to tell me, looking back on her school days, what she could remember as standing out from other less clear information. After thinking some little time over the matter, she said with some embarrassment, but with candor that did her much honor: "Well, now I come to think of it, it was the story of Cinderella." Now, I am not holding any brief for this story in particular. I think the reason it was remembered was because of the dramatic form in which it was presented to her, which fired her imagination and kept the memory alight. I quite realize that a scientific fact might also have been easily remembered if it had been presented in the form of a successful chemical experiment; but this also has something of the dramatic appeal and will be remembered on that account.

Sully says: "We cannot understand the fascination of a story for children save in remembering that for their young minds, quick to imagine, and unversed in abstract reflection, words are not dead things but winged, as the old Greeks called them."[35] The Red Queen, in "Alice Through the Looking-Glass," was more psychological than she was aware of when she made the memorable statement: "When once you've said a thing, that fixes it, and you must take the consequences." In Curtin's "Introduction to Myths and Folk Tales of the Russians, he says: "I remember well the feeling roused in my mind at the mention or sight of the name Lucifer during the early years of my life. It stood for me as the name of a being stupendous, dreadful in moral deformity, lurid, hideous and mighty. I remember the surprise with which, when I had grown somewhat older and began to study Latin, I came upon the name in Virgil where it means light-bringer—the herald of the Sun." Plato has said that "the end of education should be the training by suitable habits of the instincts of virtue in the child." About two thousand years later, Sir Philip Sydney, in his "Defence of Poesy," says: "The final end of learning is to draw and lead us to so high a perfection as our degenerate souls, made worse by their clay lodgings, can be capable of." And yet it is neither the Greek philosopher nor the Elizabethan poet that makes the everyday application of these principles; but we have a hint of this application from the Pueblo tribe of Indians, of whom Lummis tells us the following: "There is no duty to which a Pueblo child is trained in which he has to be content with a bare command: do this. For each, he learns a fairy- tale designed to explain how children first came to know that it was right to 'do this,' and detailing the sad results that befall those who did otherwise. Some tribes have regular story-tellers, men who have devoted a great deal of time to learning the myths and stories of their people and who possess, in addition to good memory, a vivid imagination. The mother sends for one of these, and having prepared a feast for him, she and her little brood, who are curled up near her, await the fairy stories of the dreamer who after his feast and smoke entertains the company for hours." In modern times, the nurse, who is now receiving such complete training for her duties with children, should be ready to imitate the "dreamer" of the Indian tribe.

I rejoice to find that regular instruction in story-telling is being given in many of the institutions where the nurses are trained.

Some years ago there appeared a book by Dion Calthrop called "King Peter," which illustrates very fully the effect of story-telling. It is the account of the education of a young prince which is carried on at first by means of stories, and later he is taken out into the arena of life to show what is happening there—the dramatic appeal being always the means used to awaken his imagination. The fact that only one story a year is told him prevents our seeing the effect from day to day, but the time matters little. We only need faith to believe that the growth, though slow, was sure.

There is something of the same idea in the "Adventures of Telemachus," written by Fénélon for his royal pupil, the young Duke of Burgundy, but whereas Calthrop trusts to the results of indirect teaching by means of dramatic stories, Fénélon, on the contrary, makes use of the somewhat heavy, didactic method, so that one would think the attention of the young prince must have wandered at times; and I imagine Telemachus was in the same condition when he was addressed at such length by Mentor, who, being Minerva, though in disguise, should occasionally have displayed that sense of humor which must always temper true wisdom.

Take, for instance the heavy reproof conveyed in the following passage: "Death and shipwreck are less dreadful than the pleasures that attack Virtue. . . .

Youth is full of presumption and arrogance, though nothing in the world is so frail: it fears nothing, and vainly relies utmost levity and without any precaution." And on another occasion, when Calypso hospitably provides clothes for the shipwrecked men, and Telemachus is handling a tunic of the finest wool and white as snow, with a vest of purple embroidered with gold, and displaying much pleasure in the magnificence of the clothes, Mentor addresses him in a severe voice, saying: "Are these, O Telemachus, the thoughts that ought to occupy the heart of the son of Ulysses? A young man who loves to dress vainly, as a woman does, is unworthy of wisdom or glory." I remember, as a school girl of thirteen, having to commit to memory several books of these adventures, so as to become familiar with the style. Far from being impressed by the wisdom of Mentor, I was simply bored, and wondered why Telemachus did not escape from him. The only part in the book that really interested me was Calypso's unrequited love for Telemachus, but this was always the point where we ceased to learn by heart, which surprised me greatly, for it was here that the real human interest seemed to begin.

Of all the effects which I hope for from the telling of stories in the schools, I, personally, place first the dramatic joy we bring to the children and to ourselves.

But there are many who would consider this result as fantastic, if not frivolous, and not to be classed among the educational values connected with the introduction of stories into the school curriculum. I, therefore, propose to speak of other effects of story-telling which may seem of more practical value.

The first, which is of a purely negative character, is that through means of a dramatic story we may counteract some of the sights and sounds of the street which appeal to the melodramatic instinct in children. I am sure that all teachers whose work lies in crowded cities must have realized the effect produced on children by what they see and hear on their way to and from school. If we merely consider the bill boards with their realistic representations, quite apart from the actual dramatic happenings in the street, we at once perceive that the ordinary school interests pale before such lurid appeals as these. How can we expect the child who has stood openmouthed before a poster representing a woman chloroformed by a burglar (while that hero escapes in safety with jewels) to display any interest in the arid monotony of the multiplication table? The illegitimate excitement created by the sight of the depraved burglar can only be counteracted by something equally exciting along the realistic but legitimate side of appeal; and this is where the story of the right kind becomes so valuable, and why the teacher who is artistic enough to undertake the task can find the short path to results which theorists seek for so long in vain. It is not even necessary to have an exceedingly exciting story; sometimes one which will bring about pure reaction may be just as suitable.

I remember in my personal experience an instance of this kind. I had been reading with some children of about ten years old the story from "Cymbeline" of Imogen in the forest scene, when the brothers strew flowers upon her, and sing the funeral dirge, Fear no more the heat of the sun.

Just as we had all taken on this tender, gentle mood, the door opened and one of the prefects announced in a loud voice the news of the relief of Mafeking. The children were on their feet at once, cheering lustily, and for the moment the joy over the relief of the brave garrison was the predominant feeling. Then, I took advantage of a momentary reaction and said: "Now, children, don't you think we can pay England the tribute of going back to England's greatest poet?" In a few minutes we were back in the heart of the forest, and I can still hear the delightful intonation of those subdued voices repeating, Golden lads and girls all must Like chimney-sweepers come to dust.

It is interesting to note that the same problem that is exercising us today was a source of difficulty to people in remote times. The following is taken from an old Chinese document, and has particular interest for us at this time: "The philosopher, Mentius (born 371 B. C.), was left fatherless at a very tender age and brought up by his mother, Changsi. The care of this prudent and attentive mother has been cited as a model for all virtuous parents. The house she occupied was near that of a butcher; she observed at the first cry of the animals that were being slaughtered, the little Mentius ran to be present at the sight, and that, on his return, he sought to imitate what he had seen. Fearful lest his heart might become hardened, and accustomed to the sights of blood, she removed to another house which was in the neighborhood of a cemetery. The relations of those who were buried there came often to weep upon their graves, and make their customary libations. The lad soon took pleasure in their ceremonies and amused himself by imitating them. This was a new subject of uneasiness to his mother: she feared her son might come to consider as a jest what is of all things the most serious, and that he might acquire a habit of performing with levity, and as a matter of routine merely, ceremonies which demand the most exact attention and respect. Again, therefore, she anxiously changed the dwelling, and went to live in the city, opposite a school, where her son found examples the most worthy of imitation, and began to profit by them.

This anecdote has become incorporated by the Chinese into a proverb, which they constantly quote: The mother of Mentius seeks a neighborhood." Another influence we have to counteract is that of newspaper headings and placards which catch the eye of children in the streets and appeal so powerfully to their imagination.

Shakespeare has said: Tell me where is Fancy bred, Or in the heart, or in the head? How begot, how nourished? It is engendered in the eyes With gazing fed, And Fancy dies in the cradle where it lies.

Let us all ring Fancy's knell.

I'll begin it—ding, dong, bell.

—"Merchant of Venice." If this be true, it is of importance to decide what our children shall look upon as far as we can control the vision, so that we can form some idea of the effect upon their imagination.

Having alluded to the dangerous influence of the street, I should hasten to say that this influence is very far from being altogether bad. There are possibilities of romance in street life which may have just the same kind of effect on children as the telling of exciting stories. I am indebted to Mrs. Arnold Glover, Honorary Secretary of the National Organization of Girls' Clubs,[36] one of the most widely informed people on this subject, for the two following experiences gathered from the streets and which bear indirectly on the subject of storytelling: Mrs. Glover was visiting a sick woman in a very poor neighborhood, and found, sitting on the door-step of the house, two little children, holding something tightly grasped in their little hands, and gazing with much expectancy towards the top of the street. She longed to know what they were doing, but not being one of those unimaginative and tactless folk who rush headlong into the mysteries of children's doings, she passed them at first in silence. It was only when she found them still in the same silent and expectant posture half an hour later that she said tentatively: "I wonder whether you would tell me what you are doing here?" After some hesitation, one of them said, in a shy voice: "We're waitin' for the barrer." It then transpired that, once a week, a vegetable-andflower- cart was driven through this particular street, on its way to a more prosperous neighborhood, and on a few red-letter days, a flower, or a sprig, or even a root sometimes fell out of the back of the cart; and these two little children were sitting there in hope, with their hands full of soil, ready to plant anything which might by some golden chance fall that way, in their secret garden of oyster shells.

This seems to me as charming a fairy tale as any that our books can supply.

On another occasion, Mrs. Glover was collecting the pennies for the Holiday Fund Savings Bank from the children who came weekly to her house. She noticed on three consecutive Mondays that one little lad deliberately helped himself to a new envelope from her table. Not wishing to frighten or startle him, she allowed this to continue for some weeks, and then one day, having dismissed the other children, she asked him quite quietly why he was taking the envelopes.

At first he was very sulky, and said: "I need them more than you do." She quite agreed this might be, but reminded him that, after all, they belonged to her. She promised, however, that if he would tell her for what purpose he wanted the envelopes, she would endeavor to help him in the matter. Then came the astonishing announcement: "I am building a navy." After a little more gradual questioning, Mrs. Glover drew from the boy the information that the Borough water carts passed through the side street once a week, flushing the gutter; that then the envelope ships were made to sail on the water and pass under the covered ways which formed bridges for wayfarers and tunnels for the "navy." Great was the excitement when the ships passed out of sight and were recognized as they arrived safely at the other end. Of course, the expenses in raw material were greatly diminished by the illicit acquisition of Mrs. Glover's property, and in this way she had unconsciously provided the neighborhood with a navy and a commander. Her first instinct, after becoming acquainted with the whole story, was to present the boy with a real boat, but on second thought she collected and gave him a number of old envelopes with names and addresses upon them, which added greatly to the excitement of the sailing, because they could be more easily identified as they came out of the other end of the tunnel, and had their respective reputations as to speed.

Here is indeed food for romance, and I give both instances to prove that the advantages of street life are to be taken into consideration as well as the disadvantages, though I think we are bound to admit that the latter outweigh the former.

One of the immediate results of dramatic stories is the escape from the commonplace, to which I have already alluded in quoting Mr. Goschen's words.

The desire for this escape is a healthy one, common to adults and children. When we wish to get away from our own surroundings and interests, we do for ourselves what I maintain we ought to do for children: we step into the land of fiction. It has always been a source of astonishment to me that, in trying to escape from our own everyday surroundings, we do not step more boldly into the land of pure romance, which would form a real contrast to our everyday life, but, in nine cases out of ten, the fiction which is sought after deals with the subjects of our ordinary existence, namely, frenzied finance, sordid poverty, political corruption, fast society, and religious doubts.

There is the same danger in the selection of fiction for children: namely, a tendency to choose very utilitarian stories, both in form and substance, so that we do not lift the children out of the commonplace. I remember once seeing the titles of two little books, the contents of which were being read or told to children; one was called, "Tom the Bootblack"; the other, "Dan the Newsboy." My chief objection to these stories was the fact that neither of the heroes rejoiced in his work for the work's sake. Had Tom even invented a new kind of blacking, or if Dan had started a newspaper, it might have been encouraging for those among the listeners who were thinking of engaging in similar professions. It is true, both gentlemen amassed large fortunes, but surely the school age is not to be limited to such dreams and aspirations as these! One wearies of the tales of boys who arrive in a town with one cent in their pocket and leave it as millionaires, with the added importance of a mayoralty. It is undoubtedly true that the romantic prototype of these worthy youths is Dick Whittingon, for whom we unconsciously cherish the affection which we often bestow on a far-off personage. Perhaps—who can say?—it is the picturesque adjunct of the cat, lacking to modern millionaires.

I do not think it Utopian to present to children a fair share of stories which deal with the importance of things "untouched by hand." They, too, can learn at an early age that "the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are unseen are spiritual." To those who wish to try the effect of such stories on children, I present for their encouragement the following lines from James Whitcomb Riley: THE TREASURE OF THE WISE MAN[37] Oh, the night was dark and the night was late, When the robbers came to rob him; And they picked the lock of his palace-gate, The robbers who came to rob him— They picked the lock of the palace-gate, Seized his jewels and gems of State, His coffers of gold and his priceless plate,— The robbers that came to rob him.

But loud laughed he in the morning red!— For of what had the robbers robbed him? Ho! hidden safe, as he slept in bed, When the robbers came to rob him,— They robbed him not of a golden shred Of the childish dreams in his wise old head— "And they're welcome to all things else," he said, When the robbers came to rob him.

There is a great deal of this romantic spirit, combined with a delightful sense of irresponsibility, which I claim above all things for small children, to be found in our old nursery rhymes. I quote from the following article written by the Rev. R.

L. Gales for the Nation.

After speaking on the subject of fairy stories being eliminated from the school curriculum, the writer adds: "This would be lessening the joy of the world and taking from generations yet unborn the capacity for wonder, the power to take a large unselfish interest in the spectacle of things, and putting them forever at the mercy of small private cares.

"A nursery rhyme is the most sane, the most unselfish thing in the world. It calls up some delightful image—a little nut-tree with a silver walnut and a golden pear; some romantic adventure only for the child's delight and liberation from the bondage of unseeing dullness: it brings before the mind the quintessence of some good thing: "'The little dog laughed to see such sport'—there is the soul of good humor, of sanity, of health in the laughter of that innocently wicked little dog. It is the laughter of pure frolic without unkindness. To have laughed with the little dog as a child is the best preservative against mirthless laughter in later years—the horse laughter of brutality, the ugly laughter of spite, the acrid laughter of fanaticism. The world of nursery rhymes, the old world of Mrs. Slipper- Slopper, is the world of natural things, of quick, healthy motion, of the joy of living.

"In nursery rhymes the child is entertained with all the pageant of the world. It walks in fairy gardens, and for it the singing birds pass. All the King's horses and all the King's men pass before it in their glorious array. Craftsmen of all sorts, bakers, confectioners, silversmiths, blacksmiths are busy for it with all their arts and mysteries, as at the court of an eastern King." In insisting upon the value of this escape from the commonplace, I cannot prove the importance of it more clearly than by showing what may happen to a child who is deprived of his birthright by having none of the fairy tale element presented to him. In "Father and Son," Mr. Edmund Gosse says: "Meanwhile, capable as I was of reading, I found my greatest pleasure in the pages of books. The range of these was limited, for storybooks of every description were sternly excluded. No fiction of any kind, religious or secular, was admitted into the house. In this it was to my Mother, not to my Father, that the prohibition was due. She had a remarkable, I confess, to me somewhat unaccountable impression that to 'tell a story,' that is, to compose fictitious narrative of any king, was a sin. . . . Nor would she read the chivalrous tales in the verse of Sir Walter Scott, obstinately alleging that they were not true. She would nothing but lyrical and subjective poetry. As a child, however, she had possessed a passion for making up stories, and so considerable a skill in it, that she was constantly being begged to indulge others with its exercise. . . . 'When I was a very little child,' she says, 'I used to amuse myself and my brothers with inventing stories such as I had read. Having, I suppose, a naturally restless mind and busy imagination, this soon became the chief pleasure of my life.

Unfortunately, my brothers were always fond of encouraging this propensity, and I found in Taylor, my maid, a still greater tempter. I had not known there was any harm in it, until Miss Shore, a Calvinistic governess, finding it out, lectured me severely and told me it was wicked. From that time forth, I considered that to invent a story of any kind was a sin. . . . But the longing to do so grew with violence. . . . The simplicity of Truth was not enough for me. I must needs embroider imagination upon it, and the vanity and wickedness which disgraced my heart are more than I am able to express.' This [the author, her son, adds] is surely a very painful instance of the repression of an instinct." In contrast to the stifling of the imagination, it is good to recall the story of the great Hermite who, having listened to the discussion of the Monday sitting at the Académie des Sciences (Insitut de France) as to the best way to teach the "young idea how to shoot" in the direction of mathematical genius, said: Cultivez l'imagination, messieurs. Tout est Là. Si vous voulez des mathé maticiens, donnez à vos enfants à lire—des Contes de Fées." Another important effect of the story is to develop at an early age sympathy for children of other countries where conditions are different from our own.

I have so constantly to deal with the question of confusion between truth and fiction in the minds of children that it might be useful to offer here an example of the way they make the distinction for themselves.

Mrs. Ewing says on this subject: "If there are young intellects so imperfect as to be incapable of distinguishing between fancy and falsehood, it is most desirable to develop in them the power to do so, but, as a rule, in childhood, we appreciate the distinction with a vivacity which as elders our care- clogged memories fail to recall." Mr. P. A. Barnett, in his book on the "Common-sense of Education," says, alluding to fairy-tales: "Children will act them but not act upon them, and they will not accept the incidents as part of their effectual belief. They will imagine, to be sure, grotesque worlds, full of admirable and interesting personages to whom strange things might have happened. So much the better: this largeness of imagination is one of the possessions that distinguish the better nurtured child from others less fortunate." The following passage from Stevenson's essay on "Child Play" [38] will furnish an instance of children's aptitude for creating their own dramatic atmosphere: "When my cousin and I took our porridge of a morning, we had a device to enliven the course of a meal. He ate his with sugar, and explained it to be a country continually buried under snow. I took mine with milk, and explained it to be country suffering gradual inundation. You can imagine us exchanging bulletins; how here was an island still unsubmerged, here a valley not yet covered with snow; what inventions were made; how his population lived in cabins on perches and traveled on stilts, and how mine was always in boats; how the interest grew furious as the last corner of safe ground was cut off on all sides and grew smaller every moment; and how, in fine, the food was of altogether secondary importance, and might even have been nauseous, so long as we seasoned it with these dreams. But perhaps the most exciting moments I ever had over a meal were in the case of calf's foot jelly. It was hardly possible not to believe—and you may be quite sure, so far from trying, I did all I could to favor the illusion—that some part of it was hollow and that sooner or later my spoon would lay open the secret tabernacle of the golden rock. There, might some Red- Beard await his hour; there might one find the treasures of the Forty Thieves.

And so I quarried on slowly, with bated breath, savoring the interest. Believe me, I had little palate left for the jelly; and though I preferred the taste when I tool cream with it, I used often to go without because the cream dimmed the transparent fractures." In his work on "Imagination," Ribot says: "The free initiative of children is always superior to the imitations we pretend to make for them." The passage from Robert Louis Stevenson becomes more clear from a scientific point of view when taken in connection with one from Karl Groos' book on the "Psychology of Animal Play": "The child is wholly absorbed in his play, and yet under the ebb and flow of thought and feeling like still water under wind-swept waves, he has the knowledge that it is pretense after all. Behind the sham 'I' that takes part in the game, stands the unchanged 'I' which regards the sham 'I' with quiet superiority." Queyrat speaks of play as one of the distinct phases of a child's imagination; it is "essentially a metamorphosis of reality, a transformation of places and things." Now to return to the point which Mrs. Ewing makes, namely, that we should develop in normal children the power of distinguishing between truth and falsehood.

I should suggest including two or three stories which would test that power in children, and if they fail to realize the difference between romancing and telling lies, then it is evident that they need special attention and help along this line. I give the titles of two stories of this kind in the collection at the end of the book.

[39] Thus far we have dealt only with the negative results of stories, but there are more important effects, and I am persuaded that if we are careful in our choice of stories, and artistic in our presentation, so that the truth is framed, so to speak, in the memory, we can unconsciously correct evil tendencies in children which they recognize in themselves only when they have already criticized them in the characters of the story. I have sometimes been misunderstood on this point, and, therefore, I should like to make it quite clear. I do not mean that stories should take the place entirely of moral or direct teaching, but that on many occasions they could supplement and strengthen moral teaching, because the dramatic appeal to the imagination is quicker than the moral appeal to the conscience. A child will often resist the latter lest it should make him uncomfortable or appeal to his personal sense of responsibility: it is often not in his power to resist the former, because it has taken possession of him before he is aware of it.

As a concrete example, I offer three verses from a poem entitled, "A Ballad for a Boy," written some twelve years ago by W. Cory, an Eton master. The whole poem is to be found in a book of poems known as "Ionica."[40] The poem describes a fight between two ships, the French ship, Téméraire, and the English ship, Quebec. The English ship was destroyed by fire; Farmer, the captain, was killed, and the officers take prisoners: They dealt with us as brethren, they mourned for Farmer dead, And as the wounded captives passed each Breton bowed the head.

Then spoke the French lieutenant: "'Twas the fire that won, not we.

You never struck your flag to us; You'll go to England free."[41] 'Twas the sixth day of October, seventeen hundred seventy-nine, A year when nations ventured against us to combine, Quebec was burned and Farmer slain, by us remembered not; But thanks be to the French book wherein they're not forgot.

And you, if you've got to fight the French, my youngster, bear in mind Those seamen of King Louis so chivalrous and kind; Think of the Breton gentlemen who took our lads to Brest, And treat some rescued Breton as a comrade and a guest.

But in all our stories, in order to produce desired effects we must refrain from holding, as Burroughs says, "a brief for either side," and we must let the people in the story be judged by their deeds and leave the decision of the children free in this matter.[42] In a review of Ladd's "Psychology" in the Academy, we find a passage which refers as much to the story as to the novel: "The psychological novelist girds up his loins and sets himself to write little essays on each of his characters. If he have the gift of the thing he may analyze motives with a subtlety which is more than their desert, and exhibit simple folk passing through the most dazzling rotations. If he be a novice, he is reduced to mere crude invention —the result in both cases is quite beyond the true purpose of Art. Art—when all is said and done—is a suggestion, and it refuses to be explained. Make it obvious, unfold it in detail, and you reduce it to a dead letter." Again, there is a sentence by Schopenhauer applied to novels which would apply equally well to stories: "Skill consists in setting the inner life in motion with the smallest possible array of circumstances, for it is this inner life that excites our interest." In order to produce an encouraging and lasting effect by means of our stories, we should be careful to introduce a certain number from fiction where virtue is rewarded and vice punished, because to appreciate the fact that "virtue is its own reward" it takes a developed and philosophic mind, or a born saint, of whom there will not, I think, be many among normal children: a comforting fact, on the whole, as the normal teacher is apt to confuse them with prigs.

A grande dame visiting an elementary school listened to the telling of an exciting story from fiction, and was impressed by the thrill of delight which passed through the children. But when the story was finished, she said: "But oh! what a pity the story was not taken from actual history!" Now, not only was this comment quite beside the mark, but the lady in question did not realize that pure fiction has one quality which history cannot have. The historian, bound by fact and accuracy, must often let his hero come to grief. The poet (or, in this case we may call him, in the Greek sense, the "maker" of stories) strives to show ideal justice.

What encouragement to virtue, except for the abnormal child, can be offered by the stories of good men coming to grief, such as we find Miltiades, Phocion, Socrates, Severus, Cicero, Cato and Cæsar? Sir Philip Sydney says in his "Defence of Poesy": "Only the poet declining to be held by the limitations of the lawyer, the historian, the grammarian, the rhetorician, the logician, the physician, the metaphysician is lifted up with the vigor of his own imagination; doth grow in effect into another nature in making things either better than Nature bringeth forth or quite anew, as the Heroes, Demi-gods, Cyclops, Furies and such like so as he goeth hand-in-hand with Nature, not inclosed in the narrow range of her gifts but freely ranging within the Zodiac of his own art—her world is brazen; the poet only delivers a golden one." The effect of the story need not stop at the negative task of correcting evil tendencies. There is the positive effect of translating the abstract ideal of the story into concrete action.

I was told by Lady Henry Somerset that when the first set of children came down from London for a fortnight's holiday in the country, she was much startled and shocked by the obscenity of the games they played amongst themselves.

Being a sound psychologist, Lady Henry wisely refrained from appearing surprised or from attempting any direct method of reproof. "I saw," she said, "that the 'goody' element would have no effect, so I changed the whole atmosphere by reading to them or telling them the most thrilling medieval tales without any commentary. By the end of the fortnight the activities had all changed. The boys were performing astonishing deeds of prowess, and the girls were allowing themselves to be rescued from burning towers and fetid dungeons." Now, if these deeds of chivalry appear somewhat stilted to us, we can at least realize that, having changed the whole atmosphere of the filthy games, it is easier to translate the deeds into something a little more in accordance with the spirit of the age, and boys will more readily wish later on to save their sisters from dangers more sordid and commonplace than fiery towers and dark dungeons, if they have once performed the deeds in which they had to court danger and self- sacrifice for themselves.

And now we come to the question as to how these effects are to be maintained.

In what has already been stated as to the danger of introducing the dogmatic and direct appeal into the story, it is evident that the avoidance of this element is the first means of preserving the story in all its artistic force in the memory of the child. We must be careful, as I point out in the chapter on Questions, not to interfere by comment or question with the atmosphere we have made round the story, or else, in the future, that story will become blurred and overlaid with the remembrance, not of the artistic whole, as presented by the teller of the story, but by some unimportant small side issue raised by an irrelevant question or a superfluous comment.

Many people think that the dramatization of the story by the children themselves helps to maintain the effect produced. Personally, I fear there is the same danger as in the immediate reproduction of the story, but by some unimportant small side issue raised by an irrelevant question or a superfluous comment.

Many people think that the dramatization of the story by the children themselves helps to maintain the effect produced. Personally, I fear there is the same danger as in the immediate reproduction of the story, namely, that the general dramatic effect may be weakened.

If, however, there is to be dramatization (and I do not wish to dogmatize on the subject), I think it should be confined to facts and not fancies, and this is why I realize the futility of the dramatization of fairy tales.

Horace E. Scudder says on this subject: "Nothing has done more to vulgarize the fairy than its introduction on the stage.

The charm of the fairy tale is its divorce from human experience: the charm of the stage is its realization in miniature of human life. If a frog is heard to speak, if a dog is changed before our eyes into a prince by having cold water dashed over it, the charm of the fairy tale has fled, and, in its place, we have the perplexing pleasure of legerdemain. Since the real life of a fairy is in the imagination, a wrong is committed when it is dragged from its shadowy hidingplace and made to turn into ashes under the calcium light of the understanding." [43] I am bound to admit that the teachers have a case when they plead for this reproducing of the story, and there are three arguments they use the validity of which I admit, but which have nevertheless not converted me, because the loss, to my mind, would exceed the gain.

The first argument they put forward is that the reproduction of the story enables the child to enlarge and improve his vocabulary. Now I greatly sympathize with this point of view, but, as I regard the story hour as a very precious and special one, which I think may have a lasting effect on the character of a child, I do not think it important that, during this hour, a child should be called upon to improve his vocabulary at the expense of the dramatic whole, and at the expense of the literary form in which the story has been presented. It would be like using the Bible for parsing or paraphrase or pronunciation. So far, I believe, the line has been drawn here, though there are blasphemers who have laid impious hands on Milton or Shakespeare for this purpose.

There are surely other lessons, as I have already said in dealing with the reproduction of the story quite apart from the dramatization, lessons more utilitarian in character, which can be used for this purpose: the facts of history (I mean the mere facts as compared with the deep truths), and those of geography.

Above all, the grammar lessons are those in which the vocabulary can be enlarged and improved. But I am anxious to keep the story hour apart as dedicated to something higher than these excellent but utilitarian considerations.

The second argument used by the teachers is the joy felt by the children in being allowed to dramatize the stories. This, too, appeals very strongly to me, but there is a means of satisfying their desire and yet protecting the dramatic whole, and that is occasionally to allow children to act out their own dramatic inventions; this, to my mind, has great educational significance: it is original and creative work and, apart from the joy of the immediate performance, there is the interesting process of comparison which can be presented to the children, showing them the difference between their elementary attempts and the finished product of the experienced artist. This difference they can be led to recognize by their own powers of observation if the teachers are not in too great a hurry to point it out themselves.

Here is a short original story, quoted by the French psychologist, Queyrat, in his "Jeux de l'Enfance," written by a child of five: "One day I went to sea in a life-boat—all at once I saw an enormous whale, and I jumped out of the boat to catch him, but he was so big that I climbed on his back and rode astride, and all the little fishes laughed to see." Here is a complete and exciting drama, making a wonderful picture and teeming with adventure. We could scarcely offer anything to so small a child for reproduction that would be a greater stimulus to the imagination.

Here is another, offered by Loti, but the age of the child is not given: "Once upon a time a little girl out in the Colonies cut open a huge melon, and out popped a green beast and stung her, and the little child died." Loti adds: "The phrases 'out in the Colonies' and 'a huge melon' were enough to plunge me suddenly into a dream. As by an apparition, I beheld tropical trees, forests alive with marvelous birds. Oh! the simple magic of the words 'the Colonies'! In my childhood they stood for a multitude of distant sun-scorched countries, with their palm-trees, their enormous flowers, their black natives, their wild beasts, their endless possibilities of adventure." I quote this in full because it shows so clearly the magic force of words to evoke pictures, without any material representation. It is just the opposite effect of the pictures presented to the bodily eye without the splendid educational opportunity for the child to form his own mental image.

I am more and more convinced that the rare power of visualization is accounted for by the lack of mental practice afforded along these lines.

The third argument used by teachers in favor of the dramatization of the stories is that it is a means of discovering how much the child has really learned from the story. Now this argument makes absolutely no appeal to me.

My experience, in the first place, has taught me that a child very seldom gives out any account of a deep impression made upon him: it is too sacred and personal. But he very soon learns to know what is expected of him, and he keeps a set of stock sentences which he has found out are acceptable to the teacher.

How can we possibly gauge the deep effects of a story in this way, or how can a child, by acting out a story, describe the subtle elements which one has tried to introduce? One might as well try to show with a pint measure how the sun and rain have affected a plant, instead of rejoicing in the beauty of the sure, if slow, growth.

Then, again, why are we in such a hurry to find out what effects have been produced by our stories? Does it matter whether we know today or tomorrow how much a child has understood? For my part, so sure do I feel of the effect that I am willing to wait indefinitely. Only, I must make sure that the first presentation is truly dramatic and artistic.

The teachers of general subjects have a much easier and more simple task. Those who teach science, mathematics, even, to a certain extent, history and literature, are able to gauge with a fair amount of accuracy by means of examination what their pupils have learned. The teaching carried on by means of stories can never be gauged in the same manner.

Carlyle has said: "Of this thing be certain: wouldst thou plant for Eternity, then plant into the deep infinite faculties of man, his Fantasy and Heart. Wouldst thou plant for Year and Day, then plant into his shallow superficial faculties, his self-love and arithmetical understanding, what will grow there."[44] If we use this marvelous art of story-telling in the way I have tried to show, then the children who have been confided to our care will one day be able to bring us the tribute which Björnson brought to Hans Christian Andersen: Wings you gave to my Imagination, Me uplifting to the strange and great; Gave my heart the poet's revelation, Glorifying things of low estate.

When my child-soul hungered all-unknowing, With great truths its need you satisfied: Now, a world-worn man, to you is owing That the child in me has never died.

Reference book: The Art Of The Story-Teller

Tags: Speech, public speaking, story telling, stories, ,

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