“That’s how my rescue story starts,” said Simplia. “As soon as I heard that story, I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
Sagacia squinched her face. “A shoemaker?”
“No. A storyteller. That was the first story I ever heard performed by someone who defined what she was doing as storytelling. It put me in a trance I had never experienced before. And when the story ended and I woke up, I knew that no matter how long it took, I would become a storyteller. Until that moment, I honestly didn’t know what direction my life would take.”
Sagacia said, “Oddly, or maybe not so oddly, The Shoemaker and the Elves came to me, too, at a time when I needed them. A few years out of school I felt swamped by my student loans. I couldn’t dig myself out of debt. I kept beating myself up for being broke all the time. And then that line ‘through no fault of his own he had fallen upon hard times’ started playing in my head. That’s when I realized that falling on hard times doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve done anything wrong. So instead of giving up, I did what the shoemaker did — I worked with what I had.”
“And what happened,” Simplia asked.
“Help came,” said Sagacia. “Help that could not have come had I not done what I could with what I had.”
Simplia stared at the flickering light of the citronella candle and said, “That reminds me of what Priscilla Howe wrote to us … um, Vasilisa … or Waiting in Winnipeg. Anyway, she wrote.”
At a time in my life when I needed it, I read and began telling the Grimm tale “Maid Maleen.” (a.k.a. Jungfrau Maleen).
Maid Maleen’s father locks her in a tower with no windows or doors for seven years. She and her servant girl wait the whole seven years. When the food begins to dwindle, they know somebody will come save them. Nobody comes, so they scrape away at the mortar and push a stone out of the wall. There has been a war. Everything has been burned. They set about getting free on their own. They could have freed themselves much earlier!
I needed that story of a woman being trapped and at long last using her own strength to get out. The story goes on from there, but that is the part that had the most resonance for where I was in my life.
A story like that, that comes at the right time to serve as a life metaphor, is a blessing.
“Ain’t it the truth,” said Sagacia. “And what about Erica Taraporevola’s experience with a modern fairy tale?”
“What do you mean ‘modern’?” asked Simplia.
“Somebody wrote it — Eleanor Farjeon. And it’s such a solid story, it was exactly what gave hope to someone who was feeling hopeless. Here. Read it out loud to me. The story about the story is a great story.”
“Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep! That one came to Erica’s rescue?! I love that story!” Simplia was flapping, she was so delighted. She unfolded the letter Sagacia had handed to her and read:
(T)he Vetal Tekdi, a hill right in the middle of the city…(is) a beautiful patch of dry deciduous forest and is home to a lot of local biodiversity. About 9 or 10 years ago, there was a draft of the city development plan circulated for comments from citizens, which proposed, that a road was to be built over this hill, … and various groups in the city were up in arms at this outrageous plan. …
Another time, there was a plan to build a tunnel through the hill, again after a lot of activity on the part of various groups, this plan was halted too. This year, again …there was a plan to build 3 roads across the hill, dig a tunnel through the hill and right on top, there were plans to construct an amusement park!!! When I saw this, I suddenly felt very crushed and immobilized. I felt it was hopeless to protest, these guys…would never give up.
About three years ago, I had heard Diane Wolkstein mention this story about an old lady skipping for the children and the children of the children. I did not know the story, other than the few lines that Diane had mentioned in her DVD called ‘Diane Wolkstein: A Storyteller’s Story.” Now strangely, these two lines and the word Elsie Piddock…floated into consciousness. Immediately I trawled the net with a fine comb…. Now this revealed an interesting thing that I did not know earlier, that Elsie Piddock actually had skipped to save a mountain called Mount Caburn from the greedy landlord who wanted to build a factory on the mountain! …
So here was a fairy tale of a presumably fictitious mountain, Mt. Caburn overhanging a fictitious village called Glynde that was saved by some magical skipping by a fictitious old lady. …It came together bit by bit and turned out to be a real mountain, overhanging the real village of Glynde, that had gone through various levels of legal protection, so that today no one can build anything over it!!! You can imagine what the coming together of this information did for my broken spirit.
The coming weekend, the husband and I went up the Vetal Tekdi, my plan was to tell the story of Elsie Piddock … on the hill and make a you tube and share it with the citizens. But it turned out to be a telling for myself, crying and sobbing every time I came to the part of old Elsie saying, “I skip for the children and the children of the children, and you can never stop me.” The whole process of telling the story to my dear husband and the trees and a lone chameleon who sat very still on a dry twig was very cathartic and made me whole again. And then I could again do my bit as a concerned citizen.
We were skipping for the children and the children of the children, and we would keep skipping as long and as many times as was necessary. It was as simple as that. What was there to be heart broken about? The landlords and their modern counterparts had to do what they had to do, and the Elsie’s of the world would keep doing what they had to do.
And once again Erica was rescued by a fairy tale.
Sagacia sighed contentedly.
“There’s a bedtime story for pleasant dreams,” she said. “I hope we hear some more like that.”
Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Little Brother and Little Sister and Other Tales By the Brothers Grimm. Arthur Rackham, illustrator. London: Constable & Company Ltd, 1917.