Monday, February 27, 2017

Satirical Tales for the Making!

Imagine a concise and pithy story that sheds light on the repeatable and fairly predictable failings of humankind. If you then imagine that, so that no one can possibly take offence, those tales have animals or inanimate objects as the main characters, you have imagined FABLES! Whether they are traditional fables passed on in the oral tradition or literary fables written by a single author, they share a common ability to serve the needs of their current masters: those who would adapt them to suit the times we live in.

My first adaptation of a fable was Aesop’s: “The Tortoise and the Hare.” I had been searching for a family story that would encourage slow readers to believe that they were as important as those who sped through books. I found the framework for my story in that classic tale. My version had the rabbit literally tripping over the tortoise in the road, berating it for being a Rock. And, because I have a deep aversion to our consumer driven society that keeps us rushing from store to store, from sale to sale, my rabbit trips because he is so focused on the next SALE, he doesn’t even see what is in front of him! The tortoise was just there, in the road, pulled into his shell and happily reading. But reading what? Letters, of course!! The rabbit is disdainful of this, showing off how he reads and speeding through the words, sentences and paragraphs in the same book, but the rabbit reads so fast that, much to the children’s delight, he misses the part about the ice cream! When the race between the two does begin, it is a race to the library- whomever wins gets a library card from the librarian! Though the tortoise wins (the rabbit was too busy signing autographs) we do find out that at the library, everybody is a winner- librarians give library cards to us all. The characters were a delight to improvise with and embody. Clearly drawn and with a situation that has captured the imagination for so many years I had the best Material to work with, for aren’t these time-honored satirical tales from another century material to stitch and re-stitch?

At the Sharing the Fire storytelling conference this March, I’ll be taking those in my workshop on a wild and wooly exploration of the riches fables can yield. We’ll improvise with these “fabulous” characters and situations shining the light of satirical fun on the world we live in. We’ll even experiment with devices like rhyme to see how limiting ourselves to a “form” can yield surprising results. Aesop used his own stories to educate his audiences about the foibles and politics of his time. With all to comment on these days, I can’t wait to see what we come up with at my  “Fun with Aesop’s Fables” workshop at the Northeast Storytelling Conference: Sharing The Fire this year!

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