NEXT TELLER: A BOOK OF CANADIAN STORYTELLING
Reviewed by Judy Coulman
Reviewed by Judy Coulman
Volume 22 Number 5
Next Teller: A Book of Canadian Storytelling provides an excellent collection for libraries and story-tellers, young or old. Dan Yashinsky has divided his collection into sections that reflect life: "Curious Children," "Tricksters," "Lovers," "Hauntings" and, finally, "Tellers' Tales." He believes that "the job of the storyteller is not only to make us laugh, or cry or dream; he or she must remind us that all things, both stories and lives, must one day come to an end. The storyteller prepares us for the ending of things by telling us of new beginnings." These stories, which he has selected and carefully grouped for this anthology, support his thesis.
Each story begins with a brief, concise and yet personal preparation for the story written by the story-teller. Some explain the origins of the story; others reflect the evolution of the story from the germ of the idea to the ultimate telling and retelling as it has been refined. Bob Barton describes how, after telling "The Mysterious Singing Drum" for fifteen years, he found the actual story of his telling had changed remarkably into his own variation of the original, although he had learned the story verbatim from a collection of Bantu stories compiled by Kathleen Arnott.
Each story-teller brings her own history and experiences to the telling. Ricky Zurif explains in her introduction the unusual alternate endings in "The Third Wish." She discusses another common theme throughout the book, that one does experience difficulty in capturing the elusive essence of a story, to be told, on paper. Her story had to be transcribed from a live performance because Zurif feels that a story is "not alive until I get up on stage and deliver it personally."
There are opportunities for the reader/teller to find humour as well as horror. I really enjoyed "Va attacher la vache!" from a folktale told by Camille Chiasson, prepared for this publication by Justin Lewis. The prologue to this story offers a special insight into the preservation of our oral history. Camille Chiasson communicated this and many other stories during lunch breaks at his job site when he was well into his seventies! The story is a lyrical amalgam of French and English in a short, humorous stand-off between a husband and wife, both equally determined not to tether the cow.
And there is horror! In "The Curious Girl," a girl who is stubborn, curious and disobedient could be any child at certain times, and is thus the perfect foundation for a horror story. The ending also does not resolve neatly into happily-ever-after mode, and the child is left unable to break the spell, repeating her own story over and over to the evil witch.
In "Name Calling" Itah Sadu, a master weaver of tales, takes an ordinary, everyday occurrence beginning simply with the statement "Jennifer called Cindy a name." Sadu uses repetition, a cumulative narrative and an unresolved ending to provide a vehicle for discussion, learning and pure enjoyment.
Yashinsky provides for each section a brief introduction called "Voiceover" in which he furthers his philosophic analysis of storytelling as a reflection of life. In the voice over for "Curious Children" he states, "If everyone followed the rules all the time, there would be less trouble in the world but there would be fewer stories. To make a story, some one must do something out of the ordinary. Children here all take extraordinary risks .... You must take risks to learn how to grow ...."
My suggestion is that this book should be required reading not only for story-tellers and librarians but also for all people interested in life. Our humanity and sense of unity are expertly woven throughout.
Judy Coulman is a teacher-librarian in Guelph, Ontario
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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