September 26, 2009

The Old Man in the Corner

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , , — Sheila @ 2:04 pm
Audio: The Old Man in the Corner

An Adaptation of a Nepali Folktale

Told by Sheila Wee

The old man lay in the corner and remembered.

Remembered a time when he was young and strong.

When he ran through the valleys tending his father’s goats.

But now he is here, old and weak, lying in a corner.

No more running – just a few stumbling steps.

Trembling hands, and a mind that remembers the past, better than it understands the present.

Yes, once he was young and strong and now he is old and weak.

But he has a family.

A son, son’s wife and a grandson – the light of his life.

The boy plays on the floor beside him.

Feeds him patiently with a spoon.

Makes him want to live.

Yes, once he was young and strong, able to dig and plant, to weed and harvest.

Able to take care of his family.

Life was good then and food was plentiful.

It is not so now.

Old and weak he lies on his bed and sees the weariness in his son’s eyes; working so hard for so little.

He sees despair in the eyes of the young woman, his son’s wife, as she tries to make the food feed all four of them.

He sees his grandson grow thinner, not taller.

The young wife looks at the old man lying in the corner – near the end of his life.

The old man who is eating the food that would help her son grow tall and strong.

She thinks of the lifting and carrying of that old body and how it takes her time and strength.

Time that could be spent helping her husband in the fields, growing the crops that could lift them out of poverty.

Late in the night the old man lies in the corner and listens.

Listens to fierce whispers, to tears and sighs between husband and wife.

He hears his name, then the word “temple” and he understands.

Morning comes. The old man lies in the corner and remembers. Remembers how he had placed the stones and shaped

the mud to build this house – this home. This home, which he must now leave.

His grandson laughs and chatters by his side. A sound he will hear no more.

And now comes his son carrying a basket.

The basket that his own dear wife had woven for him, years before. She had woven it strong, strong enough to carry

the heaviest of burdens, wood, rice, or even an old man.

Then came two arms gently lifting. Two eyes downcast, not meeting his. A mouth too ashamed to speak.

And he was now a burden, carried in a basket. A collection of old bones to be taken away.

But then came a voice, young and pure.

“What are you doing father?  Where are you taking grandfather?”

“To the temple my son, they will look after him there.”

“Is that a good place father?”

“Yes, my son.”

“Then bring back the basket, don’t forget. For one day I will need it to carry you to the temple too.”

A moment passed.

A glance went between husband and wife.

Then two arms again were  gently lifting and the basket was empty and the old man was once more in his rightful place.

In the corner of the house, but at the centre of the family.

© Sheila Wee 2007

Please feel free to tell this story, but if you want to publish it in any way please contact me for permission at

October 20, 2009


Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , — Sheila @ 5:29 am


An original story by Julie Wee

In a quiet village, surrounded by mountains, cut off from the rest of the world deep in a landlocked state, an age away from the ocean, lived Kashia.

Kashia had never left her little village. She helped her mother in and around the house, played in and around the village but dreamed over, up and beyond her everyday small town life.

There were few visitors to her village; it was a long hard climb up, with little reward upon arrival, nor promise of anything but cold hard mountain past it. But when Kashia was eight years old, a travelling storyteller, through bad luck, bad weather and a bad case of being lost, found himself in her village. He was a man who was as tall as he was thin, with well-worn clothes, kind eyes and a healthy appetite.

Every evening for a week, he would tell stories by the fire, in exchange for food and a bed for the night. On the first evening, Kashia sat spellbound in the light of the fire and for the rest of the week she spent the daytimes in a haze and the evenings awestruck by the side of the storyteller who weaved mesmerizing tales of the Rajas of India, the desert tribes of Africa and the great ocean adventures of nomadic traders.

For years after the storyteller had come and gone, Kashia would dream of these strange lands. But most of all she dreamed of the mysterious and vast ocean that he had told of. She imagined what waves might look like, rocking and tossing a ship at will. She imagined the colours she would see, the feeling of sand in between her toes. She imagined the sound of the waves ebbing and flowing, and the seagulls cawing high up in the sky.

Kashia made up her own stories of lonely lighthouse keepers, strong sailors and terrifying shipwrecks. Her fantasies swept from the wild excitement of pirate adventures to the quiet tranquillity of stretching out over the sand on a sunny day. But all these pictures were invented in her mind, never had she ever smelt a whiff of the salty sea breeze.

As a child, she would lead the others in violent games of ‘Shipwreck Island’, and as an adult, she spent the time meant to be working, staring off into the distance, her mind stretching over the mountainous expanse towards the ocean. But the ocean was far far away, too far away for even dreams. Getting to the ocean was too far, too treacherous, too ambitions, too frivolous.

“Get back to work!” her mother would yell. She was getting a reputation as an absent-minded young lady. “You’ll never get married, never amount to anything.”

If you hear something said often enough, it starts to take effect. So Kashia pushed her dream aside and concentrated on useful and worthwhile pursuits like shaping herself into a suitable potential wife and perfecting her domestic abilities. She stayed in her village where she belonged, and kept her dreams to herself.

Now Kashia was in her twenties, and about to get married. Her secret ocean fantasies remained secret. She thought about her dream less and less, especially now she was preparing for her wedding to a handsome and good-natured man from a neighbouring village.

The night before her wedding day, she lay alone on her single bed for the last time. Her mind started wandering back to the night the storyteller had arrived. She recalled the fire in her belly when he had spoken about the ocean and her yearning resurfaced. But she quashed the desire, reproaching herself for thinking such silly thoughts on such an important night. As she drifted into slumber, a little voice inside her whispered, “Another time, I’ll see the ocean another time.”

Now Kashia was a mother of two grown children; two boys who were about to leave home in search of work. Kashia was sad to see them go, she would miss them very much. She was also glad that they would have the chance to leave their little village and seek their fortune.

As the boys were saying their goodbyes, her eldest son declared that he would go to the city and become a carpenter. The youngest son had also made his decision. “I’m going to make my way to the ocean and become a sailor.”

Kashia felt a strange trembling in her stomach. “The ocean….” She was now middle aged, it had been a long time since she had thought earnestly about her dream. Without giving her feelings away, Kashia kissed her boys farewell and waved them off as they walked down the path and disappeared into the distance. “It’s only a daydream,” Kashia thought to herself, “ My place is here.” And she pushed all thoughts of sand and sea out of her mind.

Kashia was now a frail old lady, with a waking stick and a hunch. She had a lot to be proud of. She had a lived a happy life with a loving husband and had raised two delightful boys. Nearing the end of her life, she had many hours to sit and ponder, and many more hours to daydream. Naturally her mind would bring her to the ocean, but she knew her place, she was an old woman, too old to go chasing dreams.

Kashia’s husband fell ill and lying on his deathbed, he spoke of his love for her and how he could not have led a happier life. If he had one regret, a regret that he had kept a secret, it would have been to have to made the long journey to see the ocean.

Kashia froze. “The ocean? You dreamed of seeing the ocean?”

“Yes, but I had responsibilities. I had to stay here where I belonged.”

Silent, Kashia leaned over and kissed him.

Their sons were called back home to bid farewell to their dying father. After the quiet funeral, Kashia called her youngest son aside and asked of him the one thing she wanted most, but had never dared to ask anybody. He protested, but she protested harder. She was strong enough to make the journey, and what did it matter if she wasn’t, she felt more alive now than she had all her life. She had made the decision. She had conquered her fear of judgement, and she had no responsibilities left to worry about. She would go now or never.

Seeing the passion in his mother’s eyes surprised her son and he agreed. The next morning, after packing a small travelling bag, they began their long and arduous journey.

They began slowly, on foot, making their way down the mountainside. When they arrived at the village at the base of the mountain, they bartered Kashia’s delicious cakes for a ride through the valley. As they passed the point that would lead Kashia further than she’d ever been before, a flutter of butterflies bubbled up in her stomach. She was like a little child again, looking around in fascination with the unsuppressed desire to shout “Are we there yet?”

The whole journey took them over a week, and as they were passing the final threshold past the hills that separated them from the view of the ocean, Kashia’s son wrapped his arm around his mother’s shoulders and shared her joy as the trembling Kashia breathed deeply the salty tangy air.

The cart went over the final hill revealing the open ocean beyond. The sea was rough and violent, reflecting the clear blue and white of the sunny sky above. Waves were crashing loudly against rock and there was a ship bobbing its way out to sea. The open sky and the endless ocean stretching towards the flat line of the horizon were so new yet so familiar to Kashia. Kashia and her son sat together on the grassy hill in silent awe. Kashia in fulfilling the simple yet what had almost been an unattainable dream of a lifetime, and her son soaking in his mother’s pleasure.

After a long while, Kashia slowly stood up and made her way down the slope and onto the beach. Barefoot and loving it, Kashia wriggled her toes and dug her feet into the sand. Kashia stood just at the point where the waves recede back into the mass of water and took her first step into the cool salty ocean, then walked fully clothed into the water. She’d done it. She had seen, touched and experienced her dream. In her next life, she would not wait so long.

September 16, 2009

The Stonecutter’s Wishes

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , , — Sheila @ 7:44 am
Audio: The Stonecutter’s Wishes

A Japanese Folktale

Hack! Hack! Hack! The stonecutter was toiling under the burning sun driving his chisel into the stone with his heavy mallet. He led a simple life working as a stonecutter all day and returning to his wife and child in the evening.

On this sweltering day, the stonecutter was feeling particularly grumpy and his mood blackened when he saw his wealthy landlord pass by in a sheltered horse-drawn carriage.

“Oh to be a wealthy man in a cool carriage, never having to do a hard days toil in the hot sun…’ the stonecutter grumbled.

In a flash, the startled stonecutter found himself sitting in a small room. A small room that seemed to be moving! He was bouncing up and down, and up and down. Gripping his seat, he cautiously peered out the window and saw that he was indeed moving in a horse-drawn carriage.

Down below, he saw the stonecutters working in the quarry wearing their dusty grey uniforms. He looked at his own clothes and discovered that he was wearing a magnificent gown embroidered with gold thread. The stonecutter was speechless with wonder he couldn’t believe his luck!

After a while though, he began to feel uncomfortable, sweating under the heavy gown. The heat seemed even more oppressive in the enclosed carriage. The rocking became overwhelming as a sickening wave of nausea struck him.

“What’s the point of being a wealthy man with gold clothes when you can feel as terrible as this?” he asked himself as he yelled for the carriage to stop before tumbling out onto the ground.

As he lay on his back, breathing deeply, he squinted up at the blazing sun. “Oh to be the powerful sun… and not have any worries nor the weak constitution of a man.”

Instantly, the man was no longer a man, but an immaculate orb of light. Being the sun itself, he felt neither hot nor cold. Just powerful. He blazed as hard as he could over the land way below him.

Just as he was beginning to have fun watching streams dry up and the parched ground crack, a large cloud blocked his way.  No matter how hard he shined, the cloud was impenetrable. He felt useless.

“I see now that clouds are more powerful than the sun. I want to be a cloud,” the man commanded becoming used to this strange magic.

A cool, vaporous, spreading feeling washed over him. He was closer to the earth now covering every inch of it in shadow. This pleased him as he thought of the helpless sun above.  He looked at the parched land below and decided to have a bit of fun. A thunderstorm! He started to drizzle, then rain, then launched into a fabulous downpour. For a touch of theatrics, he flashed with lightning and boomed with thunder. He aimed his bolts at trees, which split dramatically down the middle.

Then he aimed at the rock on which he had toiled as a man but the effect was disappointing. A few tiny pieces broke off the surface, but the rock was otherwise unscathed.

“Obviously rock is more powerful than cloud,” he said laughing to himself. He couldn’t believe that he had thought that he’d be most powerful as a soft fluffy cloud.

“Time to become rock!” he ordered.

Suddenly he felt very still and solid. He tried to move, but he was absolutely stuck. A sharp stinging sensation, chipped away at him.

Hack! Hack! Hack! It was a stonecutter driving his chisel into him with his heavy mallet!

It suddenly dawned on him; he didn’t want to be a landlord in a carriage, nor the sun or cloud or rock. He didn’t need such power. He just wanted to be himself, the humble stonecutter, to go home every evening to his wife and child.

“Please… I’d like to be myself again.”

And in a flash, he was old self, with his chisel in one hand and his mallet in the other.

September 13, 2009

A City Under Siege

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: — Sheila @ 1:48 pm

Audio: A City Under Siege

Once upon a time, the citizens of a walled city were under attack. The enemy had closed in and surrounded the city, so the citizens could not escape and neither could food nor supplies get in.

The people were close to starvation. They were at their wits end – should they surrender or keep what little pride they had left to die of hunger?

The weary ruler decided it would be best just to wave the white flag and hope that the enemy would take some pity on them. Just as they were about to lower the drawbridge of the city, an old woman pushed through the crowd and urged them to stop. She knew how to save the city. All it required was a cow.

“A cow?” the people snorted, “All our cows have either been eaten or have died of hunger.”

“I’m sure there must be a cow hidden somewhere, people can become very secretive during hard times. Find me a cow, and the city will be saved!”

The doubtful citizens set about searching and eventually, in the basement of one of the houses, a soft ‘moo-ing’ could be heard. And sure enough, a cow was found hidden in the basement of a selfish family who had been keeping the cow’s milk for themselves.

The old woman, with the cow by her side, then asked for 2 buckets of grain.

“You are crazy old woman!” an angry man shouted, “We don’t have enough grain to fill two buckets.”

“If everyone contributes what they have, we will soon fill these two buckets”

The people were torn, this old woman was so sure of herself, yet they didn’t want to give up the last of their meager food supply. “This is a sacrifice that we will have to make, to save our city,” she said calmly as she emptied the last of her own grain into the first bucket.

Eventually each family added a handful or two of grain to the buckets and at last they were full. The old woman then took the buckets of grain over to the cow and tipped the grain onto the ground. The hungry cow promptly started crunching and munching away.

“We’re starving ourselves and you want to feed 2 buckets of grain to a cow?” By now the people were furious. They would have attacked the woman if the city’s ruler hadn’t stepped in to protect her.

“We have nothing to lose by following this old woman, if you remember correctly, this morning we were about to surrender. This could be our last hope of survival, let’s give it a chance.” He then commanded all the people to return to their homes for the night.

Once the cow had polished off all the grain, the woman asked the soldiers to open the gates, and she quickly pushed the cow out of the city. The cow was immediately spotted by an enemy sentry, swiftly captured and brought to the General.

The General was shocked when he saw the cow. I thought we had starved them out, and they have a spare cow?

But to his officers he laughed, “They think that one miserable cow will buy our mercy? Hah! …However, it will make a tasty dinner…” For you see, the enemy was rather short on food supplies themselves.

That evening they feasted on freshly roasted beef, but later that night, a trembling kitchen hand was brought before the General.

“Sir, when I was gutting the cow… I found undigested grain in its stomach!”

The General went pale, the city people had enough food to feed their cows whole grain? They weren’t starving in their walled city, they were just waiting the General and his army out before they attacked! He had obviously underestimated his opponent’s resilience and preparedness for war. They were no match to his tired forces.

Before dawn the next morning, the enemy soldiers had broken camp and retreated back to their own land. The cow, the grain and the old woman had saved the walled city.

How to Catch a Thief

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , — Sheila @ 1:39 pm
Audio: How to Catch a Thief

There once was an isolated village tucked away high up in the hills.

One morning, there was a bubbling of commotion from each of the small houses.

“Have you seen my gold bracelet?”

“My grandmother’s ring is gone!”

“My money’s been stolen!”

The angry villagers crowded in the square complaining and lamenting their stolen treasures. Everyone clamored to see the village chief.

Eventually, the head of the village called for order. He examined each villager in turn and solemnly asked them to line up. He announced, “This village is so isolated, that we have had no sign of outsiders for months. Furthermore, all the valuables were stolen from secret places within each house that only an insider who has entered each home and observed the daily lives of our people could know where they were hidden. I regret to conclude that the thief is one of us”

A wave of surprise flowed through the crowd.

“Chief, how do you plan to root out the thief? I have lost over ninety gold coins!” exclaimed one of the village men.

“Be patient my friend, we will find out in due course.”

The village chief then carried out a roll call to make sure that all the villagers were accounted for.

The chief then brought out a palm-sized statue of an ancient god. Over the head of the statue, he sprinkled soot from an old fire. He showed it to the villagers and instructed, “Each villager is to go inside my home. They are to squeeze this statue with all their might. If they are innocent, the statue will remain silent. If the person is guilty, the statue will scream a deafening cry.”

The people were skeptical about black magic and surprised that the levelheaded village chief would suggest such a foolish act, but desperate to have their valuables returned, they agreed.

One by one, the villagers silently entered the house to squeeze the little statue. Everyone outside listened, waiting for an earsplitting shriek, but none came.

When the last person had entered, squeezed the statue and emerged without so much as a peep, the square burst into an angry racket.

The chief was calm and again called for order. He invited all the villagers to stand in a large circle and hold out their hands in front of them.

As he made his way round the circle, he spoke,

“The statue was squeezed, but it did not make a sound. This is because statues do not and cannot scream or shriek.

People who are innocent, have nothing to lose by squeezing an inanimate object. But the guilty are wary and careful. They don’t want to get caught. So the guilty party did not squeeze the statue for fear that it would scream.

But in doing so, he gave himself away for he is the only person in this village circle who has clean hands. And that is you my friend.”

The man who had complained about the loss of his ninety gold coins looked down at his hands in horror, then up at the wise chief. He had no choice but to confess to being the thief.

September 10, 2009

The Farmer’s Lazy Son

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , , , — Sheila @ 4:47 pm
Audio: The Farmer’s Lazy Son

An Italian Folktale

“Giorgio! Can you please help me with these baskets, I need to get them to market before the sun rises.”

“Father, can’t you see I’m sleeping. I’ll help you when I wake up.”

“Giorgio, can you hold this ladder steady while I clean the roof?”

“Father, I’m having my breakfast, a young boy needs to build up his strength.”

“…Giorgio, can you help me now?”

“Sorry father, I can’t keep Matteo waiting, I have to go fishing now. Bye!”

Giorgio always had an excuse. He was either too tired, too hungry, too sociable, too sad, too happy, too busy.  Busy doing what?  His father could never figure that out.

Giorgio’s father was growing old. He had to  work hard on the farm to grow enough vegetables and herbs to sustain the family.  Without any help from Giorgio,  it was becoming too much for him.

One day, Antonio, a dear friend from the old father’s past came to stay. He was a large, cheerful man, who was always full of ideas, but most importantly he was perceptive.

After just a morning of observing Giorgio, he had seen how the father was at his wits end on how to get the boy to do even an ounce of work. Pleading, cajoling and even threats had no effect on the lazy Giorgio.

Antonio whispered to the father, “If you trust me, my friend, you will follow my lead.”

Antonio disappeared into his room for a while and when he came out, he held an old piece of leather in his hands.

“Giorgio, come here quick, I have the opportunity of a lifetime for you!”

“Antonio, I’m in the middle of sun tanning, why don’t you come over to me?”

“But Giorgio, this is a treasure map.”

Upon hearing the golden words, ‘treasure map’, Giorgio leapt from his deckchair and scrambled over to Antonio.  Antonio explained that he had just discovered this treasure map deep in the cupboard of his room. It was a map of one of the fields that Giorgio’s father owned, and it promised that 100 silver coins were to be found in that field. Giorgio snatched the map from Antonio, grabbed a spade and ran to the field eager to find the treasure.

Antonio and the boy’s father followed slowly behind. When they arrived at the field, they were amazed to see Giorgio digging with gusto. But he wasn’t really getting anywhere. The ground was too hard, too solid to dig up.

“Hey Giorgio!” shouted Antonio from across the field, “why don’t you water the field, then it’ll be easier for you to dig.”

Giorgio followed his advice with such haste that his father had to do a double take to check if this boy was really his son. He had never seen him working, let alone working so fast.

The next morning, despite it being a Sunday, Giorgio was up before dawn to continue his treasure hunt. When he saw the villagers passing by on their way to church, he grew protective over his field. He decided to scatter manure over the ground, to keep any busybodies away.

Later that afternoon, the two older men visited Giorgio at the treasure field. They followed behind Giorgio who was plowing hard. As they walked and talked, Antonio surreptitiously dropped what looked like tiny handfuls of dust along the way.

After Giorgio had plowed the entire field to no avail, he thrust the treasure map at Antonio and exclaimed with frustration that he had just wasted his time with this treasure-less hunt. The field was empty.

Soon Giorgio was back to his usual ways, busy doing nothing.

By this time, a few weeks had passed since Antonio’s visit, and the plan was ripe for the picking – quite literally.

“Giorgio, come look at this!”

“Father, I’m playing solitaire.”

“It’s your field, it’s full of treasure!”

In a flash, Giorgio was at his father’s side. The whole field was now covered in gleaming green leafy spinach!

“Those are vegetables father. Where’s the treasure?”

“Giorgio, Giorgio, Giorgio, you are looking at your treasure, it was in the field all the time. The spinach will earn you 100 silver coins at market.”

And so, the embarrassed Giorgio discovered the treasure of hard work rewarded.

From then on, he became a real farmer, not just a farmer’s son, busy growing his own produce and reaping the benefits of his labour.

September 6, 2009

Two Thirsty Frogs

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , — Sheila @ 2:27 pm
Audio: Two Thirsty Frogs

There were once two lost frogs who couldn’t find their way back to their pond. They hopped here and they hopped there. But they were decidedly lost.

They were lost and beginning to get very thirsty.

Then, ahead of them they saw an extraordinary pond. It was as white as the clouds above. They were so parched, they hop-sprinted over to the pond and leaped into it.

As soon as they hit the sticky liquid they realized they’d made a mistake. This was not a pond at all, but a bucket of cream! Thick dense cream that was beginning to pull them under!

They tried to scramble up the sides of the bucket, but the silky cream made them slip and slide.

After thrashing around for some time, one of the frogs burst into tears. She was exhausted and thirsty and could not even begin to imagine how they would escape. She couldn’t see an end in sight. After a while she just stopped paddling, and let herself to sink to the bottom.

The other frog called after her and did his best to get her to keep her swimming, but it was no use, she had given up.

The lonely little frog kept treading cream, and treading cream and treading cream and after a while, the cream started to thicken. He kept going, and eventually, the cream hardened into butter. All the little fellow had to do then was hop out of the bucket and he was on his way.

Classroom Activity:

Making Butter

This story demonstrates the importance of perseverance and never giving up, as well as the how ones attitude to a situation can either make you or break you.

If you are telling this story to young kids, you could couple it with a butter making activity.

You’ll need:

  • Heavy cream (do not use reduced fat cream, as butter is made from the fat content of milk)
  • Small jars with secure lids (baby food jar size is perfect)
  • Salt (for taste if you want to try your butter after)
  • Crackers
  • Butter knife

Fill half the jar with the cream. Secure the lid and shake. It may take as little as 10 minutes, though it may take longer depending on the vigor of the shaking.

To keep the children interested, you could play a game like musical statues while they shake their jars of cream.

Or if you just want to make one jar of butter, the children could just take turns shaking it.

Explain to the children that cream is made up of tiny globs of fat and tiny globs of protein. When you shake the cream, these globs stick together to form butter!

The solid part of the mixture is butter and the liquid on top is buttermilk.

Tip: If possible, try and keep the cream/butter cold for preservation purposes.

If you are brave and have been hygienic in your preparation, the kids can try their butter by adding a little bit of salt and spreading their butter on crackers.

A Little Drop of Honey

Audio: A Little Drop of Honey

On a warm afternoon, on the second floor of a splendid palace that overlooked the market place of the city, sat a king and his minister. While the king was eating some puffed rice on honey, he looked over his land with satisfaction. What a prosperous city he ruled. What a magnificent city

As he was daydreaming, a little drop if honey dripped from his puffed rice onto the window ledge.

The minister was about to call a servant to wipe up the honey, when the king waved a hand to stop him. “Don’t bother, it’s only a little drop of honey, it’s not our problem.”

The minister watched the drop of honey slowly trickle down the window ledge and land on the street below.

Soon, a buzzing fly landed on the sweet drop of honey.

A nearby lizard shot out its long tongue and caught the fly.

The lizard was taken by surprise when a cat leapt on it.

The cat was pounced on by its worst enemy the dog  that  had broken free from its chain.

Meeowing and barking erupted from the street below the King and his minister. The minister was about to call a servant to go and deal with the brawling cat and dog when the king said, ”Relax, the cat and dog belong to the market people. We shouldn’t interfere. It’s not our problem.”

The cat’s owner was horrified to see her cat being attacked by the big bully of a dog and started whacking the dog with her broom. The dog’s owner was horrified to see her dog being attacked by the big bully of a cat and started whacking the cat with her broom.

Soon, people started coming out from their stalls and houses to see what all the screaming and shouting was about. Seeing their friend’s cat being attacked, they joined in berating the dog and its owner. Others, seeing their friend’s dog being attacked by the cat, also joined in. Very quickly, the shouting became violent and a fight broke out in the street.

The worried minister turned to the King but his only comment was, “Not our problem. Here, have some more puffed rice and honey.” The king and his adviser ate as they watched the fray below.

Soon the police were called in to break up the fight, but the people were so angry, each side convinced that they were right, (right about what, they couldn’t remember). They started attacking the policemen. The fight rapidly broke out into a full scale riot.

The king eyed the minister and said, “I know what you are thinking, but the army will handle it. Besides, this is not out problem.”

The riot swiftly escalated into a civil war with looting and destruction all over the city. Buildings were set alight and by nightfall, the magnificent city was reduced to a pile of smoking ashes. The king and his minister stood spellbound, rooted to the spot where they had been watching all day. Their mouths were hanging open in horror.

“Oh…” said the king quietly, “maybe the little drop of honey WAS our problem.”

Dear Story Readers,

This could be a great story for encouraging responsible leadership, as well as taking initiative and nipping problems in the bud.

It’s quite a funny story in the way everything escalates so rapidly. A tip for telling this story is to let the stakes build in your voice with each incident topping the other, while still keeping it light and calm when you come to the sections about the king – because he really doesn’t think it’s his problem!

~ Julie

The Gentleman on the Beam

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , — Sheila @ 12:51 pm

In old China, there lived a scholar named Chen Shi. Chen Shi was a well-respected man in his region. A region that had fallen on bad times after a terrible flood.

Late one night, a thief broke into Chen Shi’s house and stealthily crept around the sleeping household.  Suddenly, the thief heard a rustling sound. Someone was coming.  He looked around for a place to hide himself, but the room had little furniture in it – there was nowhere to hide.   In desperation he looked around again and this time he looked upwards, up to the roof beams.

With a running jump he scrambled up onto one of the roof beams He pressed his body along the length of the pole, and stayed as still and quiet as he could – hardly breathing , not moving a muscle.

The door below opened, and in walked an old man; Chen Shi.  Chen Shi took a few steps into the room and stopped. He seemed to be lost in thought.

Then he called out to a servant to wake his sons. He then walked over to a chair in the middle of the room, sat down, and waited.

Soon, Chen Shi’s three sleepy sons shuffled into the room.

“What’s wrong father?” asked the youngest son.

“I just wanted to ask you boys a question.” answered Chen Shi.

The oldest son was surprised, “You woke us all up in the middle of the night because you wanted to ask us a question? Couldn’t it have waited till the morning?”

“It is an important question. Now sit down all of you. My question is: If a person does bad things, is he a bad person?”

The room was silent for a while.

Then, the middle son spoke.  “I’ve heard of the phrase, ‘Hate the sin, but not the sinner’, I think that people can be good inside, but they get led astray or get driven to do bad things.”

Chen Shi nodded and replied, ”Yes, I do think that man is born good. But sometimes, people get lax, and conveniently forget what the right thing to do is, and slowly they turn bad. It’s easier to be bad and much, much harder to be good, and do what is right all the time. It takes work and perseverance not to give in.

The old man told his sons about how important working and honesty were. “You must always strive to be honest, to people you know and also people you don’t know. What do YOU think sir?” Chen Shi looked directly up at the unwelcome visitor in the beam.

The thief was so surprised, he almost fell off. Regaining his balance, he slowly climbed down, trembling. When the sons saw the loot in the thief’s bag, they closed in on him, ready to punish him, but Chen Shi stood in between the thief and his sons.

“Hate the sin and not the sinner”, he repeated, then turned to the thief and to everyone’s surprise ordered his servant to give the man a bolt of silk.

Full of shock, shame and gratitude, the thief apologised sincerely.

Chen Shi said, “I have faith in you to become good again. Use this cloth to start over, and live your life with dignity and a healthy amount of pride in yourself.” Then Chen Shi led the man out the front door.

The dismayed man sold the cloth and began a fresh by starting a small business, and never forgot about his night on the beam.

This story made its way around, with everyone amazed at Chen Shi’s wisdom and his ability to forgive. To this day in China, a thief is sometimes referred to as the ‘gentleman on the beam’

Hershel of Ostropol: I Will Do What My Father Did

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , — Sheila @ 10:27 am

Audio: Hershel of Ostropol: I Will Do What My Father Did

A Ukrainian Folktale

Way back in 19th century Ukraine lived a man who is now known as Hershel of Ostropol. Hershel of Ostropol was a poor man who spent his days wandering from village to village, meeting new people and finding adventure along the way.

At sunset, one exceptionally icy winter’s night, Hershel found himself wandering alone on a deserted dirt track. There were no houses or shelter in sight, just miles of darkening hills ahead.

Winter in the Ukraine is bitterly cold, and anyone unable to find shelter would run the risk of not surviving the night. Hershel looked at the path ahead of him, tightened his jacket around him and trudged on in the snow.

After wondering for several hours, Hershel’s heart leapt when he saw the glimmering light of a house in the distance with plumes of smoke escaping from the chimney. With the thought of warming his feet by the fire and having some food in his groaning belly, he widened his stride.

When Hershel reached the house, he realized it was an inn.

Inside, the innkeeper and his wife were packing up for the night when they heard a knock on the door.  The wife grumbled, “Who’s wondering around here at this time of night? You answer, and if he cant pay, don’t let him in!”

The innkeeper lumbered to open the door. The second he saw the shabby Hershel, he knew he wouldn’t have money to pay. “I’m sorry, but we’re closed.”

“Please sir, please help a poor man survive the night. I just ask for whatever you can spare, I will sleep in your barn with the sheep if I must.”

“Let me consult my wife,” said the innkeeper wearily.

But the wife would not hear of it, “If we give him shelter for the night, you know he will want food, and then soon enough we’ll be known throughout Ukraine as the charity inn and we’ll never see the end of old beggars like him. Get rid if him.”

The innkeeper stepped out into the cold and told Hershel, “I’m sorry, our barn is full. We cannot help.”

“Then would you be able to spare a morsel of food?” and observing the character of the innkeeper, added, “I will eat your stalest scrap of bread.”

The innkeeper pictured his wife’s reaction to this and said, “Sorry, there is no food.”

“No food? Who has ever heard of an inn with no food?” Hershel thought to himself.

Hershel contemplated the bitter night ahead of him if he wasn’t given shelter at this isolated inn, and his blood began to boil at the selfishness of the couple.

“Look here, you have a nice home and warm shelter, and I can smell your leftovers from here. If you don’t help me, then I will do what my father did!”

He grabbed the innkeeper by the collar, and shook him. Now, this innkeeper was almost a foot taller than Hershel, but with the shock of his pounce and the desire for survival on his side, Hershel easily overpowered him.

“If you don’t help me, I will do what my father did!” he repeated.


The stunned innkeeper hurtled through the door and hastily pulled out a chair for Hershel. He delved into the cupboards and laid out all the food he could find. Dumplings, stew with hot bread, pickles, cabbage rolls, and Pampushky a delicious doughnut-like desert.

The innkeeper’s wife stormed into the room and was furious to see her best food for paying customers being served to a beggar who didn’t look as of he could pay for bath water. “What is the meaning of all this?”

The innkeeper didn’t even stop to explain, he kept laying out dish after dish. “If we don’t do this, he will do what his father did!”

The fear in his voice rang clear, silencing the woman.

The innkeeper and his wife watched as the hungry Hershel ate morsel after morsel of the scrumptious food. Hershel was hungry, but he didn’t stuff himself. When he was full, he got up from the table and thanked the couple. The innkeeper politely showed him to the best guestroom and ran a steaming bath for him.

Early the next morning, Hershel woke up refreshed. He gathered his belongings and made his way out of the house. The innkeeper, who was already up, offered him some curd cheese pancakes. Hershel thanked him for his kind hospitality, but said he would be on his way.

The innkeeper hovered around the door as Hershel prepared to leave, and just as Hershel was making his way out of the gate towards the road, the innkeeper asked in a meek voice, “Sir, I hope you don’t mind my asking, but what did your father do?”

Hershel turned around and answered, “On cold cold nights like last night, when my father was unable to find any food, my father… went to bed… hungry.

September 5, 2009

Under The Walnut Tree

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , — Sheila @ 4:02 pm

A Mullah Nasruddin Story

Audio: Under the Walnut Tree

Mullah Nasruddin was resting under the shade of a tall and luscious walnut tree. As he sat daydreaming, he noticed huge pumpkins growing on delicate vines snaking across the ground. Then he looked up and squinted to see the tiny walnuts growing on the magnificent tree. “How strange mother nature is,” he thought, “to make plump pumpkins grow on spindly vines while little walnuts have their own impressive tree.”

Just then, a walnut fell from above and landed with a ‘tock’ on Mullah Nasruddin’s head. The mullah rubbed his sore head, picked up the fallen walnut, and looked high up towards the branches of the tree. Then, he looked over thankfully at the swollen pumpkins growing safely on the ground.

“Oh mother nature, you are wise!”

Roses vs Dandelions

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , — Sheila @ 3:59 pm
Audio: Roses vs Dandelions

A Mullah Nasruddin Story

A troubled man went to Mullah Nasruddin for some advice.

“Mullah, I have been trying to grow a rose garden. But all the rose bushes I plant just wither and die. The only flower that does grow are common dandelions. Weeds! They’re everywhere and I just can’t get rid of them. What can I do mullah?”

The mullah thought for a while, “Why don’t you begin your garden all over again?”

“I’ve tried that. I replanted my garden from scratch, but the blooming dandelions just keep growing back again!”

Mullah Nasruddin pondered the options, “You won’t appreciate this, but my advice would be to move house, maybe even city, to where roses will grow better.”

“Oh, no, I cant move house again, I cant afford to, besides, we just moved there. Is there nothing else we can do?”

“Well,” said the Mullah gravely, “This is really the last resort then.  I don’t see what else can be done. I’m afraid you will just have to learn to love dandelions.”

August 31, 2009

The Seagull

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , — Sheila @ 8:18 am
Audio: The Seagull

A little boy was strolling along the beach looking for the best seashells to put on top of the sandcastle he had just built with his mother. As he bent down to pick up a pearly white shell, he got a fright when he saw the carcass of a seagull half buried in the sand. He dropped his bucket and ran over to his mother.

Safe in her arms, he pointed her toward the dead bird.

“What happened to it mama?”

“The seagull died and went up to heaven.”

The little boy looked at the seagull, then at his mother, “And god threw him back down?”

Two Questions

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , — Sheila @ 8:13 am

A Mullah Nasruddin Story

Audio: Two Questions

There was once a wise man named Mullah Nasruddin. Because he was wise, he was popular. Popular when people had problems.

“Mullah Nasruddin, my wife is angry with me, what do I do?”

“Mullah, I have a pain in my stomach, how do I get rid of it?”

“Mullah Nasruddin, how do I solve this, how do I do that?

Mullah, Mullah, Mullah!”

There came a point where all Mullah Nasruddin wanted was a bit of peace and quiet. So he hung a sign upon his door that said

‘Two Questions for 100 silver coins.’

And it worked; no one bothered him for a week. Peace at last he thought.


Mullah Nasruddin dragged himself from his comfy daybed and answered the door. A wealthy man was standing in front of him, holding a large bag of coins in his hand.

“I have the money Mullah. But don’t you think 100 silver coins is a bit steep for only two questions?”

“I don’t think so,” replied Mullah Nasruddin, “Now, what’s your second question?”

How to Dress Appropriately

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , — Sheila @ 7:22 am

A Mullah Nasruddin Story

Audio: How to Dress Appropriately

Once, Mullah Nasruddin, a wise and respected man, arrived at a grand dinner. When he approached the entrance, he was gruffly turned away because he was not dressed well enough. His clothes were too shabby for such a lavish ball.

The mullah went home, and picked out a shiny fur coat, and made his way back to the hall. Dressed like a king, he was lead straight through to the main table where everyone waited on him with sickly sweet politeness.

When the first course arrived, Mullah Nasruddin took a spoonful of hot soup and poured it all down his fur coat. Scoop after scoop he poured. “Eat, fur coat. Come on, eat! It is you that they wanted as a guest, not me!”

Two Frogs

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , — Sheila @ 7:10 am

An Aesop’s Fable

Audio: Two Frogs

There were once two frogs that lived so near and yet so far. One frog lived in a small pond at the bottom of a quiet garden. The other lived by a road on the edge of town. The garden frog had a peaceful life with all the clean drinking and swimming water he wanted. The town frog also had plenty of water, water from puddles and drains. But living by the road was dangerous and stressful.

The garden frog pleaded with his good friend to move in with him, to the peaceful pond, out of harms way. The town frog just shook his head and said he couldn’t imagine moving away from the place he had lived all his life. He was used to his life by the road. No, he would stay where he was, by the road at the edge of the town. The next day, the town frog was run over by a passing vehicle.

Hi StoryReaders,

This is a rather morbid ending to a story (Aesop teaches hard lessons!), but I think it’s rather hilarious in its harshness.
After I adapted this story, I read an article by corporate storyteller Sean Buvala. He said that one of his clients said she couldn’t use this story at work because of its severe ending. Sean says that you can adapt any story to suit your needs. He changed the ending of Two Frogs to the city frog being scooped up by a little girl and put in a tank as a pet. He softened the ending, but still made the point that the smooth and routine path is not always the safest one, and sometimes, risks should be taken.

~ Julie

The Ungrateful Tiger

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , , , — Sheila @ 7:00 am

A Korean Folktale

Audio: The Ungrateful Tiger

There was once a small Korean village that was being plagued by a fearsome tiger. The attacks became so bad that the villagers were too scared to leave their houses, even in the daytime. The village elders got together to work out what to do, because something had to be done.

After a night of discussion, argument and disagreement, they finally came to a decision. They would set traps for the tiger by digging deep holes around the perimeter of the village, fill each hole with a bit of red meat, and cover them up with branches and leaves.

The whole village set to work, each family providing whatever red meat they could spare. Then they waited in their houses. Waited for the tiger to come lurking.

The next morning, the nephew of the village chief, who had come from the city, arrived on foot. As he approached the village he heard an almighty roar. Cautiously, he approached and at the bottom of a pit was a miserable tiger.

“Oh, please please help me get out of here. I’m trapped and I’ll die if you don’t help me. If you help me, I would be eternally in your debt. Forever…”

The young man was confused. “ You promise you wont eat me?”

“Promise, cross my heart!”

The young man looked around and found a long branch sturdy enough for the tiger to grip onto. He lowered it into the pit and the tiger hauled himself up.

The tiger breathed a sigh of relief, then licked his lips, “Why thank you little snack, you’re just in time for tea.”

“But, but, but, you said you’d be eternally grateful! Forever! You promised not to eat me!”

“Everyone knows that you can’t trust the promise of a hungry tiger. And tigers are ALWAYS hungry.”

Just as he was about to pounce, the young man yelled, “WAIT! Lets ask that cow over there if you should keep your promise and NOT eat me.”

The tiger liked games, it made his kill so much more interesting, so he agreed to ask the cow.

The glum looking cow yawned. “Man makes me work hard in the field, then, when I’m too old to work, they make food and shoes out of me. Tiger, go ahead and eat him.”

The tiger prepared to attack, “STOOOOP!” yelled the young man. “I think we need a second opinion, lets ask that little rabbit over there.”

“This is your last chance juicy young man…”

The young man anxiously explained the situation to the little brown rabbit.

The rabbit had a little think then said. “Before I make my decision, I need to see exactly what happened.”

When they arrived at the deep pit, the rabbit said, “Now, show me exactly where you were when this young man passed by.”

The hungry tiger, impatient for his meal, leapt into the pit. “Well, I was in this deep pit, and I started roaring because I was stuck. I was stuck….in this deep, deep pit. I’m stuck! Again!” The tiger began roaring with rage.

The little brown rabbit quickly told the young man to go on his way, and to think next time before he decided to rescue another hungry tiger.

The Crab and its Mother

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , — Sheila @ 6:49 am

An Aesop’s Fable

Audio: The Crab and its Mother

A mother crab, sitting next to her friend the frog, was watching her baby crab walking along the sand.

“Oh, how awkwardly my son walks. His sideways walk is so graceless and unbecoming.”

The mother crab called her baby crab over to her. “Son, please, you’re embarrassing me, don’t walk like that, it’s so much more refined to walk straight forward.”

The little crab tried his best to follow his mother’s instructions, but he could not seem to get his legs to walk straight ahead.

After a frustrating day of trying, he went back to his mother.

“Mother, I have tried to start walking straight ahead, but I just can’t seem to do it. Could you please show me how it’s done?”

The mother crab crawled out of her hole and put one foot in front of the other, but no matter how hard she tried, the only direction that she could go was sideways.

She sighed and scuttled over to her baby crab. “Maybe sideways isn’t so bad…” and off they scurried, as sideways as sideways could be.

August 29, 2009

Sticking Together

Filed under: Story Collection — Tags: , , , — Sheila @ 10:31 am

An Aesop’s Fable

Audio: Sticking Together

There was once a family with four squabbling siblings. The eldest son wanted to youngest son to work harder and the youngest son wanted the eldest daughter to pray harder and the eldest daughter wanted to youngest daughter to stop whining all the time and the youngest daughter just wanted to grow up, get married and get away from the bickering. So as you can see, they all got on each other’s nerves a little bit.

Their father and mother would return from a hard days work to hear, “He did this and she did that!” from all four of their bitter children.

As time wore on, the father grew weak and ill, but even sitting by his deathbed, the siblings would not cease their quarreling. Now the argument had turned into who should get the money when their father died.

“I should get it, I’m the oldest”, said the eldest brother.

“I should get it, I’m the most hardworking”, said the eldest sister.

“I should get it, I still haven’t finished school”, said the youngest son.

“I should get it, I’ll need it for my dowry”, said the youngest daughter.

Finally, the father had had enough. With much effort and the little strength he had left, he heaved himself out of bed and left the room. The siblings were so busy snapping at each other that they didn’t even notice their dying father had gone.

A few minutes later, the father returned. He quietly leaned against the doorframe for support and waited for his children to notice him. Several moments went by before the youngest son saw his father hunched by the door. He elbowed his elder brother to shut up, who poked his younger sister to keep quiet who prodded her younger sister to stop whining. Finally the house was silent.

Their father took a deep breath and held up a bunch of sticks tied together with twine. He held it out to his youngest daughter. “Try to break this bundle twigs”.

The youngest daughter tried, but the bundle would not budge. Then the eldest daughter tried and failed. By this time the youngest son was laughing at his sisters’ weakness grabbed the bundle. He struggled till his face turned red, but was no more successful than his sisters.

The eldest son smirked and reached out for the bundle but soon his smirk melted into a sweaty frown as he too huffed and puffed, and strained and struggled but could not break even one of the twigs in the bundle.

Then, their father asked for the bundle, and after untying the twine, handed each of his children a single twig. “Now, try to break this.”

Snap! Snap! Snap! Snap!

All the twigs were snapped in a second.

“You are these individual twigs. Alone and unprotected. In times of hardship and trouble, you will snap just like the twig in your hand. But if you learn to get along, support and respect each other, then when your enemies seen and unseen attack, you will be as strong and powerful as the bunch of sticks that none of you could break.”

From that day on, though it was difficult at times, all the siblings worked hard to get along and stick together.

Powered by WordPress