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

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 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.

Powered by WordPress