A Storyteller's Parable

Originally published in Storyline Volume 22, No.2  
Storytelling Association of Alta California

Two hundred children were on the playground as I carried my signature storytelling stool in one arm and my bag of puppets in another, my first day back to this San Francisco public school in eight months.

I could have been the rising sun. Faces turned my way. Smiles, waves, shouts, blushes, and the feather-light touch of fingers welcomed me. "Olive! Miss Olive are you coming to my class?"

The principal turned his back. No greeting at all.

A third-grade teacher welcomed me with an embrace followed by an outpouring of grief. Our collaboration was over because, theoretically, storytelling fit into Second Grade standards only. He sighed. Nor could he share his professional experience with Broadway musical theater. There is no state test to measure the value of producing "Oliver" with his students. 

A nine-year-old boy waited politely for a chance to talk to me.

"Remember me?" he said shyly.

Looking at him I realized he was a Sikh who in kindergarten and first grade wore a pitkah but in second grade had had his hair cut short. "Look", he had announced last year. "Now, no one will beat me up!"

"Yes, of course I remember you."

He nearly burst. "Remember I drew a picture of The Water Witch? I still remember the whole story! Did you look on the back of the paper? I wrote a story of my own. Do you remember what I wrote?" his pleading eyes on me.

"I'm sorry I don't, can you tell it to me now?"

He said "Once there was a treasure buried deep, deep into the earth. A boy was looking for this treasure. He climbed mountains. He went through fire. He wanted that treasure but if he found it, he would lose his soul."


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