6/11/2008

Homage to Scherazade

Hot! Hot! Hot!

Scorching temperatures outside meant that the after-school kids were more restless than usual. Chomping at the bit really. I tell stories for these children once a month so their mood was not a real surprise. When we gathered in the small "story" room they were a wiggling, squirming bunch of arms and legs on the floor in front of me.

I watched for a minute thinking over what story to tell that would quiet them; that they would listen to.

"Do you think you are ready for a scary story?

A pause, a little quiet then " yes, yes."

"I heard this story for the first time when I was about your age and Sister Mary Loyola read it to us on a rainy afternoon. Its a new story for me to tell - but let's see how it goes."

"Before we begin let me tell you about Scherazade - a woman who lived years and years and years ago and told stories to save her life." I quickly told them how the King of Persia, angry at women, kept marrying young brides and killing them off. When Scherazade married him she began to tell him stories, stories that she left unfinished each night. Each night she stopped short - before the ending - and the king, being intrigued, spared her life so that he could hear the finish the next night. This continued for 1001 nights until finally he loved and trusted her and let her live.

"Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves is one of those stories." and I began the story - of how Ali Baba found the robbers' treasure cave and robbed it; how his brother went back to do the same and was discovered and killed by the robbers, and how a smart, clever servant girl saved Ali Baba and his family when the robbers tracked him down for revenge.

As the story unfolded the wiggling children became stilled. All eyes were wide. I saw one boy mouthing, "Open Sesame."

It is a long story but the children stayed quiet - - listening - - under its spell.

Shortly before the story ended, the door opened and a father motioned for his daughter to leave the room. She shook her head, "wait - the story is not over." He came back several minutes later; cracked the door and waved impatiently for her to come - now. She shook her head. " Not now. The robbers are here."

He stepped into the room and sat down.

When I finished the father stood up. "That's really good." he said. "I have already told her about Scherazade - the queen who told stories to save her life."
I nodded.

Scherazade lives.

I love storytelling.