Pleasures and Treasures

I would like to…

… read introductory hints for storytelling

… locate more guidance for telling oral stories

… locate story collections (in books) suitable for oral telling

watch and listen on line to oral storytellers

… peruse stories on line suitable for oral telling

… explore on line answers to questions storytellers are frequently asked



Introductory Hints for Oral Storytelling

Selecting , modifying or writing a story for oral storytelling are all arts in their own right. In what follows it‘s assumed you have already available a relatively well-formed story you wish to prepare and learn for telling. The guidelines also do not address the practical considerations of what you might do immediately before a telling/performance and during your telling.

It does not take much reflection to discover that how you go about preparing and learning a story depends onthe story, the occasion of telling, the audience, and your own preferences. Working with a story which happens to be a relatively long literary masterpiece (eg Oscar Wild’s The Selfish Giant ) is quite different from learning to tell Henny Penny or an anecdote ; preparing to tell a story for a specific TV audience which will be prerecorded (thus requiring precise camera cuing and positioning) is quite different to telling to your own child informally at bedtime; and, you may know your own learning style so well that you are already convinced there is only one way for you to learn a story. So… the following guidelines are offered as useful when you seek to prepare some stories, on some occasions, with some audiences, with certain personal preferences.

  • Make the story your own by listening to it and reading it a few times before summarising it . Create your own story skeleton, outline, storyboard (stick figure cartoons), or mind map, of the main events & features in the story. This then becomes a basis for reconstructing your version of the story orally over time (eg 10 days or so). Ideally, visualise in your imagination each scene or event in the story from your notes.
  • Clarify the most important thing about the story for you that you want the story to convey to the audience/listeners (NOT to tell listeners, but to help shape your own version for telling). For example, the most important thing about a particular story for you may be: the cunning of a character, the mystery of love, or a message – hope will prevail, or that listeners delight in the rich word play of the language. Many possibilities, which may all shape what you include, delete and change in your story.
  • Note parts of the story that you really prefer (or need) to keep close to the original wording. For example, repeated lines of a chorus (‘Little Pig, Little pig…’), or phrases that appeal to you as poetic, just right, essential. These parts along with the opening and closing sentences are ones to know very well, to over-learn so to speak.
  • Tell the story aloud to yourself (with and without notes). If possible picture each event/scene in the story as you tell it (some people are better visualiser than others so don’t give yourself a hard time doing this)…… Afterwards, note where you have fluency and feel satisfied, where you want to find better wording (eg when you get tongue tied), and where your mind goes blank.
  • Practice & Repeat the process with the same experimental , playful attitude. Space your repetitions. Some people find useful telling…while looking in a mirror; to a dog/cat; a supportive friend/partner; making a recording to listen to.

*** You may like also to obtain a free booklet Tips for storytelling which includes further hints and guidelines for preparing a story to tell at a storysharing meetings. Contact Us


More guidance for telling oral stories

Lipman, Doug (1999) Improving Your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics for all Who Tell Stories in Work or Play August House: Little Rock, Kansas.
Guaranteed to provide practical insights into how you prepare and learn stories to tell. Lipman brings his personal experience and principled thinking to his guidance; a wise, outstanding coach.

Maguire, Jack (1998) The Power of Personal Storytelling: Spinning Tales to Connect With Others New York, New York: Jeremy P.Tarcher/Putnam.
Loaded with quotes, practical hints, and personal story triggers, this book argues for the promotion of storytelling and listening in a variety of social contexts: family community and work. It includes guidelines for tapping into memories, building stories, learning stories, conveying a story effectively, and identifying situations where storytelling will serve yourself and others.

McKay, Helen & Dudley, Berice (1996) About Storytelling: A Practical Guide Marrickville, Sydney: Hale & Iremonger. (A more recent second edition exists also)
This is the only totally home-grown Australian book about the general art and craft of storytelling. It is pithily comprehensive, chatty and easy to read. Although it sometimes adopts a distractingly didactic tone, it does address most of the basic practical questions any storyteller seeks to have answered.

Pepper, Bill (2003/4) Voice in Action DVD & Booklet. Currency Press, NSW (Distributors)
A very practical DVD with a supporting booklet showing and explaining a range of voice exercises demonstrated by NIDA leader Bill Pepper with a group of workshop participants. The exercises cover a sensible range ‘designed to undo tight, restrictive vocal and physical habits and replace them with freer and more flexible open ones’.

Morgan, John & Rinvolucri, Mario (1983) Once Upon a Time: Using Stories in the Language Classroom Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
Undoubtedly the most accessible, stimulating and flexible source of activities for exploiting stories in language teaching (ie English to Speakers of Other Languages, or other second languages). Adult focus at various levels of language proficiency, but can be readily adapted to younger groups.

Jennings, Claire (1991) Children as Storytellers: Developing language skills in the Classroom Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press Australia.
A well-organised resource book for encouraging storytelling culture at primary school level. It reviews in successive chapters ‘types of stories to tell’, ‘developing awareness of story features’ and ‘techniques for story-telling’ with clear examples and illustrations. It also describes the framework of ‘the storytelling workshop’ as vehicle for teaching, with additional suggestions for widening children’s audiences, for using story across the curriculum, and for integrating curriculum around story.

Mellon, Nancy (2008) Body Eloquence: The Power of Myth and Story to Awaken the Body’s Energies Energy Psychology Press, Santa Rosa: CA , USA
A stimulating interpretation of stories, storytelling and story creation, integrating them with an holistic approach to health. From a strongly Rudoph Steiner metaphysical and metaphorical base (as opposed to conventional science), Nancy Mellon has synthesized how storytelling and story writing processes can address imbalances of energy associated with various body systems (eg heart, kidney, lymphatic) , in turn correlated with the body meridians of traditional Chinese medicine. She explains how personal stories can both indicate imbalances and how the right stories of transformation can play a role in healing with their poetic resonance. Her holism is revealed by the rich variety of stories (both traditional and personal) she provides, her analysis of them, along with yoga exercises, musical recordings, and affirmations to match body systems.

Pellowski, Anne (1990) The World of Storytelling Bronx, New York: H.W. Wilson.
A perspicacious, pioneering reference book for researching the cultural background to storytelling in various countries, throughout history.

Perrow, Susan (2008) Healing Stories for Challenging Behaviour Hawthorne Press: Gloucestershire, UK.
This book is firmly grounded in Perrow’s own storytelling and story writing practice, in Australia and Africa, as a parent, teacher, researcher and counsellor. Quite visibly she values the power of the imagination to heal, for teller, listener, and writer alike, underpinned by the philosophy of Rudoph Steiner and Waldorf education. She focuses on practical nitty gritty matters for parents/teachers who are concerned with the development of young children (toddler to Primary age mainly) The five sectional headings convey her balanced coverage: 1. My Story Journey; 2. Writing Therapeutic Stories; 3. Stories (texts) for Challenging Behaviour (classified to address whingeing, greed; disrespect, bullying etc); 4. Stories for Challenging Situations (eg new baby, illness in family, separation anxiety); and 5. The Art of Storytelling(includes an assessment schedule, and hints about using props, being culturally sensitive etc). Consistent, clear guidelines, and numerous specific story exemplars ensure this book will be a valuable resource for anyone working with young children.

Zipes, Jack (1995) Creative Storytelling: Building Community Changing Lives New York & London, Routledge.
Jack Zipes is a scholar (well known for his collections and discussions of the Grimm brothers and versions of Red Riding Hood), a dedicated educationist, and master storyteller. His writing in this book displays the solid commitment of time he has invested in teaching story to students in schools (primary and secondary). He puts himself on the line with lucid descriptions of his approaches to introducing narrative to children and young adults, and he includes the vigorous texts of many stories as he retells them. He also tackles more narrative genres in detail than most educationists. In addition to fairy tales, fables, legends, and myths, he addresses tall tales, Utopian and Wishing Tales, and science fiction. You may disagree with his strong attitudes to neo-Jungians and his unrelenting exploitation of stories for pedagogical purposes, but he will also inspire you with some powerful ideas and stories.


Story collections (in books) suitable for oral telling

Carter, Angela (ed) (1991+) The Virago Book of Fairy Tales Virago Press, London.
An anthology of gutsy, punchy adult fairy stories with female protagonists in various social and familial roles. Groupings of stories, often unusual and unknown ones, include: Brave, Bold & Wilful; Clever Women, Resourceful Girls and desperate Stratagems; Good Girls and Where it Gets Them; and, Moral Tales.

Kelly, Montgomery (2010) Out of the Storyteller’s Hat ..New Stories to tell 4-7 year olds with songs, poems & Activities Published by Montgomery & Siovan Kelly; details for purchase
A practically-spiral-bound collection of well-tested stories, poems, & action songs for the target audience; the package includes excellent notes on learning and telling; a CD recording of seven items from the approx. 40 total; carefully designed & scaled masters for making illustrative & participatory materials.

MacDonald, Margaret Read (1988/91) When the Lights Go Out: Scary Tales to Tell USA: H.H. Wilson.
This collection, with an audience of primary school level children in mind, includes at least two ghost stories: one, in the ‘Scary in the Dark’ section ‘The Tinker and the Ghost’, the other in the ‘Tales to Act Out’ section ‘Let’s Go on a Ghost Hunt’. MacDonald provides background notes about motif and guidelines for telling supplementing her storyteller-friendly text layout (lines and font designed to support phrasing etc). She also includes a list of some twenty or so very short spooky tales, many of which are ghost stories.

McDonald, Margaret Read (1994) Celebrate the World: Twenty Tellable Folktales for Multicultural Festivals USA: H.W. Wilson Co.
A collection of twenty stories (McDonald’s magic number for several anthologies is twenty) presented in an ‘ethnopoetic’ style, that is with cultural background information, phrasing in lines for telling with certain emphasised words, and practical hints for telling. Although the balance of cultures sampled does not include some that are very significant for Australia (eg Greek, Italian, and Vietnamese), the selection is still useful – supported as it is by practical ideas for exploiting the stories on days of celebration with children of suggested broad age levels (preschool-Year 7). Most of the stories are not found in other common sources and include eight for audience participation and three which can be used with improvisation slots.

Spagnoli, Cathy (1998) Asian Tales and Tellers August House: Little Rock, Arkansas.
A delightful, wide-ranging collection of about 50 stories (1-3 pages) groups around nine value-laden themes like: Harmony and Friendship, Hard work and Study, Faith and Belief, National Identity & Pride. Two exceptionally insightful introductory chapters give rich details succinctly: Storytellers and Styles, Storytelling Tools.

Yolen, Jane (1981/86) Favorite Folktales from Around the World New York: Pantheon Books, Random House.
A wide ranging anthology of stories gathered and selected by a storyteller with a good sense of story and oral language.

Zipes, Jack (ed) (2001) The Great Fairy Tale Tradition: From Straparola and Basile to the Brothers Grimm WW Norton & Co: New York.
An authoritative, comprehensive collection of fairy tales (some 800 pages)which are grouped in sets of 2-4 stories/story versions under accessible themes and motifs. Examples of the forty groupings are: Magical Transformations, The Father’s Betrayal, wild men, the power of Love, and Abandoned Children. Seven critical papers included (some 40 pages) are a bonus, providing insights into the readership of stories in cultural context and other interpretive insights (eg Zipes’ ‘Cross-cultural Connections and Contaminations of the Classical Fairy Tale’).


Oral storytellers to watch and listen on line

Select a site of interest…

A delightful website to sample the variety of storytellers who have been recorded on You-Tube. You can see and hear live performances, displaying their distinctive styles, usually in live performance situations. Recordings are slightly variable in technical quality, shown within a ‘shell’ of a movie screen on your computer. Streaming quality will depend on what speed your computer/modem works, but still worthwhile.

Jeff Gere Youtube   Jeff Gere hails from Honalulu, Hawaii, and is both a multitalented storyteller and  an organiser of festivals and gatherings of storytellers. His enthusiasm, presence, physical expression, and prowess as a performer may stimulate ideas and possibilities for your own telling. His shirts are quite an Hawaiin statement too ! From this link to one personal story Teen Disaster  you can easily select further ones that might appeal. There is great diversity of storytelling by Jeff and others on Youtube.

The Moth
The ‘moth’ alludes to people attracted to stories (like moths to lights). This site includes recordings of 5-12 minute personal stories recorded live. The emphasis is on people telling crafted personal stories about their most exceptional experiences. Click on left hand menu Storytellers then click on button Listen to Stories. No image of the teller.

Jackie Kerin (Victorian storyteller)
Jackie’s site includes several very Australian stories which can be located via the pull down ‘Stories’ menu at the top. They include: Shark (poetry); Phar Lap The Wonder Horse (poetry); A Boy Called Ned Kelly (Prose); No Horse, No Cart, No Shoes – set in C19 South Australia (Prose). Her stories which can be either You-Tube viewable or Listenable via Windows Media or equivalent: some are in poetic (ballad form) some are in prose as noted.

Now Hear This
This site enables you to listen to five minute theme-based personal stories which have been recorded as part of the Now Hear This regular story-slam competition on Radio National, presented by Melanie Tait. You may also be able to participate as one of eight tellers or as a member of the audience when live slams are held in Canberra and Sydney at this stage.


Stories available on line suitable for oral telling

Click on the title of your selected site…

Folklore & Myths
This site established and maintained by Doug Ashlimore at the University of Pittsburg has numerous copyright free texts organised alphabetically for retrieval.

Myths and Legends
A mix of myths and legends from most classical groupings (eg Greek, Roman, Celtic, Norse) and ones created by contemporary storytellers. Distracting animations but useful written and recorded texts.

Index to Andrew Lang’s Fairy Tale Collections
This index enables you to locate specific fairy tales in specific collections and in some cases to locate an electronic text version of it

Grimm’s Tales
This site provides the complete texts of 209 tales, based on Margaret Hunt’s translations (presented as Grimm’s Household Tales).

Classified Stories (A mind Blower !)
Exclusively for storytellers (ie anyone who finds the site), After locating the site homepage, click on SOS: Searching Out Stories, and finally on any of the 101 categories listed.

Many, Many Tales of Wonder
This site is a portal to a large number of other websites archiving more stories than you could ever read in a lifetime. The works of Hans Christian Andersen, Aesop’s Fables and assortments to explore… Unfortunately, some irrelevant, commercial websites occasionally intrude.


Questions Storytellers are Frequently Asked

Tim Sheppard in England generously offers ‘Storytellers FAQ’ beginning with a story, accessible on his website here.