Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Day Two

Class notes

  • Enter, take charge; draw from the inner self that which is needed to tell the story.
  • To ease concerns over that dreaded word, 'rehearse,' consider instead that working back over material is to turn the soil which in turn aerates it and benefits the crop. The more times one tells the story, the more opportunities to catch words and phrases which will be useful in future tellings.
  • Again: remember to focus, making the most of what is said.
  • Sonnets are composed of fourteen lines; learning the last line first and backing up allows one to begin with strength in the knowledge that at least one already knows 'the end,' so the beginning should be no problem.

Observations from Suddenly They Heard Footsteps

As I read Yashinsky's comments about tampering with traditional stories, I found myself remembering Gail Ross' comments from last summer's institute. She and the Cherokee People had taken great offense (and with good reason!) at another Gail who took a sacred Cherokee story and altered it dramatically to make it suitable for the publishers 'market.'

During that seminar, we learned to respect a culture's sacred text - it isn't our place to interpret revered words to make them suitable for our culture's tastes, especially when those cultures explicitly request this not be done. As Yashinsky says on page 119, we must 'take the care necessary to preserve and respect them.'

I was struck by Yaffa Eliach's comment about our responsibility to preserving stories. She said that stories are alive and are living witness, a quivering soul.' It was hard not to think of the memories that continued to live, unaltered in the minds and hearts of Holocaust survivors and I found it reassuring that great care was taken to deliver them into perpetual remembrance.

Ancient and traditional stories have bones and patterns and it is our responsibility to find the bones and preserve the patterns. It is suggested we review many versions of stories until we find the one that most clearly speaks to us and rings clearly with patterns consistent with other versions of the story. Patterns are rooted in ancient memories; the teller can change and the story may flex, but the story remains embedded in the pattern.

Yashinsky's opinions of what other storyteller/writers have done with stories are quite clear: he disapproves of McCaughrean's comic weakening of the substitution of cream cheese in the oil containers instead of boiling oil to kill the men inside, but the reasoning is sound - those men were there to murder her people, so she cleverly tricked them and saved the day. Stuffing cheese in the air holes is ludicrous and changes the meaning of the story.

Ron Evan's comment was to the point about the Russian fairy tale which had also been altered by another storyteller, when he referred to the magical helpers Falcon,Raven and Eagle saying, 'we tell stories about them, too. We can them Thunder Beings . . .' There you go - it's all in the bones.

No comments: