Down to the Bare Bones



                                                                             Marilyn A. Kinsella


Storytellers often talk about paring a story down to its "bare bones." Here are some ways you can do that. Mainly, we pare down a story that is a folktale. Once you love a particular story, try to find other variants of the story. In the library there is a folk tale index that will help you find variants from other countries. The Internet is becoming a vast resource for finding folk tale variants. See Try to read three or four of those variants. Which of the stories appeals to you the most? Perhaps, you may want to combine some elements.







Sometimes, the story will be pretty much as you first heard it or read it. That is okay. That means the story spoke to you just the way it is, and you want to pass it on. But, oftentimes, the story starts to "morph" taking on a new fresh approach. Here are some ways it may (or may not) change.



The story is now your version. You will have it permanently imprinted on your brain. You will never forget it. These are your pictures that you painted from your experiences. Trust me…they will remain with you. If, perchance, you do have a brain glitch…you always have that original story path that is etched indelibly on your brain. Go back to it, if need be, tell about the story… until you find your words once again.

As you tell the story over and over, new layers of the story will unfold, your feelings about a character or event may evolve over the years, you change…the story will change. Sometimes, it’s such a subtle change that you don’t even notice it. Sometimes, it’s an epiphany that suddenly lifts a curtain and the story changes, too.

Your stories are written in stone – but water, sun, use, rain – will add a patina to the stories. They become richer and more polished each and every time you tell them. What started out as a rough nugget, will now be a precious stone becoming even more precious as it is taken out and told over and over.

                                         Here are some story bones ready for you to flesh up!

                                                                               Story Bones

                                                           The Shoemaker and the Elves


Shoemaker who makes beautiful shoes leaves leather out one night to make shoes. In the morning he finds a pair of shoes completed and beautifully done. Someone buys shoes and pays a good price. Shoemaker buys even more leather with money. He lays it out the night before and again shoes are made. More money. This happens again and again as his reputation spreads – more customers. Becoming rich. One night he and his wife wait up to see is doing this. See two naked (or shabbily dressed) elves. Wife agrees to make clothes for them to thank them. Lays out the tiny clothes. The elves are so delighted they sing and dance. They never have to work again. From that day on the shoe business thrived.

For a version of this story, developed in the workshop, click HERE

                                                        The Three Wishes


Woodcutter goes to chop down tree. Wood nymph pleads for him not to. He agrees and she give him 3 wishes. But must not wish for all wishes to come true – too greedy. When he got home he told his wife. Delighted. Decide to eat first and then decide wishes. She serves some very bland food. Disgusted he wishes for a sausage (or other food). Sausage appears. Wife harps on that wish. So angry he wishes for the sausage to grow on the end of her nose. Oops. Now has to use third wish to get rid of sausage.  Riches lost.

                                  For a version written in a workshop, click HERE

                                                                     The Magic Purse


Irishman discovers a leprechaun. Excited for they have a magic purse with a single coin inside. When taken out another appears. Grabs Leprechaun. Argues about the purse. Finally gives him the purse, laughs, and disappears. Goes to bar to buy drinks for everyone. But when he took the coin out another did not reappear. He didn’t realize that leprechauns keep 2 purses – one magic and one not – just in case they get caught. No money to pay for drinks so he is arrested. Judge says he will believe his story only if the leprechaun verifies it. Otherwise 30 days of hard labor. Does his time and never tries to catch a tricky leprechaun again.

                     For a version of this story, developed in a workshop, click HERE

                                                           Reynard and the Fisherman


Monsieur Reynard-the-Fox went down to the river for supper and saw fisherman packing a long string of fish into his cart as he was leaving. Reynard saw his supper! As fisherman is guiding his horse-drawn cart home, the fox  follows in the bushes so he’s not seen. Then the fox runs ahead of the cart and plays dead along road. Horse stops. Fisherman sees dead fox. Excited he throws the fox in the back of the cart and starts thinking about what he will do with the fox pelt: Sell the pelt, use money to buy cow, cow will have calf. Sell them and buy flock of sheep. (meanwhile fox eating the fish). Goes on: Sheep will have lambs, sell to buy a house, make it into an inn, so much money will buy a big store. (still eating fish) Goes on: So rich from the store – rich as the king – so buy a castle. Never have to fish with all the servants and cooks. Eat off silver and gold plates. (Reynard finishes fish) Reynard says – “since I helped you become so rich , I trust that you will invite me to share your kingly spread.  Astonished fisherman says, “But I thought you were dead!” Reynard: “Then I must go home and tell my old mother, she will be sad to hear it.” And runs into woods. Fisherman: “Come back, thief! You are robbing me of my castle and my servants”! Fox: “And I thought I was only robbing you of your fish!” Sly grin, full stomach goes home.


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