How do you measure a story? Do you measure it in time told or the number of words that are fixed upon the page? In the meaning found in the moment? In feelings of warmth or discontent? Have you ever listened to a story and wished you were in any place other than where you were? And, what about the teller of the tale, were they aware of your discontent or only aware of their desire to share?
We could, like the critic does, measure stories in judgment, and sometimes we do. Perhaps we might measure them by their usefulness or playfulness.
I like to play with stories. Quite a while back I came across a story that intrigued me in a newspaper column – this was the beginning of a playful adventure. I decided to try to hunt it down and wrote Gladys Edmunds, the author of the column, who was kind enough to share what she knew, but I was still having problems learning about the origins of this little tale.
At some point I began playing with the story again and wanted to share one or more of my versions in both oral and written form. I started researching again because I didn’t want to be inadvertently telling a literary tale and I felt I needed to be a bit more knowledgeable about other versions of the story. Now research may not be play for you, but in this case it turned out to be play for me. Having little success, I decided to write to the Storyteller Listserv, a group of oral storytellers, to see if they could be of help. Sure enough several people shared different versions of the story.
But the story I read isn’t the story I share on this site. To see the version I read initially, please click here. And, to see the version, I now have on the site called, The Wise Woman and the Baker, click here.
How do I measure this story? By the playful adventure I had and the people I met along the way. I measure it in insights gained. There are some stories that entertain, some we do not notice and others that we either pull out of the air or bring up from a bit of text and breath into life. And so it goes, whether it is a cherished story we are interested in or a bit of gossip, for it is up to us how we choose to play with the story.
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[Edited for clarity 3/13/2015 and 12/25/2016, and on the latter date removed an image and then added a new image)