And then . . .
And then . . .
Children are natural storytellers and during play one child doesn't carry the burden that might come with "writer's block." The play brings the story and each voice adds a layer. "Pretend I am" and "Pretend we are" layer upon layer as each "and then. . ." gets added.
Children will not get bogged down in reason or realism like an adult would -- would this happen, could this be possible, would I say this, what kind of ending should this story have? One child's idea contradicts another just as quickly as one's builds upon the next's. Each child collaborates and also adds and subtracts. And so the story is told or more accurately, rolls out as if on a ribbon of a road through hills, valleys, across deserts and gnarly forests.
We haven't started reading our Baba Yaga stories yet. I usually wait for the coziness that Winter weather will bring. Nothing says cozy up better than a good Baba Yaga tale. That said, the children who were with us last year and the year before know her already, so she was introduced into their play arcs early. The children who have just joined the class were fascinated. One has added details that make Baba Yaga even better, "She is a Raven. Her name is Raven Baba Yaga. She carries a mermaid tail in her beak. She flies and when she sees the mermaids, she puts on her tail and swims deep into the ocean and deaths the mermaids."
While this storyteller brought these great additions to a familiar story, she introduced new characters to the play including Dracula ("Sshh don't tell anyone, it's a secret, but Dracula is my friend."). She also introduced banshees to the play. I find banshees even more frightening than even Baba Yage and I told the children that I thought these were a very good addition, remembering what I could from stories and from the movie, Darby O'Gill and the Little People (1959) which I always thought was one of the scariest movies I have ever seen.
The children all felt a bit full and big with this new chapter in their tale. Something I thought was a good addition and without any reference in pictures or film, the banshee became whatever they imagined the banshee to be. But with this addition, they needed something more which was interesting because wasn't that enough to go on? But no, the danger quotient is high for this group of children. They want danger on land and sea, not just the forests.
One of the children asked me if there was something scarier than Baba Yaga. I told them the only thing I could think of that was scarier was the "Other Mother," a changeling mother that click clacks around and has button eyes. That's the Neil Gaiman version, but she's older than that. She is a Victorian-era character from the story The New Mother by Lucy Lane Clifford.
She has glass eyes and we do not need to know any more than that because there she is now, in the story with the authors crafting their own story. She is layered in between the others along with the mermaids who are constantly being captured and cooked and the scientists who know the recipes for the potions that will bring them back alive and the sailors who know how to dive down into the sea to retrieve the mermaids' voices that have been stolen over and over again.