Sara Hurley

Sara Hurley / News / Thu 05 Jul 2012

Red Ball Storytelling 1

Red Ball Storytelling 1

This blog is about one of the two stories I've told so far on this project.

It’s well known that stories work well in many situations from education to bedtime and entertainment to therapy. In the telling of time honoured human themes people can make their own sense and relate it to their own lives. The quiet act of listening gives space for the minds eye to fill with pictures and sensory stimulation through the power of the spoken word. Being involved in a story, physically acting out parts of it for example, puts you into the frame of the story. Bringing imagination, emotional connection, memory or vision to life through the action. Stories are mostly told to groups of people. In that shared experience where everyone gets the ideas, themes and images of the story I doubt that two people ever have the same internal experience.

The first story I thought of when I knew I’d be working on the Red Ball project was ‘The Pedlar of Swaffham’. It’s a classic tale about a man who follows his dream; stepping into the unknown like a fool he lands up with treasure. As I got into the detail of the story I found that many of the ideas we’ve been working on with the children are contained in this story. We find an encourager, thinking about what you want, over coming doubt and fear and thinking about how to take the first step. There is a dream to follow and once a decision has been made the answer comes with unexpected twists and turns.

Pedlars are thin on the ground these days, or the job description has changed anyway! I begin by asking the children what a pedlar is. I use a rhyme I wrote for the story to help conjure him up:

He wanders from village to village with his wares calling out,
“What do you want? What do you lack?
Spoons or dishes
Bracelets or wishes
Tea towels or brushes
Violin bows or string
What do you want? What do you lack?
Best buy it now cos I aint coming back!”

Swaffham is in Norfolk. I remind the children that these are the flat lands over in the east where the Romans liked to live. The place where Queen Boudicca rose up to protect her tribe, the Iceni. Riding down to London on horseback to battle the Roman invaders the ancient Britons beat them on that fierce occasion.

Story outline.
There was once a pedlar who lived in Swaffham. He lived in a tumble down cottage with his wife and children. They did all they could to make ends meet. He went out everyday, walking from village to village selling his wares, and when he came home in the evening they would both work in the garden. They tried to grow vegetables in the scrap of land behind the house but it was difficult because there was a big tree there. Its roots took the goodness from the soil and its leaves stopped light reaching the plants.

One night, the pedlar came home, tired as usual, and went to bed. That night he dreamed that he was standing on London Bridge. In those days it had tall houses on either side. People, carts and horses dashed to and fro, chickens and dogs scurried about between people’s feet. Under the bridge the wide London river ran. Swans swam, ships sailed and there were rowing boats a plenty. Coming towards him was a man dressed in a red coat. The man gave him good news and went on his way.

When the pedlar woke he thought no more about the dream and went about his day. The next night he had the very same dream….standing on the busy bridge….the man in the red coat….the giving of joyful news.
When the pedlar woke he couldn’t remember what the good news was, didn’t think much more about it and went about his business.
On the third night he had the exact same dream….the bridge….the red coated man….happy news.

Now he was perplexed. His mind was full of the dream and he sat down and talked with his wife about it. She listened and asked him questions about it. She was curious, she trusted her husband.
“I’ve half a mind to go down there myself and try and find out what this joyful news is. We could do with a bit of luck round here.”
“Go if you want to dear,” she said. “I can manage the garden and the house and who knows this wonderful man in the red coat might change our lives forever.”
“It’s only a stupid dream remember. I can’t walk all the way to London! What would I eat, where would I sleep? Who in their right mind goes all that way after some mad idea?”
She kept on listening to him and he wondered how she could ever take him seriously. She wanted to help. “Well, you walk round and round in circles all day going about the villages. What happens if you just walk in a straight line instead? She said.
“S’pose I could.”
“You’ve got one answer right there on your back.”
“O’h my pack! Yes, I could sell my wares along the way for a bit of board and lodge.”
“My mother always told me – you don’t know if don’t try. You’re a strong and honest man I know you can do it.” She smiled at him.
“After all, I only have to put one foot in front of the other until I get to London town.” He realised.

The next morning he set off with his pack on his back calling out his song. It was a hard journey but after a few days he arrived at London Bridge, stood there and waited. He waited and watched the world go past for two days. Eager at the sight of every person dressed in anything red. By the end of the second, long, hungry day he wanted to give up and go home. He thought what his wife would say and decided that as the dream had been for three nights he would give it just one more day.

Mid morning on the third day a short man in a red coat came walking up to him. He didn’t carry on by but stopped in front of the pedlar and looked him straight in the eye.
“I’ve been watching you these last few days. What on earth are you doing here! You’re not selling anything nor begging neither.”
The pedlar told the man all about his dream and why he was waiting. He even asked the man if he had any joyful news for him.
“Ha ha ha!” he laughed at the pedlar and talked to him like he was a bumpkin, “you country people and your weird ways. Fancy walking all this way believing you’re going to find your fortune in London and all because of some dream you had. Honestly, I could never be so daft. I mean, only last night I had a dream that I was in some scrappy garden in a pedlar’s house in some poor village called Swaffellam, or something. I started digging underneath this big tree in the garden and there was loads of Roman treasure. Piles of it that no-one knew was there.”
The pedlar smiled wide inside.
“Do you think I’m going to start walking off who knows where after some dream I had. No way. Good luck to you!” Off he went, his red coat disappearing into the crowd.

When the pedlar walked back into his cottage he went straight to the lean to and picked up two shovels. His wife saw how tired and dirty he was and she took the shovel he offered her and followed him into the garden.
“Dig” was all he could say.
They dug. Together dug down deep until their spades hit something hard. They pulled a pot from the ground and tipped the contents onto a blanket. Golden coins poured like shining rain from it. His wife saw some writing on the bottom of the pot but it was not English.
“I think it’s Latin. Quick call the vicar.” The pedlar cried.
The vicar came and translated that there was a bigger pot below. They dug some more and found not one but two more pots filled to the brim with golden coins. Each pot bigger than the last.

The pedlar and his wife wanted for nothing more for the rest of their days. The pedlar built a new house for his family and helped restore the village church that had been in dis-repair since his childhood. They both decided that they wanted to spend their fortune caring for the people of Swaffham.

The End

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