The Storyteller

Many years ago, there lived an old man in our country who knew how to tell so many tales that the people said about him: This man is an inexhaustible source. Yet more notably he had the gift of telling each tale in such a way that it became the story of the listener. Often the storyteller had many listeners, and sometimes, after one of his tales, he could hear them having a dispute, for each person felt deeply that the words had been chosen exclusively for him, while someone else claimed the same for himself.

People came to the storyteller with multifarious concerns. There was a mother who accused her son of being dull and inactive. And her son replied that, since she was always wandering restlessly about, he could not work. There was a woman who complained that she constantly had to admonish her husband not to drink so much. And her husband said, only when he was drinking could he bear her habit of complaining. There were children who ate too much or too little, there were the sick who wished to recover, and those who were suffering and hoped to be freed from pain. There were couples, who wanted to come together, and others who wished to separate, and many other people who addressed him with their needs. He was able to help all of them in one way or another.

One day a young man stepped up towards him saying: “I want to learn this art of yours.” The old man looked in his eyes. Those eyes told him about the desire of this young man, to be able to tell stories to free people from their sufferings. They also spoke of the young man’s fear that his wish could be denied, and that he would never have the opportunity to learn this art from its master. The old man nodded. “You can live with me as long as you are learning, and you can pay later if you are content with what you have learned. The young man was happy to hear this reply, and thus began his apprenticeship.

“First you need to learn to pay reverence to the stories”, the old man said to him. “Only he who can tremble from the power of a story can receive it with its full effect. You need to find within yourself the yearning for the word of release, for the word that frees, for the word which opens the doors and sends your listeners on a voyage. And you need to learn to be silent. The moment when your tale has its greatest force is the moment when it moves your listener and yourself with the greatest speed. This is when it must end, so you gain momentum and are flung on the path that it shows. – This is not true of all the stories”, he added wisely after a pause.

“You need to learn to feel the power of the words” he stated on another occasion. “One sentence does not have the same power as another. For mostly it is like this: Any word that is too much is taking away some of the story’s power. The contrary may be true for people who talk a lot without saying much: Their speech robs their listeners’ strength.”

“There are different powers within words” he once said. “Threatening and strengthening powers, and power that guides you on your search. All three are good. But you must know, which of the powers is contained in the story that you are telling.” All this the young man heard with curiosity and wonder. Yet he felt grieved to find that the old man did not tell him any stories. It even seemed as if his master hid his tales from him, and only told them when he was absent. At first he did not dare ask the old man about this. But with every day that passed by, his disappointment grew, and finally he decided to address this question. He had not yet opened his mouth when his master began to speak:

Window Cinema

It was raining. No school today. Like every Saturday morning, she stood behind the counter where the bread rolls and cakes and other pastries were displayed for sale. Through the shop window she saw the leaves swept from the trees by the wind swirling through the street. In front of the shop, a woman was struggling with her umbrella. Above the lady she could read the inscription “Miller’s Bakery””, in mirror writing, of course, for anyone looking at the pane from the inside.

When she was alone and did not need to attend to any customers, she liked to imagine that this shop window was a cinema screen and that what she could see behind it was a film. In her imagination, she would alter the scene. The cars would become stage coaches, the leaves would become birds, and the lady with the umbrella could become her mother fighting a wild dragon. Now this image amused her especially. Her mother, who habitually misunderstood her, who could misinterpret any word she said in a splitsecond, who could turn good into bad and bad into good – she would probably win a dragon fight, or at least go for a draw. Until the next fight.

The lady with the umbrella was long gone. Now she imagined what she would write on the shop window, replacing the boring sign “Miller’s Bakery”. How about “You mean a lot to me” or “I like you anyway”? Or “I tease you ‘cause I love you”?

She grinned at the thought. She imagined what these inscriptions would look like on the large shop windowpane. Anyone passing it would be able to read it, including her mother, of course. In her imagination, she saw the inscription “You mean a lot to me”. Would her mother finally understand her if she read those words?” She saw her mother standing in front of the windowpane with a furrowed brow, slowly shaking her head. Then the thought came to her mind: “You need to put your words in mirror writing.”

All by Itself

A man stood at the glass door of a department store early in the morning, with the intention of entering. The door wouldn’t even open an inch. He tried to push against it, but nothing happened. He could have knocked or called. He could have tried to open the door by force. The man did none of these. He looked at the sign with the opening times, looked at his watch, and then went for a walk for about ten minutes. Then he came back and stepped in front of the door. The door now opened all by itself, automatically and as if from the hand of a ghost.


“Ready”, called the egg when it was laid. “Now I’m ready!” called the tadpole when it had hatched. “Now I’m completely ready!” called the creature,animal when it had two legs. “Now, finally, I’m absolutely completely ready!” called the creature when it had four legs and a long tail. “Who knows what else might come…”, said the frog, when it was ready.

The Loud Boy

“My parents never listen to me. They don’t even notice me”, the boy sighed. “He’s forever talking. He speaks long and often. He interrupts others and doesn’t want to be interrupted”, his parents reported. “The louder I got, the less they listened”, said the boy later. “And the less they listened, the louder I got.” Then he learned to speak in a low voice, and his parents listened.

Different Ways to deal with Dogs (or Life)

Today is a snowy day. Just some minutes ago I have been shovelling snow in front of the house and in the driveway. Ma neighbour who is American did the same. His two large dogs came out and greeted me happily. They seemed enthusiastic about the weather. They greeted a mother with her child just as happily. The girl got afraid and drew near to her mother.The dogs’ owner shouted to his dogs and they instantly ran back to him. He gave them a sign to go into the house which they immediately did.

“Why do these dogs run around here? What’s this all about?” shouted the mother. “They’re already going into the house. They’re nice dogs” I said. “Anyway. They shouldn’t run free! Whose dogs are they?”

I imagine that the woman tried to care well for her daughter who was afraid and that she had the very best intentions for her child. Yet, it is possible that the girl was not afraid because of the dogs. It seems to me that she was afraid because of her mother.