Hosted by Patricia Houston, the November 21st meeting was a cornucopia of fairytales told with verve and skill that kept bringing the house down. Patricia started the meeting by giving newcomers a brief history of the Guild and Pat Carfra introduced the Annual Retreat to be held in March of 2012. As the November stories unfolded, a number of them were built around October 31, the “Day of the Dead” or “All Souls’ Day”.
Lee Porteous opened the telling with “Godmother Death” – a story told in cultures throughout the world – this one developed by Doug Lipman and featuring Antonio, born on the Day of the Dead and the godchild of Death who endowed him with power, wealth, justice and mercy. Unfolding the story with her never-failing fluency and verve, Lee provided the panorama of Antonio’s rise to fame and fortune as a healer, followed by his downfall for failing to abide by Death’s strict rules. In true fairy-tale fashion. Antonio suffered the consequence of his transgression – death.
Under the title of “Storytelling” and transposing an Irish tale to a delightful “old Victoria” setting, Andrea Samuels skillfully wove the never-changing importance of storytelling into her tale of the adventures of Johnnie, a young boy lost in Arbutus woods on Christmas Eve. Rescued by phantom riders who provided him with a bull calf – fashioned from a twig of Arbutus – as a mount, he followed them as they crossed the Gorge in full flight. But Johnnie, too, suffered the consequence of ignoring a strict rule and was plunged into the Gorge. Yet he made a wonderful gain – Now HE had a story to tell!
Providing no names within her story “That Day”, Catherine Sheehan led her audience to discover the identities by easy stages and colourful hints. The setting, England at a time when the old king had died; the players are knights, ladies, an old Druid priest and a young boy living with foster parents who don’t know his identity. Then the tournament featuring a block holding a magnificent sword that only the boy can draw forth provides the confirmation. He is Arthur, the true king and the old Druid is Merlin. Catherine’s source story: “Arthur the King” by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
Songs of a Sourdough a collection of the ballads of Robert Service was the source of Pat Carfra’s beautifully expressive recitation of the complete Ballad of the Cremation of Sam McGee – “a wonderful way of getting warm in the freezing conditions of a Canadian Winter.” The enjoyment of the performance was enhanced by audience participation that claimed Robert Service to be “almost” a native son of Victoria.
Deploying her acting skills, considerable sense of humour and her imagination in creating her own story, “Prince”, Phyllis Graham kept her audience participating and sending up gales of laughter as she unfolded a “male version of fairy-tales”, complete with a less than heroic prince. After dealing with a series of grotesque tribulations, the hero reluctantly accepts his princess once they recognize that she is just as hairy as he is. They lived happily ever after and the audience was still laughing.
Providing a veritable quilt of his family history, Al Fowler lovingly unfolded the story of quilt making that went back to his grandmother who made quilts for each of her children. She endowed every one of those quilts with her love as well as her needlecraft and the power of that built-in love revealed itself when one of Al’s uncles returned from the “Great War” bringing back the patch that he had cut out and taken with him as he went to war. Though grandma at one point abandoned her husband and family, when she returned to them, the power of her love patched the family back together.
Having just returned from Tucson and her daughter’s wedding, Sandra Johnson opened her saga by showing a beautifully folded white paper crane that travelled with her through all the joys and hazards of the preparations leading up to the wedding. One of the roadblocks included a gigantic All Souls’ Day festival and parade that inexorably closed down Tucson’s streets. With so much to tell, time became the block that prevented her from revealing the significance of that white crane, but Sandra promised to return and tell.
Anne Forester November 23, 2011