It’s the end of another year and I realise how long it has been since I wrote anything. But I also realise that as much as I love storytelling, I am not very good at writing stories. I miss the interaction. I miss the physicality. I miss looking into the eyes of people and gauging how they are taking the story. I am a storyteller and very proud to be one. I set off on the blog journey with grand plans but they sadly did not lead to much. So I’ll write another with no real intention to make it a weekly thing but simply to celebrate the here and now and to muse over new beginnings.


Last year I had a baby boy. A new life named Barasa to connect with his maternal great grandfather. ‘Bring him back’ by calling his name. A new beginning, a new life which also brought an end to another. My girl Imani lost the exclusivity of my company, forced to share for the first time in 7 years, taking it better some days than others. It has been a wonderful year in that regard, learning to juggle 2 kids, keep the storytelling, make time for relationships and try to keep things going in general. My house was not very tidy this year! Always far more important things to do.

This year I needed a change, something to complement the storytelling and shake my life up a bit, meet new people from  unfamiliar backgrounds. I decided to set up a business, not one that promoted Mara the storyteller, as I’m never very good at self promotion, but one that still celebrated the wonder of Africa. I founded ‘Afrika presents’ an amazing little company that creates products for kids to discover more about diverse aspects of African cultures through imaginative and creative play. Inspired by kids around me and incorporating some into my creative team has been terrific fun.


So the end of things always brings a beginning of another and at the end of the year it always feels like an appropriate time to reflect and consider what the next will bring. I’m going to tell Matthew how wonderful he is more often.  I’m going to visit my parents more often. I’m going to try routine this year. I’m going to focus more and I’m going to employ an accountant!!! I’m going to really kick ass with the stories and I’m going to try and make ‘Afrika presents’ make a real difference. Check it out at

What are you going to do?




The History of Storytelling and the power storytellers possess!

An interesting article… The original post can be found here“THE HISTORY OF STORYTELLING!”Ever since mankind became imaginative, storytellers have been
explaining everything people encountered, whether or not it was true.
These storytellers are modern humans most influential people.
© Donald Louis Hamilton

Human Imagination has given mankind the unique ability to communicate abstract concepts and ideas among its people. It has given its storytellers the power to emotionally enter people’s minds. These storyteller’s have the ability to create happiness or hatred or any other emotion humans may possess. Their ability to persuade make them one of the most powerful groups among the “Homo Imaginative Sapiens” species.

Ever since mankind had evolved a brain capable comprehending abstract ideas, along with an extremely powerful creative imagination, people began to invent words. Their highly sophisticated talking apparatus in their throats plus this powerful new imagination enabled them to create many complex vocal sounds that they could associate with everything they encountered in everyday life, even the mysterious things they encountered but did not understand.

People have from generation to generation gradually created more complex cultures as they progressed. Their highly sophisticated talking apparatus in their throats plus this powerful new imagination enabled them to create many complex vocal sounds that they could associate with everything they encountered in everyday life, even the mysterious things they encountered but did not understand.

They connected these vocal sounds into a series of sounds that became crude sentences. Languages were created. This allowed them to convey more complex and sophisticated ideas to one another. Eventually, the sentences became a language, the language of a particular family or tribe. There are thousands of different languages and dialects in the world today.

People used this crude language to convey everyday deeds and ideas to one another. Some imaginative people in the tribe began using the words to tell stories of events that happened to them, perhaps on a hunt or some other incident. They discovered that if they used their imagination they could embellish their stories with fanciful fabrications. This gave them a sense of power. By telling stories they soon realized that they could influence the other people to do their bidding, either good or bad. They could dominate other people just by their storytelling. They could frighten them with their stories. These people have evolved into our storytellers, mankind’s most influential and powerful people.

As languages became more sophisticated and complex, people’s imagination began to aggrandize. Its hard to imagine imagining without having a language to use. Our imagination works best when it is stimulated by challenges – adversity, exigencies, beauty, new ideas, etc. Its power multiplies when it interacts with other “imaginative minds”. The power of our imagination depends upon the sophistication of the society we live in. The more words we have at our disposal such as living in more sophisticated societies the better our imaginations will work.

Words are mental pictures we have learned to associate in our imagination with specific things and ideas, either by vocal sounds, writing, or signs (hand). They are one of mankind’s most vital tools.

Early storytellers told of great encounters they had with animals and other tribes whether it was true or imaginary. The early artists tried to tell their stories by painting pictures on the cave walls or rocks. They told of encounters with their ancestors, of imaginary adventures. Anything they did not understand they rationalized with a fabricated story.

Eventually some imaginative storytellers invented Gods, a ‘supernatural beings’ that had special powers to control certain phenomena, to explain various things such as thunder and lightning, etc. that they did not understand or was difficult to explain. (Man always has that feeling of a mysterious unknown in the back of his mind.) These stories were passed on from generation to generation, embellished and changed somewhat. They became the great myths of the tribes. The storytellers created myths, superstitions, rituals, morals, traditions, rules, codes, laws, religions, from things that they experienced or imagined in their mind.

Some storytellers, in order to make a greater impression on their audience, even claimed to have talked with their ‘Gods’. This made the storytellers very special people themselves. It gave them a special power, to be able to talk to their ‘Gods’. They became the priests of the tribe. They claimed they received special powers from their ‘Gods’. It elevated them above the other members of the tribe. They now enjoyed a very special standing within the tribe and were able to exert much greater influence on their fellow tribesmen, even to the point of demanding animal and human sacrifices.

For thousands of years these storyteller priests, all over the world, were able to convince their believers that these sacrifices were necessary to satisfy their ‘Gods’. Hundreds of thousands of people died because of these stories. It was a form of domination and mind control on their part, a method of influencing and controlling their subjects. Their myths and stories were mainly used to set a moral codes for the tribe to follow, with their ‘Gods’ looking over their shoulder to make sure they followed the codes. Moses went up the mountain and came back down with the Ten Commandments his ‘God’ had given him. These commandments became the dominant moral code for western civilization.

For hundreds of years the Hebrew tribe’s storytellers spun their tales, created traditions, etc. They were passed down verbally from generation to generation and finally collected and written down in the Bible as the word of ‘God’. Later the followers of Jesus Christ added their own stories to the Bible as the New Testament. These were also accepted as the word of ‘God’ by the Christians but not by the Jews.

Homer’s great epics are another example of the tenacity of storytelling and the power of the human memory. Homer created his stories around 1200 BC, long before the Greeks developed a credible, lasting, alphabet. His works were then passed vocally from generation to generation for hundreds of chaotic years by a sect of priests called the Homer ides of Chios. They were devoted to preserving, purifying and reciting these stories. They had to completely rely on their memory to accurately convey these great works through the ages. The stories were finally written down around 700 BC. They became the textbooks in the schools of Greece and the cornerstone of western literature.

Great storytellers such as Jesus Christ, Confucius, Moses, Mohammed, Gautama Buddha and the Hindus’ of ancient times created the world’s great religious myths and moral codes that are followed by billions of people today. Moses and Mohammed claimed to get their stories directly from God. Jesus said he was the son of God. Confusius was more interested in explaining everyday life rather then spiritual life and the mystery of creation. These philosophies have a powerful positive influence on humanity.

In contrast to this positive influence, at the extreme other end of the spectrum, was Germany’s famous storyteller, Adolph Hitler. Hitler is a good example of a creative imagination doing its worst for mankind. (The human imagination can create stories that promote tremendous evil just as well as it can create stories that promote tremendous good.) By writing his book, giving hundreds of stirring speeches, staging tremendous awe inspiring rallies, and telling many stories he convinced the German people to follow him. All of these things put together were Hitler’s “story”. His stories provoked deep human emotions that created tremendous hate and anger against his potential victims.

Hitler was well aware of the power of storytelling, since the very first thing he did when he came to power was burn the books of the other storytellers. He made sure his was the only story being told in Germany. It is ironic that some of the greatest storytellers of all time (the Jews) were prime victims of this evil storyteller.

Democracy and freedom were held in very low esteem in Hitler’s Germany. At about the same time that Hegal was creating his philosophy (that contributed to the rise of Hitler), our country’s storytellers; Jefferson, Paine, Henry, Adams and their contemporaries, were creating our country’s democratic philosophy. Later, Karl Marx another powerful storyteller created the communist philosophy. Which stories would become dominant was determined in the battles of World War Two and with the communist philosophy, in the “cold war”.

President Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and General Charles DeGaulle were the storytellers who prevailed in this era. The stories of each of these leaders offered mainly hope to their people and led the way to our post war prosperity. I think Stalin was more of a ruthless power grabber, rather then a storyteller. Lenin and Marx were the storytellers who influenced the people in Russia. Benito Mussolini and Mao Tse-tung were other storytellers whose stories led to tremendous grief for the people of their respective countries and other countries.

In the New World, thousands of years ago, an ancient storyteller priest somewhere in central or South America told the story to the effect, that in order to appease their gods and keep them happy they would have to sacrifice people by cutting their hearts out and spilling their blood. This grim story unfortunately was accepted and spread throughout the area. As a result of this story, millions of innocent people were murdered in these regions by the Aztecs, Incas, Mayas, etc. for hundreds of years. There are countless other examples of storytelling that have had a profound effect on mankind throughout its history. It seems as though people will believe any story they hear. Storytellers are extremely powerful people.

All families, tribes and societies need resolute storytellers to constantly encourage,
inspire and guide their people in a positive moral manner!
Storytelling, both positive and negative, is one of the most powerful of all human capabilities. It is surely one of the devil’s most valuable tools. (Yes, there really is a devil, but it exists only in the ‘Mind’ of mankind. It is simply the dark side of Human Imagination.) Storytelling is used in every conceivable way to influence motivate and dominate people. It is easy to spot the evil storytellers on television and in the other media today spinning (or singing) their tales of hate. People who agitate hatred and anger against other people, who falsely accuse their neighbors of wrong doing, or start false rumors are examples of evil storytellers.

The young girls who instigated the infamous witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts a couple of hundred years ago by accusing their neighbors of witchcraft are good examples of the harm this type of storytelling can cause, especially when some foolish people take the accusers seriously. It still goes on today, falsely accusing people, wrecking their lives.

The Homo Sapiens before they received their powerful imagination (before the “transformation” to imaginative beings) were not capable of this power. They were extremely intelligent beings but lacked the Human Imagination. They did not have the mental power to invent words, languages, stories, etc. According to recent findings they lacked the “language gene” necessary to begin the storytelling traditions.

For thousands of years following mankind’s transformation people had only the spoken word to rely on for their communication. Ancient prehistoric drawings and paintings of animals, people and symbols were also early forms of communicating. This type of communicating evolved into pictographs and later ideographs such as the Egyptian hieroglyphics. Finally around five thousand years ago the Sumerian tribes in southern Mesopotamia developed the first primitive phonetic writing called cuneiform. It marked the end of prehistory and the beginning of recorded history. The idea of placing marks on a clay tablet that could be associated with specific ideas was a giant imaginative step in mankind’s intellectual progress.

Words, whether they are vocal sounds or marks on a paper convey ideas (mental pictures) to our mind. They are made possible by our ability to imagine. If we hear words or see them written in a foreign language that we have not learned to associate with things or ideas, they mean nothing to us. They simply do not generate any mental images for us. Some of the more intelligent animals have a limited ability to “learn” vocal sounds but not writing. Writing has given mankind a much greater ability to communicate more accurately and preserve the stories and ideas of the previous generations.

The joy of creating stories, or poems, singing ballads, reading, or listening to these stories is also one of the great pleasures of being human. When we read or listen to a story we instantly form mental images of the characters and actions in our mind. We can “visualize” with our mind. We can learn the intimate thoughts of the great minds of the past by reading their stories. We can travel in our imagination anywhere the story takes us no matter where or when. We can go back in time and travel down the Mississippi river with Huck Finn or go into the future, travel out into space to another galaxy. It makes no difference, as long as we have an imagination we can go to these places.

When listening to stories on the radio, before television became popular, each listener had to visualize their own private mental pictures of the characters and locale. We were usually very surprised when we did finally see a picture of the real person who portrayed the character in the story and it did not match our mental picture at all. Such was the magic of radio.

The playwright and movie maker go a step further in their storytelling. They physically set up the scenes, props and assign actors to play the part of the characters. Presenting drama plays is an ancient form of storytelling that the Greeks and Chinese developed long ago. It is a natural outgrowth of storytelling. Although with the play, the audience could actually see the characters and actions of the story, much was left to the imagination as far as the scenery was concerned.

Now a days there is much more elaborate movable scenery to support the story and less imagination is needed to enjoy the play. With the advent of the motion pictures everything is becoming more and more realistic. The present state-of-art technology of computer generated special effects used in motion pictures are so realistic that no matter what situation is portrayed little imagination is needed. With the development of “Virtual Reality” the audience will be going right “into” the scenes in the near future. Someday we may be able to “enter” a Jurassic type park and walk among the dinosaurs in a virtual reality world.

Storytelling has grown immensely in its scope and power from its simple beginning of telling stories over the camp fire. It now encompasses every facet of human endeavor. Nearly everyone has a story to tell. We are constantly being bombarded by stories both good and bad, by our family, friends and the media. Companies spend billions of dollars every year on advertising, trying to get their stories across to us, trying to influence us to purchase their products.

Beer advertisements, for example, have equated partying and having a good time with drinking beer for so long that it now just seems the normal thing to do. Political leaders try to influence us with their stories. On television, religious leaders are constantly telling their stories. In large areas of the world today religious leaders completely dominate the lives of whole populations through their mythical stories. Holding the threat of eternal damnation over their heads if they disobey their “word of god”. (Very powerful people!)

Satellite broadcasting of radio and television, newspapers, magazines, and now the computer’s Internet are immensely powerful storytelling mediums that spread both positive and negative stories into every household across the world for better or for worse. The editors have tremendous power to disseminate the stories they want made known and to ignore the ones they don’t (not so much power over the Internet, yet). Violence is especially acceptable in the movies, viewers are constantly being exposed to people being killed and battered as realistically as possible.

This scenario may be OK for movies, depending upon who the storyteller makes as the bad guys. When the movies or stories start making various groups of people the bad guys, we are getting into a dangerous area. The hate and anger emotions produced by the storytellers may be more dangerous then the actual violence of the stories. Some “rappers” are continually expounding their hate and anger stories to our young people. The influence of these stories is beginning to be felt around the country.

In real life, the government’s storytellers tell stories (propaganda) to arouse the anger in their citizens when they are preparing to go to war against other countries. I witnessed this in our country during World War Two when the Germans and Japanese were the bad guys (they really were). After the war the stories changed from these countries to making the communists out to be the bad guys. At the present time we are sort of floundering looking for some new potential bad guys.

(Note) Since I wrote this article we have indeed found some new really bad guys with the militant Muslims. ((Mullahs whose hatred stories of America and the other western democracies have influenced powerful dupes such as bin Laden and his followers to want to kill as many Americans as they can.))

The news media has been a powerful storytelling influence on people since the invention of the printing press. With the invention of radio, television and the video camera its power has increased immensely by graphically reporting their stories on television over and over and getting everybody all upset.

In addition to violence, the movie and television storytellers relate their stories over and over to the effect, that the “normal” thing to do, if people of the opposite sex are attracted to each other (are in “love”), is to have sex as soon as possible. This has helped change the morals of our young ladies in a couple of generations so much that they now think they are abnormal if they resist having sex until they are married. Hollywood, a city whose primary business is storytelling, has made having sex the socially acceptable thing to do. Adultery is now more or less accepted as normal (depending upon who is doing it).

As the moral ethics code of the motion picture storytellers has deteriorated in the last thirty years, the birthrate of single mothers has risen in direct proportion. Whether we realize it or not, all these stories are exerting a powerful influence on our young people. It is leading to a gradual moral decay in our country. We may not have a Hitler ranting and raving but our ubiquitous storytellers are just as effectively spreading their powerful influence into every nook and cranny across the country (and alot of it is not good).

A large percentage of our young people are able to accept or reject these messages on their merit but many are not and if the stories are repeated enough (and are not opposed by positive storytellers) they are eventually accepted as normal behavior. Our storytellers; family, peers, friends, church leaders, teachers, movie producers, authors, politicians, philosophers, historians, comedians, civic leaders, etc., need to accentuate the positive. They have the power to guide, motivate, inspire and influence our present and future citizens.

Storytellers, through their stories, can enter into our imagination
and interact with our deepest human emotions.
They can inspire us to strive for greatness or motivate us to do senseless evil. They can make us happy, angry or sad. They can make us laugh or cry. Storytelling and human emotion are closely linked, together, from the time of infancy, they strongly influence every aspect of our life. Very little happens in the human drama without a storyteller at its source.

Storytelling includes all types of family and tribal gossip, religious and secular teaching, philosophy, prose, poetry, religious beliefs, myths, traditions, propaganda, scientific writings, speeches, news chronicles, periodicals, advertising, plays, movies, television stories, songs, and unfortunately lying. It is one of the most powerful of all human capabilities. It started with people’s ability to create verbal words that they could associate, in their imagination, with some idea, thing or action. Its power can be awesome!It was instrumental in creating the “MIND” of mankind.

The ‘MIND’ of Mankind is the vast network of human minds that are able to communicate abstract ideas across time and distance – made possible by the Human Imagination.!& with your friends?)

– Human Imagination –
The source of Mankind’s tremendous power!

Donald L. Hamilton



Storytelling and Identity


thanks to helen Williams for the image
thanks to helen Williams for the image

I was recently invited by the British Council and Ntukuma to take part in the Ananse Soundsplash festival in Jamaica. The time arrived and I went. What a joy to be in a place of dreams! And more wonderful of all was to spend much of the time there in the company of Amina Blackwood Meeks. A larger than life, passionate and wonderful woman with a laugh to rival that of the Gods. To be in a new place in the company of a storyteller who knows that place and the deeper significance it has to the people who live there, lends an insight that draws you deeper into a place.

In 10 days, not once did I place my toe in the cool Caribbean sea or dance on the beach, but I went to a Pan Chicken festival, I learnt of the Goddess of the Cobre river who was swept away and all that remains are her genitalia, (a giant rock that indeed resembles her magnificent part) and the frustration of the storyteller as she recounted the theft of the male counterpart ( a rock on the other side of the road – a glorious phallic symbol)  as legend had it that at night when the moon was full the two would meet.

You never hear that story in the tourist brochures!

During my stay, I had the privilege of working with some of the Cultural Studies students at the University of the West Indies. The discussions we had were astounding and could have continued for hours. Stories link us to people and place. We know things deep within us passed down from our mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers. We know of our histories and seemingly simple little traditions like the best way to cook belly pork ‘the family way’. But these are important. They let us know who we are, where we came from. They give us pride, knowing (like in the case of Jamaica) that they come from a line of Maroons, or our great grandfather was the mightiest dancer around and challenged thunder to a dance. Or our grandmothers carried our mothers across rivers and mountains to safety or that they were simply good, strong, proud people.

The values held dear to a people are seen in their stories. We see for example, nations that celebrate their conquering of other nations, their wins and their enemies defeats and we fear them. We also see nations who value their determination, who have built something from nothing, who strive to succeed against the odds and we respect them. We see nations who celebrate peace and honour and dignity and we aspire to be like them.

In Kenya, in fact, across the whole of Africa, where our stories are told less and less, I worry that we will lose sight of these most incredible experiences. We will forget the lessons that we have had in our blood for hundreds of years. The memories of deeds done by our great grandparents will slowly fade away and the real danger is that because our literary tradition is not strong when we stop telling stories and they are gone there is no way of getting them back, unless we invent, and oftentimes that what we invent is nowhere near as good as the truth.

So let us think more highly of our saltfish and ackee, of our irio and githeri, of our haggis, neeps and tatties, our sima and sukuma because those simple foods sustained those who have gone before and helped is making us who we are today. Let us celebrate the dancers and the artists and the poets and storytellers because they feed our souls and delight in seeing the light grow brighter. Let us never forget our ancestors because the decisions they made have resulted in some way to who and what we are. And we should think of those who are not yet here but will be soon. We will be responsible for them and surely we will want them to know our stories too.

That’s all for now. I leave you with a couple of websites I found online celebrating storytelling and identity and hopefully will take you further.

Mara x – a child’s take on her grandfather and how he inspired her

Quotes from:

My Grandfather's Blessings : Stories of Strength, Refuge, and BelongingMy Grandfather’s Blessings : Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging by Rachel Naomi Remen

“Most of us lead far more meaningful lives than we know. Often finding meaning is not about doing things differently; it is about seeing familiar things in new ways. ”
― Rachel Naomi Remen
“Our purpose in life is to grow in wisdom and in love.”
― Rachel Naomi Remen
“How strange to think that great pain may be impermanent. Something in us all seems to want to carve it in granite, as if only this would do full honor to its terrible significance. But even pain is blessed with impermanence…
p 259”
― Rachel Naomi Remen
“Life wastes nothing. Over and over again every molecule that has ever been is gathered up by the hand of life to be reshaped into yet another form.
p 259”
― Rachel Naomi Remen
“It has been said that sometimes we need a story more than food in order to live.

And  a story from the Native American perspective. A young mans account of the first story that truly touched him and changed his view of a worlds so familiar and yet after the story so different. 

Tears from a Grandmother’s Story                 Author: Spiritriver Striped Wolf

On a hot spring afternoon, my mother brought my sister and me to visit our grandmother. The three of us were sitting at the kitchen table with our only living grandparent. Such a beautiful afternoon it was, with the sun shining through the windows and onto the clean floor, the Rocky Mountains in the distance, and the hills close by. Surely I couldn’t have asked the Creator for a better day to hear my grandma’s story.
She had been making berry soup from Saskatoon berries that she had frozen from the past summer. We all had already been telling stories of the past. As my sister and I were talking about living in the city, laughing and having fun with the time we were sharing with our grandma, I asked her, “Mom, what was it like when you were a child?” I call my grandma “Mom” because of how much she is like my own mother.“Well, my son. It was a difficult time,” she said. Immediately I knew she was talking about when she had to leave home to attend boarding school. “What kind of difficult time, Grandma?” asked my sister, who had no idea of the troubling time of colonization and boarding school. “When I and my brothers and sisters had to move away from our family to attend residential school,” Grandma replied. Looking a bit uneasy, she got up from her chair to tend to her soup. “But I won’t bore you with my old depressing past,” Grandma said.

“But Mom, it’s the past that tells us who we are now.” I remembered talking about that in social studies: how the past is important because it tells our individuality, who we are today. I thought it would be amazingly interesting to hear the story firsthand from someone instead of from a textbook, so I pressed on. “Oh, all right,” Grandma gave in. “You see, back then, it was a time of turmoil and depression for our people . . .”

The story went like this:
Until my grandma was about seven years old, she lived with her mother, father, and all her brothers and sisters. They lived poorly: they didn’t have a lot of money or food. Her father worked all that he could. They didn’t have any type of electronics, except a radio, so she spent her time outside playing in the bushes and simply using her imagination.

One afternoon, playing in the plains of the reserve near her family, she spotted a truck coming down the road with a white man inside. When the truck reached the house, her father came out and greeted the man. They talked outside for a little bit, then proceeded inside. This is where it got sad, something neither my sister nor I could ever handle.

After awhile, she saw some of her brothers and sisters crying and getting into the truck. She had seen this before with other brothers and sisters she had that were her age when they left. Her mother was crying and her father was the most upset she had ever seen him. As young as she was, she knew that she was now leaving her mother and father for a new, alien place. She did something not a lot of children of her age would have thought of doing in those times: She ran, ran straight into the bushes with tears streaming down her cheeks. Deeper and deeper into the bushes she ran, afraid of being caught by the scary white man that once had had to chase one of her brothers who tried to escape. She found a ditch that she lay in, hoping no one would find her.

Around evening, still hiding from everyone and crying aloud, she heard something in the bushes coming toward her. In fear she screamed, not knowing if it was the white man or a wild animal. Either way, it knew where she was. “My… my daughter,” said a familiar voice. Her father came and sat next to her and held her. “My daughter, a new life is waiting for you, and you must go to it. Just do what they say, and don’t fight them or run away from them. Eventually you’ll understand, and you’ll see your mother and me again, I promise.” She was in tears, but got up. And then he took her to the truck. Her life changed dramatically, with sorrow and depression while she was in the residential school from kindergarten to her graduation in grade 12.

“While I was in the school, I had my hair cut short and dressed in clothes materials I never felt before. We weren’t allowed to speak our traditional language or talk back; we had to eat whatever was in front of us, if we liked it or not; and we were beaten when we didn’t really listen. I, however, listened to my father and did all that he told me to do. I never got beaten or abused, but the emotional abuse from seeing my brothers and sisters and friends getting beaten was torture. Sitting there, unable to do anything about what was happening right in front of you . . .” she looked down, seeming sad. “I got off lucky. But a lot didn’t. That’s why afterwards a lot of us went to alcohol.” She shook her head and smiled as she gave my sister and me a small bowl of the berry soup that we both enjoyed.

She sat down, taking a big breath. “My past was difficult but I learned how to deal with it through counseling and self-healing.” I looked down, remembering something particularly interesting I had heard of. “Didn’t you get money from being in the school? Residential or boarding school apology money?” I asked nervously, not sure if it would be rude or offensive, since I already knew she had gotten money. “Yes, I did,” she said. “I was almost not going to take it, either.” My sister looked up from eating her soup. “Give up free money?” she asked naively.

“No, you see, I didn’t need money to help myself. I got back on my feet, went to AA meetings, got myself a big house, a family I love and that loves me. I knew that if I took that money, it would show that all the suffering our people had to go through was worth just whatever was on the check, and I think that’s just stupid.” She emphasized the “stupid” and shook her head. “But when the deadline day came to get the money, everyone was pushing me over the cliff to get it. So I went and got it.” She took another deep breath; we could all feel the emotion in the room. “And when I came home, seeing no one was home, I sat on the couch and cried.” She wiped a tear from her cheek. “I can’t remember how long I cried, but it must have been hours.” And that was the first time I was ever really touched and made teary by a story before.

The residential school changed the Aboriginal people’s worldview, their identity. Today’s generation has many opportunities to help our people, but stories like the one my grandmother told my sister and me really opened our minds. Imagine a world if Aboriginal youth like myself can change the world of tomorrow.
A world that would be.

Spiritriver Striped Wolf, a member of the Piikani Nation, wrote this account about his grandmother, a survivor of both the residential schools and of alcoholism, because her story “really touched me and allowed me to take my identity seriously,” he says. Striped Wolf feels this “story needs to be told . . . .to show others how some elders today need to be respected, take pride in their Aboriginal heritage, and do their part to help make our bruised heritage a better one for the future.” This story was selected as a winner of the Historica-Dominion Institute’s 2009 Canadian Aboriginal Writers Challenge. For information about the Challenge, see or

– See more at:

Inspiring stories to pass on!!!

I am always in awe of people who have thousands of stories tucked away, ready to whip one out whenever needed. I like to think that one day, I’ll join those few. Certainly to be a storyteller requires a certain number of stories and one thing I am happy about is the ability to make a story up, with fairly few prompts. A terrific advantage of having a five year old, is you can practice quite frequently with an audience who never gets bored, and is pretty inspirational to boot!

Anyway, it’s always nice to read new stories where perhaps a seed of a new story is lurking! I found a great blog  whose has a seemingly never ending supply of stories. Many of these will inspire you or at least put a smile on your face. I’ve only posted 4 here but will put more on from different sources too.

If you have any other short inspiring stories, please let me know. Would love to share them here!





Alexander and Diogenes

Now when Alexander [the Great] appeared before the Greek leaders in Corinth they greeted him warmly and paid him lavish compliments- all of them, that is but one. A funny fellow, a philosopher named Diogenes. He had views not unlike those of the Buddha. According to him, possessions and all the things we think we need only serve to distract us and get in the way of our simple enjoyment of life. So he had given away everything he owned and now sat, almost naked, in a barrel in the market square in Corinth where he lived, free and independent like a stray dog.

Curious to meet this strange fellow, Alexander went to call on him. Dressed in shining armour, the plume on his helmet waving in the breeze, he walked up to the barrel and said to Diogenes: ‘I like you. Let me know your wish and I shall grant it.’ Diogenes, who had until then been comfortably sunning himself, replied: ‘Indeed, Sire, I have a wish.’ ‘Well, what is it?’ ‘Your shadow has fallen over me: stand a little less between me and the sun.’ Alexander is said to have been so struck by this that he said: ‘If I weren’t Alexander, I should like to be Diogenes.’

Source: “A Little History Of The World” by E.H. Gombrich

Peace of mind

Once Buddha was walking from one town to another town with a few of his followers. This was in the initial days. While they were travelling, they happened to pass a lake. They stopped there and Buddha told one of his disciples, “I am thirsty. Do get me some water from that lake there.”

The disciple walked up to the lake. When he reached it, he noticed that some people were washing clothes in the water and, right at that moment, a bullock cart started crossing through the lake. As a result, the water became very muddy, very turbid. The disciple thought, “How can I give this muddy water to Buddha to drink!” So he came back and told Buddha, “The water in there is very muddy. I don’t think it is fit to drink.”

After about half an hour, again Buddha asked the same disciple to go back to the lake and get him some water to drink. The disciple obediently went back to the lake. This time he found that the lake had absolutely clear water in it. The mud had settled down and the water above it looked fit to be had. So he collected some water in a pot and brought it to Buddha.

Buddha looked at the water, and then he looked up at the disciple and said, “See what you did to make the water clean. You let it be … and the mud settled down on its own – and you got clear water… Your mind is also like that. When it is disturbed, just let it be. Give it a little time. It will settle down on its own. You don’t have to put in any effort to calm it down. It will happen. It is effortless.”

What did Buddha emphasize here? He said, “It is effortless.” Having ‘peace of mind’ is not a strenuous job; it is an effortless process. When there is peace inside you, that peace permeates to the outside. It spreads around you and in the environment, such that people around start feeling that peace and grace.


The hedgehogs

It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold.

The hedgehogs, realizing the situation, decided to group together to keep warm. This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions.

After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other and they began to die, alone and frozen. So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth.

Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. They learned to live with the little wounds caused by the close relationship with their companions in order to receive the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.

The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person’s good qualities.



The American dream

An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” the American asked.

“Only a little while” the Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” the American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs” the Mexican said.

“But” the American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said: “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, senor.”

The American scoffed: “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you could buy a bigger boat and, with the proceeds from the bigger boat, you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman, you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked: “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied: “15-20 years.”

“But what then, senor?”

The American laughed and said: “That’s the best part. When the time is right, you would announce an IPO – an Initial Public Offering – and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions.”

“Millions, senor? Then what?”

The American said slowly: “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

Nobel Prize Storyteller

I read this article and it strikes me the millions of reasons we all have for choosing to tell stories and then also wondered why people would then choose not too. Regardless of who we are, our loves, lives, backgrounds, our stories are possibly the most important part of who we are and what makes us what we are. Sometimes a story needs to be told at a particular time, maybe years after we’ve locked it away, even forgetting it’s there and then something happens that reveal that it’s time the story is retold.

Have a quick perusal at the following article and drop me a line with your reasons for telling your stories.

Mara x


STOCKHOLM – Chinese writer Mo Yan, winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature, described himself as a storyteller in a lecture at the Swedish Academy on Friday afternoon.

It is telling stories that earned him the prize, the Nobel laureate said.


Mo Yan gives Nobel Prize speech

The 2012 Nobel Literature Prize laureate Mo Yan of China speaks during the traditional Nobel lecture at the Royal Swedish Academy December 7, 2012. [Photo/Agencies]


In the lecture titled “Storytellers,” he talked about how he started story telling as a child and shared with the listeners his memory of his childhood and mother, “the person who is most on my mind at this moment.”

“As repayment for mother’s kindness and a way to demonstrate my memory, I’d retell the stories for her in vivid detail,” said Mo Yan.

He also recalled memories of being surrounded by adults instead of children of his age after he dropped out of school, which “created a powerful reality” in his mind and later became a part of his own fiction.

By introducing the background of his most famous works such as “Frog,” “Life and Death are Wearing Me Out,” “Big Breasts and Wide Hips,” “The Garlic Ballads”, “Sandalwood Death” and “The Transparent Carrot,” Mo Yan shared the inspiration behind the stories and the way they were produced.

“Many interesting things have happened to me in the wake of winning the prize, and they have convinced me that truth and justice are alive and well,” said Mo Yan.

“So I will continue telling my stories in the days to come,” he said at the end of his lecture.


Storytelling and Reading – It works!

Storytelling is Useful, Fun, Exhilerating, Imaginative and Educational. It’s Amazing!

 storycartoonI am always amazed at the impact storytelling can have on encouraging and developing an interest in reading in both children and adults. There is so much evidence that storytelling is possibly THE most useful tool in nurturing literacy that it’s crazy that so many people still doubt its importance! Parents, start telling stories to your children, teachers, put down the books and actually tell stories. Your passion and inspiration will move mountains!

I found the following article online and thought it provided a few great examples that although they are a few years old and from the United States but still demonstrate some of the key benefits of storytelling and reading!

The value of storytelling in education has been documented in many recently published articles.  Below is a summary of some of those findings. Visit the author’s web page for more info and the appendix. And don’t forget to let me know hoe useful you find it!






The Value of Storytelling in Education                          Compiled on December 1, 2005 by Kate Dudding

(A) Teaching Storytelling: A Position Statement from the Committee on Storytelling of the National Council of Teachers of English

  • Listeners encounter both familiar and new language patterns through story.
  • Both tellers and listeners find a reflection of themselves in stories.
  • Story is the best vehicle for passing on factual information.
  • Children at any level of schooling who do not feel as competent as their peers in reading or writing are often masterful at storytelling.

(B) Skytellers: The Myths, The Magic, and the Mysteries of the Universe

  • The combination of story first and then science has been shown statistically to improve students’ attitudes about science.

(C) Imaginative Children Better in Math

  • A study by a University of Waterloo scientist suggests that preschool children’s early storytelling abilities are predictive of their mathematical ability two years later.

(D) Three Days Later, Soldiers Find Town in Ruins

  • Because everyone on the island of Simeulue, the palm-fringed island closest to the epicentre of the December 2004 devastating earthquake/tsunami, knew the story, “if there is an earthquake, run for your life,” only five of 70,000 villagers were killed.

(E) Storied Theory

  • Science and stories are not only compatible, they’re inseparable, as shown by Einstein’s classic 1905 paper on the photoelectric effect.

(F) Israeli-developed Coexistence Education Project Awarded International Prize

  • In order for people with years of painful and violent interaction to coexist peacefully, they don’t necessarily have to like or agree with each other, but they must understand their point of view and their view of the history between them. This can happen when they really listen to each other’s personal stories.

(G) Two Red Birds: Blackfeet Teachers’ Work Displayed at the Smithsonian

  • “During quiet time, the bilingual teacher told Na’pi stories, lessons or fairytales,” Bird said. “The children really learned to listen. She told the Na’pi stories in English and added words in Blackfeet, words like ‘dog’ or ‘blackbird.'” The Na’pi stories are meant to teach things like respect, values, honor and politeness.

(H) Storytelling Project Aims to HelpNew York CityHigh School Students Deal With Racial Issues

  • “A story is such powerful vehicle – that is how we transmit culture. We are using all the vehicles of telling stories to address race and racism from arts, visual arts, poetry, music to dance – all conduits that young people are very tuned into, and we are drawing from that excitement.  Ultimately, we hope to develop new stories to lead us to a more just society.”

(I) Once Upon a Time We Told Our Children Stories

  • Michael Morpurgo, the Children’s Laureate of the UK, writes: When you think of the extraordinary talent among our children’s writers, storytellers and illustrators, it is not surprising that so many children turn to books and become readers after an encounter with such talent.

(K) PBS Kids(R) Joins Pacific Air Force Command to Promote Literacy

  • “Share a Story” inspires adults to help children develop language and literacy skills through simple everyday activities including storytelling, singing, reading, rhyming, acting and talking.