The following story was just dictated to me:
A long time ago, when there was one boy named Jasper who had lots of weapons, including shield and a sword, he went on an adventure.
But then one day he forgot which way to go – he got lost! He tried to think of which way he should go. He picked the path found to the left, instead of forward, or right, or back the way he came. He forgot he should have gone backward.
He went on and on until he came to a waterhole with no poison in it, and no yucky stuff. He was glad because he was very thirsty. He scooped the water to drink it – and discovered a tadpole in his hand! He put it in the water of a nearby swamp.
Then he found a tank full of fresh-looking water. He almost drank out of it – and found a fish. ALL the fish! He put them in the swamp as well, where they could live and breathe. Only then did he drink the fresh water, and he was no longer thirsty.
But he was hungry. Luckily, he had brought along one big fresh carrot. He ate it, and was no longer hungry or thirsty, and returned to his adventure.
Next, Jasper found some ants. He gave his leftover carrot crumbs to the ants to bring to their ant home – but they were no ants, they were termites! He stepped on all of them until they were dead. Walking over the dead termites, he found the King of the Termites, who was enormous! He sliced him before he could get pinched, and stabbed the King of Termites dead. Then he came to the Queen Termite, and stabbed her with his sword.
Then there were no more termites, just ants scattered all over. He gathered back up his crumbs to feed to them, and they were no longer hungry.
He went on. The ants followed him. He gave them bits of cheese, which they brought to their holes. He gave them water, which they carried in pouches to their holes, and there they stayed to rest in their ant beds.
Jasper followed their example, going backward the way he came until he, too, got home to rest. The end!
This story was dictated to me by my younger son, who just turned five in March, and will be beginning Kindergarten this fall. My mother tells me that he is quite like me, very independent and self-directed, and always with a story to tell.
You can see in this particular story the evidence of the storytelling culture in which he is being raise, not only with kids’ movies and such, but with books I read to him, and stories that I tell him on the fly. In the simplified parlance of the unit his older brother did in his first grade class this year, on the elements of a story, this has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It has a main character, who has an overarching conflict or problem. It has minor characters and smaller troubles with which to contend along the way, the solving of which in part end up helping guide the main character to the solution of the overall problem.
It is at once childish and childlike, this story, and yet it contains the same things that all great stories do, in essence. Moreover, it gave him great joy to sit by my side and tell this story to me to type for him. It gave me joy to listen to it developing, and recognize the frameworks in it.
Writing and storytelling are crafts that are often considered esoteric and solitary, but the truth is that a writer cannot exist in a vacuum. Many authors’ advice to young writers includes “Read.” Reading fills our mind not just with ideas and tales, but the form and frame of them, the paths they follow, the structures of world-building, life-building, problem-solving.
Reading and learning these things starts before we can read at all – while we are being read to, our human brains which are undeniably attracted to patterns will start noting these subtle similarities among the tales we are told, learning them to put forth years later in our own work.
In this way, the Adventures of Jasper are the adventure of all storytellers – we learn from the tiniest things.
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