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This is a story about storytelling. Three children and their aunt were travelling in a train. The aunt tried to tell them a story to keep them quiet but it was very boring. A bachelor in the same carriage as them narrated a story with the same beginning as the aunt’s but changed the other parts to make it fun and interesting.
The Aunt– the aunt of the three children in the railway carriage
The Children– a little boy called Cyril and two small girls who were travelling with their aunt
The Bachelor– a bachelor in the same railway carriage as the children and their aunt
The Three Children and Their Aunt
It was a hot afternoon, and the railway carriage was just as hot. The next stop was at Templecombe which was an hour ahead. The carriage was occupied by a small girl, a smaller girl, a small boy and their aunt. There was also a bachelor in it.
The aunt and the children talked in a limited, persistent way. The small boy began slapping the cushions of the seat, producing clouds of dust. His aunt told him to stop and come look out of the window instead.
The child went to the window and asked why some sheep were being driven out of a field. His aunt said they were probably going to another field with more grass. The child argued with her about the grass until she told him to look at the cows to distract him. However, Cyril continued to ask about the grass.
The bachelor was frowning at their conversation. The aunt thought he must be an unkind man. The smaller girl created a diversion by beginning to recite ‘On the Road to Mandalay.’ She only knew the first line but repeated it over and over again. The aunt told the children to come over to her and listen to a story when she noticed the bachelor getting annoyed at them. The children did not think their aunt was a very good storyteller.
The Aunt’s Story
She began an uninteresting story about a good little girl who made friends with everyone and was saved from a mad bull by people who admired her moral character. She was interrupted with many questions from the children. The bigger of the small girls said it was the stupidest story she had ever heard. Cyril said it was so stupid that he had not listened after the first bit. The smaller girl had restarted murmuring her favourite line already.
The bachelor suddenly said that the aunt did not seem to be a good storyteller. The aunt became defensive and said it was very difficult to tell stories that children can both understand and appreciate. The bachelor said he did not agree with her. She replied that maybe he would like to tell them a story. The bigger of the small girls demanded that he do it too.
The Bachelor’s Story
The bachelor began his story by saying that once upon a time, there was a little girl called Bertha who was very good. She did all that she was told and did everything perfectly. The bigger of the girls asked if she was pretty. The bachelor said she was not as pretty as them, but she was horribly good. The connection of the word horrible with goodness made the children interested in the story.
The bachelor said that Bertha was so good that she won medals for obedience, punctuality and good behaviour. She wore them all pinned to her dress. No other child in her town had three medals, so everybody talked about her goodness.
The prince of the country heard about how good she was and allowed her to walk in his park once a week. No children were ever allowed in it, so it was a great honour for Bertha. But Bertha was sad to find that there were no flowers in the park. She had promised her aunts that she would not pick any of the prince’s flowers and it made her feel silly that there were no flowers to pick.
Bertha enjoyed the other delightful things in the park. She thought that if she weren’t so good, she would not have been allowed into the park. Just then an enormous wolf came to the park to catch an animal for its supper. He saw Bertha in her white dress and began to go towards her.
Bertha ran as hard as she could and hid herself in some bushes. She was very frightened and thought that if she had not been so good, she would have been safe in town at that moment.
However, the scent of myrtle from the bushes was so strong that the wolf could not find Bertha and was about to go away to catch some other animal. But Bertha was trembling in fear and this made her big metal medals clink against each other and make noise.
The wolf heard this and dashed towards her and ate her. All that was left of her were her shoes, bits of clothing, and the three medals for goodness. The children were really impressed with the story and thought it was beautiful. But the aunt thought it was an improper story for young children.
The bachelor said that at least he was able to keep them quiet unlike her. He left the carriage and remarked that she was an unhappy woman as he walked down the platform of Templecombe station. He said that the children would demand her to tell them an improper story for the next six months.
This story shows us that the art of storytelling is a hard one. The aunt’s story is proper but boring, while the bachelor’s story is improper but interesting. He uses unique ways to keep the children interested in his storytelling. So, being a good storyteller does not depend on the content of your story, but in your own ability to keep your listeners interested.