How To Tell Stories To Children And Some Stories To Tell
Sara Cone Bryant

Part 1 out of 5

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To My Mother


The stories which are given in the following
pages are for the most part those which I have
found to be best liked by the children to whom
I have told these and others. I have tried to
reproduce the form in which I actually tell
them,--although that inevitably varies with
every repetition,--feeling that it would be of
greater value to another story-teller than a
more closely literary form.

For the same reason, I have confined my
statements of theory as to method, to those
which reflect my own experience; my "rules"
were drawn from introspection and retrospection,
at the urging of others, long after the instinctive
method they exemplify had become habitual.

These facts are the basis of my hope that
the book may be of use to those who have much
to do with children.

It would be impossible, in the space of any
pardonable preface, to name the teachers,
mothers, and librarians who have given me
hints and helps during the past few years of
story-telling. But I cannot let these pages go
to press without recording my especial
indebtedness to the few persons without whose interested
aid the little book would scarcely have
come to be. They are: Mrs Elizabeth Young
Rutan, at whose generous instance I first
enlarged my own field of entertaining story-telling
to include hers, of educational narrative, and
from whom I had many valuable suggestions
at that time; Miss Ella L. Sweeney, assistant
superintendent of schools, Providence, R.I.,
to whom I owe exceptional opportunities for
investigation and experiment; Mrs Root,
children's librarian of Providence Public
Library, and Miss Alice M. Jordan, Boston
Public Library, children's room, to whom I
am indebted for much gracious and efficient aid.

My thanks are due also to Mr David Nutt
for permission to make use of three stories from
English Fairy Tales, by Mr Joseph Jacobs, and
Raggylug, from Wild Animals I have Known,
by Mr Ernest Thompson Seton; to Messrs
Frederick A. Stokes Company for Five Little
White Heads, by Walter Learned, and for Bird
Thoughts; to Messrs Kegan Paul, Trench,
Trubner & Co. Ltd. for The Burning of the
Ricefields, from Gleanings in Buddha-Fields,
by Mr Lafcadio Hearn; to Messrs H. R. Allenson
Ltd. for three stories from The Golden
Windows, by Miss Laura E. Richards; and to
Mr Seumas McManus for Billy Beg and his Bull,
from In Chimney Corners.
S. C. B.


The Story-teller's Art--Recent Revival--The Difference
between telling a Story and reading it aloud--Some
Reasons why the Former is more effective

Its immediate Advantages to the Teacher-Its ultimate
Gifts to the Child


The Qualities Children like, and why--Qualities
necessary for Oral Delivery--Examples: The Three
Bears, The Three Little Pigs, The Old Woman and
her Pig--Suggestions as to the Type of Story
especially useful in the several primary Grades--
Selected List of familiar Fairy Tales


How to make a long Story short--How to fill out a
short Story--General Changes commonly desirable--
Examples: The Nurnberg Stove, by Ouida; The
King of the Golden River, by Ruskin; The Red Thread
of Courage, The Elf and the Dormouse--Analysis
of Method


Essential Nature of the Story--Kind of Appreciation
necessary--Suggestions for gaining Mastery of Facts
--Arrangement of Children--The Story-teller's
Mood--A few Principles of Method, Manner and
Voice, from the Psychological Point of View


Exercise in Retelling--Illustrations cut by the
Children as Seat-work--Dramatic Games--Influence
of Games on Reading Classes



Nursery Rhymes
Five Little White Heads
Bird Thoughts
How we came to have Pink Roses
The Golden Cobwebs
Why the Morning-Glory climbs
The Story of Little Tavwots
The Pig Brother
The Cake
The Pied Piper of Hamelin Town
Why the Evergreen Trees keep their Leaves in Winter
The Star Dollars
The Lion and the Gnat


The Cat and the Parrot
The Rat Princess
The Frog and the Ox
The Fire-Bringer
The Burning of the Ricefields
The Story of Wylie
Little Daylight
The Sailor Man
The Story of Jairus's Daughter


Arthur and the Sword
The Buckwheat
The Judgment of Midas
Why the Sea is salt
Billy Beg and his Ball
The Little Hero of Haarlem
The Last Lesson
The Story of Christmas


A short List of Books in which the Story-teller will find
Stories not too far from the Form in which they are needed.


Not long ago, I chanced to open a magazine
at a story of Italian life which dealt with a
curious popular custom. It told of the love of
the people for the performances of a strangely
clad, periodically appearing old man who was
a professional story-teller. This old man
repeated whole cycles of myth and serials of
popular history, holding his audience-chamber
in whatever corner of the open court or square
he happened upon, and always surrounded by
an eager crowd of listeners. So great was the
respect in which the story-teller was held, that
any interruption was likely to be resented with

As I read of the absorbed silence and the
changing expressions of the crowd about the
old man, I was suddenly reminded of a company
of people I had recently seen. They were
gathered in one of the parlours of a women's
college, and their serious young faces had,
habitually, none of the childlike responsiveness
of the Italian populace; they were suggestive,
rather, of a daily experience which precluded
over-much surprise or curiosity about anything.

In the midst of the group stood a frail-looking
woman with bright eyes. She was telling a
story, a children's story, about a good and a
bad little mouse.

She had been asked to do that thing, for a
purpose, and she did it, therefore. But it was
easy to see from the expressions of the listeners
how trivial a thing it seemed to them.

That was at first. But presently the room
grew quieter, and yet quieter. The faces relaxed
into amused smiles, sobered in unconscious
sympathy, finally broke in ripples of mirth.
The story-teller had come to her own.

The memory of the college girls listening to
the mouse-story brought other memories with
it. Many a swift composite view of faces passed
before my mental vision, faces with the child's
look on them, yet not the faces of children.
And of the occasions to which the faces
belonged, those were most vivid which were
earliest in my experience. For it was those early
experiences which first made me realise the
modern possibilities of the old, old art of telling

It had become a part of my work, some years
ago, to give English lectures on German literature.
Many of the members of my class were
unable to read in the original the works with
which I dealt, and as these were modern works,
it was rarely possible to obtain translations.

For this reason, I gradually formed the habit
of telling the story of the drama or novel in
question before passing to a detailed consideration
of it. I enjoyed this part of the lesson
exceedingly, but it was some time before I
realised how much the larger part of the lesson
it had become to the class. They used--and
they were mature women--to wait for the story
as if it were a sugarplum and they, children;
and to grieve openly if it were omitted.
Substitution of reading from a translation was
greeted with precisely the same abatement of
eagerness that a child shows when he has asked
you to tell a story, and you offer, instead, to
"read one from the pretty book." And so
general and constant were the tokens of
enjoyment that there could ultimately be no doubt
of the power which the mere story-telling

The attitude of the grown-up listeners did
but illustrate the general difference between the
effect of telling a story and of reading one.
Everyone who knows children well has felt
the difference. With few exceptions, children
listen twice as eagerly to a story told as to one
read, and even a "recitation" or a so-called
"reading" has not the charm for them that
the person wields who can "tell a story." And
there are sound reasons for their preference.

The great difference, including lesser ones,
between telling and reading is that the teller
is free; the reader is bound. The book in hand,
or the wording of it in mind, binds the reader.
The story-teller is bound by nothing; he stands
or sits, free to watch his audience, free to follow
or lead every changing mood, free to use body,
eyes, voice, as aids in expression. Even his
mind is unbound, because he lets the story
come in the words of the moment, being so full
of what he has to say. For this reason, a story
told is more spontaneous than one read, however
well read. And, consequently, the connection
with the audience is closer, more electric, than is
possible when the book or its wording intervenes.

Beyond this advantage, is the added charm
of the personal element in story-telling. When
you make a story your own and tell it, the listener
OF IT. It comes to him filtered through your
own enjoyment. That is what makes the funny
story thrice funnier on the lips of a jolly
raconteur than in the pages of a memoir. It is
the filter of personality. Everybody has something
of the curiosity of the primitive man
concerning his neighbour; what another has in
his own person felt and done has an especial
hold on each one of us. The most cultured of
audiences will listen to the personal reminiscences
of an explorer with a different tingle
of interest from that which it feels for a
scientific lecture on the results of the exploration.
The longing for the personal in experience is
a very human longing. And this instinct or
longing is especially strong in children. It
finds expression in their delight in tales of what
father or mother did when they were little, of
what happened to grandmother when she went
on a journey, and so on, but it also extends to
stories which are not in themselves personal:
which take their personal savour merely from
the fact that they flow from the lips in
spontaneous, homely phrases, with an appreciative
gusto which suggests participation.

The greater ease in holding the attention of
children is, for teachers, a sufficient practical
reason for telling stories rather than reading
them. It is incomparably easier to make the
necessary exertion of "magnetism," or whatever
it may be called, when nothing else distracts
the attention. One's eyes meet the
children's gaze naturally and constantly; one's
expression responds to and initiates theirs without
effort; the connection is immediate. For
the ease of the teacher, then, no less than for
the joy of the children, may the art of story-
telling be urged as pre-eminent over the art of

It is a very old, a very beautiful art. Merely
to think of it carries one's imaginary vision
to scenes of glorious and touching antiquity.
The tellers of the stories of which Homer's
Iliad was compounded; the transmitters of
the legend and history which make up the
Gesta Romanorum; the travelling raconteurs
whose brief heroic tales are woven into our
own national epic; the grannies of age-old
tradition whose stories are parts of Celtic folk-lore,
of Germanic myth, of Asiatio wonder-tales,--
these are but younger brothers and sisters
to the generations of story-tellers whose
inventions are but vaguely outlined in resultant
forms of ancient literatures, and the names of
whose tribes are no longer even guessed.
There was a time when story-telling was the
chiefest of the arts of entertainment; kings
and warriors could ask for nothing better;
serfs and children were satisfied with nothing
less. In all times there have been occasional
revivals of this pastime, and in no time has the
art died out in the simple human realms of which
mothers are queens. But perhaps never, since
the really old days, has story-telling so nearly
reached a recognised level of dignity as a legitimate
and general art of entertainment as now.

Its present popularity seems in a way to be
an outgrowth of the recognition of its educational
value which was given impetus by the
German pedagogues of Froebel's school. That
recognition has, at all events, been a noticeable
factor in educational conferences of late.
The function of the story is no longer
considered solely in the light of its place in the
kindergarten; it is being sought in the first,
the second, and indeed in every standard where
the children are still children. Sometimes the
demand for stories is made solely in the
interests of literary culture, sometimes in far
ampler and vaguer relations, ranging from
inculcation of scientific fact to admonition of
moral theory; but whatever the reason given,
the conclusion is the same: tell the children

The average teacher has yielded to the
pressure, at least in theory. Cheerfully, as she
has already accepted so many modifications of
old methods by "new thought," she accepts
the idea of instilling mental and moral desiderata
into the receptive pupil, via the charming
tale. But, confronted with the concrete
problem of what desideratum by which tale,
and how, the average teacher sometimes finds
her cheerfulness displaced by a sense of inadequacy
to the situation.

People who have always told stories to
children, who do not know when they began
or how they do it; whose heads are stocked
with the accretions of years of fairyland-
dwelling and nonsense-sharing,--these cannot
understand the perplexity of one to whom
the gift and the opportunity have not "come
natural." But there are many who can understand
it, personally and all too well. To these,
the teachers who have not a knack for story-
telling, who feel as shy as their own youngest
scholar at the thought of it, who do not know
where the good stories are, or which ones are
easy to tell, it is my earnest hope that the
following pages will bring something definite
and practical in the way of suggestion and




Let us first consider together the primary
matter of the AIM in educational story-telling.
On our conception of this must depend very
largely all decisions as to choice and method;
and nothing in the whole field of discussion
is more vital than a just and sensible notion
of this first point. What shall we attempt
to accomplish by stories in the schoolroom?
What can we reasonably expect to accomplish?
And what, of this, is best accomplished by this
means and no other?

These are questions which become the more
interesting and practical because the recent
access of enthusiasm for stories in education
has led many people to claim very wide and
very vaguely outlined territory for their
possession, and often to lay heaviest stress on
their least essential functions. The most
important instance of this is the fervour with
which many compilers of stories for school
have directed their efforts solely toward
the ration of natural phenomena. Geology,
zoology, botany, and even physics are taught
by means of more or less happily constructed
narratives based on the simpler facts of these
sciences. Kindergarten teachers are familiar
with such narratives: the little stories of
chrysalis-breaking, flower-growth, and the like.
Now this is a perfectly proper and practicable
aim, but it is not a primary one. Others, to
which at best this is but secondary, should
have first place and receive greatest attention.

What is a story, essentially? Is it a textbook
of science, an appendix to the geography,
an introduction to the primer of history? Of
course it is not. A story is essentially and
primarily a work of art, and its chief function
must be sought in the line of the uses of art.
Just as the drama is capable of secondary uses,
yet fails abjectly to realise its purpose when
those are substituted for its real significance
as a work of art, so does the story lend itself
to subsidiary purposes, but claims first and
most strongly to be recognised in its real
significance as a work of art. Since the drama
deals with life in all its parts, it can exemplify
sociological theory, it can illustrate economic
principle, it can even picture politics; but the
drama which does these things only, has no
breath of its real life in its being, and dies
when the wind of popular tendency veers from
its direction. So, you can teach a child
interesting facts about bees and butterflies by telling
him certain stories, and you can open his eyes
to colours and processes in nature by telling
certain others; but unless you do something
more than that and before that, you are as
one who should use the Venus of Milo for a
demonstration in anatomy.

The message of the story is the message of
beauty, as effective as that message in marble
or paint. Its part in the economy of life is TO
GIVE JOY. And the purpose and working of the
joy is found in that quickening of the spirit
which answers every perception of the truly
beautiful in the arts of man. To give joy; in
and through the joy to stir and feed the life
of the spirit: is not this the legitimate function
of the story in education?

Because I believe it to be such, not because
I ignore the value of other uses, I venture to
push aside all aims which seem secondary to
this for later mention under specific heads.
Here in the beginning of our consideration I
wish to emphasise this element alone. A story
is a work of art. Its greatest use to the child
is in the everlasting appeal of beauty by which
the soul of man is constantly pricked to new
hungers, quickened to new perceptions and so
given desire to grow.

The obvious practical bearing of this is that
story-telling is first of all an art of entertainment;
like the stage, its immediate purpose is
the pleasure of the hearer,--his pleasure, not
his instruction, first.

Now the story-teller who has given the
listening children such pleasure as I mean may
or may not have added a fact to the content of
their minds, she has inevitably added something
to the vital powers of their souls. She
has given a wholesome exercise to the emotional
muscles of the spirit, has opened up new
windows to the imagination, and added some
line or colour to the ideal of life and art which
is always taking form in the heart of a child.
She has, in short, accomplished the one greatest
aim of story-telling,--to enlarge and enrich the
child's spiritual experience, and stimulate healthy
reaction upon it.

Of course this result cannot be seen and
proved as easily and early as can the apprehension
of a fact. The most one can hope to
recognise is its promise, and this is found in
the tokens of that genuine pleasure which is
itself the means of accomplishment. It is,
then, the signs of right pleasure which the
story-teller must look to for her guide, and
which it must be her immediate aim to evoke.
As for the recognition of the signs,--no one
who has ever seen the delight of a real child
over a real story can fail to know the signals
when given, or flatter himself into belief in
them when absent.

Intimately connected with the enjoyment
given are two very practically beneficial results
which the story-teller may hope to obtain, and
at least one of which will be a kind of reward
to herself. The first is a relaxation of the tense
schoolroom atmosphere, valuable for its refreshing
recreative power. The second result, or
aim, is not so obvious, but is even more
desirable; it is this: story-telling is at once one
of the simplest and quickest ways of establishing
a happy relation between teacher and
children, and one of the most effective methods
of forming the habit of fixed attention in the latter.

If you have never seen an indifferent child
aroused or a hostile one conquered to affection
by a beguiling tale, you can hardly appreciate
the truth of the first statement; but nothing
is more familiar in the story-teller's experience.
An amusing, but--to me--touching experience
recently reaffirmed in my mind this power of
the story to establish friendly relations.

My three-year-old niece, who had not seen
me since her babyhood, being told that Aunt
Sara was coming to visit her, somehow confused
the expected guest with a more familiar aunt,
my sister. At sight of me, her rush of welcome
relapsed into a puzzled and hurt withdrawal,
which yielded to no explanations or proffers of
affection. All the first day she followed me
about at a wistful distance, watching me as if
I might at any moment turn into the well-known
and beloved relative I ought to have been.
Even by undressing time I had not progressed
far enough to be allowed intimate approach to
small sacred nightgowns and diminutive shirts.
The next morning, when I opened the door of
the nursery where her maid was brushing her
hair, the same dignity radiated from the little
round figure perched on its high chair, the same
almost hostile shyness gazed at me from the
great expressive eyes. Obviously, it was time
for something to be done.

Disregarding my lack of invitation, I drew
up a stool, and seating myself opposite the
small unbending person, began in a conversational
murmur: "M--m, I guess those are
tingly-tanglies up there in that curl Lottie's
combing; did you ever hear about the tingly-
tanglies? They live in little girls' hair, and
they aren't any bigger than THAT, and when
anybody tries to comb the hair they curl both
weeny legs round, SO, and hold on tight with
both weeny hands, SO, and won't let go!" As
I paused, my niece made a queer little sound
indicative of query battling with reserve. I
pursued the subject: "They like best to live
right over a little girl's ear, or down in her neck,
because it is easier to hang on, there; tingly-
tanglies are very smart, indeed."

"What's ti-ly-ta-lies?" asked a curious,
guttural little voice.

I explained the nature and genesis of tingly-
tanglies, as revealed to me some decades before
by my inventive mother, and proceeded to
develop their simple adventures. When next I
paused the small guttural voice demanded,
"Say more," and I joyously obeyed.

When the curls were all curled and the last
little button buttoned, my baby niece climbed
hastily down from her chair, and deliberately up
into my lap. With a caress rare to her habit she
spoke my name, slowly and tentatively, "An-ty
Sai-ry?" Then, in an assured tone, "Anty Sairy,
I love you so much I don't know what to do!"
And, presently, tucking a confiding hand in
mine to lead me to breakfast, she explained
sweetly, "I didn' know you when you comed
las' night, but now I know you all th' time!"

"Oh, blessed tale," thought I, "so easy a
passport to a confidence so desired, so complete!"
Never had the witchery of the story to
the ear of a child come more closely home to
me. But the fact of the witchery was no new
experience. The surrender of the natural child
to the story-teller is as absolute and invariable
as that of a devotee to the priest of his own sect.

This power is especially valuable in the case
of children whose natural shyness has been
augmented by rough environment or by the
strangeness of foreign habit. And with such
children even more than with others it is also
true that the story is a simple and effective
means of forming the habit of concentration,
of fixed attention; any teacher who deals with
this class of children knows the difficulty of
doing this fundamental and indispensable thing,
and the value of any practical aid in doing it.

More than one instance of the power of story-
telling to develop attentiveness comes to my
mind, but the most prominent in memory is a
rather recent incident, in which the actors were
boys and girls far past the child-stage of docility.

I had been asked to tell stories to about
sixty boys and girls of a club; the president
warned me in her invitation that the children
were exceptionally undisciplined, but my previous
experiences with similar gatherings led me to
interpret her words with a moderation which
left me totally unready for the reality. When
I faced my audience, I saw a squirming jumble
of faces, backs of heads, and the various
members of many small bodies,--not a person
in the room was paying the slightest attention
to me; the president's introduction could
scarcely be said to succeed in interrupting the
interchange of social amenities which was in
progress, and which looked delusively like a
free fight. I came as near stage fright in the
first minutes of that occasion as it is comfortable
to be, and if it had not been impossible to
run away I think I should not have remained.
But I began, with as funny a tale as I knew,
following the safe plan of not speaking very
loudly, and aiming my effort at the nearest
children. As I went on, a very few faces held
intelligently to mine; the majority answered
only fitfully; and not a few of my hearers
conversed with their neighbours as if I were non-
existent. The sense of bafflement, the futile
effort, forced the perspiration to my hands and
face--yet something in the faces before me told
me that it was no ill-will that fought against
me; it was the apathy of minds without the
power or habit of concentration, unable to follow
a sequence of ideas any distance, and rendered
more restless by bodies which were probably
uncomfortable, certainly undisciplined.

The first story took ten minutes. When I
began a second, a very short one, the initial work
had to be done all over again, for the slight
comparative quiet I had won had been totally
lost in the resulting manifestation of approval.

At the end of the second story, the room
was really orderly to the superficial view, but
where I stood I could see the small boy who
deliberately made a hideous face at me each
time my eyes met his, the two girls who talked
with their backs turned, the squirms of a figure
here and there. It seemed so disheartening
a record of failure that I hesitated much to
yield to the uproarious request for a third story,
but finally I did begin again, on a very long story
which for its own sake I wanted them to hear.

This time the little audience settled to attention
almost at the opening words. After about
five minutes I was suddenly conscious of a
sense of ease and relief, a familiar restful feeling
in the atmosphere; and then, at last, I
knew that my audience was "with me," that
they and I were interacting without obstruction.
Absolutely quiet, entirely unconscious of
themselves, the boys and girls were responding to
every turn of the narrative as easily and readily
as any group of story-bred kindergarten children.
From then on we had a good time together.

The process which took place in that small
audience was a condensed example of what
one may expect in habitual story-telling to a
group of children. Once having had the attention
chained by crude force of interest, the
children begin to expect something interesting
from the teacher, and to wait for it. And
having been led step by step from one grade
of a logical sequence to another, their minds--
at first beguiled by the fascination of the steps
--glide into the habit of following any logical
sequence. My club formed its habit, as far as
I was concerned, all in one session; the ordinary
demands of school procedure lengthen the
process, but the result is equally sure. By the
end of a week in which the children have
listened happily to a story every day, the habit
of listening and deducing has been formed, and
the expectation of pleasantness is connected
with the opening of the teacher's lips.

These two benefits are well worth the trouble
they cost, and for these two, at least, any teacher
who tells a story well may confidently look--
the quick gaining of a confidential relation with
the children, and the gradual development of
concentration and interested attention in them.

These are direct and somewhat clearly
discernible results, comfortably placed in a near
future. There are other aims, reaching on into
the far, slow modes of psychological growth,
which must equally determine the choice of the
story-teller's material and inform the spirit of her
work. These other, less immediately attainable
ends, I wish now to consider in relation to the
different types of story by which they are severally
best served.

First, unbidden claimant of attention, comes


No one can think of a child and a story,
without thinking of the fairy tale. Is this, as
some would have us believe, a bad habit of an
ignorant old world? Or can the Fairy Tale
justify her popularity with truly edifying and
educational results? Is she a proper person to
introduce here, and what are her titles to merit?

Oh dear, yes! Dame Fairy Tale comes bearing
a magic wand in her wrinkled old fingers,
with one wave of which she summons up that
very spirit of joy which it is our chief effort to
invoke. She raps smartly on the door, and open
sesames echo to every imagination. Her red-
heeled shoes twinkle down an endless lane of
adventures, and every real child's footsteps
quicken after. She is the natural, own great-
grandmother of every child in the world, and
her pocketfuls of treasures are his by right of
inheritance. Shut her out, and you truly rob
the children of something which is theirs;
something marking their constant kinship with the
race-children of the past, and adapted to their
needs as it was to those of the generation of long
ago! If there were no other criterion at all, it
would be enough that the children love the fairy
tale; we give them fairy stories, first, because they
like them. But that by no means lessens the
importance of the fact that fairy tales are also
good for them.

How good? In various ways. First, perhaps,
in their supreme power of presenting truth
through the guise of images. This is the way
the race-child took toward wisdom, and it is the
way each child's individual instinct takes, after
him. Elemental truths of moral law and general
types of human experience are presented in the
fairy tale, in the poetry of their images, and
although the child is aware only of the image
at the time, the truth enters with it and becomes
a part of his individual experience, to be recognised
in its relations at a later stage. Every
truth and type so given broadens and deepens
the capacity of the child's inner life, and adds
an element to the store from which he draws
his moral inferences.

The most familiar instance of a moral truth
conveyed under a fairy-story image is probably
the story of the pure-hearted and loving girl
whose lips were touched with the wonderful
power of dropping jewels with every spoken
word, while her stepsister, whose heart was
infested with malice and evil desires, let ugly
toads fall from her mouth whenever she spoke.
I mention the old tale because there is probably
no one of my readers who has not heard it in
childhood, and because there are undoubtedly
many to whose mind it has often recurred in
later life as a sadly perfect presentment of the
fact that "out of the abundance of the heart the
mouth speaketh." That story has entered into
the forming consciousness of many of us, with
its implications of the inevitable result of visible
evil from evil in the heart, and its revelation of
the loathsomeness of evil itself.

And no less truly than this story has served
to many as an embodiment of moral law has
another household tale stood for a type of
common experience. How much the poorer
should we be, mentally, without our early
prophecy of the "ugly ducklings" we are to meet
later in life!--those awkward offspring of our
little human duckyard who are mostly well
kicked and buffeted about, for that very length
of limb and breadth of back which needs must
be, to support swan's wings. The story of the
ugly duckling is much truer than many a bald
statement of fact. The English-speaking world
bears witness to its verity in constant use of the
title as an identifying phrase: "It is the old
story of the ugly duckling," we say, or "He has
turned out a real ugly duckling." And we know
that our hearers understand the whole situation.

The consideration of such familiar types and
expressions as that of the ugly duckling suggests
immediately another good reason for giving the
child his due of fairy lore. The reason is that
to omit it is to deprive him of one important
element in the full appreciation of mature literature.
If one thinks of it, one sees that nearly
all adult literature is made by people who, in
their beginnings, were bred on the wonder
tale. Whether he will or no, the grown-up
author must incorporate into his work the
tendencies, memories, kinds of feeling which were
his in childhood. The literature of maturity
is, naturally, permeated by the influence of the
literature of childhood. Sometimes it is apparent
merely in the use of a name, as suggestive of
certain kinds of experience; such are the
recurrences of reference to the Cinderella story.
Sometimes it is an allusion which has its strength
in long association of certain qualities with
certain characters in fairydom--like the slyness of
Brother Fox, and the cruelty of Brother Wolf.
Sometimes the association of ideas lies below
the surface, drawing from the hidden wells of
poetic illusion which are sunk in childhood.
The man or woman whose infancy was nourished
exclusively on tales adapted from science-made-
easy, or from biographies of good men and great,
must remain blind to these beauties of literature.
He may look up the allusion, or identify the
reference, but when that is done he is but richer
by a fact or two; there is no remembered thrill
in it for him, no savour in his memory, no
suggestion to his imagination; and these are
precisely the things which really count. Leaving
out the fairy element is a loss to literary culture
much as would be the omission of the Bible or
of Shakespeare. Just as all adult literature is
permeated by the influence of these, familiar in
youth, so in less degree is it transfused with the
subtle reminiscences of childhood's commerce
with the wonder world.

To turn now from the inner to the outer aspects
of the old-time tale is to meet another cause of
its value to children. This is the value of its
style. Simplicity, directness, and virility
characterise the classic fairy tales and the most
memorable relics of folklore. And these are
three of the very qualities which are most seriously
lacking in much of the new writing for
children, and which are always necessary elements
in the culture of taste. Fairy stories
are not all well told, but the best fairy stories
are supremely well told. And most folk-tales
have a movement, a sweep, and an unaffectedness
which make them splendid foundations for
taste in style.

For this, and for poetic presentation of truths
in easily assimilated form, and because it gives
joyous stimulus to the imagination, and is necessary
to full appreciation of adult literature, we
may freely use the wonder tale.

Closely related to, sometimes identical with,
the fairy tale is the old, old source of children's
love and laughter,


Under this head I wish to include all the
merely funny tales of childhood, embracing the
cumulative stories like that of the old woman
and the pig which would not go over the stile.
They all have a specific use and benefit, and are
worth the repetition children demand for them.
Their value lies, of course, in the tonic and
relaxing properties of humour. Nowhere is that
property more welcome or needed than in the
schoolroom. It does us all good to laugh, if
there is no sneer nor smirch in the laugh; fun
sets the blood flowing more freely in the veins,
and loosens the strained cords of feeling and
thought; the delicious shock of surprise at every
"funny spot" is a kind of electric treatment for
the nerves. But it especially does us good to
laugh when we are children. Every little body
is released from the conscious control school
imposes on it, and huddles into restful comfort
or responds gaily to the joke.

More than this, humour teaches children, as
it does their grown-up brethren, some of the
facts and proportions of life. What keener
teacher is there than the kindly satire? What
more penetrating and suggestive than the humour
of exaggerated statement of familiar tendency?
Is there one of us who has not laughed himself
out of some absurd complexity of over-anxiety
with a sudden recollection of "clever Alice"
and her fate? In our household clever Alice is
an old habituee, and her timely arrival has saved
many a situation which was twining itself about
more "ifs" than it could comfortably support.
The wisdom which lies behind true humour is
found in the nonsense tale of infancy as truly as
in mature humour, but in its own kind and
degree. "Just for fun" is the first reason for the
humorous story; the wisdom in the fun is the

And now we come to


No other type of fiction is more familiar to
the teacher, and probably no other kind is the
source of so much uncertainty of feeling. The
nature story is much used, as I have noticed
above, to illustrate or to teach the habits of
animals and the laws of plant-growth; to stimulate
scientific interest as well as to increase
culture in scientific fact. This is an entirely
legitimate object. In view of its present
preponderance, it is certainly a pity, however, that
so few stories are available, the accuracy of
which, from this point of view, can be vouched
for. The carefully prepared book of to-day is
refuted and scoffed at to-morrow. The teacher
who wishes to use story-telling chiefly as an
element in nature study must at least limit herself
to a small amount of absolutely unquestioned
material, or else subject every new story to the
judgment of an authority in the line dealt with.
This is not easy for the teacher at a distance
from the great libraries, and for those who have
access to well-equipped libraries it is a matter
of time and thought.

It does not so greatly trouble the teacher who
uses the nature story as a story, rather than as
a test-book, for she will not be so keenly attracted
toward the books prepared with a didactic purpose.
She will find a good gift for the child in
nature stories which ARE stories, over and above
any stimulus to his curiosity about fact. That
good gift is a certain possession of all good fiction.

One of the best things good fiction does for
any of us is to broaden our comprehension of
other lots than our own. The average man or
woman has little opportunity actually to live
more than one kind of life. The chances of
birth, occupation, family ties, determine for
most of us a line of experience not very
inclusive and but little varied; and this is a natural
barrier to our complete understanding of others,
whose life-line is set at a different angle. It is
not possible wholly to sympathise with emotions
engendered by experience which one has never
had. Yet we all long to be broad in sympathy
and inclusive in appreciation; we long, greatly,
to know the experience of others. This yearning
is probably one of the good but misconceived
appetites so injudiciously fed by the gossip of
the daily press. There is a hope, in the reader,
of getting for the moment into the lives of people
who move in wholly different sets of circumstances.
But the relation of dry facts in newspapers,
however tinged with journalistic colour,
helps very little to enter such other life. The
entrance has to be by the door of the imagination,
and the journalist is rarely able to open it
for us. But there is a genius who can open it.
The author who can write fiction of the right
sort can do it; his is the gift of seeing inner
realities, and of showing them to those who
cannot see them for themselves. Sharing the
imaginative vision of the story-writer, we can
truly follow out many other roads of life than
our own. The girl on a lone country farm is
made to understand how a girl in a city sweating-
den feels and lives; the London exquisite realises
the life of a Californian ranchman; royalty and
tenement dwellers become acquainted, through
the power of the imagination working on
experience shown in the light of a human basis
common to both. Fiction supplies an element
of culture,--that of the sympathies, which is
invaluable. And the beginnings of this culture,
this widening and clearing of the avenues of
human sympathy, are especially easily made
with children in the nature story.

When you begin, "There was once a little
furry rabbit,"[1] the child's curiosity is awakened
by the very fact that the rabbit is not a child,
but something of a different species altogether.
"Now for something new and adventuresome,"
says his expectation, "we are starting off into a
foreign world." He listens wide-eyed, while
you say, "and he lived in a warm, cosy nest,
down under the long grass with his mother"--
how delightful, to live in a place like that; so
different from little boys' homes!--"his name
was Raggylug, and his mother's name was Molly
Cottontail. And every morning, when Molly
Cottontail went out to get their food, she said
to Raggylug, `Now, Raggylug, remember you
are only a baby rabbit, and don't move from the
nest. No matter what you hear, no matter what
you see, don't you move!'"--all this is different
still, yet it is familiar, too; it appears that rabbits
are rather like folks. So the tale proceeds, and
the little furry rabbit passes through experiences
strange to little boys, yet very like little boys'
adventures in some respects; he is frightened
by a snake, comforted by his mammy, and taken
to a new house, under the long grass a long way
off. These are all situations to which the child
has a key. There is just enough of strangeness
to entice, just enough of the familiar to relieve
any strain. When the child has lived through
the day's happenings with Raggylug, the latter
has begun to seem veritably a little brother of
the grass to him. And because he has entered
imaginatively into the feelings and fate of a
creature different from himself, he has taken his
first step out into the wide world of the lives of

[1] See Raggylug.

It may be a recognition of this factor and
its value which has led so many writers of
nature stories into the error of over-humanising
their four-footed or feathered heroes and
heroines. The exaggeration is unnecessary, for
there is enough community of lot suggested in
the sternest scientific record to constitute a
natural basis for sympathy on the part of the
human animal. Without any falsity of
presentation whatever, the nature story may be
counted on as a help in the beginnings of culture
of the sympathies. It is not, of course, a help
confined to the powers of the nature story; all
types of story share in some degree the powers
of each. But each has some especial virtue in
dominant degree, and the nature story is, on this
ground, identified with the thought given.

The nature story shares its influence especially


As the one widens the circle of connection
with other kinds of life, the other deepens the
sense of relation to past lives; it gives the sense
of background, of the close and endless connection
of generation with generation. A good
historical story vitalises the conception of past
events and brings their characters into relation
with the present. This is especially true of
stories of things and persons in the history of
our own race. They foster race-consciousness,
the feeling of kinship and community of blood.
It is this property which makes the historical
story so good an agent for furthering a proper
national pride in children. Genuine patriotism,
neither arrogant nor melodramatic, is so generally
recognised as having its roots in early
training that I need not dwell on this possibility,
further than to note its connection with the
instinct of hero-worship which is quick in the
healthy child. Let us feed that hunger for the
heroic which gnaws at the imagination of every
boy and of more girls than is generally admitted.
There have been heroes in plenty in the world's
records,--heroes of action, of endurance, of
decision, of faith. Biographical history is full
of them. And the deeds of these heroes are
every one a story. We tell these stories, both
to bring the great past into its due relation with
the living present, and to arouse that generous
admiration and desire for emulation which is
the source of so much inspiration in childhood.
When these stories are tales of the doings and
happenings of our own heroes, the strong men
and women whose lives are a part of our
own country's history, they serve the double
demands of hero-worship and patriotism.
Stories of wise and honest statesmanship, of
struggle with primitive conditions, of generous
love and sacrifice, and--in some measure--of
physical courage, form a subtle and powerful
influence for pride in one's people, the intimate
sense of kinship with one's own nation, and the
desire to serve it in one's own time.

It is not particularly useful to tell batches of
unrelated anecdote. It is much more profitable
to take up the story of a period and connect it
with a group of interesting persons whose lives
affected it or were affected by it, telling the
stories of their lives, or of the events in which
they were concerned, as "true stories." These
biographical stories must, usually, be adapted
for use. But besides these there is a certain
number of pure stories--works of art--which
already exist for us, and which illuminate facts
and epochs almost without need of sidelights.
Such may stand by themselves, or be used with
only enough explanation to give background.
Probably the best story of this kind known to
lovers of modern literature is Daudet's famous
La Derniere Classe.[1]

[1] See The Last Lesson.

The historical story, to recapitulate, gives a
sense of the reality and humanness of past events,
is a valuable aid in patriotic training, and stirs
the desire of emulating goodness and wisdom.



There is one picture which I can always review,
in my own collection of past scenes, though
many a more highly coloured one has been
irrevocably curtained by the folds of forgetfulness.
It is the picture of a little girl, standing
by an old-fashioned marble-topped dressing
table in a pink, sunny room. I can never see
the little girl's face, because, somehow, I am
always looking down at her short skirts or
twisting my head round against the hand which
patiently combs her stubborn curls. But I can
see the brushes and combs on the marble table
quite plainly, and the pinker streaks of sun on
the pink walls. And I can hear. I can hear a
low, wonder-working voice which goes smoothly
on and on, as the fingers run up the little girl's
locks or stroke the hair into place on her fore
head. The voice says, "And little Goldilocks
came to a little bit of a house. And she opened
the door and went in. It was the house where
three Bears lived; there was a great Bear, a
little Bear, and a middle-sized Bear; and they
had gone out for a walk. Goldilocks went in,
and she saw"--the little girl is very still; she
would not disturb that story by so much as a
loud breath; but presently the comb comes to
a tangle, pulls,--and the little girl begins to
squirm. Instantly the voice becomes impressive,
mysterious: "she went up to the table, and
there were THREE PLATES OF PORRIDGE. She tasted
the first one"--the little girl swallows the breath
she was going to whimper with, and waits--"and
it was too hot! She tasted the next one,
and THAT was too hot. Then she tasted the little
bit of a plate, and that--was--just--right!"

How I remember the delightful sense of
achievement which stole into the little girl's
veins when the voice behind her said "just
right." I think she always chuckled a little,
and hugged her stomach. So the story progressed,
and the little girl got through her toilet
without crying, owing to the wonder-working
voice and its marvellous adaptation of climaxes
to emergencies. Nine times out of ten, it was the
story of The Three Bears she demanded when,
with the appearance of brush and comb, the voice
asked, "Which story shall mother tell?"

It was a memory of the little girl in the
pink room which made it easy for me to understand
some other children's preferences when
I recently had occasion to inquire about them.
By asking many individual children which story
of all they had heard they liked best, by taking
votes on the best story of a series, after telling
it, and by getting some obliging teachers to put
similar questions to their pupils, I found three
prime favourites common to a great many children
of about the kindergarten age. They were The
Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, and The Little Pig
that wouldn't go over the Stile.

Some of the teachers were genuinely
disturbed because the few stories they had
introduced merely for amusement had taken so pre-
eminent a place in the children's affection over
those which had been given seriously. It was
of no use, however, to suggest substitutes.
The children knew definitely what they liked,
and though they accepted the recapitulation
of scientific and moral stories with polite
approbation, they returned to the original answer
at a repetition of the question.

Inasmuch as the slightest of the things we
hope to do for children by means of stories is
quite impossible unless the children enjoy the
stories, it may be worth our while to consider
seriously these three which they surely do enjoy,
to see what common qualities are in them,
explanatory of their popularity, by which we
may test the probable success of other stories
we wish to tell.

Here they are,--three prime favourites of
proved standing.


[1] Adapted from Joseph Jacobs's English Fairy Tales (David
Nutt, 57-69 Long Acre, W.C. 6s.),

Once upon a time there were three little pigs,
who went from home to seek their fortune.
The first that went off met a man with a bundle
of straw, and said to him:--

"Good man, give me that straw to build
me a house."

The man gave the straw, and the little pig
built his house with it. Presently came along
a wolf, and knocked at the door, and said:--

"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."

But the pig answered:--

"No, no, by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin."

So the wolf said:--

"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow
your house in."

So he huffed, and he puffed, and he blew his
house in, and ate up the little pig.

The second little pig met a man with a
bundle of furze, and said:--

"Good man, give me that furze to build me
a house."

The man gave the furze, and the pig built his
house. Then once more came the wolf, and said:

"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."

" No, no, by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin."

"Then I'll puff, and I'll huff, and I'll blow
your house in."

So he huffed, and he puffed, and he puffed
and he huffed, and at last he blew the house in,
and ate up the little pig.

The third little pig met a man with a load of
bricks, and said:--

"Good man, give me those bricks to build
me a house with."

The man gave the bricks, and he built his
house with them. Again the wolf came, and

"Little pig, little pig, let me come in."

"No, no, by the hair of my chiny-chin-chin."

"Then I'll huff, and I'll puff, and I'll blow
your house in."

So he huffed, and he puffed, and he huffed,
and he puffed, and he puffed and huffed; but
he could NOT get the house down. Finding that
he could not, with all his huffing and puffing,
blow the house down, he said:--

"Little pig, I know where there is a nice
field of turnips."

"Where?" said the little pig.

"Oh, in Mr Smith's field, and if you will be
ready to-morrow morning we will go together,
and get some for dinner."

"Very well," said the little pig. "What
time do you mean to go?"

"Oh, at six o'clock."

So the little pig got up at five, and got the
turnips before the wolf came crying:--

"Little pig, are you ready?"

The little pig said: "Ready! I have been and
come back again, and got a nice potful for dinner."

The wolf felt very angry at this, but thought
that he would be a match for the little pig
somehow or other, so he said:--

"Little pig, I know where there is a nice

"Where?" said the pig.

"Down at Merry-garden," replied the wolf,
"and if you will not deceive me I will come for you,
at five o'clock to-morrow, and get some apples."

The little pig got up next morning at four
o'clock, and went off for the apples, hoping to
get back before the wolf came; but it took long
to climb the tree, and just as he was coming
down from it, he saw the wolf coming. When
the wolf came up he said:--

"Little pig, what! are you here before me?
Are they nice apples?"

"Yes, very," said the little pig. "I will throw
you down one."

And he threw it so far that, while the wolf
was gone to pick it up, the little pig jumped
down and ran home. The next day the wolf
came again, and said to the little pig:--

"Little pig, there is a fair in town this
afternoon; will you go?'

"Oh yes," said the pig, "I will go; what time?"

"At three," said the wolf. As usual the
little pig went off before the time, and got to
the fair, and bought a butter-churn, which he
was rolling home when he saw the wolf coming.
So he got into the churn to hide, and in so
doing turned it round, and it rolled down the
hill with the pig in it, which frightened the wolf
so much that he ran home without going to the
fair. He went to the little pig's house, and told
him how frightened he had been by a great
round thing which came past him down the hill.
Then the little pig said.--

"Ha! ha! I frightened you, then!"

Then the wolf was very angry indeed, and
tried to get down the chimney in order to eat
up the little pig. When the little pig saw what
he was about, he put a pot full of water on the
blazing fire, and, just as the wolf was coming
down, he took off the cover, and in fell the wolf.
Quickly the little pig clapped on the cover, and
when the wolf was boiled ate him for supper.


[1] Adapted from Joseph Jacobs's English Fairy Tales (David
Nutt, 57-59 Long Acre, W.C. 6s.)

Once upon a time there were Three Bears,
who lived together in a house of their own, in a
wood. One of them was a Little Small Wee
Bear, and one was a Middle-sized Bear, and the
other was a Great Huge Bear. They had each
a pot for their porridge,--a little pot for the
Little Small Wee Bear, and a middle-sized pot
for the Middle-sized Bear, and a great pot for
the Great Huge Bear. And they had each a
chair to sit in,--a little chair for the Little
Small Wee Bear, and a middle-sized chair for
the Middle-sized Bear, and a great chair for the
Great Huge Bear. And they had each a bed
to sleep in,--a little bed for the Little Small
Wee Bear, and a middle-sized bed for the
Middle-sized Bear, and a great bed for the Great
Huge Bear.

One day, after they had made the porridge
for their breakfast, and poured it into their
porridge-pots, they walked out into the wood
while the porridge was cooling, that they might
not burn their mouths, by beginning too soon to
eat it. And while they were walking, a little
girl named Goldilocks came to the house. She
had never seen the little house before, and it
was such a strange little house that she forgot
all the things her mother had told her about
being polite: first she looked in at the window,
and then she peeped in at the keyhole; and
seeing nobody in the house, she lifted the latch.
The door was not fastened, because the Bears
were good Bears, who did nobody any harm,
and never suspected that anybody would harm
them. So Goldilocks opened the door, and
went in; and well pleased she was when she
saw the porridge on the table. If Goldilocks
had remembered what her mother had told her,
she would have waited till the Bears came
home, and then, perhaps, they would have asked
her to breakfast; for they were good Bears--a
little rough, as the manner of Bears is, but for
all that very good-natured and hospitable. But
Goldilocks forgot, and set about helping herself.

So first she tasted the porridge of the Great
Huge Bear, and that was too hot. And then
she tasted the porridge of the Middle-sized
Bear, and that was too cold. And then she
went to the porridge of the Little Small Wee
Bear, and tasted that: and that was neither too
hot nor too cold, but just right; and she liked
it so well, that she ate it all up.

Then Goldilocks sat down in the chair of
the Great Huge Bear, and that was too hard
for her. And then she sat down in the chair
of the Middle-sized Bear, and that was too
soft for her. And then she sat down in the
chair of the Little Small Wee Bear, and that
was neither too hard nor too soft, but just
right. So she seated herself in it, and there
she sat till the bottom of the chair came out,
and down she came, plump upon the ground.

Then Goldilocks went upstairs into the bed-
chamber in which the Three Bears slept. And
first she lay down upon the bed of the Great
Huge Bear; but that was too high at the head
for her. And next she lay down upon the bed
of the Middle-sized Bear, and that was too high
at the foot for her. And then she lay down upon
the bed of the Little Small Wee Bear; and that
was neither too high at the head nor at the
foot, but just right. So she covered herself up
comfortably, and lay there till she fell fast asleep.

By this time the Three Bears thought their
porridge would be cool enough; so they came
home to breakfast. Now Goldilocks had left
the spoon of the Great Huge Bear standing
in his porridge.

PORRIDGE!" said the Great Huge Bear, in
his great, rough, gruff voice. And when the
Middle-sized Bear looked at his, he saw that
the spoon was standing in it too.

said the Middle-sized Bear, in his middle-sized

Then the Little Small Wee Bear looked at
his, and there was the spoon in the porridge-
pot, but the porridge was all gone.

HAS EATEN IT ALL UP!" said the Little Small
Wee Bear, in his little, small, wee voice.

Upon this, the Three Bears, seeing that someone
had entered their house, and eaten up the
Little Small Wee Bear's breakfast, began to
look about them. Now Goldilocks had not
put the hard cushion straight when she rose
from the chair of the Great Huge Bear.

MY CHAIR!" said the Great Huge Bear, in
his great, rough, gruff voice.

And Goldilocks had crushed down the soft
cushion of the Middle-sized Bear.

said the Middle-sized Bear, in his middle-sized

And you know what Goldilocks had done to
the third chair.

HAS SAT THE BOTTOM OUT OF IT!" said the Little
Small Wee Bear, in his little, small, wee voice.

Then the Three Bears thought it necessary
that they should make further search; so they
went upstairs into their bed-chamber. Now
Goldilocks had pulled the pillow of the Great
Huge Bear out of its place.

MY BED!" said the Great Huge Bear, in his
great, rough, gruff voice.

And Goldilocks had pulled the bolster of the
Middle-sized Bear out of its place.

said the Middle-sized Bear, in his middle-sized

And when the Little Small Wee Bear came
to look at his bed, there was the bolster in
its place; and the pillow in its place upon the
bolster; and upon the pillow was the shining,
yellow hair of little Goldilocks!

AND HERE SHE IS!" said the Little Small Wee
Bear, in his little, small, wee voice.

Goldilocks had heard in her sleep the great,
rough, gruff voice of the Great Huge Bear;
but she was so fast asleep that it was no more
to her than the roaring of wind or the rumbling
of thunder. And she had heard the
middle-sized voice of the Middle-sized Bear,
but it was only as if she had heard someone
speaking in a dream. But when she heard the
little, small, wee voice of the Little Small Wee
Bear, it was so sharp, and so shrill, that it
awakened her at once. Up she started, and
when she saw the Three Bears on one side
of the bed, she tumbled herself out at the
other, and ran to the window. Now the window
was open, because the Bears, like good,
tidy Bears as they were, always opened their
bed-chamber window when they got up in the

Out little Goldilocks jumped, and ran away
home to her mother, as fast as ever she


[1] Adapted from Joseph Jacobs's English Fairy Tales (David
Nutt, 57-59 Long Acre, W.C. 6s.).

It happened one day that as an old woman
was sweeping her house she found a little
crooked sixpence. "What," said she, "shall I
do with this little sixpence? I will go to
market, and buy a little pig."

On the way home she came to a stile; but
the piggy wouldn't go over the stile.

So she left the piggy and went on a little
further, till she met a dog. She said to him,
"Dog, dog, bite pig; piggy won't go over the
stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the
dog wouldn't bite piggy.

A little further on she met a stick. So she
said: "Stick! stick! beat dog! dog won't bite
pig; piggy won't go over the stile; and I sha'n't
get home to-night." But the stick wouldn't
beat the dog.

A little further on she met a fire. So she
said: "Fire! fire! burn stick! stick won't beat
dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over
the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But
the fire wouldn't burn the stick.

A little further on she met some water. So
she said: "Water! water! quench fire; fire
won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog
won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile;
and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the water
wouldn't quench the fire.

A little further on she met an ox. So she
said: "Ox! ox! drink water; water won't
quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't
beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get
over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night."
But the ox wouldn't drink the water.

A little further on she met a butcher. So
she said: "Butcher! butcher! kill ox; ox won't
drink water; water won't quench fire; fire
won't burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog
won't bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile;
and I sha'n't get home to-night." But the
butcher wouldn't kill the ox.

A little further on she met a rope. So she
said: "Rope! rope! hang butcher; butcher
won't kill ox; ox won't drink water; water
won't quench fire; fire won't burn stick; stick
won't beat dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't
get over the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-
night." But the rope wouldn't hang the butcher.

A little further on she met a rat. So she
said: "Rat! rat! gnaw rope; rope won't hang
butcher; butcher won't kill ox; ox won't drink
water; water won't quench fire; fire won't
burn stick; stick won't beat dog; dog won't
bite pig; piggy won't get over the stile; and I
sha'n't get home to- night." But the rat wouldn't
gnaw the rope.

A little further on she met a cat. So she
said: "Cat! cat! kill rat; rat won't gnaw rope;
rope won't hang butcher; butcher won't kill
ox; ox won't drink water; water won't quench
fire; fire won't burn stick; stick won't beat
dog; dog won't bite pig; piggy won't get over
the stile; and I sha'n't get home to-night." But
the cat said to her, "If you will go to yonder
cow, and fetch me a saucer of milk, I will kill the
rat." So away went the old woman to the cow.

But the cow refused to give the milk unless
the old woman first gave her a handful of hay.
So away went the old woman to the haystack;
and she brought the hay to the cow.

When the cow had eaten the hay, she gave
the old woman the milk; and away she went
with it in a saucer to the cat.

As soon as it had lapped up the milk, the cat
began to kill the rat; the rat began to gnaw the
rope; the rope began to hang the butcher; the
butcher began to kill the ox; the ox began to
drink the water; the water began to quench
the fire; the fire began to burn the stick; the
stick began to beat the dog; the dog began to
bite the pig; the little pig in a fright jumped
over the stile; and so the old woman did get
home that night.

The briefest examination of these three
stories reveals the fact that one attribute
beyond dispute in each. Something happens,
all the time. Every step in each story is an
event. There is no time spent in explanation,
description, or telling how people felt; the
stories tell what people did, and what they said.
And the events are the links of a sequence of
the closest kind; in point of time and of cause
they follow as immediately as it is possible for
events to follow. There are no gaps, and no
complications of plot requiring a return on the road.

A second common characteristic appears on
briefest examination. As you run over the
little stories you will see that each event
presents a distinct picture to the imagination, and
that these pictures are made out of very simple
elements. The elements are either familiar to
the child or analogous to familiar ones. Each
object and happening is very like everyday,
yet touched with a subtle difference, rich in
mystery. For example, the details of the
pictures in the Goldilocks story are parts of
everyday life,--house, chairs, beds, and so on;
but they are the house, chairs, and beds of three
bears; that is the touch of marvel which transforms
the scene. The old woman who owned
the obstinate pig is the centre of a circle in
which stand only familiar images,--stick, fire,
water, cow, and the rest; but the wonder enters
with the fact that these usually inanimate or
dumb objects of nature enter so humanly into
the contest of wills. So it is, also, with the
doings of the three little pigs. Every image
is explicable to the youngest hearer, while none
suggests actual familiarity, because the actors
are not children, but pigs. Simplicity, with
mystery, is the keynote of all the pictures, and
these are clear and distinct.

Still a third characteristic common to the
stories quoted is a certain amount of repetition.
It is more definite, and of what has been called
the "cumulative" kind, in the story of the old
woman; but in all it is a distinctive feature.

Here we have, then, three marked characteristics
common to three stories almost invariably
loved by children,--action, in close sequence;
familiar images, tinged with mystery; some
degree of repetition.

It is not hard to see why these qualities
appeal to a child. The first is the prime
characteristic of all good stories,--"stories as
is stories"; the child's demand for it but bears
witness to the fact that his instinctive taste is
often better than the taste he later develops
under artificial culture. The second is a matter
of common-sense. How could the imagination
create new worlds, save out of the material of
the old? To offer strange images is to confuse
the mind and dull the interest; to offer familiar
ones "with a difference" is to pique the interest
and engage the mind.

The charm of repetition, to children, is a
more complex matter; there are undoubtedly
a good many elements entering into it, hard to
trace in analysis. But one or two of the more
obvious may be seized and brought to view.
The first is the subtle flattery of an unexpected
sense of mastery. When the child-mind, following
with toilful alertness a new train of thought,
comes suddenly on a familiar epithet or expression,
I fancy it is with much the same sense of
satisfaction that we older people feel when in
the midst of a long programme of new music
the orchestra strikes into something we have
heard before,--Handel, maybe, or one of the
more familiar Beethoven sonatas. "I know
that! I have heard that before!" we think,
triumphant, and settle down to enjoyment
without effort. So it is, probably, with the
"middle-sized" articles of the bears' house and
the "and I sha'n't get home to-night" of the
old woman. Each recurrence deepens the note
of familiarity, tickles the primitive sense of
humour, and eases the strain of attention.

When the repetition is cumulative, like the
extreme instance of The House that Jack
Built, I have a notion that the joy of the
child is the pleasure of intellectual gymnastics,
not too hard for fun, but not too easy for
excitement. There is a deal of fun to be got
out of purely intellectual processes, and child-
hood is not too soon for the rudiments of such
fun to show. The delight the healthy adult
mind takes in working out a neat problem in
geometry, the pleasure a musician finds in
following the involutions of a fugue, are of
the same type of satisfaction as the liking of
children for cumulative stories. Complexity
and mass, arrived at by stages perfectly
intelligible in themselves, mounting steadily from
a starting-point of simplicity; then the same
complexity and mass resolving itself as it were
miraculously back into simplicity, this is an
intellectual joy. It does not differ materially,
whether found in the study of counterpoint,
at thirty, or in the story of the old woman and
her pig, at five. It is perfectly natural and
wholesome, and it may perhaps be a more
powerful developing force for the budding
intellect than we are aware.

For these reasons let me urge you, when you
are looking for stories to tell little children, to
apply this threefold test as a kind of touchstone
to their quality of fitness: Are they full of
action, in close natural sequence? Are their
images simple without being humdrum? Are
they repetitive? The last quality is not an
absolute requisite; but it is at least very often
an attribute of a good child-story.

Having this touchstone in mind for general
selection, we can now pass to the matter of
specific choices for different ages of children.
No one can speak with absolute conviction in
this matter, so greatly do the taste and capacity
of children of the same age vary. Any approach
to an exact classification of juvenile books
according to their suitability for different ages
will be found impossible. The same book in
the hands of a skilful narrator may be made
to afford delight to children both of five and
ten. The following are merely the inferences
drawn from my own experience. They must
be modified by each teacher according to the
conditions of her small audience. In general,
I believe it to be wise to plan the choice of
stories much as indicated in the table.

At a later stage, varying with the standard
of capacity of different classes, we find the
temper of mind which asks continually, "Is
that true?" To meet this demand, one draws
on historical and scientific anecdote, and on
reminiscence. But the demand is never so
exclusive that fictitious narrative need be cast
aside. All that is necessary is to state frankly
that the story you are telling is "just a story,"
or--if it be the case--that it is "part true and
part story."

At all stages I would urge the telling of
Bible stories, as far as is allowed by the special
circumstances of the school. These are stories
from a source unsurpassed in our literature for
purity of style and loftiness of subject. More
especially I urge the telling of the Christ-story,
in such parts as seem likely to be within the
grasp of the several classes. In all Bible
stories it is well to keep as near as possible
to the original unimprovable text.[1] Some
amplification can be made, but no excessive
modernising or simplifying is excusable in face
of the austere grace and majestic simplicity of
the original. Such adaptation as helps to cut
the long narrative into separate units, making
each an intelligible story, I have ventured to
illustrate according to my own personal taste,
in two stories given in Chapter VI. The object
of the usual modernising or enlarging of the
text may be far better attained for the child
listener by infusing into the text as it stands
a strong realising sense of its meaning and
vitality, letting it give its own message through
a fit medium of expression.

[1] Stories from the Old Testament, by S. Platt, retells the Old
Testament story as nearly as possible in the actual words of
the Authorised Version.

The stories given are grouped as illustrations of
the types suitable for different stages. They are,
however, very often interchangeable; and many stories
can be told successfully to all classes. A vitally
good story is little limited in its appeal. It is,
nevertheless, a help to have certain plain results
of experience as a basis for choice; that which
is given is intended only for such a basis, not
in the least as a final list.



Little Rhymed Stories
(including the best of the nursery rhymes and the
more poetic fragments of Mother Goose)
Stories with Rhyme in Parts
Nature Stories
(in which the element of personification is strong)
Nonsense Tales
Wonder Tales


Nonsense Tales
Wonder Tales
Fairy and Folk Tales
Nature Stories
(especially stories of animals)


Folk Tales
Myths and Allegories
Developed Animal Stories
Legends: Historic and Heroic
Historical Stories
Humorous Adventure Stories
"True Stories "

The wonder tales most familiar and accessible to the
teacher are probably those included in the collections of
Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. So constant is the
demand for these that the following list may be found
useful, as indicating which of the stories are more easily and
effectively adapted for telling, and commonly most successful.

It must be remembered that many of these standard tales
need such adapting as has been suggested, catting them
down, and ridding them of vulgar or sophisticated detail.

From the Brothers Grimm:

The Star Dollars
The Cat and the Mouse
The Nail
The Hare and the Hedgehog
Snow-White and Rose-Red
Mother Holle
Three Brothers
The Little Porridge Pot
Little Snow-White
The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids
The Sea Mouse

From Andersen:


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