Out of a rich reading background to select the story that exactly fits the day or
the hour or the mood … that is to be a happy and successful storyteller. The
ability to make the Story Hour a natural part of the life of a children's room,
the experience that tells us how to group the children, how to protect them and
ourselves from interruption, how to make the book that we tell the story from
theirs as well as ours, how to recognize and direct the enthusiasm, the imagina-
tion and the faith that the story kindles—all these things become second nature
after awhile. But the power to choose—-that is very much harder to come by!
—Mary Gould Davis1
THE POWER TO CHOOSE involves knowledge of self, knowledge of storytelling literature, and knowledge of the group to whom one is telling.
Storytelling flows from a deep desire to share, the desire to be open about something that has touched one deeply. The choice of story and the manner in which it is told reveal one's inner self. Although the storyteller may be recreating a traditional tale, it is his or her experience of life that enters the telling and makes the story ring true. A soft-spoken, gentle young student chose to tell for her first story Grimm's "Fisherman and His Wife." Although she knew the plot perfectly, she was unable to hold the children's attention because she could not bring to her telling any understanding of the emotional makeup of the greedy wife. She made the wife's requests sound so reasonable that the dramatic conflict was lost and the children were bored. Some time later in the course, she told, successfully, Andersen's "Swineherd," a tale technically more difficult to learn and to tell. She was successful because her empathy with the emotions dealt with in the story gave color to her telling.
The storyteller must take the story from the printed page and blow the breath of life into it. This cannot be done unless the story has meaning for the one who is telling it, because children are quick to sense one's true feelings about a story. The storyteller, then, must enjoy the content, mood, or style and must have a desire to share this enjoyment. Frances Clarke Sayers, who recalled listening to the story "The Gingerbread Boy" as a child, remarked of the storyteller, "She told it as though she were relating