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Articles About Storytelling

Handsome, Big and Strong: Participatory Storytelling
By:

Handsome, Big and Strong

A bear went for a walk in the forest. He came upon a little puddle of water in the path. Bear bent down to drink-and there in the water he saw his reflection!

"Oh my!" he said. "I am the handsomest, biggest, strongest animal anywhere! No other animal is as

Handsome, Big, and Strong as I am!"

(Teach the audience their part here--go through a couple of practice runs to be sure their volume and inflection is right)

The bear went walking on, looking for another animal to compare himself with. He soon met a white-tailed deer.

"Deer," said Bear, "why is that you are not as

(audience) Handsome, Big, and Strong as I am?"

"I don’t know," said Deer. And Bear puffed out his chest and walked on.

It wasn’t long before he met Raccoon.

"Raccoon," said Bear, "can you tell me why it is that you are not as

(audience) Handsome, Big, and Strong as I am?"

"Well," said Raccoon, "I don’t know!"

Bear tossed his fine big head and walked on. There in the path ahead of him was a possum ambling along.

"Hello, Possum!" said Bear. "Can you tell me why you are not as

(audience) Handsome, Big, and Strong as I am?"

"No," said Possum. "I don’t know."

The Bear puffed out his great chest and stalked past the possum.

At first, the Bear didn’t see the next animal. He heard him--a teeny, tiny "aaaaah-chooo!"

The Bear looked down, and there in the grass at the side of the path was a tiny......mouse.

"Bless you!" said the Bear. "Umm, can you tell me, Mouse, how it is that you are not as

(audience) Handsome, Big, and Strong as I am?"

The tiny mouse looked up at the mighty Bear and said,

"I have been sick, that’s why."

This story is based on an African tale called A Lion Went for a Walk. When I read the story, the participation possibilities were immediately evident. I could select children to play the parts of the animals (add more animals for more children). I could use the dialog in the text repetitively, with the audience calling out certain words. The children/animals would all have the same line to say, and it was short enough to be easy to teach in a few seconds.

Another adaptation also occurred to me. I could change the animals to those found in my area. Instead of lion, antelope, hippopotamus and zebra, I could use bear, deer, raccoon, and possum. That would regionalize the story and include animals more familiar to children here. And that’s how this version of the story was created.

Before you start: Select audience volunteers for: deer, raccoon, possum, and mouse. Teach them their lines. All will be the same except for the mouse. Make sure the mouse knows that he/she must speak loud enough for everyone to hear them. Often the tendency is to speak in a tiny mousy squeak which may not be audible to all, and the story will lose its meaning for those who miss that last line.

Other Options for Participation * Sing the repeated words to a simple melody. * Let the entire audience say the lines of the animals Bear meets. * Increase the audience lines to include all Bear’s repeated phrase. * Change the animals to reflect your area of the country/world. * Use puppets for the animal roles.

Do you have to use audience members in the animal roles? Of course not! The story could be told as easily without them, and just as effectively. But this is a simple story to try including participation. The way you tell the story is up to you, the storyteller!

Story Sources:
Diane Goode’s Book of Silly Stories and Songs. Dutton Books, 1992

"Violence" in Idries Shah’s book Special Illumination : The Sufi Use of Humor. Octagon Press, 1977

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