Once again I had an encounter on the field of "appropriate storytelling" - and this time I am happy to report that it was a positive experience.
I wrote about the preschool storytelling last week. It was fun, and I have been looking forward to the next one. This time, however, before the storytelling started one of the mothers pulled me aside to have a little talk about the stories I tell.
What happened was I told a porquoi tale last week. I have not even thought about it (in retrospect, I should have) that the families in the home school program are mostly devoted Christians, and as such, creation and "how day and night came to be" folktales are not the best choice to go with... anyway. So far it was not all that different from other issues about apporpritaeness that I have had to deal with before.
But, here comes the catch.
Instead of reproaching me, the lady very politely and openly explained to me her and the other mothers' concerns and the kinds of stories they find problematic. She was also very kind and told me that she really enjoyed my telling and she would like to continue bringing the kids every week. She apologized for making it difficult for me to choose stories, and she made it very clear she had nothing against my own personal world views, she just asked me to respect theirs. She inquired if I had stories that would fit their ideas, and finally told me that she was not angry in any way.
That, ladies and gentlemen, made all the difference in the world.
As a storyteller, it is my responsibility to adapt to my audiences. If you ask me nicely and politely, we can talk about mostly anything. I have hundreds of stories in my repertoire; I can choose the ones that will not offend you, but do not make me go out of my way either. We can compromise, if we can talk about it. If you respect my work, I will respect your wishes. If you do not care what my religion is, there is no reason for me to criticize yours either. If you open a conversation like civilized people, I am sure we can find stories that connect us both. And I will thank you for explaining to me what you think.
So this is exactly what happened. I went to my repertoire book (a million thanks to Elizabeth Ellis), carefully folded out the cover that says "What Would Loki Do?" (no need to upset nice people), and found some stories for the ankle biters that were appropriate. We had a great time, and we will continue to do so.