Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Incredible Hulk and pixie dust - Storytelling with superpowers

I am back to doing some recreational storytelling at the University School, while getting a million other things done. I had to recharge some storypower after all the work at a front desk... Fortunately enough the kids still remember me, and so did the teachers, so it was only a matter of walking through the doors and asking.

I got 4th and 5th grade this week, and decided to give a trial run to some of the superpower stories I have collected for my book. I had them list whatever powers came to their mind. It was a surprising list. At first, all the boys would yell "THE HULK!" without even thinking about it. I keep running into this. Try it once, it's fun: Ask any group of kids to list superheroes or superpowers, and the very first one they think of will not be Iron Man, or Superman, or even Batman. It will always be the Hulk. Go figure.
In 5th grade one of the boys had both his hands up in the air the moment I asked the question. When I pointed at him he yelled "PIXIE DUST!" (no comment). Other kids listed the usual suspects such as flying, invisibility etc. I noted that this 5th grade class was the very first to mention shape-shifting and animal speech, probably the most common powers in folklore.

4th grade got Finn MacCool and the Giants and the Tengu's Cloak. The former has a whole bunch of heroes with powers, and is also a lot of fun to tell, provided the storyteller is allowed to mention witches, giants, archery, and mild violence (*cough*notatthecommunitycenter*cough*). When Finn McCool thinks he has defeated the witch and lets his guard down, and the baby he was supposed to be protecting is kidnapped, the entire 4th grade class broke out into a slow and sarcastic clap, shaking their heads at the great hero's mistake. It cracked me up. Similarly, the tengu's tale of a trickster being punished for mischief sits well with young kids. They have all been there.

5th grade got the Princess of Tomboso, with the mean princess stealing magical objects from Jack, and then being punished for it. The magical objects were a roaring success, I could hear the kids discussing which one of the three they would choose if they had a choice. Every time Jack ran into the princess' trap (even the first time around!) everyone would yell "DON'T BELIEVE HER!" and then groan when he did. These kids have a healthy survival instinct built in...
They demanded a second story, with shape-shifting and animal speech, and lucky I had one to offer. The tale of the Gold-spinners is one of my favorite new stories that I researched for the book. This was the first time I got to watch the kids' reaction to the story of people having the ability to talk to animals. It was the coolest thing on the planet.

I shall continue touring with these stories. I am totally selfish. I love the reactions they get from the kids.


  1. Love that Finn & Witch story! Glad you're telling it.

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