For the Story Teller: Chapter 10 - Stimulating the Emotions by Means of a Storyby@carolynsherwin
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For the Story Teller: Chapter 10 - Stimulating the Emotions by Means of a Story

by Carolyn SherwinJuly 29th, 2022
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A GROUP of school children recently started quarreling in the school yard during the morning recess time. The storm center was two small boys who had fallen out over a game of marbles. The entire class took sides; for Edgar and against Edgar, for Lawrence and against Lawrence and proceeded to wage individual warfare like a miniature army. Even the ringing of the school bell failed to stop the quarrel. The children took their seats unwillingly and with sour faces carrying the feud with them into the classroom.

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Stimulating the Emotions by Means of a Story
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For the Story Teller: Story Telling and Stories to Tell, by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey is part of HackerNoon Books Series . You can jump to any chapter in this book here. Chapter X: STIMULATING THE EMOTIONS BY MEANS OF A STORY


A GROUP of school children recently started quarreling in the school yard during the morning recess time. The storm center was two small boys who had fallen out over a game of marbles. The entire class took sides; for Edgar and against Edgar, for Lawrence and against Lawrence and proceeded to wage individual warfare like a miniature army. Even the ringing of the school bell failed to stop the quarrel. The children took their seats unwillingly and with sour faces carrying the feud with them into the classroom.

The teacher was a wise young person who believed in attacking the matter of discipline along the lines of least resistance. She saw immediately that a general feeling of anger possessed the children; no one child could be blamed. So she set about creating an opposite, general feeling as quickly as possible. Setting aside other work for ten minutes she announced a story. Instantly, the tension was loosened. By the time she had finished Grimm’s story of “The Pot and the Kettle,” in which, as a climax, neither is able to taunt the other with being black, the children’s anger was gone, peace was restored, and the children were smiling. An emotional crisis had been successfully met by means of a story.

Our emotions, that is, our feelings of anger, joy, sorrow, hatred, jealousy, and love are older than we are. They may almost be classed as instinctive, for they manifest themselves so early. The baby gives examples of emotional explosions in his first month. These feelings have their rise in mental conditions over which we have no control; they are not dependent upon sensory stimuli; they are isolated, incoherent. They take hold of the personality of the subject in a hypnotic fashion, for the period of the feeling’s mastery we are anger, love, sorrow, or whatever emotion enthralls us.

The psychologists classify and subdivide the emotions into many divisions but the story teller is most concerned with making one elastic, wide classification of a child’s emotions; those that are concerned with bodily expression. A child is happy, he laughs; he is sad and he cries; he is angry, he fights; he is afraid, and he gives active evidence of cowardice. Because, during the time of his obsession by one of these emotions, a child is so completely mastered by his feelings, we discover that we can create for him by story suggestion a similar mental state.

The story which a child feels is going to be a force in his emotional development.

I came across one of my own, old Mother Goose books not long ago with the leaves that held the story of the “Babes in the Wood” pinned securely together. It told me as nothing else could have done the emotion caused in a child’s mind by this gruesome tale. I was afraid when I read the story. I felt all the terror experienced by the Babes in the Wood. My fear emotion was so unpleasant that I had pinned the story out of my sight. I wanted to feel some other emotion. Other children have similar emotions.

We will study stories, then, asking ourselves:

What emotion does this story stimulate?

By its unpleasant situations and images, does it inspire fear in a child? Does it make a child happy because of its bubbling good humor? Does it create child sympathy, courage, grief, anger, malice, charity, temperance? Each one of these states of feeling is characterized by bodily expression and we can almost mold character, and influence a child’s future life activity by means of the stories which we tell him.

Sometimes our sole object in this story emotion work will be to create an atmosphere of good humor and happiness in our children. Not by any means to be despised is the ability to make a child laugh. The power to feel humor in childhood means the power to take life not too seriously in adult life and the story that simply amuses and entertains has an important place in the story hour. In this class of happiness-making stories are: “Bre’r Rabbit and the Little Tar Baby,” “Johnny Cake,” “Epaminondos and His Aunty,” “The Mouse and the Sausage,” “The Greedy Cat,” “Lambikin,” “Chicken Little,” “The Cat and the Mouse” and a score more of sheer nonsense stories whose very improbability makes them tickle a child’s sense of humor and gives him the opportunity to express his feelings in laughter.

So many more stories than we realize put children into a state of fear. Oldest of all our emotions, since we share it alike with animals, fear peculiarly takes hold of a child during the early years when he is most interested in stories. The story situation that seems quite plausible to us and not in the least terrorizing, haunts a child at night, peers from shadowy corners at him in the daytime and makes of him, unwittingly, a little coward. The troll with only one eye, the giant who cracks human bones, the witch who exercises horrible spells should all be buried in some tomb of forgetfulness. Stories having such themes do nothing toward creating worthwhile emotions in the child’s mind. While their very improbability makes them plausible for us, they are, on the other hand, very real to children and should be avoided.

But we can make children self reliant and brave by giving them feelings of courage through listening to courage stories. The child who hears the stories of “Cedric, the Little Hero of Harlem,” “The Story of a Short Life,” “David and Goliath,” “Jean D’Arc,” “Tiny Tim,” “Jenny Wren,” is made one with each child hero, feels with them, dares with them, acts with them.

Each emotion that will prevail over and influence human action in adult life may be appealed to in childhood through stories.

The child who is greedy and selfish is led into a better state of feeling when he hears the story of “The King of the Golden River.” Always greed and avarice will be associated in his mind with the tragic end of the brothers, and the Happy Valley, full of plenty, and enjoyed by Gluck, will symbolize for him the reward of unselfishness. The child who is proud will feel the opposite emotion, humbleness, when he hears Oscar Wilde’s wonderful parable of “The Star-Child.” As children follow the wanderings of the Star-Child, his beauty gone, his mother lost to him because of his pride and, with him, find the successful end of the journey, they lose their own pride of heart with their story hero.

“And the gate of the palace opened, and the priests and the high officers of the city ran forth to meet him, and they abased themselves before him, and said, ‘Thou art our lord for whom we have been waiting, and the son of our King.’

“And the Star-Child answered them and said, ‘I am no king’s son, but the child of a poor beggar-woman. And how say ye that I am beautiful, for I know that I am evil to look at.’

“Then he, whose armour was inlaid with gilt flowers, and on whose helmet couched a lion that had wings, held up a shield, and cried, ‘How saith my lord that he is not beautiful?’

“And the Star-Child looked, and lo! his face was even as it had been, and his comeliness had come back to him, and he saw that in his eyes which he had not seen there before.

“And the priests and the high officers knelt down and said to him, ‘It was prophesied of old that on this day should come he who was to rule over us. Therefore, let our lord take this crown and this sceptre, and be in his justice and mercy our King over us.’

“But he said to them, ‘I am not worthy, for I have denied the mother who bare me, nor may I rest till I have found her, and known her forgiveness. Therefore, let me go, for I must wander again over the world, and may not tarry here, though ye bring me the crown and the sceptre.’ And as he spake he turned his face from them towards the street that led to the gate of the city, and lo! amongst the crowd that pressed round the soldiers, he saw the beggar-woman who was his mother, and at her side stood the leper, who had sat by the road.

“And a cry of joy broke from his lips, and he ran over, and kneeling down he kissed the wounds on his mother’s feet, and wet them with his tears. He bowed his head in the dust, and sobbing, as one whose heart might break, he said to her: ‘Mother, I denied thee in the hour of my pride. Accept me in the hour of my humility. Mother, I gave thee hatred. Do thou give me love. Mother, I rejected thee. Receive thy child now.’ But the beggar-woman answered him not a word.

“And he reached out his hands, and clasped the white feet of the leper, and said to him: ‘Thrice did I give thee of my mercy. Bid my mother speak to me once.’ But the leper answered him not a word.

“And he sobbed again, and said: ‘Mother, my suffering is greater than I can bear. Give me thy forgiveness, and let me go back to the forest.’ And the beggar-woman put her hand on his head, and said to him: ‘Rise,’ and the leper put his hand on his head, and said to him ‘Rise,’ also.

“And he rose up from his feet, and looked at them, and lo! they were a King and a Queen.

“And the Queen said to him, ‘This is thy father whom thou hast succored.’

“And the King said, ‘This is thy mother whose feet thou hast washed with thy tears.’

“And they fell on his neck and kissed him, and brought him into the palace, and clothed him in fair raiment, and set the crown upon his head, and the sceptre in his hand, and over the city that stood by the river he ruled, and was its lord. Much justice and mercy did he show to all, and the evil Magician he banished, and to the Woodcutter and his wife he sent many rich gifts, and to their children he gave high honour. Nor would he suffer any to be cruel to bird or beast, but taught love and loving-kindness and charity, and to the poor he gave bread, and to the naked he gave raiment, and there was peace and plenty in the land.”

What more effective emotional stimulus could be found than this?

The children whom we wish to feel pity should hear Andersen’s “Ugly Duckling”; Oscar Wilde’s, “The Birthday of the Infanta”; Daudet’s, “The Last Lesson”; “The House in the Wood” and “The Star Dollars” by Grimm and many other sympathy stories that only wait for our timely rendering.

In telling a story, having in mind its emotional effect upon a child’s mental life, we will need to use the greatest delicacy of discrimination in order to create just the story effect which we wish. We will not tell such stories so often as to cause them to lose their magic spell. We will appeal to but one emotion at a time through the story medium. We will make an appeal most strongly to those emotions that have bodily expression in a child’s daily speech and acts. We will remember that a child is so quick to smiles, so quick to tears that the pleasanter feelings should be the aim of our telling of emotion stories rather than the unpleasant ones.

Some of us may class Miss Mulock’s story of “The Little Lame Prince” as just a purely imaginative one; others of us are appealed to by its dramatic qualities. But, after all, the story has survived the test of years because of its big emotional appeal. It stands for pity, sympathy, courage, nearly all the emotions which we wish to strengthen in children.

The Little Lame Prince

Yes, he was the most beautiful Prince that ever was born. Everybody was exceedingly proud of him, especially his father and mother, the King and Queen of Nomansland. The only person who did not love the Prince was the King’s brother, who would have been king one day if the royal baby had not come.

Of course a little Prince must be christened. The day came at last, as lovely as the Prince himself, and they carried the baby, magnificent in his christening robe, to the bedside of the Queen, his mother. She admired him very much. She kissed and blessed him, and then she gave him up with a gentle smile, and turned peacefully over in her bed, saying nothing more to anybody.

It was a wonderful christening procession: dukes and duchesses, princes and princesses, heralds, and ladies in waiting were in line. Every one was so busy shouting out the little Prince’s four and twenty names that they never noticed the accident. It was the Prince’s state nurse maid, an elegant young lady of rank, who let him fall just at the foot of the marble staircase. She had been so busy arranging her train—that was the reason she dropped him—but she contrived to pick him up again the next minute before any one saw. The baby had turned very pale under the heap of lace and muslin, and he had moaned a little, but that was all.

There were pages in crimson and gold, troops of little girls in dazzling white with baskets of flowers, the King and his train on one side—as pretty a sight as ever was seen out of fairyland.

“The only thing the baby wants is a fairy godmother,” said one of the children.

“Does he?” said a shrill, but soft voice behind.

She was no bigger than a child, and certainly had not been invited to the christening. She was a little old woman dressed all in gray; gray gown, gray hooded cloak of a material tinted like the gray of an evening sky, gray hair, and her eyes were gray also. Even her face had a soft gray shadow over it, but she was not unpleasantly old, and her smile was as sweet and childlike as the Prince’s own.

“Take care,” she said. “Don’t let the baby fall again!”

The grand lady nurse started.

“Who spoke? His Royal Highness is just going to sleep,” she said.

“Nevertheless I must kiss him,” said the little old woman. “I am his godmother.”

And she stretched herself up on tiptoe, and gave the little Prince three kisses.

“An insult to His Royal Highness,” said the nurse.

“His Majesty shall hear of this,” said a lord-in-waiting. But just then the little gray woman faded away like air, and the great bell of the palace—the bell which was only heard on the death of some member of the Royal family—began to toll—one—two—three—nine and twenty—just the Queen’s age!

So when the little Prince was carried back to his mother’s room, there was no mother to kiss him. She had turned her face to the window whence one could just see the Beautiful Mountains where she was born. So gazing, she had quietly died.

Everybody was very kind to the poor little Prince, but, somehow, after his mother died, things seemed to go wrong with him. From a beautiful baby he became sickly and pale, and his legs, which had been so fat and strong, withered and shrank. When he tried to stand he only tumbled down.

A prince, and not able to walk! People began to say what a misfortune it was to the country. Rather a misfortune to him, also, poor little lad, but he still had the old sweet look in his little face, and his body grew if his legs did not. His Majesty, the King, took very little notice of his son, and one day he died, too, and they made the Crown Prince, Regent, in his stead, and then things went much worse with the little Prince.

Perhaps the Prince Regent did not mean to do wrong. He told the country that the little Prince would be better if he were sent for a while to the Beautiful Mountains. So the poor little Prince started, with two whole regiments to guard him, and then there came back word that he had gone on a much longer journey. They said that he had died on the road, so the country went into mourning, and then forgot all about their little lame Prince. And the Regent was proclaimed King.

What really became of the Prince? Beyond the Mountains there lay a barren tract of country, with not a bush—not a tree. In summer the sunshine fell upon it hour after hour, and in winter the snow covered it steadily and noiselessly in one great sheet. Not a pleasant place to live—and no one did live there, evidently. The only human habitation for miles and miles was one large, round stone tower, circular, with neither doors nor windows, save some slits in the wall near the top. And the top was a hundred feet from the plain.

One winter night, when all the plain was white with moonlight, there was seen crossing it a great black horse, ridden by a man equally black, and carrying before him on the saddle a woman and a child. The woman had a sad, fierce look, and no wonder, for she was a criminal under sentence of death, but her sentence had been changed. She was to live in the lonely tower with a child—only as long as he lived. He was a little gentle boy, with a sweet, sleepy smile. He had been tired with his long journey. And he was very helpless, with his poor, small, shrivelled legs, which could neither stand nor run away—for the little boy was the Prince.

When they reached the foot of the tower there was light enough to see a huge chain dangling from the top, half way. The man fitted together a ladder and mounted, drawing up the Prince and his nurse. Then he came down again and left them alone.

And there they stayed for years.

It was not an unhappy life for the little boy. He had all sorts and kinds of beautiful toys, and more picture books than he could look at. He learned to crawl like a fly, and to jump like a frog. He played about from room to room—there were four; parlor, kitchen, his nurse’s room, and his own—and as he grew older he would sit at the slits of windows and watch the sky, and wonder about things—for his nurse never talked much.

“I wish I had somebody to tell me all about the world,” he said to himself once, “a real, live person. Oh, I want somebody dreadfully!”

As he spoke, there sounded behind him, the tap-tap-tap of a cane, and—what do you think he saw?

A little woman, no larger than he, with gray hair, and a dress of gray, and there was a gray shadow over her wherever she moved. But she had the sweetest smile, and the prettiest hands, which she laid on his shoulders, as she said:

“My own little boy, I couldn’t come until you said you wanted me, but here I am!”

“Are you my mother?” asked the little Prince. He had always wondered what had become of his mother.

“No, only your godmother,” said the little woman, “but I love you as much as your mother did, and I want to help you all I can, my poor little boy. I am going to give you a present—a traveling cloak,” but just then in came the Prince’s nurse, and his lovely old godmother melted away, as a rainbow melts out of the sky. He knew, for he had watched one many a time.

And what of the traveling cloak? I will tell you all about it.

It was the commonest-looking bundle imaginable—shabby and small. It seemed no treasure at all; only a circular, green piece of cloth, and quite worn and shabby. It had a slit cut to the center, forming a round hole for the neck, and that was all its shape.

“Of what use will it be to me?” thought the little Prince sadly. “I never go out. She must be a rather funny person, this dear old godmother of mine.”

But he spread it out on the floor, and sat down in the center for all the world like a frog on a water lily leaf. The edges of the cloak began turning up—and—the cloak rose, slowly and steadily, and higher and higher until the little Prince was obliged to open the skylight to let himself through. There they were outside. Oh, it was wonderful, nothing but earth and sky for a while. Then came the patches of flowers that grew on the plain, white saxifrage, and yellow lotus, and ground thistles. Next, he saw a farm where cows and horses, lambs and sheep fed in the meadows. Presently he heard a murmur in the distance, like a gigantic hive of bees. It was a great city which he was sailing over and the cloak stopped directly over a palace.

Such a magnificent palace! It had terraces and gardens, battlements and towers. Its windows looked in all directions, but mostly toward the Beautiful Mountains.

“I wonder if there is a king in this palace,” thought the little Prince.

Just then the cloak settled down to the palace roof between some great stacks of chimneys as comfortably as if it were on the ground. There were some broken tiles in the roof, and the Prince peered in.

It was the largest room he had ever seen, and very grand. There was the loveliest carpet ever woven on the floor, a bed of flowers; but the room was perfectly empty and silent. In the center of a magnificent bed, large enough to hold six people, lay a small figure, something like wax work, fast asleep—very fast asleep. There were some sparkling rings on the fingers and the nose was sharp and thin, and a long gray beard lay over the breast. Two little flies buzzed about the curtains of the bed, and made the only sound—for the King was dead.

Then there came a great shouting from the city.

“Long live the King! The King is dead—down with the King! Hurrah for the Republic! Hurrah for no government at all!”

“Oh, dear godmother,” cried the little Prince. “Let me go back to the tower.” And he suddenly found himself in his own room alone and quiet—for the traveling cloak had taken him there; after which it folded itself into the tiniest bundle, and tied its own knots, and rolled itself into the farthest and darkest corner.

The clock was striking ten, and no nurse was to be seen. The little lame Prince crawled about from room to room on his weak little knees, but all the four chambers were deserted.

“Nurse—dear nurse—please come back!” he cried. “Come back and I will be the best boy in the land!”

But she did not answer, nor come.

In truth the poor woman had not been such a wicked woman after all. As soon as she heard of the death of the King, she determined to go to Nomansland, and set upon the throne its rightful heir. She had persuaded the old black messenger to take her down from the tower, and together they galloped like the wind from city to city spreading the news that the little lame Prince was alive and well, and the noblest young Prince that ever was born.

It was a bold stroke, but it succeeded.

“Hurrah for the Prince! Let the little Prince be our King,” came from end to end of the Kingdom.

Everybody tried to remember what a dear baby he once was, and nobody at all spoke of his lameness. They went with great rejoicing; lords and gentlemen, and soldiers traveling night and day to fetch the little lame Prince.

They found him sitting on the floor—quite pale, for he expected a far different end from this, although he had decided to die, if die he must, courageously, like a Prince.

“Yes,” he said, “I am only a little boy, but I will try to be your King. I will do my best to make the people happy.”

Then there arose from inside and outside the tower, such a shout as never yet was heard across the lonely plain.

So the little lame Prince came to his own after all, and every one says he was the best King that ever ruled Nomansland. His reign lasted for years and years, and then he went away.

Whither he went, or who went with him, it is impossible to say. But I myself believe that his godmother took him on his traveling cloak to the Beautiful Mountains. What he did there, or where he is now, who can tell? I cannot. But one thing I am quite sure of, that, wherever he is, he is perfectly happy.

And so, when I think of him, am I.

Adapted, from Miss Mulock.

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Bailey, Carolyn Sherwin. 2018. For the Story Teller: Story Telling and Stories to Tell. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved April 2022 from

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