Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication. The earliest storytellers were historians, newsbearers and entertainers. Stories have been used for sacred rites, for healing and for teaching.
Seasonal stories are a way for us to recognise where we are in the yearly cycle. The same stories can be told each year at the same time. This type of ritual can be a deeply soothing experience for both children and adults.
This story is one that our kindergarten teacher tells to her children during Autumn. Dragons play an important role at Autumn. This is a time when we seek to find the courage within to overcome obstacles, fears and anxieties. Traditionally, a story of St. Michael overcoming a dragon is told at the opening of the festival.
Storytelling in the Steiner classroom is a vital part of teaching across the curriculum from mathematics to handcraft. Throughout their primary years the children listen to stories which bring their studies to life. Primary aged children think in pictures and hearing stories develops their image making power. Children respond emotionally to stories and it is this emotional response that the children remember.
Young children in particular love to hear stories again and again. I found this desire quite surprising in my own children at first but soon began to enjoy the rhythm of telling or reading the same story over and over.
Perhaps you could tell a story, such as this, each evening or morning over the Easter weekend.
Michael and the Dragon
Adapted from a Polish tale by Nancy Foster
Once, long ago in a far-off land, there lived a King who ruled his country kindly and well. It was a beautiful country, and a prosperous one for the farmers took good care of their land. Each year, on a certain day, when the corn stood tall and golden and was ready to be harvested, the people put on their best clothes, and brought their gifts of ripe fruit and vegetables to the King. Now the king had one beautiful daughter, and it was her greatest pleasure on this special day to stand out on her balcony and watch the grand procession coming to the palace.
One year, however, it happened that the people came empty handed. They looked very sad and walked along with their heads bowed down. The King spoke to them, saying “Beloved people, why do you not bring your harvest gifts?”
“Alas, we have nothing to bring” they replied. “Indeed, we do not have enough food for the winter. Our families will go hungry; for a fearsome dragon has come to this land and burned up all our crops with his fiery breath”
Then the king declared he would send all his bravest knights to fight the dragon. The knights went out to meet the dragon, but their swords just melted in the heat from his breath. Then the king sent a messenger to the dragon to ask what treasure they might offer him, so that he would leave their country. But the dragon replied; “Keep your treasure, I do not need it. Instead you must give me the king’s daughter”
When the messenger returned to the king and told him that the dragon required his daughter, the King wept. “I would gladly give the dragon all the treasure of my kingdom, only let me keep my daughter”
But the king’s daughter heard her father speaking, and she came to him saying “I will go to the dragon, father. I am not afraid, for I know that the heavens will watch over me”
And so the king had his daughter dressed in the purest white, and he kissed her, and gave her his blessing, and let her go. He watched her sadly as she walked to the hill to meet the dragon, her head held high. The knights accompanied her for a time, but when they reached the hill where the dragon was, they stayed behind and the king’s daughter went on alone.
As the princess began to climb the hill, the dragon suddenly appeared, breathing his fiery breath. At that very moment, a heavenly light streamed from above. The heavens opened, and Michael stepped forth with his arm outstretched. In his hand was a sword, not an ordinary sword, but a heavenly sword, forged from the stars.
Michael pointed his sword at the dragon, and at that instant the dragon fell to the earth, overcome. Then there was a great celebration. The knights led the princess back to the palace in a grand procession, and the people rejoiced. When the farmers went back to their homes, they found their cellars full of the finest fruits and vegetables, and plenty of grain ready for the mill. And so it was that each year, from that time on, at harvest the people celebrated a festival of thanksgiving to Michael, who saved their crops from the dragon.
If you would like to share your ideas, thoughts or visions for what a Roaring Autumn might mean for you, we would love to hear from you.
For more on how the Golden Hill School and parent community find ways to welcome in the season’s change click here
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