THE TALE OF GOLDEN MERMAIDS

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Photograph by Laurentlesax

The tale of golden mermaids-
a bridge of light
all the way to Lanka

“I don’t expect we will forego story in the future. We will tell our tales, and embellish them, and pretend they round us out and make us whole. We seem to need story, and for just these things. But those of us who know anti-story, who can confront the truth in all its jagged, unfinished, momentary magnificence, will keep returning to haiku. Haiku, to those who know, is the real story.”

Jim Kacian

THE STORYTELLING ANIMAL- How Stories Make Us Human

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“Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. It’s easy to say that humans are “wired” for story, but why?”

Jonathan Gottschall

Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate life’s complex social problems—just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival.

Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?

Of course, our story instinct has a darker side. It makes us vulnerable to conspiracy theories, advertisements, and narratives about ourselves that are more “truthy” than true. National myths can also be terribly dangerous: Hitler’s ambitions were partly fueled by a story.

But as Gottschall shows stories can also change the world for the better. Most successful stories are moral—they teach us how to live, whether explicitly or implicitly, and bind us together around common values. We know we are master shapers of story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.

Enter the circle with me and listen to the deep voice of story.

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NOK KAEOW – THE BIRD WEAVER

In the ancient time there lived a man who loved the forest. He knew that the trees were sacred and often when walking there he spoke to them softly. One day while wandering there he spotted a woman wearing a pasin of such beautiful colours. As happens in such tales they fell in love and were married.

Their wooden house was on the edge of a village and every week the woman would journey to the market to take the cloth she had woven. People from far and wide marvelled at the colour and quality of the cloth. But the man noticed that his love was getting weaker and weaker, thinner and thinner. One night he woke and found that his wife no longer lay beside him. He went to the open window and there in the moonlight in the forest clearing he saw a small bird plucking feathers from her plumage and weaving them into the cloth.

The man’s heart was heavy for he knew what he must do. The next morning the man went with the woman deep into the forest.

“Here we must part,” he said.

“No. No,” the woman cried.

Then she realised that her husband had seen her. They parted with great sorrow for it was not easy to let each other go.

But after some months a beautiful coloured bird appeared at the man’s house with some seed in her mouth. The man planted the seed and from it grew a wild mulberry tree. Silkworm came to feed on the tree and in that way wild silk was formed. At night the bird weaver spun the thread into beautiful yarns. So it was that the man and bird lived in harmony and happiness.”

FACTS

This stunning Thai bird could soon become extinct due to the palm oil industry.

This is a Gurney’s pitta, Pitta gurneyi, an endangered species that was believed to be extinct until several pairs were rediscovered in 1986. At that time, it was thought to be the rarest bird species on earth. Currently, it is estimated that there are perhaps 10 pairs of Gurney’s pittas at Khao Nor Chuchi in Thailand (other Thai populations are probably extinct). Fortunately, another, larger, population was recently discovered in southern Tenasserim, Myanmar/Burma. For this reason, this species was downlisted as endangered.

Gurney’s pitta is a terrestrial passerine that lives in lowland semi-evergreen forests with undergrowth containing Salacca palms, where it nests. These moist tropical forests are found on flat terrain, and are close to water or have water flowing through them. Tragically, their forest’s topological features and location are perfect for palm oil, rubber, and coffee plantations. Much of the remaining nearby area is heavily settled. Since the locals are actively seeking ways to improve the quality of their lives by exploiting the land for economic gain, it is probable that the pitta’s last few strongholds will be cleared suddenly and rapidly, with predictable consequences for this iconic species.

Gurney’s pitta is impossible to confuse with any other species in the area. The adult male’s iridescent blue cap and tail, warm rufous upperparts and black-and-yellow underparts are distinctive. The female is less dramatically coloured, lacking the brilliant iridescent blue cap and tail. She has a buffy-yellow head and nape, the sides of her head are black, her throat is buffy-white, her underparts are buffy-yellow with darker bars and her tail is grey-blue.

You can watch a video of this beautiful bird here:

http://www.theguardian.com/science/grrlscientist/2012/feb/27/2

Gurney’s pitta consumes slugs, insects, and earthworms, which is searches for in leaf litter. They also eat snails and small frogs. Here’s a video of an adult male Gurney’s pitta poking around in leaf litter in Khao Noi Chuchi in Krabi, Thailand:

Gurney’s pitta is one of 32 medium-sized songbirds that is placed into Pittidae, the pitta family. The pittas are all very similar in body shape, size and in their habits, although each species is distinctly marked. The family originated in tropical Asia and Australasia, and a few species are found in Africa. The continued existence of many pitta species is threatened by deforestation.

The story above is a Thai version of “The Crane’s Wife”

If you have enjoyed reading you can subscribe above or comment below. My dream is to blog a million stories! Help me get there!

Just as the Guerney’s Pitta is endangered so is the story. We are being deforested and destoried but together we can restory the world. If you have a story you would like to share please feel free to email me at ruth@leader.karoo.co.uk

Thanks for reading. Without you there would be no story.

The Old Man Who Made the Dead Trees Blossom

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“Under a cherry tree, there are no strangers” is a quote by the Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa.

“9,000 cherry trees were donated by the Japanese people to Germany, as a sign of jubilation about the fall of the Berlin Wall. Planted in 1993, these trees now form cherry avenues along the former course of the Wall, and are is a pure joy to ride along in May. Sakura, Berlin style!
If anything good has come out from the Wall, it is this 160k bike trail / walking path that took the place of the Wall that encircled the “island” of West Berlin from 1961 to 1989, dividing it from East Berlin and the East German state that surrounds Berlin.”

Thailand has her own Cherry trees; the wild Himalayan which grow in Doi Khun Mae Ya in the far North.

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This is a wonderful story from Japan retold by Alton Chung.

Come and sit with me under a cherry tree. Let us enjoy Hamani
(Flower picnic) together wherever you are in the world.

Once upon a time there was a very kind old man and his wife living in a certain village. Next door to them lived a very mean old man and his wife. The kind old couple had a little white dog named Shiro. They loved Shiro very much and always gave him good things to eat. But the mean old man hated dogs, and every time he saw Shiro he threw stones at him.

One day Shiro began barking very loudly out in the farmyard. The kind old man went out to see what was the matter. Shiro kept barking and barking and began digging in the ground. “Oh, you want me to help you dig?” asked the kind old man. So he brought out a spade and began digging. Suddenly his spade hit something hard. He kept digging and found a large pot full of many pieces of gold money. Then he thanked Shiro very much for leading him to so much gold, and took the money to his house.

Now the mean old man had been peeping and had seen all of this. He wanted some gold, too. So the next day, he asked the kind old man if he could borrow Shiro for a while. “Why, of course you may borrow Shiro, if he’ll be of any help to you,” said the kind old man.

The mean old man took Shiro to his house and out into his field. “Now find me some gold, too,” he ordered the dog, “or I’ll beat you.” So Shiro began digging at a certain spot. Then the mean old man tied Shiro up and began digging himself. But all he found in the hole was some terrible smelling garbage-no gold at all. This made him so angry that he hit Shiro over the head with his spade and killed him.

The kind old man and woman were very sad about Shiro. They buried him in their field and planted a little pine tree over his grave. And every day they went to Shiro’s grave and watered the pine tree very carefully. The tree began to grow very fast and in only a few years it became very big. The kind old woman said, “Remember how Shiro used to love to eat rice-cakes? Let’s cut down that big pine tree and make a mortar. Then with the mortar we’ll make some rice-cakes in memory of Shiro.”

So the old man cut down the tree and made a mortar out of its trunk. Then they filled it full of steamed rice and began pounding the rice to make rice-cakes. But no sooner did the old man begin pounding than all the rice turned into gold. Now the kind old man and woman were richer than ever.

The mean old man had been peeping through the window and had seen the rice turn to gold. He still wanted some gold for himself very badly. So the next day he came and asked if he could borrow the mortar. “Why, of course you may borrow the mortar,” said the kind old man.

The mean old man took the mortar home and filled it full of steaming rice. “Now watch,” he said to his wife. “When I begin pounding this rice, it’ll turn to gold.” But when he began pounding, the rice turned into terrible smelling garbage, and there was no gold at all. This made him so angry that he got his ax and cut the mortar up into small pieces and burned it up in the stove.

When the kind old man went to get his mortar back, it was all burned to ashes. He was very sad, because the mortar had reminded him of Shiro. So he asked for some of the ashes and took them home with him.

It was the middle of winter and all of the trees were bare. He thought he’d scatter some of the ashes around his garden. When he did, all the cherry trees in the garden suddenly began to bloom right in the middle of winter. Everybody came to see this wonderful sight, and the prince who lived in a nearby castle heard about it.

Now this prince had a cherry tree in his garden that he loved very much. He could hardly wait for spring to come so that he could see the beautiful blossoms on this cherry tree. But when spring came he discovered that the tree was dead and he felt very sad. So he sent for the kind old man and asked him to bring the tree back to life. The old man took some of ashes and climbed the tree. Then he threw the ashes up into the dead branches, and almost more quickly than you can think, the tree was covered with the most beautiful blossoms it ever had.

The prince had come on horseback to watch and was very pleased. He gave the kind old man a great deal of gold and many presents. And best of all, he knighted the old man and gave him a new name, “Sir Old-Man-Who-Makes-Trees-Blossom.

How Einstein Saw the World

Albert

Creative by Nature

Albert

“School failed me, and I failed the school. It bored me. The teachers behaved like Feldwebel (sergeants). I wanted to learn what I wanted to know, but they wanted me to learn for the exam. What I hated most was the competitive system there, and especially sports. Because of this, I wasn’t worth anything, and several times they suggested I leave.

This was a Catholic School in Munich. I felt that my thirst for knowledge was being strangled by my teachers; grades were their only measurement. How can a teacher understand youth with such a system?

From the age of twelve I began to suspect authority and distrust teachers. I learned mostly at home, first from my uncle and then from a student who came to eat with us once a week. He would give me books on physics and astronomy.

The more I read, the more puzzled I was…

View original post 1,195 more words

THE STORY OF KAO AND THE EGGPLANT FLOWER

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The recent flooding in the south of England has made us all the more aware of the power of nature. Dutch folk tales from the Middle Ages are strong on tales about flooded cities and the sea. Legends surround the sunken cities lost to epic floods in the Netherlands: From Saint Elisabeth’s Flood of 1421, comes the legend of Kinderdijk that a baby and a cat were found floating in a cradle after the city flooded, the cat keeping the cradle from tipping over. They were the only survivors of the flood. The town of Kinderdijk is named for the place where the cradle came ashore.

The Saeftinghe legend, says that once glorious city was flooded and ruined by sea waters due to the All Saints’ flood, that was flooded in 1584, due to a mermaid being captured and mistreated, and mentions the bell tower still rings.

This is much like the story The Mermaid of Westenschouwen (Westenschouwen) which also concerns the mistreated mermaid, followed by a curse and flood. In some flood legends, the church bells or clock bells of sunken cities still can be heard ringing underwater.

Sea folklore includes the legend of Sint Brandaen and later the legend of Lady of Stavoren about the ruined port city of Stavoren.

In these uncertain times we need more than ever the deep wisdom of fairy and folk tales.

I read yesterday that last year Polish Radio called for donations of fairy-tale books to be sent to a boy in a hospital, who had eaten a poisonous mushroom. He lay in a coma after a liver transplant. The government felt that if someone read fairy tales to him, he might gather the courage to live. “Fairy tales for Tomek should be relatively short and have a happy ending,” the press release read.

This extract confirmed to me what I already firmly believed: that the gift of a story is a gift of life itself.

This story is for andychih(one of my readers) who asked me if I have ever found similarities between Asian and European fairy tales. In response here is a Thai version of Cinderella.

Kao is a young Thai girl who lives happily with her parents until her mother dies. Her father remarries a woman who also has a daughter. The stepmother and stepsister make Kao do all the housework. One day after Kao’s father has died while bathing in the pond a golden fish comes up to Kao and talks to her saying it is her mother. Kao spends more time bathing and comes back happy and her stepmother gets curious as to the cause.

She sends her own daughter to spy on Kao the next day. She sees Kao talking to the fish. Then the stepmother has the stepsister go down and trick the fish and capture it. They cook it and eat it. Kao is so upset. She buries the fishbones and waters where she buries them in hope her mother will come back. Soon an eggplant plant grows there. Kao talks to the plant on her way back from bathing in the pond each day.

Her stepmother is jealous of Kao’s happiness and sends her daughter to dig up the plant. They eat and burn the plant, but Kao finds some seeds. She takes the seeds away from the house near the road and plants them there. When she can she goes and waters them. They grow into two beautiful trees. Kao hears her mother’s voice when the wind blows through them. Many people rest under the trees.

One day a prince stops and rests there. He loves the noise of the wind blowing in them and orders his servants to dig them up and bring them back to his palace. The servants try and try and even use an elephant to try, but the trees will not be moved. The prince posts signs and asks the owner of the trees to come to his palace.

Kao sees the sign and goes. The prince asks her to give him the trees. She tells him she will give him an answer the next day. She goes and asks the trees/mother what to do. They decide to make the prince happy. The mother asks Kao to bring the prince to the trees and she does. Then they get married and live happily with the trees in the courtyard of their palace.”

If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
― Albert Einstein

What tales would you like to hear? Let me know what you think. I love your responses.

YUAN XIAO AND THE NIGHT OF THE FULL MOON

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I first heard this story many moons ago when I lived in the village of Salotbaht. It was Auntie Lan who told me the story as we sat on the verandah looking up at the new moon and sharing a steaming bowl of Tang Yuan.

“In the Emperor’s palace there lived a young girl called Yuan Xiao. She missed her family terribly and longed to see them but she wasn’t allowed to leave the palace. Yuan Xiao knew how to tell stories. Everyday the young children would gather round her to hear another story. In the palace grew a large Osmanthus tree and it was under that tree she sat to tell her stories. One day as the Emperor was passing by she seized her chance,

” and then the God of Fire told me that he would burn down our city.”

The Emperor heard the words of the story and couldn’t sleep. He tossed and turned at night filled with a fear that the city would be burnt to the ground. So he decided to go and ask Yuan Xiao what to do. Yuan Xiao thought for awhile and then she said,” you must trick the Fire God into thinking the city is already on fire. The Emperor took Yuan Xiao’s advice and arranged for hundreds of lanterns to be hung around the city. When night fell thousands of firecrackers were set off.

In this way clever Yuan Xiao was able to sneak off home to her family without being noticed. Before she left the palace she picked a bunch of Osmanthus flowers and when she reached home her mother was cooking her favourite sweet dumplings. Her mother was so delighted to see her that she embraced her daughter and some of the flowers fell into the dessert. Ever since then on the night of the lantern festival sweet dumplings with Osmanthus flowers have been eaten in remembrance.


FACTS

The Lantern Festival falls on 14th February 2014 coinciding with Valentines Day in the West.

The first month of the lunisolar calendar is called the yuan month, and in olden times night was called xiao in Mandarin. Therefore, the day is called Yuan Xiao (元宵) Festival in China. The fifteenth day is the first full moon of that lunisolar year. According to East Asian tradition, at the beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. At this time, people will try to solve puzzles on lanterns, eat glutinous rice balls named after the festival, yuanxiao (also known as tangyuan (simplified Chinese: 汤圆; traditional Chinese: 湯圓; pinyin: tāngyuán) and enjoy a family reunion.

This festival is also celebrated by the Chinese Thai.

I hope you have enjoyed this short tale and that you get to taste sweet dumplings with osmanthus flowers. Happy Lantern Festival to all of you !

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.”
― Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

THE STORY OF THE BUTTERFLY PEA FLOWER

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A thousand and one years ago in the time when the creatures of the Himapan Forest still roamed among humans there lived a woman called Isra. One night while she was sleeping Kinnari (half woman, half bird) came to her house and beckoned her to follow. Together they flew through the starlit sky, over moonlit lotus ponds and ancient temples. Finally they entered the Himapan forest. They walked for awhile along the scented path until they came to a flower that Isra had never seen before.

“Take this with you back to the village and plant it in your garden next to the fence. It will give rest to anyone who sees it.”

Isra did as Kinnari said and the plant grew fast and tall. The flowers were a beautiful blue.

One day Isra decided to pluck them and make tea from them and enchanted all her neighbours by adding a squeeze of lime which turned the drink a pinky purple. And that is how we came to have Anchan Tea.

FACTS

Clitoria ternatea, common names including butterfly-pea, blue-pea, and cordofan-pea, is a plant species belonging to the Fabaceae family.

Butterfly Pea is an ancient Thai herbal plant. Its flower has three different colors white, blue, and purple. Not only beautiful, Butterfly Pea first gained its reputation as a powerful hair strengthener in the traditional Thai medicine. leaves, flowers, seeds, and roots are all used as medicinal herbs. According to Thai culture & folklore, butterfly pea flowers are squeezed to make Anchan tea, and as a coloring for Thai desserts in blue and purple colors. It also provides anthocyanin to improve eyesight, treat opthalmitis and eye infections, nourish hair, provide antioxidants and boost body immunity. Many health & beauty products are derived from this flower because of the positive effects of the flavanoid, Quercetin has on skin & hair. The hot or cold tea is extremely thirst quenching and relaxing.

Isra in Thai means nocturnal journey.

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
― Philip Pullman

GENTLE TIGER

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Do you know why it is called Tiger Balm?” Auntie Nom asks.

She opens the jar and rubs a little on my bruised knee. I feel the heat work its healing.

“Aw Boon Haw.”

“Aw Boon Haw,” I say.

“Gentle Tiger.”

The familiar smell of the ointment soothes me.

“It is made from the oil of the paperbark tree,” Auntie Nom continues.

“Come. I will show you.”

We walk along the dusty lane that runs through the village.

Saffron light encircles us.

“It all started with Hsi- Ling. She experimented with plants and found secrets that eased pain.”

She stops at a group of trees and pulls some of the bark away. It is white and spongy.

“Aw Boon Haw’s father was the first one to add it to other oils when he lived in Burma. It can chase away any pain.”

Years later I still carry a jar of Tiger Balm in my handbag. It eases a multitude of hurts, homesickness and even grief for the aroma brings back a healing story.

In reality all of us carry inside us a multitude of healing stories. I would love to hear yours. And whether you have ever used Tiger Balm.

Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.”

Hippocrates

FRUIT OF THE MAKALI TREE

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“The Makali Tree grows in the Himapan forest.”

The gas-light flickers in the breeze and our shadows are thrown onto the wooden screen, elongated so that they no longer look like us and I almost feel myself in a mythical place.

Nimran continues. “One day Queen Maddi is walking in the forest when she sees a tree on which are growing sixteen tiny fairy fruit women …”

Nimran is telling a story from the Jakkata tales. Nimran continues until my eyelids grow heavy and in my dreams I enter the Himapan Forest.

What I learn later is that these fruit women of Thailand are very powerful. If anyone eats one, that person will lose his power.

Some years later when I was much older and living in Europe I came across the Greek nymph of wild flowers ‘Anthousa’ said to have hair like hyacinth flowers.

For me what both of these images celebrate is the essential wildness of women. They are not domestic images. And the following quote ties in nicely with this theme.

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.”

― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

THE LEGEND OF A THOUSAND CRANES

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Auntie Nom is teaching me how to fold a crane from Saa paper. Her hands are wrinkled but her eyes are bright and see well.

“There is an old legend from Japan …”

She stops and shows me how to make the next fold.

“I heard it from my grandmother.”

“No like this,” she says. And folds the paper for me.

“That if you fold a thousand cranes then your wish will be granted.”

Auntie Nom finishes her crane and looks at me. I will never forget the warmth in her gaze.

I hand the paper crane from the mosquitoes net and that night the breeze from the open window makes her dance across the moon, the star-filled night sky.
The other day I found an origami set that my brother had given me as a gift. I took out a piece of beautifully patterned paper and tried to remember the folds. What came back with each fold were Auntie Nom’s words as if the folds and the story were working together and to my amazement I could create the crane.

This prompted me to go searching for crane stories.

“Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” is the story of a girl who died of leukemia. On August 6, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Sadako Sasaki was just two years old. Though the bomb did not kill her and she suffered no immediate injury, she developed leukemia when she was 11 years old. Sadako had heard that a person could make her wish come true by folding a thousand paper cranes. Wishing for good health, Sadako began folding a thousand paper cranes. But she died at age 12, before her project was completed, it is said, and her classmates finished folding her cranes for her after she died.

Children send in cranes they have folded in prayer for peace.
Sadako’s classmates also collected donations from schools throughout Japan and used the funds to create a monument to children who had been victims of the atomic bomb. Piles of thousand-crane chains sent by people from all over the world surround the monument. To people everywhere, the story of Sadako has come to symbolize the hope that no child will ever again be killed by an atomic bomb.

And more searching led me to https://www.1000cranesofhope.com/

Such a wonderful project.

And here’s a link to : How to Make a Paper Crane”

Together we can all fold a thousand cranes and make a wish for a peaceful world come true.