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Little Red Riding Hood

I used this traditional tale to give a network of carers – who had never thought of themselves as creative writers – the opportunity to  reflect on character and consequences. They were empowered but the opportunities to listen, discuss, select and develop their own versions. This story opens up the possibilities of having choices, a voice and the means to express it.

The Story

Once upon a time, there was a lovely young woman named Little Red Riding Hood.  She lived with her mother in a cottage on the edge of a Forest. Her grandmother lived at the other side of the Forest but close enough to visit often with lots of lovely treats for her lovely granddaughter.

 

Then one very sad day, her mother told Little Red Riding Hood, “Your grandmother is not feeling very well today. Take these treats over to her – for a change! It will make her happy and she’ll feel better.”

 

Little Red Riding Hood set off carrying all the delicacies that her grandmother could wish for in her basket. The sun was shining and she knew her grandmother would enjoy the treats. She felt today would be a good day.

 

Then, on the forest path, she met a tall, strong stranger.

 

“Where are you going, my lovely?” asked the tall, strong stranger.

 

“To my grandmother’s cottage,” Little Red Riding Hood replied and explained how ill her grandmother was feeling.

 

“Oh, the poor dear old lady!” said the tall, strong stranger. “Why don’t you pick some flowers for her, too?”

 

“Now that would be a very good idea,” said Little Red Riding Hood – always willing to do that little bit extra.

 

So she spent the next few hours looking for all the most beautiful wild flowers of the Forest. And, although she grew very tired, she kept on looking – because she loved her grandmother very much.

 

Then she noticed the sun was almost completely gone. And, although the moon shone and the stars were out in the night sky – she could no longer see anything very well. The trees arched over her and the darkness frightened her.  So she ran to her grandmother’s cottage, hoping her grandmother would have a good fire lit and candles burning – as she usually did.

 

But, when she arrived, all was dark and strange. If anything, the cottage was even darker and colder than the Forest.

 

“Of course,” the young girl remembered, “grandmother is ill.”

 

So she crept around the kitchen. She wanted to make the old woman a warm drink, light the fire and set the flowers in a vase where she could see them. Her poor sick grandmother could then have all the treats she had carried through the Forest especially for her.

 

 But – before she could arrange all this – Little Red Riding Hood heard a movement from the bed. And, candle in hand, she turned round.

 

What she saw terrified her!

 

“This illness – it’s so changed you, grandmother!” she cried. “What big eyes you have?”

“All the better to see you with?”

“What big hands you have?”

“All the better to grab you with!”

“What big teeth you have!”

“All the better to eat you with.”

 

And the much-changed grandmother leapt from the bed, seizing hold of the girl so tightly it hurt. Only then did she recognise the tall, strong stranger of the Forest.

 

“You are not Grandmother. You are the Wolf! What have you done with Grandmother?”

 

But the Wolf didn’t bother with explanations. He just swallowed Little Red Riding Hood whole.

 

However, inside the Wolf, she found her grandmother and the two women – the old and the very young – wept together. But tired, worn out by misery, neither had any idea what to do next.

 

Then, a hunter appeared  . . .

To empower the listeners, I stopped the story at this point and offered them a number of endings to choose from and the opportunity to develop their own.The rest of the session followed these lines.

A Happy Ending? Really?

Which of these endings do you think most likely?

Ending 1) but the hunter was too late.

 

Ending 2) The hunter drew out his hunting knife and fought with the Wolf. Then, when the Wolf was dead, the hunter heard the women cry out in his stomach. And the hunter cut open the Wolf and released them. He was glad he had done so when he saw how beautiful Little Red Riding Hood was. He married LRRH. And the grandmother and the mother then lived happily to the end of their days with Little Red Riding Hood and her hunter.

 

Ending 3) After such a heavy meal, the Wolf fell asleep and the hunter – hearing the women weeping inside the animal – cut open his stomach and released Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. Little Red Riding Hood then placed stones in the Wolf’s stomach. When the Wolf woke up, he tried to chase the old woman and her young grandaughter but the stones weighed him down and killed him.

Ending 4) What else could anyone have done to change the ending? James Thurber, in The Little Girl and the Wolf took out a gun from her basket and shot the predator. Do you have your own ideas how to end this story? Discuss in pairs.

After this, I invited members of the group to share what had come up for them – both in relation to the story and on a personal level. Any group enduring any distressing situation could benefit from the opportunities presented by this sort of story session.

 

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On the recommendation of Lisa Rossetti (www.positivelives.co.uk), Katherine Hansen of A Storied Career (www.astoriedcareer.com ) recently interviewed me for her on-line Story Practitioner series.

Here are my Q&As as featured on the web this week.

Q: How did you initially become involved with story/storytelling/ narrative? What attracted you to this field? What do you love about it?

A: I was brought up by storytellers. Telling stories was how we related to each other, entertained each other, informed each other, re-affirmed each other. I love storytelling because what my family of storytellers did for me, I can do for others.

Q: One of your areas of specialization is storytelling and writing for well-being. How did you get involved in that area? Did you have personal experience with having your well-being improved through writing/storytelling?

A: Story-telling and writing for well-being have chosen me, and I have built on what they have given me. I started to write as I learned to read stories. And I have written all my life. But at times of crisis — when in such severe trauma I doubt my heart will hold out — writing is a form of restorative meditation. And — although I can tell stories to move to tears — I also tell stories to entertain and develop relationships. Although at times, I cannot avoid the former, I prefer the latter.

Q: You offer workshops in memoir-writing and journaling. Undoubtedly many reasons exist for journaling and writing one’s memoir. What do you feel is the most compelling reason? Why do people need your workshops assist them in these endeavors?

A: One of the most compelling reasons for writing your own story is “witness” — even if the writing never sees the light of day. But — when shared in a supportive, empathic group (such as I create in my workshops) — the writing brings all the human emotion contained in the writing to the outside and allows the writer to reflect on it and feel in control once more. To do this, with an audience, is to be empowered, to lose all sense of merely being a passive recipient of the experience. This endows the writer with a self-esteem and confidence, which he or she may never have felt before.

Q: One of your specialty areas is communication and storytelling in organizations. When organizations (and the people in them) seek out your services, why are the typical communication issues they face — and how can storytelling help?

A: Teams (like families) are quite often dysfunctional because their members have ceased to communicate with each other. Story sessions encourage people to listen, to be curious about what is going to happen, to sift their own experiences for answers to common problems and to share. Stories also generate empathy and laughter. And living — for however brief a time — in a functional “metaphor” is a “habit” that can be carried forward into everyday working life.

Q: What has surprised you most in your work with story?

A: The eagerness to engage that people display when listening to stories and telling their own — even if this is a new experience for them.

Q: The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?

A: Storytelling is becoming popular now because, as people increasingly understand, “hardware” is not enough. They like human interaction — loving or loathing others. But, as people find opportunities to interact are programmed out of their lives, they will make efforts to re-introduce them. And story is a way to do this.

Q: What’s your favorite story about a transformation that came about through a story or storytelling act?

A: A young girl was raped. Years of therapy hadn’t helped her forget and live life as she wished. Then a wise counselor asked her to tell her story — as a story, as if it had happened to someone else. She did. She felt witnessed. She felt empowered. She has displayed such talent and passion for storytelling and writing, she is now a full-time novelist. Telling stories has changed more lives than medical interventions.

Q: If you could share just one piece of advice or wisdom about story/storytelling/ narrative with readers, what would it be?

A: Listen with attention, reflect in depth and share.

Q: What question do you wish I had asked you but didn’t?

A: What did Einstein mean when he advised parents if they want their children to be wise, encourage them to read fairy tales?

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